The Watchtower Society's (WTS)
predictions about the timing of TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we
know it) are similar to the beliefs of many other
conservative Protestant denominations. End events will include the War of Armageddon, and the return of
Jesus Christ to earth to establish his kingdom. God will conduct a mass
genocide during this time which will involve the deaths of billions of people. This will be the greatest
mass execution the world has seen.
However, the WTS teaches two beliefs not shared by
other conservative Protestants:
||Disfellowshipped Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, Muslims, most Christians, followers
of other religions, and followers of no religion will
be exterminated. Almost seven billion humans -- the vast majority of people on
Earth -- will be slaughtered. The WTS teaches that only
active adults in good standing of the Jehovah's Witnesses will survive the
killing fields. The fate of children and of mentally disadvantaged adults
will be up to God. Many other conservative Christian churches teach
that only about 2 billion will be slaughtered for their religious beliefs. Even that lesser number would represent more than 300 times the number of murders when compared to the religiously motivated genocide of the Jews by the German Nazis during the 1930's and early 1940's.
They believe that the Rapture has already
happened in an invisible form during 1918-9. They do not believe in the
concept of the Rapture as taught by other conservative Christian groups. The
latter involves Christians being
elevated to meet Jesus in the sky at the time of the world's end.
All of the WTS past prophecies about the date of the end of the world have
failed. They still teach that Armageddon will happen in
our near future. However,
they no longer predict a specific year.
Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916), the WTS founder, believed that Christ had
secretly arrived in the year 1874 and that he would establish the Kingdom of
God on Earth in 1914-OCT. Russell based this prophecy on a "bewildering
number of dates" which he recovered from his studies of the Bible and the
A key component to the calculation was derived from the book of Daniel, Chapter 4. The
book refers to "seven
times". He interpreted each "time" as equal to 360 days, giving a
total of 2,520 days. He further interpreted this as representing exactly 2,520 years, measured from
the starting date of 607 BCE. This resulted
in the year 1914-OCT being the target date for the Millennium. 1 Russell's belief became a key
teaching of the Jehovah's Witnesses (Watchtower Bible and Tract
Society). Since late in the 19th century, they had taught that the "battle of the
Great Day of God Almighty" (Armageddon) would happen in that year.
Some specific predictions by Russell:
"And, with the end of A.D. 1914, what God calls Babylon, and what
men call Christendom, will have passed away, as is already shown from
prophecy." Studies In The Scriptures, Vol. III, (1897) 2
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 by the end of A.D. 1914" (1889). 3
"In the coming 26 years, all present governments will be overthrown
and dissolved." Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. II, (1889) 2
However, in 1912, he back-pedalled somewhat:
"...he wrote that, while the prophecy remains valid, the power of the
Gentiles could end either in October 1914 or in October 1915." 4
"Russell's movement expanded rapidly" in the years leading up to 1914.
However, the year 1914
came and passed without the visible appearance of Christ, the massive
genocide, and the new Kingdom of God. The WTS regarded the start of the
World War 1 as confirmation that the process leading to TEOTWAWKI, and to Christ's return, had started. They
decided that 1914 was the year that Jesus
invisibly began his rule from heaven.
1915, 1918, & 1920
In 1914-NOV, immediately after Russell's prophecy had failed, he wrote that
the period of transition could run a "good many years." 4
Watchtower magazine suggested that the destruction would happen "...shortly
after 1914 with the utter destruction" of other Christian
denominations and the inauguration of Christ's millennial reign. They
first predicted that this would happen in 1915.
Drawing a parallel with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman Army in
70 CE, the authors of the 1915 Edition of "The Time Is At Hand" wrote:
After Russell's death in 1916, the WTS rewrote large portions of his Studies
in the Scriptures to reflect the new belief that the year 1914 was merely
the beginning of the end of Gentile times. 4
"The Gentile Times prove that the present governments must all be overthrown about
the close of A.D. 1915; and Parallelism above shows that this period corresponds
exactly with the year A.D. 70, which witnessed the completion of the downfall of
the Jewish polity." 5
The WTS later delayed the millennium to 1918. 6 A 1917 WTS publication, "The
Finished Mystery" stated:
"...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." 7
uneventfully, except for the end of World War I.
The WTS introduced the concept that Christ would establish his millennial kingdom on
earth "before the generation who saw the events of 1914 passes away."
With many humans achieving a life span of over 90 years, this could place the
War of Armageddon at any time between 1914 and the early 21st century.
For subsequent predictions, see the
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Mathew Schmalz, "When Festinger Fails," Chapter 13 of Jon Stone,
Ed., "Expecting Armageddon: Essential readings in failed prophecy," Routledge,
(2000), Page 236. Read
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
Cited in: Rado Vleugel, "2004: Jehovah's Witnesses still on the watch
for the end of this world," WatchTowerInformation Service.org, at:
Charles Taze Russell, "The Time is at Hand," Page 99. Cited in The Finished Mystery, (1917), Page 485.
- Op Cit, Schmalz, Page 237.
- The Time Is At Hand," 1915 Edition.
"Jehovah's Witnesses and the History of 1914," Watchman Fellowship, Inc., at: http://www.watchman.org/jw
- he Finished Mystery, (1917), Page 485.
How you got here:
Copyright © 2003 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-DEC-28
Latest update: 2011-APR-24
Author: B.A. Robinson