To say that the 1914 doctrine is important to Jehovah’s Witnesses is an understatement. To stress how important this doctrine is to them, it would suffice to use the Watchtower Society’s own words:
*** w86 4/1 p. 31 Questions From Readers ***
Approved association with Jehovah’s Witnesses requires accepting the entire range of the true teachings of the Bible, including those Scriptural beliefs that are unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses. What do such beliefs include?…That 1914 marked the end of the Gentile Times and the establishment of the Kingdom of God in the heavens, as well as the time for Christ’s foretold presence. (Luke 21:7-24; Revelation 11:15–12:10)
*** w83 1/1 p. 12 par. 5 The Kingdom Issue to the Fore! ***
Properly, then, the ending of the Gentile Times in the latter half of 1914 still stands on a historical basis as one of the fundamental Kingdom truths to which we must hold today.
*** w85 9/1 p. 25 par. 15 God’s Ministers Prove Their Qualification ***
So Christendom’s clergy refuse to take a stand for Jehovah’s Kingdom by Jesus Christ. For failing to support it, they will be destroyed in the “great tribulation” just ahead. But unlike them, Jehovah’s Witnesses have abandoned Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, and are preaching the Kingdom message in 203 lands. This unparalleled work is an outstanding feature of “the sign” proving that in 1914 Jesus was installed as heavenly King, to rule amid his enemies.—Matthew 24:3, 14, 21; Psalm 110:1, 2; Revelation 18:1-5.
In light of these quotes, it is no stretch to say that according to the Watchtower, your very salvation depends on the acceptance of 1914 in addition to their “entire range” of teachings. Because of such statements, would we not expect the doctrine of 1914 to be based on the most solid biblical reasons? Would we expect our salvation to be based on something that is doubtful or speculative?
Therefore, let’s investigate 1914 and see if it is based on the best possible reasons. And I would encourage all Jehovah’s Witnesses watching this to do their own homework and “examine the Scriptures to see whether these things are so.” (Acts 17:11) That is, don’t take anyone’s word for it. Do your own research and come to your own conclusions.
With that said, I’d like to use the Watchtower publication, “What does the Bible Really Teach” in our investigation. Though more detailed explanations are given elsewhere, I think most Jehovah’s Witnesses would agree that this publication contains one of the best and most concise explanations of the doctrine.
Beginning on page 215 in What does the Bible Really Teach:
“DECADES in advance, Bible students proclaimed that there would be significant developments in 1914. What were these and what evidence points to 1914 as such an important year?
There are a few things to note about this statement. First, it is misleading. It is quite an understatement to suggest that the early proclamations of 1914 were of “significant developments.” Though it is true that 1914 brought about World War I, this was not something that was foretold by Russell or the “Bible Students.” Instead, the facts clearly reveal that the “Bible Students” were predicting something much more significant: the “Battle of Armageddon” and the end of the world. Unfortunate as it was, they credited the teaching that we now know to be false to God Himself:
“There is no reason for changing the figures; they are God’s dates, not ours; 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but the end!”
-The Watch Tower, July 15, 1894, p. 1677
Second, in addition to understating the facts pertaining to the early proclamations of 1914, the What does the Bible Really Teach book seems to give the impression that the Bible Students were doing something commendable in their proclamation. The question I would ask is, is it commendable for the “Bible Students” to be proclaiming a false doctrine and attributing it to God?
Last, given that the Society has had a poor track record of falsely pointing to dates that were supposed to have specific fulfillments (1874, 1878, 1881, 1914, 1918, 1925, 1935, 1975), do you not find it to be at least questionable that the Society teaches that you must accept what they are now teaching about 1914 to be a true Christian?
“As recorded at Luke 21:24, Jesus said: ‘Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations [“the times of the Gentiles,” King James Version] are fulfilled.’ Jerusalem had been the capital city of the Jewish nation—the seat of rulership of the line of kings from the house of King David. (Psalm 48:1, 2) However, these kings were unique among national leaders. They sat on ‘Jehovah’s throne’ as representatives of God himself. (1 Chronicles 29:23) Jerusalem was thus a symbol of Jehovah’s rulership.
How and when, though, did God’s rulership begin to be ‘trampled on by the nations’? This happened in 607 B.C.E. when Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians. ‘Jehovah’s throne’ became vacant, and the line of kings who descended from David was interrupted. (2 Kings 25:1-26)
The first obstacle we have to deal with is the 607 date. This is one very important link in the 1914 chronology to which, if proven false, then the doctrine of 1914 is false. In light of the Watchtower’s declaration that your status as a true Christian depends on 1914, should we expect to find a link in the chain that is made out of very thin rope instead of steel? The truth is, the 607 date is at worse, completely false; and at best, questionable. It is not my intention to go into all the details surrounding this date. But it must be emphasized that the vast majority of historians, both biblical and secular, date the destruction of Jerusalem at 586/587 B.C.E. as opposed to 607. Much has been written and debated from both sides of the issue, which is too complex for our purposes here. I would only ask that you do your own research on the subject from both sides of the issue and come to your own conclusions on the matter.
But leaving aside the date, there are other questionable issues at hand; namely, the “trampling of the nations” that is spoken of by Jesus. The publication states that this “trampling” occurred in 607. But notice the time-tense that Jesus places on the statement: “Jerusalem will be trampled.” That is, Jesus is speaking in the future tense. How could Jesus be speaking of something in the future that, according to the publication, happened hundreds of years before he came to earth? The publication does not tell us. In addition, there are other clues in the context of Jesus’ statement that gives us even more reason to believe that He is speaking of something future:
“Woe to the pregnant women and the ones suckling a baby in those days! For there will be a great necessity upon the land and wrath on this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.”
-Luke 21:23-24, New World Translation
Given all the future-tense phrases that are found in this passage, is there any good reason to view the “trampling” as the exception in referring to the past event? In light of this, have we observed any solid evidence thus far in the publication’s summary? Or have we seen statements that are questionable, if not false? What would the Scriptures teach about such things?
“Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine.”
-1 Thessalonians 5:21, New World Translation
In other words, should we not, as Bible Students, examine the Watchtower’s claims and “make sure” it aligns with Scripture? And if it doesn’t, or we find the reasons given to be questionable, should we not be more hesitant to join with an organization that claims our salvation to be dependent on this doctrine?
“Would this ‘trampling’ go on forever? No, for the prophecy of Ezekiel said regarding Jerusalem’s last king, Zedekiah: ‘Remove the turban, and life off the crown…It will certainly become no one’s until he comes who has the legal right, and I must give it to him.’ (Ezekiel 21:26, 27) The one who has ‘the legal right’ to the Davidic crown is Christ Jesus (Luke 1:32, 33) So the ‘trampling’ would end when Jesus became King.”
Though no explicit statement in Scripture says such, the Watchtower insists that Jesus “became King” in 1914. The problem is, the Scriptures indicate that Jesus became King in the first century.
“All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.”
-Matthew 28:18, New World Translation
“He has operated in the case of the Christ when he raised him up from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above every government and authority and power and lordship and every name named, not only in this system of things, but also in that to come.”
-Ephesians 1:20-21, New World Translation
The question is, how could Christ be further exalted or any more “King” when it is clear that He has been given “all authority” and “seated at the right hand” of God Almighty in the first century?