(Investigator 64, 1999 January)

…he began to tell us that we should not selfishly anticipate going to heaven in 1925, when there was so much work still to be done on earth … 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.
(30 Years A Watch Tower Slave 1971, Baker Book House, pp 47-48)

This statement by William Schnell tells how "Judge" Rutherford, the president of the Watch Tower Society (WTS), expanded his vision when his prophecies for 1925 collapsed.

The prophecies [had] consisted of statements such as:

Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the faithful prophets of old…
(Millions Now Living Will Never Die, J F Rutherford, 1920)

The expanded vision was a vision of world rule by the WTS.

The home-produced book Jehovah’s Witnesses: A Statistical Survey (1992) analyses the evidence that the top leaders of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the president and other officers of the American corporations of the WTS, plan for the time when the governments of all nations submit to the WTS.

The book explains how Rutherford got his idea for world rule – he got it from the theology of the previous WTS president Charles Taze Russell:

In Russell's theology God set up a Kingdom in heaven in 1878. The resurrected Bible heroes such as Abraham, Isaac, Daniel, etc, would establish an "earthly phase of the kingdom" by 1914 to which the whole world…would submit. In this way Jesus and the saints who constitute the "heavenly kingdom" would rule the world starting 1914/1915 by proxy through the "earthly kingdom".

Of course the resurrection of the "ancient worthies" failed in 1914 and in the 1920s. There was no "earthly phase" of God’s Kingdom in existence. This is the reason for Rutherford’s creation of "Theocracy", "God’s Organization" and a hierarchy of power. He needed an Organization to take the place of, and function as, the "earthly phase of the Kingdom".

In 1926 Rutherford also moved the 1878 Kingdom in heaven to 1914. (JWs: A Statistical Survey, p. 268)

From 1919 to 1938 Rutherford turned the formerly loosely organized "Russellites" into a hierarchy where people at each level reported to the level above – ultimately to the WTS president.

He banned everything among J Ws which might cause disunity or distract from distributing WTS publications. He banned voting, birthday and Christmas celebrations, movie attendance, and all but banned love, marriage and sex. He insisted that children should not waste school holidays but should urge their parents to take them door to door.

Meetings consisted of reading The Watchtower magazine and answering set questions by quoting The Watchtower – unplanned comment was disallowed. To enforce all this, dissenters were shunned by "loyal ones" who in turn were motivated by threats and discriptions of imminent world destruction called "Armageddon".

Critics soon considered J Ws "the most totalitarian system on the face of the earth." J W leaders, in contrast, wrote of  "Our Godly Unity."

Rutherford’s idea, suggests the Statistical Survey book, was that comparatively small numbers of people acting as one person will eventually dominate the divided majority and take over.

The Statistical Survey book extrapolates to the year 2000 some of the statistics available by 1991. Some of these projections are shown in the accompanying chart. Figures for 1998 are added as comparisons to indicate progress.

The Statistical Survey book gives many quotes such as:

Join us in the great movement that will prevent further bloodshed and revolution and usher in the new world.
(Peoples Pulpit 1922 November 1)

After the wise men have failed to convert the world, God purposes to do it by the simple and seemingly foolish method of preaching.
(The Watchtower 1929 October 15 p. 316)

That righteous Kingdom rule must keep growing and expanding until it fills the whole earth.
(Yearbook of J Ws 1985 p. 61)  
About 1945 – the Statistical Survey book shows – the WTS linked the end of the present world to the 20th century as well as to the lifespans of people alive before 1914.

The WTS also set all congregations the goal of expanding at 20% per annum. Mathematical projection shows that such 20% increase would, if achieved and maintained, have led to a Jehovah’s Witness world in the 1990s. However, the expansion rate slowed.

The chart accompanying this article suggests that most of the 2000 AD targets, as projected from the 1991 figures, will not be reached. This is because the overall, worldwide, annual expansion rate of the J Ws slowed to around 4% in the 1990s.

The chart suggests a general malaise among J Ws in the Western World. The reason is probably the doctrinal change which redefined the "generation of 1914".

From 1982 to 1995 Awake! magazine had the statement:

Most importantly, this magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new order before the generation that saw the events of 1914 C.E. passes away.

In 1995 the "Creator’s promise" failed when the WTS redefined "generation" and made it indefinitely long. (Investigator No. 51)

Pentecostals, Mormons and Adventists are growing faster than J Ws. The Statistical Survey book, however, considers whether the religious/political unity of J Ws across over 200 countries might, in the long run, come into decisive effect as societies advance toward a "global village". Worldwide unity controlled by a central authority could become important if the world experiences problems which only global concerted effort can overcome.

Working against the J W hierarchy is the loss of credibility due to their failed prophecies for specific dates such as 1918, 1925, 1936, 1942, 1975, 2000, etc. (Investigator 56)

The prophecies were useful to motivate people to join up and preach. But now that the Organization is one of the biggest and most united in the world those same failed predictions are a handicap.

Projections for 2000 AD, made in 1992, look like they will fall short.

The main reason is the doctrinal change which in 1995 redefined the length of the 1914 end-time generation.

The Ratio column show the proportion of J Ws to the world population and to the populations of the countries listed.

[Note: "Publishers" are the door to door preachers and "Memorial" refers to the annual remembrance of Christ's death attended by every J W and persons interested in the sect.]

1985 1991 Ratio in 1991 to
 the population
The estimate in 1992 for 2000 AD Figures in the 1999 Yearbook of JWs

Memorial 7,792,000 10,650,000 1/500 18,000,000 13,896,000
Publishers 3,024,000 4,279,000 1/1,240 7,000,000 5,889,000


Memorial 82,000 102,000 1/170 150,000 109,000
Publishers 42,000 55,000 1/310 85,000 63,000


Memorial 178,000 230,000 1/250 350,000 208,000
Publishers 87,000 118,000 1/480 180,000 121,000


Memorial c.225,000 274,000 1/290 350,000 272,000
Publishers c.135,000 158,000 1/510 200,000 172,000


Memorial 276,000 362,000 1/160 600,000 385,000
Publishers 128,000 187,000 1/310 300,000 232,000


Memorial 259,000 344,000 1/360 550,000 367,000
Publishers 103,000 159,000 1/770 300,000 223,000


Memorial 782,000 1,230,000 1/67 3,000,000 1,569,000
Publishers 162,000 336,000 1/245 800,000 518,000


Memorial 236 290 1/21 450 342
Publishers 102 136 1/44 200 160


Memorial 1,658,000 1,910,000 1/129 3,000,000 2,067,000
Publishers 723,000 893,000 1/277 1,300,000 1,040,000


Memorial 311,000 354,000 1/23 600,000 411,000
Publishers 58,000 78,000 1/106 120,000 104,000

Watchtower Circulation 11,150,000 15,290,000
22,000,000 22,100,000
Awake! Circulation 9,800,000 12,980,000
17,000,000 19,600,000

The 1995 redefinition of "generation" caused membership losses in many lands.

Nevertheless 1995 was a good time to make the change. J Ws expand best in economically disadvantaged lands but without government suppression of religion. The collapse of Communism resulted in a cluster of such countries. J W growth in these, and some other poor countries, is more than offsetting losses in Europe.

Making the change in 1995 also avoided having the 1914 generation prophecies fail almost simultaneously with another date for Armageddon – "within our twentieth century." It avoided a "double whammy".

Past experience of J W prophecy failure suggests the J Ws will eventually recover in all countries.

[Update 2013: Many of the projections made in 1992 for the year 2000 and which fell short have now been achieved and even surpassed.]

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