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Jehovah's Witnesses' end of the world predictions

Predictions for years after 1975.
Will it happen in our future?

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For earlier predictions, see the preceding essay

Aftermath of the failure of the 1975 prophecy:

After the 1975 prophecy also failed, proselytism began to decline. The next two years saw an unprecedented decrease in the total number of publishers (active proselytizing members). The newly-elected head of the WTS, Frederick Franz and his leadership team had to find an explanation for the error. They appear to have settled on a double-pronged approach:

bulletRecalculating the date: They changed their mind about the computing of the prophecy. They had originally believed that Eve was created in 4026 BCE -- the same year as Adam. They revised their thinking by concluding that Eve was created at a later time. They reasoned that Adam might have been alone for some years before God formed his partner/helper out of his rib.

The WTS decided that:

"...no one knew exactly how long after Adam’s creation Eve came on the scene. Franz said that it was months—even years. Hence he was able to "stretch" the 1975 date to some indeterminate time in the future. In any case, Franz said that Witnesses would just have to wait, knowing the end is right around the corner." 1

In1976, an article in the Watchtower stated that Armageddon will come after the time period corresponding with the interval between Adam's creation and Eve's creation. 2

bulletDenial and purge: Following the failed 1975 prophecy, the WTS "leadership embarked upon a five-year period of denial and purge." 3 The general membership was blamed for misinterpreting the leaders' interpretation of 1975. The leadership maintained that there never was an explicit prophecy. The membership is highly disciplined and were quickly able to revise their thinking. Large scale disfellowshipping followed. In 1978 alone, nearly 30,000 Witnesses were expelled. Many in the writing committee were dismissed and disfellowshipped during 1980.

A reason for the prophetic failures:

The WTS Governing Body wrote in 1981:

"However, it may have seemed to some as though that path has not always gone straight forward. At times explanations given by Jehovah's visible organization have shown adjustments, seemingly to previous points of view. But this has not actually been the case. This might be compared to what is known in navigational circles as 'tacking.' By maneuvering the sails the sailors can cause a ship to go from right to left, back and forth, but all the time making progress toward their destination in spite of contrary winds'." 4

1994:

Some Witnesses interpreted Psalms 90:10 as defining the length of a generation to be 80 years. Since 1914 plus 80 equals 1994, they predicted Armageddon would occur around that year. This prediction came from the grass-roots level of the organization. The WTS itself did not officially proclaim it.

This prophecy also failed. 

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Will TEOTWAWKI happen in our near future?

The WTS had taught that the generation that saw the events of 1914 would experience TEOTWAWKI (The end of the world as we know it). But the people who were born in 1914 or earlier are now in their mid-90s or older. They are rapidly dying out.

In 1996-APR, the WTS changed their criteria for TEOTWAWKI. "They now say that the generation that saw the events of 1914 is actually any generation that understands what happened" at that time. 5 This allows an indefinite delay in the arrival of Armageddon -- for millennia if necessary.

The latest estimate is 6,000 years after the creation of Eve, for which no date can be determined with any accuracy. The Jehovah's Witnesses are no longer setting absolute dates, but still expect that TEOTWAWKI may happen at any time in our immediate future.

In their 1995-NOV issue of the Watchtower, the WTS suggested that earlier dates for Armageddon were speculation rather than settled doctrine. In 1995-DEC, Newsweek quoted Witnesses spokesperson Bob Pevy as saying: "The end is still close. We just can't put numbers on Jesus' words." 6

The "yeartext" for 2004, published in the WTS Yearbook is: "Keep on the Watch... Prove Yourselves Ready." It is a quotation taken from Matthew 24:42-44. This yeartext is accompanied with the following remarks:

"Consistently, God's Word reminds us that Jehovah's day will arrive with shocking suddenness. Hence, our yeartext for 2004 reflects Jesus' deep love for his disciples, whom he wants to preserve through 'the great tribulation.' (Rev. 7:14 ) How do we remain spiritually watchful and ready? By allowing nothing to distract us from our study of God's Word and from our privileges of sacred service." 7

The WatchTowerInformationService.org comments:

"Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the only chance for [personal] salvation is to actively preach the end of this world and the Kingdom of God . If they are not busy with their 'sacred service' when the 'day of Jehovah' will arrive with 'shocking suddenness' they believe that they will die with the wicked ones."

That is, they will be exterminated, along with all non-Christians, and with the vast majority of Christians who are not members in good standing of the WTS. 7

Criticism of the WTS estimates:

The WTS has been criticized by some conservative Christians for having attempting to predict a precise date for Armageddon, in an apparent violation of Matthew 24:35-36:

"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." (KJV)
However, the criticism does not appear to be valid, as the WTS' estimates have never involved the day and hour of the end -- only the year had been specified.

References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "History of the Jehovah's Witnesses," Catholic Answers, at: http://www.catholic.com/

  2. "The Watchtower," 1976-JUL, Page 436.

  3. Mathew Schmalz, "When Festinger Fails," Chapter 13 of Jon Stone, Ed., "Expecting Armageddon: Essential readings in failed prophecy," Routledge, (2000), Page 240. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.

  4. "The Watchtower," 1981-DEC-1, Page 27.

  5. Comment by Roy Lister, in Calvary Home Page at: http://www.picknowl.com.au/

  6. Kenneth Woodward, "Jehovah's Witnesses Decide the End is Fluid," Newsweek, 1995-DEC-18, at: http://www.rickross.com/

  7. Cited in: Rado Vleugel, "2004: Jehovah's Witnesses still on the watch for the end of this world," WatchTowerInformation Service.org, at: http://www.watchtowerinformationservice.org/

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Copyright © 2003 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-DEC-28
Latest update: 2009-AUG-31
Author: B.A. Robinson

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