[Watchtower study for the week of March 31, 2014 – w14 1/15 p.27]

The title of this week’s study highlights one of the key problems affecting Jehovah’s Witnesses as a religion from the days of Russell when we were known simply as Bible students. It is our obsession with knowing when the end is coming. Staying awake is vital. Maintaining a sense of urgency is also important. But this overweening need we have to know when the end is coming, to try and divine the times and the seasons that God has put into his own jurisdiction, has been the source of continual embarrassment and disappointment to us. After over 100 years of prophetic failures and missteps, the 1990s arrived and it seemed like maybe we had finally learned our lesson.

So the recent information in The Watchtower about “this generation” did not change our understanding of what occurred in 1914. But it did give us a clearer grasp of Jesus’ use of the term “generation,” helping us to see that his usage was no basis for calculating—counting from 1914—how close to the end we are. (w97 6/1 p. 28)

Alas, that Governing Body is no more. A new one with many younger members has taken its place and set the tone for the new century. It is a tone us old-timers recognize all too well.

The third introductory question of this article is: “How do you feel about the end being so close?”

By the end of the article we will see that this new Governing Body is set to repeat the mistakes of the past. The mistakes of Russell, and Rutherford, and Franz.  For they have now given us yet another means of “calculating—counting from 1914—how close to the end we are.”  Those of us who have lived through the 1975 fiasco will surely feel the hackles raising.

But before we get to that let’s begin our paragraph by paragraph analysis.

Par. 1-2
Here we are helped to see that while the world is blind to the prophetically significant events that have been occurring since 1914 until this day, we, as a privileged people, are “in the know.”

You may notice in paragraph 2 that there is no mention whatsoever of Christ’s presence beginning in 1914. The absence of this particular doctrinal teaching has been noticed of late, causing some of us to speculate that a change is in the works. We still hold that God’s kingdom came in 1914—as the paragraph says, “in one sense”—but it appears that the presence of the Christ is not synonymous anymore with his installation as King.

We then state that with confidence that we “know” Jehovah installed Jesus Christ as King in 1914. The truth is, we know nothing of the sort. We believe based on what we are told in the magazines that Jesus Christ began to reign in 1914, but we do not know this. What we know is that there is no scriptural evidence to support this belief. We will not go into this further here as we have written extensively on the subject in the pages of this forum. If you’re new to the forum, please click this link to see the relevant articles that provide scriptural evidence proving that 1914 has no prophetic significance whatsoever.

Par. 3 “Because we regularly study God’s Word, we can see that prophecy is being fulfilled right now. What a contrast with people in general? They are so involved in their lives and pursuits that they overlook the clear evidence that Christ has been ruling since 1914.”

Indeed? What clear evidence, pray tell? We point to ‘wars and reports of wars, pestilences, food shortages, and earthquakes’, yet a careful examination of Jesus’ words indicates that he was telling us not to put stock in such things as harbingers of this arrival. Instead, he arrives as a thief in the night. (For a detailed consideration, see Wars and Reports of Wars—A Red Herring?)

Par. 4 “In 1914, Jesus Christ—pictured as riding a white horse—was given his heavenly crown.”

Really? And we know this how? There is scriptural evidence to support the idea that Christ began ruling in 33 C.E. There is also evidence that he will begin to rule as the Messianic King together with his anointed brothers at the time of his presence—a future event. There is no evidence that he began ruling in any sense of the word in 1914. Therefore, we have justification for believing that the events in the opening verses of Revelation 6 take place after 33 C.E. We also have reason to speculate that these events are yet future, occurring after Jesus’ enthronement as the Messianic King during his presence. However, there is no justification whatsoever for considering that 1914 plays any role in the ride of the Four Horsemen (For a more detailed consideration, see Four Horsemen at the Gallop.)

Par. 5-7 “With so much evidence that God’s kingdom is already established in heaven, why do the majority of people not accept what this means? Why are they not able to connect the dots, so to speak,[1] between the state of the world and specific Bible prophecies that God’s people have long been publicizing?“

In the mid-1950s, it was far easier to believe that Matthew 24:6-8 and Revelation 6:1-8 were fulfilled in the 20th century. After all, we had just experienced the two worst wars of human history as well as one of the worst pandemics of all time, all within the life span of a single human being. Nevertheless, since the end of World War II the globe has experienced one of the longest periods of peacetime ever. True, there have been many small wars and conflicts, but this is really no different from any time in history. Moreover, Europe and the Americas—or to put it another way, the Christian world—has been at peace. The entire generation of 1914 has lived and died. They are all gone. Yet a generation of people born after 1945 in Europe, North America and most of Central and South America has never known war.  Is it any wonder that people are having trouble “connecting the dots”?

We say this not to promote spiritual complacency. There is no room for complacency in the heart of the Christian. We say it to avoid the trap of false urgency. But more on that later.

Par. 8-10 “WICKEDNESS IS ADVANCING FROM BAD TO WORSE”
Here we are using 2 Timothy 3:1, 13 to promote the idea that we are now in the last days and that the deteriorating social conditions are an indication the end is very near. While it is true that there is a good deal more licentious behavior, it is also true that there are far more freedoms and far more protection for human rights than at any other time since the fall of the Roman Empire, and possibly even before that.  Let us not put words in God’s mouth.  Social conditions are not used in the Bible to indicate that we are very near to the end of the system of things. We have misapplied 2 Timothy 3:1-5 for many decades. We forget that Peter applied the prophecy of the last days to his time. (Acts 2:17)  Additionally, a careful reading of the entire third chapter of 2 Timothy indicates that Paul was referring to events that existed in his day and would continue to exist right down to the end.  Based on the relatively few occurrences of “last days” in the Christian Scriptures, we may well conclude that it refers to the time following the payment of the ransom by Christ. Once that phase had been passed, what remained for humankind could be termed the last days of sinful human society. (For a more detailed discussion of the “last days”, click here.)

Par. 11, 12
Here we quote 2 Peter 3:3, 4 to deal with those who would ridicule what we are saying. All those who are regular readers and/or participants of this forum are firm believers that the presence of Christ is inevitable. We all want it to come soon.  We hope it will come soon.  However, we do not wish to provide ridiculers more grist for their mill by making false and foolish predictions; predictions which are presumptuous in that they exceed our authority and intrude into that which is the exclusive jurisdiction of Jehovah God.

Par. 13 “Historians have documented that here or there some society or nation experiences such deep moral decline and then collapse. Never before in history, though, has the overall morality of the entire world deteriorated to the extent that it has now.”

The first sentence is irrelevant to the discussion. We’re not talking about the internal collapse of society due to moral decay. We’re talking about a divine intervention. The moral state of the world is irrelevant to God’s timetable.

Frankly, I do not see how the world can carry on for that much longer. In the next 50 years, all things being equal, the world population will double and reach a point that is no longer sustainable. However, what I feel or believe is irrelevant. What 8 million Jehovah’s Witnesses feel or believe is irrelevant. The fact that things seem to be deteriorating does not give us reason to believe that the end is upon us. It may well be. It could come tomorrow or next week or next year, or it could come 30 or 40 years from now. The fact is, it shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t change anything about the way we worship God and serve the Christ. Yet, so much emphasis is being put on it by the Governing Body that many are starting to again think it is upon us.  If it fails to come within our new time frame, the disconfirmation may be too much for many.  We are being led to put faith in dates yet again.

Unfortunately, that does not seem to be of concern to those who are writing these articles.

Par. 14-16
Not content to leave us with an unscriptural, and frankly illogical, understanding of the meaning of “this generation” as given by Jesus in Matthew 24:34, the Governing Body has seen fit to tighten up the timetable. We are now told that the first half of this generation is made up exclusively of anointed Christians who were alive on or before 1914. That means that if a brother were baptized in 1915, he would not be part of the generation. There were only about 6,000 Bible students partaking in 1914. Even if all of them were 20 years of age in that year, it would still mean that by 1974 they’d all be 80 years old.

Now to tighten up the timetable even further, we are told that the second part of the generation—the part that lives to see Armageddon—is comprised exclusively of those whose “anointed lifetime” overlaps with the first half.  It doesn’t matter when they were born. It matters when they started to partake.  In 1974, there were 10,723 partakers.  This group differs from the first group.  The first group began to partake upon baptism. The second group had to wait to be specially chosen.  So Jehovah, presumably, would take the cream of the crop.  Brothers and sisters usually started partaking years after they had been baptized.  Let’s set a conservative lower limit of age 40, shall we?   That would mean that the second half of the generation was born no later than the mid-30s, which would put them in their mid-80s now.

Truly, there can’t be many the years left for this generation, if our definition is correct.

Ah, but we could take it a step further—and I don’t doubt that someone is going to do this—and actually track those left. We know where they are. We can send out a letter to all the congregations asking the elders to keep track of anyone who was anointed on or before 1974. We can get a very precise number that way and then watch them age and die off.
While this may sound ridiculous, it is eminently practicable. In fact, if we are really taking seriously what paragraphs 14 through 16 are teaching us, we would not be doing our due diligence if we did not carry this out. Here we have a means to accurately measure the upper limit of how much time is left. Why would we not take it? Certainly the injunction of Acts 1:7 should not restrain us. It hasn’t until now.

It is hard not despair following an article like his one.

(For a detailed analysis of the flaws in our current understanding of Matthew 24:34 read State of Fear and “This Generation”—2010 Interpretation Examined.)

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[1] I am going to indulge in a pet peeve. I have long found the overuse of phrases like “as it were” and “so to speak” in our publications to be both annoying and condescending. These are phrases one uses when there is a possibility that the reader might assume a metaphor is real. Do we really need to use “so to speak” in this case? Do we really need to make sure the reader doesn’t assume that we are talking about literal dots that the people of the world will fail to connect?