By Shane Carrington
Like most denominations, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have premillennial ideas about Jesus’ second coming. Their entire belief system is tied to a literal one thousand year reign of Christ over this earth, believing it is necessary to the “endless life and happiness of the world,”‘ and that Jesus will be “the one whom Jehovah employs to reestablish Paradise here on earth.”‘ We will here explore some of their beliefs about Jesus’ second coming and the end time.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are more speculative than most denominations when it comes to the second coming of Christ. They believe the millennium is to “shortly happen,”‘ “within this generation,”‘ and that “a literal millennium fits in harmoniously with the proved timetable of God.”‘
Several times they have predicted this advent. They said Jesus would come again in 1874 (which they explain as a miscalculation to be blamed on The Emphatic Diaglott and the King James Version0). Later, believing God’s people who survive Armageddon “will be favored with the privilege of literally seeing the resurrected `Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets’ back here on the Paradise earth and in royal service under the Kingdom of God,’ they said, “Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Issac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old, particularly those named by the Apostle in Hebrews chapter eleven, to the condition of human perfection.”‘ But this event did not happen either.
The most often promoted of their predictions is 1914. They believe Revelation 6 depicts World War I (1914), which “marked the time when . . . Jesus Christ, received the heavenly crown.’ But since the church was not glorified in heaven on Oct. 1, 1914, they said, “Something must have been miscalculated.”i0 They now say that “since that time (1914 when they believe he was enthroned”) Christ has turned his attention toward earth’s affairs and is . . . educating the true Christians in preparation for their survival during the great storm of Armageddon, when all unfaithful mankind will be destroyed from the face of the earth.””
They still believe Jesus came and was installed king, but invisibly so. “Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the kingdom is a real government from heaven, that it will rule over the earth, and that Jesus Christ is its appointed invisible king”” (Isa. 9:6,7, KJ). “Although it occurred invisibly to our human eyes in the heavens, yet it was in the year 1914 . . . that . . . there were given to the `son of man’ all that `rulership and dignity and kingdom.”‘” So they believe that in 1914 Jesus received his crown and began to reign invisibly from heaven as a prelude to the millennium which will come in our generation. Premillennial Proofs Their proof for all of this?
Jesus foretold that this would take place within the generation of those who would witness an extraordinary upheaval in human affairs. Concerning his “presence,” Jesus gave a composite “sign” involving such developments as unparalleled warfare, earthquakes, famines, pestilences — yes, and the worldwide preaching of the good news of God’s kingdom (Matt. 24:15; Mk. 13; Lk. 12). Jesus’ prophecy involves events taking place right now in our 20th century. Hence, it will not be long before God’s kingdom brings grand blessings to mankind. You can be among those to en-joy the benefits of kingdom rule.”
Premillennial Proof Texts Examined
While Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 speak of “extraordinary” events and the “presence of Jesus,” they are not predicting the coming of Jesus to destroy the world and usher in the millennium, because nineteen hundred years ago Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled” (Matt. 24:34). Jesus was speaking to the people then; it would happen in their generation, not some future period like ours!
The verses they quote in these chapters are not referring to the prelude of some millennium but to the destruction of Jerusalem On 70 A.D.) during the lives of many of those Jesus addressed! In Matthew 23 Jesus condemns the Jewish leaders for their hypocrisy and closes that speech by sentencing them to destruction for persecuting and killing God’s prophets (vv. 29-35): Saying “See! Your house is left to you desolate” (v. 38); and “Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come on this generation” (v. 36). In Matthew 24 the disciples show Jesus the glory of the temple (v. 1), and he declares it will be destroyed (v. 2). Then they ask him when Jerusalem and the temple will be destroyed and how they will know the time (v. 3; see especially Mark’s ac-count, 13:4). Then Jesus tells them, in apocalyptic language, of calamities that will precede Jerusalem’s destruction (v. 33). He further said these events would occur during the first century (Matt. 23:36-39; 24:32-34). Jesus was speaking to first century disciples about a destructive event that would occur in their day, not nineteen hundred years later! Jehovah’s Witnesses misuse these chapters just as do most premillennialist!
The Nature of the Book of Revelation
Another text they use to “prove” their millennial misconceptions is the book of Revelation. But if all premillennialist would simply study verse one they would see that their end-time ideas of this book are erroneous. “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants — things which must shortly take place. And he sent and signified it by his angel to his servant John” (Rev. 1:1). Two points: first, whatever events this book predicts, they would “shortly take place”! How can anyone stretch that to cover nineteen hundred years? Jesus revealed something to John about what Christians were facing then! Any interpretation of Revelation that does not take this into account is wrong, including premillennialist! If premillennialist is true, it must be proven so from some source other than Revelation.
Second, the Revelation was written in highly symbolic language: “He sent and signified it… ” This, too, shows the fallacy of believing in a literal one thousand years, literal 144,000, etc. Often, in the same context, and without con-textual reason, people will interpret one thing literally and another figuratively. Jehovah’s Witnesses do this with the 144,000 saying the number is literal, but that they were not necessarily literally beheaded as per Revelation 20:4.’0 I also doubt they believe only literal virgins can become part of the 144,000 (but in Rev. 14:4 they are so described). If you are going to say Revelation is literal, at least be consistent: interpret everything in the book literally! Don’t hop from literal to figurative whenever it suits your leanings on the book! Verse one declares the book’s figurative nature, so we must have strong contextual reasons before accepting part of the book’s imagery as literal. Since Revelation is figurative, where will premillennialist get their literal one thousand years?
The King and Kingdom Have Long Existed
Besides these things, Jesus’ kingdom has been in existence since the first century (Matt. 3:1,2; 4:17; 10:7; 16:18,19; Mk. 9:1; Col. 1:13; Rev. 1:9) with him presiding as king (Acts 2:29-36; Eph. 1:17-23; Matt. 28:18-20; 1 Tim. 6:14,15). These events occurred long before 1874, 1914 or 1925. Jehovah’s Witnesses gave “prophecies” of events that took place long before they made their predictions!
Finally, Peter declares that when Jesus comes again the world will be destroyed by fire, not turned into a Paradise like Eden:
But the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same word, reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. . . But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Seeing then that all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens, being on fire, will be dissolved, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? (2 Pet. 3:7,10-12; emp. SC).
The Witnesses say this means the earth will be cleansed by fire and prepared for Paradise on earth, but Peter’s inspired language makes their conviction impossible! No earth will exist to possess for Paradise after Jesus returns, for he will usher in the final judgment, not a millennial reign of peace over the earth (2 Pet. 3:7,11,12; 2 Thess. 1:4-10).
‘God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, p. 19, 1973.
“‘The Watchtower,” “Opening Up the Way Back to Paradise,” August 15, 1989, pp. 13,14.
‘God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years, p. 18.
‘Ibid., p. 44.
‘Ibid., p. 19.
`Ibid., pp. 206-211.
‘”The Watchtower,” “Paradise Restored Glorifies God,” August 15, 1989, p. 18.
‘Millions Now Living Will Never Die, pp. 89,90, The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1920.
‘God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years, pp. 164,165. “Ibid., p. 188.
“Ibid., p. 319.
‘Make Sure of All Things, p. 319, The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1953.
“”What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?”, by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, p. 3.
“God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years, p. 259.
“”The Watchtower,” March 15, 1992, “What God’s Kingdom Can Mean To You,” p. 6.
“God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years, pp. 31-34. Gr
“The Witnesses say this means
the earth will be cleansed by fire and prepared for
Paradise on earth, but Peter’s inspired language makes their
conviction impossible! No earth will exist to possess for Paradise
after Jesus returns, for he will usher in the final judgment, not
a millennial reign of peace over the earth (2 Pet. 3:7,11,12;
2 Thess. 1:4-10).”
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 8, p. 12-13
April 15, 1993