Wednesday, November 04, 2009

What does the Bible really teach about 1914? (Part 2 of 2)

“When would that grand event occur? Jesus showed that the Gentiles would rule for a fixed period of time. The account in Daniel chapter 4 holds the key to knowing how long that period would last. It relates a prophetic dream experienced by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. He saw an immense tree that was chopped down. Its stump could not grow because it was banded with iron and copper. An angel declared: ‘Let seven times pass over it.’ –Daniel 4:10-16”

Immediately, we see an assumption on the Watchtower’s without warrant. That is, they connect the “gentile times” spoken of in Luke 21:24 to the “seven times” of Daniel 4:10, 16. As spoken of earlier, it would seem that for such a dogmatic doctrine, one would expect more solid evidence and less unsubstantiated assumptions.

“In the Bible, trees are sometimes used to represent rulership. (Ezekiel 17:22-24; 31:2-5) So the chopping down of the symbolic tree represents how God’s rulership, as expressed through the kings at Jerusalem, would be interrupted.”

Though it is true that trees are sometimes used (as the Watchtower admits) to represent rulership, is the Watchtower justified in applying this to the tree in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream? When we see that the text identifies the tree as something else, this creates a very difficult problem for the Watchtower’s interpretation; namely, that they are insisting on an interpretation contrary to what is stated in the text:

“This was the dream that I myself, King Neb-u-chad-nez’are, beheld; and you yourself, O Bel-te-shaz’zar [or, Daniel], say what the interpretation isthe tree that you beheldit is you, O king, because you have grown great and become strong…”
Daniel 4:18, 20, 22, New World Translation

If the meaning of the tree is provided by Daniel, why would we look beyond the interpretation given? In addition, if there is another interpretation or application, where would we look to verify this? Are there other Scriptures which provide additional insights? Is there anything in the Bible that would give us some sort of basis by which we could apply some sort of dual-fulfillment to the dream beyond what is given in Daniel? If so, then why doesn’t the Watchtower tell us?

Even if we consider the possibility that the “tree” represents “how God’s rulership, as expressed through the kings at Jerusalem would be interrupted,” the text itself seems to give a contrary perspective:

This is the interpretation, O king, and the decree of the Most High is that which must befall my lord the king. And you they will be driving away from men, and with the beasts of the field your dwelling will come to be, and the vegetation is what they will give even to you to eat just like the bulls; and with the dew of the heavens you yourself will be getting wet, and seven times themselves will pass over you, until you know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind, and that to the one whom he wants to he gives it.”
-Daniel 4:24-25, New World Translation

If the interpretation is what the Watchtower says, then it is contradictory to the interpretation given by Daniel himself under inspiration. That is, Daniel informs the king that the “cutting down of the tree” represents how he will be driven away from human society to act like a beast in the wild. And once again, for a doctrine that is mandatory for all Christians to believe, would we not expect a more solid biblical basis than what the Watchtower has offered us?

“Revelation 12:6, 14 indicates that three and a half times equal ‘a thousand two hundred and sixty days.’’Seven times’ would therefore last twice as long, or 2,520 days after Jerusalem’s fall.”

Like the connections made between Luke 21:24 and Daniel 4, we are not given a basis for which we should connect Revelation 12:6, 14 to the “seven times” of Daniel 4. But even if we assume such a connection, the Watchtower still has to make the case that the “cutting of the tree” represents “God’s rulership” when, in fact, the text says something different.

Even if this leaves open the question of what the “seven times” means in Daniel 4, we are limited with what the text says, for Daniel 4:28 states that, “All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king.” In addition, verse 33 articulates, “The word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled.” Therefore, whatever the “seven times” are, the interpretation tells us that they were fulfilled in Nebuchadnezzar.

“Evidently, then, this prophecy covers a much longer period of time. On the basis of Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6, which speak of a ‘day for a year,’ the ‘seven times’ would cover 2,520 years.”

This is yet another place where connections are made without a basis. Though interpretive formulas are helpful in explaining some texts, we are not warranted in creating connections where the Scriptures are silent. That is, what basis does the Watchtower have in connecting the “formulas” in Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6 to the “seven times” of Daniel 4? If none are given, should the Watchtower be this dogmatic about the doctrine?

Furthermore, are we warranted in applying 2,520 years to the “seven times” when Daniel 4 specifically tells us that this time period was fulfilled in Nebuchadnezzar? Was the king really dethroned for that long? As for Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6, is there anything in these texts which give us a basis for making “interpretive formulas” and imposing them on other texts? If so, where do we draw the line? Should the “a day for a year” formula be applied to any place where the word “day” occurs? If not, then on what Scriptural basis does the Watchtower have for making this connection with Daniel 4?

“The 2,520 years began in October 607 B.C.E., when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians and the Davidic king was taken off his throne. The period ended in October 1914. At that time, the ‘appointed times of the nations’ ended, and Jesus Christ was installed as God’s heavenly king. –Psalm 2:1-6; Daniel 7:13, 14”

Since a) 2,520 years as well as the 607 date have been shown to be speculative at best, b) the connections between Luke 21:24 and Daniel 4 are made without basis and c) Scripture supports the idea of Christ’s enthronement occurring at the ascension in the first century, then this paragraph made by the Watchtower has no merit.

“Just as Jesus predicted, his ‘presence’ as heavenly King has been marked by dramatic world developments—war, famine, earthquakes, pestilences. (Matthew 24:3-8; Luke 21:11) Such developments bear powerful testimony to the fact that 1914 indeed marked the birth of God’s heavenly Kingdom and the beginning of ‘the last days’ of this present wicked system of things. –2 Timothy 3:1-5.”

It is interesting to note that many Bible students that are not Jehovah’s Witnesses hold that we are living in “the last days” without having any knowledge of the 1914 doctrine. There is no disputing the fact that significant events occurred in 1914. But without a Scriptural basis, what warrant is there for believing that Christ was enthroned in 1914? In addition, what Scriptural basis does the Watchtower have in insisting that one cannot be a true Christian unless they hold to this complex doctrine?

In conclusion, I’d like to encourage any Jehovah’s Witness who reads this to not take my word for it or the Society’s. Instead, I would challenge you to do your own research and come to your own conclusions. And if it turns out that the Watchtower’s basis for 1914 falls short of its claims for themselves in being “God’s sole channel of communication,” then what will this mean for you as a Christian? Will you remain in the organization, or will you look for something else? For many Jehovah’s Witnesses, this information will not sway them one way or another, since they have determined in their minds that there is nowhere else to go, even if the doctrine proves to be incorrect. But for others, they will feel lost and abandoned due to the Society’s strict policies on doctrinal descent.

However discouraging this may be, I would like offer a few words of encouragement. Thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses have found happiness and contentment after leaving the Watchtower; not because they found something else, but someone else. This was the message of the early Christians. When confronted with the gospel, many Jews were probably confused in figuring out where to go when “God’s organization” (i.e. the Jewish community) was shown to be inadequate for their salvation. But the early Christians didn’t point them to just another organization. Instead, they pointed them to the person of Jesus Christ for salvation. This is the alternative I have to the Watchtower, which is something I believe to be far more satisfying. And it is the alternative I have for who are becoming doubtful of the Watchtower’s claims:

“Most truly I say to YOU, He that hears my word and believes him that sent me has everlasting life, and he does not come into judgment but has passed over from death to life.”
-John 5:24, New World Translation

Christ’s invitation is for all who are willing to place their faith in Him and “the one who sent Him.” And until one does this, they cannot be saved, no matter how much one submits to “God’s organization.’

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