Thursday, July 7, 2011

'Put Them to the Test'

In the more private (not-for-the-public) “Study Edition” of The Watchtower magazine dated July 15, 2011, there is an article which asks the question, “Will You Heed Jehovah’s Clear Warnings?”

On page 16, in paragraph 6 of this article another question is asked and then answered:

How can we protect ourselves against false teachers? The Bible’s counsel regarding how to deal with them is clear. (Read Romans 16:17; 2 John 9-11.) “Avoid them,” says God’s Word. Other translations render the phrase “turn away from them,” “keep away from them,” and “stay away from them!” There is nothing ambiguous about that inspired counsel.

What the article does not tell its readers, however, is just how we are to go about determining who is and who is not a ‘false teacher.’

Yet, “there is nothing ambiguous about” the following “inspired counsel” when it comes to how Christians are able to determine who is, in fact, a ‘false teacher.’ According to Revelation 2:2 the Lord Jesus himself tells this to those in his congregation in ancient Ephesus:

[Jesus:] “I know your deeds and your labor and endurance, and that you cannot bear bad men, and that you put those to the test who say they are apostles, but they are not, and you found them liars” [New World Translation (NWT, 1984)].

There is nothing “ambiguous” at all in what is said above. Still, nowhere in the entire July 15, 2011, “Study Edition” of this Watchtower is Revelation 2:2 cited as a mean by which Christians can first determine who may be a false teacher, that is, before ‘avoiding them.’

In spite of this omission in direction and counsel, in the very next article in this same edition of the Watchtower, on page 28, in paragraph 1, there language is used which is strikingly similar to what Jesus tells his followers according to Revelation 2:2 (quoted above). With this in mind, consider carefully the wording of this paragraph from this Watchtower (with my underlining and emphasis added):

In the preceding article [in which The Watchtower warned its readers to “avoid” false teachers], we saw that we can enter into God’s rest by obediently working along with his purposes. That might be easier said than done. When we learn that Jehovah disapproves of something that we enjoy, for example, our initial reaction might be to rebel. That indicates that we need to make progress in the realm of being “ready to obey.” (Jas. 3:17) In this article, we will review a few areas in which our willingness to fit in with God’s purpose—to be obedient from the heart—could be put to the test.

By ‘fitting in with God’s purpose’ the article goes on to explain how this means people associated with the Watchtower Society must, as the sub-heading for paragraph 7 on page 29 states plainly and in bold letters, “Keep Pace With Jehovah’s Organization.”

Fine, for now, but what about the ‘testing’ that is to be done by those within the congregation to first determine to whom they should listen or accept as teachers approved by Jesus of Nazareth, or reject as “liars,” something which Jesus is said to have expressly approved according to Revelation 2:2?

Rather than “put those to the test” who make claims about “themselves” (see my translation of this reflexive pronoun in Revelation 2:2, near the end of this article), this in order to prove who they are or to “test” what they teach (compare 1 John 4:1), the Watchtower instead puts the focus of ‘testing’ back on the individual. It is the individual associated with the Watchtower Society who must “put to the test” his or her own “willingness” to “keep pace with Jehovah’s organization,” that is, rather than “test” them, the ones who, in fact, make special claims of having been directly and uniquely appointed and sent by Jesus since 1919 of this past 20th century.

Though not citing Revelation 2:2 anywhere in the July 15, 2011, issue of The Watchtower, its use of “put to the test” in paragraph 1 of page 28 shows clearly that any such testing is not to be directed toward any of the Governing members of the Society or toward those who claim to be part of a composite “faithful slave” class (note: this description is based on a self-applied misinterpretation of what Jesus himself will do in the future according to Matthew 24:45-47; see also my article, “‘Do Not Go After Them’ [Unless ...]”).

In fact, it is simply not possible for any member of the Watchtower Society to openly “put those to the test” who in the ranks of the “faithful salve” class make such claims. For this reason, and for others having to do with the regular and expressly clear teachings of the Watchtower Society in comparison with the actual words of Jesus as recorded in the Bible, those who have appointed “themselves” as ‘Governing’ members of the “faithful slave” class and as Jesus “brothers” apart from others who follow him as their Lord, it is not possible for these ones to actually be who they think they are.

Yet, it is just such types of people who make special claims of having been appointed and then sent by Jesus who are the focus of what we read, in part, in Revelation 2:2. It seems likely, therefore, the Society has deliberately omitted any discussion of ‘putting them to the test’ when it comes to its own claims to appointment and authority. Instead, the Society has burdened its members with ‘testing themselves’ to see if they are individually still ‘keeping pace with the organization,’ that is, following after the Watchtower Society and remaining loyal only to it and to what its Governors teach in Jesus’ and in Jehovah’s names, no matter how many times such teachings may change, or what they may involve. 

In the Societys own words, in an answer to “Questions From Readers” from The Watchtower for April 1, 1986, page 31 (with underlining and bracketed comments added):

Obviously, a basis for approved fellowship with Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot rest merely on a belief in God, in the Bible, in Jesus Christ, and so forth. The Roman Catholic pope, as well as the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, professes such beliefs [GS: Yet, these do not profess belief in the same “God,” since the Watchtower does not accept the Trinity; so this is a false parallel to the Society’s belief in “God.”], yet their church memberships are exclusive of each other. Likewise, simply professing to have such beliefs would not authorize one to be known as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Approved association with Jehovah’s Witnesses requires accepting the entire range of the true teachings of the Bible, including those Scriptural beliefs that are unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses. What do such beliefs include?

That the great issue before humankind is the rightfulness of Jehovah’s sovereignty, which is why he has allowed wickedness so long. (Ezekiel 25:17) That Jesus Christ had a prehuman existence and is subordinate to his heavenly Father. (John 14:28) That there is a “faithful and discreet slave” upon earth today ‘entrusted with all of Jesus’ earthly interests,’ which slave is associated with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Matthew 24:45-47) That 1914 marked the end of the Gentile Times and the establishment of the Kingdom of God in the heavens, as well as the time for Christ’s foretold presence. (Luke 21:7-24; Revelation 11:15–12:10) That only 144,000 Christians will receive the heavenly reward. (Revelation 14:1, 3) That Armageddon, referring to the battle of the great day of God the Almighty, is near. (Revelation 16:14, 16; 19:11-21) That it will be followed by Christ’s Millennial Reign, which will restore an earth-wide paradise. That the first to enjoy it will be the present “great crowd” of Jesus’ “other sheep.”—John 10:16; Revelation 7:9-17; 21:3, 4.

Do we have Scriptural precedent for taking such a strict position? Indeed we do! Paul wrote about some in his day: “Their word will spread like gangrene. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of that number. These very men have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already occurred; and they are subverting the faith of some.” (2 Timothy 2:17, 18; see also Matthew 18:6.) There is nothing to indicate that these men did not believe in God, in the Bible, in Jesus’ sacrifice. Yet, on this one basic point, what they were teaching as to the time of the resurrection, Paul rightly branded them as apostates, with whom faithful Christians would not fellowship.

The “resurrection” is obviously a cornerstone of Christian faith and belief, for if “there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised up” (1 Corinthians 15:13). But the importance of belief in the resurrection of the dead is hardly as important to Christian history and teaching as requiring acceptance of a group of men appointed and sent forth by Jesus in 1919, and who are above or outside of the requirement of ‘testing’! Indeed, one need only read Jesus’ words in Revelation 2:2 once more or consider Paul’s words in Galatians 1:6-12 and 2:4-14 to see that in true Christianity no man, no woman, nor even any angel from heaven is above being ‘put to the test.’

The Society also here requires acceptance of its chronology for 1914, in spite of the fact that Paul, a true apostle, taught we need “nothing” to be written to us about “times and seasons,” for we already know what we need to know in this regard, namely, the Lord Jesus will “come as a thief in the night,” or unexpectedly (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2; compare Acts 1:6-7). In the above quotation, The Watchtower even requires that others believe in a “great crowd” (the other group belonging to the Watchtower Society), but who according to Revelation 7:9, 13-14 does not appear until after the “great tribulation,” something even the Watchtower Society believes to be still in the future!

These things, if anything, “require” that those ‘testing’ the Watchtower Society reject them, immediately, unless they repent (compare Revelation 2:21-23) and stop teaching things which are not true, even requiring belief in such things for “approved association.”

While the substance of the discussion along with the omission of Revelation 2:2 from the July 15, 2011, Watchtower “Study Edition” strongly indicates the Society does not want its members to use what we read in Revelation 2:2 to first determine who is a false teacher, that is, before taking the radical step of ‘avoiding them,’ I never expected to find that over a period of at least 56 years, from 1950 to 2006, the language “put those to the test” (from Revelation 2:2) would be found a total of only six (6) times in Watchtower literature during this period, this according to the Society’s own 2006 CD Library.

Indeed, upon entering “put those to the test” (= part of the language from the NWT rendering of Revelation 2:2) in the 2006 Watchtower Library CD, here is the first reference which came up from the article, “Rebellion Against God Comes to Light” (The Watchtower for April 15, 1975, page 253):

As late as 96 C.E. the glorified Jesus Christ said, through the apostle John, to the body of elders of the congregation in Ephesus: “I know your deeds, and your labor and endurance, and that you cannot bear bad men, and that you put those to the test who say they are apostles, but they are not, and you found them liars.”—Rev. 2:1, 2.

After quoting 1 John 2:18, 19, the same article (on the same page) tells us about these texts:

From these apostolic writings, exposing bad conditions that were coming to the surface here and there in the congregation, we can see that the apostles, during the “last hour” of apostolic care on earth, stood in the way, preventing the organizing of the “mystery of this lawlessness” into a corporate body, the “man of lawlessness.”

Not one word is said about applying ‘putting to the test’ Revelation 2:2 to those who actually do make special claims of having been sent by Jesus among the congregations of the Watchtower Society today which, again, had it been applied then it would surely have to mean in some sense that Society’s own Governing Body and the “faithful slave” class as a whole should be ‘put to the test,’ for they do claim special appointment by God and by Jesus of Nazareth.

Moving to the second of the six references which came up for this search from the 2006 Watchtower Library CD, consider the following from the article, “Smooth Words That Cause Harm” (The Watchtower for September 15, 1979, page 4):

[O]ne must be mindful of the fact that Jesus was ready to commend even when about to administer reproof. For instance, the Son of God said to the Christian congregation in Ephesus: “I know your deeds, and your labor and endurance, and that you cannot bear bad men, and that you put those to the test who say they are apostles, but they are not, and you found them liars. You are also showing endurance, and you have borne up for my name’s sake and have not grown weary. Nevertheless, I hold this against you, that you have left the love you had at first.” (Rev. 2:1-4) Likely that commendation encouraged those Ephesian Christians and prompted them all the more readily to correct the one thing that Jesus ‘held against’ them.

Again, there is not one word said here in application of the quoted, ‘putting to the test’ part of Revelation 2:2 to those who (like the Society) actually do make special claims about “themselves” among congregations of Christians today. What about the third of the six references which came up for this search?

Here it is, with some of its extended context from the article, “‘The Love You Had at First’” (from The Watchtower for November 1, 1983, page 12, paragraphs 1-3):

ARE you a witness of Jehovah with many years of faithful service behind you? If so, how would you feel if somebody you respected very much spoke to you in the foregoing way? Would you resent it? Or would you think he had made a mistake and was speaking to the wrong person? Well, nearly 1,900 years ago the congregation, or ecclesia, at Ephesus in Asia Minor had those words addressed to it in a message directed to it by none other than the resurrected Jesus Christ. His words must have been a shock to them. Those Christians in Ephesus had endured in Jesus’ name and had resisted the influence of apostates for over 40 years. (Acts 18:18, 19; Ephesians 1:1, 2) “I know your deeds,” Jesus said, “and your labor and endurance, and that you cannot bear bad men, and that you put those to the test who say they are apostles, but they are not, and you found them liars.” (Revelation 2:2) They were still “in the truth,” as we say. So what was the problem? They had lost ‘the love they once had.’ They no longer served with the same fervor of Christian love for Jehovah as at the first. As a result, they had slowed down. Hence, Jesus warned them: “Remember from what you have fallen, and repent and do the former deeds.”—Revelation 2:5.

Once more, nothing is said in application of “put those to the test”; rather, the main application has to do with the pace of service (= “they had slowed down”) considered also in this text by Jesus, though applied here and today by the Watchtower only to its own members, but not to itself or to its Governing Body.—Compare Romans 14:4, 10-12, 19; Galatians 6:2-5.

Now to the fourth of the six results from my search of “put those to the test” in the 2006 Watchtower Library CD. It comes from the article, “Christ Speaks to the Congregations” (from The Watchtower for May 15, 2003, page 12, paragraph 6), with my underlining added:

Christ commended the congregation in Ephesus, saying: “I know your deeds, and your labor and endurance, and that you cannot bear bad men, and that you put those to the test who say they are apostles, but they are not, and you found them liars.” Today, congregations of Jesus’ true followers have a similar record of good deeds, hard work, and endurance. They do not put up with false brothers who want to be viewed as apostles. (2 Corinthians 11:13, 26) Like the Ephesians, loyal Christians today “cannot bear bad men.” To maintain the purity of Jehovah’s worship and to protect the congregation, therefore, they do not extend the hand of fellowship to unrepentant apostates.—Galatians 2:4, 5; 2 John 8-11.

But they are the ones who “want to be viewed as apostles”; they claim to have been appointed after close inspection and then “sent forth” by Jesus (from heaven) in 1919 after he approved of them (then known as Bible Students) in comparison with all other religious groups and people alive during the period from 1914 to 1919, this in spite of the fact that for decades prior to 1914 these same ones proclaimed in God and Christ’s name that “the end is near!” (see Luke 21:8) and that it would, in fact, arrive in 1914 or soon thereafter. (For further information and discussion of the biblical texts pertaining to the Society’s teachings concerning 1914, see my Appendix in Three Dissertations on the Teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses [2002] and, more recently, my article, “The Congregations of God During ‘the Lord’s Day,’” IN MEDIO 2.6 [June, 2007 (revised April 20, 2008)].)

Further, the application of Revelation 2:2 in the preceding quotation from the May 15, 2003, Watchtower does not mention ‘testing’ but only rejecting others who are not named or defined anywhere in the Watchtower as having truly claimed anything at all like what we read of the self-appointed “apostles” in Revelation 2:2. It is simply assumed that this has to do with those who do not agree with what the Watchtower Society teaches rather than to the Watchtower Society itself, though in light of what we read in Revelation 2:2 it would have to first apply to them, and only thereafter to any others who make similar claims.

Not ‘extending the hand of fellowship to unrepentant apostates’ does not provide any means by which actual ‘testing’ could be done first to determine who these ones might be, that is, before rejecting or ‘avoiding them.’ It is merely the conclusion reached absent any indication of what ‘testing’ should be done in light of Jesus’ actual words to his approved followers according to Revelation 2:2.

Therefore, and once more, any actual application of this ‘testing’ is avoided completely by The Watchtower likely, again, since it would have to first and foremost apply to those who, in fact, “want to be viewed as apostles,” namely, the Governing Body and others of the self-appointed “faithful slave” class who associate themselves with the Watchtower organization. These are the only ones in the organization who make anything like the claims made by those rejected by Jesus and by the Ephesian Christians according to Revelation 2:2; yet, the Society disallows any such ‘testing’ by its members.

Now we come to the fifth of the six references to “put those to the test” in 56 years of Watchtower publications from 1950 through to and including 2006. It is found in the Watchtower book, God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached (1973), under the heading, “Bringing the ‘Man of Lawlessness’ to Nothing,” on page 386, in paragraph 49:

This religious operation for the producing of false leaders, “false apostles,” persisted even down into the last decade of the first century C.E. In proof of this, the aged apostle John received the Revelation about the year 96 C.E., and in it he was instructed by the glorified Jesus Christ to write to the “body of elders” of the congregation in Ephesus, Asia Minor. In telling what Jesus in the vision instructed him to do, John says: “To the angel of the congregation in Ephesus write: These are the things that he says who holds the seven stars in his right hand, he who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands, ‘I know your deeds, and your labor and endurance, and that you cannot bear bad men, and that you put those to the test who say they are apostles, but they are not, and you found them liars. . . . Nevertheless, I hold this against you, that you have left the love you had at first.’”—Revelation 2:1-4; 1 Timothy 4:14, footnote.

Once again, there is no application of “put those to the test” from Revelation 2:2 to anyone in the congregations of the Watchtower, though such ‘testing’ is expressly approved by Jesus for any who make special claims of having been sent by him. The Society only makes others subject to what is said in Revelation 2:2 and in the other quoted or referenced New Testament texts found in the above quoted Watchtower publication.

We come now to the sixth and final reference from my search of “put those to the test,” language used by Jesus according to the NWT translation of Revelation 2:2, from the 2006 Watchtower Library CD. It is from the Society’s book, Revelation—Its Grand Climax at Hand! (1988), on pages 33-34, in paragraphs 2 and 4 (with my underlining added):

“I know your deeds, and your labor and endurance, and that you cannot bear bad men, and that you put those to the test who say they are apostles, but they are not, and you found them liars. You are also showing endurance, and you have borne up for my name’s sake and have not grown weary.” (Revelation 2:2, 3) Years before, the apostle Paul had warned the Ephesian elders about “oppressive wolves,” apostate disturbers of the flock, and had told those elders to “keep awake,” following his own tireless example. (Acts 20:29, 31) Since Jesus now commends them for their labor and endurance and for not growing weary, they must have applied that counsel. ... Faithful ones soon find that the speech and conduct of these deceivers do not ring true. Like the Ephesians, Christians today “cannot bear bad men,” so they disfellowship them from their congregations.

The underlined portion of the above is the only apparent attempt by the Watchtower Society to apply “put those to the test” to others but, again, not to themselves, not to those in its organization who actually do make the type of special claims considered also in Revelation 2:2.

So it would appear from my search of “put those to the test,” language used in the NWT rendering of Revelation 2:2, the Watchtower Society does not want any of its members ‘putting the Society to the test,’ though it is made up of the very ones who make the kinds of claims which we are told to "test."

As I have pointed out several times already, Jesus approved of just such ‘testing’ by his words as recorded in Revelation 2:2, though the Society, those who claim to have been appointed and sent by Jesus in 1919, rejects any such testing for “themselves” or where it concerns their own claims and teachings. And the Society is not hesitant at all about telling its members not to test those who are a part of it and to, in fact, listen and remain loyal to the Society in whatever it teaches, or concerning any changes to any of its teachings, for whatever reasons, as long as the Society teaches it. 

Consider what is said here from the article, “Make Your Advancement Manifest,” in The Watchtower for August 1, 2001, page 14, paragraph 8 (with my underlining added):

First, since “oneness” is to be observed, a mature Christian must be in unity and full harmony with fellow believers as far as faith and knowledge are concerned. He does not advocate or insist on personal opinions or harbor private ideas when it comes to Bible understanding. Rather, he has complete confidence in the truth as it is revealed by Jehovah God through his Son, Jesus Christ, and “the faithful and discreet slave.”

As they see it, a Watchtower member cannot even have a ‘private idea,’ let alone a mindset which might “test” or question something that does not seem right, or that one believes deserves a better explanation. Rather, the confidence of those who bear witness to the Watchtower as God’s appointed ‘slaves’ must have “complete confidence” in what is revealed by God and by Jesus through “the faithful and discreet slave” class belonging to the Watchtower Society.

Further, from the article “Meeting the Challenge of Loyalty” in The Watchtower for March 15, 1996, pages 16-17, paragraphs 9 and 10:

Suppose that something appears in Watch Tower publications that we do not understand or agree with at the moment. What will we do? Take offense and leave the organization? ... True, those being used by Jehovah God to direct his work on earth are not perfect. But what does God’s Word tell us to do? Leave God’s organization? No.

Since “God’s Word” does “tell us to do,” then what we do in such circumstances should depend entirely on how those whom we question respond to being ‘put to the test,’ that is, to see if they are who they think they are or to determine if what they teach is truly from God, or at least based on the best available reasons. However, nowhere in the above citation from The Watchtower or anywhere else in Watchtower literature is there any clear indication that we should ever respond to them by ‘testing’ what “appears in Watch Tower publications,” that is, if it is something we “do not understand” or something we do not “agree with.” But, again, such a course is clearly approved by Jesus according to Revelation 2:2.

Yet, if anyone within the Watchtower Society questions or attempts to openly ‘put them to the test’ they are viewed as ‘taking offense’ rather than as potentially having a legitimate, genuine concern. Further, if a member of the Society is not permitted to openly and with a true spirit of concern question or “test” what the Watchtower Society teaches, how can any of its members expect to be in harmony with Jesus’ approved direction according to Revelation 2:2? They cannot, and so once again it is not possible for the self-appointed “faithful slave” class to, in fact, represent Jesus at all, or at least nowhere near to the point that he might speak to them approvingly as he does those in Ephesus, according to Revelation Chapter 2.

Not wanting to limit the results for what might be a proper application of Revelation 2:2 by the Watchtower Society during this period from 1950 to 2006, in addition to searching for a key part of the text I also performed a search for “Revelation 2:2” in the 2006 Watchtower Library CD, thinking that this might bring up one or more better representations of the Society’s attempts to apply this text rightly, by more expressly applying the part about being ‘put to the test’ to what they teach, or to who they claim to be. However, this search also failed to produce any truly meaningful results in terms of applying this text in such a way so as to permit members of the Society to, in fact, ‘put them to the test’ to see if what they are teaching is true.

A total of 130 non-NWT results came back for this second search, though most of these 130 references included Revelation 2:2 only as part of a larger selection of texts, as well as apart from any actual application of the NWT text’s wording, “put those to the test.” Indeed, of the 130 hits only seven (7) were for new references, that is, in addition to the six (6) results discussed above for the search, “put those to the test.”

Here are those 7 new references to “Revelation 2:2” in Watchtower literature from the period of 1950 to 2006, starting first with the article, “Part 6—1914 Date Verified” (from The Watchtower for March 15, 1955, page 175):

After such a gigantic build-up of warning witness which had occurred with respect to that prophetic date of 1914, many of the associates became weary of well-doing. Rebelliousness among congregation elders came to the surface, and unhealthy spiritual conditions in general set in, to put many of the anointed witnesses to the test as to their real love and loyalty to their invisibly present King, Christ Jesus. (Revelation, chapters 2 and 3)

Following the pattern of the first 6 references from my search for “put those to the test,” the above first result for “Revelation 2:2” only applies ‘testing’ to the “real love and loyalty” to Jesus displayed or not displayed by members of the Watchtower congregations after the fallout from the false predictions which Watchtower publication relentlessly published prior to and concerning the date 1914 CE.

Indeed, there is nothing said in the above quotation about ‘putting those to the test’ who claim to have been sent by Jesus, which had it been done in relation to the date 1914 could only have resulted in a rejection of C.T. Russell and the early Bible Students, along with their claims to represent Jesus on earth in any special sense during this time.

The second of the seven search hits for “Revelation 2:2” comes from the article, “Patience and Endurance” (from The Watchtower for April 1, 1961, pages 212-213, paragraph 15:

Counsel to continue on with full faith and zeal was also given the early Christian congregation at Ephesus: “I know your deeds, and your hard work and endurance, and that you cannot bear evil men ... You are also showing endurance, and you have borne up for my name’s sake and have not grown weary. Nevertheless, I hold this against you, that you have left the love you had at first.” This must have shocked the brothers at Ephesus. They had been working hard and showing endurance, but still they lacked the same zeal and intense love and enthusiasm they first had for the truth. Today, although you may have been active for many years in the service, you do not want to cool off from the zeal and joy that you first had, but you must work to keep this alive as the force actuating your life. (Rev. 2:2-4)

Not only is there here no application of “put those to the test” from Revelation 2:2, but that very part of the text is omitted with ellipsis (...)!

A similar omission is also what you will find in the third of the seven references resulting from the search for “Revelation 2:2” in the 2006 Watchtower Library CD. Note the following from the Society’s book, “All Scripture Is Inspired and Beneficial” (1990), which on page 265, in paragraph 8, references Revelation 1:10-3:22 but with only the following words in application of these texts:

As the first vision begins, by inspiration John finds himself in the Lord’s day. A strong, trumpetlike voice tells him to write in a scroll what he sees and to send it to the seven congregations, in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Turning toward the voice, John sees “someone like a son of man” in the midst of seven lampstands, having seven stars in his right hand. This One identifies himself as “the First and the Last,” the One who became dead but is now living forever and ever and who has the keys of death and of Hades. He is therefore the resurrected Jesus Christ. He explains: “The seven stars mean the angels of the seven congregations, and the seven lampstands mean seven congregations.”—1:13, 17, 20.

John is told to write to the angel of the congregation of Ephesus, which, despite its labor, endurance, and refusal to put up with bad men, has left its first love and should repent and do the former deeds.

Note the summary of what “John is told to write” at the end of the above quotation, in paragraph 9, which summarizes several items from Revelation 2:2 but which does not mention the part about ‘putting those to the test who call themselves apostles.’

The fourth of the seven “Revelation 2:2” search results is also highly revealing in is application of Revelation 2:2. It comes from the article, “Honor the Ones Given Authority Over You,” from The Watchtower for June 15, 2000, on page 7, near the end of paragraph 7 (with my underlining added):

In a message for the overseers of the Ephesian congregation, Jesus Christ spoke favorably of the ones who refused to be drawn away by those ‘who said they were apostles, but they were not.’—Revelation 2:2.

In fact, Jesus “spoke favorably” of those who actively “put those to the test who call themselves apostles,” that is, those who (as it turns out) falsely claimed to have been ‘sent forth’ by Jesus. The above quotation is another misapplication of what is said in this respect concerning faithful Christians’ testing of others according Revelation 2:2, as it turns an active sense for ‘put to the test’ into a refusal to be “drawn away” passively by those whom they are supposed to be ‘testing.’

A slightly earlier reference, what I will call here the fifth of the seven search results for “Revelation 2:2” in the 2006 Watchtower CD, contains yet another misapplication of the words, ‘put those to test.’ Consider how these words are applied in the article, “What Must We Do to Be Saved?” (from The Watchtower for February 1, 1996), on page 6, with my underlining added:

The Bible book of Revelation contains messages from Jesus, transmitted through John to seven early Christian congregations. (Revelation 1:1, 4) Did Jesus say that since the people in these congregations had already “accepted” him, that was sufficient? No. He praised their deeds, their labor and their endurance and spoke of their love, faith, and ministry. But he said that the Devil would put them to the test and that they would be rewarded “individually according to [their] deeds.”—Revelation 2:2, 10, 19, 23.

Here again only “their deeds, their labor and their endurance” are spoken of in possible application of Revelation 2:2 (though this could also be an application of very similar language used in 2:19), with the only mention of being “put ... to the test” coming from what the Devil does to others, according to Revelation 2:10. There is no positive application of ‘putting those to the test who call themselves apostles’ so as to provide a means by which Christians today, like those in ancient Ephesus, can protect their spiritual lives and teachings from false “apostles.”

Now we come to the sixth of the seven final search results for “Revelation 2:2,” which is from the congregation-only Watchtower publication, Our Kingdom Ministry (for December, 2003, from page 5). This is the only potentially fair application of Revelation 2:2 found in all of Watchtower literature for the 56 year period from 1950 to 2006 which I searched, with all emphasis in the following quotation original to the quoted source (but with my underlining added):

What important counsel for Christians today is found in the messages to the seven congregations mentioned in Revelation chapters 2 and 3? (Rev. 2:4, 5, 10, 14, 20; 3:3, 10, 11, 17, 19) In order to be Christian conquerors, we must not lose our spiritual momentum or love for the truth. We should expect to be fully tested and should be determined to prove faithful all our days. We must also reject immorality and apostasy, maintain spiritual wakefulness and endurance, and not allow apathy or materialism to affect us.

I am willing to grant that this represents a fair application of what is said about ‘putting those to the test’ in Revelation 2:2, but in reality the subsequent reference to rejecting “apostasy” is code within the Watchtower Society for not listening to anyone who tests members of the “faithful slave” class, including and especially the Governing Body, in order to determine if they are “liars,” a course of action approved by Jesus according to Revelation 2:2.

This brings us to the final, relevant reference to “Revelation 2:2” in Watchtower literature from 1950 to 2006. It is from the article, “Let Your Hands Be Strong” in The Watchtower for April 15, 2006, page 27, paragraph 11:

Now is the time to ‘set our heart upon our ways.’ (Haggai 1:5, 7) We should take some time to analyze our priorities in life. Jehovah’s blessing on us today depends on the extent to which we are magnifying his name and moving ahead in our work at his spiritual temple. You might ask yourself: ‘Have my priorities changed? How does my zeal for Jehovah, his truth, and his work compare to the zeal I had when I was baptized? Is interest in a comfortable life affecting the attention I give to Jehovah and his Kingdom? Is fear of man—concern about what others will think—holding me back somewhat?’—Revelation 2:2-4.

I have underlined the only part of the above quotation which may have something to do with the ‘testing’ mentioned in Revelation 2:2, but only in the sense that such ‘testing’ of those who make special claims would show that a person is not ‘in fear of man.’ Yet, it is just such fear which keeps members of the Watchtower Society from openly testing those who are, in fact, claiming to have been appointed and sent by Jesus to teach things in Jah God’s name.

These teachings which the Society claims they were appointed and sent by Jesus to teach and to require of others include false chronologies, wrongly applying texts having to do only with using “blood” as food, and coercing others through fear of shunning to follow them in a path of ministry which only they approve and set forth and that leads only to a further following after them no matter where they go, rather than following after Jesus of Nazareth, the “Lamb,” wherever he goes (compare Revelation 14:4), to wit:

Where else can a Christian go? Peter stated there was no other place, and thus the wisdom of faithfully sticking to Jehovah’s organization today. (John 6:66-69) Of necessity, then, we should keep our eyes on the Kingdom, not on individuals, and show respect for the “faithful and discreet slave” that He is using at the present time. Actually, your very life depends on following this course of action. [From the article, “Faithful Endurance in the ‘Time of the End,’” in The Watchtower for July 15, 1964, page 435 (underlining added).]

This same false equation of a “place” (= the Watchtower organization) with a person (= the Lord Jesus of Nazareth) is found throughout Watchtower, including and most recently in what is said elsewhere in the July 15, 2011, “Study Edition” of The Watchtower with which I began this article. Consider what is said on pages 16-17, paragraphs 7 and 8 (underlining added):

We also love Jehovah’s organization, through which we have been taught thrilling truths—including Jehovah’s name and its meaning, God’s purpose for the earth, the condition of the dead, and the hope of the resurrection. Can you recall how you felt when you first learned these and other precious truths? Why, then, allow yourself to be soured by anyone who would denigrate the organization through which you learned these truths?—John 6:66-69.

No matter what false teachers may say, we will not follow them! Why go to such dried-up wells only to be deceived and disappointed? Instead, let us be determined to remain loyal to Jehovah and to the organization that has a long record of quenching our thirst with the pure and refreshing waters of truth from God’s inspired Word.—Isa. 55:1-3; Matt. 24:45-47.

Has any organization present on earth today been more “deceived and disappointed” when it comes to “times and seasons” than those who followed the Society’s predictions concerning dates for ‘the time of the end’ since the late 19th century through to at least 1975 of this past 20th century? I think not, and certainly not to the extent that those following the Society have been “deceived and disappointed.” Yet, here they are talking about others in ways which apply most of all, and over a long period of time, to themselves.

What about those “who would [‘put to the test’] the organization” by following the clear indications of Revelation 2:2? Many of us can “recall how [we] felt when [we] first learned” that those governing the Watchtower Society refuse to be ‘put to the test’ to see if they are who they think they are; it is a terrible feeling, but one worth having in order to free yourself from those whom you find out are not who they think they are, just like the Ephesians found out about those who called “themselves apostles.”

Further, the fact is “thrilling truths” such as those mentioned above, whether taught by the Society or not, are discernible and ‘true’ as one learns them from the pages of accurate history and teachings in or associated with the books of the Bible. Truth is truth. For Christians it belongs to God, and certainly not to men as a possession or weight to use over other people by wrongly elevating any teacher, including those who falsely claim to have been appointed and sent by Jesus of Nazareth.

“Thrilling truths” are never to be hijacked by men or by women as a basis for following or ‘remaining loyal’ to them where it concerns any and everything they may teach. To quote one of the earliest apostles of Jesus of Nazareth: “It is, in fact, men I am now trying to persuade or God? Or am I seeking to please men? If I were yet pleasing men, I would not be Christ’s slave.”—Galatians 1:10 (NWT).

The above quotation from the July 15, 2011, Study Edition of The Watchtower again equates “the organization” with Jesus himself by their manner of citing John 6:66-69 (just like we observed also from the earlier quotation in The Watchtower for July 15, 1964, page 435). This shows that they not only fulfill the second part of the description Jesus gave for truly “false teachers” in Luke 21:8, but they also accurately represent the first part of Jesus “unambiguous” warning to all who would follow him according to this text (with my underlining and bracketed reference added):

[Jesus] said: “Look out that you are not misled; for many will come on the basis of my name, saying: ‘I am he’ [= Matthew’s account (24:5), “saying, ‘I am the Christ’”] and, ‘The due time has approached.’ Do not go after them.”

I am here to tell you the same thing, “Do not go after them,” but not so you follow after me or after any other man or woman; rather, so that you follow after him, the one who is the subject of the response given by Peter in answer to Jesus according to John 6:66-69. This involves primarily only “three things,” though there is much more for each ‘individual’ to consider if he or she chooses to proclaim these things as part of the Great Message related to the writings of Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets concerning Jesus of Nazareth.—Luke 24:44; Acts 26:22; Revelation 2:23.

Over time as one reviews the Society’s history and teachings it becomes clear that in spite of some truths which it has adopted from the pages of the Bible (which is true for nearly every other Christian group, to differing degrees), the Watchtower Society has repeatedly failed its members and the July 15, 2011, Study Edition issue continues to do so without repentance or “a changing of heart toward God.”—Acts 20:21.

In closing, while the NWT rendering of Revelation 2:2 is a fair representation of the Greek text in most respects, it does leave out one important word in translation. Note the missing description (setting aside any verbal differences at this time) from the NWT which can be seen in my translation of this text, which I will also underline and follow with a brief bracketed description:

[Jesus:] “I have seen your works and hardship, and your endurance, and that you are not able to tolerate evil, and you put to the test the ones who call themselves [= heautous (a Greek reflexive, plural pronoun)] apostles, and they are not, and you found them liars.”

While the NWT does read, “say they,” the failure to rightly convey the full reflexive sense of the pronoun used in the Greek text of Revelation 2:2 makes it more difficult, in my view, for those who are current members of the Watchtower organization to see what may be happening where it concerns those who in their organization claim to have been appointed and sent forth by Jesus of Nazareth from heaven in 1919 CE, in spite of all the evidence from their own teachings and history to the contrary. The only way they will be able to truly see this is if they do that for which Jesus commended those in ancient Ephesus, and ‘put them to the test.’