(Investigator 177, 2017 November)




In the 1930s and 1940s the "divine mandate" doctrine was big among Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs).

The doctrine stated that romantic attraction, marriage, and childbearing are wrong and unbiblical if pursued in the present world and should be postponed until after Armageddon. JWs should be busy preaching and not marrying, but could marry in "a few years" to repopulate Earth after Armageddon has killed everyone else.

The cult's attitude to marriage had previously been negative for decades. But by 1938 opposition to marriage and childbearing had become a doctrine.

Instead of raising families JWs had to gather the "other sheep" or "great multitude", which referred to people converted after 1934/1935 who would survive Armageddon and get eternal life on Earth.


The "divine mandate" doctrine was explained by Judge Rutherford (the leader of JWs from 1917 to 1942) in:

Salvation (1939) explains that the "divine mandate" is God's command to Adam and Eve to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth". (p. 15) God, however, also postponed the fulfillment of this mandate to after Armageddon because he wanted godly people to carry it out.

To get married now was therefore against the Scriptures. JWs should not marry but instead be busy warning everyone of God's impending vengeance at Armageddon:

God will express his complete wrath against Satan and his organization in the battle of Armageddon. He called a halt in the expression of his wrath in 1918, which will be resumed in the battle of Armageddon. In the meantime and just preceding and up to the time of the battle of Armageddon God will have his name proclaimed throughout the earth, as he had previously declared, and which message exposes Satan and his agents on earth; and which work is called God's "strange work". That work consists in this : that God sends forth his witnesses to give warning to the people of the impending disaster about to come upon the world. (Salvation, p. 23)


The multitudes that will be destroyed at the battle of Armageddon will be so great that not enough people will be left on the earth to bury them... All the evidence, both of the Bible and that of the physical facts ... overwhelmingly proves that the battle of Armageddon is impending and is very near. (p. 25)

The "great multitude" will be granted the privilege of carrying out the divine mandate to multiply and fill the earth. (p. 316)


Opposition to marriage and childbearing was stated plainly many times.

For example:

Would it be Scripturally proper for them to now marry and to begin to rear children? No, is the answer, which is supported by the Scriptures. (Face The Facts 1938, p. 46)


It would therefore appear that there is no reasonable or Scriptural injunction to bring children into the world immediately before Armageddon, where we now are. (Salvation 1939, p. 337)

From 1939 to 1949 the "divine mandate" joined the list of "What the Scriptures Clearly Teach" which used to be listed on page 2 of The Watchtower.

JWs also criticized marriage in other religions as an ungodly scam by ministers to make money. The following cartoon is an example:


The Golden Age 1937, January 27. p. 270



Rutherford's book Children (1941) was released at the JW 1941 St Louis convention and 15,000 children received gift copies:

Receiving the gift, the marching children clasped it to them, not a toy or plaything for idle pleasure, but the Lord’s provided instrument
 for most effective work in the remaining months before Armageddon…  (The Watchtower 1941 9/15 288)

Notice, the book's purpose was to facilitate effective [door to door] work until Armageddon which was only "months" away.

Children features two fictional youngsters, John and Eunice, aged 20 and 18, who study JW doctrine. After learning the essentials John and Eunice decide to forego marriage for "a few years" until after Armageddon and meanwhile go preaching.

Children teaches that:

It therefore clearly appears from the Scriptures that the time when the divine mandate begins to be carried out is after Armageddon… (p. 310)


Marriage and childbearing are the means of carrying out the divine mandate to multiply and fill the earth. This mandate was given to righteous man and woman in Eden, and even so the mandate must be carried out by righteous men and women on the earth after Armageddon… (p. 311)

It is only a few years from the time the “other sheep” are gathered to the Lord until Armageddon. (p. 313)

In JW doctrine the "other sheep" are people who will get eternal life on Earth. The gathering of them into the JW sect started in 1934/1935. This means that Armageddon was to come "only a few years" after 1935.

This is what John and Eunice decide to do — they decide to postpone marriage and go gathering. John says:

Our hope is that within a few years our marriage may be consummated and, by the Lord's grace, we shall have sweet children… We can well defer our marriage until lasting peace comes to the earth… Now we must add nothing to our burdens, but be free and equipped to serve the Lord...  (pp 366-367)

All JWs were supposed to do the same:

Children is an outstanding publication, and by the people of good-will it is greatly appreciated. The spirit of the Lord was poured upon Brother Rutherford when he was privileged to write this book.


The reader's attention is held constantly throughout; and when one has completed the book, if he is seeking meekness and righteousness, he will take the same stand and do the same things as John and Eunice did. (Yearbook of JWs 1942, pp 59-60)



The phrase "a few years" would in ordinary usage refer to a small number of years compared to the normal human life span. If ten years pass without the predicted event occurring, a person can rightfully suspect the prediction was wrong. If forty years, he can be sure of it.

The phrases "the next few years" and "in a few years" were also used in the book The Harp of God (1921) on pages 333 & 340. For example:

The proof cited herein shows that the old world (social and political order) ended and began to pass away in 1914, and that this will be completed in a few years and righteousness fully established. (p. 333)  

At that time in the 1920s the cult, in its book Millions Now Living Will Never Die (1920), predicted world-takeover by God’s kingdom in 1925. Therefore, in The Harp of God "a few years" meant four years.

 The prophecy for 1925 was of course false; I bring up the matter merely to illustrate that "a few years" is a small number.



After World War II the JW leaders' opposition to marriage gradually abated. In the 1970s young JWs were still advised to delay marriage until after Armageddon which, at the time, was predicted for the mid-1970s, but pressure to comply was minimal.

In 1975-1976 the predicted Armageddon again flopped, after which the JW organization published Making Your Family Life Happy (1978). With this book the JW aversion to marriage was officially buried. God's "divine mandate" whereby marriage and children were meant for after Armageddon was in effect abolished. What God thought about this, considering that "the spirit of the Lord was poured upon Brother Rutherford", is unknown.

The Bible, however, had not changed. The problem all along was that the JW leaders had misused the Bible, and twisted its teaching, to spur greater door-to-door distribution of their books.

Mainline churches, which JWs routinely stigmatize as "false religion" and "apostate Christianity", understood the Bible on marriage correctly the entire time when JWs didn't. For example, a Lutheran marriage-guidance book titled For Better Not For Worse (1939) gives much excellent counsel besides discussing anti-marriage cults including a mention of "Judge" Rutherford:

Thus this procession of counterfeits of Christianity marches on, with leaders like "Judge" Rutherford of "millions-now-living-will-never-die” fame (whose wife was finally granted a divorce after five years of scandal)...  All these, parading in the name of religion and under the guise of special revelation, by example or direct precept, have torn God’s sacred gift of holy matrimony from its Scriptural shrine. They have loaded themselves down with the millstones of offense while posing as liberating teachers of humanity. (Walter A. Maier, Concordia Publishing, p. 153)

Today, in 2017, John and Eunice would be 96 and 94 years old. That’s enough years to have become parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and great, great grandparents.



Statements implying that Armageddon will occur "within a few years" became false predictions when Armageddon delayed longer than a few years.

The "divine mandate" doctrine was exposed as false when Armageddon delayed so long that marriage and children could successfully have been undertaken.

The Bible actually gives warning that "false prophets will lead many astray" (Matthew 24:11) and also states:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will renounce the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of
demons, through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared with a hot iron. They forbid marriage... (I Timothy 4:1-3)



JWs call themselves "lovers of truth" but often don't want to know the truth (such as the above) about their own religion.

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