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Who does the Watchtower say will be Resurrected?
The Watchtower claims that teaching incorrect details about the resurrection amounts to apostasy. Yet there have been ongoing changes, and hence untruths, in Watchtower doctrine regarding the resurrection.
Is the doctrine of the Resurrection important? Apparently so. According to the Watchtower, Hymenaeus and Philetus were classed as apostates solely on the basis of making inaccurate statements about the timing of the resurrection.
"Why have Jehovah's Witnesses disfellowshipped (excommunicated) for apostasy some who still profess belief in God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ?
This is a surprising assertion considering the number of Watchtower interpretive oscillations in regards to this very doctrine of the Resurrection.
Russell viewed Jesus and Jehovah as fair and loving; quite different to the Jehovah described by Rutherford and preached about to this day. Russell believed that virtually all mankind would survive Armageddon to be given a probationary chance in paradise. There they would learn about God in order to make an educated choice as to whether they wish to follow him. Only those that actively and knowingly fight against God during Armageddon would not be given that chance. Russell also believed that everyone will be resurrected, including Adam and those from the days of Noah, in line with Scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 15:22;
"As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."
Over time, the Watchtower has made God more demanding, describing times such as Noah's Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah and Jesus' day as judgment periods, with no resurrection hope.
"That they might be really accountable at such times, he caused testimony to be given that they might know the issue and make their decision, by which they would determine their destiny, independent of any inherited condemnation from Adam. One of such judgment periods was the flood of Noah's day, prior to which Noah preached righteousness. Another was the fiery end of Sodom and Gomorrah, which cities saw warning miracles by angels and heard testimony from Lot before the rain of fire fell. In Jesus' day it was a time of judgment and he warned certain Jewish cities of a fate like that upon Sodom and Gomorrah, and judged certain scribes and Pharisees fit for the eternal destruction of Gehenna." Watchtower 1952 Jun 1 pp.334
Those that do not agree with the Watchtower Society, and die between 1914 and Armageddon, likewise lose any hope of a resurrection.
"Similarly, unrepentant apostates go, at death, not to Sheol, or Hades, but to Gehenna. (Hebrews 6:4-8; 2 Peter 2:1) The same is true of dedicated Christians who persist in willful sin or those who "shrink back." They will, therefore, not be resurrected." Watchtower 1982 Apr 1 p.27
All those destroyed at Armageddon also lose any hope of a resurrection.
"Yes, the destruction of the gross sinners in those cities was eternal, as will be the destruction of the wicked at the end of the present system of things." Watchtower 1990 Apr 15 p.20
What an unreasonable concept, inspired by Rutherford, that God would condemn imperfect people to everlasting destruction, in most cases with no knowledge of the Watchtower God or his requirements. The ongoing changes to this teaching are indication that God's spirit did not direct the Watchtower to conclude that Jehovah judges imperfect humans to everlasting destruction.
"The death of Christ secures for Adam and all of his race one full opportunity for salvation and no more. The majority have died in heathenish darkness without any opportunity; and many in Christian lands have disregarded their opportunity, as did the people of Capernaum. All must be brought to a full knowledge of their privileges in Christ and then all rejecters will be destroyed." Watchtower 1920 Oct 15 p.316
"There is no promise found in the Scriptures that Adam's redemption and resurrection and salvation will take place at any time. Adam had a fair trial for life and completely failed."
Salvation (1939) p.43 - Rutherford
Sodom and Gomorrah
The Watchtower has constantly changed its stance on whether those destroyed at Sodom and Gomorrah will receive a resurrection or not. This is because two Scriptures present different viewpoints as to the severity of Sodom's destruction. Jude speaks of punishment of everlasting fire, whereas Matthew says those in Sodom would not fair as badly as others will.
Jude 1:7 So too Sod′om and Go‧mor′rah and the cities about them, after they in the same manner as the foregoing ones had committed fornication excessively and gone out after flesh for unnatural use, are placed before [us] as a [warning] example by undergoing the judicial punishment of everlasting fire.
Over its history, Watchtower leaders keep reaching different conclusions as to which Scripture should receive the greater emphasis. This removes any confidence that Watchtower leaders have a comprehensive understanding of the Bible's true meaning, and indicates God does not direct them to their doctrinal conclusions.
"Let me give you an illustration that will be forcible: The Sodomites. Surely if we find their restitution mentioned you will be satisfied. But why should they not have an opportunity to obtain eternal life as well as you or the Jew? They were not wicked in the proper sense, for they did not have law or much knowledge. True, they were not righteous, but neither were you when God gave you your opportunity. Christ's own words shall tell us that they are not as guilty in His sight as the Jews, who had more knowledge: "Woe unto thee Capernium, for if the mighty works which have been done in thee had been done in Sodom it would have remained unto this day." Thus Christ's own words teach us that they had not had their full opportunity. "Remember," Christ says of the Sodomites, that "God rained down fire and destroyed them all." So, if their restoration is spoken of, it implies their resurrection." Watchtower 1879 Jul 1 p.8
"Sodom and Gomorrah were reduced to complete desolation, from which there is no possibility of recovery; and so likewise the modern Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites shall be destroyed, and the place where they have inhabited shall be, as prophesied, "even the breeding of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation." The religious-totalitarian rule and rulers,the commercial robbers and those who have defied Jehovah God and his Theocracy, shall perish for ever at the battle of Armageddon, as the prophecy declares." Watchtower 1941 p.367
"As in the case of Tyre and Sidon, Jesus showed that Sodom, bad as it was, had not got to the state of being unable to repent … So the spiritual recovery of the dead people of Sodom is not hopeless" Watchtower 1965 Mar 1 p.139
"How will these, having been caught, be disposed of? Will they be preserved alive? Will they be killed and buried in Hades or Sheol, which is the common grave of dead mankind, from which resurrection is possible? No, these political organizations are slated to be “hurled into the fiery lake that burns with sulphur.” This the Bible describes as the “second death.” (Rev. 20:14) It means the death from which there is no resurrection. They will be burned up root and branch, as completely gone forever as the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, which Jehovah God burned up by a rain of fire and sulphur from heaven, never to be rebuilt. It is destruction in Gehenna in which God destroys both body and soul (any right or possibility of living)." Watchtower 1967 Jul 1 p.409
"Moreover, God’s undeserved kindness and care are so great that he will bring back the people of Sodom by a resurrection, with opportunity to learn and turn around to the way of life, even as his Son stated." Awake 1974 Oct 8 p.20
"Consequently, in addition to what Jude 7 says, the Bible uses Sodom/Gomorrah and the Flood as patterns for the destructive end of the present wicked system. It is apparent, then, that those whom God executed in those past judgments experienced irreversible destruction." Watchtower 1988 Jun 1 p.31
“This is also illustrated by what happened to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and their inhabitants. Jude indicated that these cities were everlastingly destroyed. (Jude 7; compare 2Pe 2:6.) However, Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 10:15 show that at least some of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah will receive a resurrection.” Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 1 p.616 (Released Jun 17, 1988)
"Some adjustments will be made in future printings of the Live Forever book. The only significant change is with regard to the Sodomites, on pages 178 and 179. This change appeared in the Revelation book, page 273, and in The Watchtower of June 1, 1988, pages 30 and 31. You may wish to note it in earlier printings that you have on hand." Kingdom Ministry 1989 December (US Edition) p.7
"All are to be awakened from the Adamic death, as though from a sleep, by virtue of the ransom given..."
Studies in the Scriptures Series V p.478 - Russell
"It has been held by many that the Scriptures guarantee that 'all must come back from the dead' at Christ's return and during his thousand-year rule. (Studies in the Scriptures, Series Five, pages 476-486). That conclusion does not appear to have support in reason or in the Scriptures" Salvation (1939) p.224 - Rutherford
Russell was firm in his belief that Jesus earthly rulership and the earthly resurrection would commence in 1914. Rutherford moved the start of the earthly resurrection to 1925. The timing of the resurrection proved false on both accounts. Since then, the Watchtower leaders have been more coy, simply stating that the earthly resurrection will begin after Armageddon, which is expected to be soon.
"The beginning of the earthly phase of the Kingdom in the end of A.D. 1914 will, we understand, consist wholly of the resurrected holy ones of olden time-from John the Baptizer back to Abel-"Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the holy prophets." Studies In the Scriptures Series IV - The Day of Vengeance p.625
"The chief thing to be restored is the human race to life; and since other Scriptures definitely fix the fact that there will be a resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and other faithful ones of old, and that these will have the first favour, we may expect 1925 to witness the return of these faithful men of Israel from the condition of death, being resurrected and fully restored to perfect humanity and made the visible, legal representatives of the new order of things on earth." Millions Now Living Will Never Die p.88
"Soon, at Armageddon, Jehovah’s way of governing will permanently replace human-based governments under Satan’s influence. (Dan. 2:44; Rev. 16:16) Human rule will end, and God’s Kingdom will hold sway over the entire earth. ... Indeed, the earth will become a paradise in which there will even be a resurrection of the dead." Watchtower 2010 Jan 15 p.32
The heavenly resurrection has likewise undergone change. Until 1927 the heavenly resurrection was said to have started in 1878. Later "all the evidence" showed it to have started in 1918. Now it is admitted that it only may have happened in 1918.
"Our Lord's resurrection occurred three and a half years after his advent as the Messiah, in A.D. 29; and the resurrection of his body, the Church, we have seen, was due in the year 1878, three and a half years after his second advent, in October 1874." Thy Kingdom Come p.305
"All the evidence indicates that this heavenly resurrection began in 1918, after Jesus' enthronement in 1914 and his riding forth to start his kingly conquest by cleansing the heavens of Satan and his demons."
Revelation, Its Grand Climax At Hand! p. 103
Since 2007, the Watchtower is sounding decidedly less dogmatic about 1918.
"Could it, then, be reasoned that since Jesus was enthroned in the fall of 1914, the resurrection of his faithful anointed followers began three and a half years later, in the spring of 1918? That is an interesting possibility. Although this cannot be directly confirmed in the Bible, it is not out of harmony with other scriptures that indicate that the first resurrection got under way soon after Christ's presence began." Watchtower 2007 January 1 p.28
This brings into question prior comments as to this teaching being "enlightening truths", and the "evidence" supporting it.
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2013
1800s - Changed Date Doctrine