Sometimes, the Watchtower publications have pointed back to a time when the Watchtower predicted World War One (WWI) in 1914 and then also predicted that the United Nations would rise up to replace the League of Nations. These two "predictions" have even been paired together and presented nearly back-to-back in our publications. They were even brought up again at the 2014 convention and the 2009 convention. The reason the Watchtower has reviewed these two ideas from our history is probably already obvious and clear, and it has been clearly stated, too.
One of the most recent reviews of the history of Jehovah's Witnesses contains very similar claims, and is found in one of the videos, now also available on tv.jw.org:
These online transcripts appear fairly accurate:
Video Transcript Jehovah's Witnesses Faith in Action Part 1 Out of Darkness.pdf
Video Transcript Jehovah's Witnesses Faith in Action Part 2 Let the Light Shine.pdf
Here is the relevant part about 1914:
—Geoffrey W. JacksonÂ—
They realized that 1914 had a significance,
When World War I broke out in July, they felt vindicated and it strengthened their faith in the Bible, and in JehovahÂ’s prophetic Word. Also, it enhanced their trust that Jehovah was using Brother Russell and his friends to explain truth to others.
Â—Anthony Morris IIIÂ—
Just looking at the sign of the times that Jesus told us to look at is enough, but it's still significant that they could pinpoint that year. That's phenomenal.
Here is the relevant part about the UN and League of Nations:
. . . And soon, they would boldly proclaim a Bible prophecy that pointed to the outcome of that war.
Â—Â—Chapter 4: "Taught By Jehovah"Â—Â—
The year was 1941. Having taken the lead for 25 momentous years, J. F. Rutherford had become seriously ill and was about to make his final public appearance. . . . The second World War was raging. Some felt that these events could lead directly into Armageddon. In spite of this, in 1942, Nathan H. KnorrÂ—the one next appointed to take the lead among Jehovah's WitnessesÂ—spoke at a convention about a Bible prophecy that indicated that significant events had to occur first.
This international war is not 'the battle of the great day of God Almighty.' Before Armageddon comes, the Scriptures show, a peace must come.
There was no peace on the horizon, and yet we said, "PeaceÂ—Can It Last?"
Knorr centered attention on Revelation 17:8, which indicates that a figurative wild beast would come into existence, would cease to exist, but then would come back to life. Knorr then drew his listeners' attention to the defunct League of Nations.
The League is in effect in a state of suspended animation and needs to be revived if it is ever to live again. It has gone into the abyss of inaction and ineffectiveness. It "is not." Will the League remain in the pit? Again the Word of God gives answer: The association of worldly nations will rise again.
That association did rise again three years later as the United Nations.
Â—Anthony Morris IIIÂ—
They didn't know it was going to be called the United Nations, and we don't make that claim. But they knew it was coming out.
[Should be noted that Morris is claiming something that they "KNEW" in advance but he is also correcting a common claim that not only did Knorr predict the rise of the League of Nations three years ahead of time, but that he even used the term "United Nations." As one person writes on a website "Knorr prophesied in 1942 that the League of Nations would rise out of the abyss. Knorr used the expression 'United Nations.' How could he have known the exact name of the new incarnation, when it wasn't established until 1945?"]
Witnesses got these ideas about a correctly predicted prophecy from an article published a few years later under Knorr's administration in 1960. These quotes should be compared with the actual transcript of the speech Knorr made on September 20, 1942, which was made available as a booklet, and can be found here:
The July 15, 1960 Watchtower, page 444, said this:
"In 1942 the Â“faithful and discreet slaveÂ” guided by JehovahÂ’s unerring spirit made known that the democracies would win World War II and that there would be a United Nations organization set up."
You can also see a reference to the 1942 event in the Revelation book (p.248) on WOL at jw.org:
You can also read the following about it in the April 15, 1989 Watchtower, p.14
By divine providence, JehovahÂ’s Witnesses received enlightenment on that mystery in 1942. . . . Nathan H.Â Knorr, president of the Watch Tower Society, gave the public talk, Â“PeaceÂ—Can It Last?Â” Therein he reviewed Revelation 17:8, . . . . Was that Bible-based forecast fulfilled? Truly it was! In 1945 the international Â“wild beastÂ” emerged from its abyss of inactivity as the United Nations.
See also the Kingdom Come bookÂ kc chap. 17 pp. 162-173 and and interesting version of events found in a 1981 Watchtower about why this "insight" was given w81 12/15 pp. 28-30
The Proclaimers book states it like this on page 192-3 (Â jv chap. 14 pp. 188-201 )
This time, it involved the United Nations, successor to the League. While World WarÂ II was still under way, in 1942, JehovahÂ’s Witnesses had already discerned from the Bible, at Revelation 17:8, that the world peace organization would rise again, also that it would fail to bring lasting peace. This was explained by N.Â H.Â Knorr, then president of the Watch Tower Society, in the convention discourse Â“PeaceÂ—Can It Last?Â” Boldly JehovahÂ’s Witnesses proclaimed that view of the developing world situation.
In 1993 the idea was stated as follows:
Â“The Disgusting ThingÂ”
12,Â 13. What was Â“the disgusting thing,Â” andÂ—as foreseen by the faithful and discreet slaveÂ—when and how was it reestablished?
12 When the end of the second world war was in sight, there was another development. Â“They will certainly put in place the disgusting thing that is causing desolation.Â” (Daniel 11:31b) This Â“disgusting thing,Â” which Jesus also mentioned, had already been recognized as the League of Nations, the scarlet-colored wild beast that according to Revelation went into the abyss. (Matthew 24:15; Revelation 17:8; see Light, Book Two, pageÂ 94.) It did this when World WarÂ II broke out. However, at the New World Theocratic Assembly of JehovahÂ’s Witnesses in 1942, Nathan H.Â Knorr, third president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, discussed the prophecy of Revelation 17 and warned that the beast would rise again from the abyss.
13 History bore out the truth of his words. Between August and OctoberÂ 1944, at Dumbarton Oaks in the United States, work was begun on the charter of what would be called the United Nations. The charter was adopted by 51 nations, including the former Soviet Union, and when it came into force on OctoberÂ 24, 1945, the defunct League of Nations in effect came out of the abyss.
There are several more examples, but this should suffice. I am struck by how often the point is emphasized that these were Knorr's words, "his words" and that they were a Bible-based forecast "foreseen" and "discerned" and "known" in advance through "divine providence" and "enlightenment" and men being "guided by Jehovah's unerring spirit." This is an odd focus on the insights and discernment of men. These expressions are also dangerously presumptuous in that they are so often applied to the one or two times when it seems something was foreseen correctly, but there is no balanced way of discussing the reasons that literally dozens of predictions were made incorrectly and have been dropped as "old light."
But, as many Witnesses already know, there is something even deeper that is wrong with these claims of accuracy in discernment. The claims are inaccurate! It turns out that this was not really even predicted in advance. A close look at the original transcript of Knorr's talk actually solves the mystery of why he used the term United Nations in his speech. It's because he gave the speech AFTER official work on the United Nations had already begun.