Jehovah's Witnesses have their own unique eschatology, involving the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the start of the Last Days. Witnesses believe that the Holy Bible is the word of God and his means of communicating with us. They believe that Bible prophecy has always been precisely fulfilled in the past. Therefore they also believe that future prophecy will also come exactly true. Witnesses believe that the term "last days" refers to the concluding time period leading up a divinely appointed execution that marks the end of a system of things. Scriptures had a minor fulfillment involving the time period before the end of the Jewish system of things in 70 C.E. and are now having a major fulfillment in this time period before God cleanses the earth of Satan's wicked system of things.
Witnesses believe that the last days began in 1914 when Jehovah God installed Jesus as the King of God's Kingdom. His first action is described in the book of Revelation, in which Jesus cleanses heaven and casts Satan and his Demons to the earth. Conditions on earth would then deteriorate to an all time low, culminating in war, pestilence and earthquakes. Witnesses believe that history proved this date true with the start of World War I in 1914 and the worst global epidemic to date in the Spanish Influenza in 1918.
In the future, Witnesses believe that God will cleanse the earth of all wickedness and Satan will be bound for 1,000 years. During this time period, people will be resurrected to life on earth and given a chance to learn about God (Jehovah) and live under the rule of Jesus Christ. Christ would rule over the Earth from heaven with the 144,000 co-rulers and restore earth to its former paradise-like state. They feel biblical prophecy shows there will be no more death or sickness and people will live in peace and harmony, just as God originally purposed for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Jehovah's Witnesses have very specific doctrines on the End Times, explained in detail in the literature of the Watchtower Society. Witnesses teach that the Greek word parousia, often translated as 'coming' really means 'presence', that the presence (invisible coming) of Christ began in the year 1914, and that he now sits at God's right hand, ruling amidst his enemies. (Ps. 110:1,2; Heb.10:12,13) This is not to be confused with his reign however. Jehovah's Witnesses calculate the year 1914 from Bible prophecy.
- Daniel 4:17 says that the dream that God gave to King Nebuchadnezzar deals with the Kingdom of God and God's promise to give it to " the one whom he wants " or " the lowliest one of mankind." The Bible says that Jesus Christ was indeed "the lowliest one of mankind." (Phil. 2:7, 8; Matt. 11:28-30) He is also the one to whom Jehovah 'wants to' give the kingdom. (Luke 1:31-33; Rev. 11:15) Thus, Jehovah's Witnesses believe this dream was also fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
- Rulership over mankind, as represented by the tree and its rootstock, would have "the heart of a beast." (Dan. 4:16) As Jesus showed in his prophecy pointing to the conclusion of the system of things (end of the world), Jerusalem would be "trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations (gentile times)" were fulfilled. (Matt.24:3; Luke 21:24) According to Jehovah's Witnesses, "Jerusalem" represented the Kingdom of God because its kings were said to sit on "the throne of the kingship of Jehovah." (1 Chron. 28:4, 5; Matt. 5:34-35) The Gentile governments are represented in the book of Daniel by wild beasts (bears, rams, goats, etc). Daniel 2:37 depicts these kingdoms, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar, being given rulership of the world, succeeded by other kingdoms to follow. Then, in Daniel 2:44, God would reassert the authority of his kingdom by 'crushing' these kingdoms. This was a prophetic picture of how the gentile kingdoms would 'trample' on the right of God's Kingdom to direct human affairs and would themselves hold sway under Satan's control, until the 'gentile times' ended (Luke 21:21). (Dan. 7:2-8, 17, 23; 8:20-22; Rev. 13:1, 2; Luke 4:5, 6)
- Revelation 11:2, 3 and 12:6, 14 clearly states that 42 months (3 1/2 years) in that prophecy are counted as 1,260 days. "Seven times" or Seven years would be twice that, or 2,520 days. Bible shows that a day is counted as a year in calculating prophetic time in two of its many prophecies (Ezek. 4:6; Num. 14:34), then prophetic "seven times" means 2,520 years.
- According to Jehovah's Witnesses, the counting of the "seven times" begin after Zedekiah, the last king in the typical Kingdom of God, was removed from the throne in Jerusalem by the Babylonians. (Ezek. 21:25-27) Jehovah's Witnesses believe that this took place 70 years before 537 B.C., the year in which they believe the Jews returned from captivity; that is, it took place by early October of 607 B.C. (Jer. 29:10; Dan. 9:2) Counting 2,520 years from early October of 607 B.C. brings us to early October 1914.
The Witnesses believe that this is borne out in the events of 1914. Jesus answered the question of "the sign" of his presence by including the phrase "For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." (Matthew 24:7) The 'Great War' of 1914 was even referred to secularly as World War I - the first war of its kind in history (though it was not called this prior to the Second World War). They conclude that this is proof that WWI was a significant part of the "the sign" of Christ's presence.
Jehovah's Witnesses generally do not use the expression 'end of the world', with its connotations of the destruction of humanity or the planet, but prefer to use the expression 'conclusion of a system of things', thus maintaining the distinction between the original-language words kosmos (world) and aion (age, or system of things)
Witness eschatology sees the following series of events at the end of the system of things:
- Christ becomes King in Heaven in 1914 and Satan and his angels are hurled down to the earth (Revelation 11:15; 12:7-12). The "last days" of 2 Timothy 3:1 begin.
- Fulfillment of prophecies in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21 about the 'conclusion of the system of things.'
- Cry of 'peace and security' (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
- Destruction of Babylon the Great (all religions throughout the world who do not practice true Christianity) by the 'wild beast' referred to in Revelation 17 (understood by the Witnesses to be the worldwide political system through the United Nations).
- Satan's attack on true Christians. (Ezekiel 38).
- Armageddon - God's war against the 'Kings of the Earth' (political rulers); destruction of the wicked.
- 1000-year reign of Jesus Christ. Righteous ones who are counted worthy to be delivered through Armageddon will work together with the help of Jesus and Angels to make the earth a paradise, like the original Garden of Eden, and the righteous ones will gradually be restored to perfection. The dead will then at be resurrected at this time and given the chance to learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:9, 10).
- Final test; Satan let loose for a short time to roam the earth, after which he will be destroyed along with his followers (Revelation 20:7-10).
- After Satan and his followers have been destroyed Jesus then hands back the Kingdom to his heavenly father in perfect order, wiped clean of all badness, wickedness, death, suffering and wars. (Revelation 21:3-4) (1 Corinthians 15:28).
Witnesses remain neutral in political affairs and teach that believers on earth will be spectators only in the above-mentioned scenario, not participating in any type of warfare.