Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that Christianity fell into general apostasy under Emperor Constantine in the 4th century AD. To restore pure worship in the last days, God appointed Charles Taze Russell (1852–1916), who established the Watchtower organization to provide spiritual truth for Jehovah’s true worshipers through literature such as The Watchtower and Awake! magazines.
In the 1870s Russell rejected the concept of eternal torment and joined a group of “Second Adventists” who taught that the wicked do not suffer in hell, but cease to exist when they die. In 1879 Russell split from the Adventists and began publishing Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, incorporating many Adventist beliefs such as rejection of the Trinity, eternal punishment, and the immortality of the soul. Russell also declared that Christ’s “invisible presence” (not physical return) began in 1874 and would end human government and restore paradise to earth by 1914.
The Bible warns that in the last days some will depart from the faith (1 Tim. 4:1), but nowhere does it indicate that true Christianity would almost entirely fall away. Instead, Jesus promised that the “gates of hell” would never “overpower” his church (Matt. 16:18). The apostle Paul also proclaimed that God would receive glory in His church “throughout all generations” (Eph. 3:21).
Scripture warns of a time when people “will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Tim. 4:3). Russell did this when he rejected the clear teaching of Scripture on eternal punishment (Matt. 10:28; 25:46; Luke 16:22-29; Rev. 20:10-15).