1914 : Failed Watchtower Prophecy
One of the most misleading statements in Watchtower publications is that they accurately foretold 1914 to be the “start” of the conclusion of this system of things. Rather, 1914 was predicted to be the “end” of the system of things, the conclusion of Armageddon and the start of the earthly paradise.
|What Watchtower said
prior to 1914
|What Watchtower claims it said
prior to 1914
|"The year A.D. 1878 … clearly marks the time for the actual assuming of power as King of kings, by our present, spiritual, invisible Lord - …" The Time is At Hand (1911 ed) p.239||"The Watchtower has consistently presented evidence to honesthearted students of Bible prophecy that Jesus’ presence in heavenly Kingdom power began in 1914." Watchtower 1993 Jan 15 p.5|
|"But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble. Zion's Watch Tower 1894 Jul 15 p.226||"Jehovah's witnesses pointed to the year 1914, decades in advance, as marking the start of "the conclusion of the system of things." Awake! 1973 Jan 22 p.8|
The contradictory statements above help identify two critical facts:
- Watchtower falsely predicted this system would end in 1914
- Watchtower is not entirely honest about its history
1914 is the pivotal date for the existence of Jehovah's Witnesses, currently explained as the date:
- the Last Days began
- Jesus started ruling in heaven
- the Gentile times ended
1914 is the basis for the interpretation of the majority of other Bible prophecies. Most importantly, this was the time during which Jesus is said to have come to inspect and cleanse the Watchtower Society, resulting in Jesus choosing it in 1919 to be the only organization he works though in our time, and the only means of salvation.
The 1914 doctrine changes as it is falsified by the progression of history.
- The last days started in 1799, ending in 1914.
- The last days started in 1914, ending within a single lifetime/generation of those born prior to 1914.
- The last days started in 1914, with an unspecified ending, after a period of an "overlapping generation."
The current understanding is significantly different to the original teachings. Prior to 1914, the Watchtower believed:
- The Last Days began 1799
- Jesus Parousia started 1874
- Jesus started ruling in heaven in 1878
- The Gentile Times would end in 1914, resulting in the:
- end of Armageddon
- fall of false religion
- end of all earthly governments
- heavenly and earthly resurrections
- paradise on earth
The ability of the Watchtower to accurately foretell the meaning of 1914 is a great source of faith for Jehovah's Witnesses, unaware of what the Watchtower said prior to 1914, as nothing that Russell said about 1914 came to pass. For Russell and early Watchtower followers, the second of October 1914 was expected to be the the conclusion of this system of things.
“Quite a few delegates stayed at Bethel, and, of course, members of the headquarters staff were present at the breakfast table on Friday morning, October 2. Everyone was seated when Brother Russell entered. As usual, he said cheerily, “Good morning, all.” But this particular morning was different. Instead of proceeding promptly to his seat, he clapped his hands and joyfully announced: “The Gentile times have ended; their kings have had their day.” “How we clapped our hands!” exclaims Cora Merrill. Brother Macmillan admitted: “We were highly excited and I would not have been surprised if at that moment we had just started up, that becoming the signal to begin ascending heavenward—but of course there was nothing like that, really.” Sister Merrill adds: “After a brief pause he [Russell] said: ‘Anyone disappointed? I’m not. Everything is moving right on schedule!’ Again we clapped our hands.”” Yearbook 1975 pp.72,73
1914 would see God's Kingdom fully established on earth.
"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.1914." Studies in the Scriptures - Series 2 The Time is at Hand (1889 ed) p.99
Later editions of the same quote gave an additional year for full establishment.
Studies in the Scriptures - Series 2 The Time is at Hand (1911 ed) p.99
Watchtower quotes prior to 1914
Russell taught that Jesus invisible rulership began in 1874.
"Our Lord, the appointed King, is now present since October 1874, A.D., according to the testimony of the prophets, to those who have ears to hear it: and the formal inauguration of his kingly office dates from Apr 1878, A.D." Studies in Scriptures Series IV (1897) p.621
As shown at Freemasonry & Adventist Links, Russell used pyramidology to support this belief.
1874 to 1914 was described as the greatest time of trouble in human history, with 1914 to be the conclusion of the Last Days. Armageddon would begin, resulting in the wholesale destruction of all government and religion. Russell and his followers were to be raised to heaven and Jesus Kingdom would then be established as paradise on earth.
"Now, in view of recent labor troubles and threatened anarchy, our readers are writing to know if there may not be a mistake in the 1914 date. They do not see how present conditions can hold out so long under the strain. We see no reason for changing the figures - nor could we change them if we would. They are, we believe, God's dates, not ours. But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble." Zion's Watch Tower 1894 Jul 15 p.226
The following quotes during the lead up to 1914 show there could be no doubt as to what followers of the Watchtower Society were to expect.
"… the battle of the great day of God Almighty … The date of the close of that "battle" is definitely marked in Scripture as October 1914. It is already in progress, its beginning dating from October, 1874." Zion's Watch Tower 1892 Jan 15 p.23
End of the "Time of Trouble"
"The seventh trumpet sounds from Aug. 1840, until "the time of trouble," or day of wrath is ended. Hence, it doubtless ends with the times of the Gentiles, and this forty years of conquest; and therefore, sounds until A. D. 1914; at the end of which, Babylon the great, will have fallen, and the "dragon" be bound: that is, the nations will be subdued, and "the prince of this world cast out."" Three Worlds and the Harvest of This World (Barbour & Russell, 1877) p.27
Religion Utterly Destroyed
"The seventh trumpet sounds from Aug. 1840, until "the time of trouble," or day of wrath is ended. Hence, it doubtless ends with the times of the Gentiles, and this forty years of conquest; and therefore, sounds until A. D. 1914; at the end of which, Babylon the great, will have fallen, and the "dragon" be bound: that is, the nations will be subdued, and "the prince of this world cast out."" Three Worlds and The Harvest of This World (1877) p.143
"A.D. 33, to A.D. 70 was 36 ½ years; and so from A.D. 1878 to the end of A.D. 1914 is 36 ½ years. And, with the end of A.D. 1914, what God calls Babylon, and what men call Christendom, will have passed away, as already shown in prophecy." Studies In the Scriptures - Thy Kingdom Come (1891) p.153
"October, 1914, will witness the full end of Babylon, "as a great millstone cast into the sea," utterly destroyed as a system." Watch Tower 1911 Jun 15 p.190
Harvest work complete
"HARVEST" is a term which gives a general idea as to what work should be expected to transpire between the dates 1874 and 1914." Studies In the Scriptures - Thy Kingdom Come p.135
"These, already examined, show that the close of 1874 marked the beginning, as the close of 1914 will mark the end, of this 40 years of harvest; while all the minutiae of the order and work of this harvest were portrayed in that of the Jewish age, its type." Studies In the Scriptures - Thy Kingdom Come pp.149-150
"True, it is expecting great things to claim, as we do, that within the coming twenty-six years all present governments will be overthrown and dissolved. 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 at the end of A. D. 1914." Studies In the Scriptures Series II - The Time Is At Hand (1889) p.99
"Be not surprised, then, when in subsequent chapters we present proofs that the setting up of the Kingdom of God is already begun, that it is pointed out in prophecy as due to begin the exercise of power in A.D. 1878, and that the "battle of the great day of God Almighty" (Rev. 16:14), which will end in A.D. 1914 with the complete overthrow of earth's present rulership, is already commenced. The gathering of the armies is plainly visible from the standpoint of God's Word." Studies In the Scriptures Series II - The Time Is At Hand (1889) p.101
"True, it is expecting great things to claim, as we do, that within the coming twenty-six years all present governments will be overthrown and dissolved. 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 at the end of A. D. 1914. Be not surprised, then, when in subsequent chapters we present proofs that the setting up of the Kingdom of God is already begun, that it is pointed out in prophecy as due to begin the exercise of power in A.D. 1878, and that the "battle of the great day of God Almighty" (Rev. 16:14), which will end in A.D. 1914 with the complete overthrow of earth's present rulership, is already commenced. The gathering of the armies is plainly visible from the standpoint of God's Word." Studies In the Scriptures Series II - The Time Is At Hand (1889) pp.99, 101
The Time Is at Hand (1889) pages 76 to 78 claimed seven things would happen in 1914. Not one of these eventuated. The following statements are extracted from that list;
1. "the disintegration of the rule of imperfect men. Firstly, That at that date the Kingdom of God, for which our Lord taught us to pray, saying, "Thy Kingdom come," will begin to assume control, and that it will then shortly be "set up," or firmly established, in the earth, on the ruins of present institutions."
2. He whose right it is thus to take the dominion will then be present as earth's new Ruler; and not only so, but it will also prove that he will be present for a considerable period before that date;
3. the last member of the divinely recognized Church of Christ, the "royal priesthood," "the body of Christ," will beglorified with the Head;
4. Jerusalem shall no longer be trodden down
5. Israel's blindness will begin to be turned away
6. the great "time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation," will reach its culmination in a world-wide reign of anarchy
7. It will prove that before that date God's Kingdom, organized in power, will be in the earth and then smite and crush the Gentile image (Dan. 2:34)-and fully consume the power of these kings." Studies In the Scriptures Series II - The Time Is at Hand (1889) pp.76-78
End of the Day of Vengeance
"we have seen that God has a set time for every feature of his plan, and that we are even now in this "Day of Vengeance," which is a period of forty years; that it began in October, 1874, and will end in October, 1914 [very shortly]." Studies In the Scriptures Series IV - The Day of Vengeance -pp.546, 547
Jesus to start ruling the earth
SETTING UP THE EARTHLY GOVERNMENT ---- Not until the full end of Gentile Times (October, A.D. 1914) should we expect the earthly phase of God's Kingdom; for in giving a lease of dominion to the Gentiles until that date God made no mistake and his plans alter not. The earthly phase of the Kingdom of God when set up will be Israelitish; for such is God's engagement or covenant with Abraham and his natural seed. Even the chief favor, the spiritual Kingdom, was offered first to fleshly Israel, and would have been given to them if they had been ready at heart to receive it on the conditions attached to it-to suffer with Christ and afterward to be glorified with him." Studies In the Scriptures Series IV - The Day of Vengeance pp.624,625
Earthly Resurrection to occur
"And yet "Jerusalem must be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled;" hence, trodden downuntil A. D. 1914, when the day of wrath will be passed, and the resurrection and return of the "whole house of Israel" due." Three Worlds and The Harvest of This World (1877) p.166
"The beginning of the earthly phase of the Kingdom in the end of A.D. 1914 will, we understand, consist wholly of the resurrected holy ones of olden time-from John the Baptizer back to Abel-"Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the holy prophets." Studies In the Scriptures Series IV - The Day of Vengeance p.625
144,000 All Resurrected to Heaven
The 144,000, also known as the "body of Christ" or "the saints", were to all be in heaven by 1914, prior to the completion of Armageddon.
"That the deliverance of the saints must take place some time before 1914 is manifest, since the deliverance of fleshly Israel, as we shall see, is appointed to take place at that time... Just how long before 1914 the last living members of the body of Christ will be glorified, was are not directly informed;..." Studies In the Scriptures - Thy Kingdom Come (1908 ed.) p.228
Studies in the Scriptures after 1914
Editions of Studies in the Scriptures written prior to 1914 were very specific about what would happen prior to and during 1914. These journals continued to be used after 1914. To overcome the obviously erroneous predictions, in 1915 they were reissued with amendments.
For example the 1908 edition of Studies In the Scriptures - Thy Kingdom Come stated on p.228 that the resurrection would occur before 1914. The 1915 edition changed this to state that the resurrection was to occur soon after 1914.
|Studies In the Scriptures - Thy Kingdom Come 1908 Ed.||Studies In the Scriptures - Thy Kingdom Come 1915 Ed.|
"That the deliverance of the saints must take place some time before 1914 is manifest,
since the deliverance of fleshly Israel, as we shall see, is appointed to take place at that time, and the angry nations will
then be authoritatively commanded to be still, and will be made to recognize the power of Jehovah's Anointed.
Just how long before 1914 the last living members of the body of Christ will be glorified, we are not directly informed;
but it certainly will not be until their work in the flesh is done; nor can we reasonably presume that they will long remain after that work is accomplished. With these two thought in mind, we can approximate the time of the deliverance."
Click here for scan of 1911 version
|"That the deliverance of the saints must take place very soon after 1914 is manifest, since the deliverance of fleshly Israel, as we shall see, is appointed to take place at that time, and the angry nations will then be authoritatively commanded to be still, and will be made to recognize the power of Jehovah's Anointed. Just how long after 1914 the last living members of the body of Christ will be glorified, we are not directly informed; but it certainly will not be until their work in the flesh is done; nor can we reasonably presume that they will long remain after that work is accomplished."|
The 1915 Mar 1 issue of the Watch Tower admitted to these changes in the following article.
"CHANGES IN "SCRIPTURE STUDIES"
We call attention to a few slight changes which have been made in four pages of Vol. II. and six pages of Vol. III., "STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES." These are all trivial and do not alter the real sense and lesson, but conform to the facts as we have them today. The pages containing these corrections are as follows:
Vol. II., page 77, line 1, "will be the farthest limit," reads "will see the disintegration."
Vol. II., page 77, line 6, "will obtain full universal control," reads "will begin to assume control."
Vol. II., page 77, lines 16,17, "end of A.D. 1914," reads "end of the overthrow."
Vol. II., page 81, line 9, "can date only from A.D. 1914," reads "could not precede A.D. 1915."
Vol. II., page 170, line 16, "at that time they will all be overturned."*
*How long it will require to accomplish this overturning we are not informed, but have reason to believe the period will be short.
Vol. II., page 221, line 25, "full favor until A.D. 1914," reads "full favor until after 1915."
Vol. III., page 94, line 29, "in this end or harvest," reads "at the end of this harvest."
Vol. III., page 126, line 12, "at A.D. 1914," reads "after 1914."
Vol. III., page 133, line 21, "ere the harvest is fully ended."+
+The end of the harvest will probably include the burning of the tares.
Vol. III., page 228, line 11, "some time before 1914," reads "very soon after 1914."
Vol. III., page 228, line 15, "just how long before," reads "just how long after."
Vol. III., page 362, line 11, "some time before," reads "some time near."
Vol. III., page 364, line 14, "must not only witness," reads "may not only witness.""
Watchtower's Dishonest Presentation of its' History
Watchtower claims its foresight of 1914 as proof of Jehovah's direction. Is this justified, knowing the Watchtower was incorrect in virtually every aspect?
The following quotes show the positive spin the Watchtower puts on Russell's inaccurate teachings, in an attempt to make people believe holy spirit directs the Watchtower's interpretation of Bible prophecy. These quotes range from misleading but technically true, through to blatantly false. Statements abound that the Watchtower pointed forward to 1914 as "the start of "the conclusion of the system of things"", the start of "Jesus Presence", or the start of his "rulership". Other phrases, such as that the Watchtower foretold 1914 to be the end of the Gentile Times, are strictly accurate, but lead the reader to an incorrect conclusion about the understanding of this teaching.
When reading these quotes, it is important to remember that in 1914 the Watchtower was teaching Jesus' presence began in 1874 and his heavenly rulership began in 1878.
"Our belief that the Kingdom began to be set up, or brought into power, in Apr, 1878, be it observed, rests on exactly the same foundation as our belief that the Lord became present in October, 1874, and that the harvest began at that time." Studies in the Scriptures - Thy Kingdom Come p.235
As late as 1930, the Watchtower was still referring to 1874 as the start of Jesus presence.
"… from the beginning of the Lord’s presence in 1874 the Devil used the Papal system as the chief opposing instrument of God’s kingdom …" Watchtower 1930 p.275
Those in the Watchtower's writing department are well aware of the organisations history. For instance, the 1993 Proclaimers book states:
"Based on the premise that events of the first century might find parallels in related events later, they also concluded that if Jesus’ baptism and anointing in the autumn of 29 C.E. paralleled the beginning of an invisible presence in 1874, then his riding into Jerusalem as King in the spring of 33 C.E. would point to the spring of 1878 as the time when he would assume his power as heavenly King." Proclaimers p.632
Yet in that very same year, other Watchtower articles falsely claim:
"The Watchtower has consistently presented evidence to honest hearted students of Bible prophecy that Jesus’ presence in heavenly Kingdom power began in 1914. Events since that year testify to Jesus' invisible presence." Watchtower 1993 Jan 15 p.5
"Jehovah's Witnesses have consistently shown from the Scriptures that the year 1914 marked the beginning of this world's time of the end and that "the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men" has drawn near." Watchtower 1993 Aug 15 p.9
Other examples of deceptive statements regarding the teachings of the Watchtower prior to 1914 include:
"Decades before 1914, Jehovah's worshippers declared to the nations that the end of "the appointed times of the nations" would come in that year and that the world would enter into an unequaled period of trouble." Watchtower 2013 Feb 15 p.18
"As that “time” approached, Jehovah took steps to reveal the answer to a group of humble Bible students. With the help of God’s spirit, they discerned that “the appointed times of the nations” began with the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. and that those “times” were 2,520 years in length. From this, they deduced that 1914 marked the end of “the appointed times of the nations.” They also came to realize that 1914 was the beginning of the end for this system of things." Watchtower 2004 Feb 1 p.19
"From the mid-1870's, Jehovah's people had been anticipating that catastrophic events would start in 1914 and would mark the end of the Gentile Times." Revelation - Its Grand Climax at Hand! (1988) p.105
"How did Jehovah's Witnesses know more than 30 years in advance that 1914 would be an important date for divine rulership? Though the Witnesses at the time did not understand the full implication of events about to take place, the Watch Tower magazine as far back as December of 1879 pointed to 1914 as a marked date in regard to Bible prophecy. And the Mar 1880 issue of the Watch Tower linked God's Kingdom rule with the ending of what Jesus Christ referred to as "the appointed times of the nations," or "the times of the Gentiles." (Luke 21:24; Authorized Version) That Watch Tower said: "'The Times of the Gentiles' extend to 1914, and the heavenly kingdom will not have full sway till then."" Watchtower 1984 Apr 1 p. 6 1914 a Marked Year-Why?
"This remnant of anointed ones have identified themselves on the pages of history since 1914 C.E. Before this year members of this anointed remnant had been earnestly studying God' s Word apart from Christendom. They put the Holy Bible ahead of man-made religious traditions. As early as 1876 they were publishing that the Gentile Times of 2,520 years would terminate in the year 1914. Events that have taken place from that year onward prove they were not wrong." God's Eternal Purpose Now Triumphing For Man's Good (1974) pp.178-179
"Even earlier, however, C. T. Russell wrote an article entitled "Gentile Times: When Do They End?" It was published in the Bible Examiner of October 1876, and therein Russell said: "The seven times will end in A.D. 1914." He had correctly linked the Gentile Times with the "seven times" mentioned in the book of Daniel. (Dan. 4:16, 23, 25, 32) True to such calculations, 1914 did mark the end of those times and the birth of God's kingdom in heaven with Christ Jesus as king. Just think of it! Jehovah granted his people that knowledge nearly four decades before those times expired." Yearbook 1975 p.37
"Of all men used by God to prophesy, Jesus is outstanding. Based on what he said, along with the words of Daniel and John, Jehovah's witnesses pointed to the year 1914, decades in advance, as marking the start of "the conclusion of the system of things." Awake! 1973 Jan 22 p.8
"Under the guidance of God's spirit of freedom the magazine today known as The Watchtower but known back there as Zion's Watch Tower, began to be published in Jul, 1879. In the first year of its publication it pointed to the date 1914 as marked in the Bible." What Has Religion Done For Mankind? (1951) p.308
"As for the time of Christ's second presence, Daniel's prophecy is again the one that gives the chronology for it. (Dan. 4:16) It was figured out as pointing to A.D. 1914, and The Watchtower called notice to the significance of 1914 in the year 1879." Watchtower 1952 Nov 1 p.658
"When in 1914 C.E. the 2,520 years of the Gentile Times ended for the Gentile nations to trample on Jerusalem’s right to a Messianic kingship in the royal line of David, the Most High God Jehovah installed the Messiah Jesus on the heavenly throne in order to reign and go subduing among his enemies. (Psalm 110:1-6; Acts 2:34-36; Hebrews 10:12, 13) During World War I (1914-1918 C.E.) the dedicated, baptized remnant of spiritual Israelites publicly proclaimed that the Gentile Times had ended and that the Most High God had made his Son Jesus Christ reigning King in the heavens." Paradise Restored to Mankind - By Theocracy! p.273
"Why, then, do the nations not realize and accept the approach of this climax of judgment? It is because they have not heeded the world wide advertising of Christ's return and his second Presence. Since long before World War I Jehovah's witnesses pointed to 1914 as the time for this great event to occur." Watchtower 1954 Jun 15 p.370
"This was a new revelation of great importance to God's people who had been anxiously awaiting his second presence toward the end of the nineteenth century." Watchtower 1965 Jul 15 p.428
"For over thirty years before that date and for half a century since, Jehovah's witnesses have pointed to the year 1914 as the time for the end of "the appointed times of the nations" and the time in which Christ would begin his Kingdom rule. (Luke 21:24)" Watchtower 1966 Feb 15 p.103
"As far back as 1876, Jehovah' s Witnesses realized that Bible prophecy marked the year 1914 C.E. as a time when major events would take place that would have far-reaching effects on human affairs. They gave the reason for this fact wide publicity." True Peace And Security (1986) p.70
"Back in 1904, the book The New Creation called attention to this new organization that came into existence in the first century C.E. (Studies In The Scriptures, Series VI, Study V, entitled "The Organization of the New Creation") Owing to its view of what the end of the Gentile Times would mean, that book did not envision the remarkable organizational work that was due to take place after the crippling effects of the first world war of human history. - Luke 21:24 KJ" Watchtower 1989 Sep 1 pp.12-13
"a prophecy providentially caused sincere 19th-century Bible students to be in expectation. By linking the "seven times" of Daniel 4:25 with "the times of the Gentiles", they anticipated that Christ would receive Kingdom power in 1914." Watchtower 1998 Sep 15 p.15
The only aspect of Russell's 1914 prediction to remain is the term 'Gentile times'. Though the term is still in use, the meaning has greatly changed. Before 1914 this meant that earthly governments would end in total destruction and false religion would be overturned, heralding God's kingdom on earth. Now it simply means that Jesus is ruling in heaven, a handy concept as it is invisible and unnoticed.
It is interesting that Russell's incorrect understanding of 1914 had a huge weight of scriptural prophecy to support it. Some of the reasoning was as follows:
- The 1260 days prophecy pointed to 1799 as the last days
- The 2300 day prophecy pointed to 1844
- The 1335 day prophecy, end of the 6000 years and jubilee cycles all pointed to 1874 as the beginning of Jesus presence
From the above prophecies 1914 could be determined because:
- 1914 was a 40 year Jewish harvest from 1874.
- It was a 70 year generation from 1844.
- It was indicated by the prophecy of the seven times
- 40 years from 1874 to 1914 corresponds to 40 years from Jesus baptism in 30 A.D. to Jerusalem's destruction in 70 A.D.
- 36 ½ years from 1878 to 1914 corresponded to 36 ½ years of trouble from Jesus death to the Jerusalem's destruction in 70 A.D.
Each of these lines of reasoning are now considered wrong by Witnesses and few are even aware of the huge importance placed on 1874 for over 50 years.
Russell stated in Zion's Watch Tower 1892 Jan 1 p.22 that "never was there such a general time of banding together as at present." Yet all this weight of evidence that the 1800's were the "last days" has since been discarded. Today, only one prophecy is used to specifically point to 1914 as the start of Jesus presence; that is, the Seven Times. The other scriptural proofs are now considered to have been wrong.
As impressive as Russell's reasoning looks, it was progressively changed as one prediction after another failed to eventuate. Russell originally wrote that the Bible Students ascension to heaven and the fall of Babylon were to happen in years prior to 1914. 1914 was just the date when the Gentile times would end and paradise be established on earth. As his predictions failed to eventuate these occurrences were moved to 1914. Russell was clearly wrong when not one of these had occurred by the end of 1914.
In addition to his predictions being wrong, Russell was unsure whether to use the year 1914 or 1915. As shown later, he did not know how to deal the year zero when calculating prophecy, and so fluctuated between saying the end would arrive in 1914 or 1915.
As 1914 came closer Russell's writings became less confident that his predictions were correct and started hedging his comments. Where as in 1892 the Jan 15 p.23 Zion's Watch Tower used the term "definitely marked in Scripture" Russell started to use terms like "possibly shortly after", and "not infallible". Bible Students started to be prepared for failure.
"We shall be as glad as any one if we shall all experience our change from earthly to spirit conditions before 1915, and THIS IS OUR EXPECTATION; but if this should not be the Lord's will, then it would not be our will . So far as we have been able to see up to the present time, the failure of a full development of matters in 1915, or before, would imply that all the chronological arrangements, as we have them, are wrong--our view of the Harvest and all. And we have no reason to believe that these are wrong. We remember that we are not infallible, and that our judgment is not infallible; but the wonderful inventions of today, and the light that is dawning in every direction, as well as the universal unrest, seem in corroboration of the chronology--that we are in the dawning of the New Age. But just how far along we are we do not positively know." Watch Tower 1914 Jan 1 p.5
When Jesus earthly kingdom did not eventuate in 1914, Watchtower publications began to promote 1915. When 1915 amounted to nothing, the entire meaning of all Russell's prophetic interpretation required rewriting. It took until 1943 for the new understanding to finally be clarified.
"In the year 1943 the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society published the book "The Truth Shall Make You Free." This moved forward the end of six thousand years of man's existence into the decade of the 1970's. Naturally this did away with the year 1874 C.E. as the date of return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the beginning of his invisible presence or parousia. Page 324 of the above book positively says: "The King's presence or parousia began in 1914."" God's Kingdom on a Thousand Years Has Approached p.209
Why has the Watchtower Society discontinued its belief in all their original date interpretations but retained 1914? The occurrence of World War One appeared to give 1914 historical significance whilst none are able to be attached to any of the other 20 or so dates promoted. However, the Watchtower explanation of the prophecy of the Seven Times is examined and shown to be based on historical errors and inconsistent reasoning, leaving no reason to say that 1914 is of any relevance to us today.
Blame the Members
As soon the Watchtower was proven to be wrong about 1914, Russell went into damage control, dishonestly rewriting history. Reading through the older publications, it is evident how forcefully the predictions for 1914 were presented as truth, yet now they began to be referred to as nothing more than inference.
“The Lord did not say that the Church would all be glorified by 1914. We merely inferred it and, evidently, erred.” Watch Tower 1916 Apr 15
Even more unsavoury is the manner in which Russell attacked the motives of those that stopped being his followers.
"If there is any reason that would lead any to let go of the Lord and His Truth and to cease sacrificing for the Lord’s Cause, then it is not merely the love of God in the heart which has prompted interest in the Lord, but something else; probably a hoping that the time was short; the consecration was only for a certain time.”
It is of extreme arrogance for Russell to equate those that stopped following his failed teachings with leaving the Lord, and of impure motives, particularly when it is of little wonder that many came to recognise him as a false teacher.
Rutherford continued with this strategy of blaming members for their enthusiasm in accepting Watchtower information as truth.
"It seems to be a weakness of many Bible Students that if they locate a future date in the Bible, immediately they center as many prophecies upon that date as possible. This has been the cause of many siftings in the past. As far as we recall, all the dates foreseen were correct. The difficulty was that the friends inflated their imaginations beyond reason; and that when their imaginations burst asunder, there were inclined to throw away everything. ... Many can remember how "absolutely sure" some were about 1914. No doubt the Lord was pleased with the zeal manifested by his servants; but did they have a Scriptural basis for all they expected to come to pass that year? Let us be cautious, therefore about predicting particulars." Watch Tower 1925 Feb 15 p.57
It is disappointing to note Watchtower continues being critical of these individuals in the early 1900's, rather than lay blame where it squarely belongs, on the Watchtower leaders.
"There is no doubt that many throughout this period were overzealous in their statements as to what could be expected. Some read into the Watch Tower statements that were never intended." Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose p.52
Watchtower blames those who believed they were going to heaven on misunderstanding the message. Similarly, the Proclaimers book indicates that those who left were serving out of wrong motives.
"There were also other expectations concerning 1914. Alexander H. Macmillan, who had been baptized in September 1900, later recalled: "A few of us seriously thought we were going to heaven during the first week of that October. Had some been attracted by the thought of their own early salvation rather than love for God and a strong desire to do his will?" Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom p.61
"Their thoughts and desires had been fixed primarily on the prospect of being changed to heavenly life. When this did not occur at the anticipated time, they closed their minds to the significance of the amazing things that did take place in 1914. They lost sight of all the precious truths that they had learned from God’s Word, and they began to ridicule the people who had helped them to learn these." Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom p.636
The Yearbook 2014 avoids mentioning the Watchtower's responsibility for such expectations when discussing how some members carried a countdown card that ended with the date 1st October 1914.
“Some Bible Students even carried a countdown card so that they could mark off each passing day. Many felt that they would be called beyond the veil, or to heaven, on that date.”
Yearbook 2014 pp.174,175.
This is a common Watchtower formula; blame the members. Rather then apologise for error, say the followers were overzealous, misunderstood things or read into things. As prior quotes showed, this is just not true. The statements flowed unendingly, "this is an established truth", there is "proof", these things "will" occur. It was spelled out so clearly there was no need for the members to read in what was not intended.
Possibly worse is that these mistakes are also handed off to be the fault of God.
"This was a natural mistake to fall into, but the Lord overruled it for the blessing of His people." Studies in the Scriptures - The Time is At Hand 1916 ed. foreword
It cannot be proven that Jesus started ruling in 1914, as the Watchtower describes this as an unseen event. Russell was not guided by Jehovah to uniquely understand Daniel's prophecy of the Seven Times; he took his interpretation from Adventists such as Barbour. His interpretation was wrong, as he adamantly stated that 1914 would be "the final end" of this system of things. The Watchtower has not presented a consistent understanding of 1914 and the current interpretation was not finalised until 1943.
The Watchtower Society spent decades promoting its most prominent doctrine that the end would occur in 1914. Should a person trust the Watchtower Society when it was proven so dramatically wrong? Can a person trust the Watchtower Society when it continues to resort to deception when presenting its history? How can a person belong to an organization that refuses to accept responsibility for its mistakes, passing the blame to its faithful followers?
The admonition from Paul at 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 appears apt:
"However, brothers, respecting the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we request of YOU not to be quickly shaken from YOUR reason nor to be excited either through an inspired expression or through a verbal message or through a letter as though from us, to the effect that the day of Jehovah is here."
In view of how Watchtower refers to its past mistakes, Is This Life All There Is? asks a pertinent question on page 46:
"Knowing these things, what will you do? It is obvious that the true God, who is himself "the God of truth" and who hates lies, will not look with favor on persons who cling to organizations that teach falsehood. (Psalm 31:5; Proverbs 6:16-19; Revelation 21:8) And, really, would you want to be even associated with a religion that had not been honest with you?"
"A religion that teaches lies cannot be true." Watchtower 1991 Dec 1 p.7
 Some Watchtower apologists may try to reason that the Jan 15 1993 quote is accurate, since The Watchtower only took that title since October 15 1931, by which time Jesus presence had been moved to 1914. Any false statements regarding 1874 had appeared when the magazine was called The Watch Tower. If that truly was the writers intend, it must be seen as deliberately misleading. Nor it is a fair comment, since The Watchtower refers to its older magazines collectively as The Watchtower. For instance The Watchtower 1936 p.382 says "It was about that date  that the second presence of the Lord began to be considered in the pages of The Watchtower, which since then until now has been the means of communicating truth to those who love the Lord."
 God's Kingdom on a Thousand Years Has Approached p.209 states the understanding of 1874 changed in 1943. Although 1874 ceased being a millennium marker in 1943, the reasoning that changing "the six thousand years ... did away with the year 1874 C.E. as the date of return of the Lord Jesus Christ" is quite dishonest, since 1874 had already been changed to 1914 in 1930.
In the 1920's, the Watchtower was teaching that Jesus presence started in 1874.
"Bible prophecy shows that the Lord was due to appear for the second time in the year 1874. Fulfilled prophecy shows beyond a doubt that he did appear in 1874. Fulfilled prophecy is otherwise designated the physical facts; and these facts are indisputable." Watchtower 1922 Nov 1 p.333
"The Scriptural proof is that the second presence of the Lord Jesus Christ began in 1874 A.D." Prophecy 1929 pp.65,66
The 30th April 1930 Golden Age first presented that Jesus rulership started in 1914. ("The end of the world would therefore mean the arriving of the time when Satan's rule would be disputed by Christ, whose right it is to rule. That period of 2520 years ended in the fall of 1914." p.505) This was discussed again in the 1931 booklet, The Kingdom, the Hope of The World and then the Watchtower in 1932.
"In 1914 Jehovah placed is royal Son upon his holy hill in Zion..." Watchtower 1932 Nov 1 p.325
What is Truth? made clear that the Second Coming had shifted to 1914.
"The prophecy of the Bible, fully supported by the physical facts in fulfilment thereof, shows that the second coming of Christ dates from the fall of the year 1914." What is Truth? (1932) p.48
This was clarified in the 1933 Watchtower.
"The year 1914, therefore, marks the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of glory." Watchtower 1933 Dec 1 p.362
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2016