JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES CLAIM TO BE GOD’S CHOSEN RELIGION. This claim is based entirely on what they believe happened in 1914-19. This is when they say God chose them to be his people on earth and rejected all other religions as false. The only “proof” they offer for the time of their being chosen is their own interpretation of the Bible.
Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that in 1914, Jesus was enthroned in heaven as King of God’s Kingdom. At the same time they say Jesus’ invisible “presence” began and he started to “inspect the spiritual temple”, meaning he started to look for the religion that would become God’s only chosen one. In the past, the governing body taught that this inspection took place in 1918, but The Watchtower July 15, 2013 p. 11 made this adjustment:
“… there were numerous religious groups who claimed to be Christ’s followers. So a crucial question needed to be answered: Who among those groups were the wheat? To settle that question, Jesus began to inspect the spiritual temple in 1914. That inspection and cleansing work involved a period of time—from 1914 to the early part of 1919. (fn. This is an adjustment in understanding. Previously, we thought that Jesus’ inspection took place in 1918.)”
The current belief of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that they alone were chosen during this period of “inspection” and that their governing body was then appointed as Jesus’ “faithful and discreet slave” in 1919. (Matthew 24:44, 45) Of course, there was nothing particularly obvious for anyone at the time to point to as evidence of their having been chosen by God. Christ’s “presence” was, according to Jehovah’s Witnesses, invisible as too was his inspection of the spiritual temple. The clouds didn’t roll back to reveal the “Son of Man” sitting in judgement of the world’s religions. No announcement was heard from heaven that the Bible Students—as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known—had been chosen. Their being chosen at that time is entirely the claim of Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves and relies completely on their unique interpretation of the Bible.
Essentially, their argument goes like this: “We were chosen in 1919 as God’s only true religion because as God’s only true religion we are able to interpret the Bible, and our interpretation of the Bible is that we were chosen in 1919 as God’s only true religion…”
We could point out that this is circular reasoning and does not amount to actual evidence of their choosing, but that would be too easy, so instead let’s turn to the Bible to prove that Jehovah’s Witnesses were not chosen as God’s only true religion in 1919. To do this, all we have to do is show that 1914 was not the start of Jesus’ presence and we can do this using just one scripture—Jeremiah 25:12.
First, let’s remind ourselves why Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that Jesus’ presence began in 1914. They get this date by first of all counting back 70 years from 537 BCE, the year they say that 70 years of Babylonian exile ended for the Jews. This gives them the date 607 BCE which they claim to have been the year Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon. They then use a number of scriptures to calculate the “seven times” of Daniel chapter 4 as being 2520 years long and count these “times” from 607 BCE.
607 BCE + 2520 years = 1914 AD
They then say that 1914 was the year Jesus was enthroned as King in heaven. They then point to World War I (1914-18) as “evidence” that Jesus’ “presence” began the same year. (Matthew 24:3, 7) Having established that Jesus’ presence began in 1914, Jehovah’s Witnesses go on to claim that Jesus started inspecting the world’s religions at that time and finally chose them as God’s only true religion in 1919. They base this claim on their interpretation of Malachi chapter 3.
Their position thus looks like this:
a) The 70 years ended in 537 BCE
b) Therefore Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 BCE
c) The “seven times” of Daniel chapter 4 means 2520 years starting in 607 BCE
d) Therefore Jesus’ “presence” and inspection of the world’s religions began in 1914
e) Jehovah’s Witnesses passed the inspection and were chosen as God’s only true religion
f) Therefore the governing body was appointed as Jesus’ “faithful and discreet slave” in 1919
Now, we could spend time explaining why their understanding of the “seven times” (c) is flawed, or question what actual, verifiable, evidence there was to support the appointment of the governing body as Jesus’ “faithful and discreet slave” in 1919 (f) but we don’t need to. All we need to prove is that the “70 years” (a) did not end in 537 BCE and the entire house of cards falls flat.
As it happens there is one scripture in the Bible that proves the 70 years did not end in 537 BCE. Jeremiah 25:12 in The New World Translation reads as follows:
“‘… when 70 years have been fulfilled, I will call to account the king of Babylon…’ declares Jehovah…”
Other Bible translations render this verse as follows:
“… when seventy years are accomplished…”—King James Version
“… when seventy years are full…”—The Bible in Living English
“… after seventy years are ended…”—The Bible in Basic English
“When the seventy years are over…”—Common English Bible
“… when the seventy years shall be expired…”—Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible
This single verse is very clear. The 70 years would end and then (ie. after the 70 years) the King of Babylon would be called to account (fn. “punished”). If you read it carefully, you will see this single verse shows that the 70 years did not end in 537 BCE. Why? Because according to history and the Bible (and even Jehovah’s Witnesses), the King of Babylon was killed two years earlier in 539 BCE. This means that the 70 years ended in 539 BCE which, in turn, means they started in 609 BCE.
In other words, Jehovah’s Witnesses 607 teaching has no basis in scripture.
Despite what Jehovah’s Witnesses claim about 607 BCE, historians tell us that Jerusalem was not destroyed in 607 BCE. Nor did the exile of Jews into Babylon happen in 607 BCE. In fact, these things didn’t even happen in 609 BCE! Historians, archaeologists, and almost all Bible scholars are united in saying that the destruction of Jerusalem took place in 586/7 BCE. Jehovah’s Witnesses stand alone in claiming that it happened in 607 BCE. In fact, the Jews were only exiled in Babylonia for around 50 years (587-537 BCE), not 70 as Jehovah’s Witnesses claim. Thus, the “70 years” referred to in Scripture does not refer to the exile, but to something else, something that took place in 609 BCE.
So what took place in 609 BCE? And does the Bible support this?
Well, it turns out that 609 to 539 BCE (70 years) is the period that Babylon (a.k.a. the Neo-Babylonian Empire) ruled as the dominant world power—and the Bible supports this. For example, an alternative (and, I feel, correct) translation of Jeremiah 29:10 shows that the 70 years referred not to the Jewish exile (“at Babylon”) but to the length of time Babylon would be the world power, that is 609 BCE to 539 BCE:
Compare this translation:
“When 70 years at Babylon are fulfilled…”—New World Translation
with these translations:
“When seventy years are completed for Babylon…”—New International Version
“When seventy years are ended for Babylon…”—The Bible in Basic English
“When seventy years are completed for Babylon…”—English Standard Version
“When Babylonia’s seventy years are over…”—Good News Translation
The idea that Babylon would rule for 70 years is confirmed by Jeremiah 25:10 which shows this period to be not a period of Jewish exile but of servitude to Babylon for all nations:
“… these nations will have to serve the king of Babylon for 70 years.”—New World Translation
Therefore, it can be shown that Jehovah’s Witnesses’ 607 BCE teaching has no basis historically or scripturally. It is a date imagined purely in the minds of the governing body past and present, finding its origin in Millerite and Adventist teachings of yesteryear.
1914 can not be calculated using the Bible, therefore there is no proof that Jesus’ presence began then or at any other time since. That being the case, the governing body has no basis on which to claim that they were appointed by Jesus in 1919, nor that Jehovah’s Witnesses as an organisation was chosen as God’s only true religion on earth back then.