Examination of Judge Rutherford's Books

 •  17 min. read  •  grade level: 10
By A. J. Pollock
Judge J. F. Rutherford is the author of numerous religious books and pamphlets. They boast an enormous circulation, and, we are told, they have been published in thirty languages. He is the chief advocate of "Millennial Dawn-ism," since its inventor, the self-styled "Pastor" Russell, died on October 31, 1916, in a Pullman car on a railway journey in the United States, leaving no dying testimony of joy or brightness.
The system advocated is antichristian. It comes under the lash of the Apostle Paul, who wrote, "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:88But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8)). "Millennial Dawnism" is another gospel. If Judge Rutherford and his followers die in the beliefs that are advocated in his books they die unbelievers in the Gospel that Paul preached. To go the broad road to destruction, even under a religious guise, is disastrous, but to set to work to persuade others to do the same is frightful beyond words.
The reader may say, "I have bought one of Judge Rutherford's books. They read very well; they are full of quotations from the Bible. Surely they are good books that will lead me in the right way."
We reply, "What would you say if we presented you with a glass of pure spring water in which we had put a few drops of deadly colorless poison, and invited you to drink down the concoction?"
You would rightly reply with indignation, "How wicked you are! You are a deceiver, a would-be murderer! Words fail to express abhorrence of your action."
So with Judge Rutherford's works. There are plenty of Scripture quotations, such quotations being the truth, just as the preponderating part of a deadly concoction might consist largely of pure healthy spring water. But the pure spring water would be rendered useless for assuaging thirst if it were mixed with deadly poison. In a similar way there are many things in Judge Rutherford's works that no one could question as right and scriptural. If there were not much that was right the books would not sell. It is the deadly poison in them that we wish to warn our readers against with all the earnestness we possess.
Nor do we wish you to take our bare word. We will briefly point out where the deadly poison lies.
Of course Judge Rutherford is not original. He only passes on the system that was invented by the self-styled "Pastor" Russell. The first drop of deadly poison in Judge Rutherford's teaching, which he derived in all its unscriptural crudity from "Pastor" Russell, is concerning the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. To be wrong here is to be wrong at the fountainhead. If the spring is poisoned here, the whole stream is poisoned.
Judge Rutherford denies the Deity of the Lord Jesus, he teaches that He was not God, the Son. He wrote of the Lord Jesus that He was: "The first and only direct creation of Jehovah" (The Harp of God, page 99). "Jehovah is the Father of Jesus because he gave life to Jesus; hence Jesus is called the Son of God" (The Harp of God, page 98). Here we have plainly denied the Deity of the Lord Jesus. No one can be saved if they deny that which is absolutely vital to the Christian faith. This one denial is enough to demonstrate the deadly poison of this antichristian system.
Judge Rutherford quotes John 1:11In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1), but in so doing shows his ignorance both of the Scriptures and Greek. It is simply the echo of "Pastor" Russell. "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with (the) God, and the Word was (a) God." The Greek language uses the definite article, but there is no indefinite article in its grammar. Why then does he put in the indefinite article at the end of the verse? Simply to deceive the reader. There is no indefinite article in the original.
He wants to assert that God is God, which is true, but that Christ is only "a mighty one," a creation of God, a creature, which is false and blasphemous. Here are his words: "God is a name applied to Jehovah, the Almighty One. It is sometimes applied to other mighty ones also; whereas the name Jehovah applies exclusively to the great eternal God. The Logos, the Word, was a god, a mighty one" (The Harp of God, page 27).
"Logos" is the Greek word for "Word," and the Word is a title of the Lord Jesus as the One who fully expresses and reveals God to men. Note in this extract Judge Rutherford spells "god" as applying to the Lord Jesus with a small letter, meaning that He was "a mighty one," but only human.
Now Scripture plainly tells us that the Word was God, and there are many passages, which Judge Rutherford does not quote, which clearly teach that the Lord Jesus is God. Could anything be plainer than the following scripture: "But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever" (Heb. 1:88But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. (Hebrews 1:8)).
Here we have God in heaven addressing the Lord Jesus, His Son, as God. Other scriptures clearly prove the same great, grand truth.
The Apostle John, writing to believers, says: "We are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the True God, and eternal life" (1 John 5:2020And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)). But Judge Rutherford teaches that God created Jesus. He says: "The Logos was the first and only direct creation of Jehovah; and thereafter God's creation was performed through his Logos" (The. Harp of God, page 99). But John 1:33All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:3), quoted, but not understood, by Judge Rutherford, says, "All things were made by Him (the Word); and without Him was not anything made that was made."
This shows that there was absolutely no exception as to creation. If Christ had been created, He would have been a notable exception. Surely the One who creates is the Creator, and the Creator is God. This Judge Rutherford denies, and he preaches "another gospel," which is not a gospel but an invention.
He then goes on to reiterate the strange teaching of "Pastor" Russell, that Christ was a spiritual being, created by God, with power to create everything that is created, yet a creature of God, and not God the Son. He says: "The Scriptures answer...that prior to his coming to earth he was the Logos, a spirit being; that his life was transferred to the human plane and he was born a human being" (The Harp of God, page 129). "He was begotten to the divine nature at the time of his baptism in the Jordan. He was born on the divine plane to the divine nature at his resurrection" (The Harp of God, page 168). These statements are without any foundation in Scripture. Judge Rutherford states that the Lord was a creature, a spirit being, in heaven before He came incarnate, that in incarnation He ceased to be a spiritual being, and became a human being, nothing more or less, that at His baptism he received the divine nature, and yet in resurrection He is said to be born to the divine nature. If He were begotten or born at His baptism, what is the sense of affirming that what had already taken place took place at His resurrection? The theory is foolish and fantastic, without Scripture proof, a denial of the true nature of our adorable Lord, blasphemous, deadly poison, soul-destroying and pernicious.
Says Judge Rutherford: "It is also easy to be seen that Jesus could not be part God and part man, because that would be more than the law required" (The Harp of God, page 129).
And yet the Scriptures teach that "The Word was God ... and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:11In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1) and 14). The Scriptures do not teach that the Lord was "part God," and "part man," but they teach that He was God, the Son, that He became Man, never ceasing to be "over all, God blessed forever" (Rom. 9:55Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. (Romans 9:5)) -God and Man, one blessed Person, a mystery beyond the creature's comprehension, for we read the Lord's own words, "No man knoweth the Son, but the Father" (Matt. 11:2727All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. (Matthew 11:27)).
Thank God, the true believer does know the Lord, but the mystery of His holy Person remains inscrutable, as beyond the creature's grasp.
When the men of Bethshemesh looked into the Ark, a type of Christ, 50,070 persons were smitten to death for their blasphemous temerity (1 Sam. 6:1919And he smote the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the Lord, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the Lord had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter. (1 Samuel 6:19)). What shall be said to Judge Rutherford at the judgment day in connection with his blasphemous teaching on such a holy subject?
Further, he has an equally fantastic idea about the resurrection, which he derived from the same "Pastor" Russell. Indeed Judge Rutherford in all this is just the echo of "Pastor" Russell. That he denies the resurrection is clearly seen from the following extract: "The bodies in which Jesus appeared after His resurrection were neither the body that was crucified nor His glorious spiritual body, but bodies created expressly for the purpose of appearing unto His disciples. Our Lord's human body, the one crucified, was removed from the tomb, by the power of God.... The Scriptures do not reveal what became of the body, except that it did not decay or corrupt (Acts 2:27,3127Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. (Acts 2:27)
31He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. (Acts 2:31)
). We can only surmise that the Lord may have preserved it somewhere to exhibit to the people in the Millennial age" (The Harp of God, pages 172, 173). Where is there one line of Scripture to support these vaporings of the human mind? There is Satanic subtlety behind all this. Millennial Dawnists or Russellites will affirm that they teach the resurrection of Christ. But this claim is a deceit, a mere juggling with words. If the body that went into the grave is not the body that came out of the grave alive, there is no resurrection.
When the Apostles testified that they had seen the Lord, that He had indeed risen from the dead, Thomas, who was not present when this witness of the resurrection took place, said: "Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe" (John 20:2525The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. (John 20:25)). Thomas was determined that he should recognize without a shadow of a doubt that the very body of the blessed Lord that had gone into the grave was living again, before he would believe in the stupendous fact of the resurrection.
When our Lord did appear He said to Thomas: "Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing" (John 20:2727Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. (John 20:27)). Thomas exclaimed in glad surprise and in deepest reverence, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:2828And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. (John 20:28)). When John wept much because no man was found worthy to open the sealed book, or to look thereon, he was told by one of the elders not to weep, for the Lion of the tribe of Judah had prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals. John then says: "And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain" (Rev. 5:66And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. (Revelation 5:6)). Every testimony of Scripture proves that the Lord really rose from the dead, that the very body He laid down in death was the very body that He took in resurrection, though in a new condition. Hence the appearance John saw—"a Lamb as it had been slain."
When our Lord ascended to heaven, the two men in white testified to the disciples: "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:1111Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11)). "This SAME Jesus!" Judge Rutherford would rob us of this precious Person, and substitute a fantastic being that never existed. The Scriptures refute such erroneous notions.
Judge Rutherford says: "In 1914 Jehovah set His anointed One upon His throne; therefore at that time Christ Jesus took His authority as King. Three and one-half years thereafter, to wit, in 1918, the Lord came to His temple, which is the temple of God" (Prophecy, pages 73, 74). "This new ruling power, the Messiah, is invisible, and will be invisible to human eyes, but will establish in the earth visible agencies and representatives of His government of righteousness. We should not, therefore, expect the Lord's second coming to be in a body visible to human eyes, but should expect that he would be present, exercising his power in his own sovereign way" (The Harp of God, page 225). We can understand how people may be deceived by this system, if they read Judge Rutherford's books, and do not check his teaching by the Bible. He says the Lord when He comes will not be visible to human eyes. The Bible says, "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" (Rev. 1:77Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. (Revelation 1:7)). Judge Rutherford says the Lord will not be seen. The Bible says He will.
To understand how he comes to these strange conclusions, we must go to "Pastor" Russell, from whom he copies his ideas. "Pastor" Russell prophesied that the times of the Gentiles would expire about October 1st, 1914. But as the time drew near he became less dogmatic, and cast about to find some way out of the difficulty. In The Watch Tower (issued November 15, 1913) "Pastor" Russell printed an article entitled, "What course should we take?" He tells of a farmer, who suggested that if the Church were to be gathered before October, 1914, he would be inclined to quit farming, and spend the year in colportage work, as he would have sufficient money to do this, if he were to mortgage his farm or sell it. The wily "Pastor" suggested that this would be an unwise course unless he were unencumbered. If unencumbered it would be a good thing to give a year to the Lord's work, "and at the close of the year might hope in any event (italics ours) to be in reasonable health and as capable as ever of earning a living." This is what the man of the world calls "hedging." We should be justified in saying he was hoodwinking the credulous.
Then "Pastor" Russell wrote, "The fact is that, notwithstanding the strength of our position and our hope that it may be true, it is nevertheless of Faith and not of Knowledge." "We state with positiveness the opinions of the writer and the reasons thereof, but leave the final decision with each head and heart in all matters, without attempting more." What must "Pastor" Russell's feelings have been when he found, instead of 1914 ushering in the Millennium as he foretold, the horrible devastating world war broke out, falsifying all his prophecies.
And what are the visible signs that the Lord has now taken His kingdom, and has come to earth and taken up His rule? For sheer puerility the following list is unsurpassed. Judge Rutherford gives us a list: "Adding machines, airplanes, aluminum, antiseptic surgery, artificial dyes, automatic couplers, automobiles, barbed wire, bicycles, carborundum, cash registers, celluloid, correspondence schools, cream separators, Darkest Africa, disk plows, Divine Plan of the Ages, dynamite, electric railways, electric welding, escalators, fireless cookers, gas engines, harvesting machines, illuminating gas, induction motors, linotypes, match machines, motion pictures, North Pole, Panama Canal, pasteurization, radium, railway signals, Rontgen rays, shoe-sewing machines, skyscrapers, smokeless powder, South Pole, submarines,,subways, talking machines, telephones, television, type-writers, vacuum cleaners, wireless telegraphy" (The Harp of God, page 240). How anyone can be so far removed from the knowledge of the Scriptures, and what will be the marks of the Lord's millennial reign, as to give us the foregoing list is difficult to imagine. If the matter were not so serious, we might imagine the list had been compiled as a joke, or by some deranged person in a lunatic asylum. This one quotation from Judge Rutherford's writings is enough to condemn him as a teacher of God's truth.
Nor is he consistent. He tells us that the Lord came to earth invisibly in 1914, tells us what are the visible signs of His presence in such things as motion pictures, which are, as a matter of fact, largely used in corrupting the morals of the youth of the nation, and many other things equally untrue. He then contradicts himself when he says, "Prior to the World War the moral conditions of the earth were bad enough, but all will agree that since the World War the moral degeneracy is far worse" (Prophecy, page 169). Fancy things being "far worse" since the Lord took up His kingdom and began to reign.
Finally, what a puerile notion Judge Rutherford has of the Church of God. He says, "The Christ is composed of Jesus, the great and mighty head, and 144,000 members" (Rev. 7:44And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. (Revelation 7:4)). "Christ Jesus is the head and the Church His body" (The Harp of God, page 191). "There will not be a great number of this bride class. On the contrary, they are small in number. Jesus said, there would be but a little flock (Luke 12:3232Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)). Through the Apostle John he designates the number as 144,000" (Rev. 14:11And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. (Revelation 14:1))-(The Harp of God, pages 266, 267). There have been millions of true Christians since the day of Pentecost, and yet Judge Rutherford coolly limits the numbers that will represent the Church of God to 144,000. What a poor conception of the greatness of God's heart, and the vastness of the atoning work of Christ, and of the work of the Holy Spirit in hearts and lives during the long centuries! One hundred and forty-four thousand! Not the size of a moderate-sized city!
We know that the Book of Revelation is full of symbolic language, and that the number twelve is symbolic of what is administrative. One hundred and forty-four is twelve times twelve, and this put into thousands stands as a beautiful symbol of adequate administration. As a matter of fact the 144,000, whether in Rev. 7:44And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. (Revelation 7:4), or 14: 1, do not refer to the Church at all, but to a body of saints that shall be blessed during the time of the Great Tribulation, long after the Church has been caught up to heaven according to 1 Thess. 4:13-1813But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13‑18).
Much more could be written on this subject. The whole teaching of Judge Rutherford is antichristian, a perfect jumble, a mixture of pure imagination on the part of "Pastor" Russell, copied by Judge Rutherford, his chief exponent, and of Scriptures misunderstood, misapplied, and twisted from their true meaning to suit this system.
Judge Rutherford makes sweeping charges against the clergy, excepting none. It makes one's blood boil to read charges made in this reckless fashion. There are, alas, too many professed ministers of the gospel, who teach evil things and deny the gospel, but to say that, "The clergy tell the people that the blood of Jesus has no purchasing value, and that the people can save themselves by merely looking upon Jesus as a good man, and by becoming a member of the Church and following what the Church teaches" (Prophecy, page 20) is to libel many earnest ministers of the Gospel, who preach salvation alone through the blood of Christ, and by faith. There are a whole list of sweeping charges that are untrue, and Judge Rutherford knows they are untrue, as witness the one charge quoted. He surely knows what Bishop Ryle, Spurgeon, Moody and thousands of the Lord's servants preached to their hearers, and that thousands today are preaching the same gospel.
One rises from a study of Judge Rutherford's works with no respect for the writer, so wild and unfair are his statements, so great his ignorance of Scripture, so poisonous his teaching. "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works" (2 Cor. 11:13-1513For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:13‑15)).
May this brief exposure be the means in God's good hands of counteracting in some measure this evil teaching, for Christ's name sake.
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