Jesus reputedly said something about no man knowing “the day or the hour” of the future events he spoke of (MT 24:36). But this hasn’t stopped the Watchtower from claiming to know the year and the month: October, 1914, to be exact.
A lot of excellent articles have been written (and videos produced) on the subject of 1914. Why are we putting yet another one out there? Simply because we wanted one spot where everything you need to know about it is explained in a clear and straight-forward manner without getting lost in the morass of details (though we have supplied links to the nitty-gritty details for those who’d like to know them.) And just maybe we’ll have a bit of fun along the way.
In this first part we’re going to present the how and why of 1914 from the Watchtower’s perspective. In subsequent parts we’re going to see what (if anything) is wrong with the Watchtower’s interpretation.
Why 1914 Matters
According to the Watchtower, the year 1914 has significance for all of the following reasons:
- It marks the end of “the gentile times.”
- It marks the start of the “last days” aka “the time of the end.”
- It marks The start of Christ’s “invisible presence”
- It marks Jesus’ assumption of “kingly power”
- It marks the time when Jesus cast Satan out of heaven, causing him to stir up unprecedented trouble on Earth since that year.
- The “generation” that witnessed (and understood) the events of 1914 will also witness Armageddon: the destruction of all worldly governments, religions, and people [not to mention the end of sagging pants and infomercials — things we can all look forward to], and the establishment of God’s kingdom on Earth resulting in a paradise for all Watchtower subscribers.
- It provides the basis for the belief that in the year 1919 Jesus judged the Watchtower organization to be God’s mouthpiece on Earth to whom we all must “listen and obey” or suffer eternal death.
- The Watchtower has proclaimed the importance of 1914 for over a hundred years (virtually for all of its existence.) If 1914 should prove to be bogus, then the credibility of the organization would be in serious jeopardy. This is especially so since they have recently stated that their beliefs about 1914 have “more evidence than gravity!“
Why it matters to non-Witnesses
If the Watchtower is right, then we and our children are all about to die in horrible ways unless we join the Watchtower organization and start knocking on doors or standing beside display carts handing out Watchtower and Awake magazines to bewildered passers-by (and start carrying around legal documents stating our refusal of life-saving medical procedures for ourselves and our children.)
If, on the other hand, the Watchtower is wrong about 1914, then we can clutch our Smurfs to our bosoms, yawn, and roll back over: grabbing a little extra sleep when they come knocking on our doors on an early Saturday morning.
How the Watchtower Arrives at the Year 1914
Okay: here goes. In the Bible book of Daniel, chapter four, Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had another weird dream which he asked Daniel to interpret for him. [I don’t know what this king was smoking, but it must’ve been some pretty good stuff judging by his colorful dreams.] In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw a tree chopped down and its stump bound with a metal band so it could not grow for “seven times.”
Daniel interpreted this dream to mean the following:
- The tree represented Nebuchadnezzar (“the tree is you, o king”)
- The tree being chopped down and banded represented how he would go mad and be off of his throne for a period of “seven times” before being restored to his throne.
The chapter then records the fulfillment of that interpretation as Nebuchadnezzar goes mad and grazes in a field like a wild animal for “seven times” and then is restored to his throne. End of story — for the rest of the world, but the Watchtower insists that this dream (unlike all the other dreams and visions recorded in Daniel) had a second, much more important, fulfillment.
According to the Governing Body, the “seven times” refer not only to Nebuchadnezzar’s period of madness. They claim that his was just the “typical” fulfillment of the prophecy, but there is an “anti-typical” fulfillment of much greater import. In the Watchtower’s antitype:
- The tree represents God’s kingdom
- Nebuchadnezzar represents worldly governments
- The tree being chopped down and banded represents the destruction of Jerusalem (which they see as the seat of God’s kingdom on Earth at the time) which would be restored (as a spiritual kingdom ruled by Jesus) at the end of the “seven times.”
- The 7 times represents 2,520 years. During that time, the gentile powers (i.e. “worldly governments”) would be exercising their “beastly rule” as represented by Nebuchadnezzar’s beastly madness in the typical fulfillment.
- At the end of the seven times, God’s kingdom would rule once again, and a “generation” later God’s son would unleash Armageddon, wiping out all worldly governments, and false religions, leaving only Jehovah’s Witnesses to survive on the planet.
All of the above anti-typical meanings are arbitrary: we just have to take the Watchtower’s word that they mean what they say they mean. However, they do supply us with a rationale for the 2,520 years.
How “Seven Times” is interpreted to be 2,520 Years
They arrive at the 2,520 years by assuming that a “time” equals 360 days (which they call a “prophetic year.”) They get the value of 360 from an unrelated part of the Bible: Revelation 21:14 where “a time, times, and half a time” (which they interpret to mean “three and a half times”) corresponds to the 1,260 days of Rev. 21:6. (1,260 divided by 3.5 = 360.)
So, if a “time” is 360 days, then seven times is 2,520 days (7 x 360 = 2,520.) Next, they pull in a line written centuries earlier in a completely unrelated context about the Israelite’s war god Jehovah punishing them “a day for a year.” (Num 14:34) Applying this irrelevant passage as a conversion formula to the 2,520 days, they get 2,520 years.
Since, unlike all historians, the Watchtower dates the destruction of Jerusalem to the year 607 BCE, if we add 2,520 years to that date: BINGO! we arrive at the year 1914 CE.
The Watchtower claims that crime, earthquakes, and wars have increased from 1914 on, thus fulfilling Jesus’ description of the “last days” in MT 24.