The man that started it all...
Charles Taez Russell was born in Pennsylvania in 1852. He was born into a relatively wealthy family as his father owned a haberdashery store. Russell was raised as a Presbyterian however while still in his teens he left the Presbyterian Church in favour of the Congregational Church.
Russell still wasn't happy here, however in an article in one of Jehovah's Witnesses publications entitled Proclaiming the Lords Return says that:
While he was still searching for truth, one evening in 1869, something happened that reestablished Charles’ wavering faith. Walking along near the Russells’ store on Federal Street, he heard religious singing coming from a basement hall. In his own words, this is what took place:
“Seemingly by accident, one evening I dropped into a dusty, dingy hall, where I had heard religious services were held, to see if the handful who met there had anything more sensible to offer than the creeds of the great churches. There, for the first time, I heard something of the views of Second Adventists [Advent Christian Church, the preacher being Mr. Jonas Wendell . . . Thus, I confess indebtedness to Adventists as well as to other denominations. Though his Scripture exposition was not entirely clear, . . . it was sufficient, under God, to re-establish my wavering faith in the divine inspiration of the Bible, and to show that the records of the apostles and prophets are indissolubly linked. What I heard sent me to my Bible to study with more zeal and care than ever before, and I shall ever thank the Lord for that leading; for though Adventism helped me to no single truth, it did help me greatly in the unlearning of errors, and thus prepared me for the Truth.”
That meeting renewed young Russell’s determination to search for Scriptural truth. It sent him back to his Bible more eager than ever before. Russell soon came to believe that the time was near for those who served the Lord, soon he would come to believe that he had a clear knowledge of Gods purpose. So, in 1870, fired with enthusiasm, he and a few acquaintances in Pittsburgh and nearby Allegheny got together and formed a class for Bible study. According to a later associate of Russell, the small Bible class was conducted in this manner: “Someone would raise a question. They would discuss it. They would look up all related scriptures on the point and then, when they were satisfied on the harmony of these texts, they would finally state their conclusion and make a record of it.” As Russell later acknowledged, the period “from 1870 to 1875 was a time of constant growth in grace and knowledge and love of God and his Word.”
I find it fascinating that the Jehovah Witnesses gloss over one very important aspect regarding Charles Russell...he was only 18years old when he started on his quest for truth. If an adolescent began a religious organization today and claimed that he was God's representative here on the earth he wouldn't stand any chance of success. The Witnesses are quick to turn to the bible for parallels when they try to back up their teachings, Russell's young years would be a hard one to back up as our chief exemplar Jesus Christ was in his 30's when he started to preach, there is no parallel.
Presumptuousness is a word that the Watchtower has come to use against other religious organizations and individuals alike. They point to the acts of other religious organizations who claim to represent God and ask "how can they be Gods organization here on the earth?" They say that because these "Christian" organizations are not worshipping God as per the Watchtowers understanding of scripture that they are wrong and will be "cut off" from God because of this. Is this not Presumptuousness? I ask this question for several reasons.
When the Watchtower claimed that Jesus was returning to his throne to take control of the heavens and earth they initially gave a date in the 1870's. Then it said that the "Anointed" would (the remaining of the 144,000 that would rule alongside him from the heavens, Russell claimed that these men would die and go to heaven (the Watchtower teaches that all members of this class who died between the time of Jesus' resurrection and his enthronement in the heavens in 1914 were resurrected immediately upon his enthronement. They go on to teach that all those of the "anointed class" that die from 1914 onwards are resurrected to the heavens as soon as they die.
At 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 it says: "because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first (1914). 17 Afterward we the living who are surviving will, together with them, be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air (those of the anointed that die following 1914); and thus we shall always be with [the] Lord. 18 Consequently keep comforting one another with these words." (New World Translation (NWT)). So in an instant all those of the "anointed class" would be resurrected to heaven.
Since the late 1800's time and again Russell and following his death the Watchtower organization have said that the world was coming to an end on a particular date. The end of the world as we know it would include events such as Jesus taking "Kingly power" and "casting Satan from the heavens". At first they said that the return of Jesus would be visible however following several very public failures, the prophecy changed, now they were awaiting the "invisible return" of Jesus. 1876, 1914, 1918, 1925 and 1975 are just a few of their failed predictions. Was it not presumptuousness of Russell and the Watchtower organization to represent God in this way and claim that the "end is nigh" on so many occasions?