The failed prophecies of the Watchtower organisation since it’s setting up have concentrated on the date of the coming Armageddon, heralding the return of Christ. This event they believe will include the destruction of the existing Christian church and the setting up of a paradise – the destiny for those who have been faithful to the teachings and work of their organisation.
A brief summary selected from their prophetic statements contained in some of their publications referring to the event of Armageddon is as follows: –
In 1886 we were told that the marshalling of the hosts for the great day of God Almighty is in progress.
In 1889 – The battle of the great day of God Almighty which will end in 1914 is already commenced.
In 1914 we understand that the great crisis, the great clash is very near and that Armageddon may begin this spring.
In 1915 it was said that this battle was leading to Armageddon.
In 1917 – it was said that we anticipate that the ‘earthquake’ will occur early in 1918 and that the ‘fire’ will come in the fall of 1920.
In 1920 in looking towards 1925 it was stated that the old order of things, the old world was ending and that deliverance was at the door.
In 1929 followers were told that it was God’s purpose now to shortly dash to pieces the Devil’s organization and that deliverance was at the door.
In 1930 – the climax is at hand.
In 1931 – His day of vengeance is here and Armageddon is at hand.
In 1939 – The time for the battle of the great day of God Almighty is very near.
In 1940 – The day for the final settlement is near at hand.
In 1942 – The new world is at the doors
In 1950 – Jehovah’s time has come to settle definitely the issue.
In 1955– The war of Armageddon is nearing its breaking out point
In 1966 – A climax of man’s history is at the door.
In 1969 – There is only a short time left.
In 1974 – Referring to the expectation generated by the Watchtower of a 1975 Armageddon, the May issue of the WT’s publication Kingdom Ministry, by way of encouragement, stated that reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property to finish out the rest of their days in this old system in the pioneer service. It was stated that certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world’s end.
The impression and sense of urgency generated by these prophetic announcements, all proven to be false, had the effect at the time, of spurring on the followers to greater efforts in their recruiting work on the doorstep. Undoubtedly this has had a significant effect on increased numbers converted into the organisation over the years since its inception.
Whilst it is true that a number have left over the years following, the bulk of the present followers appear to be unaware of the extent and implications of the failed prophecies.
To have an understanding of this we need to be aware that it is a requirement that individuals within the organisation fully accept the current teachings and statements of the Governing body, and therefore, in these instances to accept any explanation as to why a forecast prediction failed to materialise.
The reported transcript of a trial held in the Scottish Court of Sessions in November 1954 confirms the principle of required acceptance. The legal counsel for the Watchtower, Haydon C. Covington in answering questions at the time admitted that a false prophesy given has to be accepted for the sake of unity of the organisation. He further confirmed that any member who continued to express that the prophecy was wrong and as a result caused trouble, would be disfellowshiped, and therefore worthy of eternal death.
On a personal note, I am afraid I provoked a strong reaction on two of the of the three occasions I mentioned discussing past history and prophecies with individual JWs – they stopped all further discussions with me. On the third occasion with others, when we looked at documented failed prophecies there were no answers forthcoming.
It’s not possible however, for either an individual or an organisation that claims to be God’s sole channel to mankind on earth, to decline to be accountable for a 100% failure of prophecy and still expect to maintain any credibility.
Given the record therefore, the forfeit of credibility by association must also extend to all teaching from the same source.
Deuteronomy 18:20-22 and Matthew 7:15 give guidance on the subject.