Friday, 23 August 2013


Is it true that the Watchtower at one time taught that Jesus returned invisibly in 1874, but later changed that date to 1914? Is it also true that 1874 was taught to be the end of 6000 years since Adam was created and that was later changed to 1975?

The simple answer is yes. The question is why?

This episode is looking at the year 1874

Most people who criticise the Watchtower Society and JWs do not realise that the idea of 1874 being the year Christ’s return, did not originate with the Watchtower Society or its first editor, Charles Russell. Were did it come from?

From my research it seems that people have been trying to calculate the end of 6000 years of man's existence on earth from as far back as the 2th century. Evidently, this can be traced to a document that is believed by various scholars to be dated from the second century by an unknown writer. This document has been give the name, the “Epistle of Barnabas”. Here is an on line web site that has a translation of this writing. In the 15 th chapter there is a discussion about Gods Sabbath, the six creative days. He saw this as somehow a prophetic pattern of things to come.

Give heed, children, what this meaneth” He ended in six days. He meaneth this, that in six thousand years the Lord shall bring all things to an end; for the day with Him signifyeth a thousand years; and this He himself beareth me witness, saying; Behold, the day of the Lord shall be as a thousand years. Therefore, children, in six days, that is in six thousand years, everything shall come to an end."

The understanding was, that, at the end of 6000 years, we would see the end of the world of mankind

Over the centuries many keen students of the Bible have tried to calculate what was the starting point, and, thus, when would the end point be, for this 6000 year period, and what it would mean for mankind?

In the 18th and 19th centuries there were several groups that came to a conclusion about this, and as a result, different dates were understood to have been the end of the 6000 years, and, the return of Jesus

Here are just a few of the people that taught a date for the end of the 6000 years of man's creation. If you are really interested research the various names on the internet

The German theologian J.A. Bengel (1687 -1752)

Rev. Edward Bishop Elliott (1793-1875)

William Hales (1747 – 1831)

William Miller ( 1782 – 1849)

There was a Roman Catholic Apsotolic group, known as the Irvingites who took their name from Edward Irving (1792 1834)

Nelson H.Barbour
, (1824 – 1905)

What motivated these ones to try to work out when the 6000 years would end. Were they not aware of what the Bible says at Mark 13:23 that nobody knows the day or the hour?   I can only assume that, just like JWs today, they were aware of that. Then what would motivate them to try to set a date? If I were to have an educated guess, it would be because of Jesus warning that follows Mark 13:32

(Mark 13:32, 33) ...“32 “Concerning that day or the hour nobody knows, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but the Father. 33 Keep looking, keep awake, for you do not know when the appointed time is”

The advice that Jesus gave was to Keep Looking, Keep awake, and that is what those men did through the years. They try to keep awake as to the time and seasons so that they would be ready for that day.  We still follow the advice of these texts

Luke records a similar warning by Jesus at Luke 21:34-36 . . .“But pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you 35 as a snare. For it will come upon all those dwelling on the face of the whole earth. 36 Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that must occur and in standing before the Son of man” 

In Paul's letter to the Thessalonians we have these words (1 Thessalonians 5:6-9) . . .So, then, let us not sleep on as the rest do, but let us stay awake and keep our senses. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But as for us who belong to the day, let us keep our senses and put on the breastplate of faith and love and the hope of salvation as a helmet 9 because God assigned us, not to wrath, but to the acquiring of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. . .,”

So, how did Russell come to teach anything about this. For some time Russell and a small group of people had been systematically studying the Bible subject by subject. One morning in January 1876. which is 2 years after 1874, and, 3 and a half years before the first Watchtower magazine, Russell read an article by another preacher. The then, 23-year-old Russell, received a copy of a religious periodical called, Herald of the Morning. The editor was Nelson H. Barbour. Lets see what he had to say as recorded in this 1906 Watchtower July 15 page 230, 231

I rejoiced to find others coming to the same advanced position, but was astonished to find the statement very cautiously set forth, that the editor believed the prophecies to indicate that the Lord was already present in the world (unseen and invisible), and that the harvest work of gathering the wheat was already due, and that this view was warranted by the time-prophecies which but a few months before he supposed had failed.

Here was a new thought: Could it be that the time prophecies which I had so long despised, because of their misuse by Adventist’s, were really meant to indicate when the Lord would be invisibly present to set up his kingdom -a thing which I clearly saw could be known in no other way' It seemed, to say the least, a reasonable, a very reasonable thing, to expect that the Lord would inform his people on the subject-especially as he had promised that the faithful should not be left in darkness with the world, and that though the day of the Lord would come upon all others as a thief in the night (stealthily, unawares), it should not be so to the watching, earnest saints.-1 Thes. 5:4.

Anxious to learn, from any quarter, whatever God had to teach, I at once wrote to Mr. Barbour, informing him of my harmony on other points and desiring to know particularly why, and upon what Scriptural evidences, he held that Christ's presence and the harvesting of the Gospel age dated from the Autumn of 1874…..

"I paid Mr. Barbour's expenses to come to see me at Philadelphia (where I had business engagements during the summer of 1876), to show me fully and Scriptural, if he could, that the prophecies indicated 1874 as the date at which the Lord's presence and 'the harvest' began"

This is another official quote from one our publications

*** jv chap. 5 pp. 46-47 Proclaiming the Lord’s Return (1870-1914) ***
One morning in January 1876, 23-year-old Russell received a copy of a religious periodical called Herald of the Morning. From the picture on the cover, he could see that it was identified with Adventism. The editor, Nelson H. Barbour, of Rochester, New York, believed that the object of Christ’s return was not to destroy the families of the earth but to bless them and that his coming would be not in the flesh but as a spirit. Why, this was in agreement with what Russell and his associates in Allegheny had believed for some time! Curiously, though, Barbour believed from Biblical time-prophecies that Christ was already present (invisibly) and that the harvest work of gathering “the wheat” (true Christians making up the Kingdom class) was already due.—Matt., chap. 13.

Russell had shied away from Biblical time prophecies. Now, however, he wondered: “Could it be that the time prophecies which I had so long despised, because of their misuse by Adventists, were really meant to indicate when the Lord would be invisibly present to set up his Kingdom?” With his insatiable thirst for Scriptural truth, Russell had to learn more. So he arranged to meet with Barbour in Philadelphia. This meeting confirmed their agreement on a number of Bible teachings and provided an opportunity for them to exchange views. “When we first met,” Russell later stated, “he had much to learn from me on the fulness of restitution based upon the sufficiency of the ransom given for all, as I had much to learn from him concerning time. Barbour succeeded in convincing Russell that Christ’s invisible presence had begun in 1874

So what was it that Barbour taught? He taught that the seventy years of desolation of Jerusalem was the same as the seventy years of captivity.

"The captivity occurred 606 before Christ." -- Barbour, "The Jubilee," The Midnight Cry and Herald of the Morning, March 1874.

"I will only say, the seven "times of the Gentiles,", or 2,500 and 20 years during which Jerusalem was to bee trodden down of the four Gentile kingdoms, does not end for forty years from the beginning of the Jewish year commencing April 6th, 1875; as, may be seen by adding 2,500 and 20 to 606 B.C., the date of the beginning of their captivity, and the treading under foot of Jerusalem."-- Barbour, "The Three Worlds," p26

The seventy years captivity ended in the first year of Cyrus, which was B.C. 536. They therefore commenced seventy years before, or B.C. 606. Hence, it was in B.C. 606, that God’s kingdom ended, the diadem was removed, and all the earth given up to the Gentiles. 2,500 and 20 years from B.C. 606, will end in A.D. 19 14, or forty years from 1874; and this forty years upon which we have now entered is to be such 'a time of trouble as never was since there was a nation. - Barbour, "The Three Worlds," p83.

"The seven prophetic times of the Gentiles, or 2500 and 20 years, is a long period, and without doubt began where God’s kingdom, in the line of David, ended, at the beginning of the seventy years captivity, or B.C. 606." -- Barbour, "The Three Worlds," p189.

Barbour also saw a correlation between what he understood to be jubilee cycles and the end of the 6000 years of man's existence. What are the jubilee cycles?

The Israelite's had to let their land go uncultivated every 7 years. So for 6 years they would work the land and then let it rest. Every 7th time this happened that is 7 X 7 or, 49 years, a jubilee year was established. This was the 50th year and the land was not be worked that year as well.

The first jubilee was 50 years after the Israelite s entered the promised land. Different Chronologies put the first jubilee year at different dates. For example 1451, 1424 ,1406, 1260 BCE,

The idea of the 50 year Jubilee cycles also had apart to play in some other dates.


Again the date 1914 was not originated with Russell or the Watchtower Society. From Bible Chronology is was understood that 1914 was the end of the “time of the nations” (or gentile times) spoken of prophetically as recorded in Daniel 4:25; 9:27 Luke 21:24. (If you wan to read more on that see ) When things did not happen in 1914 as expected, there was much disappointment. But was this another prophecy or interpretation miss understood. "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 at the end of A.D. 1914".(Italics added.) ZIONS Watchtower and Herald of Christ's Presence October Study in the Scriptures vol. 2, 99. Notice that what they believed was due to what they thought at that time to be " strong Bible evidence" so it was interpretation.

Concerning other details relating to 1914 note in part what Light, vol 1, 194 says "… from the year 606 B.C. and have found that it reached down to October, 1914, as nearly as we are able to reckon……Many of us concluded that as far as we could see, October of this year [1914] would show……we are not a prophet; we merely believe that we have come to the place where the Gentile Times have ended" (Italics added.)

I am preparing an article to deal with this in more detail


1925 was understood to be a time when faithful men of old such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob These men it was thought would be the princes to rule guide mankind into the new system. In 1920 The idea of 1925 was first (by my Research) put to the public in a talk that Rutherford gave in 1919 entitled "Millions now living will never die". No doubt, you have heard of this talk. I got my hands on a written copy of this copyrighted 1920 by International Bible Students Association. Rutherford based his conclusions on what he thought was an application of the jubilee system that was set up as recorded in Leviticus 25:1-17. This is explained on pages 87- 89 of the book. He understood that there would be 70 jubilees that would be kept. Wrongly, he applied Jeremiah 25:11 and 2 Chronicles 36:17-21 to arrive at the seventy Jubilees.

The chronology that they used put the starting point of these 70 Js (70 x 50 = 3500 years) at 1575 BC bringing us to 1925. 1575 was thought to have been the year the Israelite's entered the land of Canaan (today the year is put at 1473 the reasons for this 100 year change will be included in my article on 1914). 1925 was thus thought to be the year when the restoration of all things would begin. (A discussion on Chronology is being prepared). It was assumed that there would be similarities in time periods in order to look forward as to what was to happen. They were keeping on the watch.

Often comments from page 88 are quoted where Rutherford says "The chief thing to be restored is the human race to life: and the Scriptures definitely fix the fact that there will be a resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and other faithful ones of old, and that these ones will have the first favour." The portion in italics and underlined in blue print is what is used to assert prophecy because of it’s positive language, "definitely" and "will".

On page 13 of the book is the following statement.

"We INVITE the reader, therefore, TO EXAMINE EACH POINT CAREFULLY as here made, compare the argument with the Scriptures cited, and view the same in the light of present day events... Every man should be persuaded in his own mind and no man should permit himself to be deterred from examining a question based upon the Bible because a clergyman or any one else makes the unsupported assertion that it is dangerous or unworthy to consider" (CAPITALS Bold mine)

He clearly states that what he was about to lay out in front of people was not prophecy but an evaluation of what was to come based on what the Scripture records showed, and that the reader should come to his own conclusion after examining the evidence. Page 97 of the book he again reaffirms that, what he had said was from the Bible. Note his comments:

"Based on the arguments heretofore set forth, then, that the old order of  things, the old world is ending... that soon shall mark the resurrection of the faithful worthies of old and the beginning of the reconstruction, it is REASONABLE to conclude that millions of people now on earth will be still on earth in 1925. Then, BASED UPON THE PROMISES SET FORTH IN THE DIVINE WORD, we must reach the positive and indisputable conclusion that millions now living will never die" (Sounds like a lawyer summing up a case doesn't it. Perhaps his ultra positive way of wording things had to do with his law training!!) (CAPITALS mine). He thus shows his confidence , not in what he is saying, but in what he believed to be the fulfilment of Bible prophecy not his own.

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