This is the first in a series of posts investigating the impact of removing 1914 as a factor in the interpretation of Bible prophecy. We are using the Revelation Climax book as the basis for this study because of all the books covering Bible prophecy, it has the most references to 1914—103 to be precise, which underscores the importance we give to that year.
Before going further, there is a Scripture we should consider:
(1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21) . . .Do not treat prophesyings with contempt. 21 Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine.
In this and future posts, we are going to be dissecting our interpretation of many prophecies that we have linked to 1914. While these interpretations are not prophecies in themselves, they do come from a highly respected source. We do not wish to treat such teaching concerning Bible prophecy with contempt. That would not be fitting. However, we are commanded by Jehovah to “make sure of what is fine.” Therefore, we have to investigate. If we feel that there is a misapplication and we cannot find Scriptural support for our official interpretation of a prophecy, we have an obligation to reject it. After all, we are also commanded to “hold fast to what is fine.” The implies letting go or rejecting what is not fine. This is what we shall endeavour to accomplish.
Therefore, let us start with the first occurrence of 1914 in the Revelation Climax book. We find it in chapter 4, page 18, paragraph 4. Referring to Jesus, it says, “In 1914 he was installed as King to rule among the earthly nations.” It quotes Psalms 2:6-9 which reads:
“6 [Saying:] “I, even I, have installed my king upon Zion, my holy mountain.” 7 Let me refer to the decree of Jehovah; He has said to me: “You are my son; I, today, I have become your father. 8 Ask of me, that I may give nations as your inheritance And the ends of the earth as your own possession. 9 You will break them with an iron scepter, As though a potter’s vessel you will dash them to pieces.””
An interesting reference since it refers to an event that occurred not in 1914, but in 29 C.E., and then another which has yet to occur. Still, while this text does not prove that Jesus was installed as King in 1914, we will not get into this here as the topic of Jesus’ presence and its relationship to the year 1914 has been well covered in another post.
So let’s move to chapter 5 of the Revelation Climax book. This chapter opens with Rev. 1:10a “By inspiration I came to be in the Lord’s day.”
The obvious question for us now is, What is the Lord’s day?
Paragraph 3 concludes with this statement: “Since 1914, how remarkably events in this bloodstained earth have confirmed that year to be the start of the “day” of Jesus’ presence!”
As we’ve already seen, there is very strong Scriptural support for the conclusion that the presence of Christ is a future event. Be that as it may, what Scriptural evidence is presented in this chapter of the Revelation Climax book to support our contention that the Lord’s day begins in 1914? It starts in paragraph 2 with these words:
“2 In what time frame does this place the fulfillment of Revelation? Well, what is the Lord’s day? The apostle Paul refers to it as a time of judgment and of fulfillment of divine promises. (1 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 1:14; Philippians 1:6, 10; 2:16)”
The proof texts listed following this statement do indeed prove that the Lord’s day is a time of judgment and of the fulfillment of divine promises. However, do these texts point to 1914 as the year of such judgment and prophetic fulfillment?
(1 Corinthians 1:8) He will also make YOU firm to the end, that YOU may be open to no accusation in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We claim 1914 is the start of the last days, not the end. Enduring to the start does not mean salvation. Enduring to the end does. (Mt. 24:13)
(2 Corinthians 1:14) just as YOU have also recognized, to an extent, that we are a cause for YOU to boast, just as YOU will also be for us in the day of our Lord Jesus.
One doesn’t boast while the runner is still racing. One boasts when the race is run. The anointed of the last days hadn’t won the race in 1914. They’d barely started running. And they’ve continued running for almost a full century, with still no way of knowing when the end will come. When the end arrives, those still faithful—those who have endured to the end—will give cause for Paul to boast.
(Philippians 1:6) For I am confident of this very thing, that he who started a good work in YOU will carry it to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.
The work was not completed in 1914. That was almost 100 years ago. If the day of Jesus Christ is linked to the completion of the work, it must be a future event.
(Philippians 1:10) that YOU may make sure of the more important things, so that YOU may be flawless and not be stumbling others up to the day of Christ,
Notice he says “up to” not “during” the day of Christ. Was Paul only concerned about not stumbling others up to 1914? What about in the 98 years since then? Wouldn’t he want us to be flawless and not stumbling others right up to the very end?
(Philippians 2:16) keeping a tight grip on the word of life, that I may have cause for exultation in Christ’s day, that I did not run in vain or work hard in vain.
While this Scripture talks about being “in” Christ’s day, it still makes no sense if its fulfillment runs the course of a century or more.
Given that the foregoing tends more to disproving our teaching rather than shoring it up, is there anything else in chapter 5 that might help support 1914 as the start of the Lord’s day? Paragraph 3 discusses the 2,520 days from Daniel but since we’ve covered that elsewhere, let’s move on to see what paragraph 4 says:
“Hence, this first vision and the counsel it contains are for the Lord’s day, from 1914 onward. This timing is supported by the fact that, later in Revelation, the record describes the execution of god’s true and righteous judgments—events in which the Lord Jesus plays an outstanding part.”
It then lists five verses as support. Notice that these verses are advanced as support that the Lord’s day includes events from 1914 onward.
(Revelation 11:18) But the nations became wrathful, and your own wrath came, and the appointed time for the dead to be judged, and to give [their] reward to your slaves the prophets and to the holy ones and to those fearing your name, the small and the great, and to bring to ruin those ruining the earth.”
Isn’t this talking about Armageddon? Jehovah’s own wrath hasn’t come yet. The angels are still holding the four winds at bay. True, the nations were wrathful during the first world war. But they were also wrathful during the second world war. That wrath wasn’t directed at Jehovah. True, mankind has always been ruining the earth, but never as now. And as for the judgment of the dead, that has yet to occur. (See When Does the First Resurrection Occur?)
(Revelation 16:15) “Look! I am coming as a thief. Happy is the one that stays awake and keeps his outer garments, that he may not walk naked and people look upon his shamefulness.”
(Revelation 17:1) And one of the seven angels that had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying: “Come, I will show you the judgment upon the great harlot who sits on many waters,
(Revelation 19:2) because his judgments are true and righteous. For he has executed judgment upon the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication, and he has avenged the blood of his slaves at her hand.”
These three verses are clearly speaking of future events.
(Revelation 19:11) And I saw the heaven opened, and, look! a white horse. And the one seated upon it is called Faithful and True, and he judges and carries on war in righteousness.
For decades, we taught that the judgment on the sheep and goats was being carried on from 1914 onward. However, our newest understanding on this puts the judgment after the destruction of Babylon the great. (w95 10/15 p. 22 par. 25)
So all of these proof texts point to a future fulfillment. It again appears that there is support for the Lord’s day being a yet-future event, but no link to 1914.
Immediately following the listing of these five verses, paragraph 4 goes on to make a remarkable statement: “If the fulfillment of the first vision began in 1914…” The first vision concerns the seven first century congregations! How could its fulfillment begin in 1914?
Does the Lord’s Day Coincide with the Last Days?
We teach that the Lord’s day began in 1914, but we offer no Scriptural support for this statement. We acknowledge that the Lord’s day is a time of judgment and the fulfillment of divine promises and then provide Scriptures to support this, but all the proof points to a future fulfillment, not 1914. Nevertheless, we make the following assertion from the end of paragraph 3: “Since 1914, how remarkably events in this bloodstained earth have confirmed that year to be the start of the “day” of Jesus’ presence!—Matthew 24:3-14.”
We are here linking the Lord’s day to the fulfillment of last days prophecies. Notice, Matthew 24:3-14 does not make that link; we do. However, we provide no Scriptural support for it. For instance, if the Lord’s day coincides with Jehovah’s day, then it has to do with the end of the system of things, not events leading up to that end. All the Scriptural references we’ve reviewed thus far, taken from the Revelation Climax book, speak of events having to do with Jehovah’s day, the end of the system of things. They do not relate to the start of the last days, nor events that occur during the last days, but prior to the great tribulation.
Nevertheless, to be fair, we have to look at all the references in the Bible that relate to the Lord’s day before we can exclude 1914 and the last days as part of it. The ones we’ve reviewed so far point to the end of this system of things, but let’s consider the rest before drawing a final conclusion.
What is the Lord’s day?
Before we begin our analysis, we have to be clear on something. The name Jehovah does not appear in any surviving copy of the Greek Scriptures. Of the 237 occurrences of the divine name in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, only 78 or about one third are quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures. That leaves two thirds or 159 instances where we have inserted the divine name for other reasons. In each of those instances, the Greek word for “Lord” appears, and we have substituted Jehovah for that word. The “J” references in Appendix 1D of the NWT Reference Bible list the translations upon which we have based our decision. These are all recent translation from Greek to Hebrew, made with a view of converting Jews to Christianity.
Now we are not challenging the decision of the NWT translating committee to insert Jehovah’s name into the Greek Scriptures. Likely, we can agree that as Jehovah’s Witnesses, we enjoy reading the Greek Scriptures and finding the divine name there. However, that is beside the point. The fact is that we have inserted it in the aforementioned 159 instances on the basis of what is known as conjectural emendation. That means that based on conjecture—ergo, we believe the name was wrongfully removed—we are amending the translation to restore it back to what we believe was its original state.
In most cases this does not alter the meaning of the text. However, “Lord” is used to refer to both Jehovah and Jesus. How can we know which one is being referenced in a particular text? Would deciding to insert “Jehovah” in some instance while leaving “Lord” in others open the door to misinterpretation?
As we examine the usage of “Lord’s day” and “Jehovah’s day” in Scripture, let us keep in mind that in the Greek Scriptures, it is always “Lord’s day” in the oldest available manuscripts. (The NWT “J” references are translations, not manuscripts.)
Jehovah’s Day in the Hebrew Scriptures
The following is a list of every occurrence where “Jehovah’s day” or the “day of Jehovah” or some variant of this expression occurs in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Isaiah 13:6-16; Ezekiel 7:19-21; Joel 2:1, 2; Joel 2:11; Joel 2:30-32; Joel 3:14-17; Amos 5:18-20; Obadiah 15-17; Zephaniah 1:14-2:3; Malachi 4:5, 6
If you like, copy and paste this list into the search box in the Watchtower Library program on your computer. As you peruse the references, you will see that without exception “Jehovah’s day” refers to a time of war, despoiling, darkness, gloom, and destruction—in a word, Armageddon!
The Lord’s Day in the Greek Scriptures
In our theological understanding, we have linked the Lord’s day with Christ’s presence. The two terms are essentially synonymous to us. We believe his presence began in 1914 and climaxes at Armageddon. Apparently, his presence does not extend into nor include the 1,000 year reign which seems odd since his presence is his arrival in Kingly power which continues to the end of the 1,000 years. However, that’s a topic for another time. (it-2 p. 677 Presence; w54 6/15 p. 370 par. 6; w96 8/15 p. 12 par. 14) We also differentiate the Lord’s day from Jehovah’s day. We believe we are currently in the Lord’s day, but teach that Jehovah’s day comes when the system of things ends.
The foregoing is our official position. As we review all the scriptures that mention either or both expressions we will look for support for our official position. It is our belief that after reviewing all the evidence, you, the reader, will come to the following conclusions.
- The Lord’s day is the same as Jehovah’s day.
- The Lord’s day comes at the end of this system of things.
- Jesus’ presence comes at the end of this system of things.
- There is no Scriptural basis for linking 1914 to his presence nor his day.
What the Scriptures Actually Say
Listed below is every passage in the Greek Scriptures from the NWT that references either the presence of the Son of Man, the Lord’s day, or Jehovah’s day. Please read them all with these questions in mind.
- Does this Scripture connect the Lord’s day or the presence of Christ with 1914?
- Does this Scripture indicate that the Lord’s day or the presence of Christ runs concurrently with the last days?
- Does this Scripture make more sense if I think of the Lord’s day or the presence of Christ as synonymous with Jehovah’s day; i.e., referring to the great tribulation and Armageddon?
Lord’s Day and Jehovah’s Day Scriptures
(Matthew 24:42) . . .Keep on the watch, therefore, because YOU do not know on what day YOUR Lord is coming.
We predicted 1914 years ahead of time, so if the Lord’s day started then, how could it be “YOU do not know on what day YOUR Lord is coming”?
(Acts 2:19-21) . . .And I will give portents in heaven above and signs on earth below, blood and fire and smoke mist; 20 the sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and illustrious day of Jehovah arrives. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.”’
Jehovah’s day (Literally, “day of the Lord”) linked to end. (See Mt. 24:29, 30)
(1 Corinthians 1:7, 8) . . .so that YOU do not fall short in any gift at all, while YOU are eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will also make YOU firm to the end, that YOU may be open to no accusation in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The day of the Lord Jesus Christ is here linked with his revelation. The NWT cross references “revelation” with three other Scriptures: Luke 17:30; 2 Thess. 1:7; 1 Peter 1:7. Paste those into the WTLib program and you will see that it is not referring to a time like 1914 but rather his coming from heaven with his powerful angels—a future event.
(1 Corinthians 5:3-5) . . .I for one, although absent in body but present in spirit, have certainly judged already, as if I were present, the man who has worked in such a way as this, 4 that in the name of our Lord Jesus, when YOU are gathered together, also my spirit with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 YOU hand such a man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, in order that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
We understand ‘the spirit which is saved’ to be that of the congregation. However, salvation isn’t granted during the last days, but only at the time of judgment which comes at the end of the system of things. One is not saved in 1914, or 1944, or 1974 or 2004, but only at the end, the day of the Lord.
(2 Corinthians 1:14) 14 just as YOU have also recognized, to an extent, that we are a cause for YOU to boast, just as YOU will also be for us in the day of our Lord Jesus.
Imagine boasting in someone in 1914 only to watch him leave the truth 10 or 20 years later as has happened innumerable times. One can only boast when a faithful life course has been run to completion or collectively for all of us during a time of testing and judgment, such as the great tribulation represents.
(2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2) . . .However, brothers, respecting the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we request of YOU 2 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.
(1 Thessalonians 5:1-3) . . .Now as for the times and the seasons, brothers, YOU need nothing to be written to YOU. 2 For YOU yourselves know quite well that Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night. 3 Whenever it is that they are saying: “Peace and security!” then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them just as the pang of distress upon a pregnant woman; and they will by no means escape.
These two verses are excellent examples of the difficulty we face in deciding whether to insert “Jehovah” in the text , or leave it as “Lord”. 2 Thess. 2:1 clearly refers to the Lord Jesus and his presence, yet in verse 2 we change “Lord” to “Jehovah”. Why, when the context seems to indicate it is referring to the Lord’s day? If the presence of the Lord and the day of the Lord are concurrent and the context offers nothing to suggest we are talking about the day of Jehovah, why insert the divine name? The gathering together of the anointed occurs just before Armageddon, not throughout the last days. (Mt. 24:30; See also When Does the First Resurrection Occur?) Of course, if we did change it to “day of the Lord”, we’d have to explain how we are not in violation of the clear warning given in the verse by preaching 1914 as the year of the day of Jehovah (the Lord) is here.
As for 1 Thess. 5:1-3, it is clear we are talking about events associated with Jehovah’s day—distress and destruction. Yet, the expression “coming as a thief” is coopted by Jesus in at least three other verses where he is clearly talking about his arrival at the end of the system of things. (Luke 12:39,40; Rev. 3:3; Rev. 16:15, 16) So it would seem that leaving this text as “the Lord’s day” rather than inserting “Jehovah” would be closer to what the writer intended to communicate.
(2 Peter 3:10-13) . . .Yet Jehovah’s day will come as a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a hissing noise, but the elements being intensely hot will be dissolved, and earth and the works in it will be discovered. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought YOU to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion, 12 awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah, through which [the] heavens being on fire will be dissolved and [the] elements being intensely hot will melt! 13 But there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.
(Revelation 1:10) . . .By inspiration I came to be in the Lord’s day, . . .
The Presence of the Christ
(Matthew 24:3) . . .While he was sitting upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately, saying: “Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?”
They are not asking, ‘When will we know we are in the last days?’ They are asking to know what events will sign the approach of the destruction of the Jewish temple, the enthronement of Jesus (Acts 1:6) and the end of the system of things. Considering the presence of the Christ to be concurrent with the end of the system of things fits. They wanted a sign to know when the presence of Christ and the end of the system of things was near, not when it existed invisibly.
(Matthew 24:27) . . .For just as the lightning comes out of eastern parts and shines over to western parts, so the presence of the Son of man will be.
If the presence of Christ started in 1914, then this Scripture did not come true. Everyone sees the lightning, not just a small group of individuals who are in the know. Only if the presence is equivalent to the event described in Rev. 1:7 does this make sense.
(Revelation 1:7) . . .Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, and those who pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in grief because of him. Yes, Amen. . .
Isn’t it interesting that just three verses after speaking of “every eye seeing the Christ”, John says “By inspiration I came to be in the Lord’s day…”? (Rev. 1:10) Does the context lean toward a 1914 fulfillment of the Lord’s day, or something that happens when every eye sees him, just prior to Armageddon? (Mt. 24:30)
(Matthew 24:37-42) . . .For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. 38 For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; 39 and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned; 41 two women will be grinding at the hand mill: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned. 42 Keep on the watch, therefore, because YOU do not know on what day YOUR Lord is coming.
Here again, the day of the Lord is paired with the presence of the Christ. The ‘day our Lord is coming’ is something to watch out for, not something that already occurred. The presence of the Son of man is compared with Noah’s day. Noah lived over 600 years. What part of his life is being referred to as ‘his day’. Isn’t it the part where they took no note and he entered the ark and the flood took them all away? What corresponds to that? The past 100 years? Everyone that took no note in 1914 is dead! The modern-day equivalent of the flood hasn’t come yet. Applying this to 1914 just doesn’t fit. However, if we conclude that the presence corresponds to his taking up of Kingly power prior to Armageddon, then it fits perfectly and what is more, it harmonizes with the warning in verse 42.
(1 Corinthians 15:23, 24) . . .But each one in his own rank: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who belong to the Christ during his presence. 24 Next, the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has brought to nothing all government and all authority and power.
This covers a time period beginning in 33 C.E. and concluding at the end of the thousand years, so it doesn’t prove either argument regarding timing of events, only their sequence.
(1 Thessalonians 2:19) . . .For what is our hope or joy or crown of exultation—why, is it not in fact YOU?—before our Lord Jesus at his presence?
(1 Thessalonians 3:13) . . .to the end that he may make YOUR hearts firm, unblamable in holiness before our God and Father at the presence of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.
Do these two verses make more sense if we apply them 100 years ago, or if they are applied to a future fulfillment
(1 Thessalonians 4:15, 16) . . .For this is what we tell YOU by Jehovah’s word, that we the living who survive to the presence of the Lord shall in no way precede those who have fallen asleep [in death]; 16 because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first.
Matthew 24:30 indicates that the trumpet sounds and the chosen are gathered just prior to Armageddon. Is there anything that proves otherwise? Is there some Scripture that proves this happened in 1919?
There you have it. All the references in the Greek Scriptures to the Lord’s day, Jehovah’s day, and the presence of the Son of man. Looking at them without any preconceptions, can we honestly say there is support for the idea that the Lord’s day began in 1914, or that the presence of the Son of man began then? Is there anything to suggest that a time of judgment and destruction by God occurred in 1914?
If you have answered No to those questions, you might then wonder why it is that we teach this. It is hard to answer that with any certainty, but one possibility is that prior to 1914 we really did believe the end was coming in that year, so the Lord’s day and the presence of Christ were properly associated with what we believed would be the year the end of the system of things came. Then, when 1914 came and went and that didn’t happen, we changed our understanding to believe that the great tribulation had started in 1914 and would conclude, after a brief respite, in Armageddon. Having just come through the worst war in human history, that seemed like a plausible conclusion and it helped us save face. As the years went by, we kept re-evaluating 1914’s prophetic significance, but after so many years, it has become so invested in our theology that ripping it out now would be potentially catastrophic, so we no longer question its validity. It simply is a fact and everything else is viewed through that lens of credulity.
It is now up to each of us to prayerfully consider the Scriptural facts and, making sure of all things, to hold fast to what is fine.