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Original Photo by Christoffer Engström on Unsplash

I (Don) have been to Israel twice. I was ordained in the Garden of Gethsemane the first time. Both times, it was with groups that had booked with a reputable company that handled the many details involved with travel by air and ground. Hotels and two meals a day were also arranged in our package. They checked our passports and credentials to ensure there were no issues with customs when we arrived. The company also provided us with a professional tour guide and bus driver when we arrived. The tour guide knew the area, the various Biblical sites, and why each site is important to a biblical understanding. A good, reliable tour guide and company can make a trip enjoyable and very educational.

An unreliable tour guide, however, would be a disaster. You have paid your money, and you trust their leadership and are truly invested in their expertise, but at some point, it becomes obvious the guide has no real knowledge about the area and is simply making things up on the fly. Worse, what if the bogus company convinces you that they are the only reliable tour company and all others are deceivers that will lead you into danger and perhaps to your death? If you have your eyes truly open, you might realize that the site they insisted yesterday was Christ’s tomb they are claiming today is a different thing entirely, perhaps the ruins of Pontius Pilate’s favorite barbershop. A keen observer with an open mind will immediately spot a problem with this glaring inconsistency, but someone deeply invested in that bogus guide may notice nothing amiss, and even if the “problem” is brought to their attention, they might dismiss the contradiction as a very small matter.

This seems an unlikely scenario – and probably is indeed very improbable, when it comes to Holy Land tour guides, but dubious and contradictory spiritual claims are made all the time among cults and false religions. Very often, they are completely overlooked by their followers, who are heavily invested in the leadership of that particular group. Members may actually feel endangered by the prospect of finding fault with the only “true tour guide” on the face of the earth! They have been taught to accept the leadership as God’s anointed guide for all things spiritual and believe that to doubt God’s chosen guide and spokesman is to be flung out into the cold, cold world – lost forever. Big Brother has convinced them that all other guides are false and even evil, so there’s no real spiritual alternative for them. So, if yesterday’s tomb of Christ is now said to be Pilate’s Olde Barber Shoppe, who are they to question God’s chosen anointed guide? One such group is the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. According to them, they are God’s one true leader and must be obeyed and believed at all costs. For example, at one point in their history, the anointed guide of the Watchtower was certain they knew exactly where in the universe God lived and even had His location pinpointed on their astrological tour map:

It is estimated that light travels 186,000 miles per second; and that the Pleiades are 120 light years of 365 days each from the earth. It is understood that the Pleiades mark the throne of Jehovah, from which he rules his universe.1The Watchtower & Herald of Christ’s Presence, Vol. XLVI, April 15, 1925, No. 3, pg. 115

The fact that most Bible scholars in the 1920s, nor even today, did not use astrological criteria to pinpoint God’s exact residence in the Universe did not matter to them in the least. There were a few pseudo-scientific fringe groups that were teaching this nonsense in the 1920s. Then, as now, there are always people on the fringe teaching other people on the fringe “new insights” on spiritual themes that have nothing whatever to do with the main themes of the Bible nor any bearing on the gospel.

The leaders of the WTBTS at the time jumped aboard this fringe teaching and rode it out for a time. As added evidence for their claim, the WBTBS linked it to another fringe teaching of that era concerning the Pyramids of Egypt, which they called “God’s Stone Witness”:

Then again, the position of the Pleiades at the time of the completion of the Great Pyramid of Egypt, “God’s Stone Witness,” is a very prominent feature of that building in the midst of the land of Egypt For these and for other reasons Bible Students have good cause to believe that in the region of the Pleiades is located the throne of Jehovah God, the spiritual center of the universe,- whence go forth the “sweet influences” of the Almighty to the Earth and to all other parts of the starry universe.2The Golden Age, Vol. 5, No. 130, September 10, 1924, p. 793-794

Somewhere along the way, the Watchtower concluded they had made a heavenly wrong turn on this one. Oops! Jehovah, it turned out, didn’t actually live in that neighborhood, and in 1953 the WTBTS announced in the Watchtower – as an aside:

Incidentally, Pleiades can no longer be considered the center of the universe and it would be unwise for us to try to fix God’s throne as being at a particular spot in the universe. Were we to think of the Pleiades as his throne we might improperly view with special veneration that cluster of stars.3“Questions from the Readers,” The Watchtower, November 15, 1953, p. 703

The average Jehovah’s Witness might consider this about-face a small mistake. After all, no one was planning on traveling to the Pleiades to pop in and perhaps have lunch with Jehovah. That is more in the domain of charismatic and some evangelicals in the heavenly tourism industry. But we digress.

In its over 140-year history, the Watchtower leadership, who supposedly get their teachings directly from Jehovah as His mouthpiece, regularly – and most often very quietly – changes major doctrines that Jehovah’s Witnesses have been required to believe – and teach – or risk being kicked off of the JW tour bus. These include such doctrines as the dates of Christ’s return (they were wrong on Christ’s arrival date at least seven times) and organ transplants (which were forbidden to JWs even to save a life and would get them kicked out of “God’s Organization”). Then there is the very important question of whether the men of Sodom will be resurrected – the Watchtower leadership has waffled between yes and no eight times on this essential issue. But the fumbling and bumbling about bible doctrines never stopped. The list of the ‘higher authorities,” mentioned briefly in Romans 13, was identified first as the political government by leader Charles Taze Russell, yet in 1929, the higher powers were identified as being Jehovah and Jesus by leader Judge Joseph Rutherford – and then in 1962 the WTBTS leadership identified the “Higher Powers” as governmental authorities, basically back to Russell’s understanding.

Jehovah’s Witnesses work very hard to earn the reward of eternal life. According to the organization booking their passage, what will be their final destination? Well…that depends. Until 1935, the “Anointed Class” and the “Great Crowd” were both booked to receive eternal life in heaven. Between 1934 and 1935, Rutherford moved the “Great Crowd” out of heaven, and their final destination was said to be earth and all future “Great Crowd” travelers would be advised their final destination would be, well, earth:

It appears that moving the Great Crowd to earth was to support Rutherford’s concept of narrow salvation. The most effective way to rapidly grow Watchtower followers was making survival at Armageddon contingent on being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. With anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses going to heaven and a Great Crowd of Jehovah’s Witnesses being Armageddon’s earthly survivors, the only option for worldly people became eternal destruction. This concept worked; between 1935 and 1975 the Watchtower Society was one of the fastest growing religions on earth.4Great Crowd of Other Sheep?,”

With this itinerary change, the Watchtower now provides two possible destinations for faithful JWs. The now dogmatically verified location of the relatively small “anointed class” is in heaven – and the dogmatically verified location of the 2nd class, “Other Sheep,” is on the earth – and never the twain shall meet. The “anointed” are to reign forever with Jesus (recreated as Michael the archangel 2.0) over the ”reigned-upon” great crowd of mere mortals, forever living on the earth. According to the WTBTS, these two distinct classes are laid out in the Bible book of Revelation. However, as we look at the Book of Revelation, it seems the WTBTS’s destinations are wrong – again.

The First-Class travelers, the “Anointed Class,” are supposedly the 144,000 of Revelation chapter 7:14, according to the WTBTS. The other travelers are the “Great Crowd” of Revelation chapter seven. Since there are two groups in question, and both appear in Revelation chapter seven, we should start there. We suggest taking two pieces of paper and labeling one “144,000” and labeling the other “Great crowd.” We will start with Revelation 7:1-8 where we are first introduced to the 144,000. We note several things:

  1. The angels that have permission to harm the earth and sea are told to wait. The 144,000 are on earth and being protected until they are sealed on their foreheads. (7:1-3)
  2. This group of 144,000 on earth is sealed out of the tribes of the Sons of Israel. (7:4)
  3. The tribes are listed, with 12,000 from each tribe. (7:5-8)

In Revelation 14:1-5 we have additional information about the 144,000:

  1. They are standing on Mount Zion with the Lamb. Mount Zion is found in Jerusalem, Israel. That is, as it happens, on the earth. (14:1)
  2. There is a new song, which only the 144,000 can sing. (14:3)
  3. They are males and virgins. (14:4)
  4. Also “no falsehood was found in their mouths; they are without blemish.” (14:5)

Now on the sheet for the Great Crowd, we note in Revelation 7:9-13

  1. The Great Crowd is standing before the throne (this is in heaven) dressed in white robes and are from all tribes and nations. In other words, not only the Sons of Israel. (7:9)
  2. The Great Crowd in white robes are tribulation martyrs. “These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” They are rendering sacred service to God before the throne (which is in heaven); they will not suffer anymore, and their tears will be wiped away. (Revelation 7:10-13)

So, we see the Great Crowd is in heaven, not on the earth. They will have been martyred on the earth during the Great Tribulation and then received into heaven where they are rendering service to – and being comforted by – God, as the Apostle John records.

Just to reiterate, as we compare the two groups in Scripture, we see the 144,000 are on earth are Jewish male virgins from the twelve tribes of Israel. On the other hand, we see the Great Crowd in heaven is from all tribes and nations.

Obviously, the confusing mishmash of locations and other identifying features shows the Watchtower Society to be dead wrong again!

Some reading this may ask: will believers in Christ end up in heaven or on earth? Our answer is an unequivocal YES! What we mean is we are not looking to be tied specifically to a place but to be with a person, the One who sacrificed His life for us. He then raised His physical body from the dead, and by calling on Him as God, YHWH, we are saved and will be with him eternally. He told His disciples:

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:1-6)

Jesus is Himself taking care of the travel arrangements and telling them there are special accommodations awaiting their arrival.

The Apostle Paul comforts another group with these words:

Then we who are alive, who are left, (on Earth when Jesus returns) will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:17b)

Since we will always be with the Lord, we will be wherever He is. It is not the location but the person we will be with that is important.

Some may argue that everyone makes mistakes – why single out the WTBS? Yes, everyone does make “mistakes,” but anyone who claims to be the only and direct spokesman for God, who is allegedly speaking truth given to them directly from God, makes God a liar if he is wrong. The WTBTS bills themselves as a prophet of God – God’s channel of communication. 

God does not communicate LIES to His people and does not pass on lies or mistakes – everything God says is TRUTH, and God’s truth does not change on the whim of mere men…Ω

Don and Joy Signature 2

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