"Generation" Concept Returns!
a Commentary by Gary Busselman
In 1995 the Watchtower Society put away it's aging prediction that identified those living in 1914 as "the generation" Jesus spoke of that would "not pass away" before the advent of Armageddon. Complacency set in. Judging by Society-published reports, there is a waning of enthusiasm within the ranks, and the Watchtower Society is confronted with the dilemma of (1) not wanting another doomsday prediction to have to deal with later and (2) the need to deal with the unmistakable reality of their sinking meeting attendance and field service reports (and donations) from the congregations.
Nothing motivates people quite like fear and guilt. Yet it seems, for a brief window of time, the Society loosened it's grip on both tactics. The clear message that the congregations are now sending to Watchtower headquarters is this: "We won't work as hard without the threat of imminent doom." The Watchtower Society's leaders have been listening and have just responded in an important way. The previously problematic word "generation" had been dealt with by the use of characteristically ambiguous terms, only for them to find that their business goals and needs will not be met using current abstract terms.
Realizing that the re-defining of "generation" obviously will not be enough to keep the masses working diligently, the Governing Body has begun to emphasize some equally familiar terms, such as, "age," "day," and "time," and to apply to them the former meaning of "generation." Again, we have "old" words with "new" definitions. "Generation" has returned!
The Watchtower reintroduced the time-link concept with the familiar word "generation" as a thinly veiled, present day comparison to Noah's end time "day." Note the following:
18 Present-day ridiculers may think: 'Nothing has changed since creation. Life goes on, with people eating, drinking, getting married, and raising families. Even if Jesus is present, he will not execute judgment in my day.' How wrong they are! If they do not die from other causes in the meantime, the fearinspiring day of Jehovah will definitely overtake them, just as cataclysmic destruction in the Flood brought an end to a wicked generation in Noah's day. (The Watchtower, March 1, 1997, p. 19)
Here the start of Armageddon is tied to the lifetime of "present-day ridiculers." This is simply an upside-down return of the old "generation" viewpoint that usually presented Armageddon within the lifetime of the present day faithful.
Note, however, that this prophecy tells us that the Creator not only will get to the root of the problem by eliminating greedy people but will do so in our time. Why can we make this statement? Well, the prophecy says that God goes into action at a time when man is "ruining" the earth. When those words were written nearly two thousand years ago, man lacked both the numbers and the means to do that. But the situation has changed. "For the first time in its history," notes the book Protecting the Tropical ForestsA High-Priority International Task, "humanity is today in a position to destroy the bases of its own survival not just in individual regions or sectors, but on a global scale."
"The appointed time" when the Creator will act against "those ruining the earth" is near. (Awake!, March 22, 1997, p. 13)
They have simply replaced the word "generation" with "time." Also:
You may wonder, though, 'Have not these conditions always plagued mankind? How do we know that our modern generation is the one foretold in these ancient prophecies?' Let us consider three lines of evidence that proves that Jesus was talking about our time.
First, while there was a partial, early fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, . . .
Second, in this century some features of Jesus' sign are being fulfilled in what we might call the ultimate degree. For example, is there any room for wars to become much worse than they have been since 1914?
Third, the sign of the last days is especially convincing when taken as a whole. All told, when we take into account the features Jesus mentioned in the three Gospels, those in Paul's writings, and those in Revelation, this sign has dozens of features. A person might quibble about them one at a time, arguing that other ages have seen similar problems, but when we consider all of them together, they point an unmistakable finger at only one ageour own. (The Watchtower, April 1, 1997, p. 7-8)
And when we consider the prophecy recorded at 2 Timothy 3:1-5, it is like listening to nightly news reports. It identifies our era as "the last days" . . . (ibid., p. 10)
2 Jehovah promises: "Just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more. (ibid., p. 14)
3 In 1914 this world entered its "last days." (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13) We are now 83 years into that period and are nearing its end when, as Jesus foretold, the following will take place: "There will be great tribulation . . . (ibid., p. 15)
Note that just about every word the Watchtower's writers have available to them is used: time, day, age, era, period, generation (again), and interestingly, "century." It clearly is the intent of these three publications to reinsert a sense of urgency (fear) back into the group members to serve as the launching pad for the annual spring recruiting drive and the traditional "peak" publisher time period. This has been an incredibly successful tactic for the Society in the past. Will it work once more?
The setup for the return of "generation" is sealed with this article:
18 (a) Why can we confidently expect that "millions now living will never die"? (The Watchtower, Jan. 1, 1997, p.11)
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