Eschatology of Jehovah's Witnesses

Eschatology of Jehovah's Witnesses

The eschatology of Jehovah's Witnesses is central to their religious beliefs. They believe that Jesus Christ has been ruling in heaven as king since 1914 (a date they believe was prophesied in Scripture), and that after that time a period of cleansing occurred, resulting in the selection of Jehovah's Witnesses by God to be his people in the year 1919. [ “Revelation – Its Grand Climax at Hand” –1988 | chap. 6 p. 32 “Unlocking a Sacred Secret” | . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | “Early in 1918 the Kingdom activity of Jehovah’s people met with great opposition. It was a time of testing earth wide, and fearful ones were sifted out. In May 1918 Christendom’s clergy instigated the imprisonment of officials of the Watch Tower Society, but nine months later these were released. Later, the false charges against them were dropped. From 1919 the organization of God’s people, tried and refined, moved zealously forward to proclaim Jehovah’s Kingdom by Christ Jesus as the hope for mankind.—Malachi 3:1-3.” ] They also believe the destruction of those who reject their message [cite journal|journal=Watchtower|title=The House-to-House Ministry--Why Important Now?|date=July 15, 2008|pages=5-6 :"By means of the preaching and disciple-making work, the anointed class puts a symbolic mark on those who become part of Christ's "other sheep." (John 10:16) What is the mark? It is the evidence, as if displayed on their uncovered foreheads, that such sheep are dedicated, baptized disciples of Jesus Christ and that they have put on the Christlike new personality. (Eph. 4:20-24) These sheeplike ones become one flock with anointed Christians and assist them in their vital work of marking still others.--Rev. 22:17. Ezekiel's vision highlights one reason why our ongoing search for people who are "sighing and groaning" is so urgent. It involves lives. Soon, Jehovah's heavenly executional forces, represented by the six men with weapons, will destroy those who do not have the symbolic mark. Concerning that coming judgment, the apostle Paul wrote that the Lord Jesus, accompanied by "his powerful angels," will bring "vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus." (2 Thess. 1:7,8) Notice that people will be judged on the basis of their response to the good news." (Emphasis added)] and thus willfully refuse to obey God [ “You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth” chap. 19 p. 155 par. 2 After Armageddon, a Paradise Earth | “Armageddon will destroy … any who willfully refuse to obey his righteous laws” ] [ “Revelation—Its Grand Climax at Hand!” chap. 1 p. 6 par. 5 Revelation—Its Happy Climax! | “only wicked opposers of God will be destroyed” ] will shortly take place at Armageddon, ensuring that the beginning of the new earthly society will be composed of willing subjects of that kingdom.

The religion's doctrines surrounding 1914 are the legacy of a series of emphatic claims regarding the years 1799, 1874, 1878, 1914, 1918 and 1925 made by founder Charles Taze Russell and Watchtower Society publications between 1879 and 1924. Claims by the religion about the significance of those years, including the presence of Jesus Christ, the beginning of the "last days", the destruction of worldly governments and the earthly resurrection of Jewish patriachs, were successively abandoned when it became apparent the dates were wrong. The "Watchtower" had described its chronology as "of divine origin and divinely corroborated ... absolutely and unqualifiedly correct" ["The Strong Cable of Chronology", "Watchtower", July 15, 1922.] and that a repudiation of Russell's teachings was "equivalent to a repudiation of the Lord". ["Watchtower", May 1, 1922.] [A full examination of these dates and claims, including copies of the Watchtower articles, are contained in chapters 7 and 8 of "Crisis of Conscience" (Commentary Press, fourth edition, 2007) by former Governing Body member Raymond Franz. A brief coverage is contained in chapters 5 and 10 of "Jehovah's Witnesses – Proclaimers of God's Kingdom" (Watchtower Society, 1993).] The Watchtower Society today admits its early leaders promoted "incomplete, even inaccurate concepts". ["Jehovah's Witnesses – Proclaimers of God's Kingdom" (Watchtower Society, 1993), chapter 10.]

Current beliefs

Jehovah's Witnesses teach the imminence of end of this current world society, or "system of things" by God's judgment, leading to deliverance for the saved. This judgment will begin with false religion, which they identify as the “harlot,” Babylon the Great [ “Revelation – Its Grand Climax at Hand” –1988 | 235-236 pars. 2-3 “Judging the Infamous Harlot” | . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania ] [ “Revelation – Its Grand Climax at Hand” –1988 | chap. 30 pp. 205-206 par. 2 ] , referred to in the Book of Revelation. They apply this designation to all other religions.Jehovah's Witnesses are told not to put their expectations to one given date, and that various events will lead up to the end of this "system of things", culminating in Armageddon. Armageddon is understood to include the destruction of all earthly governments by God. After Armageddon, God will extend his heavenly kingdom to include earth. [ Watchtower 9/1/59 pp. 530-531 par. 15 | “By way of example of points easily overlooked, perhaps you often talk about the Kingdom as being established on earth. Have you forgotten the point made on page 138 of “Let God Be True” that says, “It is manifest that the kingdom is not earthly, but heavenly”? So the Kingdom will never be established on earth as though it were an earthly arrangement, although it will extend its rule and bring blessings to men of faith on earth.—John 18:36.” ] [ [ Armageddon—A Happy Beginning- Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site ] ]

After Armageddon, based on scriptures such as John 5:28, 29, they believe people in the graves will gradually be resurrected to a ‘day of judgment’ lasting for the thousand years referred to in Revelation 20. [Watchtower 5/15 2006 p 6. The Watchtower 12/1577 p. 743 How Dependent Are We on Jesus Christ? ] This judgement will be based on their actions after resurrection, not on past deeds. [“Insight on the Scriptures” -2 p. 788 under "Resurrection" ] At the end of the thousand years a final test will take place when Satan is brought back to mislead perfect mankind. [Watchtower 5/1/05 p. 20 ] The end result will be a fully tested, glorified human race. [ The Watchtower | 8/15/06 p. 31]

Presence of Christ Jesus

Watchtower Society publications currently teach that Christ Jesus returned invisibly and began to rule in heaven as king, in October 1914. They claim the beginning of Christ's heavenly rule would seem worse initially for mankind because it starts with the casting out of Satan from heaven to the earth, which according to Revelation 12, would bring a brief period of 'woe' to mankind. [ Watchtower 2/1 1996 . p6 ] But this woe will be reversed when Christ finally comes to destroy Satan's earthly organization, throwing Satan into the abyss and extend [ “Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy!” chap. 4 p. 62 ] God's Kingdom rule over the earth in which Jesus reigns as God's appointed king. [ Watchtower 10/1 p. 16 ] They believe the Greek word "parousia" (usually translated as "coming") is more accurately understood as "presence," perceived only by a series of 'signs.' Thus this Second Coming would be an invisible presence, lasting for an extended time. [Watchtower 8/15/96 p. 12 par. 13 Jesus’ Coming or Jesus’ Presence—Which? "Plainly, the pa·rou·si´a, or presence, of “the man of lawlessness” was not just a momentary arrival; it would extend over time, during which lying signs would be produced"]

Witnesses base their beliefs about the significance of 1914 on the Watchtower Society's interpretation of biblical chronology. ["All Scripture is Inspired of God" Pp. 278-284] [“Reasoning From the Scriptures” p. 95 - p. 96 | ”Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses say that God’s Kingdom was established in 1914?”.] They believe this to be reinforced by world events since 1914, which they see as fulfillment of the "sign" of Christ's "presence" for all to see. ["The Truth That Leads to Everlasting Life" Chap 10 pg 86 par. 8] [ “You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth” 1989 | chap. 18 p. 150 par. 5 | ““The End of the World” Is at Hand!”” | . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | "Never in history had there been such a terrible war. It was total war. World War I was much greater than all the major wars fought during the 2,400 years before 1914. ” ] [ “True Peace and Security- How Can You Find It?” 1986| 73 chap. 7 pp. 81-84 par. 19 | “When Will the Foretold World Destruction Come? | . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | "You may recall, also, that notable food shortages, pestilences, earthquakes or times of lawlessness have been reported by historians as taking place before 1914. Yet, at no other time in history have all these things come on one generation in such overwhelming measure. ] An example of this sign is said to be the world wars which they say fulfills Christ's statement in answer to a request for a "sign." [Matthew 24:3 ... And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world?".(MKJV)] They believe that their preaching is part of that sign. To support this they point to Matthew 24:14, which says "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all nations. And "then the end" shall come." (MKJV) [Mat 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all nations. And then the end shall come.] [ Watchtower 10/15 2000 . p11 ] [ Awake 10/22 1993 . p. 11 ]

Their interpretation of Bible chronology is hinged on the belief that 607 BCE was the date of Jerusalem's destruction and the beginning of the Babylonian captivity. They believe that Daniel chapter 4 prophesied a period of 2,520 years starting with 607 BCE and ending at 1914 CE. (Non-Witness sources date Jerusalem's destruction to 587/586 BCE, some twenty years later.) [ “Let Your Kingdom Come” © 1981 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | pp. 186-189 Appendix to Chapter 14 ]

This period is equated with the "Gentile Times" or "the appointed times of the nations," a phrase taken from Luke 21:24. They believe that when the Babylonians removed Israel’s last king, it was then a gentile who sat on God's throne. They contend that gentile kings occupied God's throne for 2520 years until Jesus began ruling on God’s throne in heaven in October of 1914. [”What Does The Bible Really Teach?” p. 217 par. 3 - p. 218 par. 1 1914—A Significant Year in Bible Prophecy | “The 2,520 years began in October 607 B.C.E., when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians and the Davidic king was taken off his throne. The period ended in October 1914. At that time, “the appointed times of the nations” ended, and Jesus Christ was installed as God’s heavenly King.—Psalm 2:1-6; Daniel 7:13, 14.” ]

They claim that after the war of Armageddon, Jesus will rule as Earth's king for 1000 years after which he hands all authority back to Jehovah. [Watchtower w04 1/15 p. 16 ] [ “Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy!” - 2006 © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania |pp. 94,95 “Unraveling the Mystery of the Great Tree” ]

ign of Last Days

Jehovah's Witnesses teach that since October 1914, humanity has been living in a period of intense increased trouble known as "the last days." War, disease, famine, earthquakes, lack of love, the progressive degeneration of morality worldwide, and the preaching work done by Jehovah's Witnesses are said to mark these "last days". [] Various calamities in the modern world are used to demonstrate these beliefs, such as the fighting of World War I in August 1914, the outbreak of Spanish flu in May 1918, the onset of World War II in 1939, and more recently, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. [ Awake! 5/8/02 p. 8 A Century of Violence | “There is no question that the 20th century was marked by wars more destructive than those of any other era. Now at the beginning of the 21st century, the prospect of peace seems even more illusory—especially after the terrorist attacks that took place in New York City and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001” ]

Judgment of Religion and Selection of True Followers

Jehovah's Witnesses believe 1918 to be the time when Christ Jesus judged all world religions claiming to be Christian. [“Revelation—Its Grand Climax at Hand!” –1988 | chap. 11 p. 56 par. 6 Is Your Name in the Book of Life?| . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | “As “messenger of the covenant,” Jesus came to inspect and judge those "who claimed to be his followers". (1 Peter 4:17)”] They teach that after a period of 18 months, among all groups and religions "claiming to represent Christ", [ “Revelation—Its Grand Climax at Hand!” –1988 | chap. 36 pp. 259-260 par. 5 “The Great City Devastated” | “… but in 1918 the Lord Jehovah and his “messenger of the [Abrahamic] covenant,” Jesus Christ, began judgment with “the house of God,” those professing to be Christians.” | . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania] only the "Bible Students" (who became known as "Jehovah's Witnesses" in 1931) met God's approval. ["When Christ inspected’ the faithful and discreet slave’ in 1918, he found those anointed ones on earth to be faithful in providing spiritual ‘food at the proper time.’ Hence, Jesus was pleased thereafter to appoint them ‘over all his belongings.’ January 15, 2008 "Watchtower", p. 24.] The Witnesses believe that the world's religions in general have misrepresented God, and filled the world with hatred. [ Watchtower 4/15 /89 p. 20 ] They believe the "world empire of false religion" is referred to in the Bible (in Revelation 17:3-6) as "Babylon The Great," and the "mother of the harlots," [ “What Does The Bible Really Teach?”, p. 220 ] [Watchtower 9/1/79 p. 27 ] [ Watchtower 5/1/89 p. 5 ] [ Watchtower 4/15 /89 p. 4 ]

During the final great tribulation, all the world's religions, except the 'true' one, will be destroyed by the governments under the UN (United Nations). [ “Revelation—Its Grand Climax at Hand!” –1988 | chap. 35 p. 256 par. 17 “Executing Babylon the Great” | . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | “It is not the nations alone, as represented by the ten horns, that destroy the great harlot, but “the wild beast,” meaning the UN itself, joins them in this rampage. It will give its sanction to the destruction of false religion.” |] [ Watchtower 5/1/97 pp. 17-18 par. 17 “No Peace for the False Messengers!” © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | “17 Shortly, “crazed” members of the UN will be maneuvered by Jehovah to turn on false religion, as described at Revelation 17:16: “These will hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked, and will eat up her fleshy parts and will completely burn her with fire.” This will mark the start of the great tribulation” | ] They say the UN is the "beast" to whom the "ten kings" of Revelation 17:12,13 give their "power and authority." Then the UN will "hate the Harlot," and destroy it, motivated by God himself. [ Watchtower 5/1 /93 p. 24 par. 13 “Deliverance at the Revelation of Jesus Christ” © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | “. Revelation 17:15-18 graphically describes God’s “thought”—to maneuver “ten horns,” powerful forces from within the multinational UN “wild beast,” to dispose of her. “And the ten horns that you saw, and the wild beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked, and will eat up her fleshy parts and will completely burn her with fire. For God put it into their hearts to carry out his thought.” | ]

History of eschatology

Jehovah's Witnesses/eschatology
Throughout its history, the eschatology of Jehovah's Witnesses has undergone changes, mostly surrounding the dates 1874, 1914, 1918, and 1925. On one hand, they assured readers the interpretations were based on Scripture and were therefore reliable. ["Millennial Dawn" (later retitled "Studies in the Scriptures"), Volume 2, [ "The Time is at Hand!" p. 99] : "In view of this strong Bible evidence concerning the Times of the Gentiles, we consider it an established truth..." The Watchtower, [ July 15, 1894, p. 1677] : "We see no reason for changing the figures — nor could we change them if we would. They are, we believe, God’s dates, not ours. But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble."] However, they have also candidly admitted that their interpretations have at times been in error, ["Jehovah's Witnesses: Proclaimers of God's Kingdom" (1993) p.631-632] and that there was no claim to infallibility with regard to their interpretations [“We do not even aver that there is no mistake in our interpretation of prophesy and our calculations of chronology. We have merely laid these before you, leaving it for each to exercise his own faith or doubt in respect to them." "Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence" January 1908 “Views From the Watchtower”] , and they have never claimed to "originate" prophecies. [“We have not the gift of prophecy.” "The Watchtower" January 1883, p. 425] [“Nor would we have our writings reverenced or regarded as infallible.” "The Watchtower" December 15, 1896, p. 306] More recently "The Watchtower" stated, “The brothers preparing these publications are not infallible. Their writings are not inspired as are those of Paul and the other Bible writers. And so, at times, it has been necessary, as understanding became clearer, to correct views. (Prov. 4:18) ” ["The Watchtower" February 15, 1981, p. 19] Thus portions of their eschatology and its accompanying chronology have been discarded.

Currently they teach that modern events correspond to Biblical prophecies, however, they do not predict a specific year for Armageddon to occur. The Witnesses still rely on their understanding of Bible chronology for establishing the significance of the year 1914.

Early Expectations 1871-1881

The Second Adventists affiliated with Nelson H. Barbour expected a visible and dramatic return of Christ in 1873, ["Evidences for the Coming of the Lord in 1873: or the Midnight Cry", N.H. Barbour (1871). Available online at: [] ] and later in 1874. [ [ "The Midnight Cry and Herald of the Morning,"] March 1874. See Section under "Our Faith."] They agreed with other Adventist groups that the "time of the end" (also called the "last days") had started in 1799. [ [ Present Truth, Or Meat in Due Season] by Jonas Wendell, pp. 34-35] Soon after the 1874 disappointment, Barbour's group decided Christ had returned to the earth in 1874, but "invisibly". Writing in his journal "The Herald of the Morning" in 1875, Barbour outlined his eschatological views and connected the years 1874, 1878, 1881, and 1914. The "harvest" was to run from 1874 to the Spring of 1878, concluding with "the translation of the living saints into the air." 1881 would mark when the Jews would be restored to Palestine and the time from 1881 until 1914 would see the set-up of the Kingdom of God on earth: cquote|I believe the earth [or cosmos] abideth forever; but that the ages, [aionies] are continually passing. That we are now in the end of the gospel age, and the commencing of the age of, or 'times of restitution of all things.' That this transition period is called 'the time of harvest' and that it began in the autumn of 1874, and will end in the spring of 1878; measuring three and a half years. And that the events of this time of harvest, are first the resurrection of the dead in Christ; second, the binding of the tares in bundles; third and last, the translation of the living saints and gathering of them together with the risen ones to the Lord in the air.

I believe that though the gospel dispensation will end in 1878, the Jews will not be restored to Palestine, until 1881; and that the 'times of the Gentiles,' viz. their seven prophetic, times, of 2520, or twice 1260 years, which began where God gave all, into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, 606 B.C.; do not end until A.D. 1914; or 40 years from this.

I believe that during this 40 years, just begun the 'time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation;' will be fulfilled. And in the mean time, the kingdom of God will be set up, 'break in pieces, and consume all these [Gentile] kingdoms,' 'and the stone become a great mountain, and fill the whole earth,' and usher in glory of the millennial age. [cite journal|journal=The Herald of the Morning|title=Our Faith|url=|date=September 1875|pages=52|format}]

Charles Taze Russell entered fellowship with Barbour in 1876 and Russell accepted Barbour's eschatological understanding. ["The writer, among many others now interested, was sound asleep, in profound ignorance of the cry, etc., until 1876, when being awakened he trimmed his lamp (for it is still very early in the morning.) It showed him clearly that the Bridegroom had come and that he is living "in the days of the Son of Man." cite journal|journal=Zion's Watch Tower|author=C.T. Russell|title=From and To The Wedding|url=|date=April 1880|pages=2] [Russell explained how he accepted the idea of an invisible return of Christ from N.H. Barbour in [ "Harvest Gatherings and Siftings"] in the July 15, 1906 "Watch Tower", "Reprints" page 3822.] 1n 1877, Barbour and Russell jointly issued the book "The Three Worlds" which reiterated Barbour's earlier teachings. ["The Three Worlds and The Harvest of This World" by N.H. Barbour and C.T. Russell (1877). Text available online at: [] [ Scan of book in PDF format] ] It proclaimed Christ's invisible return in 1874, ["The Three Worlds", p. 175] the resurrection of the saints in 1875, ["The Three Worlds", pp. 104-108] and predicted the end of the "harvest" and a rapture of the saints to heaven for 1878, [See pages 68, 89-93, 124, 125-126, 143 of "The Three Worlds".] and the final end of "the day of wrath" in 1914. [ The year 1914 was seen as the final end of the "day of wrath": "...the 'times of the Gentiles,' reach from B.C. 606 to A.D. 1914, or forty years beyond 1874. And the time of trouble, conquest of the nations, and events connected with the day of wrath, have only ample time, during the balance of this forty years, for their fulfillment." "The Three Worlds", p. 189.] 1874 was considered the end of 6,000 years of human history and the beginning of judgment by Christ. [In 1935, the idea that the 6,000 years ran out in 1874 was moved forward 100 years. cite journal|journal=The Golden Age|title=The Second Hand in the Timepiece of God|pages=412–413|date=March 27, 1935|url=]

Shortly after the 1878 disappointment, Russell said they "felt somewhat disappointed; yet we did not for a moment feel cast down." The 1878 date had been based on a three and a half year parallel time period from the Fall of 1874 to the Spring of 1878 which was viewed as the "Harvest." Russell explained that they now realized there would be an additional three and a half period "making the harvest seven years long." [cite journal|journal=The Herald of the Morning|title=The Prospect|pages=11–12|author=C.T. Russell|date=July 1878|url=] Successive issues of "The Herald of the Morning" identified the Fall of 1881 as the end of the "Harvest" and the likely time for the translation of the Church to heaven. ["...showing that we are now in the last half of the 'harvest' of the gospel age; and that it will terminate in A.D. 1881." cite journal|journal=The Herald of the Morning|title=Bible Theology|pages=22|date=August 1878|url= "Hence, the 'real rising again of Israel' can not begin until the autumn of 1881, at which date, the presumption is, that the gospel church will be taken away to meet the Lord." cite journal|journal=The Herald of the Morning|title=Harmony of the Scriptures|pages=52|date=October 1878|url= "And from that time, or the autumn of 1881, the 91st Ps [alm] : 'He shall give his angels charge over thee,' etc., will begin to have its fulfillment. From that time onward, we believe no one of the company of the overcomers need die, even though they reach that point tottering, as it were on the verge of the grave." cite journal|journal=The Herald of the Morning|title=Book of Revelation: Coming Time of Trouble|pages=6|date=January 1879|url=] A theological disagreement over the nature of the Atonement prompted Russell to break fellowship with Barbour and begin publishing "Zion's Watch Tower" in July, 1879. [In 1880, shortly after the separation with Russell, Barbour rejected the idea of an invisible presence of Christ and began teaching that Christ would return visibly in 1881. See [ July & August 1880 issues of "Herald of the Morning"] "He is teaching that after 1881, Christ will appear in the flesh secretly, to be seen only by himself and those who believe exactly as he believes. This teaching not only leads to unscriptural expectations, but seems to open the minds of those who receive it to a perilous snare of the devil, which snare is referred to in the "Three Worlds," a book written by this very brother, in 1876..." [ July 1880 "Watch Tower", p. 2] ] Initially, the "Watch Tower" held to the 1881 date as the probable time for the Church's translation, ["Soon, probably by, probably before, the fall of 1881, we shall be changed--born of the spirit [of which we are now begotten] into the glorious likeness of our Head." cite journal|journal=Zion's Watch Tower|title=The Restored Dominion|pages=7|date=December 1880|url= "We will now present what we adduce from the types and prophetic points as seeming to indicate the translation of the saints and closing of the door to the high calling in 1881." cite journal|journal=Zion's Watch Tower|title="How Long, O Lord?"|pages=4|date=January 1881|url="And now we come nearer to the time when OUR CHANGE SEEMS DUE(We know not the day or hour, but expect it during 1881, possibly near the autumn where the parallels show the favor to Zion complete and due to end, the door to the marriage to shut, and the high calling to be the bride of Christ, to cease.)" cite journal|journal=Zion's Watch Tower|title="Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence"|pages=5|date=February 1881|url= However, the book "Day Dawn" (1880), by Russell's associate J.H. Paton, when arguing against Barbour's views about 1881 denied translation would take place in 1881. Paton said they were expecting translation "long before 1914." cite book|title=Day Dawn|pages=274-275|year=1880|url= ] but by May, 1881 the expectations were only that the opportunity to be part of the Bride of Christ would end about October 2 1881. ["The WATCH TOWER never claimed that the body of Christ will be changed to spiritual beings during this year. There is such a change due sometime. We have not attempted to say when, but have repeatedly said that it could not take place before the fall of 1881...We have no desire to dogmatize nor to keep any one out, but we believe (and therefore speak) that the favor which ends this fall, is that of entering the Bride company. We believe the door of favor is now open and any who consecrate all and give up all, can come in to the wedding and become members of the Bride, but that with this year the company will be reckoned complete and the door to that high calling (not the door of mercy) closed forever...As to when our change is due we can only say: To our understanding it will be due at any time after October 2nd, 1881, but we know of no scriptural evidence as to what time we will be changed from natural to spiritual, from mortal to immortal."cite journal|journal=Zion's Watch Tower|title="The Year 1881"|pages=5|date=May 1881|url= cite journal|journal=Zion's Watch Tower|title="And the Door Was Shut"|pages=3–4|date=October 1881|url= See also [ "The Time is At Hand!", p. 235] ]

"The Time Is At Hand" 1881-1918

Barbour's basic eschatology was retained by Russell after they parted company with some minor refinements. Basing his interpretations on a concept of parallel "dispensations," Russell taught that while Jesus was invisibly present here on earth he was also made its King in 1878. Rejected by God in 1878 was the "nominal Church" (considered to be "Babylon the Great"). ["This spuing out, or casting off, of the nominal church as an organization in 1878, we then understood, and still proclaim, to be the date of the commencement of Babylon's fall..."—"Zion's Watch Tower", April 1883. [ "Reprints" pp. 474-5] ] Russell also taught that in 1878 Christ resurrected all the "dead in Christ" as spirit beings to be with him here on the earth awaiting a future glorification to heaven. (As each of the remainder of the 144,000 would die after 1878, Christ would resurrect them as spirit beings to join those already resurrected.) Together with Christ here on earth, these invisible resurrected spirit beings were said to be engaged in directing a harvest work (running from 1874-1914) gathering the remainder of those with the heavenly calling. [Detailed in [ "Thy Kingdom Come"] (1890), Volume 3 of "Millennial Dawn", later retitled "Studies in the Scriptures", p. [ 305-308] .] Russell later moderated his view about the significance of 1881, stating that the "door" for the gathering of the Bride of Christ "stands ajar." ["Our understanding is that the open or general 'call' of this age to kingdom honors ceased in October, 1881....we make a distinction between the end of the 'call' and the closing of the 'door'; and believe that the door into the kingdom class is not yet closed; that it stands ajar for a time..." cite journal|journal=Watch Tower|title=Questions of Interest: The Gradual End of Gospel Favor|pages=190|date=June 15, 1911|url=]

The culmination of Armageddon would occur in 1914 preceded by the gathering of all the saints (both resurrected and living) to heaven. Based on measurements from the Great Pyramid of Gizeh, this 'passing beyond the vail' or rapture was expected "before the close of A.D. 1910." ["...this date, 1910, indicated by the pyramid...we may accept as correct the testimony of the great pyramid, that the last members of the body or bride’ of Christ will have been tested and accepted and will have passed beyond the vail before the close of A.D. 1910." [ "Thy Kingdom Come", p. 364] "According to our expectations the stress of the great time of trouble will be on us soon, somewhere between 1910 and 1912 — culminating with the end of the 'Times of the Gentiles,' October, 1914." "The New Creation", p.579 (Later editions may read differently)] Russell enumerated seven expectations for 1914 in [ "The Time is at Hand"] : cquote|In this chapter we will present the Bible evidence proving that the full end of the times of the Gentiles, i.e., the full end of their lease of dominion, will be reached in A.D. 1914; and that date will be the farthest limit of the rule of imperfect men...

Firstly, That at that date the Kingdom of God, for which our Lord taught us to pray, saying, 'Thy Kingdom come,' will obtain full, universal control, and that it will then be 'set up,' or firmly established, in the earth, on the ruins of present institutions.

Secondly, It will prove that he whose right it is thus to take the domination will then be present as earth’s new Ruler...

Thirdly, It will prove that some time before the end of A.D. 1914 the last member of the divinely recognized Church of Christ, the 'royal priesthood,' 'the body of Christ,' will be glorified with the Head...

Fourthly, It will prove that from that time forward Jerusalem shall no longer be trodden down by the Gentiles...

Fifthly, it will prove that by that date, or sooner, Israel’s blindness will begin to be turned away...

Sixthly, It will prove that the great 'time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation,' will reach its culmination in a world-wide reign of anarchy...

Seventhly, It will prove that before that date [emphasis in original] God’s Kingdom, organized in power, will be in the earth and then smite and crush the Gentile image - and fully consume the power of these kings. ["The Time is at Hand", pages [ 76-78] . Post 1914 editions read differently-- [ 1917 edition] .]

At first the hopes for 1914 were stretched to "near the end of A.D. 1915." ["In view of this strong Bible evidence concerning the Times of the Gentiles, we consider it an established truth, that the final end of the kingdoms of this world, and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God, will be accomplished near the end of A.D. 1915. Then the prayer of the church, ever since her Lord took his departure, - 'Thy kingdom come' - will be answered; and under that wise and just administration, the whole earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord"— [ "The Time is at Hand", 1915 ed., p. 99] (Later editions have 1914 instead of 1915)] A few months before his death in October 1916, Russell wrote: "We believe that the dates have proven to be quite right. We believe that Gentile Times have ended...The Lord did not say that the Church would all be glorified by 1914. We merely inferred it, and, evidently, erred." [cite journal|title=Watchtower|url=|date=April 15, 1916|pages=126–127] Writing in the September 1 1916 "Watch Tower", Russell felt the war in Europe was the beginning of Armageddon: "Our eyes of understanding should discern clearly the Battle of the Great Day of God Almighty now in progress." No longer willing to speculate as to the end of the "Harvest Work" (the gathering of the last of the 144,000), he did point to the destruction of the "nominal Church" as being due in April 1918. [September 1, 1916 "Watch Tower", pages [ 264-265] ]

Following Russell's lead, the book "The Finished Mystery" [ [ "The Finished Mystery"] from Google Book Search. Published in 1917 by the Watchtower Society. It was considered to be volume 7 of "Studies in the Scriptures". [ PDF version of "The Finished Mystery"] . Later editions read differently.] emphasized events for 1918. The destruction of the churches of Christendom was expected in 1918: "Also, in the year 1918, when God destroys the churches wholesale and the church members by millions, it shall be that any that escape shall come to the works of Pastor Russell to learn the meaning of the downfall of 'Christianity.'" ( [ Page 485] ) "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. . . .After 1918 the people supporting churchianity will cease to be its supporters, be destroyed as adherents, by the spiritual pestilence of errors abroad, and by the famine of the Word of God among them." ( [ Pages 398] , [ 399] ) [See also the chart on [ page 594] and [ 595] : "Entire destruction of nominal Christendom, accomplished in 40 years after being cast off...A.D. 1918."] The Spring of 1918 was also proposed for the glorification of the Church: "Our proposition is that the glorification of the Little Flock in the Spring of 1918 A.D. will be half way (three and one-half years each way) between the close of the Gentile Times and the close of the Heavenly Way, A.D. 1921." ( [ Page 64] ) [ Page 177] suggests the very day of this "deliverance" as possibly being Passover day of 1918. First printings of "The Finished Mystery" predicted the end of the World War "some time about October 1 1917," but this was changed in subsequent editions. [cite book|title=The Finished Mystery (1917 edition)|pages=367|year=1917|url= This was acknowledged by W.F. Hudgings (a member of the Board of Directors for the Watch Tower Society) in a speech in 1919: "There is no more reason why we should reject the Seventh Volume because of some statements there about the ending of the war in October, 1917, which did not come true, than there is that we should throw Volume Two away because we weren't all glorified in October, 1914." cite journal|journal=1919 Souvenir IBSA Convention|title=Why I Accept the Seventh Volume|pages=47|date=February 3, 1919|url=] It also predicted the destruction of governments in the year 1920: "And the mountains were not found. 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." ["The Finished Mystery", 1917 edition, p. [ 258] . (This date is changed in later editions.)]

"Millions Now Living Will Never Die!" 1918-1925

The predictions for 1920 were discarded even before that year arrived in favor of a new chronology. In 1918-1919, Joseph Franklin Rutherford, second president of the Watchtower Society, inaugurated a world-wide lecture series entitled "Millions Now Living Will Never Die." Its basic message was a re-interpretation of the significance of the year 1914 (now seen as the beginning of the "great tribulation") and new predictions for the year 1925. Expected by 1925 was the resurrection of the biblical patriarchs Abraham, Issac and Jacob and other Old Testament personages (referred to as "princes") and the beginnings of a new world where death would cease and the dead would be resurrected to an earthly paradise. [cite book|title=Apocalypse Delayed|author=M. James Penton|url=|publisher=University of Toronto Press|year=1985|pages=57-58 cite journal|journal=New York Times|title=New Date For Millennium: Russellites Now See It Coming on Earth in 1925|date=June 2, 1919|url=]

A booklet form of the lecture was given wide distribution. [In its first year of publication 3.3 million copies were distributed and it was translated into 31 languages. cite journal|title=The Watch Tower|date=December 15, 1921|pages=379] Under the subheading "Earthly Rulers," pages 89-90 explained:

With the return of these "princes" a new order would begin. This would mean that millions of people alive at that time would be able to live forever: "Jehovah's Witnesses: Proclaimers of God's Kingdom" explains that Jehovah's Witnesses then "understood that people then living—-mankind in general-—had the opportunity to survive right into the time of restitution and that they would then be educated in Jehovah’s requirements for life. If obedient, they would gradually attain to human perfection. If rebellious, they would, in time, be destroyed forever." [cite book|title=Jehovah's Witnesses: Proclaimers of God's Kingdom|year=1993|publisher=Watchtower|pages=163] Newspaper ads for the "Millions" lecture localized the claim: "It will be conclusively proved...that thousands now living in Marion and vicinity will never die." "It will be conclusively proven...that thousands now living in this city will never die." ["The Marion Star", Marion, Ohio, April 9, 1921. "The Bridgeport Telegram", Bridgeport, Connecticut, December 4, 1920. Scans available at [ News Clippings from the "Millions Now Living Will Never Die" Campaign (1919-1925)] ]

The chronology for 1925 was viewed as stronger than the chronology for 1914 ["The date 1925 is even more distinctly indicated by the Scriptures than 1914." — September 1 1922 "Watch Tower", p. 262. "We have no doubt whatever in regard to the chronology relating to the dates of 1874, 1914, 1918, and 1925...There can be no more question about 1925 than there was about 1914."-May 15, 1922 "Watch Tower", p. 147, 150.] and was emphasized strongly in the children's book "The Way to Paradise". [ [ "The Way to Paradise", published 1924, pp. 215-254] . The book was announced in the January 1, 1924 "Watch Tower" and was written by W.E. Van Amburgh, a member of the "Watch Tower" magazine's editorial committee, with an introduction by J.F. Rutherford.] The 1921 book [ "The Harp of God: Proof Conclusive That Millions Now Living Will Never Die"] predicted that "maimed and disfigured" victims of World War I would be among the "first to receive restoration blessings." ["During the World War millions were maimed and disfigured in various ways, and many deprived of one or both arms or legs. Because the Lord is now present, putting his kingdom into operation, it is to be expected that many of these crippled and maimed ones will be among the first to receive the restoration blessings. As they come to a knowledge of the fact that the Lord is giving these blessings, and render themselves in obedience to his righteous rule, they will be thus blessed. Happy will be their portion when they begin to be restored. Joyful will be their friends and loved ones to see such restoration blessings being ministered unto them." cite book|title=The Harp of God: Proof Conclusive That Millions Now Living Will Never Die|author=J.F. Rutherford|publisher=International Bible Students Association|url=|year=1921|pages=332 (Paragraph 563) This book was re-issued in 1928 simply as "The Harp of God".]

While claiming that 1925 would be among the dates "stamped with God's approval", the "Watch Tower" was careful to say "that all that some expect to see in 1925 may not transpire that year" and could be "a means of testing and sifting." [Speaking of 1925, the "Watch Tower" said: "Noting the date marked so prominately, it is very easy for the finite mind to conclude that all the work to be done must center about it, and thus many are inclined to anticipate more than has been really foretold. Thus it was in 1844, in 1874, in 1878 as well as in 1914 and 1918. Looking back we can now easily see that those dates were clearly indicated in Scripture and doubtless intended by the Lord to encourage his people, as they did, as well as to be a means of testing and sifting when all that some expected did not come to pass. That all that some expect to see in 1925 may not transpire that year will not alter the date one whit more than in the other cases."--May 15, 1922 "Watch Tower", p. 150. The dates 1844, 1874, 1878, and 1925 are no longer viewed by Jehovah's Witnesses as indicated by biblical chronology. 1914 and 1918 have been retained, however.] Disappointment over 1925 is explained by the "Proclaimers" history book as "testing and sifting from within." ["Following 1925, meeting attendance dropped dramatically in some congregations in France and Switzerland." cite book|title=Jehovah's Witnesses: Proclaimers of God's Kingdom|publisher=Watchtower|pages=633 However, page 78 of "Proclaimers" states: "The year 1925 came and went. Some abandoned their hope. But the vast majority of the Bible Students remained faithful."]

The impact of the disappointment can be seen in statistics from the period. Prior to 1925 the numbers attending the yearly Memorial steadily increased. In 1919 17,961 attended. In 1922 it had increased to 32,661. 1923 saw 42,000 and in 1924 there were 62,696 in attendance. A peak of 90,434 was reached in 1925. The first decrease was recorded in 1926--89,278. [cite book|title=Your Will Be Done on Earth|publisher=Watchtower|year=1958|pages=337 Statistics were also published each year in the "Watch Tower" up until 1926.] However, by 1928 it had decreased to 17,380. [cite book|title=Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose|publisher=Watchtower|year=1959|pages=313 There are no published statistics from 1929-1934. In 1935, Memorial attendance had increased again to 63,146. cite journal|title=Watchtower|date=August 15, 1996|pages=31 See also cite book|title=A People For His Name|author=Timothy White|publisher=Vantage|year=1967|pages=238-239 cite book|title=1980 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses|publisher=Watchtower|pages=61-62] As late as 1931 it was claimed 1925 was a year "fixed in the Scriptures." ["There was a measure of disappointment on the part of Jehovah’s faithful ones on earth concerning the years 1914, 1918, and 1925, which disappointment lasted for a time. Later the faithful learned that these dates were definitely fixed in the Scriptures; and they also learned to quit fixing dates for the future and predicting what would come to pass on a certain date, but to rely (and they do rely) upon the Word of God as to the events that must come to pass." cite book|title=Vindication, Book One|author=J.F. Rutherford|year=1931|publisher=Watchtower|url=|pages=338-339 Witnesses no longer consider 1925 to be a year of prophetic significance. Governing Body member Karl Klein wrote that Rutherford admitted his mistake about 1925 to the headquarter's staff: "Regarding his misguided statements as to what we could expect in 1925, he once confessed to us at Bethel, 'I made an ass of myself.' cite journal|title=Watchtower|date=October 1, 1984|pages=24] By 1936, the idea that millions of the general populace would survive Armageddon to be educated in a new world was rejected: "There is no promise that anyone will survive the battle of the great day of God Almighty except those who are in the organization of Jehovah under Christ, and who remain faithful and true to the Lord." [cite book|title=Riches|author=J.F. Rutherford|year=1936|publisher=Watchtower|pages=353]

Great Pyramid of Giza 1876-1928

Influenced by the Pyramidology theories of John Taylor and Charles Piazzi Smyth, both Nelson Barbour and Charles Russell taught that the Great Pyramid of Giza contained prophetic measurements in "pyramid inches" that pointed to both 1874 and 1914. Russell viewed the Great Pyramid as "God's Stone Witness and Prophet." [cite journal|title=Herald of the Morning|url=|year=1876|month=January cite book|title=Thy Kingdom Come|url=|author=C.T.Russell|pages=309-376|year=1891] Smyth reviewed Russell’s manuscript on the Great Pyramid before publication and Russell credits him and Scottish writer Robert Menzies for the view “that the Great Pyramid is Jehovah's ‘Witness,’ and that it is as important a witness to divine truth as to natural science.” [ cite book|title=Thy Kingdom Come|author=Russell|year=1891|url= Ibid., [ p. 320] . Joseph Seiss’ book [ "A Miracle in Stone"] was also influential for Russell.] Prophetic dates derived from the measurements inside the Great Pyramid were seen as complementary to biblical interpretations. Russell included the Great Pyramid as part of his ground-breaking Magic Lantern and cinema production The Photo-Drama of Creation in 1914, suggesting that the Great Pyramid was built by the Old Testament king-priest Melchizedek. [ [ Photo Drama of Creation] , p. 25. [ Video of Russell discussing the Great Pyramid] ] A special edition of the first volume of "Studies in the Scriptures" was also published, which was re-titled "The Divine Plan of the Ages and the Corroborative Testimony of the Great Pyramid". [cite book|title=The Divine Plan of the Ages and the Corroborative Testimony of the Great Pyramid|author=Charles Taze Russell|publisher=Watchtower|year=1913|url= [ Google Books Version] ] Following Russell's wishes, a convert|7|ft|m|sing=on high replica of a pyramid was erected at his gravesite in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its capstone "patterned after the capstone of the Great Pyramid of Egypt, symbolic of the Christ." ["Program of the 1921 Annual Meeting of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society". The program explains: "The Pyramid monument erected at the grave of Brother Russell was sketched by Brother J.A. Bohnet and approved by Brother Russell several years ago. It was his desire that such a monument be erected on this lot and he set about to procure the materials before his death. After Brother Russell's death, Brother Rutherford, learning that Brother Russell had ordered the erection of this monument asked Brother Bohnet to proceed at once to get the material and let the contract for its construction and erection." See also pp. 6-7 of the [ "1919 Bible Student Convention Souvenir Booklet"] .] [Pictures of the pyramid at Russell's gravesite can be viewed at [] .]

Russell’s interpretations of the Great Pyramid were supported by the writings of John and Morton Edgar who were prominent members of his movement. [cite book|title=The Great Pyramid: Ancient Egypt Revisited|author=John Romer|publisher=Cambridge University Press|year=2007|pages=55] [The Edgars’ 2 volume work [ "Great Pyramid Passages and Chambers"] was advertised and sold in the "Watch Tower" ( [ August 1, 1910 "Watch Tower"] , Reprints, p. 4658; [ October 15, 1913 "Watch Tower"] , page 306, Reprints p. 5336). Research by the Edgars on the Great Pyramid was published in the November 15, 1904 "Watch Tower", Reprints, p. 3459, the June 15, 1905 "Watch Tower", Reprints, p. 3574 and the June 1, 1910 "Watch Tower", Reprints, p. 4621. John Edgar was named to be on the editorial committee for the "Watch Tower" magazine in the December 1, 1916 "Watch Tower", (Reprints p. 5999), but had died before Russell. Research by Morton Edgar was published in the August 15, 1923 "Watch Tower", pp. 253-254, the December 31, 1924 "Golden Age", pp. 209-211 and on pp. 163, 355, 357 of the 1923 "Watch Tower". Morton Edgar explained the spiritual meaning of the Great Pyramid in "God's Plan of Salvation in the Great Pyramid," a lecture which was published in the [ "1911 Bible Students Convention Report"] ] Russell had first published that the date 1874 was derived from a measurement of 3416 pyramid inches [Thy Kingdom Come (1904 edition — Millennial Dawn, vol 3) p.342] which measurement was revised in the 1910 edition to convert|3457|in|m to point to 1915. [Thy Kingdom Come (copyright 1891) (1910 edition -- Studies In The Scriptures, vol. 3) p.342] The Edgars’ explained the revision in measurement and change in date to errors made by Smyth. [In Volume 2 of [ "Great Pyramid Passages and Chambers"] (1913) they said: “Professor C. Piazzi Smyth very properly says, `no two human measures ever agree exactly.'” (Ibid p.1) According to the Edgars, Professor Smyth (who Russell got his information from) had not personally measured this passage since it was blocked. However is was roughly measured in 1837 by Col Howard Vyse. However, The Edgars personally measured “the length of this passage seven times” and ended up with seven different measurements, though within a few inches. (Ibid p.8 ) In answering a question about different measurements of the pyramid "The Watchtower" stated, “that Prof. Smyth's interest centered in the upper chambers of the Pyramid,.... Much less care and precision [were] manifested in his dealings with all other parts.” ( [ "The Watchtower" November 1904 p. 326 “The Great Pyramid Measurements”] )] In the early 1920s, the significance of the Pyramid predictions for 1914 were re-interpreted to mean that "the old evil order began to pass away in 1914.". ["For many years students of the Word believed that the foretold destruction of "Babylon the Great" would begin in 1914-1915 AD., the date marked by the upper terminal of the Grand Gallery. Nor have their expectations been disappointed; for although the "Great Time of Trouble " covers a longer period than was thought possible, this trouble which is to end Christendom is manifestly now in progress; and it began precisely at the date expected. Beginning with 1914 A.D. in the great World War in which most of the mightiest 'Christian' nations were actively engaged, Christendom, called in the Scriptures Babylon the Great, received a blow from which it can never recover. The old evil order began to pass away in 1914 A.D." cite book|author=Edgar|title=Great Pyramid Passages Volume II|url=|year=1924|pages=72 See also cite book|author=Edgar|title=The Great Pyramid: Its Symbolism, Science and Prophecy|url=|year=1924|pages=119.] A 1924 issue of "Golden Age" referred to the Great Pyramid as "the Scientific Bible" and added that measurements on the Grand Gallery inside the Great Pyramid confirmed the dates 1874, 1914 and 1925. [cite journal|title=Golden Age|url=|date=December 31, 1924|pages=207, 222 Morton Edgar, on page 151 of the 1924 edition of the second volume of [ "Great Pyramid Passages"] , refers to Judge Rutherford's booklet "Millions Now Living Will Never Die" as a "wonderful message of life."] Similarly, the 1924 publication "The Way to Paradise" refers to the Great Pyramid as "the Bible in Stone" and concludes:

The idea that the Great Pyramid contained a prophetic blueprint of biblical chronology was rejected in 1928 with the Great Pyramid being seen as built "under the direction of Satan the Devil." [The last favorable reference to the Great Pyramid in Watchtower publications can be found in the April 15, 1928 "Watchtower", p. 125. Pyramidology was first rejected in the November 15, 1928 "Watchtower": "It is more reasonable to conclude that the greatpyramid of Gizeh, as well as the other pyramids thereabout, also the sphinx, were built by the rulers of Egypt and under the direction of Satan the Devil...The Devil, by the use of the descendants of Ham, set up Egypt, or the land of Ham, as the first great world power. Then Satan put his knowledge in dead stone, which may be called Satan’s Bible, and not God’s stone witness. In erecting the pyramid, of course, Satan would put in it some truth, because that is his method of practising fraud and deceit." (November 15, 1928 "Watch Tower", p. 344)]

"Armageddon Immediately Before Us" 1925-1966

From 1925-1933, the Watchtower Society radically changed their beliefs after the failure of these eschatological expectations. [cite web|title=Historical Idealism and Jehovah's Witnesses|author=Thomas Daniels|url=|pages=3-37] In 1925, the "Watch Tower" explained a major change that Christ had been enthroned as King in heaven in the year 1914 instead of 1878. ["A real milestone was reached, therefore, in 1925, when "The Watch Tower" of March 1 featured the article "Birth of the Nation."...The article set forth evidence that the Messianic Kingdom had been born—established—in 1914, that Christ had then begun to rule on his heavenly throne, and that thereafter Satan had been hurled from heaven down to the vicinity of the earth."Jehovah's Witnesses—Proclaimers of God's Kingdom", pp. 138-9. The article "Birth of a Nation" can be read on pp. 67-74 of the March 1, 1925 "Watchtower".] 1874 was retained as the time of Christ's invisible return until the early 1930s. ["The Harp of God" (both the 1921 and 1927 editions) affirmed on page 231 that "the Lord’s second presence dates from 1874." The March 1 1922 "Watch Tower" and pages 65-66 of the book "Prophecy" (published in 1928) reiterated this position. However, by 1930 some vagueness can be seen. For example, the October 15 1930 "Watch Tower", page 308 says the "second advent of the Lord Jesus Christ dates from about A.D. 1875." The November 1 1932 "Watch Tower", page 325 is even less precise, stating that from "approximately 1875 forward" Christ was preparing the way.] But, Christ's Second Advent was now explained not as a return to the earth but as a "turning of attention" to the earth with Christ remaining in heaven. ["Presence—Literal or Symbolic?" in cite book|title=A People For His Name: A History of Jehovah's Witnesses and an Evaluation|author=Tony Wills||year=2007|pages=147|url=,M1] By 1933, it was clearly taught that Christ had returned invisibly in 1914 and the "last days" had also begun then. ["The year 1914, therefore, marks the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of glory."—December 1 1933 "Watch Tower", p. 362] A 1934 "Golden Age" article explained the change: "Prior to 1914 and years thereafter we thought that our Lord's return dated from 1874; and we took it for granted that the "parousia" or presence of our Lord dated from that time. An examination of the scriptures containing the word "parousia" shows that the presence of the Lord could not date prior to 1914." ["Golden Age", March 14, 1934, p. 380.] Earlier, a 1927 "Watch Tower" had already transferred the 1878 resurrection date to 1918. ["In June, 1927, The Watch Tower published the proof from the Scriptures that those who thus died faithful were asleep in death until the coming of the Lord to his temple in 1918." "Light, Book One", (1930), p. 78.] However, it was now held these were raised as spirit creatures to heavenly life to be with Christ there. ["Light, Book One", p. 333] The judgment on Babylon changed from 1878 to 1919 with the publication of the book "Light" in 1930. ["Light, Book One", p. 318-319.] These are the current teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses regarding 1914, 1918 and 1919. Witnesses no longer consider the dates 1799, 1874, 1878, and 1881 to have any eschatological significance. The idea that the "great tribulation" had begun in 1914 and was "cut short" in 1918 to be resumed at Armageddon was dropped in 1969. [September 1 1969 "Watchtower", p. 521.] In 1930, Joseph Rutherford (the second Watch Tower president) took residence of a "Spanish mansion" [See [,9171,738983,00.html March 31 1930 "Time" magazine, p. 60] . [ of article] . Pictures and a rationale for its use were published by the Watchtower Society in the [ July 25, 1931 "Messenger"] . [,-117.099355&panoid=u-B-4alETsdUkPHw8IC2nw&cbp=2,57.54316059199738,,0,-11.833187963102405&ll=32.806755,-117.091599&spn=0.056558,0.16737&z=13 Google Maps Street View of Beth Sarim] ] in California which he called Beth Sarim, meaning, "House of the Princes". It was held in trust for the ancient biblical "princes" who were expected to be resurrected immediately prior to Armageddon. [The title deed to Beth Sarim was published in the March 19, 1930 "Golden Age", pages [] - [] Interview with Rutherford about Beth Sarim, from the San Diego Sun newspaper, March 1930. [] ] Rutherford spent the winter months at Beth Sarim and died there in January, 1942. In 1948 the mansion was sold. [cite book|title=Jehovah's Witnesses: Proclaimers of God's Kingdom|publisher=Watchtower|pages=76, 89] In 1950, the belief that these Old Testament "princes" would be resurrected before Armageddon was abandoned. ["Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose" (1959), p. 252]

In the mid 1930s and early 1940s, emphasis was placed on the urgent nearness of Armageddon, said to be "months" away. "Universal war is absolutely certain to come and that soon, and no power can stop it. . . during the few remaining months until the breaking of that universal cataclysm" ["Universal War Near" (1935), J.F. Rutherford] After the outbreak of World War II, similar wording was used in a 1941 "Watchtower" describing the use of a new publication: "for most effective work in the remaining months before Armageddon" [The "Watchtower" 15 September 1941 p. 288] This was emphasized in the next year: "Now, with Armageddon immediately before us, it is a matter of life or destruction" [ The "Watchtower" April 1942 p.139]

Singleness and childlessness was encouraged for the new converts ("the Jonadabs" or "great multitude") because it was "immediately before Armageddon": Similarly, young Witnesses were counselled in 1943: This view prevailed up until about 1950. ["Since the carrying out of the command to 'be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth' waits until after Armageddon, does that mean that those who now marry and rear children are violating God’s laws? No, for the Scriptures show that 'marriage is honourable in all'--Hebrews 13:4." cite journal|title=Watchtower|date=October 15, 1950|pages=382 Compare cite book|title=Visions of Glory|author=Barbara Grizzuti Harrison|year=1978|publisher=Simon & Schuster|pages=74-77 cite book|title=Apocalypse Delayed|author=M. James Penton|year=1985|publisher=University of Toronto Press|pages=265-266]

"Looking Forward to 1975" 1966-1975

During the 1960s and early 1970s, many Witnesses were stimulated by articles in their literature [See, for example, cite journal|title=Is it Later Than You Think?|journal ="Awake!"|year=1968|month=October 8|url=|pages=13–16 and cite journal|title=How Much Longer Will It Be?|journal="Awake!"|year=1966|month=October 8|pages=17–20.] and further encouraged by speakers at their assemblies to believe that Armageddon and Christ's thousand-year millennial reign could begin by 1975. Strong statements for 1975 appeared, only sometimes accompanied with cautionary remarks. For example, the booklet "The Approaching Peace of a Thousand Years", which was the text of the keynote address to major assemblies of Jehovah's Witnesses throughout the world in 1969, [ [ The Approaching Peace of a Thousand Years] . The booklet's beginning emphasizes the nearness of these blessings: "Undisturbed peace with health, happiness and freedom from fear is on the divine program for humankind on earth. Reliable evidences indicate that it will begin within this generation! We do not want to keep this gladsome information to ourselves, and so in this booklet we pass it on to you"."] stated enthusiastically about that promised reign (which would begin at "God's fixed time"):

cquote|But for Godfearing students of the Holy Bible containing both the ancient Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Greek Scriptures, there is a more important millennium that compels their attention. That is the seventh millennium! No, not the seventh millennium measured from A.D. 1, but the seventh millennium of man's existence here on earth, the seventh millennium measured from God's creation of perfect man and woman in the garden of Eden. This is usually measured according to the Anno Mundi rule or 'In the Year of the World' calendar, the world of mankind being here meant. Does this fact have any bearing on the approach of the peace of a thousand years or of a millennium? Very apparently Yes! ... More recently earnest researchers of the Holy Bible have made a recheck of its chronology. According to their calculations the six millenniums of mankind's life on earth would end in the mid-seventies. Thus the seventh millennium from man's creation by Jehovah God would begin within less than ten years.Apart from the global change that present-day world conditions indicate is fast getting near, the arrival of the seventh millennium of man's existence on earth suggests a gladsome change for war-stricken humankind ... In order for the Lord Jesus Christ to be "Lord even of the sabbath day," his thousand-year reign would have to be the seventh in a series of thousand-year periods or millenniums. (Matthew 12:8, AV) Thus it would be a sabbatic reign ... Would not, then, the end of six millenniums of mankind's laborious enslavement under Satan the Devil be the fitting time for Jehovah God to usher in a Sabbath millennium for all his human creatures? Yes, indeed! And his King Jesus Christ will be Lord of that Sabbath. [cite book|title=Apocalypse Delayed|author=Penton|pages=95] In 1968, a "Watchtower" article asked: "Why Are You Looking Forward to 1975?":Strong statements regarding 1975 were made in some public lectures. [Public Address by District Overseer Charles Sunutko in Spring 1967 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. [ Mp3 of Lecture by Sinutko] ] Caution was shown by some, however, especially as the time approached. For example, a lecture [Sound clip of lecture "What is the Significance of 1975?" by Governing Body Member Fred Franz. [] . [ Mp3 of complete lecture] ] by then Vice-President Fred Franz in early 1975 pin-pointed after sundown on September 5 1975 as the end of 6,000 years and saying all the prophecies "could happen" by then, while admitting that looked improbable ["Crisis of Conscience", Raymond Franz p. 249. Scan available at [] ] Various news articles noted this emphasis on 1975. A 1969 "Time" article observed: Although Witnesses had always been encouraged to increase their preaching work, and to avoid overdulging in secular life goals or careers, reaction to this counsel was especially strong prior to 1975. Young Witnesses were given this advice in 1969:

Some Witnesses gave up high paying jobs, college, scholarships, [Scanned text discouraging higher education from Awake! 22 May 1969, p.15 [] ] and some sold their houses because they felt the end was extremely close.

A 1974 "Kingdom Ministry" commented on this trend: After 1975 came and went, comments were made that perhaps this was unwise.In 1979, in a lecture entitled "Choosing the Best Way of Life", the Watch Tower Society acknowledged responsibility for some of the disappointment around 1975. [1980 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, p. 30] In 1980, in a "Watchtower" article based upon that talk, the following statement appeared: cquote|In modern times such eagerness, commendable in itself, has led to attempts at setting dates for the desired liberation from the suffering and troubles that are the lot of persons throughout the earth. With the appearance of the book "Life Everlasting-in Freedom of the Sons of God", and its comments as to how appropriate it would be for the millennial reign of Christ to parallel the seventh millennium of man's existence, considerable expectation was aroused regarding the year 1975. There were statements made then, and thereafter, stressing that this was only a possibility. Unfortunately, however, along with such cautionary information, there were other statements published that implied that such realization of hopes by that year was more of a probability than a mere possibility. It is to be regretted that these latter statements apparently overshadowed the cautionary ones and contributed to a buildup of the expectation already initiated. In its issue of July 15, 1976, "The Watchtower", commenting on the inadvisability of setting our sights on a certain date, stated: "If anyone has been disappointed through not following this line of thought, he should now concentrate on adjusting his viewpoint, seeing that it was not the word of God that failed or deceived him and brought disappointment, but that his own understanding was based on wrong premises." In saying "anyone," "The Watchtower" included all disappointed ones of Jehovah's Witnesses, hence including persons having to do with the publication of the information that contributed to the buildup of hopes centered on that date. [Choosing the Best Way of Life "The Watchtower" March 15 1980, p. 17.] Baptism statistics compared with the number of those reporting preaching for 1976-1980 showed that many became inactive during that period. [The January 30, 1982 "Los Angeles Times" ("Defectors Feel 'Witness' Wrath: Critics say Baptism Rise Gives False Picture of Growth" by John Dart, p. B4) cited statistics showing a net increase of publishers worldwide from 1971–1981 of 737,241, while baptisms totaled 1.71 million for the same period. See also [ 1975: 'THE APPROPRIATE TIME FOR GOD TO ACT'] ]

"Live With Jehovah's Day in Mind" 1976-CURRENTYEAR

After the passing of 1975, the Watch Tower Society continued to emphasize the teaching that the generation of people who had witnessed the events of 1914 would not die out before Armageddon. [See, for example, the [ 15, 1984 ‘’Watchtower’’] ] This teaching was based on an interpretation of Matthew 24:34: “Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.”First clearly formulated in 1951 [cite journal|journal=Watchtower|title=Vision of the ‘Time of the End’|date=July 1, 1951|pages=404 "He shows the beginning of this time and how the troubles increase, and mentions some of the sorrows to fall on the world, during the time of trouble. The length of time is indicated by him when he said, 'Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.' (Matt. 24:34, NW) The actual meaning of these words is, beyond question, that which takes a 'generation' in the ordinary sense, as at Mark 8:12 and Acts 13:36, or for those who are living at the given period. So it was on 'this generation' that the accumulated judgments were to fall. (Matt. 23:36) This therefore means that from 1914 a generation shall not pass till all is fulfilled, and amidst a great time of trouble."] , the teaching received repeated emphasis over the next four decades. [>cite journal|title=Watchtower|date=December 1, 1968|pages=715 “A generation, according to Psalm 90:10, is from seventy to eighty years. The generation that witnessed the end of the Gentile Times in 1914 does not have many more years left.” cite journal|title=Watchtower|date=December 15, 1967|pages=751 “The expression "this generation" was used by Jesus to mark a very limited period of time, the life-span of members of a generation of people living during the time that certain epoch-making events occurred. According to Psalm 90:10, that life-span could be of seventy years or even of eighty years.”]

This "generation of 1914" teaching received repeated emphasis during the 1980s. For example, a 1985 ‘’Watchtower’’ said: “before the 1914 generation completely dies out, God's judgment must be executed" [ Watchtower 1 May 1985 p.4] Witnesses were also reassured: "We also know that the 1914 generation is well into the evening of its existence, thus allowing only little time for this prophecy yet to be fulfilled. But we also know—for this we have Jesus' own promise—that "this generation will "by no means" pass away until all these things happen." [ Watchtower 1 May 1985 p.7; Watchtower 15 February 1986 pp.5-6; Watchtower 1 October 1988 p.7; Watchtower 1 May 1992 pp.6-7] From 1982 to 1995 the inside cover of every Awake! magazine included in its statement of purpose a reference to the “generation of 1914” belief, acknowledging it as “the Creator’s promise”:

Despite these reassurances, former Governing Body member Raymond Franz describes how privately the Governing Body discussed alternate interpretations. One suggestion made in 1980 by Albert Schroeder, Karl Klein and Grant Suiter proposed moving the beginning of the "generation" to the year 1957, to coincide with the year Sputnik was launched. The proposal, however, was not ratified by the rest of the Governing Body. ["Crisis of Conscience", Raymond Franz p. 262. Scan available at [] accessed January 27 2006.]

The “generation of 1914" teaching was discarded, however, in 1995. Rather than a literal lifespan of 70-80 years as previously taught, the understanding of "generation" was changed to “a class of persons,... characterized by certain qualities or conditions” and was thus considered to be an unspecified amount of time. ["Saved From a 'Wicked Generation'", "The Watchtower" (November 1) 1995, pp. 10-15. cite journal|journal=Newsweek|title=Apocalypse Later|date=December 18, 1995|url=|author=Joel P. Engardio ] This class of persons are described as "the peoples of earth who see the sign of Christ's presence but fail to mend their ways." ["A Time To Keep Awake", "The Watchtower" (November 1)1995 p. 19 par. 12, and p. 20 par. 15.] However, Jehovah's Witnesses still believe that Armageddon is imminent. That same ‘’Watchtower’’ article continued, "Does our more precise viewpoint on 'this generation' mean that Armageddon is further away than we had thought? Not at all!"After the change in teaching about the meaning of "this generation," the Watch Tower Society correspondingly changed the wording in the stated purpose of "Awake!" magazine and dropped all reference to 1914, starting with the November 8, 1995 issue:Jehovah's Witnesses continue to encourage study of the Bible over post-secondary secular education. [“Many schools now have student counselors who encourage one to pursue higher education after high school, to pursue a career with a future in this system of things. Do not be influenced by them. Do not let them ‘brainwash’ you with the Devil's propaganda to get ahead, to make something of yourself in this world. The world has very little time left! Any ‘future’ this world offers is no future!"--"The Watchtower", March 15 1969, p. 171.] Instead, Witness youths were encouraged to devote themselves in full-time ministry. This policy was moderated in 1992 ["If Christian parents responsibly decide to provide their children with further education after high school, that is their prerogative."--November 1 1992 "Watchtower", pp. 19-20.] but a 2005 "Watchtower" again discouraged college education. [See article, "Parents--What Future Do You Want For Your Children?" in the October 1 2005 "Watchtower".] Since then, Witness leaders have lectured against pursuing college or university education due to the nearness of Armageddon. [Lecture by Governing Body member, Gerrit Losch at Monza, Italy in 2005, which can be viewed at [] . Higher education was also discouraged at the 2007 "Follow the Christ" District Conventions of Jehovah's Witnesses as part of the lecture "The Superiority of Being Taught By Jehovah." [ MP3 of Lecture] ]


There are controversial issues in the history of the eschatology of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Fall of Jerusalem

The date 1914 is based on the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 607 BC. Non-Witness scholars do not support 607 BC for the event; most scholars date the destruction to within a year of 587 BC, twenty years later. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that periods of seventy years mentioned in the books of Jeremiah and Daniel refer to the Jewish exile.

In "The Gentile Times Reconsidered: Chronology & Christ's Return" by Carl O. Jonsson, a former Witness himself, [The Gentile Times Reconsidered: Chronology & Christ's Return by Carl O. Jonsson. A detailed discussion of the cornerstone belief that the Gentile Times began with the fall of Jerusalem in 607 B.C. Jonsson considers the origin of this belief and examines several lines of evidence in an attempt to refute the starting date of 607 B.C. and the methodology for deriving it. ISBN 0-914675-06-0 Publisher: Commentary Press (July, 1998, Fourth edition 2004)] he presents 18 lines of evidence to support the traditional view of neo-Babylonian chronology. He accuses the Watchtower of deliberately misquoting sources in an effort to bolster their position.
Rolf Furuli, a Jehovah's Witness and a lecturer in Semitic languages, presents a very detailed study of 607 BC and supports the conclusion that Witnesses publish in "Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, and Persian Chronology Compared with the Chronology of the Bible, Volume 1: Persian Chronology and the Length of the Babylonian Exile of the Jews". [Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, and Persian Chronology Compared with the Chronology of the Bible, Volume 1: Persian Chronology and the Length of the Babylonian Exile of the Jews (2003) ISBN 82-994633-3-5] .

Witnesses believe that the year 607 BC is critical in two other prophetic interpretations. First, the destruction of Jerusalem for a seventy year time span. [Jeremiah 29:10;25:11,12 Daniel 9:2] Second, the arrival of Christ in kingly power coincides with the 2,520 year period from October 607 BC to October 1914 AD. ["Pay Attention to Daniel's Prophecy!" chap. 6 par. 25-29]

2,520 year "Gentile Times"

Nelson Barbour and Charles Russell proposed that a prophetic period of "seven times" equalling 2,520 years stretched from 606 B.C. to 1914 A.D. (606 B.C. was later changed in Jehovah's Witnesses' eschatology to 607 B.C. when they realised there was no year 0 ["The Watchtower", 1 May, 1952, page 271 par. 21] .) The idea of a 2,520 year period, based upon a secondary interpretation of the "seven times" in Nebuchadnezzar's tree dream in Daniel chapter 4, had been proposed earlier by various commentators with varying terminal dates. [William Miller had proposed a 2,520 year period from 677 BC to 1843 AD as can be seen in his original [ chart] .
Other commentators: :cite book|title=The Divine Theory|url=|author=Joshua Spalding|year=1808|pages=419-420 :cite book|title=The Even-Tide|author=J.A. Brown|url=|year=1823|pages=130-152 :cite book|title=The Times of the Gentiles|url=|author=Joseph Baylee|year=1871|pages=37 :cite book|title=The Approaching End of the Age|url=|author=Henry Grattan Guinness|year=1878|pages=439 :cite book|title=Illustrations of Prophecy|url=|author=David Campbell|year=1840|pages=220
] The argumentation in support for the 2,520 year interpretation is delineated in the Witnesses' Bible encyclopaedia "Insight on the Scriptures". ["Insight on the Scriptures", Volume 1, pp. 132-134] The "seven times" are interpreted as 7 years of 360 days each, totalling 2,520 days. The 2,520 days become 2,520 years using the day-year principle. A secondary interpretation is given to the tree that is chopped down and Nebuchadnezzar's reported madness. Bible commentator John Peter Lange rejected the "day year principle." ["No clear instance can be adduced of the use of a 'day' in Scriptural prophecy for an exact year, where the typical character of the time is not immediately expressed as being limited to that particular case, much less is there any intimation that such a rule is to apply to prophecy in general. To admit such a principle in Biblical interpretation is to abandon all precision in the use of language." "Commentary on Daniel", p. 87]



"Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses" by M. James Penton, professor emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Lethbridge and former Jehovah's Witness ISBN 978-0802079732

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