1914 Doctrine Changes — Rich Kelsey

JW 1914 doctrine statement from the publication What is Truth? 1932, p. 48
JW 1914 doctrine statement from the publication What is Truth? 1932, p. 48

Questioning the 1914 Doctrine:

In the late 1970’s, a few of the leaders at the Watch Tower Headquarters in Brooklyn New York began to question their Gentile Times chronology along with the Society’s 1914 doctrine:

“According to Raymond Franz, he and Lynman Swingle pressed their colleagues on the governing body to abandon or at least examine the Society’s Gentile Times chronology and its teachings concerning 1914.” (Apocalypse Delayed, The Story of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Penton, 1997 edition, p. 218)

The Society rejected the notion to change or abandon the 1914 date. As a result, Raymond Franz resigned from the governing body. Other workers and Bible students who had questioned the 1914 doctrine were forced out.

Hundreds of thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses all over the world left the organization in the late 1970s and early 1980s because of this shakeup within the Society and the failed 1975 Armageddon prophecy.

From the top on down Jehovah’s Witnesses were losing faith in the 1914 return-of-Christ teaching.

1914 Doctrine, Something Had to Change:

In the year 2013, the Watch Tower Society finally decided to do what Raymond Franz and Lynman Swingle, asked them to do 33 years earlier: examine the teachings about 1914; as a result of their examination, the Society proclaimed:

“In review, what have we learned? In the beginning of this article, we raised three ‘when’ questions. We first considered that the great tribulation did not begin in 1914 but will start when the United Nations attacks Babylon the Great. Then, we reviewed why Jesus’ judgment of the sheep and the goats did not begin in 1914 but will occur during the great tribulation. Finally, we examined why Jesus’ arrival to appoint the faithful slave over all his belongings did not occur in 1919 but will take place during the great tribulation. So, then, all three ‘whens’ apply to the same future time period —the great tribulation.” (Watchtower, July, 2013, “Tell Us, When Will These Things Be?”)

They also spelled out:

“In the past, we have stated in our publications that these last four references apply to Jesus’ arriving, or coming, in 1918. As an example, take Jesus’ statement about ‘the faithful and discreet slave.’ (Read Matthew 24:45-47.) We understood that the ‘arriving’ mentioned in verse 46 was linked to the time when Jesus came to inspect the spiritual condition of the anointed in 1918 and that the appointment of the slave over all the Master’s belongings occurred in 1919. (Mal. 3:1) However, a further consideration of Jesus’ prophecy indicates that an adjustment in our understanding of the timing of certain aspects of Jesus’ prophecy is needed.”

“In the verses that lead up to Matthew 24:46, the word “coming” refers consistently to the time when Jesus comes to pronounce and execute judgment during the great tribulation. (Matt. 24:30, 42, 44) Also, as we considered in paragraph 12, Jesus’ ‘arriving’ mentioned at Matthew 25:31 refers to that same future time of judgment. So it is reasonable to conclude that Jesus’ arrival to appoint the faithful slave over all his belongings, mentioned at Matthew 24:46, 47, also applies to his future coming, during the great tribulation. Indeed, a consideration of Jesus’ prophecy in its entirety makes it clear that each of these eight references to his coming applies to the future time of judgment during the great tribulation.” (Watchtower, July, 2013, “Tell Us, When Will These Things Be?”)

Saying that the above quotes on the 1914 doctrine are in stark contrast with what was taught from 1879 through 2012 would be a major understatement:

●  Now, the Watchtower magazine which once contained the words, “HERALD OF CHRIST’S PRESENCE” in its title, is assuring its readers that Christ’s invisible coming / presence “did not occur” in 1874 as was first taught, or in 1914, which was taught for 70-years from the 1940s until 2013.

●  Now, Christ’s “coming applies to the future time of judgment.”     

●  Now, “the great tribulation did not begin in 1914.”

●  Now, “Jesus’ judgment of the sheep and the goats did not start in 1914.”

The implications of these 1914 doctrine changes are staggering; they have shaken the very foundation upon which the Watchtower Society was built to the core. 

1914 Doctrine, to Make Matters Worse:

After admitting they were wrong on almost every aspect of their 1914, 1918, and 1919 teachings, the Society goes on to explain that the period between 1914 through 1919 still holds significance:

“Jesus began to inspect the spiritual temple in 1914. That inspection and cleansing work involved a period of time—from 1914 to the early part of 1919.” (Watchtower, July, 2013, “Look! I Am With You All the Days”)


“… the harvest season began in 1914. In that year, a number of important developments began to unfold. Jesus was enthroned as King, and the last days began. (Rev. 11:15) From 1914 to the early part of 1919, Jesus accompanied his Father to the spiritual temple to do a much-needed inspection and cleansing work. * (Mal. 3:1-4) Then, starting in 1919, it was time to begin gathering the wheat. Was it finally the time for Christ to appoint one organized channel to dispense spiritual food? Yes, indeed!” (Watchtower, July, 2013, Feeding Many Through the Hands of a Few)

It’s interesting that the 2013 Watchtower magazine spells out,

“… the harvest season began in 1914.”

Because the 1918 Watchtower magazine claims:

“… the harvest began in 1878, there is ample and convincing proof. The end of the harvest is due in the spring of 1918″ (Watchtower Reprints, May 1, 1918, p. 6243)

And, the Lord supposedly picked the Watch Tower Society as the

“one and only channel”

to dispense his truth that same year:


The beginning of this supposed harvest period was pushed ahead in the early 1940s when the year of Christ’s return was changed from 1874 to 1914.


“one and only channel”

claim also moved ahead with the change in dates for the



“Christ’s return.”

A Brief History:

The primary reason Charles Russell got into the publishing business was to herald the message that Jesus Christ had already come: 

“The Greek word generally used in referring to the second advent — Parousia, frequently translated coming — invariably signifies personal presence, as having come, arrived …” (THE OBJECT AND MANNER OF OUR LORD’S RETURN, by C. T. RUSSELL)

And, although the year of Christ’s return changed from 1874 to 1914, Watch Tower publications proclaimed basically the same message to the world for the next 134 years in a row.

Then, starting with the July 2013 Watchtower magazine, the leaders of the Watch Tower Society in Brooklyn New York proclaimed that 1914 had nothing to do with Christ’s coming; as, it is a future event.[1] 

After admitting that 1914 had nothing to do with Christ’s return, there is little to link the year 1914 to; except for the start[2] of World war I, which the Watch Tower Society said would lead to Armageddon:

“The Battle of Armageddon, to which this war is leading, will be a great contest between right and wrong, and will signify the complete and everlasting overthrow of the wrong, and the permanent establishment of Messiah’s righteous kingdom for the blessing of the world …” (Watchtower Reprints, Apr 1, 1915 p. 5659)

With a track record this poor, why would anyone trust in the Watch Tower Societies’ current teachings on the years 1914, 1918, and 1919?

“It is obvious that the true God, who is himself ‘the God of truth’ and who hates lies, will not look with favor on persons who cling to organizations that teach falsehood.” (Watch Tower Publication: Is This Life All There Is? 1974, p. 46)

Closing Statement:

The Jehovah’s Witnesses have no exclusive

“channel of communication”

with God. People do not need to be held captive by the Watch Tower Organization’s empty words![3] 

In the Book of Revelation Jesus said,

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20, NIV)

What’s available to every man, woman and child is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, not through an organization, but rather through the spirit.[4] 

For those of us who aren’t sure we have found this relationship with Jesus, we can enter in by praying this salvation prayer,

“Jesus my sins were placed upon you when you died; you were crucified for my iniquity,”

as spelled out in the bible:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6, NIV)

Article of interest:

■ What to say to Jehovah’s Witnesses — Rich Kelsey

Full Article Index / JW Article Index


1. “Indeed, a consideration of Jesus’ prophecy in its entirety makes it clear that each of these eight references to his coming applies to the future time of judgment during the great tribulation.” (Watchtower, July, 2013, “Tell Us, When Will These Things Be?”)

2. “And when the year 1914 ended amid the flames of World War I and the remnant of spiritual Israel found themselves still here on earth, then they were inclined to think that they would be glorified in the year 1918, three and a half years after the end of the Gentile Times.” (Watch Tower Publication: Man’s Salvation Out of World Distress at Hand, 1975 p. 136)

3. “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:22)

4. “The promise (God pouring out His Spirit on all people— see Acts 2:17) is for you and your children and all who are far off— for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:39, NIV)