The WTS once taught that the GT started in 1914 and took a hiatus in 1918 to start up again in the "near" future. They believed that until 1970 when "new light" dawned.
***w70 1/15 pp. 52-53 Peace with God amid the "Great Tribulation" ***
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 Watch Tower 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 "The Time Is at Hand," 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.
If, as explained in 1925, the first part of the "great tribulation" began in 1914 and ended in 1918, then the time interval by which "those days" of the tribulation are being cut short has extended itself for fifty-one years and is not yet over. Many of the anointed remnant that witnessed the end of World War I in November of 1918 and others that have been added to the remnant since then have grown old, and some have been killed in persecution or died of old age or other causes. For example, in the year 1948, out of 376,393 that celebrated the Lord?s Supper, only 25,395 partook of the bread and wine to testify that they were of that anointed remnant. But on April 1 of the year 1969, out of 2,719,860 that celebrated, only 10,368 partook of the bread and wine. This included quite a number of the remnant who experienced the "beginning of pangs of distress" during World War I. A number of these should survive still longer to see and go through the war of Armageddon, in harmony with Jesus? words, at Matthew 24:33-35:
"When you see all these things, know that he is near at the doors. Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away [unfulfilled]."
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.
As Valis pointed out, the official WTS position on GT is still that it starts with the attack by the "ten horns" on Babylon the Great, "worldwide empire of false religion."w03 12/1 p. 29 Questions From Readers ***
The modern-day watchman class, anointed Christians, have been warning about the doom of Christendom, antitypical Jerusalem. When the "great tribulation" strikes and devastates "Babylon the Great," the world empire of false religion, the anointed Ezekiel class will need to say nothing more about the demise of Christendom, which constitutes a major part of that empire.?Matthew 24:21; Revelation 17:1, 2, 5.
Yes, the day will come when the anointed remnant and their companions will become mute, not having anything further to convey to Christendom. That will be when "the ten horns" and "the wild beast" make Babylon the Great devastated and naked. (Revelation 17:16)
Worship God book (2002) chap. 20 pp. 182-183 Keep Close in Mind Jehovah?s Day ***
13Another highly significant Bible prophecy foretells: "Whenever it is that they are saying: ?Peace and security!? then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them just as the pang of distress upon a pregnant woman; and they will by no means escape." (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3) What form that proclamation of "peace and security" will take remains to be seen. But it will certainly not mean that world leaders have truly solved the problems of mankind. Those who are keeping Jehovah?s day close in mind will not be misled by that proclamation. They know that immediately afterward, sudden destruction will come.
14At the beginning of the great tribulation, the rulers will turn against Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, and will annihilate her. (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 17:15, 16) After that, the nations will turn against those who uphold Jehovah?s sovereignty, provoking Jehovah?s fury against the political governments and their supporters, resulting in total destruction for them. That will be the Armageddon climax of the great tribulation. Then, Satan and his demons will be abyssed, no longer able to influence mankind. This will conclude Jehovah?s day when his name will be put on high.?Ezekiel 38:18, 22, 23; Revelation 19:11?20:3.