How 1919 is Derived
Portentous emphasis is placed on 1919, this being the year that Jesus is said to have chosen Watchtower and its Governing Body to represent him on earth. Yet, the minimal Scriptural backing Watchtower uses to support this year is both flimsy and illogical.
1919 is described as a time of spiritual deliverance, the year the Watchtower Governing Body were appointed as the faithful slave.
“The faithful and discreet slave” was appointed over Jesus’ domestics in 1919. That slave is the small, composite group of anointed brothers serving at world headquarters during Christ’s presence who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food. When this group work together as the Governing Body, they act as “the faithful and discreet slave.” jw.org 2012 Annual Meeting Report
"Similarly, starting in 1919, Jehovah brought forth the seed of the woman as a spiritual nation." Revelation - It's Grand Climax (re) p.184
"His eye has been upon them constantly since their spiritual deliverance in 1919." Watchtower 1994 Mar 1 p.17
Is there Scriptural support that the year 1919 holds prophetic significance? The basis to arrive at 1919 relies almost entirely on Revelation chapter 11. Revelation 11 describes "two witnesses," a period of 1260 days, a period of 3 1/2 days, and finally great fear for the nations.
"3 I will cause my two witnesses to prophesy for 1,260 days dressed in sackcloth.” ...
7 the wild beast that ascends out of the abyss will wage war with them and conquer them and kill them. ...
9 And those of the peoples and tribes and tongues* and nations will look at their corpses for three and a half days ...
11 After the three and a half days, spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell upon those who saw them.
The following outlines the steps Watchtower uses to justify why Revelation 11 applies to itself and Jesus' selection of its Governing Body in 1919. The bullet points identifying how each is a failure in logic. (Note that some of this reasoning changed in 2013, which will be discussed later.)
- The "two witnesses" are supposed to parallel with the Faithful and Discreet Slave.
- Revelation 11 is the first mention of the two witnesses, and Watchtower matter of factly claims they parallel the faithful slave of Matthew. There is no reason for such a link, other than wishful thinking.
- 1914 is not Scripturally supported as the start of Jesus heavenly reign, a topic in its own right.
- Jesus rulership was said to have commenced in October 1914, but the 42 months/1260 days are said to have started in December. There was no explanation for the two month difference. This is simply overlooked, as Watchtower attempts to align a period of history that does not fit.
- 1260 days, 3 1/2 years or 42 months are all based on a 360 day lunar calendar, yet Watchtower applies it to a solar calendar.
- The 1260 days of Revelation 11 is said to be a literal 42 months, but the 3 1/2 days from the same passage is said to be figurative of 9 months. (3 1/2 years = 3 1/2 years … 3 1/2 days = 9 months)
"There were truly great convulsions in the realm of religion. The ground seemed to move under the leaders of the established churches as this body of revivified Christians got to work." re p.170
- The release of Rutherford from jail was irrelevant to most people, and it can hardly be said that the result was that "great fear fell upon those beholding them." (Rev 11:11)
"Anointed Christians who survived the testing period of 1914-19 were freed from the dominating influence of the world and from many Babylonish religious practices. The remnant went forward as a cleansed and refined people, willingly offering sacrifices of praise to God and having the assurance that they as a people were acceptable to him." Watchtower 1998 May 15 p.17
"In 1919 the cleansed slave class could look forward to ever-expanding activities." Watchtower 1993 May 1 p.16
- There is no reason to think the release from prison of the Watchtower directors should indicate that Jesus had chosen them as his Faithful Slave. When they left prison, they continued preaching exactly the same doctrine as before prison, including the same falsehoods, such as that the end would arrive in 1925.
- Does anyone really believe that what happened to Jehovah's Witnesses in 1922, a period no one is alive to remember, is fulfilment of Revelation prophecy?
Not a single step in the process above that is used to arrive at 1919 is at all compelling, most of the reasoning is in fact illogical or of no basis.
The following table is taken from the Ministerial Training School notes conducted during the mid 2000's.
In 2013, this teaching was simplified by removing 1918 from the equation.
"To settle that question, Jesus began to inspect the spiritual temple in 1914. That inspection and cleansing work involved a period of time—from 1914 to the early part of 1919. ... Endnotes:... Paragraph 6:  This is an adjustment in understanding. Previously, we thought that Jesus’ inspection took place in 1918." (Watchtower 2013 Jul 15 pp.11,14)
The article explains that since Jesus cleansed the temple twice, it shows an ongoing cleansing work between 1914 and 1919. However, this does nothing to clarify why 1919 has any Scriptural relevance, as no backing is given to support how long the cleansing would be for.>
Watchtower 2014 Nov 15 conjoins the 1260 days with the 3 1/2 days to arrive at 1919.
"How long did this inspection and cleansing take place. It extended from 1914 to the early part of 1919. This period of time includes both the 1,260 days (42 months) and the symbolic three and a half days referred to in Revelation chapter 11." Watchtower 2014 Nov 15 p.30
This is nonsense, since Watchtower presents the 1260 days as literal, but the 3 1/2 days as symbolic, yet adds them together to support the period of time from 1914 to 1919. The timeline graphically highlights the discrepancy by a multiple of 75 in the time frame of the figurative 3 1/2 days and literal 1,260 days.
The timeline does not provides a specific start and end date for the 1260 days, because they do not align with any specific occurrence, as detailed at 1260 days.
Watchtower has greatly simplified its publications in the twenty-first century, and the effort it makes to justify 1919 is a case in point. The 2018 publication Pure Worship of Jehovah - Restored at Last! devotes a section to providing "evidence" that "God's people" were chosen in 1919.
The book Pure Worship claims there is Biblical and Historical evidence behind the 1919 doctrine, yet no effort is made to present any Biblical reasoning for the year 1919, and the historical evidence is quaint at most.
What Happened in 1919
Watchtower's other line of reasoning to support 1919 is historical, with the claim that it proved itself to have been chosen by Jesus as the only "clean" organization representing him.
Watchtower teaches the group went into Babylonish captivity between 1914 and 1918. This culminated with the directors of The Watch Tower Society being sent to prison.
"Modern historical evidence shows that during the world war of 1914-1918 the dedicated, baptized anointed remnant of Jehovah's Christian witnesses were brought into Babylonish captivity." Watchtower 1972 Dec 1 pp.724-725
Shortly after this, members of the Society’s administrative staff were arrested, and on June 21, 1918, they were sentenced to 20-year prison terms. The preaching of the good news came to a virtual standstill. Jehovah's Witnesses-Proclaimers of God's Kingdom p.211
In 1919, Jehovah released them.
"1919 The Society’s officers and associates are released on bail, on March 26;" Jehovah's Witnesses-Proclaimers of God's Kingdom p.720
"Comparably, after a Babylonish captivity, the anointed remnant was delivered in 1919, and under the guidance of God's spirit, the once desolate "soil" of spiritual Israel has been cleansed." Watchtower 1988 Sep 15 p.15
The reason Jehovah supported the Watchtower leaders, as "proven" by their released, is because they were cleansed, wholly theocratic, and providing spiritual food.
"This was especially seen during the World War I period. Jehovah, however, has cleansed his organization, and made it wholly theocratic." Watchtower 1971 Jul 15 p.437
“‘On arriving’ to inspect the ‘slave’ in 1918, Christ found a spirit-anointed remnant of faithful disciples who since 1879 had been using this journal [the Watchtower] and other Bible-based publications to provide spiritual ‘food at the proper time.’ He acknowledged them as his collective instrument, or ‘slave,’ and in 1919 entrusted them with the management of all his earthly belongings.” Watchtower 2007 Apr 1 p.22
There is absolutely no basis to any of these statements. There is no evidence of a selection by Jesus and no cleansing of doctrine. They still used the cross, celebrated birthdays and Christmas, and followed a body of doctrine vastly different to today.
If Jesus did inspect Watchtower in 1919, what he found was not a cleansed organisation teaching truth, rather his inspection would have revealed a group promoting that:
- The "Last Days" started in 1799 and the 1800s were the worst time period of all history
- Jesus presence commenced in 1874
- Jesus had begun ruling in 1878
- Armageddon had occurred in 1914
- Blood was acceptable as food for Christians
- Jesus should be prayed to and worshipped, as well as Jehovah
- The Great Crowd were a heavenly class
- Birthdays and Christmas were acceptable celebrations
- The cross was on the cover of the Watchtower
- Teachings adapted from 1800's religious preachers and the Adventist movement, such as that pyramids and astrology supported 1914
- Strong Zionist support for a new nation of Israel in fulfilment of Bible prophecy
- The Faithful and Discreet Slave was not the anointed, but rather Pastor Russell
By current standards, in 1919 Watchtower was very much an apostate organization.
Watchtower points to three highlights during this period - the release of the book The Finished Mystery in 1917, the lecture Millions Now Living Will Never Die in 1918 and subsequent brochure, and the periodic journal The Golden Age in 1919.
“In the latter half of 1917 the faithful forefront preachers of the ‘discreet slave’ class energetically took up distribution of TheFinished Mystery, for within seven months the Society’s outside printers were busy on the 850,000 edition. ‘The sale of the Seventh Volume is unparalleled by the sale of any other book known, in the same length of time, excepting the Bible.’” Watchtower 1955 Apr 1 p.206
"1918 The discourse “The World Has Ended — Millions Now Living May Never Die” is first delivered, on February 24, in Los Angeles, California. On March 31, in Boston, Massachusetts, the talk is entitled “The World Has Ended — Millions Now Living Will Never Die”" Jehovah's Witnesses-Proclaimers of God's Kingdom p.719
"A highly significant step toward correcting this situation was taken in 1919 when the magazine The Golden Age began publication. This was to become a powerful instrument for publicizing the Kingdom of God as the only lasting solution to the problems of mankind." Jehovah's Witnesses-Proclaimers of God's Kingdom p.212
All three of these publications are shocking for a Jehovah’s Witnesses to read today.
The Finished Mystery needs to be read to be believed, as it is the low point in Watchtower publications, with the doctrine it promoted now rejected almost in entirety. Second hand copies can still be found for sale online, or scanned versions can be downloaded from archive.org/details/TheFinishedMystery. The title page claims it to be "The posthumous work of Pastor Russell," though it was written by Woodworth and Fisher and authorized for publication by Rutherford.
Teachings from this book include that the last days started in 1799, Jesus second coming was 1874, and that in 1918 the churches would fall and the anointed raised to heaven. It was said that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, whilst the rider of the white horse is the Pope. The glory of the angel of Revelation 18:1 refers to modern discoveries such as correspondence schools, celluloid, Divine Plan of the Ages, talking machines, vacuum cleaners, induction motors, pasteurization, Panama Canal, shoe sewing machines, subways, skyscrapers, Roentgen rays and Leviathan is the locomotive. The size of the Great pyramid confirms the harvest had begun, and the distance from the place where The Finished Mystery was produced in Scranton to its shipping destination New York City was predicted by Revelation 14:20.
The main focus of Millions Now Living Will Never Die was presentation of the teaching that the end would arrive in 1925, with Abraham being resurrected onto earth in that year. This is discussed in detail at 1925 - Millions Now Living Will Never Die.
The Golden Age, of which Woodworth was editor, was filled with an incredible amount of inaccurate pop science and childish doctrine, some of which is quoted at Medical Advice.
None of these journals presented cleansed spiritual food, but rather fanciful doctrine and lies that are dismissed by the 21st century Governing Body.
Whilst Watchtower spins the jailing of Rutherford and his associates as "Babylonish" captivity, the reason they were jailed was for sedition. The Finished Mystery vilified other religions and encouraged sedition against the United States government.
"In Shaffer v. United States (9th Cir. 1919), the defendant was found guilty of possessing and mailing copies of the book, The Finished Mystery , which contained the passage, “standing opposite to these Satan has placed [a] certain delusion which is best described by the word patriotism, but which is in reality murder, the spirit of the very devil. [If] you say it is a war of defense against wanton and intolerable aggression, I must reply that [it] has yet to be proved that Germany has any intention or desire of attacking us. [The] war itself is wrong. Its prosecution will be a crime. There is not a question raised, an issue involved, a cause at stake, which is worth the life of one blue-jacket on the sea or one khaki-coat in the trenches.” The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that “the service may be obstructed by attacking the justice of the cause for which the war is waged, and by undermining the spirit of loyalty which inspires men to enlist or to register for conscription in the service of their country” (Stone)." academic.evergreen.edu (As of June 2007)
"After their trialsome period of 1917-1919, Jehovah’s people subjected themselves to scrutiny. Realizing that they had acted in ways that did not meet with God’s approval, they sought forgiveness in prayer repenting of their former course. This led to Jehovah’s forgiveness and blessing. One compromise had been the cutting of pages from The Finished Mystery, this to please those who had assumed the position of censor. Another occurred when The Watch Tower of June 1, 1918, stated: "In accordance with the resolution of Congress of April 2nd, and with the proclamation of the President of the United States of May 11, it is suggested that the Lord’s people everywhere make May 30th a day of prayer and supplication." Subsequent comments lauded the United States and did not harmonize with the Christian position of neutrality." Yearbook 1975 p.119
The Finished Mystery quote above was page 251 of the 1917 edition. Rather than stand fast to its beliefs and principles, Watchtower meekly followed the United States governmental ordered to remove pages 247 to 254 from The Finished Mystery.
In the 1918 edition, the section covering the sub-heading “Out of the mouth of the dragon” was reduced from 5 pages to 1 paragraph. Click here for a PDF scan of the pages from the 1917 edition that were removed from the 1918 edition.
Watchtower was not imprisoned for preaching truth about God’s Kingdom; it was for taking side in politics. Their release was equally a violation of their principles, a result of complying with the government order to change what they had printed. Neither action showed them to be spiritually cleansed.
Watchtower has been strongly critical of followers that left during this period, and spent almost a century describing them as the "evil slave class.” (Note: the doctrine of whom the evil slave class changed in 2013)
"The modern-day history of Jehovah's witnesses shows that attempts have been made by some, making up an "evil slave" class, to assume control over Jehovah's work and his people." Watchtower 1971 Jul 15 p.437
Many Watchtower followers left during this the period after 1914, recognising Watchtower as a false prophet, falsely teaching that the New System would arrive in 1914.
Prominent members removed themselves from the organisation as well, taking offence at the leadership of Rutherford.
"Following Brother Russell’s death, some who had been prominently associated with the organization fell away." Jehovah's Witnesses-Proclaimers of God's Kingdom p.257
After the death of Russell, Rutherford took control of The Watch Tower Society. In his will, Russell had outlined a list of 5 recommended names for the Editorial Committee. ("Will and Testament of Charles Taze Russell" Watchtower 1915 Dec 1 reprints p.5999) Despite not being on this preferred list, Rutherford took leadership, and enforced this through a legal battle against the other directors.
Rutherford went on to commission the printing of The Finished Mystery without obtaining the permission of the directors, as required by the Watchtower charter.
"At noon, July 17, 1917, this book was released at the Bethel dining room table. As Brother Russell had been accustomed to do, Brother Rutherford gave a present of this book to each member of the Bethel family. It came as a bombshell. Completely surprised by its release, the opposing members of the board of directors immediately seized upon this issue and made it the occasion of a five-hour controversy over the administration of the Society's affairs." Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose p.70
Watchtower has used the term evil slave to vilify those followers that could not in good conscience align themselves with an organisation that have proven itself to be a false prophet, and attack the directors that could not align themselves with its new leader that aggressively took control and introduced new doctrine that were far fetched, law breaking, and are even more embarrassing to read today.
The period 1914 to 1919 is the low point of their history, yet now described as the time that Jesus chose them to lead his organisation. 1914 had proven to be false prophecy, with not a single prediction for that year taking place. In 1916, the founder, Pastor Russell, died and Rutherford took leadership in a hostile takeover embroiled in legal battles. From there he launched a platform to dramatically change the religion over the next two decades.
It should be a matter of grave concern for each of Jehovah's Witnesses that the underlying doctrine for 1919, the year so key to their leadership's authoritarian claims, rests on such baseless Scriptural and historical manipulation.
The most comprehensive book outlining the early history of Watchtower is Apocalypse Delayed-The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses, by Professor M. James Penton.
Written 2013. Latest update October 2018.
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2021