Transcript of OnionUnlimited podcast episode 004
HELLO AND WELCOME TO EPISODE 4 OF ONIONUNLIMITED—THE PODCAST. I’m your host Daniel Torridon. Last time we looked at Russell’s chronology and his big prediction, presented as “God’s date”, for Armageddon to occur in 1914. It never happened—it was a failed prediction—and that I feel, made him a false prophet. Russell died in 1916 and as the 1920s came and went, still with no sign of Armageddon, the dates of 1799, 1874, and 1878 were quietly retired, and 1914 was backdated as the new start date for everything end-time related.
So in 1929, under the leadership of Russell’s successor, Joseph Franklin Rutherford, the “last days” were changed from 1799 to 1914. The following year in 1930 Jesus’ presence was moved from 1874 to 1914 where it has remained since. Meanwhile, between 1922 and 1927, Jesus’ enthronement as King was altered from 1878 to 1914, and the heavenly resurrection of those “sleeping in Christ” was shifted from 1878 to 1918. So everything was now hinged on 1914-1918. In every instance, the events associated with these advent-related dates were to be perceived with “eyes of faith”, with “little or no outward signs” to go on. It was all invisible, and this has continued on down to today.
Jehovah’s Witnesses today, of course, believe in a bunch of things tied to 1914, none of which have any solid, visible, historic proof other than what the organisation has ascribed to them. For example, Jesus’ presence is said to have begun in 1914. Proof? There was a World War going on—”evidence”, supposedly, that Satan had been thrown down to the earth. But that could equally be said for the 1939-45 war which was way more destructive. Interestingly, the Witnesses say that Satan was thrown down to the earth sometime after October 1914—Jesus’ supposed enthronement date—but the first World War started in July. So even that doesn’t fit. There’s absolutely no proof that the dead were resurrected to heaven in 1918, and as for the last days beginning in 1914—well, we’re now 107 years past that date and the world—as far as I can tell—is still here. In some ways it’s worse, in some ways it’s better. An honest review of the Watch Tower’s dates shows them to be just made-up nonsense, nothing more, nothing less.
Back in 1914, those who had rightly highlighted the seeming unimportance of Watch Tower’s failed dates were never given credit for being correct. The Bible Students had been so certain that the literal end of Satan’s world would occur in 1914 that they had shouted it from the rooftops. But, embarrassingly, it never happened. Their predictions failed miserably and the critics were proved right, and yet they continued to be renounced as “scoffers”, wicked apostates.
In response to their predictions being found false, Rutherford simply revised the interpretation of why 1914 was significant. So, instead of it being the end of Satan’s system it became the beginning of the end—if that makes sense—the start of the “last days”, and then he set about updating the Bible Students’ expectations for the date of Armageddon which would, obviously, now be a future event.
By 1920, Rutherford had begun to predict incredible things for 1925. The next old publication I read when I was waking up was Millions Now Living Will Never Die published in 1920. In it, Rutherford declared that 1925 would be a “jubilee year” (calculated as 50 years since 1874-5) and that it would see the resurrection from the dead of the “faithful worthies”, Bible characters such as Abraham, Moses, and others.
Now just think about that. Rutherford was predicting something that, if it happened, would be an amazing proof that God was working through the Watch Tower organisation. But if it failed, it would be equally disastrous. Rutherford would be seen to be just another false prophet. There was nothing discreet or tentative about Rutherford’s resurrection prediction. It was published as an absolute surety. It was stated in Millions Now Living Will Never Die that the “Scriptures definitely fix the fact that there will be a resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and other faithful ones of old” and that “we may expect 1925 to witness the return of these… men… from the condition of the dead… the new order is coming in,” he wrote, “and… 1925 shall mark the resurrection of the faithful worthies of old…”
As 1925 neared, Rutherford started to back-pedal on his predictions, warning the Bible Students that not everything may come to pass in 1925 as expected. Of course, once again, absolutely nothing happened, and yet still the “scoffers”—as they liked to call them—were again criticised by the Bible Students as lacking faith., but in what? There was nothing to have faith in.
By now, the Bible Students had predicted the “end of the harvest”—the gathering of the “anointed”—and the extent of Satan’s world for a number of specific dates: 1878, 1881, 1914, then the beginning of 1915, 1918, and finally 1925. In each case either nothing happened, or in the case of 1914 something entirely different happened. Surely, it could be forgiven when ones questioned whether Russell and Rutherford were genuinely speaking for God?
The 1928 publication entitled The Seven Thunders of Millennial Dawn by B H Shadduck critiqued Russell and Rutherford, posing the perfectly reasonable question: “After Russell and Rutherford both failed to make the years go through their hoop, why does the show keep advertising them?” and then citing Deuteronomy 18 verse 22: “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.”
Russel and Rutherford were being exposed as false prophets and for good reason. They’d presumed to speak “in the name of the Lord” but the things they’d prophesied had not “come to pass”. Their prophecies had proved false, therefore, by the Bible’s standard, they were false prophets. Yet these were supposedly the men God had chosen to found and lead his modern-day organisation.
Throughout the 1920s and into the 1940s, Rutherford changed the Watch Tower organisation beyond recognition. No longer just a group of Bible students wishing to understand God’s plan, Watch Tower became a full-blown religion, taking on the name “Jehovah’s witnesses” in 1931.
Prior to this time, the Watch Tower had claimed that a repudiation of Russell’s teachings was “equivalent to a repudiation of the Lord”, God himself. Yet now Rutherford was repudiating everything Russell had ever taught‚not just dates, but doctrines.
From 1925 he began to teach that Armageddon was a universal war waged by God rather than Russell’s belief that it was simply the decline of human society.
By 1927 he had discarded the idea that Russell had been the “faithful and discreet slave” of Matthew chapter 24 enabling him to introduce new ideas without criticism. Christmas was soon abolished, then Mother’s Day, then birthdays. Russell’s teaching that the Great Pyramid of Giza was built under God’s direction was dropped and Rutherford began saying it had been built by Satan. In 1935 he introduced the idea of the “great crowd”, effectively creating a two-class system of Christians—some going to heaven, others remaining on the earth.
In 1936 Rutherford declared that baptized witnesses who saluted the flag were breaking their covenant with God and were “guilty of death”, and then in the same year, He rejected the belief that Jesus had been executed on a cross, in favour of an upright stake or “tree.”
Rutherford died in 1942. He never saw Armageddon, or the rapture, or the resurrection of the “faithful worthies”. His prophecies had failed as surely as had the predictions of those who went before him. He, like Russell, was a false prophet.
Thank you for listening. Join me next time as I take a look at 1975 and the “generation that would by no means pass away”, but did.