The teaching of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society that Armageddon will come before the "generation of 1914" passes away is causing increased anxiety among Jehovah's Witnesses as 2014 approaches and there are still no clear signs of how and when Jehovah will bring an end to this evil "system of things."
According to the teaching that the Jehovah's Witnesses have held for decades, people who were alive in 1914, when Jesus began "invisible rule" in heaven (an event marked by the outbreak of the first world war), will not die off completely before Jesus "turns kingdom attention to the earth" and executes judgment on "enemies of God," a phrase which, in Jehovah's Witnesses lingo, means essentially everyone of us who have not seen the light and joined the "Jehovah's only visible organization on earth," that is, The Jehovah's Witnesses.
According to Jason Barker, a close watcher of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the society has "long watched the aging of members who were alive in the year 1914, increasingly expecting Armageddon to occur as the elderly Witnesses pass away."
According to Jason Barker, precise interpretation of Jesus' Mount Olivet Discourse statements that, "verily, verily I say unto thee, this generation shall not pass away before all these things shall be fulfilled," has been elusive, going through endless subtle revisions over the years as the 1914 generation of senior members of the organization aged and died off gradually, and with increasing anxiety over the possibility that the prediction of the leadership of the group might fail.
With 2014, marking a hundred years of the generation of 1914 just around the corner, and with the "generation of 1914" fast disappearing, anxiety has heightened among witnesses over their expectation of imminence of Armageddon.
1889-Charles Taze Russell began teaching that Armageddon will come in 1914
After 1914 when Armageddon did not come leaders of the movement began teaching that Jesus had come invisibly and that the outbreak of the First World War was the sign that Jesus had begun "ruling in the midst of his enemies" in heaven.
1950-Watchtower admonishes Jehovah's Witnesses to look forward to Armageddon, 36 years having passed since 1914 and the generation of 1914 already well advanced in age
1961-The Society announces that the prophesied end time events leading to Armageddon had begun with the generation of those alive in 1914.
1967-The Society revises the meaning of the word "generation" to mean only those individuals who were alive in 1914 and able to view the "momentous" events of 1914 with understanding.
1968-The society makes another subtle change now emphasizing that the age of understanding is 15 years or older, implying that Armageddon would come before all those 15 years or older in 1914 die.
1984-The meaning of "generation" is now again revised to mean all those who were born during the year 1914
1988– The society states that a biblical generation is 75 years, meaning that Armageddon will come within 75 years of 1914, thus, 1989 was delcared a significant year in the official eschatological calendar.
1988– Later in 1988, the society revises its position once more, now defining a generation as between 70-80 years and thus extending the expectation of Armageddon to 1994
According to CeeJay, a former Jehovah's Witness, the revision of the meaning of "generation of 1914," in 1995, followed a publication by the dissident Raymond Franz , a former member of the Governing Board of the Jehovah's Witnesses, who was "disfellowshipped" by the organization in 1980, on accusation of apostasy. In his book Crisis of Conscience, Raymond Franz discussed the Watchtower's increasingly difficult position as the "generation of 1914" rapidly died off with no signs of Armageddon.
“…the Governing Body would welcome some means of escape from the increasingly difficult position created by tying the phrase “this generation” (along with the accompanying words that it “will not pass away until all these things have taken place”) to the steadily receding date of 1914… Undoubtedly the most desirable escape would come with an explanation that both retained 1914 as the “start of the last days” and at the same time successfully disconnected the phrase “this generation” from that date. But if the phrase “this generation” could be unlinked from 1914 and be applied to some future period of unknown date, then the passage of time…might not prove too difficult to rationalize particularly with a membership trained to accept whatever the "faithful and discreet slave class and its Governing Body may offer them”
The Jehovah's Witnesses governing body, as anticipated by Raymond Franz, a former insider, finally sought to douse the tension among its members as the generation of 1914 passed away, by issuing a statement in a November 1, 1995 article, in which it now began subtly refuting its previous statements on the duration of the "a biblical generation". The article official article said:
…Eager to see the end of this evil system, Jehovah’s people have at times speculated about the time when the “great tribulation” would break out, even tying this to calculations of what is the lifetime of a generation since 1914. However, we “bring a heart of wisdom in,” not by speculating about how many years or days make up a generation, but by thinking about how we “count our days” in bringing joyful praise to Jehovah. (Psalm 90:12) Rather than provide a rule for measuring time, the term “generation” as used by Jesus refers principally to contemporary people of a certain historical period, with their identifying characteristics.
Thus, beginning from 1995, as the millennium drew to a close, with the generation of 1914 fast disappearing without any sign of action from heaven, and with the 80 years span for a "biblical generation" having expired, the governing body of the Jehovah's Witnesses began implying effectively that a generation could be indefinitely extended.
This latest Armageddon-postponement-tactic by the Jehovah's Witnesses leadership has led to disillusionment for many longstanding members who began defecting. The sense of disappointed and let-down by former members of the group is evident in the forum Jehovahs-Witness.net., having several former members of the group as contributors. One contributor comments bitterly:
Growing up as a JW, you see the world differently than most everyone else. You see the world as something that is going to end very soon. All that we know will be gone by the time we're adults: When we were young, we were living in the last days and were expecting Armageddon before we grew old. We were the people who would cheat old age and death. Therefore we didn't have to worry about jobs, careers, houses, families. We were gonna party like it was 1999, the end would come and we'd all be in Paradise…It's a delusional expectation that has caused entire generations (not just mine, but my parents and grandparents before me) to waste their lives expecting to live forever and to be young forever. How sad to see people in their twilight years still expecting some miraculous event to transform them back to what they can never be again…
The evidence is that with the last revision by the leadership of the Jehovah's Witnesses on the subject of how long a "biblical generation" lasts, more and more witnesses are coming under pressure to review their convictions and many may be in need of help to re-adapt to a reality they had turned their backs on for too long.