Anointed Too Old - Watchtower to Change 'Channels?'
This month's Watchman Expositor contains a documented cross-referenced history of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society from 1870 to the present.
This historical outline is a greatly expanded version of the one first published in the Expositor in 1990 (Vol. 7, no. 6) and is intended to be a helpful overview and witnessing tool that reveals many of the mistakes, false prophecies, and doctrinal changes of the Watchtower Society.
It is designed to help Christians show their friends and loved- ones who are Jehovah's Witnesses that there are some real reasons that Christians do not trust the Watchtower or believe that it accurately reflects the teachings of the Bible.
An overview of the Watch-tower's past can accomplish another goal as well. When reviewing the history of the Watchtower, doctrinal evolution and trends can be analyzed that help anticipate the future directions of the organization.
One of the more interesting potential developments in the Society relates to the issue of authority. A major change in leadership structure may be in the works.
Currently Jehovah's Witnesses teach 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 in the Great Crowd class, which is also called the "other sheep."
They have traditionally been excluded from upper-level leadership and decision making in the organization because the Watchtower teaches that they have significant spiritual handicaps.
The Watchtower teaches that those of 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 mediator only for that small group. They teach that the Great Crowd can not look to Jesus as their mediator (Watchtower, 1 April 1979, p. 31).
Instead, the average Jehovah's Witness believes that they must "come to Jehovah's organization for salvation" (Watchtower, 15 April 1981, p. 21).
"Jehovah's organization," the Watchtower is controlled by a twelve man Governing Body made up of members of the Anointed Class.
Members of the Anointed Class do have the Holy Spirit and God directly communicates through them to lead his organization today.
These Anointed ones are supposedly commissioned by Jehovah to dispense "spiritual nourishment at the right time" according to their interpretation of Matthew 24:45 (Watchtower, 1 December 1981, p. 27).
Thus all authority flows from the Anointed class - more specifically the Governing Body - down to the Great Crowd.
Anointed are Aged
A problem with this theory unfolds in the parallel Watchtower teaching that the entire number of Anointed from the first century until 1935 was to be only 144,000.
They teach that in 1935 this number was completed and no new members of the 144,000 can be added. Thus, the pool from which the Society can choose new Governing Body members is quickly drying up (Man's Salvation Out of World Distress At Hand!, p. 302; and From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained, pp. 194-95).
The Governing Body itself is aged and feeble. The Watchtower President, Frederick Franz is now 98 years old and the other member are also very old.
Simple math reveals that a very young, 15 year-old Jehovah's Witness in 1935 is now 72 years old!
Anointed are Shrinking
The Society keeps a careful count of living Anointed members.
At their annual memorial meal (Lord's Supper) they count those who partake of the bread and wine. Only Anointed ones can partake while the rest simply pass the elements without eating or drinking.
These figures are sent to Watchtower headquarters in Brooklyn, New York and published annually. Last year the society reported over ten million in attendance at the memorial meal - but only 8,850 partook of the memorial meal (Watchtower, 1 January 1992, p. 13). That means that less than 9,000 of the 144,000 are still alive and these are quite elderly and are steadily dwindling.
In a 1989 edition of the Watchman Expositor, David Henke reported that steps were apparently already underway 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 now taken a major step in that direction.
In his current newsletter, Comments from the Friends, former Jehovah's Witness David Reed pointed out that men of the "great crowd" have now been invited to sit on Governing Body Committees (Summer 1992, pp. 14-15).
The Watchtower stated: "Therefore it has been decided to invite several helpers, mainly from among 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" (Watchtower, 15 April 1992, p. 31).
Reed explained that these new helpers will probably serve a very limited role at first, saying, "There is no indication that `these assistants' would attend the meetings of the 12 member Governing body itself, where doctrinal changes are approved - only the more routine Committee meetings" (Comments).
Reed, a long time Watchtower watcher, notes the reason for the change is obvious.
He explained that of the 8,850 remaining Anointed, over half are women and therefore ineligible and of the remaining men, most are in their late seventies or older.
Reed summarized the Watchtower's dilemma stating: "The organization faces turning over leadership to men who are eligible but incompetent, or else changing the rules of eligibility to permit competent younger men to assume control" (Ibid).
The Watchtower teaches that God's sole "channel of communication" today comes from the class known as the "faithful and discreet slave" (KJV "faithful and wise servant" Matt. 24:45-47) who "provide spiritual nourishment at the right time for all his followers" (Watchtower, 1 December 1981, p. 27).
They also insist that this channel or, "`faithful and discreet slave' is to be made up of spirit-anointed ones" and that "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" (Ibid, see also Insight on the Scriptures, Vol. 1, pp. 805-06).
The reasoning is that the other sheep are not anointed with the Holy Spirit and therefore cannot fully come to truth by themselves though prayer or Bible reading.
They must rely on this sole channel made up of individual "slaves" lead by the Holy Spirit and positioned in the "discreet-slave body" (Watchtower, 1 February 1952, p. 79).
Now the Watchtower must begin a slow transition away from this fundamental doctrine and begin conditioning their followers to accept non-anointed "other sheep" as that spirit-led channel of communication.
This is not the first time the Watchtower has "changed channels."
What Was the Original Channel?
Originally the Society taught that the faithful and wise servant was not a class of people but one individual man - their founder, Charles Taze Russell (Studies in the Scriptures: The Finished Mystery Vol. 7, pp. 4-5; Watchtower, 1 May 1922, pp. 131-32).
In 1927, over a decade after Russell's death in 1916, the society switched to its current position that this faithful slave or "channel" was not Russell himself but actually a "class" of people (1975 Yearbook p. 88).
Interestingly, in the interim (before the dead "slave," Russell, was replaced with the living "slave," the "class") the society taught that Russell was still leading the society as its faithful and wise servant from beyond the grave!
The Watchtower claimed "though Pastor Russell has passed beyond the veil, he is still managing every feature of the Harvest work. `THE WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY is the greatest corporation in the word, because from the time of its organization until now the Lord has used it as His channel though which to make known the Glad Tidings'" (Finished Mystery, p. 144).
This sounds uncomfortably like the Occultic practice of spiritism or necromancy (communication with the dead) a procedure strictly forbidden in the Bible (Deuteronomy 18:9-11).
The Watchtower Society also condemns communication with the dead saying: "A major feature of spiritism is claimed communication with the dead. Since the dead `are conscious of nothing at all,' communication with such dead persons is actually impossible."
"And in the Christian Greek Scriptures the statement is made that those who practice spiritism `will not inherit God's kingdom.'"
"It, therefore logically follows that any claimed communication with dead persons, if not a deliberate lie on the part of the claimant, must be from and evil source, a source that stands in opposition to Jehovah God" (Insight on the Scriptures, "Spiritism" Vol. 2, p. 1027).
The Society teaches that the dead are in the grave conscious of nothing until the judgement (a doctrine sometimes called "soul sleep") and therefore they can not communicate with the living.
This, they teach, is true of all of the dead except the anointed. The anointed do have conscious existence in heaven. Thus the Watchtower can create an exception to the Biblical prohibition concerning communication with the dead (Let God Be True, p. 203).
The Watchtower teaches that human communication with the dead is always "impossible" or "evil" in every case except one: when they do it!
The bizarre doctrine that the dead Russell was still in contact with the Society was, of course, made obsolete when Russell was replaced by the new channel, the anointed class.
Later in fact, in 1931, the society condemned the notion, stating:
"No one of the temple company will be so foolish as to conclude that some brother (or brethren) at one time amongst them, and who has died and gone to heaven, is now instructing the saints on earth and directing them as to their work. Such a conclusion smacks of the `sin of Samaria'" (Jehovah, p. 191).
With a living channel on earth the society no longer had to claim it was still being personally directed by the dead Russell.
Channelled Messages from the Dead Again?
But now that the Anointed class is dying off, will these dead men also be able to communicate with living witnesses and lead the Society from beyond the grave?
David Reed pointed out that the Society may be making similar claims about dead Anointed witnesses that it once made about Russell.
Reed notes that, "Their current publication Revelation - Its Grand Climax At Hand (1988) does in fact contain another similar reference to communication with the dead" (Comments from the Friends, Summer 1992, p.3).
He cites the Society's teachings that Revelation 7:13-14, "suggests that resurrected ones of the 24-elders group may be involved in communicating of divine truths today" (Revelation - Its Grand Climax At Hand, p. 125).
Is today's Governing Body communicating with dead ones of the Anointed class?
Are Russell and other early Watchtower leaders still communicating with the Anointed from beyond the grave?
What methods or techniques are used by the Governing Body to contact these dead spirits?
When all the Anointed are dead, will the new leadership still claim to be in communication with them?
Will this claim be used as proof of the new leadership's authority?
While some of these questions may never be fully answered, thoughtful Jehovah's Witnesses may want to question an ever changing source of authority, that even seems willing to claim communication with the dead, to prop up their claims to be "God's Channel."