In other posts, we have postulated that the start of WWI in 1914 was a coincidence. After all, if you speculate on enough dates—which we did in Russell’s day, albeit with the best of intentions—you are bound to get lucky every once in a while. Therefore, the start of the Great War was merely an unfortunate happenstance for us as it reinforced an erroneous interpretation of Scripture.
Or was it?
In a private chat with Junachin, I was introduced to another possibility. If the war had come in 1913 or 1915, perhaps we would have seen the folly of disregarding Acts 1:6,7 early on and we would have been spared the errors of 1925, 1975, and the multiple misinterpretations that forced us to consider 1918, 1919, 1922, and others as prophetically significant dates. This flirtation with numerology has caused us no end of grief. Certainly Jehovah wouldn’t have led us down this path. Certainly our God would not have caused us so much needless embarrassment over the past century or so.
Now consider this from another perspective. If you’re Jehovah’s arch enemy and you see his servants deviating even slightly from the righteous path due to human imperfection, would you not do everything in your power to encourage them? We say that Satan is responsible for the Great War. It would have started in almost any case because the political pump was primed, but the timing is very suspicious. Did it not start on the flimsiest of events, the assassination of a minor nobleman? And even that attempt failed. The eventual success of the assassination was only made possible by the most uncanny of coincidences. We even speculate in our publications that Satan was responsible for it. Of course, we assume that Satan was just a dupe, forced to give us historical confirmation of an invisible heavenly event due to his rage at being ousted from heaven.
The trouble with that interpretation of events is that it only flies if we can support 1914 from Scripture, which we cannot. (See “Was 1914 the Start of Christ’s Presence?”) All Satan had to do was give us a really big, in fact, unprecedented historical event to light the fires of speculation. Like Job, it could be that we’ve been tested by events whose origin we falsely attribute to Jehovah, but which result in a test of faith in any case.
We had many, many date-based predictions and interpretations prior to 1914. We eventually had to abandon them all, because the reality of history failed to meet up with our expectations. Even with 1914, we failed, but the war was such a big event that we were able to redefine our fulfillment. We went from 1914 being Christ’s visible return at the great tribulation to his invisible return in kingly power. There was no way to disprove that, now was there? It was invisible. In fact, it was only in 1969 that we stopped teaching that the great tribulation began in 1914. By then, 1914 was so entrenched in our collective psyche that changing the great tribulation to a future fulfillment had no impact on our acceptance that we were living in the presence of the Son of man.
Since we ‘got it right’ with 1914, could we perhaps double down and predict other hidden dates, like when the resurrection of the righteous would begin (1925) or when the end would come (1975), or how long the last days would run (“this generation”)? However, if 1914 had been a complete misfire; if nothing had happened in that year to support our predictions; it may be that we would have wised up early on and been the better for it. At the very least, we would have been far more careful with our date-based predictions. But that is not how things turned out and we have paid the price. It is now very safe to say that the sanctification of Jehovah’s name did not benefit from our many foolish mistakes nor from our disregard for the clearly stated Scriptural injunction against trying to know “the times and seasons that Jehovah has put in his own jurisdiction”.
It is also safe to say that there is one who has surely taken great delight in our self-inflicted misfortunes.