Jehovah's Witnesses' end of the world predictions
Predictions for years after 1975.
Will it happen in our future?
For earlier predictions, see the
Aftermath of the failure of the 1975 prophecy:
After the 1975 prophecy also failed, proselytism began to decline. The next two years saw an unprecedented
decrease in the total number of publishers (active proselytizing members). The newly-elected head of the WTS, Frederick Franz and his leadership
team had to find an explanation for the error. They appear to have
settled on a double-pronged approach:
|Recalculating the date: They changed their mind
about the computing of the prophecy. They had originally believed that Eve was created
in 4026 BCE -- the same year
as Adam. They revised their thinking by concluding that Eve was created at a
later time. They reasoned that Adam
might have been alone for some years before God formed his partner/helper out
of his rib.|
The WTS decided that:
"...no one knew exactly how long after
Adam’s creation Eve came on the scene. Franz said that it was
months—even years. Hence he was able to "stretch" the 1975 date to some
indeterminate time in the future. In any case, Franz said that Witnesses
would just have to wait, knowing the end is right around the corner."
In1976, an article in the Watchtower stated
that Armageddon will come after the time period corresponding with the
interval between Adam's creation and Eve's creation. 2
|Denial and purge: Following the failed
1975 prophecy, the WTS "leadership embarked upon a five-year
period of denial and purge." 3
The general membership was blamed for misinterpreting the leaders'
interpretation of 1975. The leadership maintained that there never was an
explicit prophecy. The membership is highly disciplined and were quickly
able to revise their thinking. Large scale disfellowshipping followed. In
1978 alone, nearly 30,000 Witnesses were expelled. Many in the writing
committee were dismissed and disfellowshipped during 1980. |
A reason for the prophetic failures:
The WTS Governing Body wrote in 1981:
"However, it may have seemed to some
as though that path has not always gone straight forward. At times explanations
given by Jehovah's visible organization have shown adjustments, seemingly to
previous points of view. But this has not actually been the case. This might be
compared to what is known in navigational circles as 'tacking.' By maneuvering
the sails the sailors can cause a ship to go from right to left, back and forth,
but all the time making progress toward their destination in spite of contrary
Some Witnesses interpreted Psalms 90:10 as defining the length of a generation to be 80
years. Since 1914 plus 80 equals 1994, they predicted Armageddon would occur around that
year. This prediction came from the grass-roots level of the organization. The WTS
itself did not
officially proclaim it.
This prophecy also failed.
Will TEOTWAWKI happen in our near future?
The WTS had taught that the generation that saw the events of 1914
would experience TEOTWAWKI (The end of the world as we know it). But the people who were born in 1914 or earlier are now
in their mid-90s or older. They are rapidly dying out.
In 1996-APR, the WTS changed
their criteria for TEOTWAWKI. "They now say that the generation that saw the events of
1914 is actually any generation that understands what happened" at that
This allows an indefinite delay in the arrival of Armageddon -- for millennia if
The latest estimate is 6,000 years after the creation of Eve, for
which no date can be determined with any accuracy. The Jehovah's Witnesses
are no longer setting absolute dates, but still expect that TEOTWAWKI
may happen at any time in our immediate future.
In their 1995-NOV issue of the Watchtower, the WTS
suggested that earlier dates for Armageddon were speculation rather than settled
doctrine. In 1995-DEC, Newsweek quoted Witnesses spokesperson Bob Pevy as
saying: "The end is still close. We just can't put numbers on Jesus' words."
The "yeartext" for 2004, published in the WTS Yearbook is: "Keep on the
Watch... Prove Yourselves Ready." It is a quotation taken from Matthew 24:42-44.
This yeartext is accompanied with the following remarks:
God's Word reminds us that Jehovah's day will arrive with shocking suddenness.
Hence, our yeartext for 2004 reflects Jesus' deep love for his disciples, whom
he wants to preserve through 'the great tribulation.' (Rev. 7:14 ) How do we
remain spiritually watchful and ready? By allowing nothing to distract us from
our study of God's Word and from our privileges of sacred service."
The WatchTowerInformationService.org comments:
"Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the only chance for
[personal] salvation is to actively preach the end of this world and the Kingdom
of God . If they are not busy with their 'sacred service' when the 'day of
Jehovah' will arrive with 'shocking suddenness' they believe that they will die
with the wicked ones."
That is, they will be exterminated, along with all
non-Christians, and with the vast majority of Christians who are not members in
good standing of the WTS. 7
Criticism of the WTS estimates:
The WTS has been criticized by some conservative Christians for
having attempting to predict a precise date for Armageddon, in an apparent
violation of Matthew 24:35-36:
"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but
my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no,
not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." (KJV)
criticism does not appear to be valid, as the WTS' estimates have never
involved the day and hour of the end -- only the year had been specified.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"History of the Jehovah's Witnesses," Catholic Answers, at:
"The Watchtower," 1976-JUL, Page 436.
Mathew Schmalz, "When Festinger Fails," Chapter 13 of Jon Stone,
Ed., "Expecting Armageddon: Essential readings in failed prophecy," Routledge,
(2000), Page 240. Read
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
"The Watchtower," 1981-DEC-1, Page 27.
Comment by Roy Lister, in Calvary Home Page at:
Kenneth Woodward, "Jehovah's Witnesses Decide the End is
Fluid," Newsweek, 1995-DEC-18, at:
Cited in: Rado Vleugel, "2004: Jehovah's Witnesses still on the watch
for the end of this world," WatchTowerInformation Service.org, at:
How you got here:
Copyright © 2003 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-DEC-28
Latest update: 2009-AUG-31
Author: B.A. Robinson