Russell's Armageddon - Part 2

by Justin 2 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Justin

    Now let's take a look at ways in which Russell's views changed over the years. Initially, he did not use the term "Armagddon" very much. Traditionally, Armageddon was a battle that would be fought locally in the Middle East and would be only one feature of the End. But Russell used the expression "time of trouble," taken from the book of Daniel (12:3), and initially he thought this would be co-extensive with the harvest period of 40 years from 1874 to 1914. This view was developed in collaboration with N.H. Barbour, and it is apparently the one he held when writing The Divine Plan of the Ages (1886). This "time of trouble" was also identified with the "Day of the Lord." As years passed, and nothing of great significance occurred, Russell thought that the trouble would occur towards the end of the harvest, and then immediately after the end of the Gentile Times in 1914.

    In 1911 Teddy Roosevelt gave a political speech in which he stated, "We stand at Armageddon and battle for the Lord." This so inspired Russell that he adopted "Armageddon" as one of his key terms, even changing the title of Volume IV of the Scripture Studies from The Day of Vengeance to The Battle of Armageddon. But this superimposed the idea of a battle upon what was previously viewed as a time period when God's retributive justice would be revealed. It left open the question of who the protagonists in the battle would be, for previously Russell had claimed that the conflict between capital and labor was merely the means for bringing the end. Was God now on one side or the other? Sometimes Russell hinted that God was on the side of the people, although he had spoken out against the rioters in Chicago earlier in the nineteenth century. At other times, Russell was emphatic that the new kingdom would not represent either one of the parties.

    Another factor which changed was that Russell began to introduce the idea of the supernatural. Previously he had looked for purely natural means by which the old order would perish. The supernatural would not be manifested until after Armageddon. But in The Day of Vengeance (renamed The Battle of Armageddon) Russell stated that the attack by Gog of Magog (in the book of Ezekiel) would be a literal invasion of the land of Palestine after the Jews had returned, and that the invaders would be supernaturally defeated by Christ. Yes, there would still be worldwide revolution and anarchy, but the time of trouble would be brought to a close by this supernatural event.

    The disappointment of 1914 brought further revisions. Russell began to focus on the ministry of the prophet Elijah. He had always taught that Elijah was a type (prophetic foreshadowing) of the Church (the anointed class), and that Elijah's departure in the fiery chariot was a picture of how the Church would be taken to glory, to leave the earthly affairs of the kingdom in the hands of another class (an Elisha class). But now Russell focused on Elijah's experience at Mount Horeb, when he heard the "still small voice." (1 Kings 19:12, KJV) At first Elijah experienced other manifestations (a wind, an earthquake, a fire), and Russell took these to be the birthpangs of the new order. The wind pictured war (particularly World War I), the earthquake pictured revolution, and the fire anarchy. This indicated to Russell that the final trouble would come in waves in the post-war world. Russell himself died in 1916, while the War was still raging in Europe.

    Finally, how are Russell's views different from those of Jehovah's Witnesses today? The JWs, under Judge Rutherford, have dismantled Russell's Armageddon and replaced it with another. According to the Judge, Armageddon is "God's war, not man's." This means that it will be brought about through supernatural means entirely, under the direct supervision of Jehovah God and Christ Jesus. Thus, it could come at any time, irrespective of economic or social conditions in the old world. Rutherford apparently adopted this view, not only to avoid the type of subjective interpretations previously held by Russell, but also to avoid involving Bible Students/JWs in the "Red Scare" of the early twentieth century. There had already been a revolution in Russia. But the new interpretation had its problems, as well. For now, anyone destroyed at Armageddon would be executed directly by God. This raised the question as to whether they would go immediately into the "second death" (which Rutherford answered affirmatively) and, if so, who would be worthy to survive Armageddon? Thus arose the beliefs that there must now be a secondary class of believers with an earthly hope, and that only JWs will survive Armageddon. For Russell, Armageddon had merely been the transition from the old order to the new, after which all the families of the earth would be blessed because the "little flock" would have been selected. Finish.

  • peacefulpete

    excellent. This religion's development, like that of all others, was forged by cultural and political pressures. The doctrinal changes and church structure were borne of necesssity not inspiration. The person invested into the religion cannot see through the "logic" and "providence" claimed by it's leadership. Few members take the time to investigate the similar claims and development of competing religions so as to see the pattern.

  • Forscher

    Interesting analysis. I do think that another factor may also have been involved in the "great crowd" doctrine based on some stuff I remember from some research years ago. It appears that after they took the name "Jehovah's Witnessess" in 1931 and split formally from the Bible Student movement that new converts stopped recieving the "heavenly calling." Now that presented a problem since it could be inferred that God had withdrawn his favor from the JW's. Rutherford couldn't have that! Not after all the hard work he'd put into turning the Bible Students who'd followed him into a personal cult! So, voila! God hadn't withdrawn his favor at all. He'd closed the heavenly calling. And the rest is, as they say, history!

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