Did this prediction come true?

(Investigator 193, 2020 July)

Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old...  (Millions Now Living Will Never die 1920, pp 88-89)

We must not forget that the world is on fire; that the blaze started in 1914, and presumably will reach the climax in 1925.
(Watch Tower 1924 February 1, p. 38)

J.F. Rutherford — author of Millions Now Living Will Never Die


The Russellite cult — which became Jehovah's witnesses (JWs) in 1931 — regarded themselves as "the saints", the modern-day New Testament Christians, and anticipated going to heaven in 1925. They also believed that God’s kingdom, which they claimed was set up in 1878 by Jesus being crowned king in a ceremony in heaven, would come to Earth in 1925 with the resurrection of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Samson, Daniel and other ancient Bible "worthies". Simultaneously the "old world" — all other religions, governments, cultures and organizations — would perish in war and revolution. Based in Jerusalem the resurrected "worthies" would institute a world government that would bring world peace and eradicate famine, sickness, pain and death.

In its magazine The Golden Age the cult leaders declared:

Lo, our King is here, and the year 1925 marks the date when all shall see His mighty power demonstrated in the resurrection of the ancient worthies, and the time when "millions now living will never die." (The Golden Age 1922, March 1, p. 350)

This prediction was the creation of Joseph F. Rutherford (1869-1942), an apostate from the Baptist Church, who had recently become president of the Watchtower Society the publishing channel of the Russellites.

On February 24, 1918 he delivered a public discourse in Los Angeles, California, titled "Millions Now Living May Never Die". In book form in 1920, published in 12 languages, "May" became "Will" — "Millions Now Living Will Never Die".

Front cover of the German edition

Calculating 1925

The date 1925 became important to the Russellites after they concluded that their predictions for 1914/1915, which had all failed, would be fulfilled ten years later:

Be that as it may, there is evidence that the establishment of the Kingdom in Palestine will probably be in 1925, ten years later than we once calculated. (The Finished Mystery, 1917, p. 128)

The year 1925 was calculated by adding 70 jubilees or 70 x 50 years to 1575 BC which was the year when, according to the cult, the Israelites entered the "promised land" of Canaan:  

A simple calculation of these jubilees brings us to this important fact: Seventy jubilees of fifty years each would be a total of 3500 years. That period of time beginning 1575 before A. D. 1 of necessity would end in the fall of the year 1925, at which time the type ends and the great antitype must begin. What, then, should we expect to take place? In the type there must be a full restoration; therefore the great antitype must mark the beginning of restoration of all things. The chief thing to be restored is the human race to life; and since other Scriptures definitely fix the fact that there will be a resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and other faithful ones of old, and that these will have the first favor, we may expect 1925 to witness the return of these faithful men of Israel from the condition of death, being resurrected and fully restored to perfect humanity and made the visible, legal representatives of the new order of things on earth. (Millions... 1920, p. 88)

As we have heretofore stated, the great jubilee cycle is due to begin in 1925. At that time the earthly phase of the kingdom shall be recognized. The Apostle Paul in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews names a long list of faithful men who died before the crucifixion of the Lord and before the beginning of the selection of the church. These can never be a part of the heavenly class; they had no heavenly hopes; but God has in store something good for them. They are to be resurrected as perfect men and constitute the princes or rulers in the earth, according to his promise. (Psalm 45:16; Isaiah 32: 1; Matthew 8: 11) Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old... (Millions... pp 89-90)

Based upon the argument heretofore set forth, then, that the old order of things, the old world, is ending and is therefore passing away, and that the new order is coming in, and that 1925 shall mark the resurrection of the faithful worthies of old and the beginning of reconstruction, it is reasonable to conclude that millions of people now on the earth will be still on the earth in 1925. Then, based upon the promises set forth in the divine Word, we must reach the positive and indisputable conclusion that millions now living will never die. (Millions... p. 97)

These 3,500 years began with the entrance into Canaan in the spring of 1575 B.C., 1574 3/4 years before the A.D. era and will come to their full end in 1924 1/4, or about April 1, 1925, at which time we may expect the resurrection of the Ancient Worthies and the beginning of the blessing of all the families of the earth, living as well as dead. (Millions... p. 110)

An advertisement in the The Golden Age (1921 pp 270, 302, 336) here retyped:

The Message of the Hour

Millions Now Living Will Never Die!

You may be one of them!

Do these things appeal to you? Unending human life; perpetual health; lasting and satisfying political adjustments; comprehensive economic arrangements; no more fear of the landlord, the doctor, the sheriff, the employer, of evil men and angels, of vicious animals, of dependent old age; no more blindness, lameness, deafness; no more bald heads, glass eyes, false teeth, or wooden legs; no more sickness, disease or pestilence; no more ignorance or superstition; no more sorrow; no more tears!

No we are not trifling: these things and more are absolutely sure, because promised by the Word of God. The world has already ended, in the Bible and only proper sense of that term; and the antitypical jubilee, earth's times of restitution, its springtime, begins to count in 1926.

When that time comes, all the above blessings will not come instantaneously, but will come speedily on those who live through the next five or six years of trouble. Suppose nine of every ten people now living on earth should die of famine, pestilence, customary disease, and violence during the next five years (surely a much too extreme estimate), there would still be living 160,000,000 people to be the first beneficiaries of the promise of Jesus "Whosoever liveth and believeth on  me, shall never die". John 11:26.

This topic, in lecture form, has been recently treated by Judge Rutherford before gatherings in most of the large cities of the United States, Great Britain, Continental Europe, Egypt and Palestine. The attendances have been phenomenal and the interest profound. Because of this great interest, and in response to repeated requests to have the lecture in print, Judge Rutherford has arranged it in simplified form, with  elaborate substantiation, both from Scripture and from current events.

Now available as a neatly bound, 125-page booklet at 25c a copy, postpaid.

International Bible Studnets Ass'n
Brooklyn, New York, USA

It's the Gospel

The Millions message was the "gospel" from "the master" and "a witness before the final end":

Surely the words of the master are now in course of fulfillment: "This gospel ["The World Has Ended: Millions Now Living Will Never Die"] shall be preached in all the world for a witness, and then shall the end come". The Master's inspiring words thrill the heart of the Christian and spur him on with greater zeal to give witness now…

It is the message that must go to all Christendom as a witness before the final end of the present order…

Suppose we should be wrong in the chronology and that the kingdom will not be fully set up in 1925. Suppose that we were ten years off, and that it would be 1935 before restitution blessings began. Without doubt there are now millions of people on the earth who will be living fifteen years from now; and we could with equal confidence say that "Millions Now Living Will Never Die". Whether it be 1925 or 1935, restitution blessings must soon begin…
(Watch Tower 1920 October 15, p. 310)

The Millions message was — as any Christian denomination can confirm — NOT the gospel. And the New Testament says:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9)

The "accursed" cult leaders continued to inflame the emotions of their followers with their substitute gospel until 1925 came and disconfirmed it.

What was "expected"? What was "unqualified"?

The chronology for 1925 was "absolutely and unqualifiedly correct" (Watch Tower 1922 July 15, p. 217) Also indisputable is: "we must reach the positive and indisputable conclusion that millions now living will never die."

No specific year is set when the millions would stop dying, and delay until 1935 was a suggested possibility. If the delay became so long that "millions" from 1920 were no longer alive, it would be obviously a false prophecy. 

The resurrection of the "worthies" in 1925 is usually qualified with "may expect", "may confidently expect", and a "reasonable conclusion". The Golden Age, quoted above, however, expresses certainty by stating "1925 marks the date when all shall see…"

Rutherford had been a practicing lawyer, highly intelligent and slick with words. He framed his message so people would see it as predicting the return of the ancient worthies in 1925 and be aroused to great zeal in preaching. But he also allowed wriggle room so that after 1925 he could claim it was a probability and "opinion".

Here it is again in 1921-1922:

Seventy jubilees of fifty years each would be a total of 3,500 years. That period of time, beginning in 1575 before A.D. 1, of necessity would end in the fall of the year 1925, at which time the type ends and the great antitype must begin. What, then, should we expect to take place? In the type there must be a full restoration; therefore the great antitype must mark the beginning of restoration of all things.

The chief thing to be restored is the human race to life; and since other Scriptures definitely fix the fact that there will be a resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and other faithful ones of old, and that these will have the first favor, we may expect 1925 to witness the return of these faithful men of Israel from the condition of death, being resurrected and fully restored to perfect humanity and made the visible, legal representatives of the new order of things on earth, right here in Jerusalem.

Then Jerusalem will become the capital of the world, and out from this nation will flow blessings to all the nations of the earth. Because that time is at hand we can confidently say "Millions now living will never die". (The Golden Age 1921, March 16, p. 381)

The physical facts show beyond question of a doubt that 1914 ended the Gentile times; and as the Lord foretold, the old order is being destroyed by war, famine, pestilence, and revolution. The date 1925 is even more distinctly indicated by the scriptures because it is fixed by the law God gave to Israel. Viewing the present situation in Europe, one wonders how it will be possible to hold back the explosion much longer; and that even before 1925 the great crisis will be reached and probably passed. (Watch Tower 1922 September 1, p. 262)

1925 would also see the death of Christendom:

...the end of the seventy cycles (as indicated by seventy jubilees), in the fall of 1925, will surely bring the deathblow to symbolic Babylon. (Watch Tower 1924 May 15, p. 159)

Rutherford's Evidence

The cult had previously predicted that the Old Testament "worthies" would return in 1914/1915 and establish a government that would constitute the "earthly part of God's Kingdom".

The "heavenly part" or "heavenly kingdom" supposedly began in 1878 when deceased Christian "saints" were resurrected in ghost-like form and ascended to heaven to reign.

1914/1915 was calculated by adding 2520 years to 606 BCE when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon burned Jerusalem. That event actually occurred in 586 BCE this being the historical date. (Stett 2019) But to accept established history would have ruined the predictions the cult made for 1914-1915. Therefore the leaders claimed that the fulfillment would: "probably be in 1925, ten years later than we once calculated."

They also had their argument of adding 70 x 50 to 1575 BCE to get 1925. The problems here are:

a.    The correct date for Israel's entry to Canaan is roughly a century after 1575 BCE;

b.    Irrespective of which date is correct, the Bible does not teach that 70 x 50 should be added to it.

As proof of the imminent changeover starting in 1925 the cult pointed to World War I; the 1918-1919 Flu pandemic; scientific technology and new inventions (which would help the resurrected "princes" bring world-wide prosperity); the 1925-message (which supposedly fulfilled Jesus' prophecy in Matthew 24:14); capitalism; and perplexing world conditions:

The conditions which have arisen in the world since 1914 are distressing and perplexing. All the rulers of earth are perplexed. The financiers are in perplexity; the business men are in perplexity; the people are in perplexity; and all are in distress... All of this is but in fulfillment of the words of Jesus. (Millions... pp 57-58)

Rutherford jumped between literal and metaphorical interpretations of Jesus' predictions. In Matthew 24 "Nation will rise against nation" was literally the World War, and "pestilences" included literally the Flu pandemic. But “earthquakes” were symbolic and meant revolutions like Communism. And the sun and moon darkened and stars falling, referred to clergymen (pp 42-43) falling away from the gospel. In other words Jesus' predictions were a mishmash of literal and symbolic which no one understood until Rutherford unraveled them and climaxed them in 1925!


After the initial sermon in 1918 the main proclamation got under way in 1920 with:

•    The book Millions Now Living Will Never Die (1920);
•    The Watch Tower magazine;
•     The Golden Age magazine;
•    Meetings in rented halls in many countries;
•     Conventions attended by thousands;
•    Door-to-door distribution of tracts and leaflets;
•    The books The Harp of God (1921) and The Way to Paradise (1924);
•    Newspaper reports and advertisements;
•    Broadcasts on radio including the cult's radio station inaugurated in 1924.

In 1921 publicizing was in full swing:

On September 25, 1921, October 30 and December 11 thereafter, public meetings were simultaneously held in all parts of the United States and Canada, at which the message "Millions Now Living Will Never Die" was proclaimed… We invite the Watch Tower readers, the consecrated brethren throughout the world, regardless of language, to join in this proclamation of the message of truth… (Watch Tower 1922, January 1, p. 8)

On December 11, 1921, President J. F. Rutherford of the Watch Tower Society addressed 7,000 listeners in the old Hippodrome of New York City on the subject, “Millions Now Living Will Never Die.” (Watchtower 1966, September 1, p. 517)

"I had the privilege of pasting signs on traffic centers throughout Leipzig [Germany]. How satisfying to see the Alberthalle, largest lecture hall we could get, crowded out by an audience of 4,000…" (Watchtower 1967, August 1, p. 473)

Radio was still a novelty. The first wireless signal crossed the Atlantic in 1901 and the world's first radio station began daily broadcasts from Pittsburgh in 1920. In April 1922 listeners in the north-east USA heard Rutherford speak. The Philadelphia Record (1922, April 17), a daily paper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, reported:

"Radio Tells the World Millennium is Coming. Judge Rutherford’s Lecture Broadcasted from Metropolitan Opera House. Talks into Transmitter. Message is Carried Over Miles of Bell Telephone Wires to Howlett’s [Radio] Station.
"The millennium sets in the Year 1925, human woe will then start to vanish, and disease and sickness, and death itself will be no more, was the message pronounced through a radio-transmitter by ex-Judge J. F. Rutherford, of the New York City Bar, standing on the platform of the Metropolitan Opera House yesterday afternoon…
"Judge Rutherford delivered his lecture, 'Millions Now Living Will Never Die'…
(Quoted in The Watch Tower1922 June 15, p. 180)

Rutherford's book Light Volume One says: "That same year [1922] the same lecture was delivered by a large number of speakers in thirty-three different languages." (Light I, 1930, 315)

The Harp

The Harp of God became the cult's main doctrinal textbook in 1921. The title page says: "Proof Conclusive that Millions now Living will never Die".

Pages 333/340 state:

The proof cited herein shows that the old world (social and political order) ended and began to pass away in 1914, and that this will be completed in a few years and righteousness fully established… Seeing, then, that we are at the end of the old order and the opening of the new, and that according to the Scriptures many must pass over to the new, it can be confidently announced that MILLIONS OF PEOPLE NOW LIVING WILL NEVER DIE…

Hence these faithful men may be expected on earth within the next few years. (pp 333, 340)

Definitely fixed in the Scriptures

In 1922-1924 the use of prophecy to "spur" believers to "greater zeal to give witness" continued:

The chief thing to be restored is the human race to life; and since other Scriptures definitely fix the fact that there will be a resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and other faithful ones of old, and that these will have the first favor, we may expect 1925 to witness the return of these faithful men of Israel from the condition of death, being resurrected and fully restored to perfect humanity and made the visible legal representatives of the new order of things on earth, right here in Jerusalem.

The period must end in 1925. The type ending, the antitype must begin; and therefore 1925 is definitely fixed in the scriptures. Every thinking person can see that a great climax is at hand. The Scriptures clearly indicate that that climax is the fall of Satan's empire and the full establishment of the Messianic kingdom. This climax being reached by 1925, and that marking the beginning of the fulfillment of the long-promised blessings of life to the people, millions now living on earth will be living then and those who obey the righteous laws of the new arrangement will live forever. Therefore it can be confidently said at this time that MILLIONS NOW LIVING WILL NEVER DIE." (The Golden Age 1922, January 4, p. 217)

15If we assume that the harvest of the wheat class, namely, the saints, began with the beginning of the second presence of our Lord in 1874, then would it be unreasonable to conclude that the harvest must continue for fifty symbolic days, or fifty literal years? If so, then we might expect the harvest to end fifty years after 1874, or with the year 1924. If this be true, what a wonderful incentive for the saints to be watchful, prayerful, active, and rejoicing in their privileges to have a part in the Lord’s work in these concluding days of the harvest. That would mean that the selection of the royal family would be completed with the end of 1924. If this be true, then surely with confidence the saints now on earth can announce with the opening of this year, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand," because all the members of the royal line are about completed for the kingdom...

16Surely there is not the slightest room for doubt in the mind of a truly consecrated child of God that the Lord Jesus is present and has been since 1874; that the harvest has been in progress during that time; that most of the saints have now been gathered. Therefore, can there be a reasonable doubt about the early completion of the church and its glorification in view of the fulfillment of prophecy? Do not all the physical facts about us indicate just exactly what we expected during the concluding hours of the church’s earthly pilgrimage?   (Watch Tower 1924 January 1, p. 5)

In his book The Way to Paradise (1924) Van Amburgh, the cult's secretary-treasurer, expanded 1925 to include 1926 and identified it as part of Bible "prophecy":

The Jewish legal year begins in the fall, about our October first. The year 1926 would therefore begin about October first, 1925. It would be very reasonable to expect to see some beginning of God's favor returning to the Jewish people, as a part of the world, shortly after that date… We should, therefore, expect shortly after 1925 to see the awakening of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham…and others mentioned in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. (p. 224)

Let us suppose that you are living after the kingdom is established and the blessings have begun to flow out to the people in abundant measure. Of course it will take some time to get things in smoothly running order after the great stress between now and 1926. It may be ten years or more… (p. 228)

The Bible and “The Bible in Stone” [the Pyramid of Giza] give the date 1914: for the beginning of the great change. History proves that the ouster proceedings began promptly on time. Prophecy indicates that 1925-1926 will see the greater part of the ousting completed. All the world’s statesmen are dreading the next few years. (p. 171)

When you take up a more advanced study of the Bible, you will find that the year 1925 A. D. is particularly marked in prophecy. (p. 220)

Life in the Cult

Many cult members repeated the foolery that had occurred when 1914 approached. They abandoned jobs, sold their houses, cancelled health care, and became idiots in the eyes of neighbors.

William Schnell, in his book 30 Years A Watchtower Slave, writes:

This expectation was fanned by every publication of the Organization of that time and it left a deep imprint upon our minds. In fact, it virtually made irrational crack-pots out of many of us. For example, I well remember that in the fall of 1924 my father offered to buy me a much needed suit of clothes. I asked him not to do it since it was only a few months to 1925, and with it would come the Kingdom. This now seems utterly ridiculous to me. Even if the Kingdom as expected had come, I meanwhile very badly needed new clothes.

The Watchtower Society kept fanning this great expectation to a high pitch... However, at that time some of the more mature among the Bible students began to catch on and to notice the discrepancy in the Society's statements about 1925 being the beginning of the Kingdom and the end of the present wicked world, and the Society's increasing activities of buying land, buildings, ordering printing presses, all making for expansion!  The two just did not go together.

In parallel with "fanning this great expectation" Rutherford reorganized the Watchtower organization. He revised doctrines, made the hierarchy more structured, introduced and enforced stricter levels of uniformity, and put ever greater emphasis on cult-members going door to door to sell his books.

The prospect of missing out on eternal life motivated conformity even as Rutherford introduced doctrinal revisions that demolished numerous previous beliefs. Followers who conformed and preached the "gospel" of 1925 in effect "burned their bridges", making going back to their earlier lives too humiliating if 1925 turned out to be a delusion.

Anticipation Deflated

It's probable that Rutherford instituted his false predictions deliberately to inspire people to commit their lives to his cult. He was competing with other divisions of Russellism to win over former followers of Charles T. Russell, and his bold predictions can be interpreted as a strategy to win the lion's share.

In 1923 Rutherford deflated the anticipation a little:

Our thought is, that 1925 is definitely settled by the Scriptures, marking the end of the typical jubilees. Just exactly what will happen at that time no one can tell to a certainty; but we expect such a climax in the affairs of the world that the people will begin to realize the presence of the Lord and his kingdom power. (Watch Tower 1923, April 1, p. 106)

In 1924 Rutherford criticized the attitude that "the work will not be finished" in 1925, but also suggested an extension of "several years":

2It will not do to say that 1925 is approaching and the work will not be finished during that year, and that therefore one can slack up for awhile and take on the work again some time later. Who knows that the work of the Church this side the vail may not be completed in 1925? ...

3Suppose the Lord should say to his people in 1925 words to the effect that several years more will be required to give the witness to the nations before all the body members shall be changed into glorious spirit beings. Would not the truly loyal ones respond in effect thus? "Gracious Lord, thy will be done..."

The year 1925 is a date definitely and clearly marked in the Scriptures, even more clearly than that of 1914; but it would be presumptuous on the part of any faithful follower of the Lord to assume just what the Lord is going to do during that year. (Watch Tower 1924 July 15, p. 211)

"Changed into glorious spirit beings" referred to going to heaven. Russell had predicted the physical/bodily ascent of the "saints" (i.e. the Russellites or Watch Tower cult) in 1878; then 1881; then 1914/1915. This was among the events postponed, as quoted above, "ten years later than we once calculated". When 1925 dawned Rutherford deflated the anticipation further:

2The year 1925 is here. With great expectation Christians have looked forward to this year. Many have confidently expected that all members of the body of Christ will be changed to heavenly glory during the year. This may be accomplished. It may not be. In his own due time God will accomplish his purposes concerning his own people. Christians should not be so deeply concerned about what may transpire during this year that they would fail to joyfully do what the Lord would have them do. (Watch Tower 1925, January 1, p. 3)

Response to Failure

Many of Rutherford's supporters concluded that false predictions identify false prophets, and dropped out. Rutherford anticipated this loss and tried to minimize it:

51It seems to be a weakness of many Bible Students that if they locate a future date in the Bible, immediately they center as many prophecies upon that date as possible. This has been the cause of many siftings in the past. As far as we recall, all the dates foreseen were correct. The difficulty was that the friends inflated their imaginations beyond reason; and that when their imaginations burst asunder, they were inclined to throw away everything. No doubt Mr Miller was correct in locating 1844 as a Bible date. But he expected too much. 1874 was also easily located. 1878 was also a marked date, and one which caused Brother Russell a severe trial until he corrected his expectations, as noted in his "Harvest Siftings", of April, 1894, now out of print. Many can remember how "absolutely sure" some were about 1914. No doubt the Lord was pleased with the zeal manifested by his servants; but did they have a Scriptural basis for all they expected to come to pass that year? Let us be cautious, therefore, about predicting particulars. (Watch Tower 1925 February15, p. 57)

25It is to be expected that Satan will try to inject into the minds of the consecrated the thought that 1925 should see an end of the work, and that therefore it would be needless for them to do more. (Watch Tower 1925 September 1, p. 262)

William Schnell, who in 1925 served at the cult's German headquarters in Magdeburg, writes:

By the spring of 1925, when the world was supposed to come to an end according to the expectations raised by the Watchtower predictions, and the princes were scheduled to appear to us, there appeared in their place Judge Rutherford. He came with a pocket full of American dollars, which the Society had collected in the form of contributions for books, and soon bought us a brand new plot of land, and buildings, and machines. As soon as he left there began a year-long expansion program. (p. 46)

Schnell also recalls Rutherford's address to the 150-member headquarters staff. Rutherford outlined a "master plan" of world rule which he had probably thought up while in prison in 1918-1919:

Assuming the role of a seer atop the high Watchtower of the Society, his eyes took on a far away look and he began to tell us that we should not selfishly anticipate going to heaven in 1925, when there was still so much work to be done on earth. He was letting us down! Our pent-up emotions tied in with our expectation for the end of the world were being deflated. But, in doing so he took us high up on the Watchtower with him, as high as the mountain of temptation which overlooked all the kingdoms of the world, and he showed us a great world organization! He pictured vast billions coming out of all the kingdoms of the world, person after person and class after class, slowly learning the Kingdom...

What the Judge outlined at the Magdeburg Convention clearly showed us that he was operating along lines of a well-laid master plan. (pp 47-48)

In 1926 Rutherford gave the following excuse:

“Question: Have the ancient worthies returned?

Answer: Certainly they have not returned. No one has seen them, and it would be foolish to make such an announcement. It was stated in the “Millions” book that we might reasonably expect them to return shortly after 1925, but this was merely an expressed opinion; besides it is still shortly after 1925. There is no good reason why we should expect the ancient worthies to return until the church is complete and the work of the church on earth is done.” (Watch Tower 1926, July 1, p. 196)

Of course it was not "merely an expressed opinion". It was the "gospel" based on "divinely corroborated" chronology, "absolutely and unqualifiedly correct", and cult members turned their lives upside down to proclaim it.

How many people did the cult lose? This might be investigated in a future article. Briefly, the Memorial, the annual remembrance of Christ's death, declined from 90,000 attending worldwide in 1925 to perhaps 17,000 in 1928. Members who went door-to-door experienced rapid turnover but stabilized at over 20,000. These rationalized that the predictions were not false, merely delayed, and they would "live forever" because the "blessing is now about to begin":

The faithful shall live forever, receiving from the Lord the right to live. This blessing is now about to begin, hence it may be properly said that millions now living will never die... (Deliverance 1926, 352)

It has also been the cult's practice since its inception, to always have standby dates, functioning like "the carrot on the stick". In 1975 the reserve dates were "the generation of 1914" and "within our twentieth century". In 1878 it was 1881. In 1881 it was "by 1914" changed in 1904 to "immediately after 1914. In 1915 it was 1918 and 1925. In 1925 it was "several years" and "ten years".

Rutherford also flattered his followers, made them feel important, by giving them labels based on Bible names, such as "anointed Christians", "Samson class", "faithful and wise servant class", "Mordecai class", "Esther class", etc. He claimed that the Old Testament stories were prophetic dramas in which the good guys (such as Daniel, David and Mordecai) pictured them; and the bad guys pictured Catholics, Nazis, Christendom, and rival divisions of Russellism.

Furthermore, the Great Depression, which started in 1929, seemed like proof that Armageddon was imminent. Millions of people lost jobs and joined food queues, but many of Rutherford's followers survived financially by selling his books.

As decades passed some flattering titles were removed or reassigned.  For example, in 1993 we read:

...the small body of anointed Christians who lived through those times really is the faithful and discreet slave. In the years since then, Jehovah’s organization has expanded enormously, but the faithful and discreet slave is still at its center, guiding it... (Watchtower 1993 November 1, p. 12)

Sometime around 2010 the "faithful and wise servant class" lost their title, in effect got booted out of this class, and the title was reassigned and restricted to the JW Governing Body. A "Bible truth" proclaimed for 80 years was changed!

After 1925 Proclamation Revised

After 1925 the "millions" prediction stayed on, but attached to new dates:

THE PEOPLES of this earth are now numbered by the thousands of millions. Many of these millions are in the days of their youth. The average length of human life is now approximately forty years. In view of these admitted facts and of the positive and indisputable truths set forth in the Bible it can now be confidently said that there are millions of these persons now on the earth who will never die… (Health And Life 1932, p. 20)

All the facts show that Armageddon is only a short time away, and that period much less than the length of a generation. (ibid p. 24)

In the early 1930s Rutherford introduced the doctrine that only JWs would survive Armageddon, and in 1934-1935 that a "great multitude" called "Jonadabs" will live forever on Earth but first had to be converted. The Millions prediction was thereafter applied to this "great crowd":

The Scriptures show that God's promise is to preserve the Jonadab class, or people of good will, and that "millions now living will never die". (Jehovah 1934, pp 99; 25)

These predictions in 1932-1934 were false too because although JWs now in 2020 number over 8 million they do not include "millions" who were alive in 1932-1934!

In the 1960s and 1970s the phrase used was "many now living will never die". After that, when JWs numbered several million, the phrase "millions now living [or "now alive"] will never die" returned.

The Watchtower October 1, 1981 has as its main articles:

•    "Millions Now Alive Will Never Die Off Our Earth"

•    "Millions Get Ready for Uninterrupted Life on Earth"

We read:

•    Millions today appreciate that the "new heavens" and the "new earth" are immediately ahead of us. (p. 10)
•    Millions of dedicated, baptized witnesses of Jehovah expect to survive… (p. 12)
•    We have basis for believing that there are living today millions of such potential candidates for an unbroken endless life on earth. (p 14)
•    The eyebrow-raising declaration "Millions now alive will never die off our earth" is not based upon mere human mathematical calculation… (p. 16)
•    Today the vast majority of Jehovah's Witnesses are members of that "great multitude" that is to survive "the war of the great day of God the Almighty at…Armageddon."  (p. 16)

In 1981 claims like "immediately ahead" and "Millions...expect to survive" relied on the doctrine that the generation living in 1914 would live until Armageddon which would occur "within our twentieth century". But that doctrine too was false and was revised in 1995.

The JWs alive in 1981, of whom "millions...expect to survive" numbered 2.3 million. Their expectation too was wrong since about half of the 1981 members have already either died or deserted the sect.

Princes Revised

Belief in the ancient "worthies", or "princes", to be resurrected after 1925 and rule the world was kept fresh by building a mansion in California for them in 1929. The mansion was named "Beth Sarim" meaning "House of Princes".

In 1942 the JW book The New World said the princes "may be expected back from the dead any day now" (p. 104) but this also failed!

After WWII the House was sold and in 1950 the "princes" doctrine was revised. The "princes" were now the JW overseers who run the congregations. The overseers would be the rulers of the world after Armageddon but subservient to the supposed "heavenly kingdom".

False Prediction Caused By God

After JWs abandoned the original "Millions" message they still claimed it had come from God:

Stirring up increasing interest in them, Jehovah caused to be preached from 1918 onward the startling public message “Millions Now Living Will Never Die,” and in 1923 he provided the interpretation of “the parable of the sheep and the goats.” (Matt. 25:31-46) (The Watchtower 1955 November 15, p. 698)

The interpretation of the sheep and the goats which Jehovah “provided”, with Rutherford's cult being the "sheep", was abandoned in 1995. (See Investigator #47) 

The 1975 Yearbook of JWs says:

Jehovah certainly blessed his people back in the 1920’s... He also proved himself to be a God of progressive revelation. The Bible Students, in turn, found it necessary to adjust their thinking to some extent. But they were grateful for God’s guidance and were eager to be “taught by Jehovah.”...

God’s faithful servants had not dedicated themselves to him only until a certain year. They were determined to serve him forever. To such persons the unfulfilled expectations concerning 1925 did not pose a great problem... (pp 146-147)

Amazingly JWs don't question the inconsistency of claiming they alone are "God's faithful servants" "taught by Jehovah", when in hundreds of points (including the 1925 predictions) JWs alone were wrong!

The "Millions" message and other things proclaimed in 1914-1925, was supposedly the "true knowledge" foretold in Daniel 12:4:

The foretold “time of the end” began in 1914. Did true knowledge about the hope of mankind become plentiful? (Dan. 12:4)... From 1918 until 1925, the talk “Millions Now Living Will Never Die,” which explained the hope of everlasting life on earth, was presented by Jehovah’s servants... (Watchtower 2009 August 15, pp 15-17)

"Millions" certainly was not "true knowledge". The period also included The Finished Mystery (1917) which, as shown in another article, had an estimated 1300 explanations of Bible verses that the cult later discarded. Not "true knowledge" at all!

Still Bible Based; Still The Truth

The Watchtower Library (2015) is the official CD of JW publications that were published since 1950 (but missing some).

The CD's search function can produce lists of every occurrence of any word or phrase.

The phrase "Millions Now Living" occurs 231 times and "Millions Now Living Will Never Die" 185 times.

Many of these references claim the message was "Bible based" and "Bible truth", or otherwise give it a positive spin:

J. F. Rutherford, on the other hand, was not making forecasts based on science or medicine. His discussion was based on the Bible. He demonstrated by means of fulfilled Bible prophecies that the world of mankind had entered into its "time of the end." (Daniel 12:4) (Awake! 1990 April 22, pp 6-7)

This talk expressed the Bible truth that some would survive the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” right here on earth... (Watchtower 1967 December 1, p. 729)

When I was only four years old, we attended a Bible lecture entitled “Millions Now Living Will Never Die,”... My mother recognized the message in the lecture as the truth. (Watchtower 1973 January 15, p. 52)

Millions Now Living Will Never Die and the worldwide public talks under that title, commencing early in 1918, gave Scriptural proof that a multitude of people would survive Armageddon and live forever on earth under God’s kingdom. (Watchtower 1965 August 1, p. 472)

The Millions message was actually neither "Bible truth" nor had "Scriptural proof". No Christian denomination accepted it, and even JWs discarded it in its original form. The "multitude of people" of 1920, predicted to survive, is now virtually extinct. The reference to "God's kingdom" is deceitful too since "God's kingdom" until 1925 was defined as established in 1878. It was discarded in 1925 and replaced with "God's kingdom" of 1914:

Be not surprised then, when in subsequent chapters we present proofs that the setting up of the Kingdom of God is already begun, that it is due to begin the exercise of power in A.D. 1878, and that the 'battle of the great day of God Almighty' (Rev. 16:14) which will end in A.D. 1915, with the complete overthrow of earth's present rulership, is already commenced. (Russell 1889)

It was about 1925 that the faithful discerned the fact that the kingdom had begun and that Satan had been cast out of heaven... (Light 1930, Volume 2, p. 309)

Other positive descriptions that mislead naïve readers to think the Millions message was true include:

•    "This grand public lecture..." (Watchtower 1964 January 15, p. 59)

•    "What an exciting message..." (JWs Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, 1993, p. 425)

•    "Millions Now Living Will Never Die! vividly presented the Kingdom as a reality yet to come, with its grand possibilities of living forever on earth under that glorious government." (Watchtower 1954 June 1, p. 344)

The Bible never calls false predictions "grand" or "exciting", instead "appalling" and "horrible"! (Jeremiah 5:30-31)

"Fornicator" and "Lying Fraud"

In 1990 seventy years had passed since 1920 which is enough time to have said "Sorry" for the false predictions. Instead JWs recalled that:

The Golden Age of September 29, 1920, plainly exposed Christendom as a fornicator, a lying fraud, and a misleader of the people... Since then, Jehovah’s people have cooperated fearlessly with the angels in telling all mankind that Christendom is spiritually dead, her clergy are fallen leaders, and soon she and the rest of this satanic world will be destroyed. (Watchtower 1990 April 1, p. 31)

Pointing to a huge category like "Christendom" and tarring everyone with the same brush is the same error that racists make. The JW leaders did it not only in 1920 but still do it — assigning hateful, spiteful labels to other faiths.

Considering that the alterations that the JW leaders have made to their so-called "Bible truth" number thousands, descriptions such as "lying fraud" and "misleader of the people" look like attempts to hide their own guilt by deflecting the spotlight. 

What about "fornicator"?

JWs use this word metaphorically to badmouth religions that try to influence governments, and they call such interaction "fornication". However, "fornicator" could literally describe the JW Organization.

Australia's Royal Commission to investigate child abuse, uncovered among JWs 1000 perpetrators since 1950 who had fornicated with, or otherwise sexually abused 1800 children. JWs reported no offenders to the police, but shunned many victims who complained when they got older. (Royal Commission 2016) Nor has the sect yet (June 2020) joined the national redress scheme, instead is accused of transferring assets off-shore to avoid paying compensation. (O'Brien 2020)

No global paradise governed by resurrected ancient "worthies" came after 1925. Instead there came among JWs what some commentators called a "pedophile's paradise".


The Watchtower leaders in 1926 and afterwards blamed the victims for their disappointment:

Ever since the 1870’s, Bible Students had been serving with a date in mind—first 1914, then 1925. Now, they realized that they must serve for as long as Jehovah wishes. (Watchtower 1993 November 1, p. 12)

If the cult members served "with a date in mind", it was the leaders who set the dates and called their chronology "unqualifiedly correct"!

JWs constantly tell people in other religions to flee their religion because of false teachings. But among JWs, despite false teachings, "Jehovah wishes" more service!

This situation is supposedly "similar" to Jesus' Apostles in Acts chapter 1:

The year 1925 came and went. Some abandoned their hope. But the vast majority of the Bible Students remained faithful. “Our family,” explained Herald Toutjian, whose grandparents had become Bible Students about the turn of the century, “came to appreciate that unrealized hopes are not unique to our day. The apostles themselves had similar misplaced expectations... Jehovah is worthy of loyal service and praise with or without the ultimate reward.”—Compare Acts 1:6, 7. (JWs Proclaimers of God's Kingdom 1993, p. 78)

In Acts 1 the apostles asked Jesus a question: "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" Asking a question is not "similar" to making false predictions for specific years, claiming these dates are of "divine origin", and insisting that everyone disrupt their lives to preach them!

And how can cooperation in such a disruptive, exploitative, deceitful agenda be "loyal service and praise" to God? The Bible, in contrast, teaches:

If a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it. (Deuteronomy 18:22)

Answering Hepburn

Brenton Hepburn, an apologist for JWs in Adelaide, says that Rutherford's "Millions" message was not a prophecy but an invitation to consider the evidence. Rutherford was presenting what he believed was in the Bible; he didn't prophesy or claim to be inspired.

Hepburn quotes from page 13:

We invite the reader, therefore, to examine each point carefully as here made, compare the argument with the Scriptures cited, and view the same in the light of present day events... Every man should be persuaded in his own mind and no man should permit himself to be deterred from examining a question based upon the Bible because a clergyman or any one else makes the unsupported assertion that it is dangerous or unworthy to consider. (Millions..., p. 13)

Yes "The reader" is invited "to examine each point carefully". But Rutherford also supplies the "indisputable conclusion" which is:

Then, based upon the promises set forth in the divine word, we must reach the positive and indisputable conclusion that millions now living will never die"... (p. 97)

We noted above that Van Amburgh, the cult's secretary/treasurer, called it "prophecy". Was anyone a prophet in the 1920s?

He [Jehovah] had a “prophet” to warn them. This “prophet” was not one man, but was a body of men and women. It was the small group of footstep followers of Jesus Christ, known at that time as International Bible Students.... (Watchtower 1972 April 1, p. 197)

Hepburn further explains that the word "prophet" in the Bible has a broader meaning than a "foreteller of events"; it also refers to a "spokesperson".

That's correct but unhelpful as an excuse for 1925, since the co-called modern-day "prophet" claims to be both — spokesperson for God and foreteller — and repeatedly failed in both.

Hepburn also argues that the JW leaders never claimed to be "inspired" by God like the Bible writers were. Hepburn makes this point because to be "inspired of God" implies total accuracy, infallibility.

Firstly, people are responsible for any false or misleading information they disseminate whether they claim to be inspired or not!

Secondly, in the case of the JW leaders, they use terms and phrases equivalent to claiming inspiration. A few examples:

As Jehovah revealed his truths by means of the first-century Christian congregation so he does today by means of the present-day Christian congregation. Through this agency he is having carried out prophesying on an intensified and unparalleled scale. All this activity is not an accident. Jehovah is the one behind all of it. (Watchtower 1964 March 15, p. 365)

Jehovah God is therefore the only Supreme Court of interpretation of His inspired word… He merely uses the "servant" class to publish the interpretation after the Supreme Court by Christ Jesus reveals it. (The Watchtower 1943 7/1 202-203)

Consider, too, the fact that Jehovah's organization alone, in all the earth, is directed by God's holy spirit or active force. (Zech. 4:6) Only this organization functions for Jehovah's purpose and to his praise. To it alone God's Sacred Word, the Bible, is not a sealed book…
(The Watchtower 1973 7/1 402)

It will be clearly shown that present-truth chronology displays indisputable evidence of divine foreknowledge of the principle dates, and that this is proof of divine origin, and that the system is not a human invention but a discovery of divine truth. (Watchtower 1922 July15, p. 218)

If the Bible is "inspired" then a "spokesperson" or "prophet" who claims to understand it and demands obedience to everything he understands cannot be wrong in what he proclaims. Such a prophet is implying he's inspired.

Did "Millions Now Living" in 1920 "Never Die"?

Wikipedia in 2020 reported: "The United Nations predicts that there are 573,000 centenarians currently..."

This is way short of millions. Even if the world's remaining centenarians were all to join JWs so as to "never die", Rutherford's prediction stays false.


Bednarski, W. 2015 Year 1925 and Millions Now Living Will Never Die,

Hepburn, B.

Kotwall, B.J. Separation Of Sheep and Goats Stopped, Jesus Rejects Assignment From God, Investigator #47, March 1996

O'Brien, N. Jehovah's 'hiding money', Sunday Mail, June 14, 2020, p. 24

Royal Commission 2016, Report of Case Study No. 29
https://www.royalcommission.gov.au/sites/default/files/2019-07/case_ study_29_-_findings_report_-_jehovahs_witnesses

Russell, C.T. 1889 Studies in the Scriptures, Volume II, p. 101

Rutherford, J.F.  1920 Millions Now Living Will Never Die

Rutherford, J.F. 1921 The Harp of God
Rutherford, J.F. 1926 Deliverance
Rutherford, J.F. 1930 Light I and II
Rutherford, J.F. 1932 Health and Life

Schnell, W. 1971 30 Years A Watchtower Slave, Baker Book House

Stett, B. From Jerusalem To Babylon: 586 BCE or 607 BCE? Investigator 186, March 2019