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The Jehovah's Witnesses in Crisis: Anxiety and disillusionment sets in as 2014 approaches

The Jehovah's Witnesses in Crisis: Anxiety and disillusionment sets in as 2014 approaches

Raymond Franz, former leader of JW and author of Crisis of Conscience

The teaching of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society that Armageddon will come before the "generation of 1914" passes away is causing increased anxiety among Jehovah's Witnesses as 2014 approaches and there are still no clear signs of how and when Jehovah will bring an end to this evil "system of things."

According to the teaching that the Jehovah's Witnesses have held for decades, people who were alive in 1914, when Jesus began "invisible rule" in heaven (an event marked by the outbreak of the first world war), will not die off completely before Jesus "turns kingdom attention to the earth" and executes judgment on "enemies of God," a phrase which, in Jehovah's Witnesses lingo, means essentially everyone of us who have not seen the light and joined the "Jehovah's only visible organization on earth," that is, The Jehovah's Witnesses.

According to  Jason Barker, a close watcher of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the society has "long watched the aging of members who were alive in the year 1914, increasingly expecting Armageddon to occur as the elderly Witnesses pass away."

According to Jason Barker, precise interpretation of Jesus' Mount Olivet Discourse statements that, "verily, verily I say unto thee, this generation shall not pass away before all these things shall be fulfilled,"  has been elusive, going through endless subtle revisions over the years as the 1914  generation of senior members of the organization aged and died off gradually, and with increasing anxiety over the possibility that the prediction of the leadership of the group might fail.

With 2014, marking a hundred years of the generation of 1914 just around the corner, and with the "generation of 1914" fast disappearing,  anxiety has heightened among witnesses over their expectation of imminence of Armageddon.

Jason Barker does a  brief sketch of the pattern of various revisions of the  Jehovah's Witnesses end-time teaching with regard to their 1914 teaching:

1889-Charles Taze Russell began teaching that Armageddon will come in 1914

After 1914 when Armageddon did not come leaders of the movement began teaching that Jesus had come invisibly and that the outbreak of the First World War was the sign that Jesus had begun "ruling in the midst of his enemies" in heaven.

1950-Watchtower admonishes Jehovah's Witnesses to look forward to Armageddon, 36 years having passed since 1914 and the generation of 1914  already well advanced in age

1961-The Society announces that the prophesied endtime events leading to Armageddon had begun with the generation of those alive in 1914

1967-The Society revises the meaning of the word "generation" to mean only those individuals who were alive in 1914 and able to view the "momentous" events of 1914 with understanding.

1968-The society makes another subtle change now emphasizing that the age of understanding is 15 years or older, implying that Armageddon would come before all those 15 years or older in 1914 die.

1984-The meaning of "generation" is now again revised to mean all those who were born during the year 1914

1988– The society states that a biblical generation is 75 years, meaning that Armageddon will come within 75 years of 1914, thus, 1989 was delcared a significant year in the official eschatological calender

1988– Later in 1988, the society revises its position once more, now defining a generation as between 70-80 years and thus extending the expectation of Armageddon to 1994

According to CeeJay, a former Jehovah's Witness, the revision of the meaning of  "generation of 1914," in  1995, followed a publication by the dissident Raymond Franz , a former member of the Governing Board of the Jehovah's Witnesses, who was  "disfellowshipped" by the organization in 1980, on accusation of apostasy. In his book Crisis of Conscience, Raymond Franz discussed the Watchtower's increasingly difficult position as the "generation of 1914" rapidly died off with no signs of Armageddon.


“…the Governing Body would welcome some means of escape from the increasingly difficult position created by tying the phrase “this generation” (along with the accompanying words that it “will not pass away until all these things have taken place”) to the steadily receding date of 1914… Undoubtedly the most desirable escape would come with an explanation that both retained 1914 as the “start of the last days” and at the same time successfully disconnected the phrase “this generation” from that date. But if the phrase “this generation” could be unlinked from 1914 and be applied to some future period of unknown date, then the passage of time…might not prove too difficult to rationalize particularly with a membership trained to accept whatever the "faithful and discreet slave class and its Governing Body may offer them”

The Jehovah's Witnesses governing body, as anticipated by Raymond Franz, a former insider, finally sought to douse the tension among its members as the generation of 1914 passed away, by  issuing a statement in a November 1, 1995 article, in which it now began subtly refuting its previous statements on the duration of the "a biblical generation". The article official article said:

…Eager to see the end of this evil system, Jehovah’s people have at times speculated about the time when the “great tribulation” would break out, even tying this to calculations of what is the lifetime of a generation since 1914. However, we “bring a heart of wisdom in,” not by speculating about how many years or days make up a generation, but by thinking about how we “count our days” in bringing joyful praise to Jehovah. (Psalm 90:12) Rather than provide a rule for measuring time, the term “generation” as used by Jesus refers principally to contemporary people of a certain historical period, with their identifying characteristics.

Thus, beginning from 1995, as the millennium drew to a close, with the generation of 1914 fast disappearing without any sign of action from heaven, and with the 80 years span for a "biblical generation" having expired, the governing body of the Jehovah's Witnesses began implying effectively that a generation could be indefinitely extended.

This latest Armageddon-postponement-tactic by the Jehovah's Witnesses leadership has led to disillusionment for many longstanding members who began defecting. The sense of disappointed and let-down by former members of the group is evident in the forum Jehovahs-Witness.net.,  having several former members of the group as contributors.  One contributor comments bitterly:

Growing up as a JW, you see the world differently than most everyone else.  You see the world as something that is going to end very soon.  All that we know will be gone by the time we're adults: When we were young, we were living in the last days and were expecting Armageddon before we grew old.  We were the people who would cheat old age and death. Therefore we didn't have to worry about jobs, careers, houses, families.  We were gonna party like it was 1999, the end would come and we'd all be in Paradise…It's a delusional expectation that has caused entire generations (not just mine, but my parents and grandparents before me) to waste their lives expecting to live forever and to be  young forever.  How sad to see people in their twilight years still expecting some miraculous event to transform them back to what they can never be again…

The evidence is that with the last revision by the leadership of the Jehovah's Witnesses on the subject of how long a "biblical generation" lasts, more and more witnesses are coming under pressure to review their convictions and many may be in need of help to re-adapt to a reality they had turned their backs on for too long.

About JohnThomas Didymus

Transmodernist writer and thinker. Author of "Confessions of God: The Gospel According to St. JohnThomas Didymus"
  • Harold Camping sounds like he plagiarized Jehovah's Witnesses.
    Jehovah Witnesses are a spin-off of the second Adventist which all came from the Millerite movement.American war of 1812 army captain William Miller is ground zero for Jehovah's Witnesses.
    Yes,the "great disappointment" of Oct 22 1844 has never died out… it lives on in the Jehovah's Witnesses.
    The central CORE doctrine of the Watchtower,yes the reason the Watchtower came into existence was to declare Jesus second coming in 1914.When the prophecy (derived from William Miller of 1844) failed they said that he came "invisibly".
    Watchtower reckless predictions of the (1914) (1975)….. second coming of Christ hardens skeptics in their unbelief and provides new fodder for cynics to mock the Christian faith.

    Danny Haszard been there

    Actual news releases on Armageddon 1975 prediction

  • See what happens when man tries to “calculate” virtually anything regarding the end of time or Armageddon? When the opinion is generated by a single statement as in this case it doesn’t take long for “revisions” to occur. The Parable of the Fig Tree obviously refers to Israel, not 1914. So the JWs were 3 decades early and should have waited for the creation of the new State of Israel but “this generation” as spoken by Christ could mean the unification of Jerusalem in 1967 and not 1948. That “generation” could take us well into 2070-80, if that’s the case.

    Let’s just look for the signs as Christ commanded, be the good watchmen of the house. Let’s be as fluent in Biblical Prophecy as possible and STOP being lazy and relying on our tradition influenced fringe Church leadership. Because only the “guys on the edge” predict a tight timeframe for Armageddon. You never heard Pope John Paul ii (who was a man of G-D) and Billy Graham (who is a man of G-D) making timeframe (this year or that year) predictions. We have a few things that have to happen first before Armageddon. But one notable event may be on the horizon, the division of Jerusalem as stated in Zechariah 14, Joel 3 and Revelation 11. But there is a question to be asked about this upcoming event as well; question being; will Jerusalem be divided and Israel gets it back, then its divided again or is it a onetime deal? I am betting on a onetime deal, when its divided the wheel turns.

    But evangelicals will automatically present their interpretation of Daniel 9 and say “the 3rd Temple isn’t built yet so,….” When the scripture doesn’t say that. We have to be Bible literalists and shed all of the traditions. But at the end of the day no man can put a number on it, a year or two either way.


  • 55 reasons Jehovah’s Witnesses will never be reformed
    by Frank J. Toth

    1. Teaching that true Christianity is an organization instead of a way of life
    2. Claiming salvation is dependent upon belonging to the JW denomination
    3. Claiming that the organization speaks for and is controlled by Jehovah, thereby equating the organization with God himself

    4. Centralizing authority in an organization instead of letting Christ be the head of each Christian
    5. Claiming that the “faithful and discreet slave” is the “anointed class” rather than each individual Christian who shows himself or herself to be responsible and obedient to Christ
    6. Teaching that the early Christians were led by a governing body

    7. Teaching that Jesus appointed the “anointed remnant” as his true church in 1919
    8. Viewing the so-called “anointed” class (actually, the governing body) as God’s channel and prophet
    9. Placing WT literature above the Bible

    10. Frequently taking Bible texts out of context in order to build support for the organization’s man-made teachings and procedures

    11. Teaching that Jesus returned in 1914 and is “invisibly present” since then
    12. Teaching that Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 BCE when no historical records confirm this and the actual date is believed by nearly all historians to be 587 BCE

    13. Falsifying the fact that Charles Russell predicted for 1914 the end of the world, not Christ’s return
    14. Lying about a so-called “increase” in earthquakes, warfare, famines, persecution, etc., since 1914
    15. Contradictorily condemning military organizations and frowning upon JWs who choose alternative service in lieu of military service while the headquarters organization at the same time owns stock in a military product organization (REGI)

    16. Taking a conflicting stand with regard to the United Nations, claiming that it is the “wild beast” of Revelation that leads all nations in a fight against God and Christ at Armageddon, but signing on as an NGO member and publishing articles that present the UN in a favorable light
    17. Teaching that it’s wrong to celebrate birthdays and all holidays
    18. Teaching that Abraham and the faithful men and women of old are not among the holy ones who will rule with Christ in his Kingdom
    19. Interpreting Jewish restoration prophecies as fulfilled in “the anointed remnant”

    20. Teaching that the Scriptures are directly addressed only to “the remnant of anointed ones”
    21. Teaching that only the “anointed” must be born again
    22. Teaching that the “great crowd” are not begotten or anointed by the Holy Spirit

    23. Teaching that the “great crowd” are God’s grandchildren and not his sons and daughters
    24. Teaching that the “great crowd” are not members of the bride of Christ
    25. Teaching that Jesus is not the mediator between God and the “great crowd” of Revelation chapter 7

    26. Teaching that the resurrection of the “anointed” precedes the resurrection of the “other sheep” and that it has already begun
    27. Teaching that only “anointed” JWs will receive immortality in the resurrection
    28. Inviting only the “anointed” to partake at the memorial

    29. Claiming that spiritual food comes from the “anointed” class whereas nearly all the writers of WT publications are members of the “other sheep” class

    30. Creating a climate of fear by authoritarianism
    31. Controlling what individual JWs may read of Bible-related publications that are not produced by the WT Society
    32. Arrogantly pretending that the JW organization maintains higher standards than any other religion and proclaiming publicly that all other churches are members of Babylon the Great

    33. Forbidding attendance and participation at other churches
    34. Class distinctions such as “governing body,” “anointed remnant” and “great crowd of other sheep”
    35. Class distinctions such as publishers, auxiliary pioneers, regular pioneers, special pioneers, circuit overseers, district overseers, Bethelites, Governing Body, etc.

    36. Prohibiting women from serving in any meaningful role in the congregation while expecting them to do the bulk of the work in “field service”
    37. Constantly prodding the membership by means of literature, meetings and conventions to do ever more and more in the service of the organization, promoting an atmosphere where many feel their best is never good enough

    38. Setting dates for Armageddon and thereby urging the membership to abandon normal living, this often resulting in the ruination of health and family life, as well as creating employment and financial hardships

    39. Teachings that lead the members to believe righteousness and salvation can be earned by devoted and loyal support of the organization’s slavish programs
    40. Keeping meeting attendance and field service records as a gauge of an individual’s spirituality
    41. Organizationally requiring no blood transfusions instead of letting it be a matter of conscience, thereby cruelly informing all members that they will be shunned by the organization if they accept a transfusion that might restore health following a life-threatening accident or illness

    42. Allowing their own infants and children to die instead of allowing doctors to give them necessary blood transfusions
    43. Teaching that the “congregation” of Matthew 18:17 is the body of elders
    44. Holding heresy trials and disciplinary hearings in secrecy from the rest of the congregation
    45. Withholding information that would be helpful to persons who have been accused of wrongdoing

    46. Conducting heresy trials of members who have doubts or who think differently upon the Scriptures
    47. Defining apostasy as against the organization instead of against God
    48. Being quick to disfellowship instead of making efforts to restore persons who have done something wrong

    49. Unnecessarily and abusively shunning members even for minor infractions such as smoking or not complying with the whimsical directives of elders, thereby causing personal and family turmoil that often results in immense guilt, shame, fear, depression, bitterness, hatred, murder and suicide
    50. Prohibiting fellowship with disassociated persons who show no inclination toward causing dissension

    51. Showing favoritism by advising innocent victims to “leave it to Jehovah” instead of the elders taking decisive action to deal with some members who have been accused of harmful wrongdoing.
    52. Ignoring or minimizing clear evidence of child molestation and other abuses simply because only one witness is available to testify against the member accused of such serious wrongdoing
    53. Covering over and hiding damaging facts about the JW organization

    54. In many cases, neglecting the care of their own sick and elderly members who no longer have the strength and energy to attend all the meetings and to be regular in “field service” as they did for most of their lives
    55. Blatantly lying to the public by declaring to news media that members may leave the organization at any time, of their own free will and without any repercussions from the organization


    • Danny Haszard, i am aware you are former JW, would you like to share your personal experience with us?

  • MJ

    that biblical quote the JWs used (generation alive 1914 not dieing completly before armgeddon) was actually jesus predicting his second coming would occur in HIS generation. Indeed his followers spent the year after jesus 'ascended' preaching at everyone to repent because armaggedon would happen in that year. When nothing happened they just did what the JWs are doing, kept moving the date forward until they got tired of being wrong and settled with 'we don't know when, but we know it's happening soon'. How many people have wasted their lives obsessing over and even wishing this world be destroyed by their 'loving' god. People actually look forward to our worlds destruction. Regardless of what you believe, why not just be grateful you have the chance to exist at all?

    • I do agree with you on that MJ, jesus' comment about the generation not passing away actually meant just what it appears to mean–that Jesus would return in the times of the first century apostles, but this is bitter pill that 20-21st century Christians don't want to swallow–the problem is not only with "cults" like the JW but also with "mainstream" Christianity; evangelical teachers like Lindsey continue to prolong the forlorn hope of Christians by suggesting that middle east events are fulfilling endtime prophecies and stuff like that–its all laughable but many do take these fairy tales seriously

  • Pace

    Actually Matthew 24:34 is quite straight forward. The events of Matthew 24 take place before “this generation” passes away (v. 34). Jesus always uses “this generation” to refer to His contemporaries (Matt. 11:16; 12:41, 42; 23:36; Mark 8:12; 13:30; Luke 7:31; 11:29, 30, 31, 32, 50, 51; 17:25; 21:32). He never uses “this generation” to refer to a future generation. Jesus was referring to His contemporary audience who would see the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. The Greek word often translated “world” in Matthew 24:14, is oikoumene. This is the only place in Matthew’s gospel where oikoumene is used. If Jesus had wanted to convey the idea of “the whole wide world,” He would have to use the Greek word kosmos, a word that is used eight times by Matthew
    The end spoken by Jesus is the “end of the age” (24:14), not the end of the world. The “end of the age” was coming to pass in the time leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (see 1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 1:1–2; 1 Pet. 4:7).

  • Ken

    While it is true that some have decided to stop waiting on Jehovah, there are still millions of us who are content to put our faith in Jesus and wait for his father to give him the “go ahead” signal. The inability of some to accept that the Faithful Slave is not infallible is their own issue. My father never stopped learning up until the time of his death. As a result, he many times had to adjust his thinking on matters when new science or technology revealed nuances that he had not previously known. And yet, I have never called him a liar or a hypocrite, nor do I look for every opportunity to criticize him for his desire to learn and apply new things. I see no reason to treat my spiritual brothers with any less respect. For those who have left our family, over these or any other issues, their true colors are shown (as in the case of Mr Hazard) by their bitterness and hatred driving them to post negative comments on every web new story about us. They are not of our sort, don’t judge us (JW’s) by their lack of faith, please.

    • David

      I disagree that people have "stopped waiting on Jehovah." Those of us who have left have stopped putting our faith in a group of men who claim to be the anointed "channel of truth" for God. We have disabused ourselves of the idea that we can earn our salvation by doggedly following the orders of a few men in charge of an incorporated publishing company. Are we bitter? You bet. When we look back on all the wasted years we spent believing this organization had the truth, only to find that year after year, the "truth" kept changing, or as you like to call it, "undergoing refinement," with new definitions of doctrines once taught as the foundation of our beliefs, we are left a little bitter. Not one time in the 140 year history of this organization have they gotten "the last days" and the "generation that will see these things" correct. Every "refinement" has proven untrue. "Evidently," 1914 was not the year for Armageddon. "Evidently," neither was 1918, 1925, 1945, nor 1975. "Evidently," a "generation is not a length of time" but a group of people. "Evidently," this group of people now "overlap" with the other group of people who were never supposed to die, but who "evidently" are now all but gone. How many failures of doctrine will it take before some of you wake up and get busy trying to make a difference in the world rather than waiting on Jehovah-Santa-Claus to come and do it for you?

      • Thanks for speaking the bitter truth David. we saw the damage apocalyptic religions do to lives in the recent Harold Camping prophecy. Adapting to reality is very difficult in the circumstance of failure for many.

    • David

      *** Awake! 1969 May 22 p.15 ***
      "If you are a young person, you also need to face the fact that you will never grow old in this present system of things. Why not? Because all the evidence in fulfillment of Bible prophecy indicates that this corrupt system is due to end in a few years. Of the generation that observed the beginning of the 'last days' in 1914, Jesus foretold:'This generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.' Therefore, as a young person, you will never fulfill any career that this system offers."

      And yet, here we are, long past the age of "This generation."

  • TonyaDavis

    Thanks for posting well done piece.

    Harold Camping has to be a PR nightmare for the Jehovah's Witnesses. The overlap between Harold Camping's methodology and Jehovah's Witnesses are so similar right down to the Millerite math he used.
    I think these apocalyptic "End of Time" groups have about run their course especially the Jehovah's witnesses. They will be relegated to the dustbin of history. They are hemorrhaging members from within. The old timers will stay because they have too much invested and many are playing along because of the abusive shunning practices – just biding time until they can deprogram family members. The Watchtower may have enough assets to keep the religion afloat and keep the top princes in a comfortable lifestyle for a decade or more. But at some point the money will run out or the organization will scale back to be almost as negligible as Heaven's gates type members – fringe.
    Any young people who are Jehovah's Witnesses should use this as a wake-up call and exit quickly from the Watchtower before it steals your life.

  • Joe

    Many remain in the organization because they do not wish to be shunned by their family and friends. They might no longer believe in the JW doctrines.

  • Yes, 1914 + 100 years = 2014 which comes in another three years caused the many depressed JWs to become more depressed which means more will suicide. Watchtower is like a cannibal killing its own by lies. Another doomsday cult and that's, as they say, The Truth.

    If only my kids would quit this destroyer of dreams and lives. This thing that misteaches emergency blood transfusions aren't Biblical when 1 Samuel 14:31-35 shows God forgave men who ate blood to stay alive. See Lawrence Hughes' http://www.watchtowerlawsuit.com on how you too can help.

  • exJW_Dave

    Your article is very well written, but unfortunately it doesn't have the most up to date information on the generation doctrine. Jehovah's Witnesses now teach that the lives of the 1914 generation overlap with the lives of the anointed who will see Armageddon. They have no Biblical leg to stand on with this, so they pretty much just stated it as truth and expected everyone to just accept it. I have asked Jehovah's Witnesses to show me this teaching using only their own Bible's, it can't be done.

    • Thank you Dave for making this point. But my article actually does cover the "overlapping generation" doctrine–please refer to place in the article in which i quote Raymond Franz–after the fifth-from-last paragraph–(here Raymond Franz speaks on the "overlapping generations doctrines"). Refer also my quotation from the November 1, 1995 article, in which the "faithful and discrete slave class" suggested the overlapping generations theory (this comes after i had quoted Raymond Franz's anticipation of the "overlapping generation" doctrine).

      I did come across further information on "overlapping generations" doctrine while surfing for information, but you will agree that it is a conceptually obscure doctrine and i really could not appreciate what it really was supposed to mean, and neither could a JW neighbor explain to my satisfaction– that is why i simply concluded in general terms that (quoting from the article) "the governing body of the Jehovah's Witnesses began implying effectively that a generation could be indefinitely extended."

      Whatever the "overlapping generations doctrine" really means, only one thing was obvious from the explanations i got from my JW neighbor and from my reading on the subject–that Armageddon had effectively been extended to an indefinite date in the future.

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