THE GOVERNING BODY OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES IS IN A REAL PICKLE. It’s dug itself into a massive hole. The digging started way back when Charles Taze Russell started teaching that Christ’s invisible “presence” had begun in 1874 and prophesied that Armageddon would be done and dusted by 1914. When that didn’t happen, the Bible Students as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known had to find a way to explain why 1914 was the right date, but the wrong expectations.
Charles Taze Russell’s successor, J F Rutherford did this in 1929 when he moved Jesus’ presence and all its associated events from 1874 to 1914. Then he shifted Armageddon to no later than 1925. He’d bought some time and his doomsday cult could carry on for a while longer. Unfortunately, 1925 came and went without the end of the world as we know it, so the date of Armageddon had to be kicked further down the road. And so it was that 1925 was swapped out for 1975 and later—when that also failed to produce Armageddon—sometime “within our 20th century” was floated as the new end-point. But Armageddon was always going to come within “this generation”, referring to the original 1914 date which they still clung to as the start of Jesus’ presence.
By 1995, when the 1914 generation were over 80 years old, and no doubt in an effort to cover their arses if the end didn’t come within 4-5 years, the governing body totally changed their “generation” teaching. For the next 13 years, they taught that the generation was just “worldly” people, with no time limit assigned to the coming of Armageddon. Then in 2008, they changed it again to be anointed Christians living during the “time of the end”—but still with no apocalyptic deadline.
Note: Due to a change in 2007, where the governing body suddenly claimed the heavenly calling hadn’t ended in 1935 as previously taught, the “urgency” that had been present since 1874 seemed to evaporate overnight. The governing body was forced to make the 2007 change because it had to explain why its own members, all supposedly anointed, were getting younger, but it left them with a “generation” teaching with no end-point—not good for a doomsday cult! So in 2010, they changed it again. This time they came up with the convoluted explanation that we now refer to as the “overlapping generation”.
Over the next few years, the new “generation” teaching was ”clarified” (to use a Watchtower phrase), culminating in 2014 with David Splane pointing to a chart with a big stick. Sorted. The governing body could breathe a sigh of relief. They’d bought some time for sure, but they’d also reintroduced a sense of urgency. Panic over. Except all they’ve done is delay the inevitable again.
As I’ve explained in a previous podcast if the “overlapping generation” doctrine was true, Armageddon would have to arrive by 2034—assuming the age that the “overlappers” were anointed and died at was anything like reasonable. You could if you really had to, stretch the date out to 2054 without it being too ridiculous. You might even be able to push it until 2074 if you went with God anointing people at a really young age and them living well past 100 years old, but I reckon somewhere around 2040 people would start asking serious questions.
However you look at it, the governing body has backed itself into a corner. As it stands, their authority is based entirely upon the idea that a) Jesus’ returned invisibly in 1914 and b) he appointed them as his “faithful and discreet slave” in 1919. These two dates are the way that the current governing body has been able to jettison Charles Taze Russell & Co. as the “slave” in an effort to avoid answering embarrassing questions about the organisation’s very early history. It’s also how they have been able to effectively silence all other anointed ones—including even the apostles—and get 8.5 million Jehovah’s Witnesses focusing on just them as God’s sole channel of truth on earth.
But their newfound notoriety comes at a price. By nailing their “invisible appointment” to the proximity of Jesus’ presence in 1914—namely 1919—and by claiming Armageddon will come within an “overlapping generation” they’ve made it so that if their prediction fails again they’re kind of stuck. If that happens—and it will—they will have no scriptural basis to move Jesus’ invisible presence to another date. If they are forced to drop their silly 607/1914 doctrine—which is easily disproved with just one Bible verse, namely Jeremiah 25:12—they will have no other date to pin Jesus’ presence on, at least not using their usual number-crunching approach of “a time, times, and half a time”—times two. They could, I guess, say that WW2, which broke out in 1939, was when the “sign of Jesus’ presence” began, and maybe they could claim their predecessors were appointed as his “slave” a few years after that, but they wouldn’t be able to pinpoint these dates using any of the numerical gymnastics they’ve become famous for.
Eventually, maybe in the next 10 years or so—and definitely within the next 30 to 50 years—the claims that a) Jesus’ presence started in 1914, b) they were appointed as his “faithful and discreet slave” in 1919, and c) Armageddon will come within “this (overlapping) generation” will be clearly seen as wrong. At that point, the governing body will need to come up with yet another interpretation of Scripture—but what? To be honest I think they’ve run out of options. If they were to axe 1914, what could they realistically swap it out for?
What the governing body needs is a way out of the mess they’ve got themselves into, and I think I have a solution for them. What they need is another World War, larger than any previous wars, followed by the usual food shortages and pestilences that accompany a global conflict, and preferably one or two big earthquakes thrown in for good measure. An attack on religion en mass would also be useful. If these things happened a smiley member of the governing body could go on JW Broadcasting and state the revealing of “new truth” as follows:
- Our predecessors were wrong about 1914, 1918, and 1919, but you can’t blame them because World War I was a pretty big thing at the time;
- Our predecessors were just “eager” (not presumptuous) when they claimed they were the “faithful and discreet slave”;
- Jesus’ presence has only just begun—look at the wars, earthquakes, food shortages, pestilences, and religious upheaval;
- We have only just been appointed as Jesus’ “slave”, but we’ve been proving ourselves faithful and discreet for many years so you can trust us.
This solution would allow the governing body of the future to reset all their previous predictions and roll back to the original idea that Armageddon will come within “this generation”, and not a ridiculously long generation either—no, a generation of just 70 or 80 years—which would be short enough to create a new sense of urgency, but long enough to allow time for themselves to die so they won’t have to worry about the next time their predictions fail miserably—which they will.
Alternatively, they could just do a runner with the billions of dollars the organisation has in its “not for profit” coffers. Let me know in the comments what you think the governing body should do as it becomes increasingly clear that their 1914 teaching is a load of old twaddle.