Have Jehovah’s Witnesses Made False Prophecies?

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Image by Congerdesign. Adapted for Redemption of Humanity. Used under licence.

Last edited on 25/Jan/2021

Introduction

One of the ways to find out if a religion is really from God or not, is to examine its record of prophecies and to see if any have failed. No matter how many prophecies seem to have come “true”, if just one prophecy fails, then that is sufficient proof to show that the person’s claims and religion being examined really isn’t from God. The Bible affirms this, and encourages us to check the claims of all people and groups who claim to make prophecies in God’s name and to compare them with God’s Word:

“And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22)

Because the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ religion has made many prophecies, it is necessary to examine them to see if what they have claimed was from God, or if it was spoken presumptuously, which would make them false prophets according to Deuteronomy 18:21-22.

The Watchtower Claims to Be the Modern-day Prophet of God and to Have Jehovah’s Words

Firstly, the Watchtower has identified itself and its followers as prophets of God. Please consider the following quote from the Watchtower magazine:

“So does Jehovah have a prophet to help them, to warn them of dangers and to declare things to come? These questions can be answered in the affirmative. Who is this prophet? . . . This “prophet” was not one man, but was a body of men and women. It was the small group of footstep followers of Jesus Christ, known at that time as International Bible Students. Today they are known as Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses . . . Of course, it is easy to say that this group acts as a ‘prophet’ of God. It is another thing to prove it,” (Watchtower, Apr. 1, 1972, p. 197) (1)

Furthermore, the Watchtower claims that everything it says is from Jehovah:

“Today, Jehovah provides instruction by means of “the faithful steward.” (Pay Attention to Yourself and to All The Flock p.13) (2)

“commissioned to serve as the mouthpiece and active agent of Jehovah … commission to speak as a prophet in the name of Jehovah…” (The Nations Shall Know that I am Jehovah” – How? pp.58,62) (2)

Therefore, because they claim to be prophets, and that everything they prophesy and say is from God, this means that there cannot be any record of false prophecies. If there are, then according to the Bible, their religion really isn’t from God, because true prophets who are guided by the true God will never make mistakes, just like the prophets of the Bible.

1914 – The End of the Battle of Armageddon

Let’s look at one significant date that the Watchtower predicted: 1914. They taught that the year 1874 marked the beginning of Christ’s invisible second presence on earth (Jehovah’s Witnesses Proclaimers of Christ’s Kingdom, p. 47) (6) and that the battle of Armageddon (the battle where God will intervene and destroy the armies of the antichrist) will end in 1914 (6). The Watchtower taught that after this battle will be the beginning of the millennial age—the 1,000 year rule of Jesus on earth (which should actually be understood symbolically), after all earthly authorities are overthrown and that we would see his return (3). Below are some examples of these prophecies:

“We see no reason for changing the figures — nor would we change them if we could. They are, we believe, God’s dates, not ours. But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date of the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble.” (Watchtower, July 15, 1894, p. 266) (4)

“… the setting up of the Kingdom of God has already begun… and the battle of the great day of God Almighty (Revelation 16:14) which will end in 1914 with the complete overthrow of earth’s present rulership, is already commenced. Remember that… the Gospel age harvest will end October, 1914, and that likewise the overthrow of ‘Christendom,’ so-called, must be expected to immediately follow.” (Studies in the Scriptures, vol. 2, 1889, pp. 101 and 245) (4)

“In view of this strong Bible evidence concerning the Times of the Gentiles, we consider it an established truth that the final end of the kingdoms of this world, and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God, will be accomplished by the end of 1914.” (The Time is at Hand, 1902 edition, p. 99) (4)

Notice how the language here is very strong and expresses absolute certainty, nor would we change them if we could. They are, we believe, God’s dates, not ours”, “the Gospel age harvest will end October, 1914 … the overthrow of ‘Christendom,’ so-called must be expected to immediately follow”, “In view of this strong Biblical evidence. However, as we all know, this never happened. None of the events described in the Watchtower’s prophecies took place in the year 1914. But there’s more.

1914 – The Beginning of the Battle of Armageddon

Because the 1914 prophecy failed to come true, the Watchtower denied that they positively stated that 1914 would be the year (Watchtower, November 1, 1914, p. 325) (4). In 1915, the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Charles Taze Russel, said that World War I was only the beginning of the battle of Armageddon, not the end (Pastor Russell’s Sermons, 1915, p. 676) (4, 6). Therefore they modified their original prophecy, to cover up its failure.

1914 Changed to 1915

The Watchtower predicted that the Battle of Armageddon would finish near the end of 1915 and that Christ’s second coming would happen this year:

“The Scriptures indicate that a great time of trouble similar to that which came upon the Jewish nation will now come upon all Christendom. The experience of Israel in the year 70 [destruction of Jerusalem] will be paralleled in the experiences of the year 1915” (Watch Tower, 15 June 1913, p. 181). (6)

In another attempt to cover up its false prophecy, the Watchtower printed new copies of Russel’s “Studies in the Scriptures” in 1915, which changed the date 1914 to read “1915” in key places (5):

“In view of this strong Bible evidence concerning the Times of the Gentiles, we consider it an established truth that the final end of the kingdoms of this world and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God will be accomplished near the end of 1915.” (The Time is at Hand, 1915 edition, p. 99) (4) (Compare this with the 1902 edition above)

1915 Changed to 1918

In 1917, the president of the Watchtower, Joseph F. Rutherford, published volume 7 in “Studies in the Scriptures” (Charles Russel passed away in 1916). He wrote this in an attempt to reconcile Russel’s prophetic emphasis, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ attention to it, to a new chronology for when Armageddon would occur: 1918 (5):

“…in the year 1918, when God destroys the churches wholesale and the church members by millions, it shall be that any that escape shall come to the works of Pastor Russell to learn the meaning of the downfall of ‘Christianity’” (The Finished Mystery, 1917, p. 485). (6)

1918 Changed to 1925

By 1919-20, the Watchtower began looking to the year 1925 as the year of the visible signs of Armageddon’s approach. To show that Armageddon was close, Rutherford claimed that in 1925 God would resurrect Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the faithful of Hebrews 11:

“As we have heretofore stated, the great jubilee cycle is due to begin in 1925. At that time the earthly phase of the kingdom shall be recognized… Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old, particularly those named by the Apostle in Hebrews chapter eleven, to the condition of human perfection” (Salvation, pp. 89-90). (6)

The prophecy that the Lord will return in 1925 was constantly reconfirmed in 1922, 1923 and 1924:

“The period must end in 1925… [This date] is definitely fixed in the Scriptures. Every thinking person can see that a great climax is at hand. The scriptures clearly indicate that the climax is the fall of Satan’s empire and the full establishment of the Messianic kingdom… Therefore, it can be confidently said at this time that millions now living will never die.” (Golden Age, January 4, 1922, p. 217) (4)

It was also said to have been “of God”:

“This chronology is not of man, but of God. Being of divine origin and divinely corroborated, present-truth chronology stands in a class by itself, absolutely and unqualifiedly correct…” (Watchtower, July 15, 1922, p. 217) (4)

After this prophecy failed, like all the others, the Watchtower leaders blamed it on their followers:

“Some anticipated that the work would end in 1925, but the Lord did not state so. The difficulty was that friends inflated their imaginations beyond reason…” (Watchtower, 1926, p. 232) (4)

1874 Changed to 1914

In 1930, the Watchtower changed the date of the beginning of Jesus’ invisible presence on earth from 1874, and the date of his enthronement in 1878, to 1914 (5). After this, it kept making more prophecies about when the Battle of Armageddon would occur. Some of the dates, but not all, include: 1940, 1941, 1942, 1946, 1955, 1966, etc. (4). All of them have failed.

Conclusion

Therefore, to answer the question at the beginning, the answer is a definite “yes”; as shown in this article, the Watchtower Society of the Jehovah’s Witnesses has made many false prophecies concerning the second advent of Christ. Jesus declared with regards to this:

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:36)

What this means, is that not only did the Watchtower claim to know something that Jesus said no one can know, but that they were also incorrect about it. This means that their prophecies were false; they spoke presumptuously. The Watchtower has failed the biblical test of living up to the standards of being a true prophet, according to Deuteronomy 18:21-22. The Bible teaches that this is sufficient proof to show that the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ religion is not from God on this basis alone. When teaching about the end times, Jesus said:

“See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.” (Luke 21:8)

“And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.” (Matthew 24:11)

Jesus taught that false groups would emerge that will lead many people astray through false teachings about the end times and other doctrines. In response to all the pain and confusion that false prophecies cause, we should follow Jesus’ teaching, and “not go after them.” Man-made organisations are always changing, but the Lord Jesus Christ never changes (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). If we abide in his Word, we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free (John 8:31-32). Everyone who is of the truth listens to his voice (John 18:37).

“But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Luke 12:39-40)

See Also

Reference List

1. Slick, M 2008, Jehovah’s Witnesses and their many false prophecies, Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, last accessed on 22 March 2017, <https://carm.org/jehovahs-witnesses-and-their-many-false-prophecies>

2. Grundy, P 2007, Jehovah’s Prophet, JWfacts.com, last accessed on 22 March 2017, <http://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/jehovahs-prophet.php>

3. Could the Jehovah Witness religion be true?, Stand to Reason, last accessed on 22 March 2017, <https://www.str.org/articles/could-the-jehovah%E2%80%99s-witness-religionbe-true#.WDVliH2o1p0>

4. Reagan, D R, The Jehovah’s Witnesses: False prophecy gone to seed, Lamb & Lion Ministries, last accessed on 22 March 2017, <http://christinprophecy.org/articles/the-jehovahs-witnesses/>

5. Spencer, M, Martinez, R, The Gospel According To Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Spirit Watch, last accessed on 22 March 2017, <http://www.spiritwatch.org/jwgospel.htm>

6. Jehovah’s Witnesses and the History of 1914, Watchman Fellowship, last accessed on 22 March 2017, <http://www.watchman.org/articles/jehovahs-witnesses/jehovahs-witnesses-and-the-history-of-1914/>

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