JEHOVAH’S WITNESS

"Who are the Jehovah's Witnesses and what are their beliefs?"

The sect known today as the Jehovah's Witnesses started out in Pennsylvania in 1870, as a Bible class started by Charles Taze Russell. Russell named his group the "Millennial Dawn Bible Study." Charles T. Russell began writing a series of books he called "The Millennial Dawn," which stretched to six volumes before his death and contained much of the theology Jehovah’s Witnesses now hold. After Russell's death in 1916, Judge J. F. Rutherford, Russell's friend and successor, wrote the seventh and final volume of the "Millennial Dawn" series, "The Finished Mystery," in 1917. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society was founded in 1886 and quickly became the vehicle through which the "Millennial Dawn" movement began distributing their views to others. The group was known as the “Russellites” until 1931 when, due to a split in the organization, it was renamed the “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” The group from which it split became known as the “Bible students.”

What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe? Close scrutiny of their doctrinal position on such subjects as the Deity of Jesus, Salvation, the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, the Atonement, etc., shows beyond a doubt that they do not hold to orthodox Christian positions on these subjects. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus is Michael the archangel, the highest created being. This contradicts many Scriptures which clearly declare Jesus to be God (John 1:1,14; 8:58; 10:30). Jehovah’s Witnesses believe salvation is obtained by a combination of faith, good works, and obedience. This contradicts countless Scriptures which declare salvation to be received by faith (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the Trinity, believing Jesus to be a created being and the Holy Spirit to essentially be the power of God. Jehovah’s Witnesses hold to a ransom theory of the atonement, in which Jesus' death paid only for what mankind lost when Adam sinned - namely, the right to perfect life on earth. Thus, they believe in a faith + works arrangement, where sin and death are freely atoned for by Christ, but physical perfection is attained through personal effort, coupled with faith in Christ.

How do the Jehovah’s Witnesses justify these unbiblical doctrines? (1) They claim that the church has, over the centuries, corrupted the Bible, and (2) They have re-translated the Bible in what they call the New World Translation. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society altered the text of the Bible to make it fit their false doctrine – rather than basing their doctrine on what the Bible teaches. The New World Translation has gone through numerous editions, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses discover more and more Scriptures that contradict their doctrines.

Jehovah's Witnesses are readily shown to be a cult that is only loosely based upon Scripture. The Watchtower bases its beliefs and doctrines on the original and expanded teachings of Charles Taze Russell, Judge Joseph Franklin Rutherford, and their successors. The Governing Body of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is the only body in the cult that claims authority to interpret Scripture. In other words, what the Governing Body says concerning any Scriptural passage is viewed as the last word, and independent thinking is strongly discouraged. This is in direct opposition of Paul's admonition to Timothy (and to us as well) to study to show yourself approved of God, a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of God. This admonition, found in 2 Timothy 2:15, is a clear instruction from God to each of His individual children in the Body of Christ to be like the Berean Christians and search the Scriptures daily to see if the things they are being taught line up with what His Word has to say on the subject.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses should be commended for their “evangelistic efforts.” There is probably no religious group that is more faithful than the Jehovah’s Witnesses at getting their message out. Unfortunately, the message is full of distortions, deceptions, and false doctrine. May God open the eyes of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to the truth of the Gospel and the true teaching of God’s Word.

Jehovah’s Witnesses: Witnessing Tips

By David A. Reed, Ex-Jehovah’s Witness elder

Encounters between Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses typically revolve around a discussion of deity. The reason for this is twofold. First, this is the area where Watchtower theology deviates most dramatically from orthodox Christianity. In contrast to the Trinitarian concept of one God in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—the JWs have been taught to believe that God the Father alone is "Jehovah," the only true God; that Jesus Christ is Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God; and that the Holy Spirit is neither God nor a person, but rather God’s impersonal "active force."

Second, the subject of deity is a frequent confrontational focus because both Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christians (at least those who like to witness to JWs) feel confident and well-prepared to defend their stand and attack the opposing viewpoint. Due to the profound theological differences, such discussions often take the form of spiritual trench warfare—a long series of arguments and counterarguments, getting nowhere and ending in mutual frustration. But this need not be the case, especially if the Christian will "become all things to all men" by taking a moment to put himself in the Witness’s shoes, so to speak (see 1 Corinthians 9:22).

In the JW’s mind he himself is a worshiper of the true God of the Bible, while you are a lost soul who has been misled by the devil into worshiping a pagan three-headed deity. He is, no doubt, quite sincere in these beliefs and feels both threatened and offended by the doctrine of the Trinity. To give any serious consideration to your arguments in support of the Trinity is simply unthinkable to the JW; he would be sinning against Jehovah God to entertain such a thought. So, in order to make any headway with the Witness, it is necessary to bridge the gap—to find common ground that will enable him to rethink his theology. Rather than plunging into a defense of "the doctrine of the Trinity," which can be mind-boggling even to a Christian, take things one step at a time. A good first step would be to consider the question, "Is Jesus Christ really an angel?" It will be frightening to the Jehovah’s Witness to open this cherished belief of his to critical reexamination, but not nearly as frightening as to start off discussing evidence that God is triune.

Since the Watchtower Society speaks of "Jesus Christ, whom we understand from the Scriptures to be Michael the archangel" (The Watchtower, February 15, 1979, p. 31), put the JW on the spot and ask him to show you "the Scriptures" that say Jesus is Michael. There are none.

The Watchtower Society New World Translation (NWT) mentions Michael five times as: 1) "one of the foremost princes" (Dan. 10:13); 2) "the prince of [Daniel’s] people" (Dan. 10:21); 3) "the great prince who is standing in behalf of the sons of [Daniel’s] people" (Dan. 12:1); 4) "the archangel" who "had a difference with the devil and was disputingabout Moses’ body" but "did not dare to bring a judgment against him in abusive terms" (Jude 9); and 5) a participant in heavenly conflict when "Michael and his angels battled with the dragon" (Rev. 12:7).

Ask the Jehovah’s Witness which one of these verses says that Michael is Jesus Christ. Help him to see that it is necessary to read Scripture plus a complicated Watchtower argument to reach that conclusion. Rather than being merely "one of the foremost princes," Jesus Christ is "Lord of lords and King of kings" (Rev. 17:14, NWT) and is "far above every government and authority and power and lordship and every name named, not only in this system of things, but also in that to come" (Ephesians 1:21, NWT). And, unlike "Michael who did not dare condemn the Devil with insulting words, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’" (Jude 9, Today’s English Version), Jesus Christ displayed His authority over the devil when He freely commanded him, "Go away, Satan!" (Matthew 4:10, NWT).

In arguing that Jesus is Michael the archangel, the Watchtower Society also points to another verse that does not use the name Michael but says that "the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet . . ." (1 Thessalonians 4:16, NWT). However, the expression "with an archangel’s voice" simply means that the archangel, like God’s trumpet, will herald the coming of the Lord, not that the Lord is an archangel. Point out to the JW that none of the verses he has attempted to use as proof-texts even comes close to stating that Jesus Christ is Michael the archangel. In fact, Scripture clearly teaches the opposite: namely, that the Son of God is superior to the angels. The entire first chapter of Hebrews is devoted to this theme.

Have the Witness read Hebrews chapter one aloud with you, and, as you do so, interrupt to point out the sharp contrast between angels and the Son of God. "For to what angel did God ever say, ‘Thou are my Son . . .?’ And again, when he brings the first-born into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him’" (vv. 5,6, Revised Standard Version). Remind the JW that angels consistently refuse worship ("Be careful! Do not do that! . . .Worship God," Revelation 22:8,9, NWT), but the Father’s command concerning the Son is, "Let all God’s angels worship him" (Hebrews 1:6). That is how the Watchtower’s own New World Translation read for some 20 years until, in 1970, the Society changed it to read "do obeisance to him" instead of "worship him"—part of their consistent campaign to eliminate from their Bible all references to the deity of Christ.

True, you have not yet proved the "doctrine of the Trinity" in this discussion. But you have laid a good foundation by giving the Jehovah’s Witness convincing evidence that Jesus Christ is not an angel (he is now faced with the question of who Jesus really is), and you have shown that the Watchtower Society has misled him, even resorting to altering Scripture to do so. Now you are in a much better position to go on to present the gospel.

Speaking the Truth in Love to Jehovah’s Witnesses        By Clint DeBoer

I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and remained one until age 11. Coming out of this cult, I entered my teenage years as a bitter atheist where I remained until I graduated from college. Through God’s amazing grace I was saved in 1994 after reading the Bible and realizing that it was indeed the true Word of God. Repeatedly God has blessed me with the passion and privilege to witness to the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

You’ve almost certainly had them come knocking on your door on a Saturday afternoon and you may have even engaged a Jehovah’s Witness in a theological discussion. In talking to other Christians I find that when presented with a face-to-face encounter with a Jehovah’s Witness there are usually two responses: 1) A "frontal assault" via debate or heated discussion; or 2) A polite "no thanks, I’m already a Christian" followed by an all too abrupt closing of the door. For the mature Christian, what’s usually missing is the realization that this is a true witnessing opportunity—one that has arrived right at your doorstep. In my earliest attempts at grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns, I tried engaging them in direct debates, often quoting from several texts I had studied regarding the cultic practices of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

After several failed "conversion" attempts, often ending with thoroughly frustrated Jehovah’s Witnesses unwilling to ever return to my residence, I arrived at a startling realization: Jehovah’s Witnesses are real people, with real needs and real feelings. They can feel frustration, anger, fear, and confusion. I then realized that the reason my frontal assaults on the Jehovah’s Witnesses never seemed to work was because I had not put myself in their place and taken their feelings into account. A wise man once said, "When you want to get someone’s attention, you don’t shine a flashlight in their eyes." In presenting my arguments and facts without giving them time to prepare, I had forgotten that they were human beings searching for the truth. I had not been speaking this truth in love.

Months later, when I was again presented with an opportunity to speak with Jehovah’s Witnesses at my door, I engaged them in conversation, and agreed to do a weekly Bible study with them in order to further discuss what exactly they believed. They agreed, with the understanding that along the way I would ask questions whenever we arrived at a topic or subject with which I disagreed or failed to understand. The amazing difference was that instead of blindsiding them with questions and points of contention, I was giving them an opportunity to prepare themselves for a topic of discussion. More importantly, though, I began to care about them personally and yearn for their salvation. In this way, I am able to meet with Witnesses on a weekly basis and take them off the streets, focusing on critical topics such as the requirement that one be born again to enter the kingdom of God, the unbiblical theology of a two-class system of believers, and the true identity of Jesus Christ.