A Jehovah's Witness Time Bomb: Will Milton Henschel be the Last "Anointed" Watchtower Leader?
By James K. Walker
In this issue of the Watchman Expositor we again turn our attention to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society and their followers, the Jehovah's Witnesses. This issue shares testimonies of two former Jehovah's Witnesses, examines flaws in the Watchtower's salvation message, and discusses the Society's recent attempts to deny that an earlier president, Joseph Rutherford, was really their leader.
But it is the current president, Milton Henschel, who faces the true crisis of leadership. Poor theology and careless eschatology set in motion 50 years ago under Rutherford has created a virtual "time" bomb in the Society. If he lives long enough, Henschel may be one of the last if not the last "anointed" Watchtower presidents. Without a major doctrinal or policy change under Henschel's leadership, the Society may face a virtual leadership vacuum when he dies.
Since the days of Rutherford, the Watchtower society has taught a two-class system of believers: the anointed class (144,000) and the great crowd (originally called the Jonadab class).
The vast majority of Jehovah's Witnesses fall into the great crowd category, which is also called the 'other sheep.' They have traditionally been excluded from upper-level leadership and decision making because the Watchtower teaches that they have spiritual handicaps. The Watchtower teaches that the great crowd have no hope of heaven, but instead have an earthly hope. Their goal is to survive Armageddon and live forever on a paradise earth. More importantly, they are also taught that they are not anointed with the Holy Spirit, nor does God communicate directly with them.
The Watchtower insists that only the anointed are "born again," and that, technically, Jesus is the mediator for that small group alone. They teach that the great crowd cannot look to Jesus as their mediator (Watchtower, 1 April 1979, p. 31). Instead, the average Jehovah's Witness believes that he must "come to Jehovah's organization for salvation" (Watchtower, 15 November 1981, p. 21).
"Jehovah's Organization," the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, is controlled by a handful of men known as the Governing Body who are all of the anointed class. These members believe that they alone are anointed of the Holy Spirit, and God communicates directly through them to lead His organization today. According to their interpretation of Matthew 24:45, these anointed ones are supposedly commissioned by Jehovah to dispense "spiritual nourishment at the right time" (Watchtower, 1 December 1981, p. 27). Thus, all authority flows from the anointed class (in effect the Governing Body) down to the great crowd.
An Anointed Time Bomb
A problem unfolds with the theory that the entire number of anointed ones, from the first century to 1935, was to be only 144,000. They teach that in 1935 this number was completed and that, barring rare exceptions, no further members can be added. Thus, the pool from which the Society can choose new Governing Body members is quickly depleting (Man's Salvation Out of World Distress at Hand!, p. 302; and From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained, pp. 194-95).
The Governing Body is itself aged and feeble. The Watchtower president, Milton Henschel, is now 75 years old, and simple math reveals that a veryyoung, five-year-old Jehovah's Witness in 1935 is now 65 years old!
The Society keeps a careful count of living, anointed members. At their annual memorial meal, (Lord's Supper), they count those who partake, while the rest simply pass the elements without eating or drinking. These figures are sent to Watchtower headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, and are published annually. Last year the society reported over twelve million in attendance at the memorial meal but only 8,617 partook (Watchtower, 1 January 1995, p. 15). This means that less than 9,000 of the 144,000 are still alive, but they are quite elderly and are steadily dwindling.
In a 1989 edition of the Watchman Expositor, David Henke reported that even then there were imminent plans to slowly replace aged anointed with younger members of the great crowd (Vol. 6, No. 9, p. 1). Henke pointed out that in the September 1989 Watchtower, three separate articles all indicated that non-anointed ones will be given new responsibilities previously reserved only for the anointed. The Society has since taken a major step in that direction.
The Watchtower stated in 1992: "Therefore it has been decided to invite several helpers, mainly from the great crowd, to share in the meetings of each of the Governing Body Committees, that is, the Personnel, Publishing, Service, Teaching and Writing Committees" (15 April 1992, p. 31).
But could someone of the great crowd ever serve on the governing body or even as president of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society itself? This would be virtually impossible under the present system because of the Watchtower's authority structure.
Jehovah's Witnesses are led to believe that the information in the Watchtower functionally supercedes the Bible. The Watchtower teaches that the Bible is true, but one cannot find truth without being connected to the spirit anointed remnant that produces the Watchtower's books and magazines. The Society explains:
"God's Word continues to serve as a light to our path and a lamp to our roadway as to our conduct and beliefs (Ps. 119:105). But Jehovah God has also provided his visible organization, his 'faithful and discreet slave,' made up of spirit-anointed ones,.... Unless we are in touch with this channel of communication that God is using, we will not progress along the road to life, no matter how much Bible reading we do" (Watchtower, 1 December 1981, p. 27).
In effect, Jehovah's Witnesses of the great crowd are taught that they can not trust their own ability to understand God through "Bible reading." Instead they must look to the "spirit-anointed ones" who use their superior spiritual insight to direct the "channel of communication that God is using" the Watchtower Society. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the doctrines taught by the Society are true and can be trusted to line up with the Bible only because God communicates through its anointed leadership. If the leaders are no longer of the anointed class, the Watchtower may find itself facing a major crisis of authority.
[For further information and witnessing tools, readers are encouraged to order the tape and workbook sets: Jehovah's Witnesses and the Dating Game and/or Doctrines unto Destruction ($13 donation each.)]