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Apocalypse Now? Part II — The Story of the Jehovah’s Witnesses

Rich Kelsey

When Jesus did not catch the faithful up to heaven on October 22nd 1844, the Adventist Movement started by William Miller suffered what is known as, “The Great Disappointment.” We now continue the story some 22 years later.

Russell< informative link

Charles Taze Russell (1852–1916), Founder of a Movement which branched into the Jehovah’s Witnesses

In 1868 a young Charles Russell, seemingly by accident[1] attended a meeting in a dusty rundown hall in Allegheny, Pennsylvania; where he had heard that religious services were being held. Russell was looking for answers; he wanted to see if the handful of people who met there had anything more sensible to offer than the creeds of the major churches.  What he found was an Adventist preacher named Jonas Wendell.  Wendell was teaching that in 1873 six thousand years will have passed since the creation of Adam; and, in the autumn of 1873, the Advent would occur.  Like many Adventists of his day, Wendell believed that immediately after Christ catches up the faithful, the world would be destroyed by fire. During this meeting, Russell’s faith in God and belief in the Bible, which had lapsed in recent years, was restored.

Recounting this history Russell wrote,

“I soon began to see that we were living somewhere near the close of the Gospel Age, near the time when the Lord declared that the wise, watching ones of His children should come to clear knowledge of His Plan. At this time, myself and a few other Truth seekers in Pittsburg and Allegheny, formed a class for Bible study; and the period from 1870 to 1875 was a time of constant growth in grace, in knowledge and in love of God and his Word.” (Watch Tower, First Faint Gleam of God’s Plan, June 1, 1916, p. 170)

Russell began to fellowship with Adventist preacher George Storrs.[2]  Storrs, one of Wendell’s associates, had played a major role in the Millerite movement. However, Storrs became disillusioned with William Miller after the Great Disappointment of 1844. He believed that he had been mesmerized by Millerite emotionalism. Storrs took the young Russell under his wing and had great influence on him. It was Storrs who taught Charles Russell many of the doctrines that are penned throughout Watchtower publications:

1. An earthly second resurrection for all those who had died without the knowledge of Christ.

2. A restored Paradise on earth.

3. The taking of sacraments (bread and wine) only once a year.

Many of Russell’s ideas concerning the “time of the end,”[3] the return of Jesus Christ; and, the coming kingdom, came from concepts which were popular in Russell’s day.  The two-stage return of Christ doctrine is a good example.  Dr. Joseph Seiss refined the doctrine, which had originated in 1828 and spread throughout Great Britain in the 1860s and 1870s.  Yet, the man who influenced Russell the most was Nelson Barbour. Barbour, a friend and colleague of both George Storrs and Wendell, was among the Adventists who were disappointed in 1843-44.[4]  Barbour bought into the prevailing idea that 1843 was the beginning of a 30 year period of tarrying,[5] which would culminate with Christ’s Second Coming in 1873.  He desperately[6] believed that in order for people to escape the coming wrath;[7] they needed to be informed; so, he invested his time and money and began publishing his views.[8]

Barbour

Nelson H. Barbour (1824–1905)

In 1871, Dr. Nelson H. Barbour, an Adventist preacher who had been with Miller, was printing a struggling publication out of Rochester, New York, entitled:

"EVIDENCES FOR THE COMING OF THE LORD IN 1873: OR THE MIDNIGHT CRY."

“And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him ...” (Matthew 25:6, KJV)

Barbour’s message contained the same, stubborn,[9] divisive[10] spirit as the message which Adventists had been proclaiming since the 1840s:

“The dividing line is being drawn. Everything speaks it! Chronology proves we are already in "THE DAY OF THE LORD." A few fleet moments remain for us to make our final decision. … If men will shut their eyes to all the mass of evidence in the signs of the time… then they must meet their doom. And leaning on your churches or preachers, or one another, will be a poor refuge from the storm. ‘Come out and be ye separate.’" (Herald of the Morning, 1874, p. 57, Nelson Barbour)

To get his points across, Barbour did try entertaining his readers with several homespun parables, yet, the bottom line was always; if the reader didn’t buy into his message, it was because their eyes[11] were closed.

When 1873 came to an end without the anticipated results, Barbour looked for Jesus to return in 1874.[12] When the anticipated date for that return failed, Barbour pored over his time prophecies once more to see if any mistakes had been made. He found none. This caused Mr. Barbour to give further consideration to the “two-stage-return of Christ doctrine;” a view which his associate, Benjamin W. Keith held. Keith was convinced that Jesus had indeed returned in 1874; yet, Christ was invisible. Soon, Jesus would make himself known through judgments on earth; as spelled out in the Book of Revelation. Barbour was now[13] convinced that there was even more urgency[14] to herald,

"... the glorious morning of the restitution; the day so long desired by apostles, prophets, and martyrs."[15]

With this new understanding in mind, Nelson Barbour renamed his publication,

"THE MIDNIGHT CRY and HERALD OF THE MORNING."  

About this time, Russell, along with others in his bible study group,[16] also came to believe that when Christ returned, he would initially

“… be present and yet invisible to men…”[17]

Then, one winter’s day in January 1876,[18] Charles Russell read a copy of Barbour’s publication.  Can you imagine Russell’s emotions as he considered that the invisible return of Christ may have already commenced.  Yet, he still wasn’t totally convinced, so, he sent train-fare to Barbour and asked him to come to Philadelphia and fully show the scriptural proof that Jesus was present.  This is exactly what Nelson Barbour did.  Russell was satisfied with the reasoning.  He moved to New York, backed the publication financially, and went to work as Barbour’s assistant.  It was at the office of Herald of the Morning that Russell published his first pamphlet.

Russell’s First Publication:

In 1877 Russell authored and printed 50,000 copies of a 64 page pamphlet entitled, "The Object and Manner of Our Lord’s Return."  Many of the concepts stated in the pamphlet appear to have come directly from Storrs and Seiss.  Russell also borrowed directly from the commentaries of Sir Isaac Newton and Adam Clarke.  While Russell gave no date for the return of Christ in his publication, he did spell out the manner in which Jesus would return:

"Briefly stated, we believe the scriptures to teach, that, at His coming and for a time after He has come, He will remain invisible; afterward manifesting or showing Himself in judgments and various forms, so that 'every eye shall see Him.'"

In a footnote on the same page Russell goes on to explain,

“This scripture (Revelation 1:7) does not necessarily teach that every eye will see Him at the same moment” (Object and Manner, 1877, p. 39).

Russell also stated,

“But it is not my object in this pamphlet to call your attention more fully to the TIME of the second advent… (Those interested in knowing the evidences as to the time, I would refer to Dr. N. H. Barbour, editor of the “Herald of the Morning.” Rochester, N. Y.) I simply add that I am deeply impressed and think not without good scriptural evidence, that the Master is come and is now inspecting the guests to the marriage. (Matt. 22:11).” (Object and Manner, 1877, p. 62).

It didn’t take long before Russell fully bought into Barbour’s teaching on the TIME;[19] culminating in the rapture of the faithful, 3.5 years later in 1878.

The Disappointment of 1878:

Envision Russell’s frustration as 1878 was coming to an end.  He had fully expected to be taken to heaven. Again, Charles was looking for answers. He and Nelson Barbour had a falling out when the Rapture did not occur in 1878, because Barbour set out to change the TIME. Russell maintained that 1878 was the right year, but his expectations as to what would occur must have been wrong. Perhaps the resurrection was invisible. Russell surmised that the faithful who died after the autumn of 1878 would be immediately resurrected and not sleep in death. Russell believed that the dead were resurrected in 1878 and that the living would be caught up in 1881. Because of this and other disputes, Barbour and Russell split. Charles was now free to publish his own concepts:[20] he started printing a monthly publication entitled "Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence." 

Russell wrote these words:

“Looking back to 1871, we see that many of our company were what are known as Second Adventists, and the light they held, briefly stated, was that there would be a second advent of Jesus—that he would come to bless and immortalize the saints, to judge the world and to burn up the world and all the wicked. This, they claimed, would occur in 1873 because the 6,000 years from the creation of Adam were complete then.

Well, 1873 came, the end of 6,000 years, and yet no burning of the world; but prophecies were found which pointed positively to 1874 as the time when Jesus was due to be present . . . The autumn of 1874 anxiously expected finally came, but the earth rolled on as ever; ‘all things continued as they were from the beginning of creation.’ All their hearts were sad; they said, surely we have been in error—but where? Surely it is clearly taught that Jesus will come again; perhaps our calculation of time is at fault. Carefully they examined the chronology but it seemed faultless and positively declared that the 6,000 years ended in 1873. Then the prophetic arguments were carefully re-examined: Was an error found? No, they stood the test of all investigation.” (Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence, Zion’s Watchtower, Feb. 1881)

Russell was convinced that the period that he and his colleagues set for Christ’s presence to begin on earth was correct. However, as the year 1881 was coming to an end, he found it necessary to make some changes in his timetable. Russell abandoned the time frames of a three-and-a-half, or seven-year period after Christ’s invisible return before Armageddon, and maintained there would be a forty-year waiting period[21] instead. Based upon this understanding, the Watchtower Society claimed that Armageddon would occur in the autumn of 1914. 

1914 came and went.

Russell then penned these words:

“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.”[22]

Russell also taught that the burning of the world by fire at Armageddon was not expected to be

“… literal in nature but was really symbolic and signified a great time of trouble which would be the close of the Gospel age and dawn of the Millennial age in which all evil principles of governments and society would be manifested and destroyed.”[23] 

When Charles Russell died in 1916, he was convinced that World War I[24] would soon culminate in Armageddon. After Russell’s death, the Watchtower organization, under Russell’s successor, Judge Rutherford, announced,

“The establishment of the Kingdom in Palestine will probably be in 1925, ten years later than we once calculated.”[25]

Nineteen twenty-five came and went. Armageddon didn’t happen. God’s kingdom was seemingly nowhere in sight. The wicked were still among us. There had been one slip-up after another in the organization’s date-setting practices. Yet, concerning the 1925 date, Judge Rutherford had once promised the faithful,

“There will be no slip-up!” (Watchtower, Oct. 15, 1917, p. 6157)

Claims Made by the Watchtower:

In the 1920s, The Watchtower Society penned the following statements:

1.  “The indisputable facts, therefore, show that the ‘time of the end’ began in 1799; that the Lord’s second presence began in 1874.”[26]

2.  “Surely there is not the slightest room for doubt in the mind of a truly consecrated child of God that the Lord Jesus is present and has been since 1874.”[27]

Look at the word usage in these passages:

 ■  “indisputable facts,”

 ■  “not the slightest room for doubt.”

These strong statements allegedly nailed down the Watchtower’s foundational teaching that in 1874, Christ’s earthly presence began.  Earlier—in Russell’s day—the terms:

■  “unchallenged and incontrovertible”[28]

were used to defend this teaching.

However, as year after year went by failing to bring Armageddon, followers were beginning to lose faith in the Watchtower organization. The faithful were leaving by the droves. Something had to be done. In 1932 a group of men at the Watchtower headquarters in New York restructured their timetable. They abandoned the 1874 date for Christ’s invisible return altogether.

Once again the year 1914 was in vogue, not for Armageddon, as was previously taught—1914 became the new TIME for Christ’s invisible return.[29] The story as told in the Watch Tower magazine was that “invisible angels channeled”[30] this information to those overseeing the Watchtower organization. A Watchtower book entitled, God’s Kingdom (1973) claimed this change was made official in 1943.  Changing the time of Christ’s return pushed Armageddon off for one more generation.

The Great Disappointment of 1975:

The Jehovah’s Witnesses expected that as God’s Seventh Day commenced, the Millennial Kingdom would be established on earth. In 1966, the year 1975[31] was officially embraced as the last year marking the end of the six-thousand-year period since the creation of Adam, not 1872[32] or 1873[33] or 1972[34] as was once taught.  Many Jehovah’s Witnesses, upon hearing that 1975[35] was the end of the great six days of human existence, sold their houses, quit their jobs, and went into the ministry full time. Older Witnesses withdrew their pensions and followed suit. The church encouraged this behavior:

“Yes, the end of this system is so very near!  Is that not reason to increase our activity? ... Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property and planning to finish out the rest of their days in this old system in the pioneer service. Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world’s end.”[36] 

These dedicated Witnesses expected that in 1975 or shortly thereafter, Armageddon would destroy all of mankind except for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Therefore, Jehovah’s Witnesses, out of a genuine concern, warned the world of their danger. From 1968 to 1975, the Watchtower Society grew in numbers by over two and one-half million.  However, when October 1975 came and went, it brought great disappointment to many who had trusted in the Watchtower Society and had sacrificed everything in order to win souls. Jehovah’s Witnesses repeated the Millerite movement of 1844 in 1975.

Can we learn anything from the history of the Jehovah’s Witnesses? All of the years[37] established for the Rapture of the church, the Battle of Armageddon, and the Second Coming of Christ were erroneous, even though they were presumed to be infallible.

For more reading on this subject:

What to say to Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses 1914 and 1919 Doctrines Examined

Selected Works of C. T. Russell

Apocalypse Now? Part I — The Great Disappointment




                    Endnotes:

[1] “Seemingly by accident, one evening I dropped into a dusty, dingy hall in Allegheny, Pa., where I had heard that 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.” (The Watch Tower, 1916, “Sketch of Development of Present Truth”, p 170)

[2] “In 1837 he [George Storrs] found a copy of a pamphlet by Henry Grew on a train, concerning the doctrines of conditional immortality (the non-immortality of the soul), and hell. For three years he studied the issues on his own, only speaking about it to church ministers. However, in 1840 he finally resigned from the church, feeling he could not remain faithful to God if he remained in it. Storrs became one of the leaders of the Second Advent movement and affiliated with William Miller and Joshua V. Himes.  He began publication of his magazine The Bible Examiner in 1843 and continued it until 1879 with a few breaks. After a considerable amount of study, Storrs preached to some Adventists on the condition and prospects for the dead. His book Six Sermons explained his conditionalist beliefs.  Storrs' writings influenced Charles Taze Russell, who founded the Bible Student movement from which Jehovah’s Witnesses and numerous independent Bible Student groups emerged.” (George Storrs - Wikipedia 2011)

[3] “‘THE Time of the End,’ a period of one hundred and fifteen (115) years, from A.D. 1799 to A.D. 1914, is particularly marked in the Scriptures.”(Studies in the Scriptures, Thy Kingdom Come — Study II, The Time of The End p. 23) 

[4] “In proof of this, I [Nelson Barbour] refer Adventists to a letter from Bro. Miller, in the advent paper published in Boston in 1842, and now on file in the Advent Herald office. In this letter Bro. Miller states that the only time to which he, and others of like precious faith, were looking and had been looking for many years, was the Jewish year beginning April 3, 1843, and ending April 3, 1844. (Midnight Cry, 1871, pp. 25-27, Nelson Barbour)

Letter mentioned in above quote:

“He [William Miller] wrote to Himes on February 4, 1844: ‘Jesus Christ will come again to the earth, cleanse, purify, and take possession of the same, with all his saints, some time between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844. I have never, for the space of more than twenty-three years, had any other time preached or published by me; I have never fixed on any month, day, or hour, during that period.’” (MEMOIRS OF WILLIAM MILLER p. xiv) 

[5] “This thirty years, from 1843 to 1873, is not the only thirty years of tarrying, by which God has tried his people.” (Midnight Cry, 1871, pp. 98-99, Nelson Barbour)

[6] “If God has given light on this last great message to the world, can we withhold it and be guiltless?” (Midnight Cry, 1871, p. 34, Nelson Barbour) 

[7] “The end is even now begun, and we are living in that little space marked out as one of preparation for both God and man.  If we shut our eyes against the light, and watch not for the landmarks, by which ‘the wise shall understand,’ it will not change His plans nor stay the coming wrath; no more than does the desert bird, who hides its head beneath the sand turn back its foe.  A few short months, which will not stop, and we shall stand in presence of our Judge, with no veil, not even one of earth, to hide us from his gaze.  Now, while mercy lingers, those who seek may find a refuge from the storm.” (Midnight Cry, 1871, p. 14, Nelson Barbour) 

[8] “The parable also brings to view two movements.  One was a going forth to meet the bridegroom; the other, a "going out" to meet him.  The first was small, in its beginning, and for many years remained so; but in 1842 their numbers began to count up by thousands, until at last it grew to be a mighty host, and broke in the great disappointment in 1844.  The second, or midnight cry, began early in ‘the midnight watch,’ or in the spring of 1860.  It too was small in its origin, and insignificant, and so remained for many years.  But the "cry" ceased not.  Now, in 1871, it counts its numbers by thousands; and before 1873 shall pass, if it be of God, it will swell to a mighty wave, and break on the shores of the eternal world.” (Midnight Cry, 1871, pp. 30-31, Nelson Barbour) 

[9] “… I promise, by stubborn facts, which none can question, to prove that we are living in the little space of time mentioned in our text…”  (Midnight Cry, 1871, p. 4, Nelson Barbour)

[10] “There is a division taking place among Adventists; and it is spreading from one end of the country to the other, on the TIME question. ..and if the parable of the ten virgins is to be completed by this people, as literally as it has been fulfilled thus far, this division must be consummated BEFORE CHRIST COMES.” (Herald of the Morning, 1874, p. 57, Nelson Barbour)

[11] “For I tell you truly, that the prophecies and signs of the coming of the Son of God, "to wipe away the tears from off all faces," and restore this sin-cursed earth, before the close of 1873, are of such a nature, so simple, and to the point, that you cannot question them; when once your eyes have been anointed with God’s eye salve. Re 3:18.” (Midnight Cry, 1871, p. 21, Nelson Barbour) 

[12] “We used the argument drawn from the Jubilees, in 1844, thus: the full period, or grand cycle, we argued, would be 49 times 50: or, 2450 years; which, beginning at the captivity, 606 before Christ, would reach to 1844 after Christ; because 606 added to 1844 make 2450. Hence we thought 1844 would be the year of Jubilee. This was certainly very simple, and beautiful, - one of Bro. Miner's "jewels;"- but it was wanting in one or two very essential features. We had no proof that 49 times 50 would complete the last great cycle; nor had we a "thus saith the Lord," to begin to reckon from the captivity. But now we have positive instruction as to where these cycles begin, and also of their number; making altogether, one of the strongest Time arguments ever presented, and pointing to the year 1874, as the closing year in this great cycle which is to usher in the minennium or Sabbath of rest.” (Herald of the Morning, 1874, pp. 52-53, Nelson Barbour) 

[13] “Now I believe He comes "in like manner as" they saw him go [Acts 1:11]…” (Herald of the Morning, 1875, p. 10, Nelson Barbour) 

[14] “But why is it that men will take a position perfectly untenable, for the sake of escaping conclusions to which facts are forcing them? I mean those who would make the "cry" occur at the appearing of Christ, or perhaps a few moments before. When Christ comes, it will be morning. Midnight and morning never come together, either in nature, or in any natural parable. If any man should make an illustration so unnatural, he would be called a fool. And yet they would put this unnatural construction on the parable of our Lord. Does it look reasonable, that a midnight cry is to be made in the morning? or just at Christ's appearing, and have all the balance of that parable crowded into a few moments of time? "Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps, (a pretty time that would be for wise, or foolish either, to begin to trim their lamps, or search their Bibles,) with Christ coming "as the lightning." (Herald of the Morning, 1874, p. 57, Nelson Barbour)

[15]  (Midnight Cry, 1871, p. 38, Nelson Barbour)

[16] “And we [the bible students] felt greatly grieved at the error of Second Adventists, who were expecting Christ in the flesh and were teaching that the world and all in it except Second Aventists would be burned up in 1873 or 1874 and whose time settings and disappointments and crude ideas generally of the object and manner of our Lord's coming brought more or less reproach upon us and upon all who longed for and proclaimed His coming Kingdom.” (Watch Tower, First Faint Gleam of God’s Plan, June 1, 1916, p. 171) 

[17] “During this time, [1872-1876] too, we came to recognize the difference between our lord as ‘the man who gave Himself,’ and as the One who would come again, a spirit being. We saw that spirit beings can be present and yet invisible to men…” (Watch Tower, First Faint Gleam of God’s Plan, June 1, 1916, p. 171) 

[18] “It was about January of 1876 that my attention was especially drawn to the subject of prophetic time, as it refers to these doctrines and hopes. It came about in this way: I received a paper called, The Herald of the Morning, sent by its Editor, Mr. N. H. Barbour. When I opened it, I at once identified it with Adventism from the picture on its cover; and I examined it with some curiosity to see what time the Adventists would next set for the burning of the world. But judge of my surprise and gratification when I learned from its contents that the Editor was beginning to get his eyes open on the subjects that for some years had so greatly rejoiced our hearts in our class in Allegheny--that the object of our Lord's Return is not to destroy, but to bless all the families of the earth: and that His Coming would be thief-like, and not in flesh, but as a spirit being, invisible to men” (Watch Tower, June 1, 1916 - Chronology Seen to be Valuable, p. 171,  C T Russell) 

[19] “I [Nelson Barbour] began to shout and praise God before reaching my room, satisfied it would come out 1874, but I wanted to see the figures. O! If it only does come out so, the last doubt will disappear; and I will give myself anew; soul body and spirit, to the work. When I put the figures down, just as they stand in the Bible chronology; just as they stand in the argument on "The two dispensations," which shows they are equal, that the time under the twelve Tribes was 1843 years; and that therefore, the time under the Gospel, will be 1843 years; and that they all center here, that they point to the "fourth day of the seventh month" of 1874 longest period, my heart leaped with joy the Lord! The race is almost done…” (Herald of the Morning, 1874, p. 50, Nelson Barbour)

[20] “… as time passed, Russell and his followers became persuaded that he had a special role; it was he who was ‘that servant’ mentioned at Matthew 24:45—7 who was to provide ‘meat in due season’ for the household of faith.  Hence, by the first decade of the twentieth century, he began to encourage directed or Berean Bible Studies rather than free Bible study for his flock.”  (Apocalypse Delayed, 1997, M. James Penton, University of Toronto Press, p. 5)

[21] “Moses was forty years in coming to the point where he offered himself to Israel . . . until the period which the Scriptures show us marked his second coming (October, 1874)” (Watchtower, Dec. 1, 1901). 

[22] “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” (The Time Is at Hand, 1915 edition, p. 99).

[23] (Watchtower, 1881)

[24] “The Battle of Armageddon, to which this war is leading, will be a great contest between right and wrong, and will signify the complete and everlasting overthrow of the wrong, and the permanent establishment of Messiah’s righteous kingdom” (Watchtower Reprints, VI, April 1, 1915, p. 5659). 

[25] Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 7, “The Finished Mystery,” p. 128 (provide link) 

[26] The Watchtower, Mar. 1, 1922 

[27] The Watchtower, Jan. 1, 1924 

[28] (The Time Is at Hand; 1889, 1915 ed., p. 236) 

[29] “Christ returned and began ruling in the midst of his enemies in the year 1914” (“You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth,” Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society 1982). 

[30] (Watchtower, Nov. 15, 1935, p. 331) 

[31] “Eight years from the Autumn of 1967 would bring us to the Autumn of 1975, fully 6,000 years into God’s seventh day, his rest day” (Watchtower, May 1, 1968, p. 271).

[32] “We are already living in the seventh millennium—since October 1872,” (The Time Is at Hand; 1889, p. 363, 1915 ed.)

[33] “The Bible chronology herein presented shows that the six great 1000 year days beginning with Adam are ended, and that the great 7th Day, the 1000 years of Christ’s Reign, began in 1873…” (The Time Is at Hand; 1889; Foreword, p. 2, 1916) 

[34] (The Truth Shall Make You Free, 1943 edition) 

[35] “In this twentieth century an independent study has been carried on that does not blindly follow some traditional chronological calculations of Christendom, and the published time table resulting from this independent study gives the date of man’s creation as 4026 B.C.E. According to this trustworthy Bible chronology, six thousand years from man’s creation will end in 1975, and the seventh period of a thousand years of human history will begin in the fall of 1975 C.E.” (Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God, President Frederick Franz, Watchtower publication, 1966) 

[36] (Kingdom Ministry, May 1974, p. 3)

[37] Watchtower Dates:

• 1844 Miller’s “end of the world.” To Barbour and Russell, start of thirty-year “tarrying time,” corresponding to thirty years from Jesus’ birth to his baptism. Abandoned in 1930.

• 1846 End of the 2,300 days, George Storrs and others abandoned false doctrines, “sanctuary cleansed.” Abandoned in 1930.

• 1873 Six thousand years of human existence end, start of seventh millennium: The millennium of Revelation; the Day of the Lord. (New chronology making 1975 the end of six thousand years was adopted in 1943, but 1975 was not made an offi cial prophetic date until 1966, with Life Everlasting) Abandoned in 1930.

• 1874 The start of Christ’s invisible presence. Russell’s most important date. Three Worlds, p. 175, Our Lord’s Return, p. 27. Russell taught that this year marked the start of the Battle of Armageddon. Officially abandoned in 1943.

• 1875 End of “Great Jubilee Cycle.” End of 1,335 days in Dan. 12:12. The invisible resurrection of the saints began. (Please note that Russell taught that the “Biblical year” 1875 actually started in Oct 1874) Three Worlds, p. 108.

• 1878 End of gospel age, the rapture of the saints. Three Worlds, p. 68; Proclaimers, p. 632; Divine Purpose, p. 19. Abandoned after 1878.

• 1878 Heavenly resurrection of dead saints. God’s favor returning to the Jews. Kingdom of God started to exercise power. WT, Oct. 1879 [repr., p. 39]. Millions (1920), p. 27–8. Abandoned in 1930.

• 1881 Rapture of the saints, including Russell and other Bible Students. WT, Jan. 1881 [repr., p. 180], Dec. 1880 [repr., p. 172], compare May 1881 [repr., p. 224]. Abandoned after 1881

• 1910 Expected rapture of the Saints. Abandoned after 1910.

• 1914 The end of this world, Christ’s literal return, the end of Armageddon, and latest possible date for rapture. Abandoned after 1914.

• 1914 Christ’s invisible return, start of reign as King, end of last days (earlier held to be 1874).

• 1915 The end of the world. 1915 replaced 1914 in Russell’s writings.

• 1918 Fall of Babylon—”all false religion.” See Revelation Climax, p. 260, which says, “So by 1919 Babylon the Great had fallen.”

• 1919 The Bible Student/Watchtower movement chosen by Christ to be only “channel” of communication from God to men. Current Watchtower doctrine.

• 1920 Worldwide anarchy, collapse and fall of all earthly governments. Abandoned after 1920.

• 1925 The end of the world immediately following the resurrection of “men of old” (Biblical heroes listed in Hebrews chapter 11). Establishment of Kingdom in Palestine. Millions, p. 88, 97. Very definite statements in WT, 6/15, 1922; 4/1, 1923, elsewhere. Abandoned after 1925.

• 1941 WWII was expected to end in Armageddon, God’s War. WT, 9/15, 1941, p. 288, talked about the “remaining months before Armageddon.” Abandoned in 1943, after the death of Rutherford.

• 1951 This was thirty-seven years after 1914, like Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70, which was thirty-seven years after Christ’s death (WT’S chronology).  Some WT articles in 1950 hinted strongly to this parallel. WT, 11/1, 1950, p. 407; 9/1, 1950, p. 277; compare WT, 3/15, 1951, p. 179 and 4/1, 1951, p. 214, both pointing out that “we are 37 years into the ‘time of the end’ of this world.” Idea was abandoned in WT, 9/1, 1952, p. 542.

• 1975 End of six thousand year of human history after WTS chronology. Strongly hinted to be end of the world; could only be a matter of “days and months, not years” before Armageddon. Life Everlasting, pp. 26–30; WT, 7/15, 1967, pp. 446–7; 8/15, 1968, p. 499; 5/1, 1975, p. 285. See also YB, 1980, pp. 30–31. Abandoned after 1975.