(Originally printed in the January/February 1996 Issue of the MCOI Journal)
Watchtower Society watchers are amazed anew by the brazenness of this organization to change truth when it becomes outdated. Those of us who engage in missionary efforts to Jehovah’s Witnesses have been saying for years that there would soon have to be an “adjustment” of their teaching regarding the 1914 generation. Why? Because, as former JW elder and author David Reed pointed out in his address to the Witnesses Now For Jesus convention in October, 1995, this old prophecy had outlived its shelf life, was still hanging around long after its freshness “sale date,” and was beginning to stink.
In brief, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has been teaching for many years that 1914 is a crucial and pivotal date, marking the invisible return of Christ. They have taught for many years that the generation of people who had been alive when these events transpired in 1914 would not die or pass away before Armageddon. In fact, every Awake! magazine since 1982 has proclaimed that this now-failed prophecy was “The Creator’s Promise.” (See Awake! magazine’s purpose statement.)
Watchtower watchers thought that, perhaps, they would buy more time for their rapidly rotting prophecy by simply choosing a new date for Christ’s return, thus eliminating the need to count time from 1914. They could have bought 20 more years if they had changed it to 1934; 30 more, if 1944; etc., and the Watchtower Society can always seem to create “Biblical” reasons from thin air to validate such “adjustments.” Invisible presences can be moved around a bit without too much inconvenience. This solution also has historical precedence: they had already changed the date for Christ’s “invisible presence” from 1874 to 1914, after the failed 1874 prophecy faded into the hazy past.
They did not change the 1914 date, however; instead, they changed the meaning of the word “generation,” from the number of years in a person’s natural lifespan, to an indeterminate length of time. In other words, “the end,” or Armageddon, does not anymore necessarily have to arrive while those who were alive in 1914 are still living.
They also changed their understanding of the parable of the “sheep and the goats.” They have been teaching for 72 years that this judgment was already in progress, and that Jesus was separating the sheep and the goats through the door to door work. If you responded positively to the message presented by the Witnesses at your door, you were a sheep. If not, you were obviously a goat. But now, the Oct. 15, 1995 Watchtower teaches that this judgment is future, and that the separation of the sheep and the goats has not even begun!
Well, what’s the problem? Shouldn’t religious organizations be allowed to change their understanding of the scriptures? No—not when they claim that their understanding of the Scriptures, their interpretation, comes directly from God, as does the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society! In the Feb. 1, 1938 Watchtower, p.35, they state that, “The Lord revealed to his people the parable of the sheep and the goats. . .” Why would God reveal to his people something that wasn’t true?
And concerning the teaching of “this generation,” David Reed points out that the Watchtower Society claims in the May 15.1984 issue of the Watchtower (p.6-7) that “Jehovah’s prophetic word through Christ Jesus is: This generation [of 1914] will by no means pass away until all things occur’.” If God Himself, through Christ Jesus, has given His word that “this generation” of people who witnessed the events of 1914 “will by no means” die until all things occur. His word cannot be changed just because things didn’t work out as He thought they would and that generation has all but passed from the scene. This is the Creator’s promise after all! God knows both the correct interpretation and the future. He doesn’t lie or make mistakes, break His promises, or get caught by surprise.
Now is the time for Christians to confront Jehovah’s Witnesses about this latest false prophecy before it fades from their memory. Many Witnesses are upset by this change, knowing in their hearts that truth from God does not change. Please, Christian, care enough to speak to them about this. I highly recommend David Reed’s latest booklet on this issue as a way of preparing yourself to discuss this issue with the next JW who comes to your door.
After this article had been written the Watchtower changed “The Creator’s Promise” on the mast head in the Awake! Magazine. In all of the magazines up until October 22, 1995, the last line of “Why Awake! Is published,” reads:
Most important, this magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s Promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away. (Emphasis added)
Two weeks later, in the November 8, 1995 Awake!, the “Creator’s Promise” was changed in the last line:
Most important, this magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s Promise of a peaceful and secure new world that is about to replace the present wicked, lawless system of things. (Emphasis added)
On whose authority could they change a promise they had been claiming was from the Creator? They cannot. This is simply another example of a false prophecy that has failed.