Apologies for the length of this introduction but I felt it was important to begin with a weight of evidence. There have been a great many changes in the Jehovah's Witness understanding and prophetic predictions regarding the commencement and conclusion of the 'time of trouble', the beginning of Christ's 'second presence' and His coming into the Kingdom with power, the length and composition of 'this generation', and even which people group all these things apply to.

I have bolded parts of each of the references below. One of the most dramatic changes is that 1799 marks the beginning of the 'time of the end' and then 1914 is given as the end and not the beginning of the time, and then 1914 is given as the beginning of the time. At this point 1914 is clung to and the definition of 'this generation' begins to change.

"...1799 definitely marks the beginning of 'the time of the end'.... 'The time of the end' embraces a period from A.D. 1799, as above indicated, to the time of the complete overthrow of Satan's empire....we have been in 'the time of the end' since 1799" (The Harp of God, 1928 ed., pp. 235-36, 239).

"The time of the Lord's second presence dates from 1874....From 1874 forward is the latter part of the period of 'the time of the end'. From 1874 is the time of the Lord's second presence... It was in the year 1874, the date of our Lord's second presence..." (The Harp of God, 1928 ed., pp. 236, 239-40).

"CAN IT BE DELAYED UNTIL 1914?...our readers are writing to know if there may not be a mistake in the 1914 date. They say that they do not see how present conditions can last so long under the strain. We see no reason for changing the figures - nor could we change them if we would. They are, we believe, God's dates not ours. But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble" (Watch Tower, 15 July 1894, p. 226).

"The Scriptures indicate that a great time of trouble similar to that which came upon the Jewish nation will now come upon all Christendom. The experience of Israel in the year 70 [destruction of Jerusalem] will be paralleled in the experiences of the year 1915" (Watch Tower, 15 June 1913, p. 181).

"...in the year 1918, when God destroys the churches wholesale and the church members by millions, it shall be that any that escape shall come to the works of Pastor Russell to learn the meaning of the downfall of 'Christianity'" (The Finished Mystery, 1917, p. 485).

"The date 1925 is even more distinctly indicated by the Scriptures because it is fixed by the law God gave to Israel. Viewing the present situation in Europe, one wonders how it will be possible to hold back the explosion much longer; and that even before 1925 the great crisis will be reached and probably passed" (Watch Tower, 1 September 1922, p. 262).

"As we have heretofore stated, the great jubilee cycle is due to begin in 1925. At that time the earthly phase of the kingdom shall be recognized... Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old, particularly those named by the Apostle in Hebrews chapter eleven, to the condition of human perfection" (Millions Now Living Will Never Die! pp. 89-90).

"The foretold events having begun A.D. 1914, the generation of mankind that is still alive from that year is the generation meant by Jesus Christ. Till now we have seen fulfilled the world-shaking features of the 'sign of [Christ's invisible] presence and of the consummation of the system of things.'...The occurrence of these things since 1914 is within the knowledge of millions of this generation.... We, then, are the generation that will not pass away till there is fulfilled that 'great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world's beginning until now, no, nor will occur again'" (Watchtower, 15 April 1961, p. 236; brackets in original, italics added).

"Jesus said 'this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.' Which generation is this, and how long is it?... [W]hen it comes to the application in our time, the 'generation' logically would not apply to babies born during World War I. It applies to Christ's followers and others who were able to observe that war and the other things that have occurred in fulfillment of Jesus' composite 'sign.' Some of such persons 'will by no means pass away until' all of what Christ prophesied occurs, including the end of the present wicked system" (Watchtower, 1 October 1978, p. 31).

"If Jesus used 'generation' in that sense and we apply it to 1914, then the babies of that generation are now 70 years old or older. And others alive in 1914 are in their 80's or 90's, a few even having reached a hundred. There are still many millions of that generation alive. Some of them 'will by no means pass away until all things occur.' - Luke 21:32" (Watchtower, 15 May 1984, p.5).

"To calculate where man is in the stream of time relative to God's seventh day of 7,000 years, we need to determine how long a time has elapsed from the year of Adam and Eve's creation in 4026 B.C.E. From the autumn of that year to the autumn of 1 B.C.E., there would be 4,025 years. From the autumn of 1 B.C.E. to the autumn of 1 C.E. is one year (there was no zero year). From the autumn of 1 C.E. to the autumn of 1967 is a total of 1,966 years. Adding 4,025 and 1 and 1,966, we get 5,992 years from the autumn of 4026 B.C.E. to the autumn of 1967. Thus, eight years remain to account for a full 6,000 years of the seventh day. Eight years from the autumn of 1967 would bring us to the autumn of 1975, fully 6,000 years into God's seventh day, his rest day.(Watchtower, 1 May 1968, pp. 271-72).

An April 8, 1988 issue of Awake magazine, in an article entitled 'How Long Can a Generation Last?' intimated that 1989 would be the end of the 'last generation'

The 1994 Watchtower 2 volume research dictionary, "Insight on the Scriptures" calculated a possible end to the 'last generation' as 1994. (Vol. 1, pp. 917-18).

Finally in Watchtower (1 November 1995, p. 19) the definition of 'this generation' was changed from those born in 1914 to "all the peoples of earth who see the sign of Christ's 1914 presence but fail to repent".

The historical pattern of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society appears to be one of thresholds proclaimed, reached, exceeded, and changed. Rinse and repeat. What is the Jehovah's Witness explanation of this constantly evolving eschatology surrounding the year 1914?

  • 2
    In two words, "New Light." Of course the problem they have is on what basis this "New Light" can be justified Biblically. For instance the NWT before 1950 did NOT use the word "other" at Colossians 1:16, why? Which also begs the question of why the word "other" was not used at John 1:3? My point and your point is how they account for this new light, what changed to justify their changes of adding and taking away words of the Bible to mean something other than what it states? +1
    – Mr. Bond
    Apr 2 '20 at 14:27
  • @Mr.Bond There was no NWT before 1950. 1950 was the year it was first released.
    – user32540
    Apr 2 '20 at 17:52
  • 1
    @4castle Your absolutely right, I misread my source. However, the word "other" was inserted four times in the 1950 NWT at Colossians 1:16-17 but it was not in brackets. Why does it have brackets now?
    – Mr. Bond
    Apr 2 '20 at 19:59

The year 1914 is a cemented date in the eschatology because the evidence is undeniable that it was a turning point in human history, a fulfillment of Bible prophecy and chronology, and a period of great growth and refinement for Jehovah's Witnesses.

Over the years, there has been much effort to continue to "keep on the watch" (Matt. 25:13) as world events unfold, which has resulted in a number of speculations that the end is very close with varying degrees of certainty. The current attitude of Jehovah's Witnesses continues to be that the commencement of the Great Tribulation is immediately imminent. All that we are waiting for now is the cry of "peace and security!"

Do Jehovah's Witnesses feel that their false predictions are evidence of a lack of God's blessing? No. God's people in the Bible also had wrong expectations and uncertainty at times, and these were corrected with time.

Do Jehovah's Witnesses view lightly the changes to their eschatology? No. Changes are taken very seriously, and the reasons for these changes are presented clearly and logically to everyone at the time they are announced.

w13 1/1 p. 8 - "The End of the World—Fear, Fascination, and Frustration"


Jehovah’s Witnesses have had wrong expectations about when the end would come. Like Jesus’ first-century disciples, we have sometimes looked forward to the fulfillment of prophecy ahead of God’s timetable. (Luke 19:11; Acts 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2) We agree with the sentiment of longtime Witness A. H. Macmillan, who said: “I learned that we should admit our mistakes and continue searching God’s Word for more enlightenment.”

Why, then, do we continue to highlight the nearness of the end? Because we take seriously Jesus’ words: “Keep looking, keep awake.” The alternative, to be found “sleeping” by Jesus, would prevent us from gaining his favor. (Mark 13:33, 36) Why?

Consider this example: A lookout in a fire tower might see what he thinks is a wisp of smoke on the horizon and sound what proves to be a false alarm. Later, though, his alertness could save lives.

Likewise, we have had some wrong expectations about the end. But we are more concerned with obeying Jesus and saving lives than with avoiding criticism. Jesus’ command to “give a thorough witness” compels us to warn others about the end.​—Acts 10:42.

We believe that even more important than focusing on when the end will come, we must be confident that it will come, and we must act accordingly. We take seriously the words of Habakkuk 2:3, which says: “Even if [the end] should delay [compared to what you thought], keep in expectation of it; for it will without fail come true. It will not be late.”

  • 2
    "But with God there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning, and so it is with truth; any knowledge or light coming from God must be like its author. A new view of truth never can contradict a former truth. “New Light” never extinguishes older “light” but adds to it.” (Zion’s Watch Tower 1881 Feb pp.3, 188) Is this why the expression "new light" has now been changed to "increased light" to explain the numerous chronological changes made over the last 100 years - changes that only "came to light" after it became obvious the original dates were wrong? Why did Jehovah keep you in the dark?
    – Lesley
    Apr 4 '20 at 9:32
  • 1
    Prior to 1914, the Watchtower believed: The Last Days began 1799 - Jesus Parousia started 1874 - Jesus started ruling in heaven in 1878 - The Gentile Times would end in 1914, resulting in the end of Armageddon, the fall of false religion, the end of all earthly governments, heavenly and earthly resurrections and paradise on earth. More recently: 15 September 2010 Watchtower, page 13: “What is taught is not from men but from Jehovah.”
    – Lesley
    Apr 4 '20 at 9:43
  • 1
    @4castle Can you edit your answer to flesh out what "The year 1914 is a cemented date in the eschatology" means? Other than connecting 1914 to 607 B.C.E. the three links you provided merely repeat how important it is without explaining what has cemented it to the point where beliefs and predictions change around it but it remains.. Apr 4 '20 at 12:23
  • 2
    @Lesley I should point out that many of the early beliefs expressed in the Watchtower stem from traditional views of Christendom, and have been corrected as Jehovah separates his people from Babylon the Great. The term "increased light" is used more now because many of the changes are just clarifications rather than something new.
    – user32540
    Apr 4 '20 at 16:52

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