“Overlapping” Generation Question Based on February 2014 Watchtower

The following is one example of several we have located, where the “subtext” of the question is not so much about the reliability of the “overlapping generation” teaching, but about how far into the future the “great tribulation” may occur.  We will highlight that portion of the initial query below. [Although the answer given below appears to be accurately researched and based on sound reasoning, we do not necessarily agree with any and all positions that the parties may provide on other issues.]
Brian Gibson

December 20, 2013

B.G. [full name removed]

Generation Question Based on February 2014 Watchtower
    • Hi, Jehovah Witness Anonymous. I am not a Witness, but i had studied with relatives and some friends that are Jehovah Witness. My question is concerning generations in regards to the faithful and discreet slaves, seeing the culmination of the great tribulation. So, if i understand the Awake article in January 2014 right, there are 2 groups that make up a “generation”, one group live before and during the 1914, and and the second group lived during the lifetime of the first group. I always thought there was a grace period in regards of the gathering of the anointed in 1935, so i am wondering did the gathering expanded beyond that? after the majority of the first group perish? Question when did the gathering end, since many of the first group live well beyond 1935? What i am trying to say the great tribulation can happen well beyond our present decade, since there are two generation that overlapped. [emphasis added]

  • Jehovah's Witnesses Anonymous

    • Originally the generation was just a period that extended somewhere between a typical 40 year biblical generation and a 70 to 80 year lifespan. But since the “last days” were said to have begun in 1914, the meaning of generation had to start changing around 1984 and then 1994 for obvious reasons. The people who would never die before the great tribulation have died, especially since originally we also said that a person who actually “saw” the beginning would have been about 10 to 15 years old in 1914.

  • Jehovah's Witnesses Anonymous

    • So the point made in the January 15, 2014 Watchtower is a continuation of a new definition of the generation that was actually introduced a few years ago. What the recent articles have added is a more clear differentiation (or delineation) between that first generation of anointed, and a second group of anointed who had overlapped (been contemporaries with) that first generation. It also has a side point of diminishing the claim that more recent “new partakers” have on the idea of being anointed. This is more of an inside point that you would not know unless you worked with some of the older anointed persons currently working at the Watchtower headquarters.
      But to answer your main question about 1935, we no longer point to any specific prophecy or parable that would give 1935 any specific Biblical significance as an important date. (We did for several years, but no longer.)
      There was always a teaching, but not clarified officially, that the only newly anointed people after 1935 were only chosen to replace any previously anointed persons who had become unfaithful. So there was a kind of “grace period” but for reasons that no one wanted to publish officially.

  • Jehovah's Witnesses Anonymous

    • I have to go for a few minutes, but I’ll get back to this later.

  • Brian Gibson

    December 20, 2013

    B.G. [name removed]

    • Ok, i will wait patiently for your response

  • Jehovah's Witnesses Anonymous

    • OK. I’m back.

      The first thing I wanted to address was your point that the ” the great tribulation can happen well beyond our present decade, since there are two generation that overlapped.” I wanted to address the idea of a generation as opposed to a lifespan.

      A standard Biblical generation could be considered as few as 40 years. And Jesus was trying to help encourage the generation of people so that they would “lift their heads up and rejoice because their deliverance was NEAR” not far off.

      Most of them would still be alive to see the sign that proved that Jehovah was in control of the kingdom and his will was truly being done through Christ Jesus. There would be proof, evidently within 40 years that Jehovah was truly turning over the kingdom to his Son. They would see a great sign of that. So when Jesus spoke, it was about the year 33 CE and Jerusalem was truly surrounded by encamped armies between 66 and 70 CE. So the generation that most of them lived to see was only 37 years. But even after 70, Christians were still living in hope of seeing the sign on Jerusalem turn into something greater.

      Generation can have some additional meanings. It can refer to lifespans, which can be as long as 70 years, even more. It can also refer to “contemporaries.” Technically, contemporaries can mean the overlapping lives of those who shared the message. It’s easy to understand only if we think about those who were already advanced in age when Jesus spoke. If an 80 year old man had been in the audience and Jesus said “this generation will not pass away” then it’s clear that the 80 year old might not live to see the sign, but he could go home and tell others that “this generation” will see the sign. If it could be true of the older person, it could be true of a young person in Jesus audience who could also tell others that “this generation” will see the sign. They could say that as long as they lived because that was the message, the good news, that they would continue to preach. But it could never extend past the lifespans of their hearers, because it is only in the sense of “contemporaries” that this kind of time extension is valid for a possible meaning of “generation.”

      This idea of contemporaries could refer to the initial generation addressed, and their generation could last from 40 to 70 years using Biblical precedent. The people who knew their contemporaries from that first generation might need to be say 10 years old to truly understand the significance of the message about the generation from their contemporaries. In other words we could add another 30 to 60 years onto the first generation.
      So one could add the two and get a range of 70 to 130 years. If the persons in the first audience were at least 10 years old, just like the second then we have a reasonable range of 60 to 120 years from the beginning to the end of a generation of contemporaries.

      While that might have been convoluted. Notice that we have exactly the same number of maximum years in Noah’s preaching. We don’t often make a big deal about it, but “the days of Noah” were associated with this “generation” that would see the sign.

      Genesis 6:3 says: “Then Jehovah said: “My spirit will not tolerate man indefinitely, because he is only flesh.* Accordingly, his days will amount to 120 years.” ”

      Matthew 25:37 says: ” For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence* of the Son of man will be.”

      And again, the point wasn’t to see how long it would extend, but how soon the sign might be seen to be fulfilled. Most of the people would still be alive, or at least many. So we would expect this final generation of contemporaries to last anywhere from 60 to 120 years, but would NOT expect it to go the very end of the longest possible length. Therefore, if that generation is started in 1914, then the end of that generation is between 1974 and 2034. So it doesn’t appear that this definition could support many any decades.

  • Jehovah's Witnesses Anonymous

    • Your other question referred to doctrines around 1935. You said: “I always thought there was a grace period in regards of the gathering of the anointed in 1935, so i am wondering did the gathering expanded beyond that? after the majority of the first group perish? Question when did the gathering end, since many of the first group live well beyond 1935?”

      As stated, there is no official end date for the gathering of the anointed. What we say is that the “call” began to go out to the “great crowd” of “other sheep” who do not claim to be of the anointed, and therefore declare their hope to live forever on earth. There is no doubt that this began around 1935 and the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses have felt attracted to the earthly hope from that time on. But there is no official doctrine stating that no further anointed are being called. It is reasonable to assume that there have been thousands of anointed called through the centuries and especially filled up in the period at some point prior to 1935. But there is always a chance that those chosen have not proven faithful, and some might be called for the purpose of replacing unfaithful ones. (Even some of the replacements might be unfaithful, but continuing along this line of reasoning puts us at odds with the apostle Paul’s words about the sureness of the calling, so this would not ever be expected to cause a delay in Jehovah’s purpose or a delay of the “wedding” for the marriage of the Lamb.

      So there is nothing in the Bible or in our current teachings that can officially define what took place in 1935. It was not a strictly prophesied year as far as we know. So there is no specific “grace period” although it’s true that we used to speak of one, as if the “door was closing” and no more could get in.

  • Jehovah's Witnesses Anonymous

    • I know this was rather long-winded. I wasn’t sure how much background information you wanted or needed. Hope it helps a bit. If you have further questions don’t be afraid to ask. Also, if you wish, please let me know if I might put this question and answer on the regular posting area (with or without your name, that’s up to you.)

  • Brian Gibson

    December 25, 2013

    B.G. [name removed]

    • No, it was not long winded, because i enjoyed reading this important information. I don’t have a issue whether you post this in the posting area for others to read and understand so it is up to you, and you can post my name if you wish. It is perfectly OK.

5 thoughts on ““Overlapping” Generation Question Based on February 2014 Watchtower”

  1. 2 things the watchtower always says “evidently” and “it is clear”
    it is evident jesus did NOT say overlapping generations he said “this generation”. and to me, it is clear 1914 was not the generation he was talking about, seems it could be the 9/11 generation? that’s when things really started a downward spiral., but again as jesus said, he nor the angels know, only the father knows

      1. So WHEN is the generation oh, Zachary? You that have so much knowledge! WHEN it it? If you fail to answer then you are a punk.

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