The comment that Apollos made to our post, 1914—A Litany of Assumptions, shocked me. (If you haven’t read it already, you should do so before continuing.) You see, I was born in the 1940s, and I’ve been in the truth all my life, and I’ve always believed that the title the Watchtower had at its inception in 1879—Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence—was heralding the presence of Christ as starting in 1914. Here are three representative excerpts from Watchtower articles that gave me that understanding. Read them and tell me that you didn’t arrive at the same conclusion yourself when you read things like this.
(w99 8/15 p. 21 par. 10 Jehovah Prepares the Way)
Well, a monumental development was the enthronement of Jesus in heaven, which marked the beginning of his presence in Kingdom power. Bible prophecy shows that this took place in 1914. (Daniel 4:13-17) Anticipation of this event also caused some religious people in modern times to be filled with expectation. Expectation was evident also among the sincere Bible Students who began to publish this magazine in 1879 as Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. [Boldface mine]
(w92 5/1 p. 6 The 1914 Generation—Why Significant?)
SINCE 1879 the magazine then known as The Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence (now known as The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom) frequently pointed to 1914 as a marked year in Bible prophecy. As the year approached, readers were reminded that “an awful time of trouble” could be expected.
This information was published far and wide by Christians, who based it on their understanding of the “seven times” and “the times of the Gentiles” mentioned in the Bible. They understood this period to be 2,520 years—starting with the overthrow of the ancient Davidic kingdom in Jerusalem and ending in October 1914.—Daniel 4:16, 17; Luke 21:24, King James Version.
On October 2, 1914, Charles Taze Russell, then president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, boldly announced: “The Gentile Times have ended; their kings have had their day.” How true his words proved to be! Unseen to human eyes, in October 1914 an event of world-shaking importance took place in heaven. Jesus Christ, the permanent Heir to “the throne of David,” commenced his rule as King over all mankind.—Luke 1:32, 33; Revelation 11:15. [Boldface mine]
(w84 12/1 p. 14 par. 20 Happy Are Those Found Watching!)
Russell and his associates quickly understood that Christ’s presence would be invisible. They disassociated themselves from other groups and, in 1879, began publishing spiritual food in Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. From its first year of publication, this magazine pointed forward, by sound Scriptural reckoning, to the date 1914 as an epoch-making date in Bible chronology. So when Christ’s invisible presence began in 1914, happy were these Christians to have been found watching! [Boldface mine]
So I came to believe that for decades, Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence had been pointing to 1914 as the start of Christ’s invisible kingly presence in the heavens. What a shock then, to learn from the quote Apollos gave us from the Creation book, published in 1927, that for the first quarter of the 20th century, at least, we still believed Christ’s presence to have started in 1874. The presence that Zion’s Watch Tower was heralding had nothing to do with 1914 at all! The presence the magazine was heralding never happened! We are still touting this historical magazine title as prophetically prescient as if to say, ‘Weren’t we ever so clever to have unearthed this Bible truth when all the rest had it wrong’. That fact is, we had it wrong too! And yet, instead of admitting it, we continue to engage in a nifty piece of revisionist history, claiming we were right all along and that we were pointing to 1914 from the start. Sure, we believed 1914 was significant back then. We thought it was the start of the great tribulation and that it would end in Armageddon. We didn’t believe it marked the presence of Christ; yet that is what we are now, and for decades have been, implying. How can we state something so patently untrue?
Are the publishers of the aforementioned excerpts unaware that Zion’s Watch Tower was, from 1879 until at least 1927, heralding not 1914, but 1874, as the start of Christ’s presence? I find it hard to believe that they would willfully engage in a deception. Perhaps I’m just being naïve, but I would like to think that they just didn’t do their research very well. Whatever the case, it is a sobering thought to see how easily an untruth can creep into our cherished framework of Scriptural understanding.