Who Was Charles Taze Russell?
During the nineteenth and early twentieth century, this world had seen more
"prophets" than at any other time in history. They affected not only their generation,
but ours today. To name just a few, there was a young fourteen year old boy, named
Joseph Smith (1805-1844) who through visions, golden plates, and doctrines unlike
biblical Christianity, developed Mormonism.
There was a spirituistic medium named Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) who
through her message of psychic healing, formed the "Christian Science" religion.
Also, there was Guy Ballard, (pen name was Godfre Ray King, 1878-1939) who
started the "The Mighty I Am" movement (associated with today's "Theosophy"). He
proclaimed that we are Gods and Goddesses in embryo form and that the solution in
life is to follow the Ascended Masters who have gone before us. Jesus and Guy Ballard
are Ascended Masters, and we are all, after death, to achieve the same status.
And so, it was in the midst of this spiritual "enlightenment" (and more) that
Charles Taze Russell was born, raised and influenced. He too would develop a religion,
currently known as the Jehovah's Witness. His followers would proclaim that Mr.
Russell is unlike any "prophets" that had come before him, or after him. They tell us
"he was the greatest religious teacher since St. Paul, and did more than any other man
of modern times to establish the faith of the people in the Scriptures. He was not the
founder of a new religion and never made such claim. He revived the great truths
taught by Jesus and the apostles...."1
Let's take a look at some of the truths Mr. Russell "revived" (we'll examine them
against Scripture later on). Also, let's get to know who this man, Mr. Russell was. To give you an idea of what his followers thought, I'll quote from a Biography they wrote on him: "Pastor Russell was a great man....The Scriptures indicate that he
was chosen of the Lord from his birth."2 "...Pastor Russell's character was and is
without blemish. He was the cleanest, purest and best man."3
The True Story
Charles Taze Russell was born on February 16, 1852 in Old Allegheny (now part
of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania. He was brought up in a Presbyterian home and when he
was nine, his mother Eliza died. At the age of fifteen he joined his father to work in
a chain of clothes stores.
At the age of sixteen Mr. Russell became discouraged and began to doubt his
faith. The one main issue he struggled with was hell. He hated the thought of it. He
said, "A God that would use his power to create human beings...[who] should be
eternally tormented, could be neither wise, just nor loving. His standard would be
lower than that of many men."4
Soon thereafter, Russell's friend convinced him that there is no such thing as
Encounter with Adventism
In 1870, at the age of eighteen, Russell rekindled something of his former faith
on a chance encounter with an Adventist pastor who helped him re-establish his
"wavering faith in the Divine inspiration of the Bible..."5
It was at this time that Russell would become an Adventist and believe more
than ever that hell doesn't exist. And because, in his mind, hell didn't exist, then this
meant that the wicked, upon death, were simply annihilated (later he would preach
that everyone, including Christ is annihilated at death, thus, Christ's body was never
resurrected). He also believed that the soul became extinct upon death (which was
similar to Adventist beliefs).
As an Adventist, Russell organized a Bible class composed of six associates and
friends who met regularly, from 1870-75. There, he taught about his new beliefs of
no hell, annihilation, and extinction of the soul. The Bible class, hungary for Bible
teaching, hung on Russell's every word. And, it was during this time that the Bible
students gave him the title "pastor." Russell was honored indeed with such a title, and
would use it the remaining days of his life. And, as "pastor" Russell would give his
small group of Bible students an amazing prophecy.
Russell's Prediction of Christ's Appearance
We are told by the Jehovah's Witness organization that,
Pastor Russell adhered closely to the teachings of the Scriptures. He believed
and taught that we are living in the time of the second presence of our Lord,
and that this presence dates from 1874; that since that time we have been
living in the `time of the end,' the `end of the age.'6
As Pastor Russell prophesied that the Lord would return in 1874 and that the
end of the age had come. His Bible students were excited. They waited, anticipated,
expected to see Christ. But, when Christ didn't appear, Russell defended his position
Was an error found? No...[W]e realized that when Jesus should come, it would
be as unobserved by human eyes as though an angel had come...Here was a
new thought: Could it be that the time prophecies...were really meant to
indicate when the Lord would be invisibly present to set up his kingdom?...[T]he
evidences satisfied me. 7
This statement of an "invisible" presence satisfied the Bible students,8 especially
when Russell used the Scripture verse, “While he was sitting upon the Mount of Olives,
the disciples approached him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and
what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?”
(Matthew 24:3, JW Bible, New World Translation). The King James version reads,
"...what shall be the sign of thy coming, and the end of the world?
Russell explained to his Bible students that the word coming isn't the correct
word. He said that the Greek word parousia really means presence. Russell had used
the 'Emphatic Diaglott,' an interlinear New Testament, published in 1870. The Diaglott
does translate Parousia as “presence.” Yet, according to The New International
Dictionary of New Testament Theology 9 (and all other Christian theology books)
parousia is also translated as “coming.”10 Therefore it’s important to look at Matthew
24:3 in its context. With Russell explaining to his followers, that parousia means
presence, he was able to make his 1914 prophecy “stick,” and convince his followers.
This was fabulous news for the Bible Students. And, there was more. Matthew 24:3
not only bids the question of Christ's return but it also asks about the end of the world.
Russell had an answer for his followers through the use of pyramidology.
Russell's Use of Pyramidology
Russell had told the Bible students that the end of the world will come with the
beginning of the tribulation which had already begun to take place in 1874. Keep in
mind, the Bible student believed this to mean that as trouble came to the world, they
would be raptured. So, how was Russell so certain that the time of trouble would
begin in 1874? Through the use of pyramidology (which has its roots in the occult).
Then measuring down the "Entrance Passage" from that point, to find the
distance to the entrance of the "Pit," representing the great trouble and
destruction with which this age is to close, when evil will be overthrown from
power, we find it to be 3416 inches, symbolizing 3416 years from the above
date, B.C. 1542. This calculation shows A.D. 1874 as marking the beginning of
the period of trouble; for 1542 years B.C. plus 1874 years A.D. equals 3416
years. Thus the Pyramid witnesses that the close of 1874 was the chronological
beginning of the time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation--no,
nor ever shall be afterward.11
Incidently, Russell called the pyramid the Great Pyramid of Gizeh. It was a
"miracle stone" and was "not planned by men but a work of God."12 Russell also