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Expecting Armageddon : Jon R. Stone :

As late as Rutherford was still delivering talks about the nearness of the kingdom: he declared that the preaching work of the Witnesses was "coming to a conclusion", that Armageddon was "only a short time away" and that the end was "much less than the length of a generation". In the Watch Tower Society issued the first of what became a sequence of statements on the importance of a new date——that raised the possibility of that year heralding the beginning of Christ's millennial reign and, along with it, doom for unbelievers.

According to this trustworthy Bible chronology six thousand years from man's creation will end in , and the seventh period of a thousand years of human history will begin in the fall of So six thousand years of man's existence on earth will soon be up, yes, within this generation. How appropriate it would be for Jehovah God to make of this coming seventh period of a thousand years a Sabbath period of rest and release, a great Jubilee sabbath for the proclaiming of liberty throughout the earth to all its inhabitants!

It would be according to the loving purpose of Jehovah God for the reign of Jesus Christ, the "Lord of the Sabbath", to run parallel with the seventh millennium of man's existence. The hope was hinged on the Society's belief that Adam had been created in the northern autumn of BCE. The society suggested that the close of the first years of human history could correspond with the end of God's "rest day"—with the transition marked by the Battle of Armageddon.

Yet as researcher Richard Singelenberg pointed out, the Society's literature at no point definitively stated that Armageddon would take place in In fact, as early as Frederick Franz, then vice-president of the society, was inserting a definite "uncertainty" clause:. Does it mean that God's rest day began in ?

It could have.


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You can accept it or reject it Does it mean that Armageddon is going to be finished It could! All things are possible with God. Does it mean that Babylon the Great is going to go down by ? It could But we are not saying. Expectations for were also based on the belief that Christ had set up his kingdom in heaven in and that "this generation [those who were at least 15 years old in , according to a Awake!

In fact, we are actually living in the final part of that time. This can be compared, not just to the last day of a week, but rather, to the last part of that day" [emphasis in original]. In a book the Society expanded on its belief in a link between the seventh millennium of human existence and the kingdom's establishment.

Apocalypticism

It said: "In order for the Lord Jesus Christ to be 'Lord of the sabbath day,' his thousand-year reign would have to be the seventh in a series of thousand-year periods or millenniums. Thus it would be a sabbatical reign. The prophecy galvanized the movement and proselytism increased substantially.

On the eve of the Millennium in the number of publishers Witnesses who submitted their record of preaching rose by Yet as drew closer the degree of uncertainty expressed in publications increased. The chances of Armageddon occurring that year were initially described as "feasible", "apparent" or "appropriate", but from the end of it became a mere "possibility". In the Society's chronological calculations were "trustworthy"; by they were considered "reasonably accurate but admittedly not infallible ".

In fact, says Singelenberg, from the end of Watch Tower Society publications never again explicitly focused on in a theological context. Though articles continued to remind readers that the "end of years of human history" was imminent, they increasingly highlighted non-Society sources that forecast a gloomy future with worldwide famine, ecological collapse and oxygen deficiency.

The articles, says Singelenberg, were marked with emotional expressions of excitement, hope and urgency, with readers told: "What a time of turmoil is ahead of us! A climax in man's history is imminent! Less cautious language, however, was being used in publications distributed only to members of the group.


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In a issue of the monthly bulletin Kingdom Ministry , adherents were encouraged to increase their preaching activities because time was running out rapidly: "Less than a hundred months separate us from the end of years of man's history. What can you do in that time? Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world's end. The prophecy was also disseminated at talks at congregation meetings and assemblies. Speakers at some conventions highlighted the phrase, "Stay alive till '75" and urged the audience to maintain their meeting attendance or risk losing their lives at Armageddon.

Many of us have suffered misery, sickness and death.

Essential Readings in Failed Prophecy, 1st Edition

You don't have to experience that any more. The new order is near Sell your house, sell everything you own and say, oh boy, how long can I carry on with my private means. That long? Get rid of things! Plan to shower people with magazines during these last few months of this dying system of things! Yet The Watchtower ' s public coverage of the same series of conventions was notable for its far more cautious tone. In its summary of the convention talks, the magazine reiterated the teaching that Bible chronology showed years of human existence would be completed in the mids, then pointed out: "These publications have never said that the world's end would come then.

Nevertheless, there has been considerable individual speculation on the matter. Franz says a Watchtower article implied that members should be careful about taking too literally Jesus' cautionary words about forecasting the last days. The magazine warned: "This is not the time to be toying with the words of Jesus that 'concerning that day and hour nobody knows To the contrary: it is a time when one should be keenly aware that the end of this system of things is rapidly coming to its violent end.

In a paper, Joseph F. Zygmunt commented on the likely outcome for Jehovah's Witnesses if this prediction, too, failed: "While return to this old strategy would seem to expose the sect once again to prophetic failure, the risks are balanced by the potent ideological reinforcement accruing from this forthright renewal of faith, which thirty-five years of diffuse watchful waiting seem to have made necessary. The new prophecy is being phrased in a manner that lends itself to 'confirmation' by the old device of claiming partial supernatural fulfillment.

Overview: Revelation Ch. 1-11

He noted an increasing frequency of Watch Tower Society warnings about the futility of making precise predictions about events expected for the jubilee year. Yet Singelenberg, a Dutch social anthropologist, found that amid the conflict of Watch Tower Society statements from the era about what might happen that year, its sense of urgency on a probable apocalyptic event, and later the possibility of a cataclysm, expectations of a significant event in had a "startling impact" on the proselytizing activities of Jehovah's Witnesses and membership growth.

His analysis of Watch Tower Society data showed annual growth of "publishers", which had averaged 2. The number of average annual baptisms more than doubled, from to , with the ratio of defections to recruitments plummeting. The percentage of "pioneers" Witnesses devoting at least 60 hours a month in preaching work more than tripled from 2. He also found major increases in the number of "back calls" return visits to interested members of the public who purchased publications and average hours spent in service by individuals in the same two years.

The passing of without incident left the Watch Tower Society open to new claims of prophetic failure. Instead of maintaining the prophetic significance of that year, however, the group's leaders embarked on a lengthy period of denial and purge, blaming rank and file membership for misreading the organization's interpretations. Although the Society had earlier argued that the gap was "weeks or months, not years", it now decided the time lapse could, after all, be years.

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Singelenberg's analysis of Jehovah's Witness preaching activity in the Netherlands in the wake of the prophetic failure showed a drop in the group's membership from mid, a trend that was not reversed until It is thought that in the Netherlands about Witnesses either left the movement, were expelled, or became marginal and inactive members.

Brose as "opportunists" who had joined the group out of fear when the end seemed imminent, yet who lacked genuine commitment. One elder told Singelenberg: "It was good that Armageddon did not take place. It separated the wheat from the chaff. Schmalz suggested the leadership drew attention from the disconfirmation by requiring an even greater loyalty from members, a demand enforced with the expulsion of almost 30, Witnesses in alone.

The insistence on doctrinal orthodoxy reached the highest levels of the organization in , with many in the writing committee disfellowshipped. In almost every country the annual growth rate of Jehovah's Witnesses fell markedly after the failure. Even among the majority who remained, morale declined: in and the average "publisher" spent hours a year proselytizing, compared to In his ethnographic study of Jehovah's Witnesses, English sociologist Andrew Holden quoted the testimony of a Witness who had been in the movement from the early s, but found it impossible to remain as an active member after the failure of the prediction.

He said he, like many others, had been convinced the end would come in I said it from the platform!


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We told everyone the end was near. When I became a Witness I gave up my insurance policies, I cancelled all my insurance endowments, I never bought a house because I knew I wouldn't need one, we didn't even want to put the kids' names down for school. Watch Tower Society literature of the s and s repeatedly claimed that the "end" had to be expected before the turn of the century. But there are many indications that 'the end' is much closer than that! In , the notion that the missionary efforts of the Witnesses would culminate before the turn of the century was first reaffirmed, then abandoned.

As first published, a Watchtower article of January 1 stated: "The apostle Paul was spearheading the Christian missionary activity. He was also laying a foundation for a work that would be completed in our 20th century. Nine months later a more cautiously worded statement appeared in the Watchtower : "We have ample reasons to expect that this preaching will be completed in our time.