The 1914 doctrine very important to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Consider what the Watchtower has to say,
“Approved association with Jehovah’s Witnesses requires accepting the entire range of the true teachings of the Bible, including those Scriptural beliefs that are unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses. What do such beliefs include?…That 1914 marked the end of the Gentile Times and the establishment of the Kingdom of God in the heavens, as well as the time for Christ’s foretold presence. (Luke 21:7-24; Revelation 11:15–12:10)”
–The Watchtower April 1, 1986 p. 31
“Properly, then, the ending of the Gentile Times in the latter half of 1914 still stands on a historical basis as one of the fundamental Kingdom truths to which we must hold today.”
-The Watchtower January 1, 1983 p. 12
“So Christendom’s clergy refuse to take a stand for Jehovah’s Kingdom by Jesus Christ. For failing to support it, they will be destroyed in the “great tribulation” just ahead. But unlike them, Jehovah’s Witnesses have abandoned Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, and are preaching the Kingdom message in 203 lands. This unparalleled work is an outstanding feature of “the sign” proving that in 1914 Jesus was installed as heavenly King, to rule amid his enemies.—Matthew 24:3, 14, 21; Psalm 110:1, 2; Revelation 18:1-5.”
–The Watchtower September 1, 1985 p. 25
According to the Watchtower, your salvation depends on the acceptance of 1914 in addition to their “entire range” of teachings. Therefore, it is expected that the 1914 doctrine be based upon solid biblical reasoning rather than complex speculations.
The Watchtower publication, What does the Bible Really Teach will be now be considered. Beginning on page 215 in What does the Bible Really Teach (Now cited as “Bible Teach”):
“DECADES in advance, Bible students proclaimed that there would be significant developments in 1914. What were these and what evidence points to 1914 as such an important year?
-Bible Teach p. 215
The Watchtower is misleading its readers in suggesting that the early proclamations of 1914 were of, “significant developments.” Though it is true that 1914 brought about World War I, this was not something that was foretold by Russell or the “Bible Students.” In fact, the “Bible Students” at that time had been proclaiming a different date for Christ’s “invisible presence,” as opposed to what they now teach regarding 1914,
“In 1876, when Russell had first read a copy of Herald of the Morning, he had learned that there was another group who then believed that Christ’s return would be invisible and who associated that return with blessings for all families of the earth. From Mr. Barbour, editor of that publication, Russell also came to be persuaded that Christ’s invisible presence had begun in 1874. Attention was later drawn to this by the subtitle “Herald of Christ’s Presence,” which appeared on the cover of Zion’s Watch Tower.”
–Jehovah’s Witnesses: Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, p. 133-134
The facts clearly reveal that, in 1914, the “Bible Students” were predicting something quite significant: the “Battle of Armageddon” and the end of the world. In the Watchtower’s earliest proclamations, they credited the teaching that we now know to be false to God Himself:
“There is no reason for changing the figures; they are God’s dates, not ours; 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but the end!”
–The WatchTower, July 15, 1894, p. 1677
In addition to understating the facts pertaining to the early proclamations of 1914, the What does the Bible Really Teach book gives the impression that the Bible Students were doing something commendable in their proclamation. Other Watchtower publications have not been subtle on this point,
It is easy for the established churches of Christendom and other people to criticize Jehovah’s Witnesses because their publications have, at times, stated that certain things could take place on certain dates. But is not such line of action in harmony with Christ’s injunction to “keep on the watch”? (Mark 13:37)
–The Watchtower 1984 12/1 p. 18
No Bible student should find it commendable to proclaim a false doctrine and attribute it to God.
Given that the Society has had a poor track record of falsely pointing to dates that were supposed to have specific fulfillments (1874, 1878, 1881, 1914, 1918, 1925, 1935, 1975), it is wrong for the Society to teach that one must accept what they are now teaching about 1914 to be a true Christian. Furthermore, if a Jehovah’s Witness changes his view on a particular doctrine, it is regarded as apostasy. On the contrary, if the Governing Body (That handful of men who lead the organization) changes their view, it is deemed “new light.”
“As recorded at Luke 21:24, Jesus said: ‘Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations [“the times of the Gentiles,” King James Version] are fulfilled.’ Jerusalem had been the capital city of the Jewish nation—the seat of rulership of the line of kings from the house of King David. (Psalm 48:1, 2) However, these kings were unique among national leaders. They sat on ‘Jehovah’s throne’ as representatives of God himself. (1 Chronicles 29:23) Jerusalem was thus a symbol of Jehovah’s rulership.
How and when, though, did God’s rulership begin to be ‘trampled on by the nations’? This happened in 607 B.C.E. when Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians. ‘Jehovah’s throne’ became vacant, and the line of kings who descended from David was interrupted. (2 Kings 25:1-26)
–Bible Teach p. 215-216
The 607 B.C.E. date is a very important link in the 1914 chronology. If this date were proven false, then 1914 would be false. Most historians, both biblical and secular, date the destruction of Jerusalem at 586/587 B.C.E. as opposed to 607. More importantly, the 607 date is not in line with what the Scriptures teach. Anyone interested in further details on the 607 date is encouraged to consult The Gentile Times Reconsidered by Carl Olof Jonsson.
Leaving aside 607 B.C.E., there are other important issues at hand; namely, the “trampling of the nations” that is spoken of by Jesus. The publication states that this “trampling” occurred in 607. But notice the time-tense that Jesus places on the statement: “Jerusalem will be trampled.” That is, Jesus is speaking in the future tense. Jesus didn’t speak of something in the future that, according to the publication, happened hundreds of years before he came to earth.
There are addtional clues in the context of Jesus’ statement that gives us even more reason to believe that He is speaking of something future:
“Woe to the pregnant women and the ones suckling a baby in those days! For there will be a great necessity upon the land and wrath on this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.”
-Luke 21:23-24, New World Translation
Given the future-tense phrases that are found in this passage, the Watchtower fails to provide any good reasons to view the “trampling” as an exception in referring to a past event.
“Would this ‘trampling’ go on forever? No, for the prophecy of Ezekiel said regarding Jerusalem’s last king, Zedekiah: ‘Remove the turban, and life off the crown…It will certainly become no one’s until he comes who has the legal right, and I must give it to him.’ (Ezekiel 21:26, 27) The one who has ‘the legal right’ to the Davidic crown is Christ Jesus (Luke 1:32, 33) So the ‘trampling’ would end when Jesus became King.”
–Bible Teach p. 216
Though no explicit statement in Scripture speaks of this, the Watchtower insists that Jesus “became King” in 1914. The problem is, the Scriptures indicate that Jesus became King in the first century.
“All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.”
-Matthew 28:18, New World Translation
“He has operated in the case of the Christ when he raised him up from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above every government and authority and power and lordship and every name named, not only in this system of things, but also in that to come.”
-Ephesians 1:20-21, New World Translation
Christ could not be further exalted or any more “King” than what is described in these Scriptures, which clearly took place in the 1st century upon His resurrection.
“When would that grand event occur? Jesus showed that the Gentiles would rule for a fixed period of time. The account in Daniel chapter 4 holds the key to knowing how long that period would last. It relates a prophetic dream experienced by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. He saw an immense tree that was chopped down. Its stump could not grow because it was banded with iron and copper. An angel declared: ‘Let seven times pass over it.’ –Daniel 4:10-16”
–Bible Teach p. 217
This assumption is made by the Watchtower without warrant. That is, they connect the “gentile times” spoken of in Luke 21:24 to the “seven times” of Daniel 4:10, 16 when there is no Scriptural basis for doing so.
“In the Bible, trees are sometimes used to represent rulership. (Ezekiel 17:22-24; 31:2-5) So the chopping down of the symbolic tree represents how God’s rulership, as expressed through the kings at Jerusalem, would be interrupted.”
–Bible Teach p. 217
Though it is true that trees are sometimes used to represent rulership, the Watchtower is not justified in applying this to the tree in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The text itself identifies the tree as something else and this creates a very difficult problem for the Watchtower’s interpretation; namely, that they are insisting on an interpretation contrary to what is stated in the text:
“This was the dream that I myself, King Neb-u-chad-nez’are, beheld; and you yourself, O Bel-te-shaz’zar [or, Daniel], say what the interpretation is…the tree that you beheld…it is you, O king, because you have grown great and become strong…”
-Daniel 4:18, 20, 22, New World Translation
Since the meaning of the tree is provided by Daniel, there is no good reason to look beyond the interpretation given. But even if we consider the possibility that the “tree” represents “how God’s rulership, as expressed through the kings at Jerusalem would be interrupted,” the text itself provides a contrary perspective:
“This is the interpretation, O king, and the decree of the Most High is that which must befall my lord the king. And you they will be driving away from men, and with the beasts of the field your dwelling will come to be, and the vegetation is what they will give even to you to eat just like the bulls; and with the dew of the heavens you yourself will be getting wet, and seven times themselves will pass over you, until you know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind, and that to the one whom he wants to he gives it.”
-Daniel 4:24-25, New World Translation
If the interpretation is what the Watchtower says, then it is contradictory to the interpretation given by Daniel himself under inspiration. That is, Daniel informs the king that the “cutting down of the tree” represents how he will be driven away from human society to act like a beast in the wild.
“Revelation 12:6, 14 indicates that three and a half times equal ‘a thousand two hundred and sixty days.’’Seven times’ would therefore last twice as long, or 2,520 days after Jerusalem’s fall.”
–Bible Teach p. 217
This explanation is similar the connections made between Luke 21:24 and Daniel 4 in that they do not provide a basis for which one should connect Revelation 12:6, 14 to the “seven times” of Daniel 4. But even if such a connection is assumed, the Watchtower still has to prove that the “cutting of the tree” represents “God’s rulership” when, in fact, the text expresses something different.
Even if this leaves open the question as to what the “seven times” means in Daniel 4, one is limited with what the text says, for Daniel 4:28 states that, “All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king.” In addition, verse 33 articulates, “The word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled.” Therefore, whatever the “seven times” means, the interpretation explains that they were fulfilled in Nebuchadnezzar.
“Evidently, then, this prophecy covers a much longer period of time. On the basis of Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6, which speak of a ‘day for a year,’ the ‘seven times’ would cover 2,520 years.”
–Bible Teach p. 217
The Watchtower does not provide a basis for connecting these “formulas” in Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6 to the “seven times” of Daniel 4. Furthermore, it is not warranted to apply the 2,520 years to the “seven times,” when Daniel 4 specifically expresses that this time period was fulfilled in Nebuchadnezzar.
As for Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6, is there is nothing in these texts which provides a basis for making “interpretive formulas” and imposing them on other texts. If there were a connection, where would one draw the line? Should the “a day for a year” formula be applied to any place where the word “day” occurs? If the Watchtower cannot provide a biblically sound answer to these questions, then there is no Scriptural basis to make this connection with Daniel 4.
“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. –Psalm 2:1-6; Daniel 7:13, 14”
–Bible Teach p. 217
Since a) 2,520 years as well as the 607 B.C.E. date have been shown to be speculative at best, b) the connections between Luke 21:24 and Daniel 4 are made without basis and c) Scripture supports the idea of Christ’s enthronement occurring at the ascension in the first century, then this paragraph made by the Watchtower has no merit.
“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.”
–Bible Teach p. 218
It is interesting to note that many Bible students that are not Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that they are living in “the last days” without having any knowledge of the 1914 doctrine. There is no disputing the fact that significant events occurred in 1914. But without a Scriptural basis, there is no warrant for believing that Christ was enthroned in 1914. In addition, the Watchtower has no biblical precedence for insisting that one cannot be a true Christian unless they hold to this complex, speculative doctrine.