‘Generation 1914’ and 1975

Autor: Włodzimierz Bednarski

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Some people think that there was not any connection between expecting 1975 and an interpretation of generation 1914, but they are wrong. This last teaching was included in The Watchtower publications both before the 1975 campaign, started in 1966 and after its end, after the first half of the seventies of the twentieth century till the doctrinal change in November 1995. However, in years 1966-1975 both calculations were complementary, and even the teaching on 1975 was placed ‘inside’ the interpretation concerning generation of the year 1914. Moreover, the year 1975 specified a more general prediction focused on generation of the year 1914. Those teachings did not appear separately and did not contradict each other. Conversely, two calculations were presented in the publications as ‘two sisters’, and one ‘confirmed’ the other. In some cases the teaching on generation 1914 supported the truthfulness of 1975 interpretation, in other cases it was vice versa.

Besides, the same ‘signs’ of the end were understood as characteristic both for generation of the year 1914 and for the year 1975. The examples of such thinking are two articles published in the same issue of Awake! magazine. One of them presents a picture showing a train heading to a precipice called Armageddon. The train’s back cars are near the year 1914, the beginning of the ‘last days’, but its locomotive is right in front a precipice. The title of the article is The Year 1914 a Turning Point (Awake! October 8, 1968, p. 5). But the second article has even an intriguing title: What Will the 1970's Bring? (p. 13). These articles are supplemented by texts: How Do We Know We Are in the “Last Days”? (p. 7), The Sign of the “Last Days” (p. 8), A Time to 'Lift Up Your Head' in Confident Hope (p. 23).

But it is not yet the whole story. In fact a content of each article shows that teaching of generation 1914 and a doctrine of 1975 overlap each other. The following quotations are examples of mutual confirmation of the two teachings:

The generation that saw the beginning of woes in 1914 would also see the end of Satan and his entire wicked system of things. Some who were alive then would still be alive when “the end” comes. (...) There is another chronological indication that we are rapidly nearing the closing time for this wicked system of things. It is the fact that shortly, according to reliable Bible chronology, 6,000 years of human history will come to an end. (Awake! October 8, 1966, pp. 18-19).

Jesus said that “this generation” that saw the beginning of this time period in 1914 would also see its end. The generation that was old enough to view those events with understanding in 1914 is no longer young. It no longer has many years to run. Already many of its members have died. But Jesus showed that there would still be members of “this generation” alive at the time of the passing away of this wicked system of things in both heaven and earth. (Luke 21:32, 33) How much longer will it be, then, before God takes action to destroy the wicked and usher in the blessings of his Kingdom rule? Interestingly, the autumn of the year 1975 marks the end of 6,000 years of human experience. This is ascertainable from reliable chronology preserved in the Bible itself. What will that year mean for humankind? Will it be the time when God executes the wicked and starts off the thousand-year reign of his Son Jesus Christ? It very well could, but we will have to wait to see. Yet of this we can be certain: the generation that Jesus said would witness those events is nearing its close. The time is close at hand. On God’s “timetable” we are in the closing days of a wicked system of things that will soon be gone forever. A glorious new order is immediately before us. (The Watchtower May 1, 1967, p. 262);

And remember, Jesus said that the end of this wicked world would come before that generation passed away in death. This, of it self, tells us that the years left before the foretold end comes cannot be many. There is another way that helps confirm the fact that we are living in the final few years of this "time of the end." (Dan. 12:9) The Bible shows that we are nearing the end of a full 6,000 years of human history. What significance does this have? (Awake! October 8, 1968, p. 14);

However, Bible chronology which indicates that Adam was created in the fall of the year 4026 B.C.E. would bring us down to the year 1975 C.E. as the date marking 6,000 years of human history with yet 1,000 years to come for Christ’s Kingdom rule. So whatever the date for the end of this system, it is clear that the time left is reduced, with only approximately six years left until the end of 6,000 years of human history. (1 Cor. 7:29) This corroborates the understanding of Jesus’ words that the generation alive in 1914 with the outbreak of World War I would not pass away until the end comes. Only a short time, then, remains for persons who love righteousness to show God that they want to be in his “ark” of protection and live to see the blessings of the new system of things. - Matt. 24:34-42. (The Watchtower May 1, 1970, p. 273);

But, he pointed out, “we should not think that this year of 1975 is of no significance to us,” for the Bible proves that Jehovah is “the greatest chronologist” and “we have the anchor date, 1914, marking the end of the Gentile Times.” So, he continued, “we are filled with anticipation for the near future, for our generation.” - Matt. 24:34. (The Watchtower May 1, 1975, p. 285).

The fact that the two concepts ‘interpenetrate’ is taught in such publications, as:

Life Everlasting - In Freedom of the Sons of God 1966, pp. 29-30;

The Watchtower May 1, 1968, pp. 271-272;

The Watchtower August 15, 1968, pp. 500-501;

The Watchtower October 15, 1969, pp. 622-623.

Interesting comparison of the two interpretations was made by Jehovah’s Witnesses in their internal newsletter published in Polish, in which they used very categorical words:

Jesus made his many miraculous works on earth, especially on the Sabbath. (...) Thus he pointed to a greater Day of the Sabbath – the Millennial Sabbath Day which will take place after 6,000 years of man’s existence (Ps. 90:4; 1 Peter 3:8). Jesus thus illustrated that during the millennial Sabbath he will set free the humankind from imperfectness and death inherited from our first parents. Exact chronological calculations show that 6,000 years of man’s existence will come to an end in the middle of the seventies, during life of generation which according to Jesus’ words from Matthew 24:34 saw the end of the ‘appointed times of the nations’ in 1914. This peaceful reign of Jesus is very close, indeed! – Luke 21:24, NW. For that reason it is the high time to start appropriate preparations. (Polish Kingdom Ministry No. 9, 1970, p. 1).

Maybe someone will ask: How the year 1975 ‘specified’ the teaching of generation 1914?

Let us follow the issue through.

Quite recently The Watchtower Society recalled their readers how they calculated the length of generation 1914. They mentioned 70 or 80 years:

With similar sincere intentions, God’s servants in modern times have tried to derive from what Jesus said about “generation” some clear time element calculated from 1914. For instance, one line of reasoning has been that a generation can be 70 or 80 years, made up of people old enough to grasp the significance of the first world war and other developments; thus we can calculate more or less how near the end is. (The Watchtower June 1, 1997, p. 28).

As we see The Watchtower Society did not focused on people born in 1914, but on such people who could “grasp the significance of the first world war”.

It taught that the issue of generation 1914 referred to people who in 1914 were 15 years of age:

Even if we presume that youngsters 15 years of age would be perceptive enough to realize the import of what happened in 1914, it would still make the youngest of "this generation'' nearly 70 years old today. So the great majority of the generation to which Jesus was referring has already passed away in death. The remaining ones are approaching old age. And remember, Jesus said that the end of this wicked world would come before that generation passed away in death. This, of it self, tells us that the years left before the foretold end comes cannot be many. (Awake! October 8, 1968, pp. 13-14).

It seems that it referred to people born around 1899, who were 15 years old in the year 1914. When Jehovah’s Witnesses added 70 or 80 years to the year 1899, then they received years 1969-1979. So the year 1975 was almost in the middle of the appointed period of generation 1914 and thus ‘specified’ the prophecy of The Watchtower Society and also confirmed the teaching on ‘this generation’.

To make oneself sure that during the campaign of 1975 the Society used the period of 70-80 years as a part needed to calculate the length of generation 1914, let us follow through several examples from the literature of The Watchtower Society. But we may add that they referred to Psalm 90:10 (“In themselves the days of our years are seventy years; And if because of special mightiness they are eighty years...”):

However, the expression “this generation” was used by Jesus to mark a very limited period of time, the life-span of members of a generation of people living during the time that certain epoch-making events occurred. According to Psalm 90:10, that life-span could be of seventy years or even of eighty years. Into this comparatively short period of time must be crowded all the things that Jesus prophesied in answer to the request for a “sign when all these things are destined to come to a conclusion.” (Mark 13:4) (The Watchtower December 15, 1967, p. 751);

Jesus say that this generation will not pass away until all things are fulfilled? A generation, according to Psalm 90:10, is from seventy to eighty years. The generation that witnessed the end of the Gentile Times in 1914 does not have many more years left. - Luke 21:24, 32-36. (The Watchtower December 1, 1968, p. 715);

Some of them will still be alive to see the end of this wicked system. This means that only a short time is left before the end comes! (Psalm 90:10 [89:10, Dy]) (The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life 1968, p. 95).

At the end we may sign that life of contemporary teaching on 1975 was finished in that very year, and the interpretation on generation 1914 ‘were dying down’ till November 1995 (earlier the Society prolonged the length of the generation, including people born in 1914).

Today both teachings of The Watchtower Society function in a very different form.

1975 remained only as a point in which 6,000 years passed since the birth of Adam (e.g. “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial” 1990, pp. 286-287; Insight on the Scriptures 1988 vol. 1, p. 459).

But the teaching on generation 1914 was already corrected twice:

From November 1, 1995 till February 1, 2008 The Watchtower Society taught:

Thus, it was felt that in the modern-day fulfillment, Jesus was referring to the wicked “generation” of unbelievers who would see both the features that would characterize “the conclusion of the system of things” (synteleia) and the system’s end (telos). (The Watchtower February 15, 2008, p. 23; see also The Watchtower November 1, 1995, pp. 11-20, 30-31; The Watchtower June 1, 1997, p. 28; The Watchtower May 1, 1999, p. 11).

From February 15, 2008 The Watchtower Society has been teaching:

Since Jesus did not use negative qualifiers when speaking to them about “this generation,” the apostles would no doubt have understood that they and their fellow disciples were to be part of the “generation” that would not pass away “until all these things [would] occur.” (The Watchtower February 15, 2008, p. 23).

For ‘this generation’ the year 1914 was and still is the year opening the end times, but a precise length of the generation was not determined:

Christ’s parousia, or presence, started with Jesus’ installation as King in heaven in 1914 and continues on to include the “great tribulation,” during which he comes to destroy the wicked. (The Watchtower February 15, 2008, p. 21);

Can We Calculate the Length of “This Generation”? (...) So when the term “generation” is used with reference to people living at a particular time, the exact length of that time cannot be stated except that it does have an end and would not be excessively long. Therefore, by using the term “this generation,” as recorded at Matthew 24:34, Jesus did not give his disciples a formula to enable them to determine when “the last days” would end. Rather, Jesus went on to emphasize that they would not know “that day and hour.” - 2 Tim. 3:1; Matt. 24:36. (The Watchtower February 15, 2008, p. 25).

Recently The Watchtower Society again ‘updated’ its teaching on “this generation”, attempting to determine its length. It is a combination of generation 1914 period with life of today’s (younger) anointed ones among Jehovah’s Witnesses. The end is expected during this new period. Following are words of the organization published in April 15, 2010:

„How, then, are we to understand Jesus’ words about “this generation”? He evidently meant that the lives of the anointed who were on hand when the sign began to become evident in 1914 would overlap with the lives of other anointed ones who would see the start of the great tribulation. That generation had a beginning, and it surely will have an end. The fulfillment of the various features of the sign clearly indicate that the tribulation must be near” (Watchtower April 15, 2010, pp. 10-11).

Obviously the novelty of this interpretation is not a closeness of the “great tribulation”, but, as we already said, a kind of calculation concerning the length of „this generation”. Let us recall the former reassurance made with the same firmness by The Watchtower Society:

„This suggests that some who are Christ’s anointed brothers will still be alive on earth when the foretold great tribulation begins” (The Watchtower February 15, 2008, p. 24).

More on generation 1914: see also the chapter “Disillusionment, Responsibility and 1975”.

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Opracował: Piotr Andryszczak
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