Translated from the original by “M.L.”
Have you ever thought that in the Greek language “telos” (end) means “purpose” and not “disaster”?
In the Watchtower edition of January 2012, we read on page 4: “THINK about the first time you had a meaningful discussion with one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. What do you remember about it? Many would reply ... How delighted we were to discover God’s purpose for the earth”. Also, a suggestion that I often read in leaflets and books of JW, seemingly irrelevant to our subject matter, is that Christians should avoid cinema or television, because they are exposed to violent scenes (i.e. see the book “Keep yourselves in God’s love” page 65). Every time I read this, I wonder if Christians should also avoid Homer’s Iliad. It is certainly not a movie (although it has been adapted many times for cinema and television, and how could it not have been!) but its realistic description of violent scenes is something that literally haunts you. And of course, we shouldn’t forget the love scenes that the great poet has included in the 2 epics...
So let's summarize: talking with JW, we are happy because we learn what God has in mind for us, and reading their brochures we are informed that faithful Christians should avoid scenes of violence (I have not yet figured out whether this avoidance includes recognized masterpieces of Art). Now, let’s have a look at their magazines, released in 2012, to find out what is “God's purpose for Earth” (and of course to avoid bloody images, not fit for Christians).
I am looking at the “Watchtower” cover of February 2012. Absolutely impressive, with its huge fiery nuclear mushroom and the word “Armageddon” printed in large Hollywood style letters! In pages inside, I see cities on fire, hit by missiles (pp. 2 and 3). On another page, the scattered corpses of the Canaanites are shown (p. 6). On page 7, a smiling and happy group of people go away from a totally destroyed city (since apparently there is no greater happiness than seeing your city destroyed). Our planet is attacked by fire bursts (p. 25) and the back page is the continuation of the cover’s nuclear mushroom. Violent images? No, we are just studying God’s purpose for our world.
On page 4, always in the same magazine, we read that God “... will destroy those who destroy the Earth” with a reference to the Book of Revelation. “During the Armageddon only the wicked will be eliminated”. On pages 5-7, we read that God will protect His peaceful worshipers because otherwise His reputation would be at stake (let’s not forget that reputation is so important for us, so why should our Creator think different!). A little back, on page 6, we read that because of the attack which the “Kings of the earth” will launch against the worshipers of Jehovah God “millions of people will die when God defeats the invaders”. To be fair, and not be accused of misquoting, on page 7, the Watchtower says that millions will be saved and will contribute to turn Earth into a Paradise again.
I am not going to ask the simple logical question, which is why the Almighty Jehovah God needs the help of his creation to restore the land, but I must confess that “God's purpose for Earth” does not excite me at all, especially when combined with illustrations from the magazine. Why should I feel excited if I knew that I would see my city in ruins, and my loved ones getting killed because they did not hear the warnings of God, as they are presented by the Watchtower? Would it be possible to leave from a burning Athens, happy as the people on page 7 and not caring about my friends, relatives and neighbours who are dying horribly? Is this an expression of Christian belief? And as if all the illustrations I saw in the first pages of the magazine were not “fun” enough, I am reading on page 8 that “everything is now ready for the war of Armageddon”. So, it’s just a matter of time before we see our world burning. How would this perspective give hope to some people? Because they believe that they will survive, even though some or many of their loved ones will die horrible deaths? Moreover, the Watchtower announcing Jehovah’s kingdom comes back to the issue of the extinction of the world in the March 2012 issue, page 19: “Jehovah intends to eliminate the cause of painful memories. How? By wiping out this wicked world with all its evils and replacing it with an infinitely better one (highlight by me). At this point, it should perhaps be noted that when I started writing the article, I intended to report in detail about every JW magazine in 2012 mentioning what God has in mind for our world. In practice, however, this proved to be very difficult and the plan changed. The reason is simple: there is no brochure, leaflet or book of JW, which does not mention the destruction of the world of “evil men” and “false religion” and does not at the same time focus on the sense of urgency, so that JW will intensify their efforts for the “work” (preaching from door to door).
Simply, some publications are devoted entirely to the end of the world (like the Watchtower February 2012 edition we presented above), while others devote entire articles (or in some cases insert “the end of the world” mantra in the theme of the article). For example, see Watchtower March 2012, page 11, “Why our begging is vital”, Watchtower April 2012, page 22, “The Lord knows how to free his people”, Awake! May 2012, page 8, “True Justice”.
Awake! July 2012 is full of violent and depressing images (like the ones that Christians should not see in the movies) and gives the promise that God will change the world without saying how (see pp. 9 and 26).
Let’s stay for a while in Watchtower June 2012. Almost the entire magazine is devoted to the interpretation of prophecies, which “disclose important details about the future” (p. 2, Articles 1-2). The prophecies which are analyzed, are those of Daniel from the second chapter of his book (from 2.31 to 2.36) and Chapters 13 and 17 of Revelation.
The interpretation of the prophecy of Daniel is an issue that I have encountered very often in books, articles and magazines of JW. For those who may not know it, the prophecy is associated with a dream of Nebuchadnezzar, interpreted by the prophet. Specifically, the Babylonian emperor dreamed that he was looking at a huge statue with each of its body parts made from a different material: the head was made of gold, the arms and chest of silver, the belly and thighs of bronze, the legs of iron and the feet of iron and clay. While Nebuchadnezzar was looking at this enormous statue, a huge stone was cut off from a mountain, hit the statue in the legs and pulverized it. Then, the stone became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. According to the interpretation of Watchtower, every part of the statue represents an empire (see June 2012 edition, p. 12). The head is the empire of Babylon, the silver part is Persia, the abdomen and thighs are the Greek empire (presumably they mean the empire of Alexander the Great), the iron legs symbolize the Roman Empire and the legs of mixed materials (clay and iron), correspond to the modern empire of Britain and USA. The stone which strikes the statue is “The Kingdom of God” (p. 16).
Every time I read a JW interpretation of this prophecy, I wonder why the huge leap from the Roman Empire to the modern U.S. and England. Why would they pass so many empires throughout the centuries? Watchtower June 2012 feebly attempts to explain the interpretation of both on pp. 16 and 19 with arbitrary arguments. For example, in order to support their position, they write that Britain was “formerly part of the Roman Empire whose power began to rise from the mid 18th century”. But Germany was part of the Roman Empire as well, started 2 world wars, persecuted “"God's people” themselves relentlessly (as JW like to call themselves) and remains one of the most powerful forces of our time. And indeed, until recently, it was divided in West and East Germany. Why shouldn’t Germany be symbolized by the feet of the statue? Furthermore, I am still looking for an explanation about previous empires been overlooked (eg Byzantine Empire, Ottoman Empire, etc.). Perhaps, this is related to the interpretation of the Watchtower, that the last empire will not be replaced by some other force, but will be destroyed. But we will come back to this issue.
In summary, faithful JW are reading two extensive articles which interpret apocalyptic prophecies about the end of our world. In the August magazines, no information is given about how Jehovah will fulfill his promise and the righteous will inherit the earth. Of course there is extensive reference and argumentation that we live “the last days”, especially in the article “I am with you” p. 3. Also, in Awake! August 2012, there is an article which explains how violent and dark our world is, and that we should stay away from TV, movies and music. The cover shows a frightened woman lying on the street, while a thug goes away with a gun in his hand. I wonder: Is it possible that the discussion and study of the God of Love can cause fear, distress and disgust? Why do publications of “the faithful and meek servant” try to scare me, in order to awaken my religious feeling?
And finally, I begin to read the Watchtower September 2012. The titles of articles on the cover advise me beforehand: “How will this world come to an end”, “Peace for a thousand years - and forever!”, “You know neither the day nor the hour”. On page 3, therefore, a photograph shows a family looking uneasily at no specific point, with a flaming sky in the background. And I start reading about what will happen just before the end, about the “Day of Jehovah”, which will soon arrive and which will start with “the destruction of false religion and culminate with the war of Armageddon”. The article makes a reference to Paul’s first Epistle to Thessalonians in order to support its content. I looked up the letter and read what was written by the Apostle. To be honest, I understood something completely different from the Watchtower, but the theme of this article is not what I understand by reading the letters of Paul, but what I understand by reading the JW publications. So I continued reading this, admittedly interesting article. Because, how could it not be interesting, since it reveals to me what will happen in the immediate future! Actually, the more I read, the more I had the impression that realization of all those prophecies is just around the corner. And I must admit that I found particularly interesting the part where Watchtower calls all religions the “whore” of Revelation (p. 4). Now that's respect for religious beliefs of billions of people around the world! Also nice pictures adorn the text: armoured soldiers, cities surrendered to violence and fire falling from the sky and burning everything.
Going on reading this fascinating article, I come to a subsection which I read again just a few months ago: the prophecy of Daniel with the huge statue! I remember that it was analyzed in detail in the June issue. Now, Watchtower addresses again this issue (which must be no doubt one of its favorites). After explaining again what the statue that the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar dreamt about symbolizes, and which is the modern empire that will not see another empire to succeed it (because our world will be destroyed) it closes with the words: “How exciting it is to see with our own eyes the complete fulfillment of this prophecy!”. This comment solves the question that I had raised above, about neglecting the medieval and later empires and jumping to today. Because the sense of expectation is increased for the faithful JW that they will inherit the promised paradise. In the same Watchtower edition, there are other articles related to “the end of this wicked system of things” which explain how we benefit from the ignorance of the exact time of the end (rather strange for Watchtower to write this, but I suppose they have seen “a new light”), as well as how we should cultivate patience waiting for the end and the peace which will last for 1,000 years. Whenever I hear about the millennium of peace in the earthly paradise, I have always wondered what will happen, once this period ends. It is certainly a long time, but eventually a thousand years will certainly pass. Well, I even found an answer to this, but we will get away from our subject, if I present it.
And if you think that the extensive references to the destruction of our world from a religious organization, which advises its members not to watch movies because it promotes violence, stop somewhere here, you are wrong! I will not deny that this article has become a little bit long and I would like to finish it. Perhaps, even some of you have quit reading by now. So, it is obvious that Watchtower never fails to remind (or rather brainwash) its readers that we live through the “last days”. Let’s then talk briefly about "Awake!" September 2012, which (surprise!) deals again with the end of the world. Two issues in one same month, devoted almost entirely to this beloved subject. The magazine’s cover shows a ruined city: buildings have fallen, a bridge has been cut in half, a train as well, cars have been shuttered. The magazine promises to clarify the myths and truths surrounding this issue, so important for JW. In the next pages, we see the familiar pattern: flying saucers abducting people, tsunami destroying shores, threatening scientists dressed in white uniforms, viruses, dead bees, an asteroid hitting our planet, nuclear explosions, rockets, volcanoes. The magazine briefly analyzes scenarios that could lead to the extinction of mankind (p. 2-7) and shortly after shows the familiar images we know from Watchtower, the paradise with the fruit trees, the springs and the Armageddon survivors relaxing carelessly and enjoying their time. “According to the Bible, a radical change is imminent. But survival is guaranteed for all who do the will of God” (p. 8). And then of course, in Awake October 2012, p.26, another article devoted to the “last days” (p. 26).
Let's finish our article somewhere here, because our world will come to a “telos” (a purpose, according to the plan of our Lord), but even then Watchtower will be writing about the “end of wicked system of things”.
Note: References to all the JW publications are from electronic versions of their official website.
Writer Alexia Kriniti
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