Friday, March 2, 2012

How do we know we are living in the Last Days? (JWs)

The so called "Last Days" mentioned in Scripture are not what many people conceive them to be. Many people mistakenly (but understandably) think the Biblical term "Last Days" refers to a period some time in the future of untold suffering and hardship with the end of the world being immanent. In reality, while that concept has much truth to it, that is not the Biblical terminology for it.

So why is this distinction important? The reason why it is imperative to be aware of the distinction is because rabidly anti-Christian groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses (JW's) build grand (but false) dogmas from such confusion and twisting of Scriptures, and being aware can not only protect you and other Catholics, but even plant seeds in the JW's mind (which hopefully could take root some day). It is also important to be aware that most JW's are genuine and innocent at heart, but deeply deluded and under serious pressure to conform and never question their authority, The Watchtower. Given that, you should only approach this subject with them if you are sufficiently grounded in the truth of Catholicism and falsity of Jehovah's Witnesses (see this link for some good apologetics), and taking special care to present the Truth to them calmly and in Charity. JW's are taught to 'shut off' and 'retreat' as soon as they feel they are losing an argument or don't feel they are making progress - this means that a key strategy when dealing with them is dealing in subtlety, slowly bringing upon them the Truth.

For almost the last century, since their beginning, the Jehovah's Witnesses have been trumpeting that we are living in the "Last Days" (also called, e.g., the "End Times"). What they mean by this term is that the generation(s) living from 1914 A.D. up to the present are living in a phase of history never before known, essentially the 'beginning of the very end of world history'. They claim that in recognizing we are living in the Last Days, they have rightly interpreted Scripture while Christendom has failed to recognize this and thus proves Christendom has gone apostate and only the JWs are to trust.

The September 2006 edition of The Watchtower Magazine hosted an article titled "Are we living in the 'Last Days'," which both sought to summarize the topic and prove it from Scripture. In summarizing the subject, they began by arguing in 1914A.D., Satan was cast out of heaven and sent to wreak havoc on earth, and the current problems we see in the world today is proof of this:
Satan [after being cast down from Heaven in 1914A.D.], in his fury, has brought woe—suffering and affliction—to those dwelling on earth. That woe, however, will be brief, “a short period of time.” The Bible refers to this time as “the last days.” We can be glad that soon the Devil’s influence over the earth will be totally done away with. But what proof is there that we are living in the last days?
First of all, the notion Satan was cast out of Heaven at that point in history is totally false, but that false teaching will have to wait for another time. What should be pointed out is that a lot of the false teachings of the JWs are closely linked and thus stand and fall together. Next notice how they claim "The Bible refers to this as 'the last days'," so as to give themselves credibility from Scripture (while denouncing the rest of us). The focus of this article will show that the Bible most certainly does not refer to that time or concept as "the last days," and that the alleged "proof" is nothing but twisting of Scripture. Following the link to the next page of the Magazine alleging proof, we read this in the introduction (with my emphasis):
Developments in two areas have a bearing on identifying what the Bible calls the last days. The Scriptures foretell events that would take place during the time of “the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 24:3) The Bible also speaks of changes in the attitudes and actions of people living in “the last days.”—2 Timothy 3:1.
World events combined with the behavior and traits of people prove that we are living in the last days and that God’s Kingdom will soon bring everlasting blessings to those who love God. We begin by examining three features that Jesus said would mark the last days.
When reading the above, keep in mind we are examining a specific Biblical term, not a general concept. In other words, notice how the JWs allege the Bible is speaking of the Last Days in Matthew 24:3 and 2 Timothy 3:1 - in truth, while 2 Timothy 3:1 does speak of the Last Days, Matthew 24:3 does not use the term. Now Matthew 24 certainly is speaking of a future catastrophe (which the JWs also twist for the sake of their false doctrines), which the article goes onto speak of, but this a different subject that that of the Biblical idea of Last Days, which the JWs seek to falsely equate. 
The article goes onto say:
Please open your Bible to 2 Timothy 3:1-5 and read it. The apostle Paul writes: “In the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here.” He then goes on to list 20 personality traits that would characterize ungodly people. Have you observed some of these characteristics in those living in your community? Consider what has been said in recent times about the people of today.
This is the only passage they cite in the entire article that actually uses the term "last days," despite the fact the term "last days" appears more than once in Scriptures. When such things happen, you should suspect something is being hidden from you. If you look up the term "last days" (using the Greek word "escatos," where we get "escatology," the study of the End Times), you will find the "last days" or "last times" mentioned in nine verses. These texts will now be examined.

  • Acts 2: 16But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17 "'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy
  • 2 Timothy 3: 1But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money,
  • Hebrews 1: 1Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
  • James 5: 3Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days.
  • 2 Peter 3: 1This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.
  • 1 Peter 1: 1Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
  • 1 John 2: 18Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 
  • 1 Peter 1: 18knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you)
  • Jude 1: 17But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18They said to you, "In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions." 19It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God
As you look though the verses, you will notice something interesting: the Bible uses the term "Last Days" in reference to events 2000 years ago! The "Last Days" clearly refers to when Jesus was born (Heb 1:2; 1 Pt 1:20), the time of Pentecost (Acts 2:17), and 1st Century A.D. Christians being warned to remain holy (2 Tim 3:1; James 5:3; 2 Pt 3:3; 1 Jn 2:18; Jude 1:18). The only uncertain references is 1 Pet 1:5, but it also uses a different Greek word for "time" than the rest. Clearly, the "Last Days" and "Last Times" is the Christian era starting in 1 A.D.

With this in mind, it is clear that the JW appealing to 2nd Timothy 3:1ff is dubious just as suspected. When comparing similar "last days" passages, it is clear that 2 Timothy 3:1 is saying the same thing as 2nd Peter 3:3 and Jude 1:18. And with that it is clear that all three texts refer to the 1st Century AD Christians. For example, Paul warns Timothy in 3:1 to watch out for sinners (e.g. lovers of money, James 5:3) and says in 3:10 "but you [Timothy] continue in what you have learned," indicating Timothy is not to follow those sinners. And Jude 20 distinguishes the sinners from Christians also, "but you [1st C. AD] Christians...keep yourselves in the love of God."

So the JWs were hiding key Biblical information, and quoting only a single instance of "last days" in order to confuse the reader about the Biblical truth of the matter. With their heavy emphasis on Christianity now being in the End Times since 1914AD, the JWs must rely heavily on such texts to attempt to "prove" their point. If you are aware of this, you can cut them off at the root. They are taught to think everyone else but them is ignorant of the Scriptures, so when you confront them with this, they will be totally caught off guard.


Steve "scotju" Dalton said...

The Worldwide Church of God (founded by Herbert W Armstrong) used the same deceptive tactic. so do evangelical/fundamentalist prophecy mongers like Hal Lindsey. Nothing like a little scripture twisting to keep the converts (and their money) rolling in!

Danny Haszard said...

Jehovah's Witnesses say that Jesus had his second coming already 'invisibly' in the year 1914 and then Jesus waited 3 1/2 years to appoint them the Watchtower society rulers of his earthly kingdom in 1919.

Jehovah Witnesses are a spin-off of the second Adventist which all came from the Millerite movement.American war of 1812 army captain William Miller is ground zero for Jehovah's Witnesses.
Yes,the "great disappointment" of Oct 22 1844 has never died out... it lives on in the Jehovah's Witnesses.
The central CORE doctrine of the Watchtower,yes the reason the Watchtower came into existence was to declare Jesus second coming in 1914.When the prophecy (derived from William Miller of 1844) failed they said that he came "invisibly".
Watchtower reckless predictions of the (1914) (1975)..... second coming of Christ hardens skeptics in their unbelief and provides new fodder for cynics to mock the Christian faith.
Danny Haszard

Nick said...

Yeah, it seems they take the 3 1/2 year thing literally when they want and then figuratively (for 1250 days) when they want. Pure special pleading.

CD-Host said...

Just to throw in my $.02 on the issue....

First off the 1260 days of Daniel corresponding to 1260 years starting at the end of the eastern Roman Empire goes back to Jonathan Edwards, (who spanned it from 606 CE to 1866 CE). William Miller differed from Edwards in using 536 as the starting point and thus 1796 as the end. Thus 1866 as a critical year is not a JW invention, it predates them and even predates the Millerites.

I think where the Millerites eventually went that in 1844 the salvic process as described in the Book of Hebrews, the heavenly sanctuary, opened makes sense. For one thing it allows Christians to explain the totally different theology of salvation in Paul and Hebrews.

Ultimately I don't blame the problem so much on "scripture twisting" as on lousy translation. Christian theologians don't want to admit how much biblical theology was tied to astrology. So when Paul (for example) uses astrological language it gets translated in ways that are extremely opaque in English and people read into it what they want to see. Best way to solve the problem would be translate the astrology accurately and include a few articles on Greek astrology. And then another few on Jewish apocalyptic thought (per Revelations and the Gospels)
admit you are looking at two different concepts and...
I'd go even further and say that the gospels and Daniel / Isaiah have different concepts, yet a 3rd theology but that would be asking too much.

Nick said...

Hi CD,

I am aware Russell got his ideas from the Millerite movement, which likely got its ideas from someone earlier as well.

What makes you say Paul and Hebrews teach totally different soteriologies? Both teach Christians live by faith in Christ's Death and Resurrection and will be judged by their works. How is this 'totally different'?

And you said:
>>Christian theologians don't want to admit how much biblical theology was tied to astrology. So when Paul (for example) uses astrological language it gets translated in ways that are extremely opaque in English and people read into it what they want to see.>>

I'm not sure how loosely you're using the term "theology" here. Are you saying Biblical Christology, ecclesiology, soteriology, etc, is tied to astrology...or are you just saying escatology (end times stuff) is tied to astrology? I've never heard of anyone accusing Christians of relying on astrology and have no idea what Pauline texts you have in mind.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but you're so mis-informed! The bible teaches us that Christ was enthroned as King in Heaven...( Lords Prayer? ) in 1914, but not on earth yet, as Rev 12:7-9...
Read the entire chapter of Rev 18...Babylon the Great is the Catholic Church.....just like the Pharisees, in Jesus days preaching about Gods Kingdom...Dan 2:44....Matt 24:14....if you really want to know bible truth...then you must pray for and study for it...John 3:16 tells us it means our life this knowledge...:)

Nick said...


Can you show ONE example of the Bible using the term "last days" to refer to anything except the time starting in 1st century Christianity?

If not, then please don't accuse me of being misinformed. I'm simply following the Bible.