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Was Pastor Russell wrong about 1914?

After 1948, Hal Lindsey and many fundamentalists, on the basis of Israel and the generation of Luke 21:29-31, predicted that Jesus would return within 40 years of 1948.  Excited over the new state of Israel, Billy Graham in 1950 told a rally in Los Angeles, “Two years and it’s all going to be over.”  For several years before 1994, Harold Camping of Family Radio fame vigorously predicted on radio and by printed page the return of Jesus in 1994.  All of these 20th Century theologians were wrong, but they were never accused of being false prophets.

In 1920 Rutherford predicted that “1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old”  (Millions Now Living Will Never Die, pp. 89-90).

Pastor Russell was the only Christian teacher to accurately predict the date of a major future event (WWI), and he is accused of being a false prophet.  Can anyone out there tell me of a Christian Leader who accurately predicted a future date and event based on scriptural evidence and got it right?  I will be anxious to hear from you.

In a 1909 Watchtower, page 371, Pastor Russell said, ” While our faith and hopes would be equally clear and logical whether this age ends in October, 1914, or a century later, nevertheless our expectation that “Gentile Times” will conclude October, 1914, undoubtedly has a stimulating effect upon our hearts and influences all of life’s interests and helps to “wean” us from earthly joys and ambitions and to set our affections on things above!”

Notice that Pastor Russell did not say that “this age” would end in 1914, but that he expected the Times of the Gentiles to end in 1914.  He indicated our faith would be equally clear even if this Gospel Age continued another hundred years.

In the 1916 forward of “The Time is at Hand,” Pastor Russell said the following.

This Volume sets forth, what its author has been preaching for over forty years, that the “Times of the Gentiles” chronologically ended in the fall of A.D. 1914. The expression, “Times of the Gentiles,” in Bible usage signifies the years, or period of time, in which the Gentile nations of the world were to be permitted to have control, following the taking away of the typical kingdom from natural Israel, and filling the hiatus between that event and the establishment of God’s Kingdom in the hands of Messiah– “whose right it is.” Ezekiel 21:27

We could not, of course, know in 1889, whether the date 1914, so clearly marked in the Bible as the end of the Gentile lease of power or permission to rule the world, would mean that they would be fully out of power at that time, or whether, their lease expiring, their eviction would begin. The latter we perceive to be the Lord’s program; and promptly in August, 1914, the Gentile kingdoms referred to in the prophecy began the present great struggle, which, according to the Bible, will culminate in the complete overthrow of all human government, opening the way for the full establishment of the Kingdom of God’s dear Son…


The author acknowledges that in this book he presents the thought that the Lord’s saints might expect to be with Him in glory at the ending of the Gentile Times. This was a natural mistake to fall into…


Our mistake was evidently not in respect to the ending of the Times of the Gentiles; we drew a false conclusion, however, not authorized by the Word of the Lord. We saw in the Bible certain parallels between the Jewish Age and the Gospel Age. We should have noted that these parallels follow the nominal systems to destruction in both cases, and do not indicate the time of the glorification of the New Creation. This explanation will help the reader as he studies “THE TIME IS AT HAND.”

In the September 1916 Watchtower, Pastor Russell said the following: (R5950, p263)

It still seems clear to us that the prophetic period known as the Times of the Gentiles ended chronologically in October, 1914. The fact that the Great Day of Wrath upon the nations began there marks a good fulfilment of our expectations. The Gentile nations were guaranteed a certain amount of possession and control for a certain period of time. That time having expired, dispossession proceedings are now in process. The winds of strife, winds of war, are let loose with great damage to the whole world, weakening the kingdoms of Europe in respect to their best blood and their financial strength.

81 comments to Was Pastor Russell wrong about 1914?

  • Neil

    You guys are focusing way too much energy on who first did this or who first did that and are loosing focus on the bigger picture. Who was absolutely correct. The truth was indeed established and it happened at the end of the 19th century and very much prophetic. The weeds and the wheat was selected and bother Russell led the way with the rest of the bible students to shed light on to whom indeed was to become the wheat. The wheat had to grow along with the weeds and boy do we have weeds today. I like to think about the subject of which faith is the actual wheat today with a “checks and balances” mentality. What did Christ, with Jehovah’s approval actually seed on earth with the apostles which we’ve recovered in modern times? You can sit here today and deny this or deny that about JWs but one has to know that the end of times is in fact VERY near. We don’t know when exactly but boy do we know its near. If we only use our God given logic we can come up with a more or less. For sure we know God does not lie, its impossible. Its written the same in the bible. What else was discussed about 1914? That generation who witnessed events would what? A centenarian is a person who lives to or beyond the age of 100 years. What was said exactly and announced by brother T Russel? Review what was actually said. He was absolutely correct in all brother T Russell said. Because life expectancies everywhere are less than 100 and do not surpass by 120 years of age on average (written the same in the bible) the term centenarian is invariably associated with longevity. A supercentenarian is a person who has lived to the age of 110 or more, something only achieved by about one in 1,000 centenarians. So how many centenarians are remaining from that generation whom witnessed the events that took place in 1914? key word “witnessed”, how old must one be to witness anything? Either case, not many centenarians remain whom witnessed the events of 1914. Based on this biblical prophecy and other prophecies to come which God will speed up, we can gather with our God given logic that the end is infact very near. The only organization who has gotten right all along is God’s only true faith, congregating today and all over the globe as Christ intended it to continue today with Jehovah’s approval.

    Furthermore, the modern-day organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses began at the end of the 19th century. At that time, a small group of Bible students who lived near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the United States, began a systematic analysis of the Bible. They compared the doctrines taught by the churches with what the Bible really teaches. They began publishing what they learned in books, newspapers, and the journal that is now called The Watchtower—Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom.

    Among that group of sincere Bible students was a man named Charles Taze Russell. While Russell took the lead in the Bible education work at that time and was the first editor of The Watchtower, he was not the founder of a new religion. The goal of Russell and the other Bible Students, as the group was then known, was to promote the teachings of Jesus Christ and to follow the practices of the first-century Christian congregation. Since Jesus is the Founder of Christianity, we view him as the founder of our organization.—Colossians 1:18-20.

    • Bret (Bible Student)

      Neil;
      Here is what Russell thought about an Organization, or a governing body..
      In the book Armeggedon he stated the following!

      Under the subheading “False Messiahs and False Teachers”

      “If any man shall say unto you then, Lo here is Messiah, or there, believe it not. For there shall arise false Messiahs, and false teachers, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that if it were possible they would deceive the very elect. Remember I have foretold you.” Matt. 24:23-25

      The deceivers here described certainly are not the fanatics who from time to time have claimed to be Christ and have deceived but few possessed of any degree of common sense and judgment.

      Various Protestant denominations, although they acknowledge no head except Christ, nevertheless practically make their Synods, Conferences and Councils into heads, from which they take their laws, usages, and confessions of faith, instead of the one only head of the one true Church.

      For a large period and to a greater or less extent these systems of men have so counterfeited the genuine Messiah (head and body) as to partially deceive many.

      That sums up his thoughts as well as bible students of his time on a governing body running an organization!

    • Peter K. (admin)

      Neil – Thanks for sharing your perspective and we would love to have a conversation with you about what you have to say. I think that Bret responded well by quoting from the Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 4, “The Battle of Armageddon.” This characterized the thinking of Russel and that Bible Students who were all anti-organization. There felt that controlling organization were what is found among the “weeds’ or “tares” or “Babylon,” the Denominational Churches. For confirmation, check out this link in Volume 6 of Studies in the Scriptures, “The New Creation.” and also this link.

      What I think you miss Neil, is that Rutherford did not continue the JW Organization; rather he founded it. Over about a 15 year period the transformation was complete. The foundation view of Russell and the Bible Students was “A Ransom for ALL.” Rutherford rejected that view changing it to “A Ransom for all sorts of people.” This opened the door to the frightening view of eternal destruction for those not embracing the JW beliefs who die in Armageddon. Also the shunning and harsh treatment of those who honestly express a different point of view from the organization is more like the Dark Ages tyranny of the Catholic Church than the love and Christian liberty promoted by Russell and the early Bible Students (and today’s Bible Students).

      Let’s know talk about “this generation” and what it means (per your comments)

      Matt 24:34 (AV) “34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”

      Compare this with Jesus’ statement in Matt 23 where he has lamented over Jerusalem and speaks of their coming punishment.

      Matt 23:36 (NKJ) “Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”

      From Jesus’ statement here, how long was it till the nation’s destruction? Just 37 years later in 70 C.E. So we get a sense of a generation being this short period of time.

      We have a problem. How can we possibly explain Matt 24:24? Let’s read it again.

      Matt 24:34 (AV) “34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”

      Presuming a generation is 37 years…

      More than 37 years have passed since 1874.
      More than 37 years have passed since 1914.
      More than 37 years have passed since 1948. [when Israel became a nation]

      If you want to make a “generation” 100 years or more, that certainly does not agree with the way Jesus was using the word “generation” earlier that day when he lamented over Jerusalem.

      What is the solution? How do we explain that “This “generation” shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”

      The answer is that the word “fulfilled” is not what Jesus meant here. The best translation we could find to capture the meaning is the Concordant translation.

      Matt 24:34 (Concordant) “Verily, I am saying to you that by no means may this generation be passing by till all these things should be occurring.”

      The thought is NOT “until all these things have been fulfilled” – past tense.
      The thought is “until all these things are occurring” – present tense.

      It’s not that all these signs are completed and in the past, but rather that all these signs will have begun and be in process within one generation.

      To sum up – one generation will witness all these signs in process. We are now generations beyond the start of these signs. However, there is no contradiction, since the passage is NOT talking about the completion of the signs in the past tense.

      When does the generation start? We suggest that the generation starts in 1878 C.E. when the Fig Tree first began to blossom.

  • Brettstone

    Peter
    Hello bro Peter… I came across some information on JWfacts that caught my attention with regards to bible chronology and the dates 1914, 1874 and 1878.
    Did Russell discover these dates or were they adopted from other sources?

    Below is a copy and paste from JWFatcs website;

    “Russell did not originate the interpretation that the Seven Times pinpointed 1914 as the end of the Gentile times. Russell took this teaching from the Second Adventist movement. In 1823, John Aquila Brown published in The Even-Tide that the “seven times” of Daniel 4 were prophetic of 2,520 years, running from the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign in 604 B.C. to 1917 A.D. Barbour later adjusted this to 1914. In 1875, The Herald of the Morning, edited by Barbour, Cogswell and Paton, stated;

    “I believe that though the gospel dispensation will end in 1878, the Jews will not be restored to Palestille, until 1881; and that the “times of the Gentiles,” viz. their seven prophetic, times, of 2520, or twice 1260 years, which began where God gave all, into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, 606 B.C.; do not end until A.D. 1914; or 40 years from this.” The Herald of the Morning 1875 Sep
    Impressed with Barbour’s prophetic doctrine, Russell joined with him in 1876 and started to promote Barbour’s date doctrine, including 1874, 1878 and 1914.”

    What are your thoughts on this Peter?

    • Brettstone

      Two interesting points stand out to me!

      1) John Aquila Brown placed the end of the Gentile Times at 1917 this is consistent with the Balfour Declaration (dated 2 November 1917) this is often pointed to by Students as a part of 1914 would lead too.

      2) Barbour date of 606 B.C.E. would have to be changed to 607 because of the zero year not existing, so chronology to fit absolute dates would have to either bend with it or be discarded as inaccurate.

      • Brettstone

        Another point….

        Neither Brown nor Barbour make reference to Jerusalem being destroyed in 607, but both attach the prophecy being tied in with the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar’s rule.

        • Peter K. (admin)

          Brettstone,

          Thanks. It would be good if more people were interested in deeply investigating these matters as you are.

          Barbour didn’t originate the study on the Gentile Times. The topic and dating was a focus of study in Europe and
          America from the 1830s onward. In 1842 William Miller treated it in a book titled, “The Second Coming of Christ.” Though he begins the prophecy from the earlier overthrow of the ten northern tribes by the Assyrian Esarhaddon, yet he used the same chronology for dating the captivity by Nebuchadnezar in 607 BC.

          Brown started the count at 604 BCE (Babylon’s rise to power, not Jerusalem’s temple destruction in 587 BCE), and ended them in 1917. Yet Biblically, I believe the Gentile Times count would start with the removal of Zedekiah as King of Judah (Ezek 21:25-27), which would be the same time as the destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezar. WWI broke the Gentile Power control over Jerusalem – 1914 began that process. By WW2 the Europeon Gentile Powers lost the remainder of their colonies and shortly thereafter, Israel became a nation.

          To me the issue is not so much what Brown or Barbour thought as what the scriptures say.

          Cyrus’ first year (of administration over the Jews – Ezra 1:1) was 536 BC which ended 70 years of desolation of the land. Therefore, I believe then that the desolation of the land began in 607 (606.25) BC. That would have been when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple and removed the remaining Jewish inhabitants from the land.

          “The ‘first year of Cyrus’ there spoken of is not the year of his elevation to power over the Medes, nor the date of the conquest of Persia, nor yet that of the fall of Babylon, B.C. 538; but at the close of the two years succeeding this last event, during which ‘Darius the Mede’ held the viceroyship of Babylon, i.e. in B.C. 536. It was not till then that Cyrus became actual ruler over Palestine, which continued to be attached to the Babylonian department of his empire (see Browne’s Ordo Soclorum, p.173). The edict of Cyrus for the rebuilding of the Temple (2 Chronicles 36:22, 23; Ezra 1:1-4; 3:7; 4:3; 5:13, 17; 6:3) was, in fact, the beginning of Judaism. . .” McClintock & Strong, Cyclopedia of Biblical Theological, & Ecclesiastical Lit., v.2, p.638

          These matters are covered in detail here:
          http://www.biblechronology.org/studies/datingdesolation.pdf

        • Jeff

          Brettstone,
          You may find this link I post below as interesting as I did some detailed research on this some time ago and wrote an article on it.

          http://www.beautiesofthetruth.org/Archive/Library/Doctrine/Mags/Bot/90s/2004aug.PDF

        • Jeff

          I wrote an article on the origins of where the chronology and time prophecies that Pastor Russell and Barbour taught.

          You can find the links to them

          Here:
          24 September 1838

          Or a somewhat longer (and earlier) version is found Here:
          http://www.heraldmag.org/olb/contents/treatises/01%20A%20History%20of%20Chronology.htm

      • Peter K. (admin)

        Brettstone,

        Brother Russell never spoke of a zero year, nor did he calculate chronolgy based on a zero year. Br. Russell by properly accounting the year Jesus was 30 years of age while having his birth year as 2 B.C. gives evidence that he understood the proper method of counting across the B.C. / A.D. point. See details here:

        Find more about Brother Russell NOT using a zero year here:
        http://www.biblechronology.org/studies/ZeroYear090413.pdf

        Note that the Gregorian Calendar sometimes confuses people into calculating off by a year since the Jewish year and Gregorian Calender year are not in sync. 607 BC is actually 606 BC in the Jewish Calender until you arrive at the New Year in late in September. Time prophecy is based on days representing years, as in the 70 weeks prophecy (490 days = 490 years). Time prophecy is not calculated in fractions of years. So it is not necessary to demand accuracy to the day, but rather to the year. As long as the Jewish year falls within the Gregorian year, than we can refer to the Gregorian calendar on that basis.

        I wonder how those who feel the chronology is one year off and therefore not valid explain how Brother Russell got so lucky in identifying 1914, the most significant historical date in over a thousand years.

        • Brettstone

          “I believe that though the gospel dispensation will end in 1878, the Jews will not be restored to Palestille, until 1881; and that the “times of the Gentiles,” viz. their seven prophetic, times, of 2520, or twice 1260 years, which began where God gave all, into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, 606 B.C.; do not end until A.D. 1914; or 40 years from this.” The Herald of the Morning 1875 Sep
          Impressed with Barbour’s prophetic doctrine, Russell joined with him in 1876 and started to promote Barbour’s date doctrine, including 1874, 1878 and 1914.”

          The quote above indicates that Barbour came up with 1914…
          Peter.. Is this not true?

          • Brettstone

            That quotes Barbour’s writings before Russell joined him..

            • Jeff

              Brettstone,

              It is true that Barbour gave the time prophecy ideas to Charles Taze Russell. It is also true that they were all published in Barbour’s magazine before he even met Russell. It is not true that Barbour came up with the ideas himself.

              If you should care to read the article that I wrote, it quotes from Barbour’s magazine, Herald of the Morning, as well as from the sources that Barbour found the resources that he used.

              The second edition of Horae Apocalypticae which Barbour claims was “Bowen’s Chronology” (rather a misunderstanding of his, it was Elliott’s chronology which was an updated version of Henry Fynes Clinton’s Chronology.

              Both the 1874 (based on the Jubilees) and the 1914 dates (based on the seven times) are mentioned specifically in the second edition of Edward Bishop Elliott’s Horae Apocalypticae (1842) which is mentioned in the article.

              • Brettstone

                Thanks I will read it over..

              • Brettstone

                Jeff
                Are you a bible student?

                • Peter K. (admin)

                  Brettstone – Yes, Jeff is a Bible Student.

                  • Jeff

                    Yes, I am a Bible Student.

                    Pete and I may not always agree on the interpretation of this history, but I do make sure that I document the sources and make them available for anyone willing to study the history of this subject.

                    • Brettstone

                      Jeff…
                      Thanks for that information.. I read it last night and thought that was an amazing job of putting all of that together..
                      I was 20yrs a JW.. Doctrinal things began to catch my attention and bothered me for some time.. I did not know the Bible students exhisted untill a few years back when i was refuting the trinity doctrine and was looking on the internet and came across some information put together by a Bible Student to my surprise.. That was my first encounter then I found Peter’s site a couple years later.. The Ransom for All caught my attention because the New World Translation used “All Sorts of” this bithered me!
                      Long story short a couple of incidents where I questioned also whether Jehovahs spirit was directing the Org.. And here I am today.
                      I consider myself a Bible Student though im trying to fade and avoid Disfellowshipping because i have a son at Bethel and other family in the Org.
                      But i do respect chronology or time prophecy as you put it more accurately at the same time im sceptical and put my faith in the signs Jesus discussdd and that is enough for me at present.. I do enjoy research and have no problem with those who follow such and appreciate its their conscience not mine..
                      But thanks again for your input..
                      Ps would you mind emailing me the information.. Peter can give you my email address

                    • Jacqueline (Bible Student)

                      Brettstone, I applaud you for fading. This releases the burden off your family as they can say he just stopped coming not DF’D. It’s a shame but it makes their life easier. You show you love your family and is concerned. With the internet and you not having children at home to see you are a Bible Student you can be like the servant bowing before the king’s god because he is supporting him. But guess what, satan not going to let you have peace. When he strikes, we got your back, my brother. Sincerely, Jacqueline.

                    • Peter K. (admin)

                      Brettstone – Thanks for sharing some of your story. Jeff has your email address now.

                    • Brettstone

                      Thank you Jacqueline!

          • Peter K. (admin)

            Brettstone,

            I just came across this comment of yours I missed.

            You asked, “The quote above indicates that Barbour came up with 1914… Peter.. Is this not true?”

            Actually I think that E. B. Elliott in Horæ Apocalypticæ came up with 1914 before Barbour. I have to check into that. However, I am not sure I understand the point of your question. Except for Tabernacle Shadows, Brother Russell learned just about everything he later taught from others. Much of what he learned from others he rejected. Some he accepted. His humility allowed him to learn from others and his honesty to reject what was not supported by scriptural evidence. When Russel learned something, he studied it and proved it out for himself and discarded what he could not agree with. So the idea some promote that he blindly just accepted what he was told by Barbour doesn’t make sense, especially since their doctrinal disagreements eventually broke apart their association.

  • John S

    —Rite-u-r-bout-thet-Ken—-I-go-with-1914-

  • John S

    —You-worry-o’er-too-greit-ereuh—-Peter-got-to-re’tore-your-brein-4-e-bit—–1Peter5-14—Lo’e–John

  • Ken

    At least Pastor Russell admitted his mistake, something I have never heard or read the post Russell WTBTS do!

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