1975 was monumental in Watchtower history, yet there are now few Jehovah's Witnesses aware of what was said at that time. From 1966 to 1975, the Watchtower regularly implied that Armageddon would arrive in 1975, resulting in many Jehovah's Witnesses firmly believing this was going to be the end. Testimony to how convincing the Watchtower message was is that the religion grew by 37% in the 5 years prior to 1975, and only 2% in the following 5 years.
At the 1967 District Convention, Wisconsin Sheboygan District Overseer Brother Charles Sunutko presented the talk "Serving with Everlasting Life in View", making the following statement:
"Well now, as Jehovah's Witnesses, as runners, even though some of us have become a little weary, it almost seems as though Jehovah has provided meat in due season. Because he's held up before all of us, a new goal. A new year. Something to reach out for and it just seems it has given all of us so much more energy and power in this final burst of speed to the finish line. And that's the year 1975. Well, we don't have to guess what the year 1975 means if we read the Watchtower. And don't wait 'till 1975. The door is going to be shut before then. As one brother put it, "Stay alive to Seventy-Five""
The following Watchtower quotes show that the concept Armageddon would arrive in 1975 was encouraged, with terms such as 'there is only 6 years left' used as a count down to the end.
"The published timetable resulting from this independent study gives the date of man's creation as 4026 B.C.E. According to this trustworthy Bible chronology six thousand years from man's creation will end in 1975, and the seventh period of a thousand years of human history will begin in the fall of 1975 C.E. So six thousand years of man's existence on earth will soon be up, yes, within this generation. So in not many years within our own generation we are reaching what Jehovah God could view as the seventh day of man's existence. How appropriate it would be for Jehovah God to make of this coming seventh period of a thousand years a sabbath period of rest and release, a great Jubilee sabbath for the proclaiming of liberty throughout the earth to all its inhabitants! This would be most timely for mankind. It would also be most fitting on God's part, for, remember, mankind has yet ahead of it what the last book of the Holy Bible speaks of as the reign of Jesus Christ over earth for a thousand years, the millennial reign of Christ. It would not be by mere chance or accident but would be according to the loving purpose of Jehovah God for the reign of Jesus Christ, the 'Lord of the Sabbath,' to run parallel with the seventh millennium of man's existence." Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God 1966 pp.26-30
"It did not take the brothers very long to find the chart beginning on page 31, showing that 6,000 years of man's existence end in 1975. Discussion of 1975 overshadowed about everything else. "The new book compels us to realize that Armageddon is, in fact, very close indeed," said a conventioner. Surely it was one of the outstanding blessings to be carried home!" .. Brother Franz. 'Does it mean that Armageddon is going to be finished, with Satan bound, by 1975? It could! It could! All things are possible with God. Does it mean that Babylon the Great is going to go down by 1975? It could. Does it mean that the attack of Gog of Magog is going to be made on Jehovah's witnesses to wipe them out, then Gog himself will be put out of action? It could. But we are not saying. All things are possible with God. But we are not saying. And don't any of you be specific in saying anything that is going to happen between now and 1975. But the big point of it all is this, dear friends: Time is short. Time is running out, no question about that." Watchtower 1966 October 15 pp.629,631
"Does God's rest day parallel the time man has been on earth since his creation? Apparently so. In what year, then, would the first 6,000 years of man's existence and also the first 6,000 years of Gods rest day come to an end? The year 1975. It means that within a relatively few years we will witness the fulfilment of the remaining prophecies that have to do with the "time of the end"." Awake! 1966 Oct 8 pp.19-20
The August 15 issue of the 1968 Watchtower went into great detail to prove that 1975 really is the end of 6000 years, giving credence to 1975 speculation.
"WHAT about all this talk concerning the year 1975? Lively discussions, some based on speculation, have burst into flame during recent months among serious students of the Bible. Their interest has been kindled by the belief that 1975 will mark the end of 6,000 years of human history since Adam's creation. The nearness of such an important date indeed fires the imagination and presents unlimited possibilities for discussion.
2 But wait! How do we know their calculations are correct? What basis is there for saying Adam was created nearly 5,993 years ago? Does the one Book that can be implicitly trusted for its truthful historical accuracy, namely, the Inspired Word of Jehovah, the Holy Bible, give support and credence to such a conclusion?
35 One thing is absolutely certain, Bible chronology reinforced with fulfilled Bible prophecy shows that six thousand years of man's existence will soon be up, yes, within this generation! (Matt. 24:34) This is, therefore, no time to be indifferent and complacent. This is not the time to be toying with the words of Jesus that "concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matt. 24:36) To the contrary, it is a time when one should be keenly aware that the end of this system of things is rapidly coming to its violent end. Make no mistake, it is sufficient that the Father himself knows both the "day and hour"!
36 Even if one cannot see beyond 1975, is this any reason to be less active? The apostles could not see even this far; they knew nothing about 1975. All they could see was a short time ahead in which to finish the work assigned to them."
Watchtower 1968 Aug 15 p.494 Why Are You Looking Forward to 1975?
"Are we to assume from this study that the battle of Armageddon will be all over by the autumn of 1975, and the long-looked-for thousand-year reign of Christ will begin by then? Possibly, but we wait to see how closely the seventh thousand-year period of man’s existence coincides with the sabbathlike thousand-year reign of Christ. If these two periods run parallel with each other as to the calendar year, it will not be by mere chance or accident but will be according to Jehovah’s loving and timely purposes. Our chronology, however, which is reasonably accurate (but admittedly not infallible), at the best only points to the autumn of 1975 as the end of 6,000 years of man’s existence on earth. It does not necessarily mean that 1975 marks the end of the first 6,000 years of Jehovah’s seventh creative “day.” Why not? Because after his creation Adam lived some time during the “sixth day,” which unknown amount of time would need to be subtracted from Adam’s 930 years, to determine when the sixth seven-thousand-year period or “day” ended, and how long Adam lived into the “seventh day.” And yet the end of that sixth creative “day” could end within the same Gregorian calendar year of Adam’s creation. It may involve only a difference of weeks or months, not years."
Watchtower 1968 Aug 15 p.499
"If you are a young person, you also need to face the fact that you will never grow old in this present system of things. Why not? Because all the evidence in fulfillment of Bible prophecy indicates that this corrupt system is due to end in a few years. Of the generation that observed the beginning of the "last days" in 1914, Jesus foretold: "This generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur."-Matt. 24:34. Therefore, as a young person, you will never fulfill any career that this system offers. If you are in highschool and thinking about a college education, it means at least four, perhaps even six or eight more years to graduate into a specialized career. But where will this system of things be by that time? It will be well on the way toward its finish, if not actually gone!" Awake! 1969 May 22 p.15
"Bible chronology which indicates that Adam was created in the fall of the year 4026 B.C.E. would bring us down to the year 1975 C.E. as the date marking 6,000 years of human history with yet 1,000 years to come for Christ's Kingdom rule. So whatever the date for the end of this system, it is clear that the time left is reduced, with only approximately six years left until the end of 6,000 years of human history." Watchtower 1970 May 1 p.273
In the Awake! 1971 October 8, a timeline was presented with the caption "As we near the end of 6,000 years of human history in the mid-1970's there is the thrilling hope of a grand relief." In the timeline the "Millennial reign of Jesus Christ" starts on the six thousandth year.
This teaching had a dramatic effect on people's lives. In 1974 the Kingdom Ministry reported that the number of pioneers boomed, with people commended for selling homes to spend the short time left in God's Service. Likewise it was recommended to put off raising children.
"Yes, since the summer of 1973 there have been new peaks in pioneers every month. Now there are 20,394 regular and special pioneers in the United States, an all-time peak. That is 5,190 more than there were in February 1973! A 34-percent increase! Does that not warm our hearts? Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property and planning to finish out the rest of their days in this old system in the pioneer service. Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world's end." Kingdom Ministry May 1974 p.3 How Are You Using Your Life?
"Today there is a great crowd of people who are confident that a destruction of even greater magnitude is now imminent. The evidence is that Jesus' prophecy will shortly have a major fulfilment, upon this entire system of things. This has been a major factor in influencing many couples to decide not to have children at this time." Awake! 1974 Nov 8 p.11
Even external news sources understood the message that the Watchtower was indicating. The July 18th 1969 issue of Time contained an article "Witnessing the End" that stated;
"In fact, they fully expect the cataclysm of Armageddon within the next few years. The latest calculations of this energetic, eschatology-minded sect date the end of the world in autumn, 1975. Fearful as it may be to other religious believers, the end is a prospect that rejoices the hearts of the 323,688 U.S. members of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, as the Witnesses are..."
Post 1975 Admission of Guilt
After the failure of 1975, very little was ever said. In 1976, the Watchtower printed an incredulous article chastising those that planned their lives around a certain date. The Watchtower 1976 Jul 15 pp.440-441 stated:
"11 It may be that some who have been serving God have planned their lives according to a mistaken view of just what was to happen on a certain date or in a certain year. They may have, for this reason, put off or neglected things that they otherwise would have cared for. But they have missed the point of the Bible’s warnings concerning the end of this system of things, thinking that Bible chronology reveals the specific date.
12 What do Jesus’ own words show concerning the proper attitude as to the end—to look for a date, or what? He said: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth. Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and in standing before the Son of man.”—Luke 21:34-36.
13 Did Jesus mean that we should adjust our financial and secular affairs so that our resources would just carry us to a certain date that we might think marks the end? If our house is suffering serious deterioration, should we let it go, on the assumption that we would need it only a few months longer? Or, if someone in the family possibly needs special medical care, should we say, ‘Well, we’ll put it off because the time is so near for this system of things to go’? This is not the kind of thinking that Jesus advised. ...
15 But it is not advisable for us to set our sights on a certain date, neglecting everyday things we would ordinarily care for as Christians, such as things that we and our families really need. We may be forgetting that, when the “day” comes, it will not change the principle that Christians must at all times take care of all their responsibilities. If anyone has been disappointed through not following this line of thought, he should now concentrate on adjusting his viewpoint, seeing that it was not the word of God that failed or deceived him and brought disappointment, but that his own understanding was based on wrong premises.
16 However, say that you are one who counted heavily on a date, and, commendably, set your attention more strictly on the urgency of the times and the need of the people to hear. And say you now, temporarily, feel somewhat disappointed; are you really the loser? Are you really hurt? We believe you can say that you have gained and profited by taking this conscientious course. Also, you have been enabled to get a really mature, more reasonable viewpoint.—Eph. 5:1-17.
The first suggestion the Watchtower was compliant in the hype of 1975 was not until the Yearbook 1980 p.7:
"... the talk "Choosing the Best Way of Life" ... acknowledged the Society's responsibility for some of the disappointment a number felt regarding 1975"
The 1980 Watchtower article "Choosing the Best Way of Life" confessed excitement surrounding 1975 was encouraged by the Watchtower. However, one cannot help note with disappointment the five year span before such admission, or that the article still concluded by shifting blame to the attitude of the members. The Watchtower 1980 March 15 p.17 stated:
"In modern times such eagerness, commendable in itself, has led to attempts at setting dates for the desired liberation from the suffering and troubles that are the lot of persons throughout the earth. With the appearance of the book Life Everlasting-in Freedom of the Sons of God, and its comments as to how appropriate it would be for the millennial reign of Christ to parallel the seventh millennium of man's existence, considerable expectation was aroused regarding the year 1975. There were statements made then, and thereafter, stressing that this was only a possibility. Unfortunately, however, along with such cautionary information, there were other statements published that implied that such realization of hopes by that year was more of a probability than a mere possibility . It is to be regretted that these latter statements apparently overshadowed the cautionary ones and contributed to a buildup of the expectation already initiated.
In its issue of July 15, 1976, The Watchtower, commenting on the inadvisability of setting our sights on a certain date, stated: "If anyone has been disappointed through not following this line of thought, he should now concentrate on adjusting his viewpoint, seeing that it was not the word of God that failed or deceived him and brought disappointment, but that his own understanding was based on wrong premises." In saying "anyone," The Watchtower included all disappointed ones of Jehovah's Witnesses, hence including persons having to do with the publication of the information that contributed to the buildup of hopes centered on that date.
Nevertheless, there is no reason for us to be shaken in faith in God's promises. Rather, as a consequence, we are all moved to make a closer examination of the Scriptures regarding this matter of a day of judgment. In doing so, we find that the important thing is not the date. What is important is our keeping ever in mind that there is such a day - and it is getting closer and it will require an accounting on the part of all of us. Peter said that Christians should rightly be "awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah." (2 Pet. 3:12) It is not a certain date ahead; it is day-to-day living on the part of the Christian that is important. He must not live a single day without having in mind that he is under Jehovah's loving care and direction and must submit himself thereto, keeping also in mind that he must account for his acts."
Jehovah's Witnesses are forced to ignore intelligent lines of reason and follow whatever is promoted in the Watchtower. The excitement over 1975 is testament to how their thinking ability atrophies. There are at least three obvious reasons for why 1975 could not be the date for Armageddon.
1. Adam's creation was neither the end of creation nor the start of God's day of rest. The Bible does not tell when God created Eve. The Watchtower 1955 Feb 1 p.95 had specifically said as much; "The very fact that, as part of Jehovah's secret, no one today is able to find out how much time Adam and later Eve lived during the closing days of the sixth creative period, so no one can now determine when six thousand years of Jehovah's present rest day come to an end."
2. The angels were observing as the day of creation ended and hence would know the day for the start of Armageddon if it was to be a simple 6000 year calculation yet Matthew 24:36 states the angels did not know the time for the end - "Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father."
3. The Bible does not specify the length of the creative days or the seventh day. It does not indicate that God's day of rest is 7,000 years, or that Jesus reign is to start after 6,000 years.
The shallow reasoning the Watchtower had used to support its promotion of 1975 does not say much for the doctrinal integrity of the Governing Body. Acceptance of this doctrine also says wonders about the gullibility of the followers, indicating a lack of any deep desire to see truth beyond what appears written in the pages of the Watchtower.
The failure of the end to eventuate in 1914 or 1925 taught the Watchtower the danger of specific date setting, but there can be no misunderstanding the implication of the articles prior to 1975. However, ask a Jehovah's Witnesses now whether 1975 was ever thought to be the end of the world and the answer will invariably be denial. This is in line with how the Watchtower paints this part of its history. Notice the brief discussion the Proclaimers book devotes to this important time of growth and the extent of an admission of error.
"Brother Franz then referred to the many questions that had arisen as to whether the material in the new book meant that by 1975 Armageddon would be finished, and Satan would be bound. He stated, in essence: 'It could. But we are not saying . All things are possible with God. But we are not saying. And don’t any of you be specific in saying anything that is going to happen between now and 1975. But the big point of it all is this, dear friends: Time is short. Time is running out, no question about that.’ ... However, other statements were published on this subject, and some were likely more definite than advisable." Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom p.104