(Investigator 178, 2018 January)

Isaiah 60:22

The leaders of the Jehovah Witnesses (JWs) have repeatedly quoted Isaiah 60:22 to predict a great speed-up in JW preaching and proselytizing activity just before Armageddon. The verse says:

The little one himself will become a thousand, and the small one a mighty nation. I myself, Jehovah, shall speed it up in its own time. (Isaiah 60:22 NWT)

Speed-up in 1969

In 1969 JWs believed the speed-up had started and would continue into the 1970s until Armageddon in 1975-1976.

The Watchtower (1969 October 1, pp 592-598) referred to the story of the Israelites marching around Jericho once each day for six days and then seven times on the seventh day. (Joshua 6)

This story, the article says, is A Prophetic Pattern For Our Day and would be fulfilled by intensified JW activity from 1969 until Armageddon:

And today, with less than seven years remaining to the end of six thousand years of human history, and with all the prophetic evidence that Christendom is about to be shaken from her proud foundations, are we not fired with zeal…? He will continue to infuse power into us as the final march intensifies.  (p. 597)

Armageddon didn't come and JW numbers declined for several years before recovering in 1981.

1985 to 1996 — The time is "Now" but wasn't

In 1985 the JW leaders again declared, "the time for this is NOW!"

Jehovah adds a third part to his promise: "I myself, Jehovah, shall speed it up in its own time." As we stand at the brink of the "great tribulation," the time for this is NOW! The rapid acceleration of the Kingdom work during the past two years bears this out. This 'speeding up' is to be observed earth wide … our beloved King Jesus Christ, will continue to "speed it up" as the Kingdom proclamation moves on toward its climax! (The Watchtower 1985 3/1 21-22)

JEHOVAH is now speeding up the ingathering of sheeplike ones ... And the momentum of this joyous ingathering will yet grow. (The Watchtower 1988 7/15 15)

Thus, the prophecy recorded at Isaiah 60:22 is proving true... That time is now... (The Watchtower 1996 1/15 11)

However, in 2000 AD Armageddon's occurrence "within our twentieth century" which had been a firm prophecy for decades failed. (See: Investigator 155)

Around 2000 AD the percentage increase of JWs in many countries where educational standards are high or people are familiar with the sect slowed down, even falling below the increase-rate of the general population.

As an example consider Switzerland:

Peak Publishers
Ratio to
1995 18,430 381
2000 17,971 396
2005 17,958 413
2010 17,937 434
2015 19,219 429
2016 19,327 431

Peak Publishers are the number of active JWs in the month with the highest number.  Although they have increased since 1995 the increase is slower than the general population as seen in the worsening ratio figures. JWs are experiencing relative decline although Swiss JWs spent about 50 million hours preaching during those 21 years!

Evidently, "NOW" in 1985 to 1996 for the timing of the final pre-Armageddon speed-up was again false!

2007 -- Again "Now"

Undeterred by their falsehoods the JW leaders merely wait until defectors who left the sect out of disappointment have been replaced with new recruits who don't know about previous prophetic chicanery. They then re-apply or re-use the same Bible verses.

Here it is again in 2007:

Jehovah is speeding up the ingathering. (Isa. 60:22) There is an urgent need for all those following Jesus' example to work at their ministry more fully. (Our Kingdom Ministry 2007, September, p.1)

Slowdown also indicates Armageddon

 Not only does acceleration in preaching activity and making conversions indicate the world is "at the brink" of Armageddon, but so does deceleration or slow-down.

In 1940 the then leader of JWs, Judge Rutherford, explained the decline in the JW work in Europe at that time as follows:

That fact that he [God] is permitting the enemy to exercise such powerful influence is clear proof that the witness work, commanded to be done, is near an end and therefore Armageddon is close at hand. (Yearbook of JWs 1940, p. 39)

The nations are now in the "valley of decision", and the zero hour has struck. (p. 87)

In the 1941 Yearbook we read:

When Jehovah's witnesses have completed the work committed to them, then Jehovah will perform his "strange act" [i.e. Armageddon]... God's "strange work" [the preaching] is now about completed and the time for his "strange act" is about to begin. (Yearbook of JWs 1941, Daily Text for April 9)

Although opportunity for world-wide witness work is closing, that will furnish no excuse for any of the consecrated to sleep or be indifferent... Next we shall see the sign that Armageddon is about to begin and deliverance is very near. (Daily Text for July 20)

Similarly in The Watchtower:

36The witness work for THE THEOCRACY appears to be about done in most of the countries of "Christendom"...
It means that the hour is rapidly approaching when the "sign" of Armageddon will be clearly revealed and all who are on the side of Jehovah will see and appreciate it. That "sign" will be the announcement "Peace and safety"; which sign cannot fully appear as long as this world-wide witness work of THE THEOCRACY is carried on in the earth. (The Watchtower 1940 9/1 265)

In the years around 1940 the word "Armageddon" appeared about 300 times in The Watchtower during each year along with constant reminders of its nearness. Such intensified propaganda accelerated the influx of new converts despite the claim that the work was "about done".

When the bans on JWs in Europe imposed during World War II were lifted JWs became known as "the fastest growing religion".

New leader, same tactic

Rutherford's successor as leader of JWs, Nathan Knorr, employed the same tactic.

The 1967 Yearbook of JWs says:

It may be we are getting near the end of the harvest years, but while there is yet time we should all work zealously. (p. 33)

His basis for stating "it may be we are getting near the end" is revealed on the next page and is because fewer people got baptized:

It is true, there were 5,489 fewer individuals who dedicated their lives to Jehovah in 1966 than the year before... (p. 34)

Then on page 317:

Perhaps year by year there will be fewer and fewer coming into the organization. But should we not, as we come nearer to the end of the harvest, expect the ingathering to be smaller? (p. 317)

Nathan Knorr was evidently copying Rutherford's tactic of interpreting the slowdown as implying Armageddon is near, knowing this will get things moving again.

The main theologian of the sect, Frederick Franz, also got things moving again by calculating that Armageddon should occur in the mid 1970s, and also with his analogy (discussed above) of the Israelites marching around Jericho.

The two main leaders of JWs from the 1940s to 1970s, Fred Franz (theologian) left, and Nathan Knorr (president of the Watchtower Society) .
Photo from: New World Society Assembly of Jehovah's Witnesses 1953.

Armageddon either way

Whenever there's a new announcement of "it is now" most JWs don't realize it's been said before and think the words are profound, new, and spiritual. Old JWs who remember previous occasions tend to keep quiet because to criticize would get them sidelined or even "disfellowshipped"!

Generally speaking, when the preaching and converting goes well the JW leaders try to accelerate it further by citing Isaiah 60:22 and claim "ït is now". When things slow down too much they suggest the "witness" work is finishing with Armageddon to follow.

Either way whether up or down Armageddon is imminent, and this re-energizes the followers.