The 1914 Generation—Why Significant?
“Our readers know that for some years we have been expecting this Age to close with an awful time of trouble, and we expect it to break out with suddenness and force not long after October, 1914.”—From The Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, May 15, 1911.
SINCE 1879 the magazine then known as The Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence (now known as The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom) frequently pointed to 1914 as a marked year in Bible prophecy. As the year approached, readers were reminded that “an awful time of trouble” could be expected.
This information was published far and wide by Christians, who based it on their understanding of the “seven times” and “the times of the Gentiles” mentioned in the Bible.* They understood this period to be 2,520 years—starting with the overthrow of the ancient Davidic kingdom in Jerusalem and ending in October 1914.*—Daniel 4:16, 17; Luke 21:24, King James Version.
On October 2, 1914, Charles Taze Russell, then president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, boldly announced: “The Gentile Times have ended; their kings have had their day.” How true his words proved to be! Unseen to human eyes, in October 1914 an event of world-shaking importance took place in heaven. Jesus Christ, the permanent Heir to “the throne of David,” commenced his rule as King over all mankind.—Luke 1:32, 33; Revelation 11:15.
‘But,’ you may ask, ‘if Christ began ruling in 1914, why did conditions on earth get worse?’ Because mankind’s invisible enemy Satan was still in existence. Until 1914, Satan had access to heaven. That situation changed with the setting up of God’s Kingdom in 1914. “War broke out in heaven.” (Revelation 12:7) Satan and his demons were defeated and cast down to the earth, with catastrophic effects on mankind. The Bible foretold: “Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.”—Revelation 12:12.
In the first century C.E., Jesus said that his invisible presence as earth’s new King would be marked by a visible sign. He was asked: “What will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” His reply? “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another. All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress.”—Matthew 24:3, 7, 8.
Accordingly, the war that broke out in 1914 was accompanied by terrible food shortages, since normal food production was disrupted for over four years. What about “earthquakes in one place after another”? In the decade following 1914, no less than ten destructive earthquakes killed over 350,000 people. (See box.) Indeed, the 1914 generation experienced “a beginning of pangs of distress.” And ever since, pangs of distress have struck with regularity in the form of natural disasters, famines, and many, many wars.
Nevertheless, the news of the establishment of God’s Kingdom in 1914 is good news because that Kingdom will save this earth from ruin. How? It will remove all false, hypocritical religions, corrupt governments, and the wicked influence of Satan. (Daniel 2:44; Romans 16:20; Revelation 11:18; 18:4-8, 24) Moreover, it will usher in a new world in which “righteousness is to dwell.”—2 Peter 3:13.
Soon after World War I, sincere Bible Students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known, began to discern their privilege respecting another aspect of the sign of Jesus’ presence as King. Jesus Christ foretold: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”—Matthew 24:14.
From small beginnings in 1919, Jehovah’s Witnesses have continued without letup to spread “this good news.” As a result, millions from over 200 lands are now being gathered as subjects of God’s Kingdom. And what blessings await these subjects! The Kingdom will abolish war, famine, crime, and oppression. It will even overcome sickness and death!—Psalm 46:9; 72:7, 12-14, 16; Proverbs 2:21, 22; Revelation 21:3, 4.
Before the 1914 generation passes away, the Kingdom-preaching work will have accomplished its purpose. “Then,” foretold Jesus, “there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again. In fact, unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved; but on account of the chosen ones those days will be cut short.”—Matthew 24:21, 22.
Do not make the mistake that the pre-1914 generation made. Things will not always continue as they are now. Astounding changes lie ahead. But for those who act wisely, there are wonderful prospects.
Listen, then, to the words of the prophet of old: “Seek Jehovah, all you meek ones of the earth . . . Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.” (Zephaniah 2:3) How can we apply this counsel? The following articles will help to answer that question.
Title page of Scenario of the Photo-Drama of Creation, 1914.
For further details, see chapter 16 of the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
[Chart on page 7]
Earthquakes in the Decade Following 1914
Date: Location: Deaths:
January 13, 1915 Avezzano, Italy 32,600
January 21, 1917 Bali, Indonesia 15,000
February 13, 1918 Kwangtung Province, China 10,000
October 11, 1918 Puerto Rico (western) 116
January 3, 1920 Veracruz, Mexico 648
September 7, 1920 Reggio di Calabria, Italy 1,400
December 16, 1920 Ningsia Province, China 200,000
March 24, 1923 Szechwan Province, China 5,000
May 26, 1923 Iran (northeastern) 2,200
September 1, 1923 Tokyo-Yokohama, Japan 99,300
From table “Significant Earthquakes of the World” in the book Terra Non Firma, by James M. Gere and Haresh C. Shah.