If we have such a thing as a sacred cow in Jehovah’s organization, it has to be the belief that Christ’s invisible presence began in 1914. This belief was so important that for decades our banner publication was titled, The Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. (Mind you, it wasn’t heralding the 1914 presence of Christ, but that’s a topic we’ve covered in another post.) Pretty well every church in Christendom believes in Christ’s second coming, while we preach he already came and has been present for almost 100 years. I’ve always felt that one of the appealing aspects to this doctrine was that it could be proven using math. No fuzziness with math. Just find your starting point and start counting—2,520 years and watch out for no year zero.
The trouble with beliefs one is taught as a child is that they do not go through a critical analysis phase. They are simply accepted as axiomatic and never questioned. One does not let go of such beliefs lightly, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. The emotional component is just too strong.
Recently, a good friend brought something to my attention—an apparent contradiction in Scripture created by our belief in 1914 as the year of Christ’s presence. I have yet to find a reference in our publications addressing this issue. It derives from Jesus words at Acts 1:6,7. At Acts. 1:6, the apostles ask Jesus, “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom of Israel at this time?” to which he answers in verse 7, “It does not belong to YOU to get knowledge of the times or seasons [Rbi8-E, “appointed times”; Gr., kai-ros’] which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction.”
The apostles are specifically asking about the restoration of the kingship. They thought it was literal, but that is of no consequence here. The fact is they wanted to know when Christ would begin ruling as king over Israel. Since Jerusalem was the seat of Israel’s government, this event would mark the end of the trampling of Jerusalem, which is what they were anticipating, although in their minds it would have meant freedom from Roman rule. We now know that Jesus rules from a spiritual Jerusalem over a spiritual or antitypical Israel.
To this very specific question, Jesus answers that they had no right to get knowledge of such things, that right belonging exclusively to the Father. To attempt to get knowledge into the appointed times [kai-ros’] would be to trespass into Jehovah’s jurisdiction.
While it might be argued that Jesus lifted that injunction for the anointed of our day, there is nothing in the Bible to support that position. It appears we are still encroaching on Jehovah’s jurisdiction when we try to get knowledge of the times and seasons having to do with the restoration of the kingdom of Israel. The embarrassment we have suffered since Russell’s day when we have tried to pinpoint the year Jehovah’s day would begin (1914, 1925, 1975) is mute testimony to that fact.
Based on our understanding, was not Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the 7 times (Dan. 4) intended to pinpoint the precise time Jesus would restore the Davidic kingship; the time of his ruling over Israel; the time when Jerusalem would cease being trampled upon by the nations? Since this prophecy had been in place for over half a millennia and since he had previously referred his apostles to Daniel when dealing with prophecies of the last days, how could he say the words of Acts 1:7 knowing that there was a prophecy in place to do precisely what he was now telling them they had no right to do?
I can just see Matthew whipping out his pocket abacus and saying, ‘Hold on a minute, Lord. I was just over at the temple archives checking out the year and month that we were exiled to Babylon, so I’ll just do a quick calculation here and I’ll tell you exactly when you’ll be installed as the King of Israel.”[i]
It is also worthy of note that at Acts 1:7 Jesus uses the Greek term kai-ros’ when saying that it did not belong to his apostles to get knowledge about the ‘appointed times’. This same term is used when he speaks about the ‘appointed times’ of the nations at Luke 21:24. It was precisely knowledge about the appointed times of the nations that they were seeking because the nations’ times would end when the kingship over Israel was restored.
Anytime we deal with Acts 1:7 in our publications, we apply it to Armageddon. However, the context here does not support that view. They were not asking about the conclusion of the system of things, but of the reestablishment of the promised Davidic kingship. Something we say we foreknew would happen in October of 1914.
Just in case you’re thinking that Jesus’ enthronement in the heavens as the Messianic king and the re-establishment of the kingdom of Israel are not synonymous, read the following:
(Luke 1:32, 33) . . .This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father, 33 and he will rule as king over the house of Jacob forever, and there will be no end of his kingdom.”
Jacob’s name was changed to Israel. The house of Jacob is Israel. Jesus rules over Israel, and according to us, he has done so since 1914. Yet, he himself told us that we have no right to know when he starts ruling. Just to reinforce this thought, consider two other texts:
(Matthew 24:36-37) 36 “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be.
(Mark 13:32-33) 32 “Concerning that day or the hour nobody knows, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but the Father. 33 Keep looking, keep awake, for YOU do not know when the appointed time is.
In parallel accounts, Matthew speaks of the presence of the Son of man while Mark uses the term Kai-ros’ or “appointed time”. Both say that we cannot know the day or hour. We say that Matthew is referring to Armageddon which comes during the presence of the Christ, but are not both texts expressing a parallel thought? If we drop our preconception about the presence of Christ beginning in 1914, and look at both verses with a fresh eye, does it not appear that the appointed time and the presence of the Son of man are the same event? The rest of the context of Matthew speaks about the judgment that comes during the presence of the Christ with one man being taken (saved) and his companion left behind (destroyed). If we think of the presence as a century-long event, the context makes no sense and conflicts with Mark’s account, but if we consider the presence as concurrent with Armageddon, then there is no conflict.
It appears from these three accounts (Matthew, Mark and Acts) that we are not supposed to foreknow when the presence of the Son of Man would be?
You see the problem? We all agree on the principle found at Rom. 3:4, “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar…” Jesus words at Acts 1:7 are faithful and true. Therefore, we must look elsewhere to resolve the contradiction.
At first, even the thought that Jesus’ kingly presence might not have started in 1914 was very disturbing to me. It seemed to question everything I believed about our being in the last days. However, upon reflection, I realized that the prophecies involving the last days do not depend on Jesus being present in 1914. Whether he was enthroned as King in 1914, or whether that is a yet-future event changes nothing about our faith that we are in the last days. The fulfillment of Mt. 24 does not depend on an invisible presence, but can be verified from widely available historical facts.
Let’s approach this problem without any preconceptions. That is very hard to do, I know. Still, if we can pretend for a moment that we don’t know anything about the presence of Christ, we can then allow the evidence to take us where it leads. Otherwise, we run the risk of leading the evidence to where we want it to go.
Let’s go back to the 19th Century. The year is 1877. Brother Russell and Barbour have just published a book titled Three Worlds in which they detail the 2,520 years derived from the seven times of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the immense tree from Daniel chapter 4. They fix the starting year at 606 to give 1914, because they thought there was a year zero.
Now Russell had a great many ideas about the precise years that various ‘last days’ prophecies were fulfilled. [ii]
- 1780 – First sign fulfilled
- 1833 – Fulfillment of the sign of the ‘stars falling from heaven’
- 1874 – Beginning of the Harvest of Gathering
- 1878 – The enthronement of Jesus and the beginning of the ‘day of wrath’
- 1878 – Start of the generation
- 1914 – End of the generation
- 1915 – End of the ‘day of wrath’
The exact nature of the events surrounding 1914 were vague, but the pre-1914 consensus was that the great tribulation would break out then. The Great War, as it came to be called, began in August of that year and the belief was that it would transmute into the Great War of God the Almighty. On October 2, 1914, Russell told the Bethel family at morning worship: “The Gentile Times have ended; their kings have had their day.” It was believed that the “appointed times of the nations” ended not when Jesus was enthroned in 1878, but when he came to destroy the nations at Armageddon.
When 1914 didn’t produce the end of the world, things had to be re-examined. The date of 1878 was abandoned as the year Jesus’ presence began and 1914 was brought in for that event. It was still believed that the great tribulation began in that year, and it wasn’t until 1969 that we changed to our current view that the great tribulation is yet to come.
What is interesting is that C. T. Russell didn’t arrive at 1914 only on the basis of Daniel chapter 4. Using measurements taken from the great pyramid of Giza, believed to have been constructed by Hebrew slaves, he garnered corroboration for that year. This was detailed in Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 3.[iii]
We now know that the pyramids hold no prophetic significance at all. Yet surprisingly, using these calculations, he was able to arrive at 1914 as a significant date. Was that merely coincidence? Or in his exuberance to support a belief, was he subconsciously ‘working the numbers’? I point this out not to discredit a beloved servant of Jehovah, but rather to show that amazing coincidences exist and in the realm of numerology are actually quite common.
We abandoned pyramidology in the 1920’s but continued with the idea that Bible chronology could be used to arrive at 1914 as the start of Christ’s presence, the apparent contradiction with Acts 1:7 notwithstanding. One reason for this, it appears, is that the book of Daniel does contain a prophecy which was intended specifically as a year-for-a-day calculation: that of the 70 weeks leading to the Messiah found in Daniel chapter 9. Therefore, why not two such prophecies? Yet there are significant differences between the two.
Consider first of all that the purpose of the 70 weeks is stipulated plainly in Daniel 9:24, 25. It is intended as a time calculation to determine when the Messiah would appear. As for Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the immense tree, it was intended to teach the king—and the rest of us—a lesson about Jehovah’s sovereignty. (Dan. 4:25) The start of the 70 weeks is specified in Daniel and marked by an historical event. The start of the seven times of Nebuchadnezzar is not stipulated in any way. The conclusion of the 70 weeks was marked by a series of physical events at the 69, 69½ and 70 week marks. These could easily be confirmed by eye witnesses and occurred precisely on time as one would expect from any time-related prophecy originating from Jehovah. By comparison, what events mark the end of the 7 times? The only thing mentioned is the king regaining his sanity. Nothing beyond that is mentioned. The 70 weeks is obviously a day-for-a-year chronology. The seven times works just fine as seven literal times, whether that means seasons, or years. Even if there is a larger application—though nothing is written in Daniel to suggest that—the seven times could simply mean a period of time that is complete, in keeping with the use of the number 7 in Scripture.
So how did we arrive at Nebuchadnezzar’s dream being a day-for-a-year prophecy? There’s no doubt that Russell had a fascination with numerology. The pyramid chart in the Grand Plan of the Ages is testament to that. Still, we have abandoned all of that, and all his other date-related predictions and doctrines, save this one. I think it is fair to assume that if the war had not broken out in 1914, it is unlikely that this calculation would not have survived anymore than the others. Is this just a remarkable coincidence, or proof that the 2,520-year calculation is divinely inspired? If the latter, than we still have to explain the contradiction this appears to create in the inspired word of God.
To be fair, let’s see how solid is the ground on which this prophetic interpretation is based.
First, why do we conclude that the seven times of Nebuchadnezzar even have a fulfillment beyond that stated in Daniel chapter 4? We have already acknowledged that Daniel doesn’t give them one. Insight into the Scriptures, vol. I, p. 133 under the subheading “Related to ‘appointed times of the nations’” gives three reasons for this conclusion of ours. Let’s list them with rebuttal points:
1) The time element is everywhere in the book of Daniel .
Insight lists a series of reference texts to support this view. Of course the prophecies of the Great Image and the Kings of the North and South are laid out in chronological order. How else would they be laid out? This hardly justifies declaring Nebuchadnezzar’s seven times a year-for-a-day prophecy.
2) The book repeatedly points toward the establishment of the Kingdom
So does Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the immense tree without any need for a secondary, major fulfillment.
3) It is distinctive in its references to the time of the end.
That doesn’t mean that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is a time-of-the-end prophecy, and even it is, it doesn’t mean it is given as a means for Jews and Christians to foreknow the year and month the time of the end would start.
It is evident that our reasoning is speculative. That doesn’t mean it is wrong, only that it is suspect. Would a major prophecy be based solely on speculation and deductive reasoning? The early arrival of Jesus was marked by a year-for-a-day prophecy (the 70 weeks) that was not based on speculation in any way, but clearly marked as what it was. Would not a prophecy making the second coming of Jesus in Kingly power likewise be clearly declared as such?
Let’s assume that our contention that there is a major fulfillment is true. That still doesn’t give us a start date. For this we must go forward over 500 years to the statement made by Jesus and found at Luke 21:24: “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.” Nowhere else in the Bible is the phrase “appointed times of the nations” used, so we have no concrete way of knowing when they started and when they will end. It may be that they started when Jerusalem began to be trampled on; or it may be that they started after Jehovah allowed Adam to make up his own laws or after Nimrod founded the first nation—making the trampling of Jerusalem merely an event that occurred during the nations’ appointed time. Likewise, the end of the nations’ appointed time could be when Jesus takes kingly power in heaven. If that happened in 1914, then the nations are unaware that their time is up and it has been business as usual for them for the past 100 years. On the other hand, if it is when Jesus takes power as king just at Armageddon, then the nations will be very much aware that their time of rule has ended, which it will at their prompt destruction at the hands of the newly enthroned king.
The fact is, we cannot say for sure when they start or end, because the Bible doesn’t say. All we can do is speculate.
Now let’s assume that we are right about the “appointed times of the nations” starting with the trampling of Jerusalem. When did that start? The Bible doesn’t say. We contend that it started when Zedekiah was removed from the throne and the Jews were taken into exile. When did that happen? We contend it happened in 607 B.C.E. This date was disputed in brother Russell’s day and still is today. The majority of secular authorities agree on two dates, 539 B.C.E. for the conquest of Babylon and 587 B.C.E. for the Jewish exile. We choose 539 B.C.E. to arrive at 537 B.C.E. for the end of 70 years and then count backwards to get 607 B.C.E. But since our only reason for choosing 539 B.C.E. is that the majority of secular authorities agree on it, why don’t we choose 587 B.C.E. for the same reason, and then count forward to get 517 B.C.E. as the year they returned to Jerusalem? Unlike the prophecy of the 70 weeks, the Bible gives us no clear start to the supposed time period of the seven times. The Jews of Jesus’ day could determine the precise year that the 70 weeks started to be counted using precise records keep by Jehovah’s people, the Jews. We, on the other hand, have only unreliable secular authorities that do not all agree on which to base our calculation.
Now here’s another uncertainty about the date. No secular authority accepts 607 B.C.E., but we arrive at it solely because of the Bible which says the period of the Sabbaths that have to be paid back is 70 years. For this calculation, we start at 537 B.C.E. because that’s when we believe the Jews returned to Jerusalem. However, let’s look at exactly what Jeremiah says prophetically about the 70 years:
(Jeremiah 25:11, 12) “11 And all this land must become a devastated place, an object of astonishment, and these nations will have to serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”’ 12 “‘And it must occur that when seventy years have been fulfilled I shall call to account against the king of Babylon and against that nation,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘their error, even against the land of the Chal?de?ans, and I will make it desolate wastes to time indefinite.
The Jews were to serve the king of Babylon seventy years. When the seventy years were ended, the king of Babylon was called to account. That happened in 539 B.C.E. Their service to the king of Babylon ended in 539 B.C.E. not 537 B.C.E. If we count the 70 years from 537 B.C.E., then they only served the king of Babylon for 68 years, that last two being the king of Medo-Persia. Jehovah’s word would have failed to come true by that reckoning. It appears that 609 B.C.E. is the year of the exile if we are counting 70 years of Babylonian servitude ending in 539 B.C.E. But that would mean our calculation ended 1912, and nothing of interest happened in 1912.
The start date of the prophecy of the 70 weeks leading to Messiah is a single point in time. “…the going forth of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem…” was an official decree, dated precisely as all such documents are. Therefore, the calculation could be precise and known to all those who needed to run it. As for our calculation of the seven times, no such precision exists. We cannot even say for sure that we should be counting back from 537 B.C.E. Evidently, there is scriptural basis for counting back from 539 B.C.E. instead.
Another intriguing question arises when we consider that the Jews in Jesus’ day would have known the precise year of the Babylonian exile from temple archives. When the apostles asked Jesus about the sign of his presence, why didn’t he refer them to Daniel? He did refer to Daniel twice in answer to their question, but never to point out the value of the calculation of the seven times. If the prophecy was there for that purpose and they were asking that specific question, why not just tell them about the calculation then and there? Isn’t that why Jehovah inspired the prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream—to give his servants a means to calculate the answer to the very question they were asking?
If nothing had happened in 1914, then this calculation of Russell and Barbour would have gone the way of all the other date-related predictions of that era. However, something did happen: the world war broke out in August. But even that raises some serious questions. Why didn’t it break out in October? Why two months early? Jehovah created time. He doesn’t miss the mark when scheduling events. Our answer to this is that Satan didn’t wait until he was cast down.
w72 6/1 p. 352 Questions From Readers
It should not be surprising, then, that World War I broke out about two months before the end of the Gentile Times, and hence before the birth of the symbolic “son” or heavenly kingdom. Satan the Devil did not need to wait until after kingship over the nations had been placed in the hands of Jesus Christ to maneuver the nations into a large-scale war.
Jehovah cannot be fooled. There was no fuzziness about the fulfillment of the 70 weeks prophecy. The Messiah appeared precisely on time. Why the fuzziness with the 2,520 years? The devil cannot thwart the fulfillment of a prophecy Jehovah has inspired.
In addition, we say the World War proves that Satan was cast down in October of 1914, because he was angry at being cast down and so ‘woe to the earth’. While saying this, we also say that he started the war before he was cast down?
We also say that he ‘maneuvered the nations into a large-scale war’. Even a casual read of such historical texts as The Guns of August will reveal that the events that maneuvered the nations into what was to become the First World War had been going on for well over ten years prior to its outbreak. The cask was already filled with powder when the Archduke’s assassination lit the fuse. So the devil would have been maneuvering things for years prior to 1914 to satisfy his anger. Was he cast down years prior to 1914? Was his anger growing in those years causing him to maneuver the nations into a war that would change the world?
The fact is, we do not know when the devil was cast down because the Bible doesn’t say. We only know that it was during, or just slightly before the period of the last days.
*** w90 4/1 p. 8 Who Will Lead Mankind to Peace? ***
Why did World War I break out in 1914? And why has our century seen worse wars than any other in history? Because the first act of the heavenly King was to banish Satan for all time from the heavens and cast him down to earth’s vicinity.
His first act as heavenly King was to banish Satan? When our heavenly king is shown riding forth at Armageddon, he is shown as “the Word of God…the King of kings and Lord of lords”. (Rev. 19:13,18) In other words, Jesus is shown as the heavenly king. Yet as his supposed first act as the King, he is depicted as Michael the Archangel. It seems odd that he wouldn’t be depicted in his newly installed role as the King of kings, but in the ancient one of Michael the Archangel. While not conclusive, the fact that he is not depicted as the newly installed King means we cannot conclude that he was, in fact, newly installed at this juncture. Michael could have been clearing the way for the enthronement of Jesus. Why allow Satan, the arch enemy, to be present at such sacred event? Is Rev. 12:7-12 depicting a house cleaning/clearing operation in anticipation of the future enthronement of the King, or his first act as King. We say the latter because verse 10 says, “Now have come to pass the salvation…power…kingdom of our God and authority of his Christ, because [the devil] has been hurled down.”
We assume this is speaking of an enthronement and not an exercise of the power of Jehovah’s always-existing kingdom in clearing the way for a future event. If so, then why is the coronation not mentioned? Why do the preceding verses (Rev. 12:5,6) speak not of an enthroned king with the power to do battle and conquer Satan, but of a newborn child needing to be whisked away to be protected by God? And again, why is Michael, not Jesus the newly enthroned King, depicted doing battle?
Daniel, in recording the prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the immense tree cut down for seven times, never makes any application beyond his day. We assume a larger fulfillment based on an assumed connection with Jesus’ words 500 years later about the “appointed times of the nations” even though Jesus never spoke of such a connection. We assume these “appointed times” began with the Babylonian exile even though the Bible never says that. We assume that this happened in 607 B.C.E. even though no secular authority agrees with that, and yet we do depend on these same “unreliable authorities” for the date of 539 B.C.E. The Bible gives us no starting date for the supposed countdown of 2,520 years, nor does it give us an historical event to mark the starting date. So our entire premise for concluding that this account has a year-for-a-day application is built on speculative reasoning.
In addition to the above, believing that we could foreknow the start date for the presence of the Son of man and his enthronement as the King of spiritual Israel flies in the face of Jesus concise words that such things do not for us to know.
What This Changes
One litmus test of whether a line of speculation is on track with the truth or not is how well it harmonizes with the rest of Scripture. If we have to twist meanings or come up with an exceptional explanation to make a premise fit, then it is likely we are wrong.
Our premise—indeed, our current belief—is that Jesus’ presence as the Messianic King began in 1914. Let us compare that with another premise: that his kingly presence is yet future. Let’s, for the sake of argument, say it starts about the time that the sign of the Son of man appears in the heavens for all the world to see. (Mt. 24:30) Now let’s examine the various texts that deal with the presence of Christ and see how they fit with each premise.
While he was sitting upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately, saying: “Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?”
The disciples asked a three-part question. Evidently, they thought all three parts would happen about the same time. The second and third parts are for our day. Are the presence of the Son of man and the conclusion of the system of things two events that happen about the same time or does the presence precede the end by a century or so? They didn’t know the presence would be invisible, so they weren’t asking for a sign to know that something invisible had happened. Acts. 1:6 indicates that they were using parousia in the Greek sense as the ‘era of a King’. We speak of the Victorian Era, but an ancient Greek would have called it the Victorian Presence. While we would need signs to prove an invisible presence, we also need signs to indicate the approach of a presence and of a conclusion of a system of things, so either premise fits here.
“Then if anyone says to YOU, ‘Look! Here is the Christ,’ or, ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones. 25 Look! I have forewarned YOU. 26 Therefore, if people say to YOU, ‘Look! He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out; ‘Look! He is in the inner chambers,’ do not believe it. 27 For just as the lightning comes out of eastern parts and shines over to western parts, so the presence of the Son of man will be. 28 Wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.
This speaks of events that precede Christ’s presence, signing its approach. Yet these are given as part of the prophecy to identify both his presence and the conclusion of the system of things. The Watchtower of 1975 p. 275 explains this discrepancy by extracting these verses from applying to the time period between 1914 and Armageddon, and instead, putting their application to cover events from 70 C.E. down to 1914, a period of almost 2,000 years! If, however, the presence of Christ is yet future, then no such extraction has to be done and the events recorded stay in the chronological order in which they are placed. In addition, the statement of verse 27 can be applied literally which fits nicely with verse 30 about the appearance of the sign of the Son of man for all to see. Can we truly say that the invisible presence of Christ in 1914 was as evident as the lightening flashing in the sky?
“Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. 38 For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; 39 and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned; 41 two women will be grinding at the hand mill: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned. 42 Keep on the watch, therefore, because YOU do not know on what day YOUR Lord is coming.
The context speaks of Armageddon (vs. 36) and of the suddenness of judgment and of unexpected salvation or condemnation (vs. 40-42). This is given as a warning about the unexpectedness of the arrival of the end. He’s saying that the presence of Christ will be like this. A century long—and counting—presence takes much of the power out of this verse. After all, billions have lived and died without ever seeing the fulfillment of these words. However, make this apply to a yet-future presence that will come at a time we cannot know, and the words make perfect sense.
1 Cor. 15:23
But each one in his own rank: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who belong to the Christ during his presence.
This verse has lead us to speculate that the anointed were resurrected in 1919. But this creates a conflict with other texts. For instance, 1 Thess. 4:15-17 speaks of the anointed being resurrected and the living being caught away in clouds at the same time (Rbi8-E, footnote). It also says that this happens at the sounding of God’s trumpet. Mt. 24:31 speaks of the chosen (anointed) being gathered together after the sign of the Son of man (presence) is manifest. It also speaks of this happening during the last trumpet.
The last trumpet sounds just after the sign of the Son of man appears and Armageddon is about to start. The deceased anointed are resurrected during the last trumpet. The living anointed are changed in the twinkling of an eye at the same time during the last trumpet. Do these verses support a 1919 resurrection of the anointed, or something that will happen during a yet-future presence of Jesus?
2 Thess. 2:1,2
However, brothers, respecting the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we request of YOU 2 not to be quickly shaken from YOUR reason nor to be excited either through an inspired expression or through a verbal message or through a letter as though from us, to the effect that the day of Jehovah is here.
While these are two verses, they are translated as a single sentence or thought. Like Mt. 24:31, this links the gathering of the anointed with the “presence of our Lord Jesus Christ”, but it also links the presence with the “day of Jehovah”. It is worthy of note that the entire sentence is a warning not to be deceived into thinking that it has already arrived. If we were to dismiss any preconceptions and just read this for what it says, would we not arrive at the conclusion that the gathering, presence and day of Jehovah are all events occurring simultaneously?
2 Thess. 2:8
Then, indeed, the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will do away with by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence.
This speaks of Jesus bringing the lawless one to nothing by the manifestation of his presence. Does this fit better with a 1914 presence or a pre-Armageddon presence? After all, the lawless one has been doing just fine for the past 100 years, thank you very much.
1 Thess. 5:23
May the very God of peace sanctify YOU completely. And sound in every respect may the spirit and soul and body of YOU [brothers] be preserved in a blameless manner at the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Here we want to be found blameless at not during his presence. An anointed one might have been blameless in 1914 only to fall away in, say, 1920. This text doesn’t have any power if we are speaking of a period of time covering a hundred years or so. If, however, we speak of his presence just prior to Armageddon, it has great meaning.
2 Peter 3:4
and saying: “Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep [in death], all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.”
When we go door-to-door, do people mock us about the “promised [invisible] presence of Jesus”? Is not the ridicule concerning the end of the world? If the presence is tied to Armageddon, then that fits. If it is tied to 1914, this scripture doesn’t make sense and has no fulfillment. In addition, the context from verse 5 through 13 concerns the end of the world. Again, Jehovah’s day is linked with the presence of the Christ.
But the nations became wrathful, and your own wrath came, and the appointed time for the dead to be judged, and to give [their] reward to your slaves the prophets and to the holy ones and to those fearing your name, the small and the great, and to bring to ruin those ruining the earth.
Here we have a text that actually talks about the installation of the Messianic King. When this happens, the nations become wrathful, and the wrath of the King follows. That ties in nicely with the attack of Gog of Magog that leads to Armageddon. However, the nations were not wrathful with Jesus in 1914, and he certainly didn’t express his wrath towards them, otherwise they wouldn’t still be around. In addition, we’re already seen that the resurrection of the anointed doesn’t fit with a 1919 date, but rather a time when the last trumpet is sounded, so ‘the judgment of the dead and reward to the slaves and prophets’ must be a future event as well. Finally, the time to bring to ruin those ruining the earth did not occur in 1914, but is still a future event.
Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority, but they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.
The Messianic Kingdom is for 1,000 years. The anointed rule as kings for 1,000 years. If the Christ has been reigning since 1914 and the anointed since 1919, then they are well into their first 100 years of the kingdom, leaving just over 900 to go. However, if the kingdom starts just prior to Armageddon and the anointed are resurrected then, we still have the full 1,000 years to look forward to.
In the past, we have ignored the Jesus injunction recorded at Acts 1:7. We have instead spent considerable time and effort speculating about appointed times and seasons. One has only to think about our erroneous teachings involving such dates and time periods as 1925, 1975, and the various reinterpretations of ‘this generation’ to realize how often these endeavours have resulted in embarrassment for us as an organization. Of course, we did all of this with the best of intentions, but we were still ignoring the clear direction of our Lord Jesus Christ, so we should not be surprised that we have not been spared the consequences of our actions.
In the past thirty years in particular, we have focused like never before on the development of the Christian personality. We have truly fulfilled the prophecy of Mal. 3:18. There is no doubt that we are deep into the last days and that Jehovah’s spirit is guiding his organization. It does appear however that our position on Jesus presence having begun in 1914 is on weak ground. If we have to abandon that, then it also means abandoning the events we say took place in heaven in 1918 and 1919. That would mean every date we have fixed as significant prophetically will have turned out to have been wrong. A perfect record of failure—as it should be, since we are traipsing on ground that Jehovah has placed in his own jurisdiction.’
Addendum – The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Abandoning 1914 as the year in which Christ’s presence began requires us to explain how the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse fit into this understanding. The element that appears to support a date like 1914 is the first horsemen, evidently Jesus Christ, who is given ‘a crown’.
(Revelation 6:2) . . .And I saw, and, look! a white horse; and the one seated upon it had a bow; and a crown was given him, and he went forth conquering and to complete his conquest.
For our understanding to hold, we must either explain the crown apart from the presence of the Son of man or move these events to a time period later that 1914. If we can do neither, then we will have to re-examine our understanding that 1914 holds no prophetic significance.
The trouble with the latter solution is that these events fit so perfectly with the period of the last days. Wars, famine, plague, and death in Hades (from which there is a resurrection) certainly marks the life of humankind during the past 100 years. Of course, not everyone has experienced war and famine. The western hemisphere has been largely spared these woes. Still, that fits as well, because Rev. 6:8b says that their ride affects “the fourth part of the earth”. The inclusion of the “wild beasts of the earth” reinforces the thought that their ride is from the start of the last days onward, because these beasts refer to those beastlike governments or individuals that have accounted for millions of deaths—men like Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, et al.
This leaves us with the task of determining how Jesus could be given a crown as King around the start of the last days without the world having experienced his presence. One might ask why the apostles phrased their question that way. Why not just ask, ‘What will be the sign that you have been crowned king?’
Is the presence of the Son of man synonymous with his being crowned king?
That does not appear to be the case. Colossians 1:13 states “He delivered us from the authority of the darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of his love”. This indicates he has been King in some sense since the first century. If he already received a crown in the first century, how is it that he receives another as the one seated on the white horse?
He rides forth as the crowned king after the first seal is broken. However, after the seventh seal is broken and after the seventh trumpet has sounded, the following happens:
(Revelation 11:15) 15 And the seventh angel blew his trumpet. And loud voices occurred in heaven, saying: “The kingdom of the world did become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will rule as king forever and ever.”
This can only be possible if the kingdom of the world was not yet his when he went riding forth on the white horse.
The context of the apostles question in Mt. 24:3 indicates they were not just concerned about his being enthroned, but rather of when his kingship would come to the earth and free Israel from Roman rule. This fact is evident from a similar question they asked of the resurrected Christ found at Acts 1:6.
He has been present since the first century with the Christian congregation. (Mt. 28:20b) That presence has been felt by the congregation, but not the world. The presence that affects the world is linked to the conclusion of the system of things. It is always spoken of in the singular and is not linked to his presence with the Christian congregation. So it can be argued that while he was crowned king in the first century and then again in a different sense at the start of the last days, his presence as Messianic King only begins about the time the kingdom of the world becomes his, a yet future event.
What might help us to put this into perspective is to review the biblical use of the word ‘crown’. Here are all the relevant instances from the Christian Greek Scriptures.
(1 Corinthians 9:25) . . .Now they, of course, do it that they may get a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible one.
(Philippians 4:1) . . .Consequently, my brothers beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, stand firm in this way in [the] Lord, beloved ones.
(1 Thessalonians 2:19) . . .For what is our hope or joy or crown of exultation—why, is it not in fact YOU?—before our Lord Jesus at his presence?
(2 Timothy 2:5) . . .Moreover, if anyone contends even in the games, he is not crowned unless he has contended according to the rules. . .
(2 Timothy 4:8) . . .From this time on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me as a reward in that day, yet not only to me, but also to all those who have loved his manifestation.
(Hebrews 2:7-9) . . .You made him a little lower than angels; with glory and honor you crowned him, and appointed him over the works of your hands. 8 All things you subjected under his feet.” For in that he subjected all things to him [God] left nothing that is not subject to him. Now, though, we do not yet see all things in subjection to him; 9 but we behold Jesus, who has been made a little lower than angels, crowned with glory and honor for having suffered death, that he by God’s undeserved kindness might taste death for every [man].
(James 1:12) . . .Happy is the man that keeps on enduring trial, because on becoming approved he will receive the crown of life, which Jehovah promised to those who continue loving him.
(1 Peter 5:4) . . .And when the chief shepherd has been made manifest, YOU will receive the unfadable crown of glory.
(Revelation 2:10) . . .Prove yourself faithful even to death, and I will give you the crown of life.
(Revelation 3:11) 11 I am coming quickly. Keep on holding fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.
(Revelation 4:10) . . .the twenty-four elders fall down before the One seated upon the throne and worship the One that lives forever and ever, and they cast their crowns before the throne, saying:
(Revelation 4:4) 4 And round about the throne [there are] twenty-four thrones, and upon these thrones [I saw] seated twenty-four elders dressed in white outer garments, and upon their heads golden crowns.
(Revelation 6:2) . . .And I saw, and, look! a white horse; and the one seated upon it had a bow; and a crown was given him, and he went forth conquering and to complete his conquest.
(Revelation 9:7) . . .And the likenesses of the locusts resembled horses prepared for battle; and upon their heads [were] what seemed to be crowns like gold, and their faces [were] as men’s faces. . .
(Revelation 12:1) . . .And a great sign was seen in heaven, a woman arrayed with the sun, and the moon was beneath her feet, and on her head was a crown of twelve stars,
(Revelation 14:14) . . .And I saw, and, look! a white cloud, and upon the cloud someone seated like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.
Terms like ‘crown of life’ and ‘crown of righteousness’ indicate a usage much broader than simply that of rulership. Indeed, its most common usage seems to be that of representing authority to receive something or the glory at having attained to something.
There is also the phrasing of Rev. 6:2. He is given a crown. The word ‘crown’ as we’ve seen from the foregoing scriptures most often is used in the context of receiving authority over something. Being given the crown of life mean the recipient has immortal life, or the authority to live forever. It doesn’t mean he becomes the king of life. So the phrase ‘a crown was given him’ could well be synonymous with ‘authority was given him’. It would be an odd phrasing if what is being referred to was the act of enthroning a king. In fact, when a king is enthroned, he is not ‘given’ a crown, but a crown is placed on his head.
The fact that ‘a crown’ is mentioned and not ‘the crown’ also seems to be significant. There is only one presence and it is a momentous event. There is only one enthronement of the Messianic King and it is an event that creation has been awaiting since the beginning of mankind. The phrasing of Rev. 6:2 seems far to offhanded to be referring to the presence of the Christ.
This thought fits with a sequential understanding of the occurrence of the seven seals and seven trumpets. Our current understand forces us to abandon a logical sequence of events, for we say that the opening of the sixth seal applies to Jehovah’s day (re chap. 18 p. 112) and yet the events that occur after the seventh seal is broken are applied to the start of the last days.
What if the seven trumpets, and the woes and the two witnesses are all in sequence? Can we look at these things as happening at, during and after the great tribulation—keeping in mind that the great tribulation is a thing apart from Armageddon?
But that’s a topic for another essay.
“Further, one of the commonest things is that provinces dated a new era from the parousia of the emperor. Cos dated a new era from the parousia of Gaius Caesar in A.D. 4, as did Greece from the parousia of Hadrian in A.D. 24. A new section of time emerged with the coming of the king.
Another common practice was to strike new coins to commemorate the visitation of the king. Hadrian’s travels can be followed by the coins which were struck to commemorate his visits. When Nero visited Corinth coins were struck to commemorate his adventus, advent, which is the Latin equivalent of the Greek parousia. It was as if with the coming of the king a new set of values had emerged.
Parousia is sometimes used of the ‘invasion’ of a province by a general. It is so used of the invasion of Asia by Mithradates. It describes the entrance on the scene by a new and conquering power.”
The context of Dan. 12:4,5 is that of the prophecy of the Kings of the North and South. This prophecy was understood progressively, but always at the time of its fulfillment or afterwards. Alexander the Great spared Jerusalem, it is believed, because the priests revealed to him that his conquest of the world had been foretold by Daniel. We now understand much more than they did about its fulfillment by examining subsequent historical events in the light of Daniel’s prophecy. However, we have not come to foreknow these things. Instead, the ‘true knowledge has become abundant’ following the fulfillment of such events. (Dan. 12:4b) These words do not appear to mean that in the last days, Jehovah would grant foreknowledge to his servants. That would contradict the injunction against getting foreknowledge of the ‘times and seasons’ (Acts. 1:7) Since our interpretation of the seven times is a simple matter of math, it would have been available for any Bible student among Jesus’ disciples to work out. That would give the lie to his words, and that simply cannot be.
Call to mind that the Scriptures showed us that the full end of Gentile power in the world, and of the time of trouble which brings its overthrow, will follow the end of A.D. 1914, and that some time near that date the last members of the Church of Christ will have been “changed,” glorified. Remember, too, that the Scriptures proved to us in various ways—by the Jubilee Cycles, the 1335 days of Daniel, the Parallel Dispensations, etc.—that the “harvest” or end of this age was due to begin in October, 1874, and that the Great Reaper was then due to be present; that seven years later—in October, 1881—the “high calling” ceased, though some will be admitted to the same favors afterward, without a general call being made, to fill the places of some of the called ones who, on being tested, will be found unworthy. Then look at the manner in which the stone “Witness” testifies to those same dates and illustrates the very same lessons. Thus:
accounted worthy to escape the severest of the trouble coming upon the world we may understand the reference to be to the anarchous trouble which will follow October, 1914; but a trouble chiefly upon the Church may be expected about 1910 A.D.
Is not this a most remarkable agreement between this stone “Witness” and the Bible? The dates, October, 1874, and October, 1881, are exact, while the date 1910, though not furnished in the Scriptures, seems more than a reasonable one for some important event in the Church’s experience and final testing, while A.D. 1914 is apparently well-defined as its close, after which the world’s greatest trouble is due, in which some of the “great multitude” may have a share. And in this connection let us remember that this date limit—A.D. 1914—may not only witness the completion of the selection and trial and glorification of the entire body of Christ, but it may also witness the purifying of some of that larger company of consecrated believers who, through fear and faint-heartedness, failed to render acceptable sacrifices to God, and who therefore became more or less contaminated with the world’s ideas and ways. Some of these, before the end of this period, may come up out of the great tribulation. (‘Rev. 7:14‘) Many such are now being closely bound in with the various bundles of tares for the burning; and not until the fiery trouble of the latter end of the harvest period shall burn the binding cords of Babylon’s bondage shall these be able to make their escape—”saved so as by fire.” They must see the utter wreck of Great Babylon and receive some measure of her plagues. (‘Rev. 18:4‘) The four years from 1910 to the end of 1914, indicated thus in the Great Pyramid, will doubtless be a time of “fiery trial” upon the Church (‘1 Cor. 3:15‘) preceding the anarchy of the world, which cannot last long—”Except those days should be shortened there should no flesh be saved.” ‘Matt. 24:22‘