Counterfeit’s at Our Door - Jehovah’s Witnesses
I was home on Summer Break from college on a Saturday morning – I was packing getting ready to go do a summer internship at Conneaut Lake – PA. I was going to be preaching at 3 camp grounds every Sunday and working with the youth. I was pumped (excited) about the opportunity. The door bell rings and there was well dressed middle aged man, a woman probably same age as the man, and a younger man. They asked my mother whether they could have a few minutes of her time that they wanted to talk about salvation. My mother was kind explaining that she was the wife of the pastor who served the Methodist Church in town. The middle age woman said well we still would like to explain salvation and the end times to you for it would “not be too late” for her to make the decision for her life. Wrong answer glad my mom had put her rolling pin down before answering the door – in other words she got rather irritated and almost helped them off the front porch. I was standing on the steps thinking okay let’s debate. So I invite them in on one condition they give me the same amount of time for me to talk about my faith. The younger man said “we don’t think your Bible is correctly translated.” That is fine – we can use an original Greek manuscript to translate it if you like (I had just finished my first year of Greek – I figured he hadn’t clue about Greek). They decide that it might be better use of time to go to our next door neighbor. As they walked down the street I called to them - “Come back any time I would love to talk about Jesus.” I sure my mother was thinking – “thanks a lot you won’t be here the next time they come.”
How many of you have had a Jehovah’s Witness at your door? What do you do when they do come to share their faith? Are you prepared to talk about your faith and what you believe in? This morning let’s take a look at what the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in and see how it differs with Christianity. Listen as Libby reads basic theology.
Matthew 3:13-17 (NIV)
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" 15 Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented. 16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
I. History of the Jehovah's Witness:
Charles Taze Russell began the Jehovah’s Witness movement in the late 1870’s. He and few others formed an independent group in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Russell developed his theology from many different sources, including the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and his own interpretation of the Bible. During the course of his ministry Russell disputed many beliefs of mainstream Christianity including:
- Immortality of the soul
- Return of Jesus Christ
- The Trinity
- The leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses are a group of men who head an organization called the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WBTS) or simply the Watchtower Society located in Brooklyn, NY.
- This small group wields absolute spiritual authority over the members.
- To date, the Society has had six presidents – each one has had a unique mark on the Society’s religion.
- Charles Taze Russell (1872-1916) – founder and first president: Wrote an interpretation of the Bible called the Studies in the Scriptures which are considered "the light of the Scriptures." He claimed that the study came directly from God through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.
- He claimed that a new divine interpreter was needed to understand the Bible and he was God’s new divine interpreter. He rewrote parts of the Bible to fit his interpretation like the subtle change in John 1:1-2 “In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This one was in [the] beginning with God. 3 All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.”
John 1:1-2 (NIV) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. JW believe that Jesus was not divine – the Word was “a god.”
- Yet today’s leaders of the Watchtower Society contradict many of Russell’s doctrines and “divine interpretations” of the Scripture.
- They believe that if you study the Bible alone it will lead to darkness and heresy. They believe that if you read the Bible – not their new interpreted version- alone that you will come to the same conclusion that the Church had 100 years ago and that is heresy.
- One of their followers for 35 years Cal Lehman noted that the more he read the Bible without Watchtower publications the more errors he saw in the teaching of the Watchtower.
- Judge Joseph F. Rutherford (1917-1942) – 2nd president: ended up ignoring, altering and denying hundreds and maybe even thousands of Russell’s teaching. He justified this by claiming ongoing revelations. A number of Russell’s followers did leave during this period.
- Nathan H. Knoor (1942-1977) – 3rd president: the witnesses numbers grew during this time from 105,000 to 2.2 million. A new Bible translation was produced to support their interpretation.
- Frederick W. Franz (1977-1992) – 4th president: this era could be labeled the era of crisis because thousands began to examine the history of Watchtower Society and became convinced that it was not God’s organization and either left or were dis-fellowshipped / kicked out. President Franz nephew, Raymond left the Watchtower and wrote a book showing why the Watchtower Society cannot be God’s sole channel on earth. He cites evidence that the Watchtower Society is:
- Given extensive false prophecies
- Continues to change teachings and policies
- Engaged in lying and cover-ups
- Has brought destruction into the lives of some of its members
- The emphasis was not loyalty to God and His Word but to the organization
- Milton G. Henschel (1992-2000) – 5th president: stepped down after only 8 years in the midst of restructuring the organization.
- Don Adams (2000-present) - 6th president: have to wait to see about his impact.
- Basic Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs differ greatly from Christianity.
- Source of Authority:JWs claim the Bible as their final authority, but Russell's writings, especially Studies in the Scriptures, are considered "the light of the Scriptures." JWs have their own translation of the Scriptures (New World Translation, published in 1961), which reflects the binding interpretations of the group's leaders.
- The JWs' New World Translation greatly perverts the Scriptures to avoid placing themselves under the judgment of God (cf. Jn. 1:1; 8:58; I Tim. 2:6; Ac. 10:36; Col. 1:16-17; 2:9-10; etc.).
- The leader's interpretation of the Bible, not the Bible itself, is the final authority of JWs. The Watchtower magazine is one of the JWs main sources of doctrine, and is considered authoritative by its members. That has caused some of the defections over the years.
- Trinity:JWs believe that God is not a triune God, but only "Jehovah God" (Let God Be True, pp. 100-101); they teach that Trinitarianism is a belief in three gods, and thereby, Satan-inspired polytheism.
- Rutherford wrote: "... sincere persons who want to know the true God and serve him find it a bit difficult to love and worship a complicated, freakish-looking, three-headed God...” (Let God Be True, 2nd ed., pp. 101-102).
- God the Father: Known as Jehovah, the Watchtower considers Him to be the only true eternal God, the Almighty. They write, "There was, therefore, a time when Jehovah was all alone in universal space" (Let God Be True, p. 25). Being alone, the first creative act of Jehovah was to create His Son.
- Jesus Christ : Since JWs do not believe in the Trinity, they also do not believe that Jesus is God in the flesh and do not believe that God was directly part of creation.
- Paul talking about Christ says in Colossians 1:16-17 (NIV) 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
- The "Watchtower" teaches that Jehovah God created Michael the Archangel before the foundation of the world; Michael was His only begotten son by virtue of the fact that he was the only creature directly created by Jehovah. It was this created Michael who became the JW Jesus; i.e., a denial of the eternality of Christ.
- JWs say that "Since actual conception took place, it appears that Jehovah God caused an ovum or egg in Mary's womb to become fertile, accomplishing this by the transfer of the life of his first born son (Michael) from the spirit realm to the earth" (Aid to Bible Understanding, p. 920).
- "Marvelously, Jehovah transferred the life-force and the personality pattern of his first born heavenly son, Michael, to the womb of Mary. God's own active force, his holy spirit, safeguarded the development of the child in Mary's womb so that what was born was a perfect human" (Reasoning, p. 255).] JWs also add an "a" in John 1:1, making the verse read, "the Word was a god," which in essence, makes the JWs guilty of the same polytheism of which they accuse Christians of.
- Resurrection of Christ: JWs deny the bodily resurrection of Christ through their teaching that the body of Christ was annihilated by God - not risen - but rather a new one was created three days after His death. This they call the "resurrection" of Christ. Thus, Jesus was "resurrected" as a "glorious spirit creature" and does not now have a glorified physical body. Instead, they claim Jesus arose spiritually and only "materialized" at various times after His resurrection so He could be seen alive. (Awake!, 7/22/73, p. 4)
- As Christians we believe in a physical and spiritual resurrection.
- The Holy Spirit: JWs deny the deity of the third person of the Trinity, as either God or as a person; they claim that the Holy Spirit is only an impersonal "active force of Almighty God which moves His servants to do His will" – Star Wars – “may the force be with you”
- They have written, "But the holy spirit has no personal name. The reason for this is that the holy spirit is not an intelligent person.
- It is the impersonal, invisible active force that finds its source and reservoir in Jehovah God and that he uses to accomplish his will even at great distances, over light years of space" (Let Your Name Be Sanctified, p. 269).
- Sin: JWs believe that the first man, Adam, disobeyed Jehovah when tempted by the angel Lucifer, who was jealous of man. As a result of disobedience, Adam and all his descendants lost the right to life and so became liable to death. This liability is applied to temporal death only.
- Salvation: JWs claim everlasting life is a reward for doing the will of God and carrying out one's dedication -- in other words, salvation is a reward for good works.
- JWs are expected to spend five hours per week in door-to-door visitation and witnessing, are responsible for selling twelve subscriptions to The Watchtower magazine each month, and are responsible for conducting a "Bible study" each month in the homes of their converts.
- According to JW theology, a person has one of three possible destinies.
- The Anointed (144,000) will be in heaven to reign with Jehovah God.
- The rest of the faithful Jehovah's Witnesses (not of the 144,000) will live forever on a paradise Earth.
- Both of these classifications are determined to a great extent on membership in the Watchtower organization as well as going door-to-door spreading the message of the Watchtower.
- Those people who are not members of the Watchtower organization will be destroyed by Jehovah God and cease to exist. There is no concept of eternal punishment or hell in Watchtower theology (Let God Be True, pp. 90-95, 289). They also believe that men will have a second chance, after death, to be saved.
- The Church - The Body of Christ: JWs believe that the members of the spiritual Body of Christ, or "Christian Congregation," number only 144,000 (Rev. 7:4-8). Most of those members of Christ's Body are now deceased and are reigning with Jesus in heaven since 1918.
- Anybody born after 1936 cannot be in that number. The remaining members still on earth, approximately 8,000 (out of whom are selected the "Governing Body"), are known as the "Remnant." They are collectively known as Jehovah God's "channel of communication" to men. They are the only ones "born again" and are the only ones who have a hope of going to Heaven.
- The rest of Jehovah's faithful witnesses only hope to be worthy enough to inherit the Earth, and will never see "Jesus/Michael," nor will they ever go to Heaven. All "so called Christendom" will be destroyed at Armageddon.
- Annihilation of the Wicked. JWs teach that the "second death" is annihilation and extinction -- the wicked will cease to exist and will not suffer everlasting torment. They claim that a "doctrine of a burning hell" is "wholly unscriptural," "unreasonable," "contrary to God's love," and "repugnant to justice." [HJB] They claim that "hell" is the grave
- Some other interesting facts like no blood transfusion have created some controversies.
- "Taking blood into the body through mouth or veins violates God’s laws." The Jehovah’s Witnesses are perhaps best known to other Americans as people who won’t allow themselves or their children to have blood transfusions. In fact, they will go so far as to allow a loved one to die rather than accept a transfusion, as they believe transfusions are a gross violation of God’s law.
- No Clergy! "A clergy class and special titles are improper." In support of this position, Witnesses refer to these verses: "I will not show partiality to any person or use flattery toward any man" (Job 32:21). Had a call from a Jehovah Witness last week about doing a wedding on this past Saturday. I declined because it didn’t give me enough time to do pre-marital counseling.
- 1914 – The Generation That Will Not Pass Away – they prophesied that the 1914 generation would not pass away that makes a person 98 today. They have backed off many prophesies including this one. They have had to back off some prophesies and others they have re-arranged with new explanations.
How do we share our faith with a Jehovah’s Witness?
- Through the Scripture – they read the Bible with Witness’ interpretation – they don’t read the Bible without Watchtower aids. In fact they tell their believers that they are not smart enough to interpret the Bible without their assistance.
- Rather than read the verse yourself, ask the Witness to read it aloud from the organization’s New World Translation.
- (If you simply quote the verse from memory, the JW may assume that you misquoted it; or, if you read it first from a non-Witness translation, that it was mistranslated.)
- Have the Witness break down the verse into clauses, phrases, and individual words. Ask him or her to comment on what each means. The Watchtower interpretation of the whole may disintegrate when the parts are examined separately.
- Using Other Books or Websites that talk about the differences between Christianity and the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They can make you more familiar with the sect’s history and beliefs, and can prepare you for some of the off-the-wall arguments you can expect from well-trained JWs. But these books are best left unseen and preferably unmentioned to the Witness.
- Using Watchtower Literature
The most powerful tool you can use to help a fully indoctrinated Jehovah’s Witness is his own literature. But, how could that be so? Would not his own literature simply reinforce his existing beliefs? No, because it is here that you will find the documentary evidence disproving the Watchtower Society’s claim to divine authority.
- Buried in the back issues of The Watchtower are countless contradictions, false prophecies, back-and-forth doctrinal changes, fraudulent deceptions, and patently ludicrous notions—all taught as “the Truth.”
In summary, then, understand that the Witnesses’ use of the Bible typically involves two main problems.
- First, they quote passages out of context, highlighting only those verses which appear to support their beliefs, while ignoring others which contradict those beliefs.
- Second, their own NWT often distorts the text so as to support their beliefs. Be wary, then, when the Witnesses come to your door.
Please click here for slides to accompany the sermon.