Shawn left a very well thought-out comment on my last blog. I felt that it shed so much light on this issue that I had to include it here for everyone to read:
Here's the context... and you won't get it simply by having both articles in their entirety. In 1984, JWs believed that the people who witnessed the events of 1914 would not die before Armageddon occurred. The age of a person who was able to comprehend the events of 1914 was eventually lowered to 10 years old, born in 1904. These people would have to be 104 now.... oops. So, to save themselves from yet another failed prophecy ( they have said that 'the end' would happen in 1914, 1915, 1918, 1925, 1975, before the 1914 generation dies, and the latest implication is 2034 ), the Watchtower society redefined the term "generation" from the literal generation that saw 1914 to something nebulous. The latest date was published in the December 15, 2003 Watchtower on pages 14-19. (quote from http://www.jwfiles.com/2034.htm )
Noah preached 120 years until the time of the flood, which was the time of the end to Noah and his generation. The December 15, 2003 Watchtower article is paralleling Noah's day to our present day. The Society is adding a 120 years to the 1914 date to come up with the hinted date of 2034.
Words such as "Similar, Similarly, Similarity, Similarities, Parallel, Corresponds, Characteristic, Compare, Arklike and more are all through the article to back up their subtle and hinted claims.
Page 15, Paragraph 6
"In Noah's day, Jehovah declared: 'My spirit shall not act toward man indefinitely in that he is also flesh. Accordingly his days shall amount to a hundred and twenty years.' (Genesis 6:3) The issuance of this divine decree in 2490 B.C.E. marked the beginning of the end for that ungodly world. Just think what that meant for those then living! Only 120 years more and Jehovah would bring 'the deluge of waters upon the earth to bring to ruin all flesh in which the force of life is active from under the heavens.' - Genesis 6:17"
Page 15, Paragraph 7
"Noah received the warning of the upcoming catastrophe decades in advance and he wisely used the time to prepare for survival.' After being given divine warning of things not yet beheld,' says the apostle Paul, '[Noah] showed godly fear and constructed an ark for the saving of his household.' (Hebrews 11:7) What about us? Some 90 years have passed since the last days of this system of things began in 1914. We are certainly in 'the time of the end.' (Daniel 12:4) How should we respond to warnings we have been given? 'He that does the will of God remains forever,' states the Bible. (1 John 2:17) Now is therefore the time to do Jehovah's will with a keen sense of urgency."
Page 15, Paragraph 9
"Jehovah has kept these warnings in front of his people by means of timely reminders through the spiritual food provided by 'the faithful and discreet slave'".... (end of quote)
A footnote in the Feb 15th 2008 Watchtower study article states "Apparently, the period in which "this generation" lives seems to correspond to the period covered by the first vision of the book of Revelation. (Rev. 1:10-3:22) This aspect of the day of the Lord extends from 1914 until when the last of the faithful anointed dies and is resurrected - See Revelation - Its Grand Climax at Hand! page 24, paragraph 4."
The Watchtower society used to quote Psalms 90:10
"10 In themselves the days of our years are seventy years;
And if because of special mightiness they are eighty years,
Yet their insistence is on trouble and hurtful things;
For it must quickly pass by, and away we fly. "
and associate 70 or 80 years with the generation of 1914, but now that that time has come and gone, they need an extension and found it in the parallel of Noah's day. The JWs are a branch of Adventism and are eagerly awaiting the destruction of all human life on earth except for JWs, at which time the earth will, through the hard work of the survivors, be transformed into a global park where there will be no carnivorous animals. Oh, lions will still be around, they just won't eat meat anymore, so your children will be able to hug them. Take a look at http://www.watchtower.org/e/lmn/index.htm
The Watchtower society is constantly looking for clues as to when this catastrophic event will occur and every time one of the indicators (either a particular year or the passing of the 'generation') fails to ring in the destruction of almost all human life, the Watchtower society suddenly gets 'new light' from the Holy Spirit.
So it's entirely understandable that you are confused about this interpretation. You have to keep in mind that the JWs (meaning the governing body in Brooklyn) are constantly discovering "new light" and this new light gives way to "the current understanding" of the scriptures. So really, only the publications from the last few years are to be understood as "the truth". Also, keep in mind that any interpretation of the scriptures that does not come from the Watchtower society (referred to internally as 'the faithful and discreet slave') is coming from an apostate.
The preaching work of the JWs is fueled by the fear that the coming day of Jehovah's wrath is very near and that true Christians will be involved primarily in the preaching activity. For the rank and file adherents, that means that if they're not busy in the Lord's work when Armageddon happens, they will be destroyed with the rest of the pagans. This urgency is what drives JWs to engage in the door-to-door ministry to promote the Watchtower society's message. Therefore, anyone who claims that the scriptures do not indicate that the time we are living in is 'the time of the end', is working against God's spirit-directed organization (the Watchtower society's governing body)... an apostate.
In the mind of a JW, there is no conflict in the statements of 1984 and 2008. In the 1984 article, the Society is warning the faithful not to believe people who say the end is not near. That's because JW families might not want to go out knocking on doors every weekend and take their family to a real park without friendly lions and actually enjoy the life they are living instead of living for a life that the Watchtower society has promised them will come really, really soon. On the other hand, in the 2008 article the Society is disseminating 'new light' on the understanding of what the term 'generation' means.
This is typical Watchtower marketing spin. They present this new light in a you-heard-it-here-first-Aren't-you-special? kind of way to distract the rank and file from the fact that the society was just plain wrong about Armageddon arriving before the literal generation of 1914 dies ( or whatever else they were wrong about). There's a lot of excitement before some new light is published. Magazines leading up to the new light hint at it's arrival. Then, after the new light arrives there's a sort of mob mentality that pushes each individual to adapt their beliefs to this new light. Talks from the platform and Watchtower articles tell the congregations how the Society is a swift moving organization and that no member can 'stand still' - You're either moving forward with the faithful and discreet slave, or you're moving backwards into spiritual darkness. Members are also constantly reminded to 'look forward', discouraging them from looking critically at the failed prophecy of the organization they belong to. Combine this with...
* The shear volume of required study of the current Watchtower publications
* The hours each week spent at meetings and in the field ministry
* The fear that if one is not in-line with God's spirit-directed earthly organization, the Watchtower society, that person will be destroyed at Armageddon ( which is going to happen really soon)
...and you have a group of people that are so busy that they simply don't have time to sit and reflect on the very long list of failed predictions.
How do I know? I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness from infancy and was a member up to my late twenties when I could no longer stand how women are treated as second-class citizens along with some serious discrepancies between historical events and the dates used by the society to predict 1914 as the beginning of Christ's invisible presence, namely the Watchtower claim that the first destruction of the temple in Jerusalem occurred in 607 B.C.E. The one good thing that I got out of being a JW was extensive training in public speaking and debate... which I now use to shed, not 'new light' but the actual light of truth on this controlling and manipulative cult.
I would be happy to answer any other questions that anyone has about what JWs believe, what life as a JW is like, etc.