reprint from the Sep/Oct 1995 Free Minds Journal
by David L. Harvey
Since our common era began, every turn of the century has seen its share of apocalyptic prophets announcing the end of the world or "Armageddon." They claim to have special knowledge revealed to them alone. The term apocalypse is from the Greek and means "revealed" or "unveiled."
"Armageddon" is mentioned only once in the Bible- at Rev. 16:16. This Greek word translates "mountain of Megiddo." The ruins of Megiddo (Tel el-Mutsellim), an ancient Canaanite city, occupy about twelve acres of a small plateau overlooking the Plain of Jezreel (Esdraelon). This plain was the scene of many decisive military victories throughout history. As there is no literal "mountain of Megiddo," the term "Armageddon" is most likely symbolic of God's great and final battle at the End Time. Entire theologies have been built around this single verse.
A number of abusive churches create a fear of Armageddon, reinforced with guilt in order to dominate and maintain membership. Cults use this as a tool of emotional control. By implanting fear and creating guilt, abusive groups manipulate their members into performing free service.
Fear is the major motivator. It binds in two ways: (1) It creates an outside enemy who threatens or persecutes the member. This results in the "us versus them" world view, and (2) fear of failing the organization or fear of discovery and punishment by the leaders if you are lax in doing your job. What job? Why, serving the organization, of course! "Are you REALLY doing all you can to serve God?" (A typical introduction to guilt.)
Guilt is a good enforcer, but it won't work unless you can make people feel guilty about something. Note this subtle example: "Now that you have an understanding of God's purpose wouldn't you like to share it with others? We know God will destroy all wicked people shortly. Since we have knowledge of this we have a responsibility to warn others. If we don't do this God will find us bloodguilty at Armageddon. You wouldn't want to be held bloodguilty, would you?"
Cults need a bogeyman. The Watchtower's bogeyman is Armageddon. Fear of eternal annihilation and fear of being found bloodguilty by God at Armageddon assures the continued service of the "faithful." Such fear adversely influences plans for marriage, college, careers, and the pursuit of happiness. It robs one's peace of mind and destroys one's quality of life.
Fear is effectively used to attract new members as well. A little Bible prophecy, some statistics and current events, a few dates and the trap is set. Once the new convert buys into it, out jumps the bogeyman to motivate and manipulate.
Cults don't offer a choice. The only choice is theirs. (Is sink or swim really a choice?) Groups using the Armageddon Syndrome sometimes even get physically dangerous. They may not wait for the apocalypse, but attempt to accelerate it, creating their own.
Jim Jones' "People's Temple" began as a normal Christian church, yet it later degenerated into an abusive cult that ended in 1978 with over 900 murder/suicides deep in the South American jungles.
David Koresh's "Branch Davidians" met a fiery apocalypse on April 20, 1993 with 79 murder/suicides at Waco, Texas.
Luc Jouret's "Order Of The Solar Temple" experienced 53 murder/ suicides in Switzerland and Canada in October 1994.
Shoko Asahara's "Aum Shinri Kyo" is under investigation in Japan for the recent nerve gas attack in Tokyo's subway station that left 11 dead and 5,500 sickened.
Of all groups, however, the Watchtower Society is perhaps best known for its Armageddon Syndrome.
Charles Taze Russell, first president of the WT Society, predicted Armageddon for 1914: "...the 'battle of the great day of God Almighty', which will end in AD 1914 with the complete overthrow of earth's present rulership, is already commenced." The Time Is At Hand, 1911 ed., p. 101.
Russell thereafter altered his viewpoint and said the end might not come until 1916- surely no later than 1918: "Also, in the year 1918, when God destroys the churches wholesale and the church members by millions, ..." The Finished Mystery, 1917 ed., p. 485.
The end came, but only for Pastor Russell-he died in 1916.
Joseph "Judge" Rutherford succeeded Russell as president and predicted the end as well. He said post-Armageddon reconstruction would begin in 1925 marked by the resurrection of the patriarchs: "Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old...." Millions Now Living Will Never Die, 1920, p. 89, 90.
Did Rutherford give up when the prophecies failed? No, in the true style of false prophets he forged ahead with new light. In 1931 he wrote: "His day of vengeance is here, and Armageddon is at hand and certain to fall upon Christendom, and that within an early date." Vindication I, p. 146, 147.
Nine years later he felt impelled to write: "The Kingdom is here, the King is enthroned. Armageddon is just ahead." The Messenger, 9/1/40, p. 6.
I attended my first Assembly at St. Louis, MO in 1941. On "Children's Day" we each received a copy of Rutherford's new release, Children. It was written up in The Watchtower of Sept. 15, 1941: "Receiving the gift, the marching children clasped it to them, not a toy or plaything for idle pleasure, but the Lord's provided instrument for most effective work in the remaining months before Armageddon." (p. 288)
For the next twenty five years the WT Society continued to warn of the nearness of the end. In 1966 they published the book Life Everlasting In Freedom Of The Sons Of God, where the year 1975 was pegged to mark the beginning of the Millennium. Watchtower publications continued to hype 1975 right up to the final hour: "...God's heavenly kingdom will rule over the earth for one thousand years after the end of this system of things." Awake!, 10/8/68, p.14.
The Watchtower Society has always attached great significance to their "anchor date" 1914, promising that the generation of 1914 would still be alive at Armageddon. That generation has passed. Now they must re-define the significance of 1914. Which ever way they go, you can be sure that the threat of Armageddon will continue to be in the forefront of their theology.
On the other hand, the Bible says: "Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night." (1 Th. 5:1,2)
Any person or organization claiming to have special or exclusive knowledge is a charlatan--a false prophet. The Armageddon Syndrome is an identifying feature of many cult groups. The grief, misery and death they mete out to their member/ victims is immeasurable. Flee from them! We have God's living Word.
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