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I have been asked to write an article on what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe with regard to Jesus’ return or presence in 1914. Here are some quotes from official J.W. sources that I know about:

The 2,520 years began in October 607 B.C.E., when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians and the Davidic king was taken off his throne. The period ended in October 1914. At that time, “the appointed times of the nations” ended, and Jesus Christ was installed as God’s heavenly King. Just as Jesus predicted, his “presence” as heavenly King has been marked by dramatic world developments—war, famine, earthquakes, pestilences. (Matthew 24:3-8; Luke 21:11) Such developments bear powerful testimony to the fact that 1914 indeed marked the birth of God’s heavenly Kingdom and the beginning of “the last days” of this present wicked system of things.—2 Timothy 3:1-5. https://www.jw.org/en/library/books/bible-teach/1914-significant-year-bible-prophecy/

From a secular source, I found this:

They believe the Greek word parousia (usually translated as "coming") is more accurately understood as an extended invisible "presence", perceived only by a series of "signs". Witnesses base their beliefs about the significance of 1914 on the Watch Tower Society's interpretation of biblical chronology, which is hinged on their assertion that the Babylonian captivity and destruction of Jerusalem occurred in 607 BC...

They teach that after the war of Armageddon, Jesus will rule over earth as king for 1000 years after which he will hand all authority back to Jehovah. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eschatology_of_Jehovah%27s_Witnesses

I also understand that Ray Franz, a former Witness who was on the governing board from 1971 to 1980, said:

They’ve been insisting on this as a definite truth for more than 40 years... This is a monumental change after all this time. Initially, it was taught that ‘this generation’ started with people who were old enough to understand the events of 1914 [when World War I broke out], but as the decades passed it began to include anyone born in that year.

I believe there have been further 'adjustments' to the teaching about the generation born in 1914 who were supposed to be alive to see the end of this wicked system of things.

Nathan Knorr, former president, said this on February 19, 1975, at a meeting in which the Governing Body listened to Fred Franz’ taped talk on 1975:

There are some things I know – I know that Jehovah is God, that Christ Jesus is his Son, that he gave his life as a ransom for us, that there is a resurrection. Other things I’m not so certain about. 1914 – I don’t know. We have talked about 1914 for a long time. We may be right and I hope we are. (Crisis of Conscience, page 260)

To sum up, Jehovah’s Witnesses say that Jesus second “presence” happened in October 1914 when he became King. This was not a literal “coming” because this event was invisible and only they understood what was happening in the heavenly realms, namely, that Jesus began to rule as King from heaven. After the tribulation period Jesus (who is known in heaven as Michael the Archangel) will bring judgment on all who oppose him and who persecute his people (Jehovah’s Witnesses).

However, 107 years have elapsed since 1914, a date that “marked the birth of God’s heavenly Kingdom and the beginning of “the last days” of this present wicked system of things.” The Great Tribulation (which precedes Armageddon) is still some time future. What is the official explanation for this seeming delay? What has Jesus, enthroned as king in heaven, been doing for all this time?

My information is incomplete, and may be out of date, so I would appreciate an up to date explanation from official sources so that I can write an article that accurately represents the views of Jehovah’s Witnesses as they understand events since 1914 till today.

There is no intention to belittle or refute the official view with regard to 1914, rather I wish to present an accurate account.

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  • 1
    This may be helpful @lesley
    – Kris
    2 days ago
  • 1
    Also see this article written at 100 years since 1914
    – Kris
    2 days ago
  • 1
    Your question could use an edit since is wrongly assumes that jws believe that nothing has happened since 1914
    – Kris
    2 days ago
  • 2
    The 1000 year rule over earth with 144k did not start in 1914. See here
    – Kris
    yesterday
  • 2
    wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1978167. Try this. Par 8
    – Kris
    yesterday
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Obviously, in any set of beliefs, certain matters overlap. Some of the quotes you gave relate to the belief that 1914 was the beginning of Jesus's rule in the heavens, but are not necessarily a fundamental part of it.

  1. The first important point underpinning this belief is the understanding that Jesus 'coming' is a presence. You can read an official explanation of that here. A fundamental part of this is that Jesus said that the manner of his 'coming' would be in the same manner as his departure (Acts 1:11). While some denominations have focused on the fact that his departure was miraculous, ascending into the clouds, and imagining that his return would be some big, miraculous event seen in the clouds, Jehovah's Witnesses focus on the fact that he departed quietly with only a few faithful disciples watching, supporting the belief in an invisible presence that only they recognised.

  2. Your first official quotation contains details of how 1914 is calculated using biblical dates and prophecies. An important detail to know is that Jehovah's Witnesses arrived at this calculated date long before that year, but they did not always fully appreciate its significance, and the date may have been associated with other biblical prophecies. Their belief in it being a pivotal date has never changed, even if their understanding of what it meant has been adjusted.

  3. Supporting the above belief, Jehovah's Witnesses relate all other Biblical prophecies concerning "the last days" to that date, for example the signs of the times in Matthew 24 that include wars and earthquakes, the attitudes of people described at 2 Timothy 3, as well as Revelation prophecies including the 4 horsemen. They see the prevalence of these events and attitudes, or an increase in them since 1914, as evidence that the 'last days' of the present world system of things began in that year.

  4. The quote you gave about a shift in belief regarding 'a generation' is related to the last days (the time period beginning in 1914) but not directly related to the calculation of 1914 itself. This belief refers to Jesus words at Matthew 24:34 which state that the 'generation' witnessing all these signs would also see the end of the last days. Their current understanding is explained in this article, but simply put, their initial belief (until about 1995) was that a 'generation' was a human lifetime, so therefore they believed that the 'last days' and the end of this system must come within the lifetime of anyone alive in 1914. Around 1995 this was adjusted with the understanding that a 'generation' could be an indeterminate period of time rather like "an era" or "an age". But in recent years this understanding was adjusted again, and the current belief outlined in that article is that the generation is the overlapping lifetime of two sets of contemporaries. In some ways, this shortens the possible length of the last days as it is once again restricted to human lifespans. Throughout all of these adjustments, the belief that 1914 was the beginning of this period has not changed, and Jehovah's Witnesses have always maintained that the last days would be a relatively short length of time and must end 'soon'.

  5. The quote you have about an uncertainty surrounding the year 1914 may be out of context as it is from a source that is negative about Jehovah's Witnesses. I can't see that there has ever been any uncertainty about the year, only about what it might mean and how long the period after it may be.

  6. They believe that during the time since 1914 on earth the world conditions described in the prophecies mentioned above have worsened - that prevalence of wars, earthquakes, disease and ungodliness has increased. They link this to Matthew 24:8 where Jesus likens the signs of the last days to the labour pains of a pregnant woman and understand this means that the signs will intensify and become more frequent. They also believe that their work of "preaching the good news" is helping to fulfil the body of prophecies at Matthew 24. Verse 14 prophecies that it will be preached to "the entire earth", and they believe that their international organisation is the only one doing that in a unified fashion.

  7. As to what has been going on in heaven since 1914, Jehovah's Witnesses believe that God's Kingdom is preparing to begin ruling over the earth. They believe that the beginning of Christ's presence was also the beginning of his rule as king of the kingdom in heaven. They believe that his first act as king was doing battle with Satan and the demons (Revelation 12:7,8) and that this resulted in them being expelled from heaven, confining them to earth (Revelation 12:9). Prior to this, they believe that Satan could come and go freely between heaven and earth (Job 2:1), and that this confinement to the earth since 1914 also directly contributes to the worsening world conditions since (Revelation 12:12). Another thing they believe has been going on during that time is the gathering of 144,000 co-rulers, a limited number of humans that have been chosen to rule over the earth with Jesus, and are resurrected to heaven upon their death as opposed to the rest of faithful persons who hope to live forever on earth under this government (Revelation 14:1). This number is significant, as the Bible teaches that the Jews were once God's 'chosen' people - not the only ones acceptable to him, but in a covenant arrangement with him, and these would have been the ones to rule in heaven if they had remained faithful as an entire nation (God organised the Israelites into 12 tribes, 12 being a 'complete' number in Biblical numerology. 144,000 would have been 12,000 from each of those tribes). They believe that the majority of this number would have been chosen long prior to 1914, not just from the modern-day organisation of Jehovah's Witnesses, but from Christians in the first century and potentially sincere ones from the many centuries in between. They believe that those chosen prior to 1914 only received their resurrection there at that time, but that the remaining ones in modern times are resurrected to heaven immediately upon their death. Also, they believe that as Jesus is head of the Christian congregation (Ephesians 5:23) he is actively watching over true Christians on the earth, invisibly overseeing matters within congregations. They also believe that Jesus is invisibly directing their preaching work, as he is the 'master' in his own illustration recorded at Matthew 24:45, with a 'faithful slave' on earth overseeing it.

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  • Greatly appreciated, but what has Jesus, enthroned as king in heaven, been doing since 1914? We can see the activity of Jehovah's Witnesses on earth, but that's been going on since 1914 as well. We know about famines, wars, and pestilences which have also been getting worse since 1914. I realise Jesus is in heaven but what has the king of this kingdom been doing for the past 107 years?
    – Lesley
    yesterday
  • @Lesley Ok I didn't appreciate that you were as interested in what they believe has been going on in heaven, I assumed you just meant the earth. I have added a 7th point to my answer with as much detail as I can think of. 1 hour ago

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