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Jehovah's Witnesses In The Divine Purpose


"End of All Kingdoms in 1914"

TOM: When 1914 finally arrived and the first world war began, I suppose Jehovah's witnesses really came into their own, didn't they?

JOHN: Not exactly. For the first few months of that year the religious leaders and others were pouring considerable ridicule upon Russell and the Watch Tower Society, because in those early months nothing had happened to the Gentile nations as Jehovah's witnesses had been expecting.

MARIA: of course, this did not stop the witness work, because the Society was expecting the end in the fall of that year. By January they had completed the preparation of the Photo-Drama of Creation and by April had sent out twelve sets to thirty-one cities. The report showed that over 35,000 every day were seeing, hearing and admiring this unusual production. a

JOHN: That's right. But as the year wore on and violence had not yet occurred, in spite of the air of tension throughout Europe, ridicule against the Kingdom message mounted. However, a great change took place when nation after nation and kingdom after kingdom began cascading into what is now called the first world war. A period of considerable unrest had settled over Europe in these first few months immediately prior to the war. Still, the time from July 27 onward into August of that year was a period of world-shaking surprises. With the war and the distress that it brought to the nations, it is only understandable that the work of Jehovah's witnesses would now be brought into prominence, in view of the time of trouble they had expected.

A typical public press reaction appeared in a leading New York newspaper, The World. In this paper's Sunday magazine section, under the arresting headline "End of All Kingdoms in 1914," a long feature article appeared. Here is a portion of the article:

According to the Calculations of Rev. Russell's "International Bible Students," This Is the "Time of Trouble" Spoken of by the Prophet Daniel, the Year 1914 Predicted in the Book "The Time Is at Hand," of Which Four Million Copies Have Been Sold, as the Date of the Downfall of the Kingdoms of Earth.

The terrific war outbreak in Europe has fulfilled an extraordinary prophecy. For a quarter of a century past, through preachers and through press, the "International Bible Students," best known as "Millennial Dawners," have been proclaiming to the world that the Day of Wrath prophesied in the Bible would dawn in 1914. "Look out for 1914!" has been the cry of the hundreds of traveling evangelists who, representing this strange creed, have gone up and down the country enunciating the doctrine that "the Kingdom of God is at hand." ...

Although millions of people must have listened to these evangelists, . . . and although


their propaganda has been carried on through the religious publications and a secular press service involving hundreds of country newspapers, as well as through lectures, debates, study classes, and even moving pictures, the average man does not know that such a movement as the "Millennial Dawn" exists. . . .

Rev. Charles T. Russell is the man who has been propounding this interpretation of the Scriptures since 1874. ... "In view of the strong Bible evidence," Rev. Russell wrote in 1889, "we consider it an established fact that the final end of the kingdoms of this world and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God will be accomplished by the end of A.D. 1914." . . .

But to say that the trouble must culminate in 1914—that was peculiar. For some strange reason, perhaps because Rev. Russell has a very calm, higher-mathematics style of writing instead of flamboyant soap box manners, the world in general has scarcely taken him into account. The students over in his "Brooklyn Tabernacle" say that this was to be expected, that the world never did listen to divine warnings and never will, until after the day of trouble is past. . . .

And in 1914 comes war, the war which everybody dreaded but which everybody thought could not really happen. Rev. Russell is not saying "I told you so"; and he is not revising the prophecies to suit the current history. He and his students are content to wait—to await until October, which they figure to be the real end of 1914. b

TOM: I guess everyone did not accept this prophecy, even after the world war started, did they?

JOHN: No. Jesus had foretold this time of severe trouble that would come in the last days, but it was also shown in the Scriptures that even with all the evidences he gave to mark when that time of the end had arrived, there would be many who would not accept them. Peter, for one, stated: "In the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: 'Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as from creation's beginning.' "c


L01S: It must have been a time of mixed emotions.

JOHN: It was, although there were many things taking place that the Witnesses themselves did not yet realize. For forty years prior to 1914 they had been pointing to this date through Scriptural developments.d Now, as factual evidences began to appear to verify the conclusions they had reached by this Bible study, they were certain that October 1, 1914, brought a legal end to the 2,520 years of Jehovah's tolerance of the sovereignty assumed by the Gentile nations over the earth; that legally the "end of all nations" had come in 1914! e So, while the Witnesses rejoiced on the one hand to see these conditions fulfilled as foretold in the Bible, the sorrow and trouble brought to the world did not bring joy, nor did the persecution that they received from the opposers of God's kingdom make them happy or make their work easier.

It was not to be expected that the clergy of Christendom would accept the evidences of the legal "end of all nations." On the contrary, they became so engrossed in the problems of that day, and became so involved in the war effort of the nations, that they had no patience or sympathy whatsoever for anyone looking to the power of God's might to settle the issue of world domination. In each land the churches backed the national government in power. This was done regardless of the fact that those of the same faith in another land were on the opposite side of the conflict; and those who would otherwise be recognized as Christian brothers were now facing each other on the field of battle.

TOM: What did Jehovah's witnesses do about the war?

JOHN: They refused to take part in it. In view of the prophecies pointing to this


time of trouble, the Witnesses could not and would not accept the confusing claims made by the clergy on both sides of the conflict that God was backing them up.

The Witnesses were well aware of the conditions in Europe as they developed. In fact, Judge Rutherford himself was there when the war broke out. Since he had taken up his position as legal counselor for the Society, he had traveled widely as a public Bible lecturer in the United States, speaking in many colleges and universities by special request, and before packed houses in this country and throughout Europe. In 1913, accompanied by his wife, he visited Egypt and Palestine and also visited Germany, where he spoke to audiences totaling 18,000, and also Switzerland. f

In 1914 he made another trip to Europe to represent Pastor Russell, who was failing in health and who did not want to leave the United States because of the unsettled world conditions. In this capacity Rutherford was giving Bible lectures in Germany just a few days before World War I broke out. It was while he was on a boat from Hamburg to Britain that Britain declared war on Germany; so Rutherford was an eyewitness to the turmoil that broke out that year. He did not return to the United States immediately, but remained in England until September, 1914, in order that he might be close to see what was occurring as the Gentile times came to a close. After being with the British Witnesses these first months of the war, he returned to the United States.

During the progress of the war in Europe and while the United States was not yet involved, other matters involving the witness work occupied the attention of these champions of true freedom. In 1915 Pastor Russell was challenged to another debate, this time by J. H. Troy, representing the Baptist clergy of Southern California. Because of his health Pastor Russell assigned J. F. Rutherford to substitute for him. Since Rutherford had been raised a Baptist he accepted this assignment readily and departed for Los Angeles, California, where the series of debates was scheduled. g The audience totaled 12,000, with an estimated 10,000 being turned away.

An incident that occurred there gives us an insight into J. F. Rutherford's legal mind. He was very astute. Several days before the debates began he arranged with Troy for each side to put up a bond of $1,000 guaranteeing they would not discuss personalities. This would confine the debates to Biblical subjects. Both sides signed this surety.

A few days later Troy gave evidence, from certain publicity that he gave out to the newspapers, that he was going to revel in personalities, concentrating on Pastor Russell to slander him. Rutherford waited until three minutes before the first debate was to be held, then asked Troy and his seconds, who were offstage, to step into a side room. There Rutherford said to Troy: "You will recall that we have entered into a $1,000 obligation with securities that we would refrain from personalities. From your interviews with the press I judge that you intend to assault Pastor Russell from the platform. Of course, you can pursue that course if you wish, but if you attempt it I am going to have your bond forfeited." Taken completely off guard Troy asked, "May I not even mention him?" Rutherford replied emphatically, "No." Caught by surprise in his attempt to use this occasion to malign Russell personally he found his prepared material unsuitable to the occasion. For some time during the opening debate he labored under great difficulty.

The entire series of debates proved to be


a signal victory for Rutherford, who reported afterward:

When the debate closed last night many persons came to me, quite a number saying, "I have been a Baptist for years, but I have had my eyes opened here. You have brought me the light." Quite a large number of cards were turned in on each night. h


LOIS: what happened to the Photo-Drama of Creation that you described to us? Maria, didn't you say earlier it was being shown by January of 1914?

MARIA: Yes. In July it had it had reached Great Britain; in September operations had begun on the continent of Europe—in Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden and Denmark; and by October it was halfway around the world in Australia and New Zealand.

This was truly a tremendous undertaking, difficult to appreciate fully in these days of modern sound productions and Hollywood "epics." One problem encountered in its production was in the procuring of the fine art pictures, illustrative of the history of the world from the dawn of creation down to our day and into the future. Everything that could be located was adopted and adapted to the theme of the Drama, but hundreds of original paintings and sketches had to be made from which stereopticon slides were prepared. Besides, these were beautifully hand colored, some even in Paris and London. Russell reported that

God kindly veiled our eyes as respects the amount of labor connected with the DRAMA. Had we foreknown the cost of time and money and patience necessary for the start we would never have begun it. But neither did we know in advance the great success that would attend the DRAMA. i

Since these sets were prepared before World War I began in Europe, there were showings in many parts of the continent, bringing comfort to multitudes of bewildered peoples.j At least twenty complete sets in four parts were prepared, making it possible to serve eighty cities each day. And it was shown at a cost to the congregations of between $150,000 to $200,000 for 1914 alone.

Another outfit, called the Eureka Drama, was made available to congregations and consisted of the slides and the musical and lecture phonograph records alone of the Photo-Drama. No films were

Drama and Eureka sets"

used but it was extremely successful when shown in less densely populated areas.k

LOIS: I certainly would like to have seen the Photo-Drama. It's no wonder, from the way you describe it, Maria, that it was so popular.

TOM: I suppose the orthodox ministers didn't have too much to say against this project, did they, John?

JOHN: On the contrary; considerable opposition was raised to it. In many places an effort was made to prevent its showing altogether, while some of the clergy objected only to Sunday presentations, although the theaters were closed to secular movies. One such incident occurred in Idaho, but the Supreme Court of that state granted the Society a victory and Sunday showings were continued.1

I asked Maria to find some reports of opposition to the Photo-Drama. Do you have one to read us, Maria?

MARIA: Yes, I do. It's one that Judge Rutherford included in his booklet A Great Battle in the Ecclesiastical Heavens.

Laurel, Mississippi, is the scene of action. Mr. Nicholson, Manager in Charge of the "Drama," rented the Opera House at this place from Mr. Taylor, the owner, in which to exhibit the Photo-Drama. The two gentlemen were standing in front of the Opera House preparing for the advertisement. Mr. Taylor was delighted with the opportunity of having such a wonderful exhibition given in his house, and was congratulating himself, when along came the leading Methodist minister of the place, who is designated "The Boss of the Preachers' Union" there.

Learning what was about to take place he became enraged, shook his fist in Mr. Nicholson's face, exclaiming in angry tones, "You try to show these things in this town and you will have the biggest fight on your hands you ever saw; better get out of town, and get quick!" Mr. Nicholson proceeded, undaunted by this threat, to prepare for the exhibition. The Ministerial Union at once held a meeting, in which all engaged in denouncing Pastor Russell and the "Drama," except the Episcopalian minister, who stood firm for religious tolerance and common decency. The union passed resolutions against the "Drama" and Pastor Russell; then called upon the Mayor of the City and Chief of Police and induced them to notify the "Drama" Manager that it should not be exhibited in that city.

The Ministerial Union then used its power with the Electric Light Company, and induced its owners to cut off the electric current and refuse to furnish such to be used by the "Drama." Their influence was brought to bear upon Mr. Taylor, the Opera House owner, to such an extent that he tore down the advertisements which, by his own direction, had been placed upon the billboards. The Photo-Drama Manager then went to Judge Beavours, the leading attorney of the city, and appealed to him for assistance. He is a "Lawyer of the Old School," who is willing to fight for the right. He at once informed the Electric Light Company and the city officials that he would apply to the courts for an injunction against them, and have them restrained from unlawfully exercising their power.

This frightened the city officials and the Electric Light Company, and the preachers weakened. They decided to not further attempt to prevent the exhibition of the Photo-Drama. The Mayor sent word to the Manager, saying, "Go ahead, only don't knock us or the preachers." They feared the result when the people should see the pictures and know they had been so woefully misrepresented. The people came and were delighted, some saying, "We cannot understand the ministers' opposition!" m

TOM: It sounds like you had some rough going during these years. Do you think the opposition was worse than before 1914?

JOHN: Yes, it was. The work reached a peak in 1914, but during 1915 and 1916 there was a gradual decline in the publishing activities of the Witnesses due to the growing opposition, ridicule and worldwide disruption of the work.n

The time of the end for the nations of this world had begun, but Jehovah's people were not altogether prepared for the place and the work Jehovah had in store for them. Furthermore, there were many trials and testings ahead of them before they could know that. A time of mourning and reproach was due to begin.

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