This is a follow-up article to our “Murderous Intent” article. Though this one has a much less exciting title, it serves an important function: showing that the following Watchtower claim is as baseless as the hope of the majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses:
“The Great Multitude,” given May 31, 1935, by the president of the Watch Tower Society, J. F. Rutherford, at the Washington, D.C., convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. What a revelation of divine truth that was! Presented at that time was conclusive proof identifying the “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9 with the Lord’s “other sheep” of John 10:16, with the Jehonadab class, with those marked in the forehead for survival, with the millions now living who will never die, and with “the sheep” that are separated from “the goats” and will inherit everlasting life in the earthly realm of God’s Kingdom. All of this was covered in The Watchtower, August 1 and 15, 1935.Watchtower 1985, May 1, p. 14, parg. 12
“Conclusive proof?” We shall see.
I read over this two-part 1935 article on “The Great Multitude” (available on scribd.com with a free trial subscription). To obey copyright laws, and to keep your eyes from glazing over, I won’t reproduce the article here, but will summarize Rutherford’s arguments (eliminating the mass of irrelevant tangents, railing against “elective elders”, etc.) and then you can decide for yourself if it constituted “conclusive proof.”
Before we examine his “proofs” we must comment on the reliability of his writings. In the article he states:
“There is no scripture giving warrant to the conclusion that the great multitude is a spirit company
or will be in the spiritual realm of the kingdom of God.”
Contrast this with what Rutherford had written in the Watchtower just 8 years previously:
“… all the facts and the scriptures bearing upon the matter under consideration show that those who form the great multitude constitute a spirit class, born on the spirit plane.”Watchtower, 1927, Jan.15, pp.19-20, “The Great Multitude”
Evidently all the “facts and scriptures” that showed this had somehow disappeared from Rutherford’s Bible during those 8 years. A miracle in itself! Or, is it rather that the man could not be trusted with biblical interpretation?
[Summarizing Rutherford’s argument]: Because the writer of Revelation claims that he saw the the Great Crowd after seeing the 144,000, it must be the case that God’s earthly organization could not see who the Great Crowd was until after they had identified the 144,000.
This line of reasoning, Rutherford thinks, gives the Watchtower an excuse for mis-identifying the Great Crowd for over half a century. It practically demands that what they held to be true up to that point was, in fact, a falsehood; it had to wait to “be seen” after “seeing” the 144,000.
But a moment’s thought dispels such sophistry.
His reasoning requires that understanding Revelation correctly must follow the same chronological order in which the author of Revelation depicts himself as seeing his visions. Therefore, if we find that Witnesses believe that the Watchtower had correctly interpreted one of the later visions of Revelation prior to 1935, then his argument falls apart.
We do find such an instance: in 1930 Rutherford published his 2 volume interpretation of Revelation, titled “Light.” In volume 1 (downloadable from scribd.com) he wrote:
“The whole arrangement of the League of Nations or ‘image of the beast’ is ignoble and blasphemous.” (p. 298)
That interpretation [that the “image of the beast” in Revelation chapter 13 means the League of Nations / United Nations] is still held by the Watchtower to this day. How could Rutherford have seen the correct meaning of this vision of Revelation chapter 13 before seeing the truth about the Great Crowd in Revelation chapter 7? According to his own logic (that understanding the meaning of Revelation must follow the same chronological order of the visions recorded therein), he couldn’t have, so either his logic is wrong, or one or both of his interpretations are wrong.
Even the article itself contradicts his point, because in it he claims:
“It was in the year 1922 that the Lord’s faithful people first came to a knowledge and understanding of the scripture last cited [Rev. 10:11]”(WT Aug 1, 1935, p.231, parg. 6)
Again: what were they doing understanding Rev. chapter 10 in 1922, when chapter 7 would not be understood until 1935?
In reality, being wrong about something for 50 plus years is hardly a proof that you now are right! Quite the contrary; it makes any interpretation you put forward highly suspect.
[Summarizing Rutherford’s argument]: Most of the article is spent on arguing that the Other Sheep had been viewed as JWs who did not devote enough energy into spreading Rutherford’s words. He then insists that Jehovah would not accept such half-hearted, lazy Christians into heaven. Therefore the Other Sheep must have an earthly hope.
But, if they are to receive a lesser reward, it doesn’t follow that the lesser reward would be earthly life. It could just as easily be a less honorable station in heaven (which was the very teaching he was trying to overturn here).
His argument is really a classic non-sequitur. Just because some people do less “preaching” it doesn’t follow that they must end up living on earth. Such an idea also contradicts the teachings of Jesus as presented in the Bible, such as the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (MT 20:12-16), where everyone gets the same reward though some worked much more than others. It also contradicts the biblical principle of salvation via faith, not by works (Eph. 2:8-9).
But he spoils his own argument at the end of part 2 of the article by insisting that the Other Sheep are just as faithful and energetic as anyone else:
“To what extent do the great multitude serve Jehovah? The Revelation answers: ‘They . . . serve him day and night.’ Daytime and nightime means all the time, and this description shows that the great multitude serve Jehovah all the time, regardless of hours. They are not satisfied to work eight hours a day and quit on the strike of the clock and refuse to do what some call ‘overtime’, but are ready and respond to the call for service at any time day or night. It is entirely inconsistent and unscriptural to say that God will look with approval upon a qualified or limited faithfulness to him…They are a company of joyful creatures who are active and zealous for Jehovah and his kingdom.”
If that is true, then he has removed his own reason for the Other Sheep not being heaven-worthy. Point-two becomes point-less.
“While standing before the throne those of the great multitude are shown to he hungry and thirsty, whereas if they were in heaven there would be no occasion for them to hunger and thirst. Those who are hungry and thirsty for spiritual provender are the ones on earth who are seeking to be fed on that which will satisfy their heart’s desire.”
I’m amazed that he got away with this argument. The Bible does not state that they were hungry and thirsty. Rather, it says that they will hunger and thirst no more. (Rev. 7:16) Big difference! I imagine that the 144,000 heavenly beings also had occasion to be hungry and thirsty before their coming to heaven. This argument proves nothing (except that its author is deceptive).
“Manifestly the great multitude are here shown as standing before the judgment throne of Christ Jesus… With whom does Christ Jesus begin judgment upon assuming his high office as Judge upon the throne? Not with the dead, but with the living. ‘The Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the [living] . . . at his appearing and his kingdom.’ (2 Tim. 4: 1)”
I think the point he’s trying to make here is that since, in order to get to heaven you must die (JW rule), and since the Great Crowd are being judged, and the judging starts with the living, then the Great Crowd must still be alive on the earth.
In reality, there is nothing “manifest” about them standing before the “throne of judgment.” The Bible does not say “throne of judgment” it says “throne,” period. People stand in front of thrones for many reasons other than to be judged. Revelation goes on to say that they are already saved, and that they serve God day and night in his temple. So, there’s no need to judge them at this point, and this argument also falls apart.
In part two of the article, Rutherford evidently forgot what he had argued here in part one, and stated:
“’But this description in Revelation of the great multitude is that ‘they are before the throne of God, and publicly serve him’ (Diaglott) ; ‘and are rendering divine service unto him.’ (Rotherham)”
So, they are there, “before the throne,” for the purpose of serving, not for being judged.
Also, please note how he quotes 2 Tim 4:1. He uses ellipsis to eliminate the part of that scripture which nullifies his entire point (a favorite technique of the Watchtower’s to this day). Here is the verse without the ellipsis:
“I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead“
“…the great multitude are ‘of all nations‘, and therefore not in heaven, but on the earth”
This is another non-sequitur. Rutherford believed that the 144,000 heaven-bound were also “of all nations,” despite them being symbolically depicted as Israelites. So being ‘of all nations’ cannot mean ‘on the earth’.
Rutherford did not present any conclusive evidence that the biblical book of Revelation depicts a “great crowd” destined to live forever on earth. Nothing he wrote is as “conclusive” as the fact that Revelation 19:1 states that the Great Crowd is in heaven.
Revelation is a highly symbolic book, and can be taken to mean almost anything its interpreter desires. It is up to the readers of such blather to judge whether an interpretation is sensible and consistent, or if they are being hoodwinked.
It seems to me that if you’re going to equate Revelation’s 144,000 and its Great Crowd with the Little Flock and the Other Sheep, respectively, then it’s fair to imagine (along with all other Christians and people who have thought about it) that one symbolizes the Jews, and the other the Gentiles. Since Jesus stated that these would be brought together to form “one flock,” it seems they would share the same location: heaven (John 10:16). It’s pretty straight-forward: it makes sense and is consistent. There is no need to dive into Rutherford’s convoluted rabbit-holes only to arrive at dead ends.
Interestingly, despite their claiming that his arguments gave conclusive proof, the Watchtower no longer uses Rutherford’s reasonings to explain how the Great Crowd has an earthly future. They have a different argument, which is just as lame, and which is discussed in our previous post, Murderous Intent.
- Watchtower Doctrine Based on Murderous Intent
- You Can’t Live Forever on Paradise Earth
- The 144,000 vs. the Great Crowd
- Scriptures to Show the Great Crowd are in Heaven
- Will Humans Live On Earth Forever?