.:DID THE WATCHTOWER REALLY SAY THE END WOULD COME IN 1975?
“I’ve been studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses for a year and I am thinking about getting baptized, but I wanted to do some research into the history of the organization before I made my decision. Recently, I ran across statements on the Internet that claim that Jehovah’s Witnesses taught that the world would end in 1975, so I asked my Bible study teacher about that. She flat out denied that the Watchtower ever taught that 1975 would be the end of the world. She said that a few individual Jehovah’s Witnesses thought the end would happen in 1975, but she said that the Watchtower Society never officially gave that date for the end of the world. I am confused! If the Watchtower Society never gave the 1975 date for the end of the world, why does Anne Marie on your website say that they did in their 1966 publication, Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God? Is there anyway I can get the documentation that Anne Marie talks about in her story?”
RESPONSE FROM ANNE MARIE
Many Jehovah’s Witnesses today deny that the 1975 false prophecy ever happened. They do this because this is what they are being told by their leaders. If your Bible study teacher was not in the organization at the time that this prophecy was believed, 1. there is no way that she would know what happened, or how “swept up” into the belief of the 1975 prediction the Jehovah’s Witnesses were in those days. But I DO KNOW what happened, because I experienced it first-hand.
I was at the God’s Sons of Liberty District Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the summer of 1966 when there was a very powerful talk about “the time of the end.” I remember well the Saturday when they released their book, Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God. There was a great deal of excitement among the Jehovah’s Witness conventioneers. The release of this book was a sensational crescendo to a life-stirring talk given just prior to its release that practically stated that we were “at the door of the New World.”
This talk admitted to the many prophecies the Society had given in the past regarding the coming of God’s battle of Armageddon that Jehovah’s Witnesses believe will end world governments and usher in God’s one-thousand-year Kingdom rule under Jesus Christ. The speaker made a point of explaining that the reason that all of their past dates had failed was because they had not been properly based upon Bible chronology.
The speaker spoke with authority that there was no doubt that Armageddon was now certain to come “no later than the autumn of 1975”; that although the Watchtower had been wrong in the past, “this time we got it right!” The brother was emphatic about it! He explained that this new book would clearly show that the Watchtower Society’s new claims were verified by Bible chronology through the five-page chart laid out in the first chapter of the book.
When the speaker announced this, the atmosphere in the stands was absolutely electric; everyone was so excited! At the break, the Jehovah’s Witness brothers and sisters were crammed like sardines in front of the distribution counters in their eagerness to purchase their copies of the book and as soon as they obtained them, they hurriedly formed into small groups in excited anticipation of what the chronological chart would show.
The chart was significant because it methodically outlined six thousand years of human history, starting with the creation of Adam in 4026 B.C.E. The chart clearly stated that the end of this six-thousand-year period of mankind’s existence was to be completed in the fall of 1975 as the following quote from the book illustrates:
“According to trustworthy Bible chronology six thousand years from man’s creation will end in 1975, and the seventh period of a thousand years of human history will begin in the fall of 1975 C.E.” (Life Everlasting – In Freedom of the Sons of God, 1966, p. 29) (View PDF of this page and the accompanied chart.)
Why was the completion of 6 thousand years of human history significant to Jehovah’s Witnesses?
The Watchtower taught that each day of the creative week was 7 thousand years in length. Since the Bible makes it clear that there was a beginning and an end to each of the creative days, except the seventh day, God’s rest day, and as nowhere in the Bible does it say that God’s rest day ever ended, the Watchtower Society concluded that mankind was fast approaching the end of 6 thousand years of man’s existence. The Watchtower determined that the end of this time period was certain to usher in the Battle of Armageddon. They thought it would be fitting for this last 1,000 years of the sixth Creation Day of human history to begin with the reign of Christ. So, the Watchtower’s Bible chronology concluded then that Armageddon HAD to come no later than at the very end of 6 thousand years of human history. Since God completed the creation of man on the sixth day, and on the seventh day He “rested from all his work that he had made” (Genesis 2:2-3), the Watchtower thought Jehovah would likely execute His “vengeance upon the wicked” (i.e., the Battle of Armageddon) no later than the fall of 1975. In keeping with this understanding, the book explained:
“How appropriate it would be for Jehovah God to make of this coming seventh period of a thousand years a sabbath period of rest and release, a great Jubilee sabbath for the proclaiming of liberty throughout the earth to all its inhabitants! … for, remember, mankind has yet ahead of it what the last book of the Holy Bible speaks of as the reign of Jesus Christ over earth for a thousand years, the millennial reign of Christ. Prophetically Jesus Christ … said concerning himself: ‘For Lord of the sabbath is what the Son of man is.’ (Matthew 12:8) It would not be by mere chance or accident … for the reign of Jesus Christ, the ‘Lord of the sabbath,’ to run parallel with the seventh millennium of man’s existence.” (Life Everlasting – In Freedom of the Sons of God, 1966, p. 30) (View PDF of this page and the accompanied chart.)
Anyone who doubted this “truth” was considered to be “weak,” or “unfaithful,” someone who did not want to “serve shoulder to shoulder” with the brothers and sisters in the organization, or worse yet, an “apostate.” Older Jehovah’s Witnesses (those that had been “in the truth” during the years of the Watchtower Society’s other “Armageddon prophecies”) grabbed hold of this 1975 prediction in the hope that, at last, Jehovah God’s promises were to be fulfilled.
Article after article appeared from the Watchtower Society that raised the anticipation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses toward the 1975 date. Among them was this dogmatic statement found in the 1969 Watchtower article entitled, “The Approaching Peace of a Thousand Years“:
“Six millenniums of mankind’s life on earth would end in the mid-seventies. Thus the seventh millennium from man’s creation by Jehovah God would begin within less than ten years … In order for the Lord Jesus Christ to be ‘Lord even of the sabbath day,’ his thousand-year reign would have to be the seventh in a series of thousand-year periods or millenniums … Would not, then, the end of six millenniums of mankind’s laborious enslavement under Satan the Devil be the fitting time for Jehovah God to usher in a Sabbath millennium for all his human creatures? Yes, indeed! And his King Jesus Christ will be Lord of that Sabbath.” (The Watchtower, October 15, 1969, pp. 622-623) (View PDF of this page.)
As expectations continued to increase over the 1975 date, the Watchtower Society published an article entitled, “Why Are You Looking Forward to 1975?” While this article continued to affirm that Armageddon was just around the corner, it was more cautious in its statements regarding the 1975 date. It explained that the Watchtower Society’s chronology “was reasonably accurate,” but admittedly “not infallible.” They then suggested that their calculations might be in error by a matter of “weeks or months, not years.”
“What about all this talk concerning the year 1975? … Their interest has been kindled by the belief that 1975 will mark the end of 6,000 years of human history since Adam’s creation … Are we to assume from this study that the battle of Armageddon will be all over by the autumn of 1975, and the long looked-for thousand-year reign of Chris will begin then? Possibly, but we wait to see how closely the seventh thousand year period of man’s existence coincides with the sabbath-like thousand-year reign of Christ. If these two periods run parallel with each other as to the calendar year, it will not be a mere chance or accident but will be according to Jehovah’s loving and timely purposes. Our chronology, however, which is reasonably accurate (but admittedly not infallible), at the best only points to the autumn of 1975 as the end of 6,000 years of Jehovah’s seventh creative ‘day.’ Why not? Because after his creation Adam lived some time during the ‘sixth day,’ which unknown amount of time would need to be subtracted from Adam’s 930 years, to determine when the sixth seven-thousand-year period or ‘day’ ended, and how long Adam lived into the ‘seventh day.’ And yet the end of that sixth creative ‘day’ could end within the same Gregorian calendar year of Adam’s creation. It may involve only a difference of weeks or months, not years.” (The Watchtower, August 15, 1968, pp 494, 499) (View PDF of this page.)
In spite of the cautious statements made by the Watchtower Society in this article, its concluding statement that the possible error in calculation would only amount to a “difference” of “weeks or months, not years,” again affirmed the anxious expectations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Talks from the podium at Kingdom Hall meetings and especially at Jehovah’s Witness Conventions were continually emphatic about the urgency to “be ready” for Armageddon and to “keep on the watch!”
As the following years progressed, the urgency to do even more Kingdom “preaching work” was continually stressed by the Watchtower organization. We were told that the salvation of mankind was “our responsibility,” and this was not to be taken lightly! The pressure was ever increasing to “do more!” to prove our loyalty and faithfulness.
As 1975 drew near, many Jehovah’s Witnesses began to quit their jobs (and gave up their pensions) in order to devote more time to the door-to-door ministry. Many sold their homes and businesses, cashed in life insurance policies, rejected college education for themselves and their children, and even put off non-emergency medical or dental treatment in expectation of “the end.” All of these actions were commended by the Watchtower Society and hailed by the organization to the rank-and-file as “good examples” of what “faithful” Jehovah’s Witnesses were to be.
“Many schools now have student counselors who encourage one to pursue higher education after high school, to pursue a career with a future in this system of things. Do not be influenced by them. Do not let them ‘brainwash’ you with the Devil’s propaganda to get ahead … This world has very little time left! … Make pioneer service, the full-time ministry, with the possibility of Bethel or missionary service your goal.” (The Watchtower, March 15, 1969, p. 171)
“Therefore, as a young person, you will never fulfill any career that this system offers. If you are in high school and thinking about a college education, it means at least four, perhaps even six or eight more years to graduate into a specialized career. But where will this system of things be by that time? It will be well on the way toward its finish, if not actually gone!” (Awake!, May 22, 1969, p. 15)
“Yes, the end of this system is so very near! Is that no reason to increase our activity? … Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property and planning to finish out the rest of their days in this old system in the pioneer service. Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world’s end.” (Kingdom Ministry, May 1974, p. 3) (View PDF of the three quotes above.)
The belief of 1975 was so ingrained into our thinking, it was continually referred to and talked about, so much so, that it was almost a part of our daily conversation. We were excited, but yet, we were apprehensive. Although no one would admit it, we were scared! You cannot imagine how many times a talk from the platform would begin with, “Well, Brothers! It’s just … months till 1975!” Then, when the time got closer, it became, “Well, Brothers! It’s just … weeks until 1975!” And when 1975 actually came, you just couldn’t imagine the “buzz” of excitement that was going around!
By 1976, it became obvious to everyone that the Watchtower Society’s “Armageddon prophecy” had again failed to come. Many began to murmur and complain to the point that the Watchtower Society was forced to address this issue. When they finally did, we were stunned and shocked at what they said. The rank-and-file Jehovah’s Witnesses were practically yelled at! We were accused of it being our fault that Armageddon didn’t come! I remember Watchtower President Fred Franz yelling at the audience of Jehovah’s Witnesses saying, “You know why Armageddon didn’t come? Because you WANTED IT TO COME!”
Then, in talks and in the literature, the Watchtower Society began putting the blame for their false prediction on the rank-and-file Jehovah’s Witnesses by saying that we read more into the 1975 date than what the Society had stated, and that this was the reason we were disappointed. They went on to say that those who had built their lives around the anticipated fulfillment of a “specific date” had not followed the counsel of Jesus:
“Some who had been service God have planned their lives according to a mistaken view of just what was to happen on a certain date or in a certain year. They may have, for this reason, put off or neglected things that they otherwise would have cared for. But they have missed the point of the Bible’s warnings concerning the end of this system of things, thinking that Bible chronology reveals the specific date … Did Jesus mean that we should adjust our financial and secular affairs so that our resources would just carry us to a certain date that we might think marks the end? … This is not the kind of thinking that Jesus advised.” )The Watchtower, July 15, 1976, p. 440) (View PDF of this page.)
What? Had not the Watchtower Society commended the brothers and sisters who had sold their homes and businesses in order to put more time into the Watchtower’s preaching work? Had not the Society said, “Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world’s end!” (Kingdom Ministry, May 1974, p. 3). And now they were telling us that our “disappointment” was our own fault for not heeding the words of Jesus?!!
This kind of revisionist history was slowly fed to the masses so that what they had drummed into our heads about 1975 was somehow turned around. They managed to convince the remaining Jehovah’s Witnesses that the belief that Armageddon would come in 1975 had really been our own idea in the first place — that it had never been taught to us by the Watchtower Society. I heard stories of pioneers who had faithfully put in thousands of hours preaching the Watchtower message, throwing down their Watchtower book bags, saying, “I’ve had it!” and walking away from the Watchtower Organization. 2.
When so many left and said that they didn’t believe anything the Society taught anymore, the Watchtower organization turned around and used their example of leaving as an excuse to show why Armageddon hadn’t come. They said that the prediction had been some type of “test of loyalty,” and that Jehovah had been cleaning house to get rid of all those who He knew were not truly His people, even though they had looked good to the rest of us. This ploy worked quite well to keep the rest of us in! It even worked on me! It made us even more diligent to prove our loyalty to Jehovah.
“But some of their time calculations and the expectations that they associated with these gave rise to serious disappointments. Following 1925, meeting attendance dropped dramatically … Again, in 1975, there was disappointment when expectations regarding the start of the Millennium failed to materialize. As a result, some withdrew from the organization … Although these tests resulted in a sifting … others remained firm. Why? … ‘Those who had set their confidence in Jehovah remained steadfast and continued their preaching activity.’” (Jehovah’s Witnesses — Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, 1993, p. 633) (View PDF of this page.)
As has happened with many of the Watchtower’s failed predictions and doctrinal changes that the average Jehovah’s Witness has no knowledge of, the truth of what really happened has been twisted to mean something else and Watchtower history has been rewritten. Those who know the real truth and have left have been effectively silenced by being marked as “wicked, evil, apostates” by the Watchtower authorities, so that the ones who are too young to know any better are kept from the truth.
“But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:20-22, NASB)
FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE:
1.Many Jehovah’s Witnesses came into the organization after the height of the hype of the 1975 belief, and some after it was over.
2. Fall out from this type of revisionist history eventually pressured the Watchtower Society into printing an apology in which they took partial blame for their 1975 prophetic failure. In a 1980 Watchtower article, the Society stated: “With the appearance of the book Life Everlasting – in Freedom of the Sons of God, and its comments as to how appropriate it would be for the millennial reign of Christ to parallel the seventh millennium of man’s existence, considerable expectation was aroused regarding the year 1975. There were statements made then, and thereafter, stressing that this was only a possibility. Unfortunately, however, along with such cautionary information, there were other statements published that implied that such realization of hopes by that year was more of a probability than a mere possibility. It is to be regretted that these latter statements apparently overshadowed the cautionary ones and contributed to the buildup of the expectation already initiated. In its issue of July 15, 1976, The Watchtower, commenting on the inadvisability of setting our sights on a certain date, stated: ‘If anyone has been disappointed … his own understanding was based on wrong premises.’ In saying ‘anyone,’ The Watchtower included all disappointed ones of Jehovah’s Witnesses, hence including persons having to do with the publication of the information that contributed to the buildup of hopes centered on that date.” (The Watchtower, March 15, 1980, pp. 17-18) (emphasis in the original)