By Daniel Rodriguez
Media skeptics have recently had a field day ridiculing Christians over radio preacher Harold Camping's failed prediction of the end of the world on May 21. To get out of the humiliation, Camping borrowed an excuse used several times by the Jehovah's Witnesses: It really did happen, but only in the spirit world. Manifestation will occur later, like on October 21.
The Watchtower Society has had many such failed prophecies since its inception. People make light of those who make such prophecies, but to the faithful who heed them, it can be catastrophic emotionally, financially and spiritually. Many sell their homes and property, or become disenchanted with their faith entirely.
The early Jehovah's Witnesses experienced a series of failed dates. The years 1874, 1914, 1915, 1918, 1925, the period of WWII and 1975 were some of the dates that the Watchtower Society had set for "the end." These dates are fully documented in the Watchtower's official literature; however, the 1975 date the Watchtower had set turned out to be the worst public relations nightmare the organization had ever seen.
The Watchtower had even encouraged their Witnesses to sell their homes and property by saying, "Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property... Certainly, this is a fine way to spend the time remaining before the wicked world's end." (Kingdom Ministry, 1974, p. 3) Approximately 100,000 Jehovah's Witnesses left the organization each year after 1975 because of this failed prophecy.
Date setting for "the end" is a dangerous teaching for those who follow organizations such as the Watchtower Society.
With all the media attention to Camping's failure, this is a good time to share the gospel with the Jehovah's Witnesses, showing them that their parent organization has made false prophecies as well. Challenge them to research the history of their organization —especially with respect to their own false prophecies.
They may even try to refute their own history by citing Proverbs 4:18 to prove that the light of their understanding is getting brighter and brighter. This is their fall-back, but this scripture draws out a fatal flaw in their reasoning. The Watchtower also teaches that the organization is the faithful and wise servant spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 24:45-47 that was chosen above all other religions to give spiritual food at the proper time.
The Watchtower teaches that Jesus inspected the church and found only the Watchtower Society to fulfill the requirements for Matthew 24:45-47. The question is this: How could Jesus find the Watchtower Society worthy to be the faithful and wise servant after the aforementioned failed prophecies? Still, today's Witnesses may maintain that was old light —but the problem is that it wasn't back then.
It was fresh and relevant for that time, but it also proved to be dead wrong.
Periodically, the Watchtower will make changes and claim that it is advancing in the light of truth —a clever tool of denying it is wrong. The JW who comes to your door has been deluded to believe in the perfection of the Watchtower Society. In my book, Winning the Witnesses, exposing the failed prophecies is but one of the ways I describe to shatter his confidence in the Watchtower.
My other book, The Watchtower's Coming Crisis, presents another strategy. Using the failed prophecies, the Watchtower leaders have created guidelines for leadership that are coming back to haunt them. Again, they are attempting to weasel out of them. But the sincere JW member will be haunted by doubts if you explain these contradictions to him, possibly opening him to the Truth.