Fred W. Franz
Charles T. Russell died in 1916. His post was filled by Joseph F. Rutherford, who boldly predicted that the end of the world would come in 1925. His predictions died with him in 1942.
While the Watch Tower Society’s third president, Nathan H. Knorr, did not play the role of prophet, under his administration Fred W. Franz (his vice president) did issue a prediction. In his book, Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God, published in 1966, Franz wrote that it would be “appropriate” and “most fitting” for Jesus to begin His millennial reign in 1975 (which would mark the end of 6,000 years of human history). He said: “...it would not be by mere chance or accident but according to the loving purpose of Jehovah God for the reign of Jesus Christ...to run parallel with the seventh millennium of man’s existence” (as quoted in Franz, 1983, p. 61).
Although this prediction was worded cautiously, the point was clear enough that the Jehovah’s Witnesses looked forward to 1975 with tremendous expectation. That year passed, of course, as had 1914 and 1925. The prophecy failed, and disillusionment gripped several hundred thousand Jehovah’s Witnesses who subsequently abandoned the Watch Tower (Chretien, 1988).
Mr. Franz served as president of the Watch Tower from 1977 until his death in 1991. He, like his predecessors, failed the decisive test of a prophet: “If the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously” (Deuteronomy 18:22).
Franz, Raymond (1983), Crisis of Conscience (Atlanta, GA: Commentary Press).
Cretien, Leonard and Marjarie (1988), Witnesses of Jehovah (Eugene, OR: Harvest House).
[See related article: “Prophecies—True and False”]