I am the last person to call myself an expert on the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (the legal name of the organization better known as Jehovah’s Witnesses. You know, like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the legal name for the Mormons).
But I do remember bits and pieces of growing up under the organization’s thumb in the 1970s. I have no memories of 1975 being a particularly significant year, although I later learned it was their last prediction for when the world would end and the New System of Things would be upon us.
It’s a little more complicated than that, of course, and the Society will tell you that they never really taught the world would end in 1975. Don’t buy that. They did. But 1975 was just the last in a long line of predictions about the end of the world that would prove false.
In fact, if you ever received a copy of Awake! magazine during that time, you might have noticed their proclamation in every issue. “This magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 pass away.”
You’ll find that promise in your Bible if you turn to … the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. You won’t find it in your actual Bible. Or anyone else’s. Not even theirs.
In the 1920s, Watchtower leader Joseph “Judge” Rutherford began teaching “millions now living will never die.” There are maybe dozens of people alive who may have heard him teach that. There was even a book by that title that they published in 1925. It’s, um, no longer in print. At least, not by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has its roots in the Advent movement in the 1800s. That’s right. Jehovah’s Witnesses evolved from the same ancestor as the Seventh Day Adventists. (Oh yeah, then why are there still Seventh Day Adventists? Checkmate!)
Anyway, Charles Taze Russell predicted, based on his analysis of verses in Daniel and Revelation, that the world would end in 1874. When the world didn’t end in 1874, Russell declared that it only started to end. Jesus’ presence on earth actually began in that year, but it was invisible. We would all see the end, he promised, in 1914.
So in 1915, they began teaching that 1914 was the year of the beginning of Jesus’ invisible presence. But just wait until 1918! After 1918, 1925 became the new year to watch for. By the time Rutherford got around to publishing Millions Now Living Will Never Die, the prevailing belief was that the pages of the booklet would never get yellow. The end would be in just a few months. We were all about to meet Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!
Which, of course, never happened.
But you just wait until 1932! It’s going to be something else.
Until 1932 came and went just like every year before. As did 1935.
Now you would think, with so many wrong dates, these guys would get out of the end-of-the-world prediction business. After all, the Bible is pretty clear about how many chances a prophet gets to make a false prediction: One. One chance. [Deuteronomy 18: 20-22]. After that, death by rock concert (that’s when a bunch of guys are authorized by Jehovah to make a concerted effort to throw rocks at you until you’re a bloody, dead pulp. But it’s okay, because Jehovah ordered it).
Gruesome consequences be damned, sometime in the late 1960s, the Watchtower calculated that 1975 marked 6,000 years since the creation of Adam. And you know what that means.
Except, once again, 1976 showed up on schedule. Jesus, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Joseph, Matthew, John, Paul and Charles Taze Russell did not.
I remember hearing my father say in the late 1970s that I would probably never finish high school, and certainly not college, before the New System of Things would be upon us. That was their term for the end of the world and the paradise that would follow.
So 1994 came and went…
It’s falsely taught that Jehovah’s Witnesses believe only 144,000 people are “saved.” What they actually teach is that only 144,000 people are bound for heaven. Wouldn’t you know it? Aside from the First Century apostles, all the rest are Jehovah’s Witnesses!
Ever go to a Jehovah’s Witness communion service? It’s hilarious! You’re not allowed to drink the wine or eat the bread unless you’re one of the 144,000. That means, in most congregations, worshippers pass the plate of crackers and the cup of wine from right to left or left to right… whatever… without taking a bite or a sip!
If I were to create a religious ceremony predicated on a denial of Christianity, a key part of that ceremony would be a communion service in which no one would eat a crumb or drink a drop!
Anyway, 144,000 get heaven. The rest of the faithful get to live forever in a paradise on earth. They get to cuddle with lions and eat grapes, forever.
If you pick up a copy of Awake! today, you won’t find anything about the generation of 1914. Pretty much everyone who was old enough to have made sense of what was taking place that year are dead.
Another false prediction.
Until the next one.
Information in this article, except for personal recollections, was drawn from multiple sources, including but not limited to the Jehovah’s Witness website, ReligiousTolerance.org, JWFacts.com, and Wikipedia. I take responsibility for any errors, which I will happily correct.