(Investigator 117, 2007 November)


Bible passages Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) claimed described Europe and America resulted in failed prophecies after 1918.

JWs applied the same passages to the League of Nations resulting in failed prophecies in the 1930s and 1940s.

The same passages were then applied to the United Nations resulting in more failed prophecies.


Revelation 13 describes a beast, spotted like a leopard, with seven heads and ten horns.

Verse 14 introduces the "image" of the spotted beast. This "image", say JWs, is the "scarlet beast" more fully described in Chapter 17.

A prostitute named Babylon rides the scarlet beast. (Ch.17)

Revelation 17:8 says: "The beast…was and is not, and is to ascend from the bottomless pit…"

This, to JWs, means that the scarlet beast goes out of existence temporarily, then returns.

Revelation 17:16 says, "the ten horns…will make her [Babylon] desolate and naked."

Have you got all that?


The current JW interpretation is that:

Here are several quotes:

The United Nations of today…this modern scarlet-colored beast is an image of the leopard-spotted wild beast from the sea, which is a summation of all seven world powers, the beastly "image" is also in itself a world power or "king," hence "an eighth king." (Babylon the Great has Fallen 1963 p594)

The League of Nations and its successor, the United Nations, represent an international conspiracy against God’s kingdom, which was born in the heavens in 1914... This international organization for peace and security is a deceptive counterfeit for God’s kingdom... (Ibid p596)

The United Nations…derives its existence and power from the nations that make up its membership… Before it goes into destruction along with all the nations to whom it owes its existence, the Scriptures show that this "eighth" world power, with the prominent ruling elements taking the lead as the "ten horns" of the beast, will turn on "Babylon the Great," the world empire of false religion, and destroy it.—Rev. 17:12-18. (w1980 11/15 30



The initial, 1917, interpretation of the scarlet beast in the book The Finished Mystery was:

Pagan Rome, now represented in earth's waring governments. (pp 263-268)
The ten horns were "The rulers of Europe and America, and their subjects." (p. 271)

The harlot riding the beast was the Roman Catholic Church. (pp 259-263)

Recall that "The beast…was and is not, and is to ascend from the bottomless pit…" (Revelation 17:8)

In 1917 the "is not" phase was explained as the loss of Church power starting 1799! And "ascend from the bottomless pit" is the Pope's attempt during the War [World War I] to reunify Christendom. (pp 265-266)

The Finished Mystery predicted the destruction of Christian religions in 1918, destruction of all governments in 1920, followed by the rule of God over the Earth and paradise worldwide:

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." (p. 485) In the year 1918, when Christendom shall go down as a system into oblivion… (p. 513)
The entire prophetic scheme failed.

New interpretations came in 1930 in the book Light Volume 2:

The scarlet beast was now the International Court of Arbitration established by the Hague International Peace Conference of 1899, plus the League of Nations. (Light II, Chapter 10)

It "was not" during World War I when the International Court ceased to function, and "ascended out of the bottomless pit" as the League in 1920.

In the 1930 interpretation the "harlot" was no longer the Catholic Church, but "organized Christianity". (p86)

The ten horns referred to "all the nations or governments involved in the League of Nations". (p106)

…At this time (1930) there are fifty-five recognised countries or nations in the League… These all give their military, financial, moral and religious support to the "scarlet coloured beast", which is the "image"… (p107)

The countries of the world led by the League would fight at Armageddon:

They have authority…just long enough to prepare for and engage in the great battle of Armageddon. (p106)

Revelation 17:16 — "the ten horns…will make her desolate" — now meant that the nations led by the League would destroy Christendom:

…That will mean that they will throw down the Devil religion just as they would an old worn-out hag, and cast her aside.
Already just such has begun in Russia… Mexico has shown a disposition to take a similar course. (p112)

This Devil religion being the greatest instrument of hypocrisy that has deceived mankind and turned them away from Jehovah, God has written his judgment against her; and that judgment he will now cause to be executed within a short time. (p114)

This interpretation was repeated in the book Enemies (1937 pp 288-293) which added that the USA would join the League (p291) — which it never did — and that Great Britain and the USA would become Fascist (p291), which they didn't.

A large millenarian movement existed in the 19th and 20th centuries. It included famous scholars like C I Scofield and W E Vine both of the Open Brethren sect. The JW interpretation of the "scarlet beast" was evidently lifted from writers of the millenarian movement. C F Hogg and W E Vine in Touching the Coming of the Lord (1919) wrote:

Such a League of Nations, for instance, as is proposed to-day as a panacea for natural wrongs, not only has been foretold in Scripture as the last resource of international politics, but its failure has likewise been predicted. (p95)

In 1935 and 1941 JWs predicted Armageddon was only "months" way.

They were wrong again. The League never destroyed Christianity and never fought God's angels at Armageddon.

JWs never apologized for the rubbish they called "Bible truth" but revised it again.


In the new 1940s interpretation the scarlet beast was the League of Nations plus the United Nations (UN). The "is not" period was World War II and "out of the bottomless pit" meant the League's restoration as the UN.

The new story was given as a public discourse in September 1942 followed by the booklet Peace—Can it Last. This was three years before the UN arose and, to JWs, proves God's guidance:

In 1942 the "faithful and discreet slave" guided by Jehovah's unerring spirit made known that the democracies would win World War II and that there would be a United Nations organization set up.
(w1960 7/15 p444. See also Your Will 1958 p282; w1967 2/15 p122; JW Yearbook 1975 p203)
  JWs, however, did not predict that "the democracies would win World War II". In 1942 they predicted:
  …all the nations go totalitarian before the FINAL END, and the interests of the "king of the north" [Nazi Germany & Fascist Italy] and the "king of the south" [British Empire and America] merge together, with religion on top as the binding tie. (The New World 1942 pp 343-344)

Peace—Can it Last (1942) says the Axis Powers — Germany, Italy, Japan — agreed in 1940 to a "new League of Nations". (p21) It's therefore unclear what the new JW interpretation meant since any Axis post-war deals never eventuated.

The United Nations as created by the Allies began its formation eight months before the JW prediction. In 1941 President Roosevelt described the alliance fighting the Nazis as the "United Nations", and 26 nations signed a declaration in January 1942.

The JW prediction of a new peace organization followed the political flow and was sure to occur in some sense irrespective of who won World War II.


JWs believe:

"The UN is actually a blasphemous counterfeit of God's Messianic Kingdom by his Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ…" (Revelation… 1988 p248)

It will annihilate "false religion" and then move against JWs. But God's angels will intervene and annihilated the UN at Armageddon:

All the nations are now on the march to Har-Magedon!… The confrontation with God is imminent! …See there the United Nations organization! Will it be able to stand its ground and repel the divine onslaught? Divine prophecy says No! (w1971 10/15 623)

 This was to happen in the mid-1970s; also in the "twentieth century"; and also in the lifetime of people who witnessed 1914:

Shortly, within our twentieth century, the "battle in the day of Jehovah" will begin against…Christendom. (The Nations Shall Know… 1971 p216)

Bible chronology shows that since the autumn of 1914 C.E. we have been living in the "last days" of this system of things. Jesus Christ indicated that these "last days" would not extend beyond the life-span of the generation seeing their start. (Matt. 24:34) Hence, at least some people who witnessed the horrors of World War I will see the complete end of government by imperfect men and the brining in of prosperity under the kingdom of God. (w1972 10/1 582-583)

The "twentieth century" ended with the UN not empowered to attack any religion, but depressed by debt and often maginalized.


When JWs call the League (and UN) a "conspiracy against God's Kingdom" the question is what kingdom? Until 1925 JWs preached an invisible kingdom of 1878:

Our Lord, the appointed King, is now present, since October 1874…and the formal inauguration of the kingly office dates from April 1878… (The Battle of Armageddon 1897 p621)

…the organization of the Kingdom and the taking by the Lord of his great power as the King in April 1878, and the time of trouble or "day of wrath" which began October 1874…will cease about 1914… (p604)

The kingdom of 1878 and its take-over of the world in 1914 were fantasy.

In 1925 JWs invented their 1914-Kingdom and began denouncing "ecclesiastics" who didn't accept it:

Instead of bidding welcome to the King of glory, and telling the people of his kingdom and the blessings it will bring, they openly unite with the Devil in his schemes to control the peoples of the earth in a compact designated as the League of Nations; and piously and fraudulently they declare it to be the "political expression of God's kingdom on earth". (Deliverance 1926, 229, 271)

1914 was worked out by adding 2,520 years to 607 BC when, JWs claim, Jerusalem was destroyed. However, Jerusalem was destroyed 21 years later in 586 BC — as shown in modern reference books.

The 1914 kingdom is therefore fantasy like the 1878 kingdom, which explains why JW prophecies about it repeatedly failed.

If you've read the above, answer this: Do JWs follow a "true prophet" whose predictions always come true?

Dictionary of Jehovah's Witnesses at: