By Ronald R. Day, Senior,
Restoration Light Bible Study Services,
The claim is being made that Charles Taze Russell took his followers to the Mount of Olives to await the rapture that didn't happen.
Of course, Russell certainly did not take the thousands of Bible Students worldwide to the Mount of Olives at any time, nor do I know any reason that Russell would have for going to the Mount of Olives to wait "for an entrance into heaven".
Some are using the above picture taken in Palestine in April 1910 with the claim that some of the Bible Students went there to wait for the rapture. The picture appears the September 1, 1910 issue of the Watch Tower. An author on one site states:
I wonder how many Witnesses know that Russell and Rutherford journeyed to Jerusalem in 1910: the year they expected that all the “faithful” would be gathered to heaven 2. The photo below (from the Sept. 1910 Watchtower, page 282 - click to enlarge) shows them posing on a fitting spot: the Mount of Olives (where Jesus supposedly ascended into heaven.) This seems to suggest that they were expecting to be carried bodily up into heaven. But Russell was not a believer in a physical “rapture” into heaven (made popular in recent times by other Christian fundamentalists and the Left Behind series of books): he thought the faithful had to die first in order to be “instantly with the Lord.”3
I wonder how long they waited before they dejectedly returned to America; depressed that they were still alive on Earth: their hopes dashed.
The author of the above does not mention that the picture was taken in April of 1910. If by "bodily" above, the author means physically, the author is correct: Russell was not expecting a "rapture" of physical bodies being taken to heaven. He believed that all the "saints" would have to die physically and be changed in the resurrection.
However, regarding April of 1911: The problem is that I do not know of anytime that Russell ever wrote or spoke of any expectaion that the remainder of the 144,000 would be glorified in April of 1910. Russell had earlier presented the possiblity that one of the measurements of Great Pyramid that points to October (not April) of 1910 may indicate that the remainder of the saints could be changed at that time, but he also pointed out that there is no Biblical verification for October of 1910.
Russell wrote regarding this in Thy Kingdom Come, pages 363,364:
How long this sifting of the consecrated will last, during which some will be granted the crowns of those adjudged unworthy, and their names written instead of some whose names will be blotted out (Rev. 3:5,11), the Scriptures do not, so far as we have yet seen, indicate; but this date, 1910, indicated by the Pyramid, seems to harmonize well with the dates furnished by the Bible. It is but a few years before the full close of the time of trouble which ends the Gentile times; and when we remember the Lord's words — that the overcomers shall be accounted worthy to escape the severest of the trouble coming upon the world we may understand the reference to be to the anarchous trouble which will follow October, 1914; but a trouble chiefly upon the Church may be expected about 1910 A.D.
The above was actually written before Russell's change of viewpoint regarding the time of trouble in 1904, in which he had come to the conclusion that the time of trouble was not end in 1914, but rather that it was to begin in 1914.
At any rate, it appears to be someone's imagination that has connected that picture taken in April of 1910 with the idea that Russell and his companions were on that trip went there "to await the rapture."
Evidently, however, some amongst the Bible Students had thought that the spring of 1911 was significant. Apparently, early in 1910, before spring had come, someone asked Brother Russell:
A thought is being advanced among the friends that the work will close next spring. Do you find any Scriptural proof for such thought, and are you in sympathy with the advancing of such theory?
Brother Russell's reply was:
I do not find any ground for such a thought. I am not in sympathy with the advancement of such a theory. I think it would be far better for the dear friends not to speculate about things of which they have no knowledge. At least, I will say that I think I would do best not to speculate about things of which I have no knowledge. If they have any knowledge on this subject, they have some knowledge I do not have, and if they are sure that they have knowledge, of course to their own Master they are responsible for the using of it. But so far as I can see, dear friends, discussing such matters as that merely takes away from the friends opportunities for usefulness, and we would far better stop talking about such things and be busily engaged in the harvest work, doing what we can do, never minding whether it is going to stop next spring or not. I will tell you next spring how it will be. In the meantime, as far as I can see, we all have plenty to do. Do not anybody stop for lack of work. -- What Pastor Russell Said, Q320:1
Brother Russell was also asked:
What event is to take place in 1910, which is pointed out in the Pyramid?
Brother Russell's Reply:
Thus, it appears that Russell had little, if any, hopes regarding either the spring or fall of 1910.I do not know. There are many people who can tell you a great deal more about 1910, 1911, 1912 and 1913 than I can. All I know is there are certain dates that seem to be well fixed as far as we understand the Scriptures -- 1874, 1878, 1881 and October, 1914. I do not know about anything between at all. If other people do, they have a right to talk about it.But do you not say something in the third volume of Scripture studies about 1910? Yes, I said we might take a measurement up over that step. We do not know whether there is anything to be measured that way or not, but suppose we do take a measurement over the top of that step: It would indicate about the year 1910. But I do not know whether God meant something to be marked for 1910 or not. I think by the time we have passed that time, we might see something perhaps for 1910. Perhaps we have gotten up on that step now, for all I know. Things are going along pretty rapidly just now, dear friends. -- What Pastor Russell Said, Q77:2.
Some, however, have imaginatively misrepresented the matter even futher by mistakenly claiming that the picture was takem in October of 1914. An author on one site has produced a totally false history regarding the picture taken in April of 1910, and with the claim that it was taken in 1914, and states such as having been fact:
In 1914 the Watchtower were expecting great things. The Watchtower believed that their work on earth had been completed and 1914 would be the year that they would experience the “Rapture”, whereby all true Christians are taken from Earth by God into Heaven before other events associated with the end of the world take place. They believed in this so much that in 1914 the Watchtower organized a trip to Jerusalem so that they would be first to experience the Rapture.
Similar statements have been presented in various forums online.
Of course, in reality, no such trip to Jerusalem took place in 1914; indeed, on October 2, 1914, Russell was in Brooklyn, where he gave his famous announcement at the Bethel breakfast table that the Gentile Times had ended. If the picture had been taken in Palestine on October 1 (as some have claimed) of 1914, in those days, it would have been impossible for Russell to be in Brooklyn the next day.
Additionally, Russell had no expectations of the "end of the world" for 1914 and he had plainly stated such.