False Prophecy or Misguided Interpretation of Prophecy?
There is a big difference between misguided and immature exegesis of prophecy or scripture and
outright false prophecy. The later is an attempt to deceive by contradicting true prophecy and scripture.
One challenge offered to Jehovah’s Witnesses is to admit that they made mistakes. There is no cognitive dissonance
about this. As one would expect from sincere Christians, this challenge is very easy to meet, as this one example
The October 1, 1984 issue of The Watchtower on page 24, ‘Jehovah Has Dealt Rewardingly With Me,’ stated:
“Regarding his [Rutherford’s] misguided statements as to what we could expect in 1925, he once confessed to
us at Bethel, “I made an ass of myself.””
Another such admission is found in our faith-strengthening history book Jehovah’s Witnesses: Proclaimers
of God’s Kingdom:
“Later on, during the years from 1935 through 1944, a review of the overall framework of Bible chronology revealed
that a poor translation of Acts 13:19, 20 in the King James Version, along with certain other factors, had thrown
off the chronology by over a century. This later led to the idea—sometimes stated as a possibility, sometimes
more firmly—that since the seventh millennium of human history would begin in 1975, events associated with
the beginning of Christ’s Millennial Reign might start to take place then.
Did the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses on these matters prove to be correct? They certainly did not err in believing
that God would without fail do what he had promised. But some of their time calculations and the expectations that
they associated with these gave rise to serious disappointments.” (pages 632-633)
Thus, it was a breakthrough in deciphering Bible chronology and uprooting an inherited and cherished error from
the 19th century that led to the sensational (and sometimes immaturely expressed) expectations for 1975. But this
did not prevent Jehovah’s Witnesses from continuing to study the Bible and improve our understanding of it.
Additionally it states:
“In the years following 1966, many of Jehovah’s Witnesses acted in harmony with the spirit of that counsel [the
main point about not being specific about what might happen]. However, other statements were published on this
subject, and some were likely more definite than advisable. This was acknowledged in The Watchtower
of March 15, 1980 (page 17). But Jehovah’s Witnesses were also cautioned to concentrate mainly on doing Jehovah’s
will and not to be swept up by dates and expectations of an early salvation.” (page 104)
That cited Watchtower stated:
“With the appearance of the  book Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God, and its comments
as to how appropriate it would be for the millennial reign of Christ to parallel the seventh millennium of man’s
existence, considerable expectation was aroused regarding the year 1975. There were statements made then, and thereafter,
stressing that this was only a possibility. Unfortunately, however, along with such cautionary information, there
were other statements published that implied that such realization of hopes by that year was more of a probability
than a mere possibility. It is to be regretted that these latter statements apparently overshadowed the cautionary
ones and contributed to a buildup of the expectation already initiated.”
So blame was not cast on the Witness community, but on the ones taking the lead among them. Additionally, one cautionary comment declared the following near the end of 1974:
The publications of Jehovah’s witnesses have shown that, according to Bible chronology, it appears that 6,000 years of man’s existence will be completed in the mid-1970’s. But these publications have never said that the world’s end would come then. Nevertheless, there has been considerable individual speculation on the matter. So the assembly presentation “Why We Have Not Been Told ‘That Day and Hour’” was very timely. It emphasized that we do not know the exact time when God will bring the end. All we know is that the end will come within the generation that sees fulfilled on it the sign that Jesus Christ said would then be in evidence. (See Matthew chapters 24, 25.) All indications are that the fulfillment of this sign began in 1914. So we can be confident that the end is near; we do not have the slightest doubt that God will bring it about, the speaker stressed. But we have to wait and see exactly when, in the meantime keeping busy in God’s service. (The Watchtower 1974 October 15 p. 635, Growing in Appreciation for the “Divine Purpose”)
While cautions such as this may have been given less weight in light of the enthusiasm of others, it is most important to see the humility that was expressed then despite the disappointment that ensued.
Ones who wrestle with this issue of how God could be using people who in times past made immature date setting
would do well to consider the psalmist King David’s words recorded at Psalm 69:5-7:
“O God, you yourself have come to know my foolishness,
And from you my own guiltiness has not been hidden.
O may those hoping in you not be ashamed because of me,
O Sovereign Lord, Jehovah of armies.
O may those seeking you not be humiliated because of me,
O God of Israel.
For on your account I have borne reproach,
Humiliation has covered my face.”
In this Psalm he speaks prophetically in the person of Jesus Christ. As such, the verses above could apply only
to Christ’s representatives, his congregation, on earth. Thus, this messianic prophecy includes the acknowledgment
that Christ’s brothers would at times do foolish things, which is only to be expected, especially during the early
years of coming out of Babylon the Great with Christendom’s false teachings of the Trinity and hellfire. (See page
368 of the 1965 Watchtower.)
The Test of a Prophet
God provided a means of identifying false prophets, and what to do with them. These instructions are found at
Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and 18:20-22. In the New World Translation these read:
“In case a prophet or a dreamer of a dream arises in your midst and does give you a sign or a portent,
2 and the sign or the portent does come true of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us walk after other
gods, whom you have not known, and let us serve them,’ 3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or
to the dreamer of that dream, because Jehovah YOUR God is testing YOU
to know whether YOU are loving Jehovah YOUR God with all YOUR
heart and all YOUR soul. 4 After Jehovah YOUR God YOU
should walk, and him YOU should fear, and his commandments YOU should
keep, and to his voice YOU should listen, and him YOU should serve,
and to him YOU should cling. 5 And that prophet or that dreamer of the dream should be
put to death, because he has spoken of revolt against Jehovah YOUR God...”
Here the false prophet gives “signs or portents,” adding to God’s word, and advocates worship of false gods.
Even if his “signs or portents” come true, he must be executed for his false teaching of advocating false gods.
“‘However, the prophet who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded him to speak
or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die. 21 And in case you should say in
your heart: “How shall we know the word that Jehovah has not spoken?” 22 when the prophet speaks in the name of
Jehovah and the word does not occur or come true, that is the word that Jehovah did not speak. With presumptuousness
the prophet spoke it. You must not get frightened at him.’”
So the false prophet adds to God’s word by making new predictions that fail and/or advocates worship of false
gods. He must be executed.
In both descriptions, there is nothing about misinterpreting scripture, but only adding to scripture, as well as
adding a new, false, god to worship.
While Jehovah’s Witnesses never claimed to be inspired or add to the Bible, there have been instances of immature
interpretation of existing prophecy. But only the hateful would confuse that with being a false prophet. Ironically,
the Trinitarians who accuse Jehovah’s Witnesses of false prophecy are not only being hateful and therefore unchristian,
but they are also advocating the worship of a new, false God, the Trinity. Therefore, per Deuteronomy, Trinitarianism
must be executed. This is done by rejecting it: not being under its control, not fearing it.
(All underscoring added.)