In 1991 Colin Quackenbush, one of the Watch Tower Society’s senior writers, told me in the privacy of his office about letters which the Society had received from “prominent and credible elders, not apostates” (that’s exactly what he said), who were concerned about the increase in accusations that Jehovah’s Witnesses were “false prophets.” He told me that these accusations were being made through concerted efforts by the clergy, especially on the west coast of the United States. The fuel for this attack was the Society’s failed predictions referring to the dates of 1799, 1874, 1878, 1914, 1919, 1925, 1975, etc.
Moreover, as Colin pointed out, the brothers were expressing frustration because “we are so far from the 1914 date and most of the old anointed are dead or dying and the new world is not here yet.” To combat the criticism, the elders were requesting information to disprove the “false prophet” charge.
Colin Quackenbush’s reply
Colin provided that information in the February 1, 1992 Watchtower article “False Prophets Today.” He adroitly avoided any mention of Jehovah’s Witnesses failed predictions about specific dates, but clouded the issue by supplying four pages of data about “God’s Kingdom,” contending that those who do not teach their flocks about the “coming of God’s Kingdom” were “false prophets.”
Going back to the day when this famous Biblical figure Jeremiah “served as God’s prophet in Jerusalem,” Colin quoted Jeremiah 6:13, 14 early in the material:
“From the prophet even to the priest, each one is acting falsely. And they try to heal the breakdown of my people lightly, saying, ‘there is peace! There is peace!’ when there is no peace.”
In other words, false prophets do not tell the truth; rather they encourage “the people to listen to lies rather than to the true warning from God,” he said.
A paragraph later, after Colin pointed out that false prophets “stole God’s words and led people to disaster” we read this:
“As in Jeremiah’s day, there exist today false prophets claiming to represent the God of the Bible; but they too steal God’s words by preaching things that distract people from what God, through the Bible, really says.”
Then, in the next nine paragraphs, Colin ignored the problem and identified “true prophets” from false ones using this rationalization: “True prophets” teach and declare “the truth about the Kingdom.” False prophets tell about their own ideas which “steal the force and effect of what the Bible really says.”
Furthermore, he argued, “Wrong teachings about God’s Kingdom have misled many and have even affected the course of history” and then went on to blame religious leaders in Christendom for not teaching what the Bible says about God’s Kingdom.
In answer to all those “prominent and credible elders, not apostates” who were writing letters to the Society complaining about clergy accusations that the Witnesses were “false prophets” because of failed predictions surrounding dates, Colin shifted the burden of proof and wrote:
“If these clergymen were true prophets, they would have taught their flocks that while waiting for God’s Kingdom to act, they can find real, God-given, practical help to handle the problems the inequities of this world cause.”
Later in the article, after explaining how humanity would benefit under God’s Kingdom, we find a quote from Matthew 24:14, and then the words, “The magazine you are reading is part of that preaching work. We encourage you to avoid being deceived by false prophets.”
Was the real issue addressed?
Even back then I was fascinated by Colin’s response. I knew that he did not address the real issue which the majority of the readers of that article were unaware of. Nonetheless, all those who questioned the Society’s date-setting would recognize the article as a reply to their request for an answer to the clergy’s accusation that the Witnesses were “false prophets.”
Would they be satisfied with the response to their inquiry? Perhaps, but maybe not. As the years passed, the Watch Tower Society’s reply written by Colin Quackenbush in 1992 could have caused many of those letter writers to fade from the organization because of their disappointment and disillusionment.
What about those letter writers who remained in the religion despite the fact that no explanation or apology has ever been forthcoming from the Watch Tower Society for setting false dates?
Inasmuch as we are over ten years into the 21st century and more than twenty years since those “prominent and credible elders” wrote their anxious letters, to remain members of the Watchtower organization they would have had to ignore the uncomfortable feelings that pushed them to write the Society in the first place. Now, after all those years, they surely suffer regret as their “idealism” has evolved into a “weariness of spirit” while waiting for the end of the world to come – coupled with suspicion about the validity of Witness leaders’ prognostications.
Witness leaders have not been able to disprove in any way the accusation that “Jehovah’s Witnesses are false prophets” because of their failed date-setting. This is particularly true regarding their predictions and references to 1914, a marked year in which they claimed the “generation” that was alive then “would not die before seeing the end of the world.”
And yet every member of that generation died without seeing an end to this world.
Since Colin Quackenbush wrote the “False Prophets Today” article in 1992, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has approved numerous “clarifications” of Matthew 24:34 about who the “generation” actually is as referenced in that scripture. In 2010, the Governing Body once again added more clarifications.
Note the following information from the Society’s outline of the lecture, “Remain in the Secret Place of the Most High” as presented at Jehovah’s Witnesses 2010 district conventions:
Recent clarification of Matthew 24:34 underscores that we are living deep in the time of the end. A generation consists of contemporaries-individuals who live at the same time. For example, Exodus 1:6 refers to Joseph and “all his brothers” as “all that generation.” Ten of Joseph’s brothers witnessed events that occurred before Joseph’s birth; at least two of his brothers lived on after his death. Although ages varied, these contemporaries were viewed as one generation. Correspondingly, the “generation” referred to at Matthew 24:34 comprises two groups of anointed Christians. The first group was on hand in 1914 when “the sign” of Christ’s presence began to be observed. The second group, made up of those who were anointed later, are for a time contemporaries of the older group. Jesus’ words at Matthew 24:34 indicate that some in the second group will witness the beginning of the “great tribulation”; hence, the length of the “generation” is limited.
Rather than more clarification underscoring another ominous prediction that “…we are living deep in the time of the end,” Jehovah’s Witnesses should take notice that those who made the original false predictions about 1914 are now all dead or dying off (all claimed to be of the “anointed” class) without seeing any of their predictions come true. Even most the interpreters of those predictions died without seeing fulfillment of any Witness predictions – including Colin Quackenbush, who clouded the “false prophet” question by ignoring the issue and using the usual dodging tactics Witnesses employ when questioned about their controversial beliefs.
Have Witnesses stopped predicting?
Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to thump on their chests, bragging that they are the only religion preaching the “Good News of the Kingdom” which they say identifies them as “true prophets.” Nevertheless, as they preach about that Kingdom, they continue as usual to tie the subject in with end-time predictions that never come true.
Actually, the Witnesses are not known by the public for preaching the “Good News of the Kingdom” inasmuch as the average person does not identify them with that subject. However, they are known around the globe and have become fodder for comedians because of their false predictions about the end of the world.
So I ask: Are Jehovah’s Witnesses “false prophets” as accused by Christendom’s clergy?
It’s apparent they are “false prophets.” Why?
Decades have rolled by since the founding of the Watch Tower Society over 135 years ago – and yet the leaders of the Jehovah’s Witness religion continue to predict “end-time” forecasts in various forms despite complete failure of every one of their earlier visionary utterances.
Please note: This is an updated version of an article submitted by Barbara Anderson that originally appeared on Freeminds.org in July 2010. Randall Watters also reproduced and shared a version of this article on the discussion forum site Jehovahs-Witness.net in August, 2010.