Bible Chronology, of itself, is not time prophecy; however, since Bible time prophecy is closely associated with one’s understanding of Bible chronology, many often confuse the two as though they are one and the same.
As most Bible Students know, Bible chronology and time prophecy has been a subject of disagreement amongst Bible Students, even in the days of Russell. We do not believe that Bible chronology or one’s understanding of time prophecy is a matter that should bring a division amongst Christians. To allow such to cause division is, in effect, as Paul stated, a sign of carnal thinking. See our study on Sectarianism.
Before proceeding, we need to clarify a misperception that many, especially amongst those who oppose Russell, have concerning Russell. Some have attributed the attitude of the JWs to Russell, and have claimed that Russell taught that any who disagreed with him was not Christian; this is the thought that we have found repeated concerning Russell on many websites, blogs and forums. Some put it that Russell taught that if you did not accept what he taught, that you would not be saved. This kind of reasoning is actually attributing the later teachings of Joseph Rutherford to Brother Russell. Russell never taught that one had to agree with him or else that one is not a Christian; he certainly never taught that one had to agree with him in order to be saved (as some of his opponents have claimed).
One great question that prevailed in the time of Russell, and is still with us to this day, is whether Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 606 (actually 607) BC, or at another date, often given as somewhere between 589 to 585 BC. Most historians, based on findings and conclusions that archaeologists reach from those findings, believe that Jerusalem was destroyed in 587, not 607. However, we believe that the date 607 for the destruction of Jerusalem harmonizes the Bible so well, that we would find it hard to ignore that harmonization. We should remember that conclusions reached by archaeologists often conflict with the Bible, and most archaeologists, based on their conclusions, reject the Bible as being worthy of consideration as far as historical chronology is concerned. Many Christians, nevertheless, wish to accept the conclusions of archaeologists regarding when Jerusalem was destroyed, but they often reject the conclusions of these same “experts” as related to many other things that would not harmonize with the Bible. At any rate, we have very high regard, and we certainly have great love, for many of our brothers who reject the date of 607 BC as being the date of Jerusalem’s destruction, but because we have found, from our own studies, that the date 607 harmonizes so well with the Bible as a whole, as Russell presented in Volumes 2 and 3 of Studies in the Scriptures, that we accept that 607 comes closer to harmonizing with the scriptural record itself than 587. Nevertheless, like Russell, we are not dogmatic concerning this, and allow room that we could be wrong, and that there is always the possibility that Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 or thereabouts.
Some have proposed that if Jerusalem was not destroyed in 607, then the date 1914 is wrong. No, this would be the wrong conclusion. There are many Bible Students who believe that Jerusalem was destroyed in 587, or 589, or some other date, but who still hold to the date 1914. The date — 1914 — itself is not dependent on accepting that Jerusalem was destroyed in the year 607 BC.
Some have proposed that Christians should ignore time prophecy, or as they usually refer to it, “date setting”. The claim is usually based on Jesus’ words concerning the passing away of the present heavens and earth. It is claimed that, due to what Jesus said, no one can know when Christ is to return, although Jesus did not use those words pertaining to the beginning of his parousia, but of his coming to bring about the passing away of the present heavens and earth. Regardless, Jesus included himself as one not knowing the day and hour. Are we to think that Jesus still does not know the day and hour of the beginning of his parousia? Whenever he begins his parousia, will he not know that the his parousia had begun? Furthermore, Jesus told his followers to watch, but does not watching include a study of prophecy, including the study of the Biblical prophecies that relate to periods of time?
Although at the time of the writing of the original editions of The Studies in the Scriptures, Brother Russell thought that the present heavens and earth would pass away in 1914, ten years before 1914 (in 1904), Russell came to realize that 1914 would be the beginning, not the end, of the time of trouble; thus, his expectation from 1904 onward was the opposite on the matter as he had previously thought.
Elsewhere, we have presented the Bible evidence that Jesus’ parousia begins while the world is ignorant and going about their everyday affairs unaware of Jesus’ parousia.
See our studies:
Christ’s Parousia – Presence or Arrival?
The World Will See Me No More
The Parousia, the Seventh Trumpet and the Harvest
Astrape in Luke 17:22; Matthew 24:27
CTR’s Expectations Concerning 1914
Beginning of the Time of Trouble – Quotes From Russell
Below are some links to various views of Bible Students regarding Bible chronology and time prophecy. Some of them may appear to be dogmatic; others are much less so. Each is evidently convinced that the particular chronology and application of prophecy is correct, and this should be so, else why present the matter at all? At the same time, we believe every Christian has to also understand that whatever conclusion any of us reach may not be “the truth” on the matter; none of us have ascended into heaven so as to present such as “knowledge” — that we absolutely “KNOW” that this or that conclusion is absolutely correct. Thus, it is up to each Christian to accept or reject whatever he finds according to the best of his understanding of scripture.
Charles Taze Russell
Studies in the Scriptures
Universal Anarchy — Just Before or After October 1914 A.D. (June, 1904) — In this article, Russell presents a change in his expectations concerning 1914; before 1904, Russell believed that the time of trouble was end, not begin, in 1914. In 1904, however, he came to expect that the time of trouble was to begin, not end, in 1914. Some expressions in the Studies in the Scriptures were later changed to reflect this, but no exhaustive overhaul of the Studies was ever done, thus leaving some statements reflecting his earlier expectation, while others were changed to reflect his expectation of 1904 and onward.
Fear Not, O Zion (August 1904) – Russell discusses more concerning the change of expectations concerning 1914. We believe that Russell erred regarding the harvest in (1) expecting a physical separation (2) that the wheat would be gathered first –Jesus stated that the tares was to be gathered first — Matthew 13:30 — See: The Parousia, The Havest, and the Trumpet (3) that the harvest would end before the time of trouble begins.
The Time of the Harvest (October, 1904) – A Response regarding the idea that Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 BC, not 606 (607) BC. Shows that Brother Russell was expecting that the time of trouble was to begin, not end in 1914, as he had thought previous to 1904. We believe that he was correct in the belief that the time of trouble was to begin in 1914, but that he erred in the assumption that the harvest would end in 1914. Jesus indicates that the harvest time period extends over into the time after when Satan is abysseed, into the time when the saints are made manifest. — Matthew 13:43; Romans 8:19; Revelation 20:1-3.
Bible Chronology and History
Bible Students Chronology Documents
Bible Students’ Library 3 – Doctrine: See the Subtitle: Chronology.
Bible Student Ministries Library – See the Subtitle: Chronology
Bible Student Literature: Chronology Books