Actually, until 1970 the WTS taught that the GT started in 1914 and stopped temporarily in 1918 or no flesh would be saved. Fred Franz gave the talk that dismantled that doctrine.
*** w70 1/15 pp. 51-52 pars. 8-10 Peace with God amid the "Great Tribulation" ***
The antitypical unfaithful Jerusalem, Christendom, has had her "beginning of pangs of distress," and her situation and that of the rest of the world has not become less painful since. Jesus’ prophecy indicated that the "anguish of nations" and their perplexity would continue, with no improvement. (Luke 21:25, 26) There is yet ahead the "great tribulation" upon the antitypical unfaithful Jerusalem, a tribulation that is bound to affect her worldwide political associates and patrons. Jesus’ description of it makes it plain that, like the global flood of Noah’s day, the tribulation threatens all human life in the flesh. (Matt. 24:21, 22, 36-39) If allowed to continue too long, it would exterminate all "flesh." Hence the purpose of God is to shorten the number of "those days" of this unparalleled "great tribulation."—Mark 13:19, 20.
On account of his "chosen ones" he cuts short the days. How? Back in the year 1925 the suggestion was set out in the leading article of the WatchTower
issue of May 1, entitled "For the Elect’s Sake," that "those days" of the "great tribulation" were cut short in the middle. The explanation was given that the "great tribulation" had begun in 1914 C.E. and that it was not allowed to run its full course then but God stopped World War I in November of 1918. From then on God was allowing an interval for the activity of his anointed remnant of elect Christians before he let the final part of the "great tribulation" resume at the battle of Armageddon and come to its termination. This would allow for sheeplike persons to be saved.—Matt. 25:31-46.
This explanation sounded good and reasonable back there in 1925, just seven years after World War I and fourteen years before the unexpected World War II, a conflict four times as bad as World War I. But even World War II did not merge into the "war of the great day of God the Almighty" at Armageddon, as some had expected it to do. (Rev. 16:14-16) Here we are, twenty-four years after World War II closed in 1945 and a portion of the anointed remnant of elect ones are still here and the war at Armageddon is still ahead, although getting very close now. Back in 1925 the Bible timetable as set out in the book "TheTimeIsatHand," published in the year 1889, was still thought to be correct. Hence it was not calculated that six thousand years of man’s life on earth were yet to end during the 1970’s. Of course, the old timetable for scheduling the events of the Bible and fulfillment of prophecies affected the understanding of matters by the International Bible Students. But now chronology has been reexamined.
*** w70 1/15 p. 53 pars. 13-14 Peace with God amid the "Great Tribulation" ***
Were the suggestion made in 1925 true as to cutting short the days of the "great tribulation" in the middle, "for the elect’s sake" (Matt. 24:22, AV
), what then? Then the time interval between the opening part of the "great tribulation" and the closing Armageddon part thereof will prove to be around five times as long as the length of the "great tribulation" itself. However, in order to correspond with the events of the first century, from the time of Jesus’ departure by ascending to heaven in 33 C.E. to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E., the antitypical "great tribulation" did not begin in 1914 C.E. Rather, what took place upon Jerusalem’s modern antitype in 1914-1918 was merely "a beginning of pangs of distress" for her and her political allies. The "great tribulation" such as will not occur again is yet ahead, for it means the destruction of the world empire of false religion (including Christendom) followed by the "war of the great day of God the Almighty" at Armageddon against the political allies of Babylonish false religion. In that "great tribulation" the present system of things must end in its religious and political phases.
It is this coming "great tribulation" that must have its days "cut short" [Greek, kolobo´o
], curtailed, lopped off at the extremity, not split in the middle. This is done on account of God’s "chosen ones" and in order that ‘some flesh’ may be saved. (Matt. 24:21, 22) God has a fixed "day and hour" for the start of that "great tribulation," without any delay. (Matt. 24:36) On account of having by that "day and hour" all the remnant of his "chosen ones" safely outside of the antitypical unfaithful Jerusalem and outside of its associated secular system of things, God can then make it a swift work in executing divine vengeance and destruction upon this entire wicked system of things. As in the case of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., the number of days of this coming "great tribulation" can be "cut short," there being no need for prolonging them. This will permit also of the saving of ‘some flesh’ alive through the "great tribulation," since ordinarily frail human "flesh" would, without divine protection, be unable to endure the lengthening too long of this "great tribulation" that will be the worst in all human history.
*** w99 5/1 pp. 16-17 pars. 10-13 "Let the Reader Use Discernment" ***
God’s people once understood that the first phase of the great tribulation began in 1914 and that the final part would come at the battle of Armageddon. (Revelation 16:14, 16; compare TheWatchtower,
April 1, 1939, page 110.) So we can understand why it was once thought that the latter-day "disgusting thing" must have stood in a holy place soon after World War I.
However, in later years we have come to see things differently. On Thursday, July 10, 1969, at the "Peace on Earth" International Assembly in New York City, F. W. Franz, then vice president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, gave an electrifying talk. In reviewing the previous understanding of Jesus’ prophecy, Brother Franz said: "The explanation was given that the ‘great tribulation’ had begun in 1914 C.E. and that it was not allowed to run its full course then but God stopped World War I in November of 1918. From then on God was allowing an interval for the activity of his anointed remnant of elect Christians before he let the final part of the ‘great tribulation’ resume at the battle of Armageddon."
Then a significantly adjusted explanation was offered: "To correspond with the events of the first century, . . . the antitypical ‘great tribulation’ did not begin in 1914 C.E. Rather, what took place upon Jerusalem’s modern antitype in 1914-1918 was merely ‘a beginning of pangs of distress’ . . . The ‘great tribulation’ such as will not occur again is yet ahead, for it means the destruction of the world empire of false religion (including Christendom) followed by the ‘war of the great day of God the Almighty’ at Armageddon." This meant that the entire great tribulation was yet ahead.
This has a direct bearing on discerning when "the disgusting thing" stands in a holy place. Recall what happened in the first century. The Romans attacked Jerusalem in 66 C.E., but they abruptly withdrew, which allowed Christian "flesh" to be saved. (Matthew 24:22) Accordingly, we expect the great tribulation to begin soon, but it will be cut short for the sake of God’s chosen ones. Note this key point: In the ancient pattern, ‘the disgusting thing standing in a holy place’ was linked to the Roman attack under General Gallus in 66 C.E. The modern-day parallel to that attack—the outbreak of the great tribulation—is still ahead. So "the disgusting thing that causes desolation," which has existed since 1919, apparently is yet to stand in a holy place. How will this happen? And how can we be affected?