Watchtower Dates - The Jehovah's Witnesses and prophetic years
The Watchtower Society (WTS) - the leadership of the Jehovah's Witnesses (JW) - is famous for its dates. Individual Witnesses know about the current prophetic years (1914, 1918, etc) but are mostly completely ignorant about the history of their movement, and when asked is most likely to deny that the WTS ever said anything about the end of the world in 1914 and 1925. Even for a recent episode like 1975, the JWs will often flatly deny that the WTS ever proclaimed Armageddon within no more than a few months from October 1975.
This list is intended to be comprehensive, if not exhaustive. There's a massive amount of research by many individuals behind this short summary, but I can never guarantee there are no errors. If you find any, please let me know.
End of 1260 days of Rev 12. Start of "the last days". Three Worlds (1877), p114. (see Key to publication codes)
Replaced by 1799 no later than 1889, with SiS2. [Note 1]
Start of "the last days". Napoleon debased the pope and ended the 1260 days of Dan 7:25; 12:7; Rev 11:1-3. WT Jan-Feb 1889 [repr p1093]. SiS2 p256. SiS3 p58,63,64
Replaced by 1914 in 1930 [Note 2]
End of the 1290 years (from 539AD) of Daniel 12:11, when Miller's movement started. SiS3 p84, SiS7 p40, 60, 163. Our Lord's Return (1929) p27.
Abandoned in 1930
Miller's "end of the world." To Russell, start of 30 year "tarrying time," corresponding to 30 years from Jesus' birth to his baptism. SiS2 p240
Abandoned in 1930
End of the 2300 days, G. Storrs and others abandoned false doctrines, "sanctuary cleansed". Also start of "evangelical alliance" between protestant churches, called "spiritistic". SiS3 p108, SiS7 p163.
Abandoned in 1930
6000 years of human existance ends, start of seventh millenium: THE millenium of Revelation; the Day of the Lord. See SiS2 foreword, p39. (New chronology making 1975 the end of 6000 years was adopted in 1943, but 1975 was not made an official prophetic date until 1966, with Life Everlasting.)
Abandoned in 1930
The start of Christ's invisible presence. Russell's most important date. Three Worlds p175, SiS2 p170, Our Lord's Return p27, Proclaimers p133 footnote. Until around 1904, Russell taught that this year marked the start of the Battle of Armageddon, WT 1/15/92 p21-3 [repr p1355]. SiS2, p101.
Abandoned in 1930; [Note 2] WTS itself claims it was abandoned in 1943
End of "Great Jubilee Cycle." End of 1335 days in Dan 12:12. The invisible resurrection of the saints started. (Note also that Russell held that the "Biblical year" 1875 started Oct 1874.) Three Worlds p108.
Idea of invisible resurrection in 1875 replaced by 1878 in 1881?
End of gospel age, the rapture of the saints. Three Worlds p68; Proclaimers p632; Divine Purpose p19.
Naturally abandoned after 1878
Heavenly resurrection of dead saints. God's favor returning to the Jews. Kingdom of God started to exercise power. WT Oct 1879 [repr p39]. SiS2 p101. SiS6, p663. Millions (1920) p27-8. 1928 editions of The Harp of God had removed this date from the text (see pp236, 244 in earlier editions).
Abandoned in 1928
Rapture of the saints, including Russell and other Bible Students. WT Jan 1881 [repr p180], Dec 1880 [repr p172], compare May 1881 [repr p224].
Abandoned and even denied from May 1881
Close of "high calling" to be among 144.000. Fall of Babylon. Proclaimers p632.
Replaced by 1918 in 1922?. Close of "high calling" later moved to 1935
Expected rapture of the Saints, based on measurments in corridor in the Great Pyramid of Gizeh. SiS3, p364, versions issued before 1910.
Naturally abandoned after 1910
The end of this world, Christ's literal return, the end of Armageddon and latest possible date for rapture. Jews expected to return to God's favour.
"Present truth" until the end of 1914, but replaced by 1915 from around 1912 to Aug 1914 (start of WWI, which was felt to somehow fulfill the above prophecies about 1914).
Christ's invisible return, start of reign as King, end of last days. "Gentile times" ended, but this has no visible effect, except an (JW-imagined) increase in violence, wars, pestilence, earthquakes and other calamities since that year.
Current JW doctrine. From 1922 this was held to be start of Christ's *reign*, from 1930 also the start of invisible presence (earlier held to be 1874). [Note 2] Until recently, the WTS taught that some of those who experienced the events in 1914 would be alive to see the end of the world. This "1914 generation" doctrine was removed in November 1995. See WT 11/1 1995 p17. The "Creator's promise" about the end of the world before the 1914-generation died was removed from masthead (p4) of Awake! in 11/8 1995 issue. Whole idea of "generation" in Mt 24:34 being specific individuals is now abandoned.
The end of the world. From ~1912 until start of WWI this year replaced 1914 in Russell's writings, since 2520 years from 606BC ends in 1915 not 1914 as Russell had thought. The fact that there is no zero year was "forgotten" when some events happened in 1914. In 1943 the idea that had been promoted in SiS7, namely to move Jerusalem's destruction from 606 to 607BC, was officially adopted (The fact that Jerusalem according to Bible chronology fell in 587BC does not interfere with Watchtower chronology.)
Year abandoned after start if WWI
False religion, especially Christendom, to be destroyed. Demons would enter the minds of clergy, the "swine class", causing them to do stupid things that provokes "the masses" to destroy them. "Church members by millions" thus killed by God. SiS7 p128, 485.
Naturally abandoned after 1918
Fall of Babylon, close of call to be among 144.000. This year is still held by JWs to be date for fall of Babylon, "all false religion." See Revelation Climax p260 which says "So by 1919 Babylon the Great had fallen".
Current JW doctrine. Close of "high calling" was later moved to 1935.
The Bible Student/Watchtower movement chosen by Christ to be only "channel" of communication from God to men.
Current JW doctrine.
Worldwide anarchy, collapse and fall of all earthly governments. SiS7 p258.
Naturally abandoned after 1920
The end of the world immediately following the resurrection of "men of old" (Biblical heroes listed in Hebrews chapter 11). Establishment of Kingdom in Palestine. SiS7 p128, Millions p88,97. Very definite statements in WT 6/15 1922; 4/1 1923, elsewhere.
Naturally abandoned after 1925, even though the date itself was held to be somehow fixed in the Scriptures even as late as in 1931 (Vindication I p338).
The "establishment of the Kingdom in Power." Based on Ezek 40:1, which dates a certain prophetic message to "the fourteenth year after the city was conquered", Rutherford added 14 years to 1918 to get 1932. See SiS7 p569. Later printings and translations of this book seems to have brought the realization that to get to the 14th year one adds 13, not 14, so the prophecy was changed to point to 1931.
Silently abandoned after the other prophecies, notably 1918 and 1925, failed to be fulfilled.
Close of "high calling" to be of the 144.000. From this date, JWs have taught that the "great Company/Crowd" in Rev 7 will live on Earth, not in heaven. The "Great Crowd", all JWs except ~8000 living now, is not considered anointed Christians, is not "born again," do not partake in communion and does not have Christ as mediator. They expect eternal life on Earth. See WT 6/15 1992 p23; Proclaimers (1993) p166. This date is justified only on the fact that the doctrine about earthly hope for "great crowd" was created in 1935.
Current JW doctrine
WW2 was expected to end in Armageddon, God's War. WT 9/15 1941 p288 talked about the "remaining months before Armageddon."
Idea abandoned in 1943, after death of Rutherford, when the Watchtower Society started to proclaim a "very short" period of peace after WWII.
This was 37 years after 1914, like Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD, which was 37 years after Christ's death (WTS chronology). Some WT articles in 1950 hinted strongly to this parallell. WT 11/1 1950 p407; 9/1 1950 p277; compare WT 3/15 1951 p179 and 4/1 1951 p214 both pointing out that "we are 37 years into the 'time of the end' of this world."
Idea was abandoned in WT 9/1 1952 p542
Theoretical length of 1914-generation after the old "30-40 years" definition. See WT 9/1 1952 p542. "Generation" idea based on Matt 24:34, but it was finally abandoned in WT Nov 1, 1995.
Replaced by 70-80 year generation in 1952
End of 6000 year of human history after WTS chronology. Strongly hinted to be end of the world; could only be a matter of "days and months, not years" before Armageddon. Life Everlasting p26-30; WT 7/15 1967 p446-7; 8/15 1968 p499; 5/1 1975 p 285. See also YB 1980 p30-31. (See What Happened in 1975?)
Abandoned and sometimes even denied after 1975
Object for much speculation about maximum length of generation, based on 70 years from 1914 and Psalm 90:10. See WT 9/1 1952 p542; WT 12/1 1968 p715.
Abandoned silently as date approached.
Declared by United Nations to be "International Year of Peace," which caused much expectations with JWs about the expected declaration of "peace and security", a sign of the imminent end based on a special interpretation of 1Th 5:3. WT 10/1 1985 p18.
Silently forgotten after 1986
Object for much speculation about maximum length of generation, like 1984. See WT 9/1 1952 p542; WT 12/1 1968 p715.
Abandoned silently as date approached.
End of world expected to come before end of century. WT 1/1 1989 p12 (work to be completed "in our 20th century", text changed in bound volume); WT 10/15 1980 p31 ("highly improbable" that this world continues to 2000); 3/1 1984 p18-19 ("end much closer than ").
etc., etc., etc.!