This post is part of a series of posts summarising chapters of the Jehovah Witnesses' booklet, "What does the Bible really Teach?", and seeking to evaluate those chapters against Scripture somewhat briefly. Those posts were introduced at the Introduction, and a contents page will be added to that entry once this run of posts has finished.
Chapter 9: Are we living in “the last days”?
Jesus taught that only God knows the date when his kingdom will come, but he also told us the things that would happen just before the end. Those things are taking place now.
A war in heaven: After Jesus’ reign began in 1914, Satan was thrown down. Knowing time is short he is causing trouble, such as we are experiencing now. But the time will be short.
People of the last days: 2 Timothy 3:1-5 tells of the negative changes in community during the last days.
Positive Developments: True knowledge of God will become abundant, and the witnesses will use this to proclaim God’s kingdom to all of the inhabited earth. This is going on now as the Jehovah’s Witnesses preach the kingdom.
What will you do?: Notice the signs that we are in the last days. Get ready for the end of “Satan’s system”. Study the Bible, and meet with Jehovah’s other servants. Jesus warned that people would ignore the signs that we live in the last days, and he warned against being weighed down by this world’s affairs.
The problem with 1914 was considered in connection with chapter 8. For now, note that the texts quoted as proof we are in the last days (Matthew 24:7 and Luke 21:11) are in their context that the end is not imminent! Matthew 24:7ff and Luke 21:11ff record the same part of Jesus’ Olivet discourse. In Matthew 24, verse 7 follows on from verse 6 and starts with the word “for”. That is to say, verse 7 was written to explain verse 6. “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom… All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.”. Jesus is warning against being alarmed when we hear of wars, because these things will happen but only as the earliest stages of the last times.
The other issue is that those portions of Matthew 24 and Luke 21 foretell the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, not the final consummation. The signs referred to tell us that a big event is near, but not the big event claimed by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Problems of nations fighting, famines, earthquakes, plagues, and anti-social community breakdown are not new. They have been around since the time of Christ. To demonstrate that the present instances of these things are signs of the end, the Witnesses have to show that these things are happening with noticeably more frequency and intensity than before. This argument was not made, other than to notice the numbers of people who died in the 20th century in wars. However, given that the world’s population in the 20th century was so much bigger than at any time before, this is to be expected.
Finally, in Acts 2:17, Peter takes Joel 2:28 and changes “in those days” to “in the last days”, signalling that “the last days” had begun. He is using Joel 2 to interpret the events of the first Pentecost, events that had taken place on the day Peter was speaking. If the first Pentecost took place “in the last days”, then the last days had begun that far back. Peter doesn’t say when the last days will end, although “the day of the Lord, the great and magnificent day” (Acts 2:20) is a good candidate. The last days began well before 1914.