As a part of their doctrine, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus returned—invisibly—in 1914. They base this on a prophetic dream of Nebuchadnezzar, which Daniel interpreted in Daniel 4. Nebuchadnezzar dreamed that a huge tree was chopped down, and was passed over for “seven times” (verse 16).
The JW who I talked with the other day on my porch left me the booklet What Does the Bible Really Teach? If a JW offers you a copy, take it. If it didn’t have a false gospel in it, it would be funny to read; I’ve seen atheists twist Scripture much more convincingly than these guys. This book explained how the Watch Tower interprets this prophecy to arrive at the date of October 1914.
The tree of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, they say, represents human government. They skip over to Revelation 12, and say that seven times means that this government lasts 2,520 days or years (whichever suits your false doctrine better) before Jesus returns. If you take the time of Jerusalem’s destruction, when “God’s rulers” stopped reigning (which they say is 607 B.C.), and add 2,520 years, you arrive at 1914. It’s clear that Jesus returned in 1914. Only a wicked heathen who will be cut down at Armageddon could disagree.
However, upon a closer look, this “theology” has multiple issues. Later in Daniel 4, the prophet Daniel interprets the dream, and explains what the tree is. Verse 22 says the tree is Nebuchadnezzar—not wicked human government in general. This prophecy was explained and fulfilled in Nebuchadnezzar’s life in the very same chapter. The seven times were seven years that passed during Nebuchadnezzar’s life (verses 32–34).
Second, the date given for Jerusalem’s destruction is generally agreed to be 586 or 587 B.C., not 607 B.C. as the Watch Tower states. The JWs are the only ones who use that date. I don’t think that they can claim that historians changed the dates in a big conspiracy against them. (I really don’t think the Watch Tower is on many scholars’ radar.). This is just one more issue that illustrates how confused the Watch Tower is.
Finally, the Bible says Jesus won’t return invisibly. The JW theory is a fulfillment of what Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24:23–27: “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
Revelation 1:7 says, “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.”
Matthew 26:64 says, “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Either the Bible is right, or the Watch Tower is. I choose to believe the Bible—and I pray that many Jehovah’s Witnesses do, too.