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Jehovah’s Witnesses


The Watchtower—Study Edition (Simplified)  |  November 2016

They Broke Free From False Religion

They Broke Free From False Religion

“Get out of her, my people.”REVELATION 18:4.

SONGS: 72, 82

1. How do we know that God’s people would be freed from Babylon the Great, and what questions will we answer?

IN THE last article, we learned that faithful Christians became captives of Babylon the Great. The good news is that they would not remain captives forever. We know this because in the Bible, God commands his people to “get out of” the world empire of false religion. (Read Revelation 18:4.) This proves that Christians would be freed from Babylon the Great. We are eager to learn when they would be freed! But first, we must answer the following questions: What were the Bible Students determined to do regarding Babylon the Great even before 1914? How zealous were our brothers in the preaching work during World War I? Were God’s people captives of Babylon during that time because they needed to be corrected?


2. What did the early Bible Students decide to do even before World War I?

2 Many years before World War I (1914-1918), Charles  Taze Russell and other Bible Students realized that Christendom was not teaching the truth from the Bible. So they wanted nothing to do with false religion. Even in 1879, Zion’s Watch Tower said that every church that claims to be a loyal bride to Christ but that actually supports the governments is really part of Babylon the Great, which the Bible calls a prostitute.Read Revelation 17:1, 2.

3. What did the Bible Students do to show that they were not part of false religion anymore? (See opening picture.)

3 Faithful men and women knew that if they continued to support false religion, God would not bless them. So, many of them sent letters to their churches saying that they did not want to be members anymore. Some even read their letters out loud to the whole church. Where this was not allowed, they sent a letter to each member of the church. The Bible Students made it clear that they did not want to have anything to do with false religion! Years earlier, they could have been killed for doing this. But by 1870, the governments in many countries were not supporting the churches as much as they used to. Now people could freely talk about the Bible and even disagree with the churches.

4. During World War I, how did the Bible Students view Babylon the Great? Explain.

4 The Bible Students understood that it was not enough for them to tell family, close friends, and church members that they no longer supported false religion. They wanted the whole world to know that Babylon the Great is a religious prostitute! So between December 1917 and early 1918, the few thousand Bible Students zealously distributed 10,000,000 copies of a tract that included an article called “The Fall of Babylon.” That tract boldly revealed the truth about Christendom. As you can imagine, church leaders were furious! But the Bible Students did not stop. They were determined to keep preaching and to obey “God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) What does this show us? It shows that during World War I, these Christian men and women were not going into captivity; instead, they were actually breaking free from false religion and were helping others to do so.


5. Why do we say that the brothers were very zealous during World War I?

5 In the past, we said that God’s people did not have his favor during World War I because they did not preach with zeal. For this reason,  we believed that Jehovah had allowed Babylon the Great to take them captive for a short time. However, faithful brothers and sisters who served God between 1914 and 1918 later explained that as a group, they did everything they could to keep preaching. A better understanding of what happened to the Bible Students during that time helps us to understand certain events recorded in the Bible.

Faithful brothers and sisters who served God between 1914 and 1918 did everything they could to keep preaching

6, 7. (a) What challenges did the Bible Students have during World War I? (b) What shows that the Bible Students were zealous?

6 In fact, during World War I, the Bible Students were very busy preaching. But they also had several challenges. Let us look at two of them. First of all, the Bible Students had not learned to preach using only the Bible. They were used to distributing books and letting the literature explain the truth. So when the book The Finished Mystery was banned by the government in the beginning of 1918, preaching became difficult for many of the brothers. A second challenge that same year was the start of the Spanish flu. This terrible illness was very contagious and made it difficult for the brothers to travel and to preach. Despite these challenges, however, the Bible Students did their best to continue with the preaching work.

Those Bible Students were zealous! (See paragraphs 6, 7)

7 In 1914, the small group of Bible Students presented the “Photo-Drama of Creation.” This presentation, which combined slides and moving pictures with sound, was something new at that time. The Drama, as it was called, was the story of mankind from the creation of Adam until the end of Christ’s Reign. In 1914, the first year of its showing, it was seen by more than  9,000,000 people. Think of it. That is more than the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the whole world today! Other reports show that in 1916, more than 809,000 people attended public meetings in the United States, and in 1918, that number grew to almost 950,000. Those Bible Students were zealous!

The brothers taking the lead worked very hard to provide Bible literature and encouragement to all the Bible Students

8. How did the brothers taking the lead strengthen the Bible Students during World War I?

8 During World War I, the brothers taking the lead worked very hard to provide Bible literature and encouragement to all the Bible Students. That loving support strengthened them to continue preaching. Richard H. Barber, who was a zealous preacher during that time, said: “We succeeded in keeping a few traveling overseers going and in keeping The Watch Tower in circulation and having it sent into Canada where it was banned.” He continued: “I had the privilege of mailing pocket-size copies of The Finished Mystery to a number of friends who had lost their copy due to confiscation. Brother Rutherford requested that we arrange conventions in several cities in the western United States and send speakers to try to encourage the friends as much as possible.”


9. (a) Why did God’s people need some correction between 1914 and 1919? (b) Even though they needed some correction, what would it be wrong to assume?

9 There was something the Bible Students still needed to correct. They did not fully understand what it meant when Jehovah said to obey the governments. (Romans 13:1) That is why as a group, they were not always neutral during the war. For example, when the president of the United States asked people to pray for peace on May 30, 1918, The Watch Tower encouraged the Bible Students to pray also. Some brothers gave financial support to the war, and a few of them even became soldiers and went into battle. But even though they needed some correction, it would be wrong to assume that this was the reason why they were taken into captivity to Babylon the Great. The fact is, they had almost separated themselves completely from that world empire of false religion at the time of World War I.Read Luke 12:47, 48.

The Bible Students did not fully understand what it meant to be neutral. But they did know that it was wrong to kill

10. How did the Bible Students show respect for life?

10 It is true that the Bible Students did not fully understand what it meant  for Christians to be neutral. But they did know that it was wrong to kill anyone. So even the few brothers who became soldiers and carried weapons during World War I refused to use them to kill another person. Some who refused to kill were sent to the front of the battle so that they would be killed.

11. How did the governments react when the Bible Students refused to fight in the war?

11 The Devil was angry because of the brothers’ loyalty to God. As a result, he made “trouble in the name of the law.” (Psalm 94:20) A general of the U.S. Army, James Franklin Bell, told Brothers Rutherford and Van Amburgh that the government had tried to make a new law that would allow it to sentence to death anyone who refused to fight in the war. He meant the Bible Students in particular. The general angrily told Brother Rutherford that the law had not been made because the president of the United States had prevented it. Then the general said: “But we know how to get you, and we are going to do it!”

12, 13. (a) Why were eight brothers given long prison sentences? (b) Did prison cause the brothers to lose their determination to obey Jehovah? Explain.

12 The government finally found a way to punish the Bible Students. Brothers Rutherford and Van Amburgh, along with six others who also represented the Watch Tower Society, were arrested. The judge who was in charge of the case said that those brothers were more dangerous than a division of German soldiers. He said that they had offended the government, the military, and all the churches and that they should be severely punished. [1] (See endnote.) So the  eight Bible Students were given long prison sentences to be served in Atlanta, Georgia. However, when the war ended, they were released and the charges against them were dropped.

13 Even while they were in prison, those eight men were determined to obey God’s law. How do we know this? They wrote to the president of the United States asking to be released from prison. In the letter, they said that the Bible tells us that we must not kill, so anyone who is dedicated to God and who willingly disobeys him will lose his favor and be destroyed. They explained that this was why they could not and would not kill another human. It was brave of them to write this to the president! There was no doubt that the brothers were never going to lose their determination to obey Jehovah.


14. Describe from the Scriptures what happened from 1914 to 1919.

14 Malachi 3:1-3 explains what happened to the Bible Students between 1914 and early 1919. (Read.) Jehovah God, “the true Lord,” and Jesus Christ, “the messenger of the covenant,” came to inspect the “sons of Levi,” who represented the anointed. After Jehovah had corrected and cleansed them, they were ready to receive a new assignment. In 1919, Jesus appointed a “faithful and discreet slave,” who was assigned to guide and instruct all of God’s servants. (Matthew 24:45) God’s people were finally free from Babylon the Great. Since then, they have been learning more about God’s will, and their love for him has grown even deeper. How grateful they are for his blessing! [2]—See endnote.

15. How can we show that we are thankful for having been freed from Babylon the Great?

15 We are very thankful for having been freed from Babylon the Great. Satan has not been able to destroy true worship. He has failed! However, we need to remember why Jehovah has freed us. His purpose is for all people to be saved. (2 Corinthians 6:1) But false religion is still controlling millions of sincere people, and they need our help! Let us do everything we can to imitate our faithful brothers, helping people get free.

^ [1] (paragraph 12) See Faith on the March, by A. H. Macmillan, page 99.

^ [2] (paragraph 14) There are many similarities between the Jewish captivity in Babylon and what happened to Christians after the apostasy began. However, we cannot say that the Jewish captivity symbolized what happened to anointed Christians, so we should not try to find a prophetic meaning in every detail of it. There are some differences. One example is that the Jews were in captivity for 70 years, but the Christians were in captivity much longer.