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Error of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Are the Teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses Compatible with the Bible?
Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) claim to regard the Bible as the absolute Word of God and to base all their beliefs on it. In fact, the teachings of JWs are contrary to the Bible.
The Bible. JWs use a doctored version of the Bible called the New World Translation (nwt). The JW leaders who produced the nwt were not biblical scholars, and it shows. The most obvious difference between the nwt and other Bibles is its use of “Jehovah” in the NT. JWs claim that the NT originally used the Hebrew name YHWH (translated “Jehovah” or “Yahweh”) and that apostate scribes put “Lord” (Gk kurios) in its place. There is no historical or manuscript evidence for this claim.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. JWs teach that the Father alone is Jehovah, the almighty God; that the Son, Jesus Christ, is “a god” (their translation of Jn 1:1) inferior to the Father; and that the “holy spirit” is an impersonal force emanating from God. The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each God (Jn 1:1; 17:3; 20:28; Ac 5:3–4; 2 Co 3:17–18; Ti 2:13). The Son made everything (Heb 1:10–12) and is to be honored as God (Jn 5:23; Heb 1:6; Rv 5:13). The Holy Spirit is a person, called the “Comforter” or “Helper” (Gk parakletos); He teaches, speaks, and bears witness to Jesus (Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26–27; 16:13–14).
Death, the soul, and eternal punishment. According to JWs, when unsaved human beings die, they cease to exist. There is no intermediate state of the dead and no eternal punishment for the wicked (who are annihilated instead). The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that human beings exist after their deaths as spirits awaiting the resurrection and final judgment (Lk 16:19–31; 23:43; Heb 12:9, 23; Rv 6:9–11). (The nwt mistranslates Lk 23:43 and the Hebrew texts to avoid this implication.) The wicked will suffer eternal punishment (Mt 25:46; Rv 14:9–11; 20:10).
Jesus’ resurrection and return. JWs believe that God “raised” Jesus from the dead as an angelic spirit, with a so-called spirit body. They deny that He will return visibly and personally to earth. Scripture, however, teaches that Jesus rose with the same physical body with which He died, though glorified and immortal, and that His body possessed flesh and bones, hands and feet, and even marks of His crucifixion (Lk 23:49; Jn 2:19–22; 10:17–18; 20:20, 25; Ac 2:24–32). Though He is the second person of the Godhead, Jesus is also a glorified man (Ac 17:31; 1 Co 15:47; 1 Tm 2:5) and He will return personally and bodily to the earth (Ac 1:9–11; 3:19–21; 1 Th 4:16; Heb 9:26–28).
Salvation. JWs view Jesus’ death as providing a “corresponding ransom,” releasing all people in principle from the condemnation due to Adam’s sin. However, to enjoy everlasting life, JWs believe they must not only accept Christ’s ransom but also prove themselves worthy by their works. The Bible’s teaching is quite different. Christians are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith in Christ, and our good works are the fruit of salvation, not the prerequisite for it (Rm 3:21–28; 5:1–11; Eph 2:8–10; Ti 3:4–8).
The Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) claim that only 144,000, whom they identify as JWs born prior to 1914, will reign with Christ in heaven. The author of Rv, however, identified the 144,000 as Jews from the 12 tribes of Israel.
7:4–8 The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the 144,000 represents the total number of those who will reign with Christ. Since there is a much larger group—a “vast multitude … which no one could number”—mentioned immediately afterward as taken from earth to heaven (v. 9), the JW view is discredited even in its closest context in Rv. While many believe the 144,000 is symbolic for the church, the tribal names and numbers naturally refer to ethnic Israel. The 12 tribes are numbered as a protective military deployment (e.g., Nm 2), making it plausible that 7:1–8 is implying that this sealing has to do with the new covenant entry of the Holy Spirit into the Jewish remnant returned to the promised land (Ezk 36:27; 37:7–9, 14), where the vision describes Israel as “a vast army” (Ezk 37:10).
TWISTED SCRIPTURE 1 Corinthians 15:1–8, 14–18, 19
These verses refute the Jehovah’s Witnesses doctrine that Jesus was raised from the dead as a spirit. The Apostle Paul clearly declared that without a bodily resurrection of Jesus there is no gospel, no hope for eternal life, and no meaning in the present life. When appearing to the disciples who were terrified, thinking they were seeing a ghost (Lk 24:38), Jesus assured them, “A ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have” (v. 39).
Col 1:15 Some groups denying Christ’s deity (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses) claim “firstborn” indicates Jesus was a created being. The context here, however, indicates “firstborn” is a metaphor for sovereignty or rank. It echoes a psalm of David: “I will also make him My firstborn, greatest of the kings of the earth” (Ps 89:27). Elsewhere, Israel is called God’s “firstborn” (Ex 4:22)—clearly not “first in a series.”
The most significant departure from Christianity that all cults are guilty of is rejecting Jesus Christ as God. No cult confesses Jesus as the Son of God, the second person in the triune Godhead, eternally coequal in essence, power, and authority with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Jesus of the cults is far removed from the holy Son of God revealed in Scripture. Members of the Unification Church, for example, view Jesus as a man whom people not only can equal, but also can surpass. The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Jesus is a unique, but still created, lesser god. To the Mormons, Jesus is the spirit brother of Lucifer. Christian Science speaks of Jesus as a human being who demonstrated “Christness” or the “divine idea,” but He is not the resurrected Son of God.
Any person or religious organization that denies Jesus as the Son of God as revealed in the Bible is forever separated from Christianity (2 Cor. 11:4, 13; Gal. 1:8). All cults reject the Jesus of Scripture. On this evidence alone, no cult belongs in the Christian family. If Jesus is who He claims to be (fully God and fully human—1 John 2:22), the cults are wrong and are not Christian.
Jehovah’s Witnesses argue from the statement, The Father is greater than I, that Jesus is a lesser god. But this would make Jesus a created being or would lead to polytheism, both of which are clearly unbiblical. The Father and the Son share the same essence (cf. 1:1-2; 14:9; 20:28). The Father and the Son are “One” in purpose and essence (10:30). Thus the Father is greater in office or glory than the Son was in His humiliation.
Armageddon Date Revised
September 1975 had been the date set for the world’s end, according to some zealots within the Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, it now appears that it was a slight miscalculation and has been corrected by the sect’s 81-year-old theologian, F. W. Frantz. The octogenarian squelched the idea of the September date by recalculating that Armageddon will come to pass only after the equivalent number of days that it took Adam to name the animals and God to create Eve elapses. By the Witnesses’ chronology Adam was created in 4026 B. C. making Autumn of 1975 the 6000th anniversary of his creation, one reason for the speculation that this time of year could be the Armageddon date.
Firstborn Of Every Creature”
A Christian minister once had a member of a well-known Jehovah’s Witness cult in his audience who constantly interrupted the meeting by shouting and heckling. “You cannot prove that Jesus is the eternal Son of God,” he said. “He was the FIRST-BORN of every creature; so He could not be deity. The eternal Father must therefore be older than His Son; and if Christ is not as old as His Father, then He is not eternal, if He is not eternal, He cannot be God.”
The preacher carefully considered the statement, “A father must be older than his son”; then he gave this withering reply: “While you might make such a point concerning an earthly parent, it certainly does not apply when we speak of God. I will prove that you by your own words.
“You have just called God the eternal Father. But how can God be the eternal FATHER (not just God) without having an eternal Son? Eternal FATHERHOOD demands eternal SONSHIP! When did your own paternal parent begin to be your father? At the very moment you became his son, and not before! While time must elapse before one can become a human father, this is not true of God. He is the eternal Father, and therefore He must have an eternal Son!” The critic fell silent as he pondered the preacher’s words.
—M. R. DeHaan
The popular name given since 1931 to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society which traces its origins in the 1870s to the *Adventist doctrines of the American lay preacher C. T. *Russell . His main claim was that Jesus Christ, a perfect man, had returned invisibly to earth in 1874 in order to prepare for the Kingdom of God which was expected to materialize after the Battle of Armageddon in 1914. The overriding responsibility of believers was to study the Bible and to warn as many people as possible about the impending ‘end time’ so that they might survive on earth, in turn, a First Judgement, Christ’s millennial reign on earth, and a Second Judgement. Only a ‘small flock’ of 144,000 people drawn from the whole of human history were to expect eternal life in heaven.
Schisms and reinterpretations of prophecy were frequent among Russell’s followers until his successor, J. F. *Rutherford , turned them, after the First World War, into a ‘*theocratic’ organization demanding from its members exclusive commitment, rigid adherence to ‘the Truth’, and strict indifference to the world. Rutherford’s uncompromising criticism of all political ideologies gave rise to frequent clashes with governments in many countries; it may also have helped to bring about more liberal legislation in regard to conscientious objection and the free exercise of religion. Nathan H. Knorr, who succeeded him in 1942, directed Jehovah’s Witnesses progressively away from confrontation with the world and towards missionary activity at home and abroad. Their governance became less oligarchic and more bureaucratic under the presidency of Frederick W. Franz (1977–92).
The most visible hallmarks of Jehovah’s Witnesses are their Kingdom Halls, their door-to-door ministry, the public sale of their magazines The Watchtower (1879 .) and Awake! (1946 ), and their vast assemblies held in public stadia. They are also distinctive in their taboo against blood transfusions, their practice of Baptism by complete *immersion, their own translations of the Bible, their refusal to honour symbols of nationhood, and their reluctance to mix with non-members. They have c.6 million members in 235 lands. Growth in membership is now higher in developing countries than in the advanced industrial societies, but they retain an American ethos and are still governed from the USA. The organization had about 120,000 active members in the UK in 2001.