What does the Bible really teach about 1914?

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 additional 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 isthe tree that you beheldit 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.

21 thoughts on “What does the Bible really teach about 1914?

  1. Every time that 1914 comes up – the Jehovah’s Witnesses need to be reminded that they DID NOT PROPHETICALLY PREDICT WW1.
    They predicted that Jesus would visibly return to earth in 1914.
    When that did not happen, they changed their story to say that he invisibly started ruling in heaven.
    Then, they further said that adult people living in 1914 would see the literal end of the world at Armageddon.
    When that did not happen, they changed their story to say the generations overlap.

    Danny Haszard FMI dannyhaszard(dot)com

  2. Jehovah Witnesses are a spin-off of the second Adventist which all came from the Millerite movement.American war of 1812 army captain William Miller is ground zero for Jehovah’s Witnesses.
    Yes,the “great disappointment” of Oct 22 1844 has never died out… it lives on in the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
    The central CORE doctrine of the Watchtower,yes the reason the Watchtower came into existence was to declare Jesus second coming in 1914.When the prophecy (derived from William Miller of 1844) failed they said that he came “invisibly”.

  3. Hello Mike,

    You once again misunderstand terminology and build a case upon your misunderstanding.

    If you have doubts about certain teachings that carry elements of ambiguity, such as prophecy, yet you respect the Christian arrangement of things to not promote sectarian views, you are not disfellowshipped. True, you would not be considered to be in good standing in the congregation, but you would not be disfellowshipped. Such a one is still to be admonished as a brother. It also has no necessary bearing on his salvation because we are not the judge of that person.

    Besides, this question about 1914 no longer appears in the questions for baptism since about 1988, so it can no longer be stated that their absolute acceptance of that date has any bearing on them being baptised or accepted into the congregation.


  4. Hello Mike,

    You stated that we hang their salvation on it, right? Well, if an issue is truly salvific, then it would involve judicial action. But it doesn’t, so it’s not a salvific issue.


    1. Rotherham, I think the quotations in this post state this as clearly as it possibly could. If disfellowshipping is implied by this being a salvific issue, then fine. I was more concerned with the latter than the former. But my main point is to stress the crucial importance of 1914 and the possible ramifications of denying it as a JW I’m good standing.

  5. Hello Mike,

    Well naturally, if what we believe to be the body of Christ believes that circa 1914 was a marked time, if that interpretation matches with history, logic, science and prophecy, then the congregation should follow their lead. Isn’t that entirely scriptural to do so?

    Otherwise, what follows is prophetic interpretational mayhem, such as we see among the throngs Christendom and the lone ranger theologians appearing all over the net today. Yet God tells us that “private interpretation” of prophecy is not what he wants for us. That boils down to us following the lead of the church, adhering to a singular view until such time as it is deemed necessary to change the understanding. Believe it or not, this process is what Eph. 4:11-17 is addressing.


    1. For the sake of argument, I’m fine with that because of the very point I was stressing; namely, that 1914 is extremely important to JW theology.

      I certainly have my fair share of disputes with what you’re saying, but this was not even central to the post in the first place. The main point is whether 1914 is biblical.

  6. Well if circa 1914 for the beginning of the presences of Christ is indeed Biblical, then it should be indeed important, should it not? I think I can demonstrate why we feel it is indeed Biblical.

  7. I think the problem is that you expect, the Bible Teach book would provide complex explanation about this issue, but rather it is a sketch, a brief outline. But, of course, the questions you raise should all be answered. For example: How do we know, that Daniel 4 would ever have a greater fulfillment? Consider this brief answer, directly from JW publications:

    “Da[niel] 4 Verses 20-37 show that this prophecy had a fulfillment upon Nebuchadnezzar. But it also has a larger fulfillment. How do we know that? Da 4 Verses 3 and 17 show that the dream that God gave to King Nebuchadnezzar deals with the Kingdom of God and God’s promise to give it “to the one whom he wants to . . . even the lowliest one of mankind.” The entire Bible shows that Jehovah’s purpose is for his own Son, Jesus Christ, to rule as His representative over mankind. (Ps. 2:1-8; Dan. 7:13, 14; 1 Cor. 15:23-25; Rev. 11:15; 12:10) The Bible’s description of Jesus shows that he was indeed “the lowliest one of mankind.” (Phil. 2:7, 8; Matt. 11:28-30) The prophetic dream, then, points to the time when Jehovah would give rulership over mankind to his own Son.”

    Source: http://wol.jw.org/de/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1101989220#s=10-11

    “The symbolic tree “was visible to the extremity of the whole earth.” (Daniel 4:11) Thus, the rulership represented by the tree that was to be chopped down and banded extended “to the extremity of the earth,” involving the whole kingdom of mankind. (Daniel 4:17, 20, 22) The tree therefore represents the supreme rulership of God, particularly in its relationship to the earth. This rulership was expressed for a time through the kingdom that Jehovah set up over the nation of Israel.”

    Source: http://wol.jw.org/de/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2006521#s=16-17

    And these are short summaries, no theological foundations that could also me made about this topic. I think of your opinion about 1914 as very interesting but there are many reasions why JW are not that wrong at all.

    Best regards in Lord Jesus


    1. KYP,

      While I profoundly disagree with those citations as being exegetically derived, I thank you for providing them as it makes the WT’s view on Dan 4 a little less arbitrary than I previously thought.

      While I don’t see the need to revise my article, I’ll definitely try to keep those citations in mind to address in a future article if I cover Dan 4 in more detail.

  8. Mike if the Bible is a book of prophecy , why would the Bible be silent about 1914 ? The year that almost every historian agrees changed the course of human history ?
    I’ve notried read all of the above due to time constraints , but would like to point out that CT Russells views on the so-called “end of the gentile times ” was very different to what WT belive today .
    Russell believed they were the end of gentile domination over Palestine 😉 Question is was he perhaps right ?

    1. Adrian-

      Thanks for your questions. The Bible is silent about a lot of things. I don’t think we’re in a place to require the Bible to speak on what we want it to, no matter how significant an event is. The problem is, the Bible is silent about 1914, even if we considered it one of the most important years in history. Therefore, we cannot try to force the Bible to say something that it simply doesn’t say. Now, if there is biblical evidence that Christ began to rule as king in 1914, then i’m happy to consider it. But if you read the article above, I interacted with practically every point in the “Bible Teach” book and found it woefully inadequate in proving 1914 from the Bible.

      To answer your question about Russell, no, I don’t think he was right 🙂

  9. I take it from your comment then that you believe in “replacement theology ” ?

    Unfortunately it is also where the JWs are in error .

    I suggest that 1914 can only be understood from a scriptural perspective in relation to the literal nation of Israel and that Russell was indeed correct about it being the end of gentile domination over Palestine , however mistaken in regards his expectation of the church also being glorifled at that time .

    1. Adrian-

      I don’t accept the phrase “replacement theology” as accurate. In fact, most who are categorized as such by others would not accept the description. With that said, I hold to New Covenant theology with maybe a few distinctions.

  10. This is an interesting topic. I think that many people view the JW’s interpretation of 1914 with more intensity than the actual Witnesses do themselves. Some of these people that suggest the JW’s concentrate 1914 as a pillar belief are the very same people who suggest that the universe/earth was actually made in 6 days. Yes…the bible uses these 6 days as a separation in the creative process. But, it was never meant to be so literal.

    The most important thing I’ve found in the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses that no one usually mentions….they follow the bible as closely as possible…and NO member gets paid ANY money. They also NEVER push you to pay them any money…or keep track of anything you’ve donated. I dare anyone to find another biblically based organization on this earth that compares to JW’s…and has no interest in money. Especially Christian based.

    M Dodds

    P.s. I am not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but I have never been able to prove any of there teachings wrong. And, I have tried many times.

  11. The issue with WT is not so much about what they believe , but rather their leadership style which is authoritarian – almost fascist like , with this focus on endless rules and legalism which is pharasaical .
    Much of what they believe I would not consider central to salvation – yet they are dogmatic about everything and will say that to disagree with any of their doctrine = damnation . They therefore bear all the hallmarks of a cult .

  12. Thanks for the article.

    Just had a long discussion with a JW. As always there was an unavoidable obsession with their view of ‘the Kingdom’ and the JW eschatology. It is by far the most crucial JW doctrine, of which 1914 is a major part. It plays to the broad human fascination with future-telling and the occult.

    I found it quite disturbing how casual the gentleman was about how, post the 1914 false-prophecy, they have totally re-translated the occurrences of Christ’s ‘parousia’ – “coming/appearing” as Christ’s “presence”. Originally (before 1914) the ‘parousia’ was simply understood by ALL Witnesses, as described in Mat24, “like lightning from east to west”, a sudden and unavoidable reality. Now the ‘parousia’, “presence”, refers to his 1st century presence, his 1914 on-wards presence, and his eventual coming to judge. Clearly the Bible is the ‘faithful and discrete slave’ to the WT, not the other way around.

    M Dodds if the WT doesn’t contradict the Bible it’s really because they change the Bible translation to agree with the WT wherever it suits them.

    They are right about one thing though – the Bible does prophecy that JW’s will come in the last days – Mat24:24: “false prophets will appear”.

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