(Investigator 85, 2002 July)


The Finished Mystery (1917) was a 608-page book published by the Russellites – the cult that developed into Jehovah's Witnesses. About 850,000 copies were printed.

The book was allegedly: "of the Lord – prepared under his guidance." (p. 126) It gave a verse by verse interpretation of Revelation and Ezekiel. An ad
 for the book in The Watch Tower called it: "the true interpretation." (1917, p. 334)

The Finished Mystery was presented as the posthumous work of Charles Taze Russell – the founder of the cult:

"This book may properly be said to be a posthumous publication of Pastor Russell." (The Finished Mystery, Preface, p. 5)

We're informed:

"Pastor Russell was…strong, humble, wise, loving, gentle, just, merciful, faithful, self-sacrificing… As a logician and theologian he is doubtless without a peer today. In his research for Biblical Truth and harmony he is without a parallel in this age. Without a blemish in his character…he towers like a giant unmatched." (The Finished Mystery, p. 125)

Of the Bible we're told: "the Bible is an infallible teacher of the Divine purposes" (p. 66).

The Finished Mystery applies the word "truth", or synonyms thereof such as "Divine light", to Russell's teachings over 100 times. It also has many insults of Christian ministers such as "yelpings of little men – of the D.D.s of Christendom." (p. 383)  D.D.s stands for Dumb Dogs.

People who rejected Russellism the book calls "enemies of truth" (p. 362) and "clerical foes of truth" (p. 383). It says, "the Bible has been perverted" (p. 384) and "the clergy tried to stem the tide of truth" (p. 390).

With the Bible infallible, Russell without theological peer or parallel, and with opposers worthy of insult we'd expect The Finished Mystery itself to be close to infallible. Let's investigate this:


I selected 35 pages from The Finished Mystery using the Random Number key of a Scientific Calculator and counted the number of statements that disagree with present-day JW interpretations. The results were:

AVERAGE    2.26
Two further pages, 258 and 398, are reproduced with this article to illustrate the style of writing in The Finished Mystery.

With an average of 2.26 discarded interpretations per page the best single estimate for the whole book is 2.26 x 608 pages = 1,372.

This estimates the number of points that an informed JW would recognize as false. Christians and non-Christians would find thousands more falsehoods.

Consider, for example: "the true church…have since 1878 been withdrawing from ecclesiasticism and close to God." (p. 407)

A present-day JW would probably agree with this sentence. A more-thoughtful person would disagree because he would doubt that hundreds of mistakes in theology and prophecy could be part of "the true church…close to God." And if we examine how 1878 was obtained and what the date signified that too would be seen as error. This one sentence, therefore, could be regarded as having one, two, three or zero errors depending on whose viewpoint we take. In this case I would count "one" because I'm counting changed or discarded interpretations and the significance of 1878 is now discarded by JWs.

Furthermore The Finished Mystery has several hundred negative descriptions of Christian denominations calling them or their leaders, for example, "enemies of truth", while calling its own theology "light", "truth", etc. Every such statement would be viewed as erroneous by other denominations but my count does not include them since, again, I'm estimating the number of changed/discarded interpretations and not the number of errors.


The Finished Mystery was supposedly "the final witness of the church". (p. 256) This, however, can't be true because the cult has published about 200 further books since 1917 plus magazines, booklets, brochures and tracts besides preaching door to door and on radio.

What did writers of the subsequent publications say about The Finished Mystery?

Until the 1920s The Watch Tower published occasional lists of corrections to Russell's books. The Watch Tower of 1920 p. 170, for example, listed corrections to about 40 pages of The Finished Mystery. As new interpretations multiplied Russell's books were repeatedly revised and later – when changes reached thousands – ignored.

Russellism is so different to present-day JW theology that JWs can be regarded as a breakaway sect from Russellism. The leadership won't admit this, however, because it would refute their claim that the movement was initiated and directed all-along by God. This leaves JW leaders who write the books the option of telling lies.

The 1979 Yearbook of JWs (pp. 110-113) calls people who in 1918 distributed The Finished Mystery "faithful Christians" who "dared as did Jesus, to speak God's Word without fear, exposing the hypocrisy of the clergy" with "true faith and courage". Persons who refused to peddle the book had "the spirit of rebellion".

Such language – including the implicating of Jesus – is hardly appropriate for a book with 1,300 false interpretations!

Here are some more quotes:

"It does not contain any erroneous doctrines." (The Watch Tower 1920 4/1 103)

"The Finished Mystery is the first and only book that has ever made clear the prophecies of Revelation and Ezekiel." (Millions Now Living Will Never Die, 1920, Australian edition, p. 111)

"the clergy have kept the people from the truth and led them into darkness.... Now the mask is torn off, and nothing ever published so exposes the nefarious course of this instrument of Satan as does The Finished Mystery." (The Watch Tower 1921 March 15 pp. 93-94)

"a stinging exposure of the clergy." (Qualified to be Ministers, 1955, p. 314)

"a stinging exposure of these false shepherds." (Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, 1959, p. 73)

"sweet to the spiritual taste". (Then is Finished the Mystery of God, 1969, p. 258)

"a stinging exposure of Christendom's clergy class." (Awake! 1984 12/8 10)

"a powerful commentary on Revelation and Ezekiel". (Revelation Its Grand Climax Near At Hand, 1988, p. 165)

The Finished Mystery split Russellism into many cults. In PEOPLES PAPER, a magazine by an Australian continuation of Russellism, a New South Wales doctor wrote of the book: "Its vindictive and slanderous aspersions of other religious thought, and its scurrilous cartoons, in no way indicating the spirit of Christ, made me throw it aside…" (1918 September 1) About 1/3 of Russellites deserted the main branch of the cult from 1917 to 1920. Some recovery followed. Then from 1926 to 1930 about 80% dropped out.

The JW leaders call other groups derived from Russellism the "evil slave class". They say:

"…this book crystallized the opposition of the 'evil slave' class." (Qualified to be Ministers, 1955, p. 314)

"This volume…was the focal point around which the opposition party arose within the society." (Convention Report, 1950, Day 3)

"Actually they had no cause for contention at all…" (Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, 1959, p. 70)

If over 1,300 misuses of Scripture are "no cause for contention" why do JWs continuously make alleged theological errors in other religions a "cause for contention"?


The JW book REVELATION ITS GRAND CLIMAX NEAR AT HAND (1988) refers back to the period 1870-1919 and applies the following descriptions to the early JWs:

anointed Christians
abandoned false doctrines
boldly used the Bible
restoration of true worship
faithful Christians
the John class
God's people
Christ's anointed brothers
faithful and discreet
the Master appointed them
Pure worship was reestablished (p. 209)
All this is on only one page and much of the book is similar!

This is the denial, indoctrination and self-glorification that JW leaders promote year after year.

The origin of this approach is the humiliation of the Russellites when they were proved false in thousands of points including the book they believed almost infallible – The Finished Mystery.

Two pages retyped from The Finished Mystery.
Underlining is added to show points [interpretations] now rejected by the sect

 258                        The Finished Mystery                   REV. 16

   To give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of [His] THE wrath.–The wine of the vine of the earth.–Rev. 14:17-20; Jer. 8:14; Isa. 51:17-20; Jer. 25:26.;28: Rev. 18:6.
   16:20. And every island fled away.Even the republics will disappear in the fall of 1920.
And the mountains were not found.–Every kingdom of earth will pass away, be swallowed up in anarchy.
   16:21. And there fell upon men.–Greek "The Men," the worshipers of the beast and his image, i.e., the clergy.
   A great hail out of heaven.–Truth, compacted, coming with crushing force. A concluding statement of how the seventh volume of Scripture Studies appears to the worshipers of the beast and his image.–Rev. 11:19; Isa. 28:17; 30:30; Ezek. 13:11; Joshua 10:11.
   Every stone about the weight of a talent.–113 lbs. (Mal. 3.10.) Another view of the seventh volume of Scripture Studies, as it appears to the worshipers of the beast and his image, is found in the last of the Egyptian plagues, the death of the first-born, Exodus 11th. and 12th. chapters. As soon as this plague came the Egyptians, from Pharaoh down, were anxious to speed the parting guest, and willing to give up all the jewels of silver (the Great Company) and the jewels of gold (the Little Flock). In connection with the statement that "there was not a house where there was not one dead," it is admitted that if any sects were overlooked in the lists cited in comments on Rev. 8th and 9th chapters the omission was unintentional and will be corrected in later editions. The three days in which Pharaoh's host pursued the Israelites into the wilderness represent the three years from 1917 to 1920 at which time all of Pharaoh's messengers will be swallowed up in the sea of anarchy. The wheels will come off their chariots–organizations.
   And men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail.Apparently, the book will be unpopular for a time.  "As soon as Divine restraints upon Satan were released, he moved the Sabeans to steal Job's cattle and to kill his servants; he caused fire to come down from heaven, which not only killed but burned up Job's flocks of sheep; he sent the Chaldeans who stole Job's camels, and finally produced a cyclone which smote the house in which Job's children were feasting together, and destroyed the house and killed its occupants; and he attacked Job's person with disease as soon as granted permission. (Job. 1:9-2:7.)"–S80.
   For the plague thereof was exceeding great.–Quite a shower.



   5:1. And thou, son of man, take thee a sharp knife, take thee a barber's razor, and cause it to pass upon thine head and upon thy beard: then take thee balances to weigh, and divide the hair.–This is located "after the days of the siege" of Jerusalem or in antitype after Romanism's and Protestantism's siege is ended in 1918. It had a literal fulfillment in 606 B. C. and is to have a literal and a symbolic fulfillment in and after 1918. It depicts the several kinds of troubles upon Christendom, and the causes provoking them. The shaving of the head represents the affliction of Christendom. (Isa. 3:17; 20; 16:12; Jer. 7:29.) The shaving of the beard was part of the ceremonial treatment of a leper (Lev. 14:8, 9), and signifies that after 1918 Christendom will be treated by outraged Justice as a moral leper, unclean with incurable iniquity, the perverseness, which, in the face of continual preaching of the Gospel, led up to the recent wars.
   Ezek. 5:2, 12, 16, 17, relate to features of the destruction of literal Jerusalem in 606 B. C. and 70-73 A. D. and of Christendom in 1914 to 1918 A. D. Since in verse 12 a third part of the persons were to suffer death or affliction. the hair in verses 1, 2 and 3 signify the people in Jerusalem–Christendom. In Samson's case the hair represented big strength; and here the hair cut off signifies that the people who are the strength of Christendom shall be cut off in the brief but terribly eventful period beginning in 1918 A. D.  A third part are "burned with fire in the midst of the city." Fire symbolizes destruction. One large part of the adherents of ecclesiasticism will die from pestilence and famine. (Deut 32:24.) In 5:16, 17 the shafts of hunger are represented as the evil arrows of famine. The staff is that upon which one leans; the staff of bread is the food supply of Christendom. In 1916 there was already a 26 per cent crop shortage throughout the world, presaging worse conditions to come. In verse 18 the evil beasts sent upon Christendom are the savage "Christian" governments of the world (Deut. 32:24), which, by unheard-of barbarity in war, are bereaving the people by millions and causing bloodshed unparalleled in history.


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