Let’s look at some examples in their literature of their use of the word “soon” and maybe we’ll discover the answer to the question: “how soon is soon?”
The Watchtower August 15 2015, p.14 & 15, paragraph 2:
Through the Messianic Kingdom, Jehovah will soon put an end to human suﬀering by destroying the wicked and delivering his people from this unstable world lying in Satan’s power. (1 John 5:19) Let us therefore remain alert and fully aware that this system is rapidly nearing its end.
The Watchtower, January 15 2014, p.31, paragraph 15:
Christ will soon complete his conquest of this ungodly society by waging the final war in righteousness. (Rev. 19:11, 19-21) Think of what the Bible assures us can then be our happy lot!—Rev. 20:1-3, 6; 21:3, 4.
What the Bible teaches: Armageddon is not a haphazard destroyer of communities. Instead, during Armageddon, only the wicked will be wiped out. The Bible promises that soon “the wicked one will be no more; and you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be.”—Psalm 37:10.
In the last number of years, the Watchtower has been preaching that God will soon end suffering and wipe out wickedness. When we read these words, how soon is soon? Is it in the next couple of weeks, months or years? If we go back 10 years, what was the Watchtower preaching?
The Watchtower, October 1 2002, p. 16, paragraph 18:
Soon, Satan’s entire wicked system will be destroyed in an unprecedented “great tribulation.” (Matthew 24:21)
The Watchtower, May 15 2000, p. 17, paragraph 12:
Very soon, his revelation in glory will mean destruction for the faithless and blessings for those exercising faith. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10) The fulfillment of Bible prophecy proves that these are “the last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 16, 17; Matthew 24:3-14) As Jehovah’s Chief Executioner, Michael, who is Jesus Christ, stands ready to bring an end to this wicked system of things during the “great tribulation.” (Matthew 24:21; Daniel 12:1) This, then, certainly is the time to demonstrate that we have faith in God’s prophetic word.
The Watchtower, November 15 1995, p. 5 & p. 6:
A much better life will come soon! We can be sure of that because the Bible says that many bad things would happen on earth just before Paradise was to usher in a better life. Those bad things are happening now.
Jesus also said: “There will be food shortages.” (Matthew 24:7) As noted in the preceding article, the world’s poor do not have enough to eat. This is another part of the evidence that a much better life in Paradise is soon to come.
Jehovah will bring mankind a much better life by means of his Kingdom. And what is God’s Kingdom? It is a real government with a God-appointed Ruler, Jesus Christ. God’s Kingdom is located in heaven, but it will soon bring marvelous blessings and a much better life to the residents of the Paradise earth.—Isaiah 9:6, 7.
If you read these articles in between 1995 and 2002, would you have been thinking that the Watchtower’s use of “soon” would mean longer than 15 to 20 years? Or would you have thought like many others that “soon” was an imminent period of time of less than a couple of years? Let’s go back further in time and see what the Watchtower preached in the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s.
The Watchtower, September 1 1975, p. 542, Questions from Readers:
How many years of secular education are advisable for children in Christian households?
Many college and university courses are based on false theories, such as evolution, that bolster the old system of things, which will soon pass away forever. (1 John 2:17)
The Watchtower, July 1 1968, p. 407, paragraph 21:
All other earthly worshipers of Jehovah rejoice in the fact that, though since 1918 the vast majority of the 144,000 members of Christ’s body of priests have assumed their places that had been reserved for them in the heavens, Jehovah has yet left upon earth a remnant of that holy brotherhood as a nucleus around which men who love God and righteousness may assemble and avail themselves of the expressions of Jehovah’s goodwill. To the great crowd of worshipers out of every nation the presence of that remnant with them gives strong assurance that soon now their hope of relief and deliverance from a wicked system of things is to be realized. This is especially so as they note that each year the numbers of that remnant continue to dwindle. What hope, what expectation, what zeal for active worship this engenders in their hearts!
The Watchtower, January 1 1954, p. 9, paragraph 20:
We have no time to get old and retire from serving the prospering Kingdom, which soon will clean out this old world with Gog of Magog and destroy it all. Then the people of good will are to enjoy continual youth under the new and glorious system of things longed for through all earth’s ages by men of righteousness, and each of them will see it continually expanding and flourishing in the new world.
In 1954, Jehovah’s Witnesses had no time to get old and retire because God’s kingdom was soon going to clean out this old world. That was 61 years ago! If readers of this article were at least 15 years of age, those very young readers would all be well into their 70’s now. I wonder if they have reserved time to get old and retire. Or maybe more of them have passed away after spending a life time preaching a message of doom to many of their neighbors with the belief that “soon” is a period of time that is no more than a couple of years.
How soon is soon?
It’s whatever you want it to be. It could be a couple of hours, a few days, several months, many years. The reality is, Watchtower has turned “soon” into a cliche. The story, “Peter & The Wolf” comes to mind: They’ve been crying “soon” for so long that no one really takes them seriously any more.