From the age of 19 years old the founder of the Watchtower Charles Russell had a love affair with time line prophecies. Time after time both Russell and later the Watchtower Organization wrongly predicted that the world would end. Some of the dates were1879, 1914, 1918, 1925 and 1975 to name a few dates following these unsuccessful attempts at predicting the end of the world the Watchtower changed its approach, while still predicting the downfall of mankind the time lines became a little fuzzy, put simply the Watchtower was running out of time.
The Witnesses believe that Jesus went on to identify the difficulties for mankind during his presence. Using Matthew 24 they explain that “nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another. 8 All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress. (Matthew 24:7-8). So there is a beginning or starting of something when Jesus takes up his role as King. Following on from this it is reasonable to ask when his reign began.
So here's where the thinking cap goes on; up until recently the Witnesses have viewed what happened in Jerusalem as a warning for present day Christians. How so? By a method called a parallel prophecy. They believe that while the destruction of Jerusalem was relatively small compared to the destruction of the whole planet, it was a snap shot of bigger things to come, that this destruction serves as a parallel warning for us today.
34 Truly I say to YOU that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away.
From the very beginning Charles Russell decided that time line prophecies were key to understanding Gods intentions for mankind. Time and again via the Watchtower magazine Russell claimed that the world was going to end and that God was going to seek retribution with disobedient mankind. One key date was that of 1914, Russell prophesized through the pages of the Watchtower magazine and other associated publications that the world was going to end in 1914. Following another failed prophecy Russell now looked for something to justify this date there was one event that made this year different to all others, it was the year that the first world war broke out. He now had some justification for choosing this year and with a little tweaking he seemed to have a plausible explanation. There are many thousands of articles that the Watchtower organization has published during the past 100 years that have sought to prove the year 1914 as a marked year. The following article published in December of 1964 entitled "Length of the Appointed Times of the Nations" is a typical example of the reasoning that the Watchtower uses to back up its stance. In the example below the Watchtower uses several pieces of scripture form different books of the bible to come to a particular conclusion, that the year 607BC is a vital year that helps us identify the return of Jesus to his throne to rule over obedient mankind.
"The year of the Jewish and Babylonian calendars varied in length from as low as 354 days to as high as 385 days. But in the Bible’s symbolic or prophetic “time,” or year, the number of days is fixed at 360. Seven of such years would be 7 X 360 = 2,520 days. This is corroborated by the statement in Revelation 12:6, 14, where it speaks of “a time and times and half a time” or three and one-half times, as 1,260 days. If we divide 1,260 by three and one-half (3.5), it gives us three hundred and sixty (360) days to a “time,” or year.
As to the greater length of time that these 2,520 days pictured, we find the rule of “a day for a year” in a prophecy of Ezekiel, who prophesied contemporaneously with Daniel and who also had the matter of “bands” connected with his prophecy. Another prophecy by Daniel with respect to the first coming of the Messiah, namely, the prophecy of the “seventy weeks,” is understood by Bible scholars to apply the same rule.—Ezek. 4:6; Dan. 9:24, 25. See also Numbers 14:34, which deals with a period of punishment or disfavor.
Therefore, the 2,520 days of the “seven times” would be 2,520 years in fulfillment. These years, in their fulfillment, would not be merely 360 days each, but full calendar years as we count them. For we must remember that the variation of the Jewish calendar was to adjust the lunar year to harmonize with the solar year. It could be termed a “soli-lunar” or “bound lunar” year. Days, or months, were inserted at intervals to make up the difference of approximately eleven days between the lunar and the solar year. By this means the seasons always fell in their proper place in the calendar. So their calendar would be almost exactly in line with the currently used Gregorian calendar. So the 2,520 years are to be counted as solar years.
These 2,520 years began to count in 607 B.C.E., when God let go the world domination as represented by his typical kingdom on earth. That was when Jehovah used Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem and its temple, chase King Zedekiah off “Jehovah’s throne” and take him into exile, after which the fear of the Chaldeans caused the lowly people left behind to flee down into Egypt, leaving the territory of Judah desolate, with no governor there, leaving no possibility of interference from Judah. Nebuchadnezzar thereby “chopped down” the “tree” representing world domination, which was now transferred to Babylon. Thus desolation was accomplished in the seventh lunar month of the year 607 B.C.E. First then, Jerusalem, as representative of God’s kingdom, began to be trodden down, and thus the Gentile Times, “the appointed times of the nations,” began. Now Gentile domination, without interference from God’s kingdom, held sway over the earth. Moreover, the Gentile world powers acted beastly, like Nebuchadnezzar during his “seven times” of madness."
The above contains scripture taken from Numbers, Exodus, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation. The Watchtower uses these complicated scriptural references to identify the date when they say Jesus took Kingship over the heavens and the earth. The Watchtower claim that these dates clearly identify 1914 as this time. They use the scriptures to great affect to prove their case. Over the years their scriptural understanding changed from time to time, they claim that God feeds his organization food at the appropriate time, and that the light gets lighter as the day draws near, so rather than admit they are wrong they have had a revelation that requires a change of direction. The quotation below is a typical example of how the Watchtower uses the scriptures to cover their tracks, on the one hand the leaders of this organization have made claims that the Watchtower is directed by Jehovah's Holy Spirit however time and again they were wrong regarding the fulfilment of prophecy. Rather than admitting to error or being in the dark they claim that the light wasn't bright enough however w87 5/15 31 Questions From Readers says: "Therefore, it would not be correct to put such advances in understanding on the same level as the inspired revelations that make up “the things revealed” recorded in the Bible. Rather, through an intensive study of the Bible, Jehovah’s people have prayerfully sought a correct understanding of those “things revealed.” Jehovah, by means of holy spirit, has given that understanding in his own due time. The Bible tells us that “the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.” (Proverbs 4:18) The increasing light that Jehovah has shed on “the things revealed” shows that that “day” is getting closer and proves that his blessing is on the Christian congregation today."
I have often pondered over the above, even as a Witness I was troubled by some of the teachings. For example when I became a Jehovah Witnesses a cornerstone teaching of the Watchtower organization was that the generation that seen the beginning of the end of this system of things (the 1914 generation) would still be alive to see the end of the world as we know it. The bible tells us that the life of a man is 70-80 years this is something that the Watchtower is in agreements with. A 1993 Watchtower confirms this for us when it says: Watchtower 1993 11/15 3 How Long Can You Live?
Initially they thought that this applied to any children born in 1914 so by 1989 this generation would be almost dead however the end didn't come. So they changed the teaching, the light suddenly became brighter, now it was thought that the "generation" that Jesus was referring about in Matthew 24 would have to understand what was happening to them at the time, this gave them an extra 10-15 years, following this it was thought that the "generation" would have to be adults in 1914 once again giving them a few more years breathing space. Eventually in the late 1990's they presented another cut on the meaning of the generation, they completely shifted the goal post. (See the Generation-new understanding). What really troubled me was very simple, how could they get it so wrong? This wasn't a small issue it was huge as this was a cornerstone teaching, for me it was one of the teachings that attracted me to the bible and to the Witnesses. It was absolutely huge, why would God do this? I could understand if there was an issue with a minor teaching something like getting a tattoo or a correction on proper payment of taxes, however not with a core teaching, not with a teaching that was used with great affect to bring hundreds of thousands into the organization.
Time and again for decade after decade the Watchtower continued to spew forth the current understanding of the "generation" of Matthew 24 here is a perfect example when a reader asked a question regarding the "generation" of Matthew 24:
*** w80 10/15 31 Questions from Readers ***
As indicated by an article on page 56 of U.S. News & World Report of January 14, 1980, “If you assume that 10 is the age at which an event creates a lasting impression on a person’s memory,” then there are today more than 13 million Americans who have a “recollection of World War I.” And if the wicked system of this world survived until the turn of the century, which is highly improbable in view of world trends and the fulfillment of Bible prophecy, there would still be survivors of the World War I generation. However, the fact that their number is dwindling is one more indication that “the conclusion of the system of things” is moving fast toward its end.
In this connection, the magazine The Economist of March 15, 1980, gave an interesting review of a book entitled “The Generation of 1914” by Robert Wohl. It made this significant remark: “Eventually Mr. Wohl voices his own opinions about the generation of 1914. In a terse and condensed last chapter he suggests that generations are not mathematically definable in terms of numbers of years, but cluster around major historical crises, of which the first world war is the supreme example.” This lines up very well with the Scriptural viewpoint that Jehovah’s Witnesses take on “the generation of 1914.”
Yes, there was a generation of people that was living in 1914, and that saw the major historical changes from an era of comparative tranquility to the present era of war, lawlessness and ruination. Many who are now Jehovah’s Witnesses were among them. Truly, 1914 marked “the supreme example” of change, for that year set in motion the foretold “beginning of pangs of distress” among the nations. Many persons are still alive who can tell us how catastrophically conditions on earth changed in the year 1914. And the world continues to plunge into worse and worse trouble. We can be happy, therefore, for Jesus’ assurance that there will be survivors of “the generation of 1914”—that this generation will not have completely passed away—when the “great tribulation” rings down the curtain on this wicked world system.
The bible very clearly says that is is only God who knows when the end of the system is coming, at Matthew 24:36-42 Jesus said that:
How presumptuous the Watchtower is when it claims to be gods visible organization, for over 100 years it has made this claim. Under successive presidents beginning with Charles Russell they have flipped flopped through one sham after another, using scare tactics to coheres good people into their organization.
There is one other issue around time line prophesy that the Watchtower organization fail to teach on occasion they have made very small references to it however only a very small snapshot of a very big picture is discussed in the pages of the Watchtower or associated publications. Mr Russell looked in very dark places for the light of Christ, for many years he dabbled in Pyramidology, he dedicated a huge amount of time measuring both internal and external measurements of the pyramids in Egypt. Why would he do this? Because he thought that there was a link between the pyramids and time line prophecies. Russell did this despite the bibles warning about mixing paganism with the truth, in fact he was so mixed up in this kind of research that a pyramid memorial has been standing along his grave as a memorial to him. Also if one looks carefully at the picture below it is easy to see the cross engraved in the stone, something that the Watchtower has also rejected. It is now taught that Jesus died on a straight pole or beam of timber as opposed to a cross. The apostle Paul warns the Corinthians in chapter six that good and bad cannot mix or as he asked, "what sharing does light have with darkness?" Judging from the above evidence it seems that the Watchtower has a large mix of light and dark however this is not something that they call a lot of attention to.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18
The above is very important because if the Watchtower is indeed Gods visible organization, they are doing a very poor job of representing him. Time and again the Watchtower has stumbled through one blunder after another, and this is only through the issues concerning time line prophecies. It seems to me that they are flogging a dead horse, so to speak, because they have called wolf too many times in the past that no one is listening to them any longer. Also if this indeed Gods visible organization they have presumptuously chosen to speak for him while practising occultism via Pyramidology, worshipping the cross (JW's now believe that Jesus died on a straight pole and not a cross however it seems that God didn't reveal this to Russell), celebrating birthdays but to name a few things, time and again God seems to have changed his mind.
So what about today? What exactly to the JW's preach today? It is interesting to note that new members are told very little about the failed predictions in the past. Occasionally their publications will make a vague comment regarding 1914, 1918 or the recent teaching regarding the generation of Matthew 24 however as always the current teachings invalidate past teachings, the "new light" covers a multitude of lies.