Watching the September 2015 JW.TV Broadcast hosted by David Splane, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Robert Cranko, a Helper to the Writing Committee, we witnessed some of the strangest teachings yet to come from the Governing Body. In strangeness, it rivals the testimony given by Geoffrey Jackson, also a member of the Governing Body, on August 14, 2015 to the Australian Royal Commission investigating child sexual abuse among Jehovah’s Witnesses. The introductory discussion in the broadcast is a true red herring designed to mislead and obfuscate truth. Yet buried within was some new and exciting light! We hope to expose the deception and reveal the light in this article.
David Splane began by saying he wanted to discuss how their understanding of “this generation” that Jesus spoke about at Matthew 24:34 has a bearing on the nearness of the “time of the end” of this system of things. By the end of his discussion, there were so many biblically unsubstantiated statements in their understanding of Jesus’ plain and unambiguous words that one wonders if the Governing Body really took the time to carefully examine what they were broadcasting to millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world.
This scripture has been used for decades to determine how near we are to the “great tribulation.” Many of us are aware how often the Governing Body has revised their teachings on this subject. The foretold end keeps embarrassingly delaying its arrival, throwing all previous interpretations into a failed quandary and requiring novel and strange ways of reinterpreting Jesus’ plain and unambiguous words.
Now Jehovah’s Witnesses are being told that this new 2015 interpretation, as described below, is what Jesus had in mind when he was sitting with his four apostles on the Mount of Olives as they were overlooking Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago. But is that so?
Jesus’ Plain Words
The scripture referred to in the broadcast is Jesus’ words to his four primary apostles, Andrew, Peter, James and John, in 33 C.E. Jesus described a number of events that would culminate in a great tribulation in Jerusalem. After describing those events, Jesus said:
“This generation will by no means pass away until all these things happen.”
– Matthew 24:34
Clearly, the generation Jesus was referring to in that discussion was the generation of the four men he was speaking to. That is surely what the four men thought. Jesus spoke in a common dialect. The term “generation” simply means a group of people who: (1) are born about the same time; and (2) share the same experiences. As a confirmation of this definition, history tells us that all the things Jesus mentioned leading up to, and including, the great tribulation in Jerusalem culminated in 70 C.E., within the ‘generation’ of the four men who sat before Jesus. So where is the difficulty? Where is the confusion? Why have the Governing Bodies of Jehovah’s Witnesses been so confused as to its meaning?
Some believe Jesus was cryptically telling his followers that there would be a greater fulfillment of his prophesy about Jerusalem’s great tribulation that would occur in the 21st century. But is that so? Is there a greater fulfillment that will culminate in a similar or greater tribulation that we should be looking for today?
Not according to Jesus. He told those four men, as recorded at Matthew 24:21:
“[F]or then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.”
– Revised New World Translation
“For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.”
– New International Version
“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.”
– English Standard Version
No, there would be no greater fulfillment. The prophesy concerning a great tribulation is a closed prophesy. There may continue to be horrific events on our planet, but none would compare with, and certainly not exceed, the great tribulation suffered in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. It would be appropriate to call the tribulation in Jerusalem the Greatest Tribulation ever suffered, and ever to be suffered, by a ‘system of things.’
The continual effort of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other Christians, to find a greater fulfillment of Jesus’ plain and unambiguous prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem is pointless and even disrespectful to Jesus. His plain words should end any dispute.
Notwithstanding what is so clearly articulated by Jesus, this scripture continues to cause a great deal of problems for Jehovah’s Witnesses as is evidenced by the September 2015 broadcast. So for those still “limping between two different opinions” (1 Kings 18:21) and unable to decide whether to believe Jesus or to believe the Governing Body, let’s take a close look at the Governing Body’s newest reinterpretation as delivered by David Splane.
The Watchtower’s “Generation”
David Splane departed from the common use of the term “generation,” leaving out the part that all members of a generation are ‘born about the same time.’ He opted for the more self-serving and incomplete definition of “a group of contemporaries,” or “a group of people who lived at the same time.” In his definition, not all members of “this generation” were born at the same time, but they did live at the same time. Think about that for a moment. According to Splane’s definition, parents and grandparents who are alive at some point during a child’s life are part of the child’s generation! Does anyone think that makes sense? Yes, they all lived at the same time, but they do not share the same experiences. They usually do not like the same music, the same entertainment, the same taste in clothing, etc. They usually do not view people the same way, or share the same prejudices and tolerances. They simply are not contemporaries!
However, Splane was able to mislead his audience and draw the attention away from the clear fallacy of his definition by focusing on the life of one individual. His definition was not for the purpose of seeing who is included, but for the purpose of determining who is excluded so that he can make the claim that the end is near. And he produced a chart to prove it!
According to the chart, the individual chosen for his explanation was Frederick W. Franz (“F.W.F.”), a previous and now-deceased member of the Governing Body. Fred Franz’ life is used as the pivot point for defining “this generation” that would be alive to fulfill Jesus words at Matthew 24:34 (which, as we have shown, has already been fulfilled).
Splane explains that “this generation” began one year after Fred Franz was baptized, in 1914, and all those who make up “this generation” would be alive and anointed prior to Franz’ death in 1992. He next says that anyone anointed after 1992 would not be part of “this generation.” To be a part of “this generation,” one would have to be an anointed contemporary of Frederick W. Franz. So really what Splane was saying is that “this generation” really means “Fred Franz’ generation!”
Their definition completely dismisses and excludes the apostles and disciples in Jesus’ day, the ones to whom Jesus was actually speaking! How offensive that Splane, and apparently the Governing Body, completely discounts Jesus’ own contemporaries!
Splane goes on to identify a second group of those who make up “this generation.” This group comprises other high-ranking Jehovah’s Witnesses such as Nathan Knorr, Lyman Swingle, Grant Suiter, Milton Henschel, George Gangas, Karl Klein, John Barr and Albert Schroeder, who were all past members of the Governing Body and ‘anointed’ contemporaries of Fred Franz. But all of these men are now dead so if “this generation” depends on the living witness of these individuals, “this generation” has long passed.
Not to worry! Splane also includes the current members of the Governing Body as being contemporaries with Fred Franz and also a part of “this generation,” though they were clearly born many, many years after Fred Franz was born. The inclusion of the current Governing Body members in “this generation” allows them to continue their false expectation and infer that the anticipated greater tribulation is still in the future.
And consider this point. According to Splane’s definition, “this generation” not only includes current members of the Governing Body, but it also includes anointed brothers and sisters who are not members of the Governing Body. So since the Governing Body does not keep a record of anointed brothers other than themselves, how would they know when “this generation” would actually die off? An anointed one who was merely in his 20's in 1992 might live as long as Franz and not die for another 50 years or until 2065. Does that sound like the end is ‘right around the corner?’
Nevertheless, something good did come out of the broadcast. Splane identifies a third group, those who were anointed after the death of Fred Franz, that is, after 1992. These later-anointed ones are not a part of “this generation.” He explained:
“But who’s to say that Jehovah won’t be anointing more people years from now, and then they’ll be reading about us in some updated version of the Proclaimer’s Book. Well the answer is simple. Anyone anointed years from now would not have been a contemporary of the first group of anointed ones because they have passed off the scene.”
These comments indicate that the Governing Body believes that there are true anointed Christians who were anointed after 1992 and that Jehovah will anoint others ‘years from now.’ This is new light for Jehovah’s Witnesses! Think about it! Expectant mothers today could give birth to a new generation of anointed Christians. Splane proposed the probability that there may in the future be a brotherhood of anointed Christians who originate within Jehovah’s Witnesses!
We hope Jehovah’s Witnesses who are struggling with accepting their sonship will take note. Finally, the Governing Body acknowledges that there are, and will continue to be, anointed Christians for years to come! As John the Baptist described, the ‘earthly hopers’ will keep on decreasing while the ‘heavenly hopers’ keep on increasing! (John 3:30)
It is noteworthy that David Splane never used the term “overlapping generations.” It appears that the Governing Body has abandoned that concept since overlapping generations means there would be two separate and distinct generations that overlap, not just one.
But, even with this new twist, if we are to use Splane’s definition, then, in the entire history of mankind, there has only been one generation because there were always people who lived contemporaneously with someone of an earlier and later “generation.” In fact, it completely dilutes Jesus’ words that there would be one specific generation that would witness the greatest tribulation ever to occur.
For the Sake of Argument
It must be acknowledged that Splane prefaced his explanation of “this generation” by saying that he was using Fred Franz “for the sake of argument.” In other words, Splane is saying:
“Let’s pretend Fred Franz was the last of the group who saw the events of 1914. If so, then you will be able to understand my real explanation.”
Some might think Splane used this phrase so as not to appear dogmatic. We disagree. We note that at no time in the broadcast does Splane ever withdraw the assertion that Fred Franz was the last of such group. He never removed his ‘pretend’ explanation to assert the true explanation. So this speech was nothing more than speculation that each thinking person should be free to reject. But that is not the case. This new ‘pretend’ explanation will be binding on Jehovah’s Witnesses and used against them if they dare to question it.
The upside is that the Governing Body will not be able to distance themselves from this obvious error in teaching and false prophetic interpretation by putting the blame on the rank and file Jehovah’s Witnesses who took it upon themselves to read more into his words like they did concerning 1975. This fiasco is recorded on video by their own recording studio, published on the internet on their own website, and spoken from the mouth of their own Governing Body – the Guardians of Doctrine!
But there is an even greater reason to reject this explanation. The whole discussion is a red herring!
The Red Herring
A ‘red herring’ is described as “something unimportant that is used to stop people from noticing or thinking about something important” or “an irrelevant topic introduced in an argument to divert the attention of listeners or readers from the original issue.” This is an apt description of what Splane did in the September 2015 broadcast and there is ample evidence that many are losing sight of the important issue and focusing on the unimportant. Let’s explain.
When attempting to explain the meaning of “this generation” so as to determine when an event would occur, the important word is “this,” not “generation.” Whatever definition one may have to describe a ‘generation,’ the relevant question is “Which of the many generations that have existed since Jesus stated his prophecy was Jesus referring to?” It is a question of when, not who.
Jesus used the word “this.” What would the four apostles have understood Jesus to mean? What do you think “this” means? Imagine yourself as one of the four who were listening to Jesus as he stated these words. Would you have been confused and thought “Maybe he means a generation that will arise long after our death.” Or would you have realized he was referring to the generation of those who were listening to him right then. There is little doubt that an honest Bible reader would conclude that Jesus said what he meant – that the generation that heard his prophetic word would witness all the events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. And that is exactly what happened. Within 37 years of his prophesy, Jerusalem was destroyed just as Jesus prophesied!
The most important thing to know about Matthew 24:34 is that the prophesy about a great tribulation was fulfilled in 70 C.E., thereby concluding and ending the prophecy. It has no further meaning for our generation. It has already come and gone. All those who are looking for a ‘greater fulfillment’ of Jesus’ words to his four apostles are destined for disappointment. There will be no ‘greater fulfillment’ because Jesus said, plainly and openly, that there would never be anything like it in the future! (Matthew 24:21)
The Future for Lovers of Christ
What lovers of Christ Jesus must remember is that whenever an end comes to this system of things is of no import because “everyone who calls upon the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13) Also, trying to calculate an end time date is a waste of time since Jesus said:
“Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.”
– Matthew 24:36
Perhaps that is because when the end comes, it will be tied to an event, not a date. Notice what Jesus said:
“And this good news of the Kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
– Matthew 24:14
Yes, when this good news of the kingdom is preached in all the inhabited earth, then will come the end. But not a catastrophic end of civilization. An end to all forms of sorrow, suffering and injustice due to knowledge and enlightenment. Jehovah’s Witnesses should spend more time preaching about the kingdom that Jesus preached about, instead of promoting their obscure and misleading doctrines about an end of the world scenario.
The Real Test
After you carefully listen to and analyze the Governing Body’s reinterpretation of “this generation” as presented by David Splane, you will discover there are many more problems that “The Guardians of Doctrine” have created and left unexplained. The real test of this interpretation lies in whether the individual Jehovah’s Witnesses have the courage to go out in public with this chart and this explanation and attempt to convince the public that this is the meaning Jesus wanted to convey to his four close apostles. How will you exclude any mention of the anointed men and women of the first century ‘generation’ who bore the brunt of the cruelest forms of persecution for Christ name, in favor of highlighting the lives of privileged and prominent men associated with the Watchtower organization?
In past articles and convention dramas, these Christians who had to flee to the mountains of Pella held an important place in the fulfillment of Matthew 24. It appears now that there is not enough room in the picture to include them along with the ‘great’ personalities of past and present Watchtower Governing Body members. They want the limelight all to themselves, and with each reinterpretation and distortion of scripture, they have taken it.
The arrogance and self-importance of the Governing Body becomes more and more inflated with each new re-interpretation of scripture. As each member takes turns exposing themselves in this highly visible form of public media, we are treated to a first-hand introduction of the quality of the men who have taken on the self-appointed responsibility of “preparing the food at the proper time.” Looks like ‘red herring’ is on the menu!
One shudders to think of how they will be able to give an accounting to Christ Jesus for the ways they have distorted his teachings to advance their own personal glory. The Australian Inquiry and this new broadcast has established a new low point for these spiritually beleaguered men. Anyone who is still fearfully sitting on the fence in regard to standing up for Christ and accepting their own sonship and anointing should ask themselves, is the fear of men of this low spiritual caliber worth the sacrifice?
The Jews in 1st century Jerusalem were earnestly looking for an end to a certain ‘system of things.’ The end that came was their own end. Likewise today, Jehovah’s Witnesses are earnestly looking for an end to the current ‘system of things.’ But the end that will come is their own. How soon? As they are fond of saying, “The end is near! Just around the corner!” And thanks to JW Broadcasting, it won’t be long now!
Rather than awaiting a destructive end, why not consider an alternative view. We encourage you to read our article, Turning Back Destruction. And, as always, we welcome your comments.