1914 — "WE WERE RIGHT"

(Investigator 166, 2016 January)


If you decide to write a letter to be opened and read in the future, avoid making predictions that expose you as a naïve fool.

Here is a letter written in 1908 to be read in 1916:


To My Dearly Beloved Son:—

It has been on my heart for a considerable time to write you a letter, to be opened on your tenth birthday…

At the present time your dear mother and myself are in good health, and the affairs of the world are moving along in about the same general way as they have always moved within my lifetime. The world in general expects it to continue in this way indefinitely, and yet, looking at matters through the Lord’s Word, I know that when this letter is read your papa and mamma will have passed from earthly scenes forever, and the great time of trouble, “such as never was since there was a nation,” will no longer be a matter of prophecy, but of history…

I now come to the special object of this letter. The Scriptures indicate that in the year 1915, the year before this letter is read, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Isaiah, Daniel, and all the holy prophets and patriarchs from Abel to John the Baptist, will have been raised from the dead and will be in the earthly phase of the Lord’s kingdom, with headquarters in Jerusalem. The Lord’s Word also seems to indicate that this truth, and the fact that there has been a change of dispensation, may possibly not be generally believed until the year 1918. I am writing this to you so that you will not be one of those who will be mistaken on this point, but will understand that, by the time this letter is read, the squaring and straightening of earth’s affairs will be in progress  from Jerusalem, at the hands of the ancient worthies…

Your devoted father, 
I. N.  Cognito

(From: Zion's Watch Tower September 1, 1908)


Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) regularly imply that predictions for 1914 by their main founder, Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916), were "right". 

He supposedly correctly predicted for 1914:

•    The end of the "Gentle Times";
•    Christ's "second presence";
•    The establishment of God's Kingdom in heaven;
•    The start of the "time of the end".

Here are examples of statements that imply the prophecies came true ["w" stands for "Watchtower"] :

1.    With conviction the remnant pointed forward to the year 1914 and showed by the Scripture prophecies that it would be a year of unprecedented trouble for the world, betokening that its end was at hand. As regards world trouble in 1914, they were not disappointed… (w1951 11/1 655)

2.    As for the time of Christ's second presence, Daniel's prophecy … was figured out as pointing to A.D. 1914, and The Watchtower called notice to the significance of 1914 in the year 1879. (w1952 11/1 658)

3.    … they have not heeded the world wide advertising of Christ's return and his second Presence. Since long before World War I Jehovah's witnesses pointed to 1914 as the time for this great event to occur. (w1954 6/15 370)

4.    Bible chronology also fixes the time for Christ's second presence and the assuming of his right to rule as at 1914; this date was published in the Watchtower as early as 1879, 35 years before 1914. (Tract: Sign of Christ's Presence 1955, 3)

5.    Of all people only the Witnesses pointed to 1914 as the year for God's Kingdom to be fully set up in heaven. (Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained 1959, 170)

6.    …history confirms that Jehovah's witnesses were the only Christian group found awake as to 1914… (w1960 7/15 433)

7.    For over thirty years before that date and for half a century since, Jehovah's witnesses have pointed to the year 1914 as the time for the end of "the appointed times of the nations" and the time in which Christ would begin his Kingdom rule. (w1966 2/15 103)

8.    In the year 1914 a tribulation greater than any that had yet come since the Flood came. This did not surprise the remnant, for they knew that the Gentile Times, or “the appointed times of the nations,” would end about October 1 of the year 1914. (w1966 2/15 117)

9.    Right on time, in the fall of 1914, “the kingdom of our God” in the hands of his Christ began ruling in the heavens… It was just as Jehovah’s spirit had moved his devoted “slave” to warn in advance. A leading New York newspaper, The World, acknowledged this in a long feature article in its issue of August 30, 1914, which included the following:

The terrific war outbreak in Europe has fulfilled an extraordinary prophecy. For a quarter of a century past, through preachers and through press, the “International Bible Students” [Jehovah’s witnesses] … have been proclaiming to the world that the Day of Wrath prophesied in the Bible would dawn in 1914. “Look out for 1914!” has been the cry of hundreds of traveling evangelists who, representing this strange creed, have gone up and down the country enunciating the doctrine that “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”  (w1967  2/15 110)

10.    For over thirty-five years in advance Jehovah’s witnesses proclaimed that 1914 would be a marked year. As early as 1877 their publications warned that 1914 would see Gentile rule interrupted by the kingdom of God. They firmly believed that Jesus’ prophecy of the conclusion of the system of things would come true, that following the end of the Gentile Times God’s Messianic kingdom would come into full power and the Gentile powers on earth be ousted… But by October 1, 1914, it was obvious that Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled and that the “appointed times of the nations” had ended. (w1967 5/1 261)

11.    We were right. 1914 was a marked year! (w1967 5/15 318)

12.    From Bible chronology, Jehovah’s witnesses as far back as 1877 pointed to the year 1914 as one of great significance. The Watchtower as of March 1880 said: “‘The Times of the Gentiles’ extend to 1914, and the heavenly kingdom [of God] will not have full sway till then.”
… The world did not expect such horrible events as took place. But Jehovah’s witnesses did expect such things, and others acknowledged that they did. On August 30, 1914, the New York World said: “The terrific war outbreak in Europe has fulfilled an extraordinary prophecy..."

How could Jehovah’s witnesses have known so far in advance what world leaders themselves did not know? Only by God’s holy spirit making such prophetic truths known to them…  (Watchtower 1971 8/1 468)

13.    In the later 1870s the first president of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society was calling attention to the year 1914 as a marked date in Bible prophecy… Whose forecasts proved to be truth—those of world leaders, or those of the Bible-based witnesses of Jehovah? (w1971 9/15 560)

14.    Jehovah's witnesses pointed to the year 1914, decades in advance, as marking the start of "the conclusion of the system of things." (Awake! 1973 1/22 8)

15.    Zion’s Watchtower of March 1880 had declared: “The Times of the Gentiles” extend to 1914, and the heavenly kingdom will not have full sway till then.’ Only God by his holy spirit could have revealed this to those early Bible students so far in advance.” (w1973 7/1 402)

16.    Why did they point forward to 1914—the very year historians now say was the "turning point" of modern history—as a marked date? Bible prophecy led them to do so. (Awake! 1973 10/8 17)

17.    Moreover, in keeping watch, this journal's early issues pointed to 1914 C.E. as a climactic year. (w1979 7/1 5)

18.    For over three decades before 1914, Jehovah's Witnesses called attention to the significance of this date. (w1986 11/1 7)

19.    By linking the "seven times" of Daniel 4:25 with "the times of the Gentiles", they anticipated that Christ would receive Kingdom power in 1914. (w1998 9/15 15)


A page titled "Twenty Time-Proofs” in the book Berean Bible Teachers' Manuel (1909), compiled by senior members of Russell's cult, predicts for 1914-1915 — the "full end of the Gospel Age", "Israel’s rehabilitation", "Christendom’s overthrow", and the "Millennium proper":

The Russellites also believed that:

•    They would by 1914 have ascended to heaven;
•    Jesus' second coming occurred invisibly in 1874;
•    God's Kingdom was set up in heaven in 1878 by Jesus Christ being crowned King;
•    Forty years of trouble started in 1874 and would end in 1914 with all governments and religions overthrown;
•    In 1914/1915 the Old Testament heroes such as Moses, Abraham and Samson would be restored to physical life and rule the world from Jerusalem — thus completing the "setting up" of the1878 Kingdom.

Here are a few quotes from Russell's Studies in the Scriptures:


Nothing the Russellites prophesied for 1914 happened.

The 19 quotes listed above under "WE WERE RIGHT" are either deceitful generalities such as "marked date" or outright lies.

Quotes "2", "3" and "4" claim Christ's second presence was predicted for 1914. However, from 1875 until 1930 the cult believed the "second presence" began in 1874.

Quote number 5 — "the Witnesses pointed to 1914 as the year for God's Kingdom to be fully set up in heaven" (and similar in quotes 7, 9 and 19) — is false since until 1925 they believed God's kingdom was set up in 1878:

Furthermore, in 1925, for the first time, it was seen and understood that the Kingdom was actually born in 1914, that it was a fact. (Watchtower 1951 7/15 435)

Until 1915 the cult believed that the setting up of the 1878 kingdom would be completed or reach "full sway" (quote 12) when the resurrected Old Testament heroes took charge in 1915 and introduced world peace. That did not happen.

Did the cult at least get the "gentile times" right?

The Russellites believed the "gentile times" referred to 2520 years when the Jews had no kingdom of their own, which would be rectified in 1915 with Moses, Abraham, Samson, etc. ruling the world. The phrase "end of the Gentile times" therefore meant the restoration of Israel in 1914/1915 with all the world's governments and religions destroyed.

In October 1876 Russell, writing on "Gentile Times When Do They End?", in the magazine The Bible Examiner,  explained:

A.D. 1914:  when Jerusalem shall be delivered forever, and the Jew say of the Deliverer, "Lo, this is our God, we have waited for Him and He will save us." When Gentile Governments shall have been dashed to pieces; when God shall have poured out of his fury upon the nation, and they acknowledge him King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (pp 27-28)

In the 1920s the "end of the Gentile times" was redefined and now meant the supposed birth of God's kingdom in heaven in 1914. JW publications, however, never mention this change in meaning when citing the 1870s references!

Quote 14 — "pointed to the year 1914, decades in advance, as marking the start of the conclusion of the system of things" — is false. Russell predicted 1914 as end of the "time of the end", with Armageddon finished in 1915, not the start.

What about The World newspaper in 1914 reporting that the outbreak of war "fulfilled an extraordinary prophecy" (Quote 9)? Possibly the reporter did inadequate research. Alternatively, it's known that some Russellites wrote articles in newspaper format as freelance journalists, even paid at advertising rates to get them published. Either way The World report puts a positive spin on false prophecy.


JWs still give the prophet Charles Taze Russell lavish praise. Awake! magazine says Russell was "fearless" and "bold" with "good fruitage" whereas clergymen were "enemies" and "slanderers". (Awake! 1984 12/8 9)

From such comment who would guess that Russell's every prediction failed?

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