False Prophets and the Watchtower Society


By Tom Smith

Last Update: September 15, 2006



Jehovah’s Witnesses frequently claim that they do not have any prophets, and therefore cannot be accused of false prophecy. But does that hold up under a review of the history of the organization? This article will examine the Jehovah’s Witnesses definition of prophet, history of false prophecy and C.T. Russell's views on false prophecy.

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Claim to Have Prophets?

Officially the answer is no. However, it all depends upon what you mean when you ask the question. In the article They shall know that a prophet was among them, Page 197 of the Watchtower, April 1, 1972, there is an insert on the right hand column about one third of the way from the top. Twice in this article they state that the Watchtower Society, as a whole body, is a prophet:

"He had a "prophet" to warn them. This "prophet" was not one man, but was a body of men and women. It was a small group of footstep followers of Jesus Christ, known at that time as International Bible Students." (1)

The International Bible Students is an early name for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Therefore they claim to be a prophet as a body, rather than to have prophets within the body. Let’s look at the Watchtower Society’s definition of a prophet:

"Person utilized by God to reveal his will and purpose. (Luke 1:70; Acts 3:18-21.)             . . . The Greek term pro·f_e·t_es which literally means "proclaimer" [gr. pro, "before" or "in the presence of", y f_e·mí, "say"]", designates a person who declares or reveals messages attributed to a divine source. (Compare with Titus 1:12.) Although predictions of the future enter into this concept, this is not the FUNDAMENTAL meaning of the word. (Compare with Judges 6:7-10.)" (2)

Though I agree that there are two aspects to prophecy, forthtelling and foretelling, one cannot argue that side of the coin while ignoring the fact that the Watchtower Society have issued false prophecies of the foretelling type as well, claiming in many or all cases that it came from God, for example:

1874 - Watchtower Society predicts return of Christ (3)

1914 - Watchtower Society predicts return of Christ (4)(5)

1925 - Watchtower Society predicts return of OT saints, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to earth to live in an estate in San Diego.(6)

1975 - Watchtower Society predicts the end of human history (7)(8)

In light of these false prophecies, can the Watchtower Society still claim to be a true prophet? Let’s go to scripture to see what it has to say:

John 7:16-19

16 Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. 18 He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.


A True Prophet therefore prophesies in the Name of the Lord, not in his Own Name. (2 Pet. 1:21, "For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."). Deuteronomy 18:21 in the New King James we read "How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?". Verse 22 says that when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken.

What is a test of a false prophet from the perspective of the Watchtower Society? Let's go to what the Watchtower Society says:

"True, there have been those in times past who predicted an "end to the world," even announcing a specific date. Some have gathered groups of people with them and fled to the hills or withdrawn into their houses waiting for the end. Yet, nothing happened. The "end" did not come. They were guilty of false prophesying." (9)


"If he is a false prophet, his prophecy will fail to come to pass... The difference between a true and a false prophet is that one is speaking the word of the Lord and the other is speaking his own dreams and guesses. Therefore, they are false prophets; and the people should no longer trust them as safe guides..." (10)

The Watchtower Society also tells us that we are not to fix the date (12), yet at the top of the next page, though, the Watchtower continues:

"However, the Bible's time clock does indicate to us that 6,000 years of human history end in this year 1975."

In the July 15, 1976 Watchtower, the Watchtower pointed out that if anyone was disappointed by setting their sights on the 1975 date that they should now adjust their viewpoints seeing that it was not the word of God that failed but that it was his own understanding that was based on false premises, and in the March 15, 1980 edition (quoted above), the Watchtower (P.18) states that the blame also falls on anyone "having to do with the publication of the information that contributed to the buildup of hopes centered on that date", which as has been pointed out above, includes the Watchtower Society.

This rightly implicates the Watchtower as establishing a date based upon a false understanding.

So, in summary, the Watchtower society claims to be a prophet, has issued prophecies, which turned out not to come to pass. That means, even according to the Watchtower society tests and definition, that the Watchtower Society is a false prophet and their prophecies are false prophecies. So with that in mind, what does the Watchtower Society say to do about false prophets?

"Therefore, they are false prophets; and the people should no longer trust them as safe guides..." (11)


Based upon the above, we can see that the Watchtower Society is a false prophet, both under the Biblical definition and under the definition of the Watchtower itself. Based upon their own advice, the teachings of the Watchtower Society, who are the source of the doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witness movement are not to be trusted as safe guides.


(1)    Watchtower, April 1, 1972, Page 197. Published by eth Watchtower Bible and Tract Society

(2)     "Insight on the Scriptures" Vol II, Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Look under “Prophet”.

(3)      “Studies in the Scriptures", Charles Taze Russell, " Vol 4, 1874.

(4)     "The Truth Shall Set You Free", "Let God be True", "Studies in the Scriptures", Charles Taze Russell  Vol 2 1888

(5)     "Studies in the Scriptures", Charles Taze Russell Vol 3 1891

(6)     "Salvation", "The New World", "Millions Now Living May Never Die" (1920), Watchtower (1917, 1923, 1924), Watchtower Society

(7)     Awake, 1966, Watchtower Society

(8)     Our Kingdom Ministry (1969, 1974), Watchtower Society

(9)     Awake, October 8, 1968, page 23, starting bottom left hand column

(10)       Watchtower, May 15, 1930, pp 154-156

(11)       Watchtower, May 15, 1930, pg.156, upper left hand column

(12)       Watchtower Oct 1, 1973, pg. 579, last paragraph lower left hand column.


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by Permission. All rights reserved.

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