I became a messiah at 1 PM, September 11, 1958, by an isolated lake outside of Brownwood, Texas. I was nineteen years old and newly married. Today, entering my sixties, I look back on this important event in my life with mixed emotions: a degree of shame mixed with part unimaginable joy. The former because of what I was to finally learn as I approached sixty. The later, because, at long last, through much agony, I believe I have finally attained what that experience along that quiet lake 40 years ago was intended to accomplish.
This is first a story of confessions. For I spent more than 40 years as a “false prophet.” Why is what this story is about. It is a spiritual odyssey down a blind road in dedicated service to one of the most controlling religions on earth, what many would call a “cult,” Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs). With the mention of JWs those loyal to what is called “the faithful and discreet slave” class, will stop reading here. For, we were not allowed to read the writings of what were judged to be “apostate” – that is, anything that did not agree with the Watchtower Society of Brooklyn, New York. Those who continue to read do so at great risk. For if it were found out, they would be open to at least a high degree of censure, and possibly excommunication. It may be good for these to know that of this date, August 20, 1997, I am not “disfellowshipped” or excommunicated. There are reasons for this which will become clear.
MESSIAH. The title of this work is “MESSIANIC CONFESSIONS.” It may be somewhat misleading, so let me explain this title. The word “messiah” is rooted in the ancient Hebrew, ma·shi'ach1 and the Greek Khri·stos'. It means to be “anointed.” Among Jehovah’s Witnesses there are very few such “anointed.” Records reveal that only about 8,700 persons among Jehovah’s Witnesses “profess” to be “anointed.” Every JW in the world, over six million in 230 lands, has on file in 85,000 congregations, a “publisher card.” These identify each one as “other sheep” or “anointed.” Only several thousand are identified by the “A” on these cards and most of these are advanced in years. On the annual celebration of the Lord’s Supper, only these who profess “anointing” may partake of the emblems of unleavened bread and red wine. In 1997 over 14 million attended the JW Memorial and about 8,700 partook of the emblems proclaiming they were “anointed.” Whereas over the years the number of attenders has grown enormously, the number of partakers has remained fairly constant in the last 20 years. Indeed, some years the number of partakers has increased slightly.
|1||HEBREW. Compare Insight, Vol 2, pages 385-6: “From the Hebrew root verb ma·shach', meaning "smear," and so "anoint." (Ex 29:2, 7) Messiah (ma·shi'ach) means "anointed" or "anointed one." The Greek equivalent is Khri·stos', or Christ.-Mt 2:4, ftn.”|
I was “one of the anointed” and first “partook” at the age of twenty in the spring of 1959. This simple act of partaking of communion at the Eucharist (to bless) was to plunge me into more than forty years of abuse and what I would now describe as political intrigues. It is for this reason, regarding this “profession” of anointing, that I did become, from the perspective of Jehovah’s Witnesses, “one of the anointed,” or a messiah. By such a “profession” of anointing I was viewed by many as part of the “faithful and discreet slave.” (Mt 24.45) That is, of “the remnant.” (Re 12.17; Zp 3.13)
What I was to suffer and experience during these more than 40 years is like an odyssey, a spiritual crucible of one plunged into darkness and then raised to unbelievable illumination. This is not a hateful story criticizing others. I no longer have any friends who are JWs. My own family has largely rejected me, including wife, children and grand-children.
However, I feel many of the finest people on this earth are or were JWs. I do not judge any of these, for none of it is their fault. I was looked up to as a very knowledgeable Christian who had read practically everything ever published by the Watchtower Society and had a highly respected familiarity with the Bible. And this among a people generally praised for their Bible knowledge. I was a JW’s JW. I now regret the high degree of respect and esteem with which I was viewed by some. Others trusted my knowledge and as a result I lead them down the same blind path which I had loyally followed.
THE SAVIOR’S WARNING. It is my fault for not listening to my Savior. For when answering the questions of four disciples regarding when the “end” would come, Jesus told these excited apostles: (Luke 21:7, 8)2 ‘Then they questioned him, saying: "Teacher, when will these things actually be, and what will be the sign when these things are destined to occur?" He said: "Look out that you are not misled; for many will come on the basis of my name, saying, 'I am he,' and, 'The due time has approached.' Do not go after them.’ And, (Mark 13:21-22) ‘Then, too, if anyone says to you, 'See! Here is the Christ,' 'See! There he is,' do not believe [it]. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will give signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, the chosen ones.’ What I missed in these words were: First, Christ’s warning that any who came professing his authority and preaching, “The due time has approached,” were not to be followed. That is where I made my first mistake. This I now confess.
|2||LUKE 21:7-8: Bible texts cited in this work are from the New World Translation by Jehovah’s Witnesses as it is found in the Watchtower CD-ROM Library of 1993. Other citations will be identified by an abbreviation such as KJV for the King James Version. On occasion a literal rendering of the original Greek will be used.|
This phrase from the New World Translation, “the due time has approached,” reads in the Byington translation (also produced by JWs), “The Time is at Hand.” This was one of the early book titles of Pastor Charles Russell.3 According to the Kingdom Interlinear (KIT) version of the New World Translation, the left-hand literal rendering, this same phrase is, “The appointed time has approached.” I had failed to notice this until many years later.
|3||PASTOR RUSSELL. Compare Proclaimers, page 60: “The name was also incorporated in the title of various religious periodicals. It stems from the idea of keeping on the watch for the outworking of God's purposes.-Isa. 21:8, 11, 12; Ezek. 3:17; Hab. 2:1. ... They were: Volume II, The Time Is at Hand (1889)|
Second, these same “false Christs,” or pseudo-anointed, were to hail, “Here is the Christ!” That catchy title was reversed to, “The Christ is Here!”4 I had not even noticed this warning of the Nazarene.
|4||CHRIST IS HERE! Compare The Watchtower (w) (w57 2/1 76 Faith Conquers the World): “Christ is here! We are living in the time of his presence, or paroúsia, and it is a time of judgment of the nations.”|
Third, these same were to be “false prophets,” that is, they would be noted for making prophecies that did not come true. It was not until years later I was to study a warning of Moses much more carefully: (Deu 18:20-22) '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. And in case you should say in your heart: "How shall we know the word that Jehovah has not spoken?" 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.' In my extreme loyalty to the “faithful and discreet slave” I had been told these “prophecies” were examples of the light getting brighter. This phrase by Solomon was to become the catchall for any corrections in which came through “the literature”: (Proverbs 4:18) ‘But the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.’
And, finally, there was much evidence pointed to as proof of God’s own backing. These were like “signs and wonders” reflected in multi-million dollar buildings, properties, millions upon millions of pieces of literature, missionaries in over 230 lands, legal victories before the Supreme Court, persecutions, and a thousand other statistics which looked very much like “signs and wonders” of the most awesome sort.
CONFESSIONS. How did all of this begin for me? What were my forty years plus among JWs like? What caused the disturbing rumblings of doubt which were to plague me to the extent of illness, a nervous breakdown and an attempt at suicide? What did I endure once I had discovered, like Martin Luther and John Calvin, “my church was wrong”? (Will Durant, Story of Civilization, “The Reformation.”) I present my “confessions” here without judging5 any one, for I accept my own degree of blame for what was to happen, including the loss of my wife and children. People, including those hundreds of baptized disciples I “brought into the truth,” trusted me and that trust was misplaced. The least I can do is confess to my errors and beg Jehovah for His forgiveness. These, then, are my messianic CONFESSIONS.
|5||JUDGING. Though this will be denied by the corporate executives of the Watchtower, JWs are highly judgmental of other religions, and as a result of this disposition, quite judgmental of each other. The Nazarene was quite different: (John 12:47) ‘But if anyone hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I came, not to judge the world, but to save the world.’ This freedom from such a corrosive judgmental attitude is one of the most liberating sensations I was to experience.|
Nazarene Commentary 2000©
Mark Heber Miller
©2000 All Rights Reserved