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
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
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
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
(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..."
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
"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
This rightly implicates the Watchtower as establishing a date based upon a
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
"The New World", "Millions Now Living May Never Die"
(1920), Watchtower (1917, 1923, 1924), Watchtower Society
(7) Awake, 1966,
(8) Our Kingdom Ministry
(1969, 1974), Watchtower Society
(9) Awake, October 8,
1968, page 23, starting bottom left hand column
Watchtower, May 15,
1930, pp 154-156
Watchtower, May 15,
1930, pg.156, upper left hand column
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.