[This article was contributed by Apollos]

(Acts 1:7) It does not belong to YOU to get knowledge of the times or seasons which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction;

(Galatians 1:10-12) For I put YOU on notice, brothers, that the good news which was declared by me as good news is not something human; 12 for neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught [it], except through revelation by Jesus Christ.

Just what is the Good News? According to Jehovah’s Witnesses it in no small part involves the setting up of the Messianic Kingdom in 1914, and the invisible presence of Jesus Christ commencing in that year.

Is this Good News from God? Or is it the alternative that Paul points to – “something human”?

The human eye is the second most complex organ in the body. In combination with the brain your ability to filter information is extraordinary. Did you know that your nose is constantly in your visual path? And yet, unless you are conscious of this, or make a specific effort to look at it, you are likely not even aware that it is in your field of vision.

Sometimes the power of the eye and the brain can work against us. We are designed to quickly recognize specific patterns such as another face or the shape of a body. But an overactive mind can take this too far. We can get frightened when we think we see the outline of an intruder in a moonlit bedroom. Some people truly believe they have seen the face of our Lord in a piece of toast. A similar thing can happen when we filter “factual” information also. The significance of historical events can take on different meanings to different people, or groups of people, depending on how the information is filtered.

Context can help us to see things more clearly – to separate the noise from real information.

Most JW’s are aware that the expectation of what 1914 would bring was quite different from what actually occurred. Nevertheless, the fact that WW1 broke out in that year is pretty much the single piece of information that has been filtered from the whole time period, and therefore in the minds of the faithful it still seems as if some incredible prediction came true. Perhaps you are one of those who thinks that way.

What follows is an attempt to put the predictions relating to the year 1914, as well as the subsequent modifications in doctrine, into the context of the whole grand series of such prophecies. Viewed this way it is hoped that the reader will more easily see that there is nothing significantly different about this year and the hopes attached to it than any other. What if a World War had occurred in 1878 or 1925 or even 1915? (did you know that 1915 was a valid alternative to the end of the Gentile Times right up until then?) If enough dates are predicted with supposed prophetic import then it is hardly surprising that significant world events might occur within range of one of them. And let us not forget that the World War began before Satan was supposedly cast down by the new invisible King. This timing matter is shrugged off as being “close enough” or simply ignored. However, in reality it is a significant flaw in the doctrine. The many other scriptural problems with 1914 have been extensively covered in other articles. It is not the purpose of this article to cover old ground, but merely to give a new perspective on the whole folly of date setting that is traceable back to William Miller and the Adventist movement. If you wish to consider why the “sign” of Matt 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 is not an indication that Christ is invisibly present then please read the other articles on that topic first. You can find them via the 1914 tag.

The information was not easy to compile. Throughout the entire period in question the goalposts of prediction were constantly moving. Compare Watchtower articles from one year to the next and the pronouncements as to what occurred invisibly in a particular year, and what was predicted to occur in future years, often vary considerably. For this reason I have not attempted to provide references for every claim made. I can merely assure the reader that each one has a valid reference somewhere. If you wish to obtain more information on any specific claim then please use the comments facility, and I will provide relevant references.

Now onto our journey through predictive history. Bear in mind that these are not just general examples of failed prophecy (there are a multitude more among other religious groups and cults), but these are the key ones that form part of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ spiritual heritage … and yes, that starts with a Baptist preacher …

Year for Prediction to Occur: 1844

Expectation: Jesus Christ will return to earth
Proposed by: William Miller
Faith: Baptist (but began the Millerite Adventist movement)
Based on: Daniel chapters 8 & 9 (esp. Dan 8:14)
What Happened: Nothing
Aftermath: Became known as “The Great Disappointment”

Year for Prediction to Occur: 1873/4

Expectation: Christ’s return, the rapture and the resurrection of the saints
Proposed by: Jonas Wendell (publicized by Nelson Barbour in The Midnight Cry)
Faith: Adventist
Based on: 6000 years from Adam ending in 1873
What Happened: Nothing
Aftermath: Barbour amended to a doctrine of invisible presence. Got the attention (and funding) of C.T. Russell.

Year for Prediction to Occur: 1878

Expectation: The end of the harvest / final date for deliverance of the saints / commencement of Babylon’s fall
Proposed by: Nelson Barbour / C.T. Russell
Faith: Adventist
Based on: dispensation of the gospel is 1845 years from A.D. 33 / measurements of the Great Pyramid of Giza
What Happened: Nothing
Aftermath: Modified to Christ taking up kingly role and becoming invisibly present / 1000 year reign was declared to have begun along with the resurrection of the saints.

Year for Prediction to Occur: 1914 or 1915 (October)

Expectation: Earthly Jerusalem will be restored / Time of trouble ends / Gentile Times end / image of Dan 2 to be struck on the feet / Jews forgiven by God / end of 40 year harvest
Proposed by: C.T. Russell
Faith: Bible Student
Based on: Seven times of Dan 7 = 2520 years (as specified by William Miller) commenced 606 B.C.E. / measurements of the Great Pyramid of Giza
What Happened: Nothing (although a world war did begin 2 months earlier)
Aftermath: 1878 was maintained as the year of invisible presence until the mid-1920’s and then this was shifted to the failed year of 1914

Year for Prediction to Occur: 1918

Expectation: Another date given as the close of the harvest / Churches to be “destroyed wholesale” / sectarianism to be “dashed into oblivion”
Proposed by: Writers of the Finished Mystery (likely Clayton J. Woodworth and George H. Fisher, and edited by J.F. Rutherford)
Faith: Bible Students
Based on: 40 year harvest commencing in 1878 (see above for that year)
What Happened: Nothing
Aftermath: Nothing, but appointment of the GB now said to be 1919 (as of 2013)

Year for Prediction to Occur: 1920

Expectation: “The republics will disappear in the fall” / “The setting up of the Kingdom may occur”
Proposed by: Writers of the Finished Mystery (as stated above)
Faith: Bible Students
Based on: Israelites possession of Canaan / “the French Revolution is an illustration of the crisis now approaching”
What Happened: Nothing
Aftermath: Nothing

Year for Prediction to Occur: 1921

Expectation: Christendom will perish in three parts and in a threefold way / Babylon will fall
Proposed by: J. F. Rutherford
Faith: Bible Student
Based on: Eze 5:2
What Happened: Nothing
Aftermath: Nothing

Year for Prediction to Occur: 1925

Expectation: Establishment of the Kingdom in Palestine / Return of the ancient worthies / Millions now living will never die / God’s will done on earth as in heaven / deathblow to Babylon
Proposed by: J. F. Rutherford
Faith: Bible Student
Based on: Full number of Israel’s jubilees completed. First Jewish colony founded in Palestine in 1874 as support.
What Happened: Nothing
Aftermath: Rutherford reportedly said “I made an ass of myself” *** w84 10/1 p. 24; (nevertheless he later secured some very nice properties out of the doctrine, and lived a comfortable life in them)

I could of course also include 1975. But it is from a different era to the above sequence and I wanted to keep 1914 in strict context. Many readers will still remember their own experiences from the 1975 period. Those ones will know how forcefully the idea was pushed, and we can only guess as to how many people sold everything to campaign the final year or two on the basis of urging from “Our Kingdom Ministry”. And what did it result in? For many it was … A Great Disappointment. How history repeats itself.

Please feel free to take up the challenge of debating the whole doctrine of 1914. This is not a “debate about words” cautioned against in 1 Tim 6:4. This is a vital search for truth, because so many other doctrines are becoming increasingly dependent on it. Not least of which is the appointment of the slave in 1919.

As yet only one sister has attempted to have this discussion publicly. I urge you fellow brothers and sisters to consider the truth of the matter from God’s Word with an open mind.

I will leave you with an excerpt from the writings of Brother Rutherford in the Watchtower of 1922. In the light of the foregoing I ask you to draw your own conclusions.

The fact that all the things that some looked for in 1914 did not materialize does not alter the chronology one whit. Noting the date marked so prominently, it is very easy for the finite mind to conclude that all the work to be done must center about it, and thus many are inclined to anticipate more than has been really foretold. Thus it was in 1844, in 1874, in 1878 as well as in 1914 and 1918. Looking back we can now easily see that those dates were clearly indicated in Scripture and doubtless intended by the Lord to encourage his people, as they did, as well as to be a means of testing and sifting when all that some expected did not come to pass. That all that some expect to see in 1925 may not transpire that year will not alter the date one whit more than in the other cases.

(Watchtower 1922, May 15, pg 150)