Three Worlds (book)

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Title page of "Three Worlds"

Three Worlds, and the Harvest of This World was a 197-page religious book published in 1877 by Adventist preacher Nelson H. Barbour and Charles Taze Russell, who later founded the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. [1]

Nelson H. Barbour Adventist writer and publisher

Nelson H. Barbour Barbour was an influential Adventist writer and publisher, best known for his association with and later opposition to Charles Taze Russell.

Charles Taze Russell Founder of the Bible Student Movement

Charles Taze Russell, or Pastor Russell, was an American Christian restorationist minister from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and founder of what is now known as the Bible Student movement. After his death, Jehovah's Witnesses and numerous independent Bible Student groups developed from this base.

Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania not-for-profit organization headquartered in Warwick, New York

The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania is a non-stock, not-for-profit organization headquartered in Warwick, New York. It is the main legal entity used worldwide by Jehovah's Witnesses to direct, administer and disseminate doctrines for the group and is often referred to by members of the denomination simply as "the Society". It is the parent organization of a number of Watch Tower subsidiaries, including the Watchtower Society of New York and International Bible Students Association. The number of voting shareholders of the corporation is limited to between 300 and 500 "mature, active and faithful" male Jehovah's Witnesses. About 5800 Jehovah's Witnesses provide voluntary unpaid labour, as members of a religious order, in three large Watch Tower Society facilities in New York; nearly 15,000 other members of the order work at the Watch Tower Society's other facilities worldwide.



The book used elements of elaborate Bible chronology, prophetic speculation and eschatology to promote the belief that one could determine God’s timetable for Jesus Christ’s second coming, the rapture of the saints and the restoration of the earth to a paradise like Eden. [2]

Garden of Eden Biblical "garden of God"

The Garden of Eden, also called Paradise, is the biblical "garden of God" described in the Book of Genesis and the Book of Ezekiel. Genesis 13:10 refers to the "garden of God", and the "trees of the garden" are mentioned in Ezekiel 31. The Book of Zechariah and the Book of Psalms also refer to trees and water, without explicitly mentioning Eden.

Though it bore the names of both Barbour and Russell as publishers, the book was written entirely by Barbour, a former Millerite, who used some of preacher William Miller’s teachings as its basis. [2] [3] Barbour’s writings were highly influential in the development of Russell’s later teachings, which led to the formation of the Bible Student movement and later, Jehovah’s Witnesses. Its computations of the length of the "times of the Gentiles" mentioned at Luke 21:24 (calculated as 2520 years from 606BC) [4] used an interpretation that is still adhered to by Jehovah’s Witnesses. [2] It used the year-day system of interpreting prophecies, presented the idea of a 360-day "prophetic year" and a historicist interpretation of the book of Revelation. It drew on the millenarian studies of 19th century writers in formulating a system that demonstrated remarkable biblical-mathematical "correspondencies" and modified Bishop James Ussher's chronological calculation to declare that 6000 years of human history had ended in the autumn of 1873 and that a "morning of joy" was about to begin for humankind. [2]

Millerism Christian movement founded by William Miller, which held that the Second Coming would come in 1844

The Millerites were the followers of the teachings of William Miller, who in 1833 first shared publicly his belief that the Second Advent of Jesus Christ would occur in roughly the year 1843–1844. Coming during the Second Great Awakening, his beliefs were taken as predictions, spread widely, and were believed by many, leading to the Great Disappointment.

William Miller (preacher) American Baptist preacher

William Miller was an American Baptist preacher who is credited with beginning the mid-19th-century North American religious movement known as Millerism. After his proclamation of the Second Coming did not occur as expected in the 1840s, new heirs of his message emerged, including the Advent Christians (1860), the Seventh-day Adventists (1863) and other Adventist movements.

Bible Student movement Christian movement founded by Charles Taze Russell

The Bible Student movement is a Millennialist Restorationist Christian movement that emerged from the teachings and ministry of Charles Taze Russell, also known as Pastor Russell. Members of the movement have variously referred to themselves as Bible Students, International Bible Students, Associated Bible Students, or Independent Bible Students. The origins of the movement are associated with the formation of Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society in 1881, and the later formation of Jehovah's Witnesses whose beliefs have diverged considerably from Russell's teachings.

Three Worlds, subtitled "A Brief Review of the Bible Plan of Redemption", applied dispensationalist principles to divide religious history into three great epochs, or worlds. "The world that was" extended from creation to the Flood, while "the present evil world" extended from the Flood to the dawn of the third epoch, "the world to come". In the first epoch the world was under the ministration of angels; during the second epoch Satan has limited control; the third epoch will be under divine administration. [3] It proposed that Christ's second coming began in 1874, and would be followed by a forty-year harvest period including the rapture of the Saints in 1878, leading up to God's judgment of the nations and day of wrath in 1914. [5] [6]

Dispensationalism is a religious interpretive system and metanarrative for the Bible. It considers biblical history as divided by God into dispensations, defined periods or ages to which God has allotted distinctive administrative principles. According to dispensationalism, each age of God's plan is thus administered in a certain way, and humanity is held responsible as a steward during that time. Dispensationalists' presuppositions start with the inductive reasoning that biblical history has a particular discontinuity in the way God reacts to humanity in the unfolding of their, sometimes supposed, free wills.

Flood myth narrative in which a great flood destroys a civilization, commonly as divine retribution

A flood myth or deluge myth is a narrative in which a great flood, usually sent by a deity or deities, destroys civilization, often in an act of divine retribution. Parallels are often drawn between the flood waters of these myths and the primaeval waters found in certain creation myths, as the flood waters are described as a measure for the cleansing of humanity, in preparation for rebirth. Most flood myths also contain a culture hero, who "represents the human craving for life".

Satan Figure in Abrahamic religions

Satan, also known as the Devil, is an entity in the Abrahamic religions that seduces humans into sin or falsehood. In Christianity and Islam, he is usually seen as either a fallen angel or a jinn, who used to possess great piety and beauty, but rebelled against God, who nevertheless allows him temporary power over the fallen world and a host of demons. In Judaism, Satan is typically regarded as a metaphor for the yetzer hara, or "evil inclination", or as an agent subservient to God.

Russell had provided Barbour with funds to write the book after learning that Barbour's magazine, The Herald of the Morning, had stopped publication, and he sought to use Three Worlds to combine Barbour's teachings on chronology with his own—that Christ's death had served as a ransom-price for the potential restoration to a state of Adamic perfection of all people of all generations. [7] The pair fell out a year later over the ransom doctrine and Russell withdrew his financial support and began to publish his own magazine, Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence . [8]

The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah's Kingdom is an illustrated religious magazine, published monthly by Jehovah's Witnesses via the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. Along with its companion magazine, Awake!, Jehovah's Witnesses distribute The Watchtower—Public Edition in their door-to-door ministry.

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Jehovahs Witnesses Christian denomination

Jehovah's Witnesses is a millenarian restorationist Christian denomination with nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity. The group reports a worldwide membership of approximately 8.58 million adherents involved in evangelism and an annual Memorial attendance of over 20 million. Jehovah's Witnesses are directed by the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses, a group of elders in Warwick, New York, United States, which establishes all doctrines based on its interpretations of the Bible. They believe that the destruction of the present world system at Armageddon is imminent, and that the establishment of God's kingdom over the earth is the only solution for all problems faced by humanity.

Rapture An eschatological concept of certain Christians

The rapture is an eschatological concept of certain Christians, particularly within branches of American evangelicalism, consisting of an end time event when all Christian believers who are alive, along with the resurrected dead believers, will rise "in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air". This theory grew out of the translations of the Bible that John Nelson Darby analyzed in 1833. It was promulgated by the cult followers of Darbyism, a doctrine that has been deemed heretical by most mainstream Christians. Some adherents believe this event is predicted and described in Paul the Apostle's First Epistle to the Thessalonians in the Bible, where he uses the Greek harpazo, meaning to snatch away or seize. Though it has been used differently in the past, the term is now often used by certain believers to distinguish this particular event from the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to Earth, mentioned in Second Thessalonians, Gospel of Matthew, First Corinthians, and Revelation, often viewing it as preceding the Second Coming and followed by a 1,000 year millennial kingdom. Adherents of this perspective are sometimes referred to as premillenial dispensationalists, but amongst them there are differing viewpoints about the exact timing of the event.

Jehovah's Witnesses have received criticism from mainstream Christianity, members of the medical community, former members, and commentators regarding their beliefs and practices. The movement has been accused of doctrinal inconsistency and reversals, failed predictions, mistranslation of the Bible, harsh treatment of former members and autocratic and coercive leadership. Criticism has also focused on their rejection of blood transfusions, particularly in life-threatening medical situations, and claims that they have failed to report cases of sexual abuse to the authorities. Many of the claims are denied by Jehovah's Witnesses and some have also been disputed by courts and religious scholars.

Joseph Franklin Rutherford American judge

Joseph Franklin Rutherford, also known as Judge Rutherford, was the second president of the incorporated Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. He played a primary role in the organization and doctrinal development of Jehovah's Witnesses, which emerged from the Bible Student movement established by Charles Taze Russell.

Kingdom songs are the hymns sung by Jehovah's Witnesses at their religious meetings. Since 1879, the Watch Tower Society has published hymnal lyrics; by the 1920s they had published hundreds of adapted and original songs, and by the 1930s they referred to these as "Kingdom songs" in reference to God's Kingdom.

The Dawn Bible Students Association is a Christian organization and movement, and a legal entity used by a branch of the Bible Student Movement.

<i>Studies in the Scriptures</i> literary work

Studies in the Scriptures is a series of publications, intended as a Bible study aid, containing seven volumes of great importance to the history of the Bible Student movement, and the early history of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Futurism is a Christian eschatological view that interprets portions of the Book of Revelation, the Book of Ezekiel, and the Book of Daniel as future events in a literal, physical, apocalyptic, and global context.

History of Jehovahs Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses originated as a branch of the Bible Student movement, which developed in the United States in the 1870s among followers of Christian Restorationist minister Charles Taze Russell. Bible Student missionaries were sent to England in 1881 and the first overseas branch was opened in London in 1900. The group took on the name International Bible Students Association and by 1914 it was also active in Canada, Germany, Australia and other countries. The movement split into several rival organizations after Russell's death in 1916, with one—led by Russell's successor, Joseph "Judge" Rutherford—retaining control of both his magazine, The Watch Tower, and his legal and publishing corporation, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.

The eschatology of Jehovah's Witnesses is central to their religious beliefs. They believe that Jesus Christ has been ruling in heaven as king since 1914, and that after that time a period of cleansing occurred, resulting in God's selection of the Bible Students associated with Charles Taze Russell to be his people in 1919. They also believe the destruction of those who reject their message and thus willfully refuse to obey God will shortly take place at Armageddon, ensuring that the beginning of the new earthly society will be composed of willing subjects of that kingdom.

The faithful and discreet slave is the term used by Jehovah's Witnesses to describe the group's Governing Body in its role of directing doctrines and teachings. The group is described as a "class" of "anointed" Christians that operates under the direct control of Jesus Christ to exercise teaching authority in all matters pertaining to doctrine and articles of faith.

The doctrines of Jehovah's Witnesses have developed since publication of The Watchtower magazine began in 1879. Early doctrines were based on interpretations of the Bible by Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society founder Charles Taze Russell, then added to, altered or discarded by his successors, Joseph Rutherford and Nathan Knorr. Since 1976, doctrinal changes have been made at closed meetings of the group's Governing Body, whose decisions are described as "God's progressive revelations" to the faithful and discreet slave. These teachings are disseminated through The Watchtower, and at conventions and congregation meetings. Most members of the denomination outside the Governing Body play no role in the development of doctrines and are expected to adhere to all those decided at the Warwick, NY headquarters. Jehovah's Witnesses are taught to welcome doctrinal changes, regarding such "adjustments" as "new light" or "new understanding" from God and proving that they are on the "path of the righteous".

Unfulfilled Christian religious predictions

This article lists unfulfilled Christian religious predictions that failed to come about in the specified time frame, listed by religious group.

R. E. Streeter American magazine editor

Randolph Elwood Streeter, often referred to as R. E. Streeter, was one of the founding fathers of the Pastoral Bible Institute and a member of the editorial board of that churches The Herald of Christ's Kingdom magazine.

The Second Coming is a Christian concept regarding the return of Jesus to Earth after his "first coming" and his believed ascension to heaven about two thousand years ago. The belief is based on messianic prophecies found in the canonical gospels and is part of most Christian eschatologies. Views about the nature of Jesus' Second Coming vary among Christian denominations and among individual Christians.

Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society publications have made a series of predictions about Christ's Second Coming and the advent of God's Kingdom, each of which has gone unfulfilled. Almost all the predictions for 1878, 1881, 1914, 1918 and 1925 were later reinterpreted as a confirmation of the eschatological framework of the Bible Student movement and Jehovah's Witnesses, with many of the predicted events viewed as having taken place invisibly. Further expectations were held for the arrival of Armageddon in 1975, but resulted in a later apology to members from the society's leadership.

This is a bibliography of works on the Jehovah's Witnesses.


  1. Barbour, Nelson H. (1877). Three Worlds, and the Harvest of This World (PDF). Rochester, New York: Nelson H. Barbour and Charles Taze Russell. OCLC   41016956 . Retrieved 2015-04-03.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Penton, M.J. (1997). Apocalypse Delayed. University of Toronto Press. pp. 19–22. ISBN   9780802079732.
  3. 1 2 Crompton, Robert (1996). Counting the Days to Armageddon. Cambridge: James Clarke & Co. pp. 29–33. ISBN   0-227-67939-3.
  4. Barbour, Nelson H. (1877). Three Worlds, and the Harvest of This World (PDF). Rochester, New York: Nelson H. Barbour and Charles Taze Russell. p. 83. OCLC   41016956 . Retrieved 2015-04-03.
  5. Barbour, Nelson H. (1877). Three Worlds, and the Harvest of This World (PDF). Rochester, New York: Nelson H. Barbour and Charles Taze Russell. pp. 30, 83, 166. OCLC   41016956 . Retrieved 2015-04-03.
  6. Macmillan, A.H. (1957). Faith on the March. Prentice-Hall. p. 26. Archived from the original on 2009-09-07.
  7. Beckford, James A. (1975). The Trumpet of Prophecy: A Sociological Study of Jehovah's Witnesses. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. pp. 118–119, 151, 200–201. ISBN   0-631-16310-7.
  8. Wills, Tony (2006). A People For His Name. Lulu Enterprises. pp. 9, 10. ISBN   978-1-4303-0100-4.