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An Assessment of Jehovah Witnesses
by Dr. Henderson Ward
11/08/2013 / Christian Living
Jesus Christ never compromised. Jesus never said, "I am right and you are wrong but for the sake of peace I will meet you halfway". This is not how it works in the Kingdom of God. God verily does not seek popularity and Heaven is not a democracy but a monarchy with Almighty God on the throne. No matter how committed you are to your religion, how passionate you believe and defend its doctrines, it is necessary to be on the right track otherwise you will be lost. The Bible says this, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Proverbs 14:12)
So, are Jehovah's Witnesses on the right track; are their religion Christian?
Many scholars, theologians and websites have examined Jehovah's Witness religion and have pointed out the many errors they found and one such website posited the following.
"Is the Jehovah's Witness religion Christian? The answer to the question is, "No. It is not Christian." Like all non-Christian cults, the Jehovah's Witness organization distorts the essential doctrines of Christianity. It denies the deity of Christ, His physical resurrection, and salvation by grace. This alone makes it non-Christian. To support its erring doctrines, the Watchtower organization (which is the author and teacher of all official Jehovah's Witness theology), has even altered the Bible to make it agree with its changing and non-Christian teachings. Typical with cults that use the Bible to support its position is a host of interpretive errors: Taking verses out of their immediate context; Refusing to read verses in the entire biblical context; Inserting their theological presuppositions into the text; Altering the Biblical text to suit their needs; Latching onto one verse to interpret a host of others; Changing the meanings of words; Proclaiming some passages to be figurative when they contradict their doctrines and adding to the Word of God." (Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry website 2007)
Believers should be aware that one of the most deceptive and insidious phenomenon of a Christian cult is its appearance of reasonableness. This is particularly true when viewed through the eyes of non-Christians looking, with an open mind, for some spiritual enlightenment.
Having resorted to several authentic sources of Jehovah's Witnesses information, including their official website and Watchtower publications, I am impressed with the manner of their presentations as if what they offer is reasonable orthodoxy. They say they believe in one God, who created the heavens and the earth; they postulate a purposeful God; they state man's position as prime among earthly creations; they affirm original man's purpose and his fall from grace; they declare God's plan for humankind will still be realized; they proffer the idea that mankind has an eternal future with Christ; they contend that all men are sinners and therefore subject to death; they say that the dead can live again through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; they are positive that this good news was starting to be promulgated by Jesus when he was on earth and they (Jehovah Witnesses) are the only ones truly doing the same thing.
After all this I can almost hear them say, "So come and join us". This is powerful stuff to the uninitiated as well as to those who are on the periphery of mainstream Christianity but on closer examination it is like the grain of corn the mongoose uses to trap the undiscerning chicken.
Someone once said "the devil is in the details" and this has never been more true that in this seemingly reasonable position on matters to do with man's salvation. By my own estimation, I have carefully counted them; there are 42 Articles of their statement of faith as reflecting Jehovah's Witnesses' theology and I shall show that a large number of them (by no means all) are contrary to the Bible and are therefore seriously erroneous, and to the undiscerning, highly dangerous.
Jehovah's Witnesses Differences from Biblical Christianity
Jehovah Witnesses claim that their Church (The Watchtower) is God's only true Church and all other churches are false and apostate since Jesus Christ. Christians know that it is God who defines his church, not an organization that started in dubious circumstances in AD 1884 under Charles Taze Russell (18521916) and it was Jesus Christ who said, "And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18).
The Ecclesia has never died out at any time during its history even though it was subjected to the most horrendous persecutions; for had it done so "the gates of hell" would have prevailed.
Equally important the Jehovah Witnesses have a false concept of the Ecclesia not understanding that it consists of people who "worship the Father in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23) regardless of denomination, and Peter affirmed this, "But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." (Acts 10:35).
They also claim that the Bible can only be understood by Jehovah's Witnesses. If this claim was true then they could easily have demonstrated it by accepting the Bible as fully inerrant, in their original manuscripts, instead of producing a bible riddled with errors to suit their latest theology.
The Bible is the holy, inspired Word of God and it is not for private interpretation, "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation." (2 Peter 1:20) and it is God's children everywhere who are given the necessary understanding, "unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God" (Mark 4:11, see also John 7:17) and this is based on the certainty that it is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer that illuminates and give guidance in all truths: "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13).
Jehovah's Witnesses do not understand the Person or function of the Holy Spirit as we shall see later and this claim that the Bible can only be understood by them is clear evidence of their bizarre theology.
They claim that Jesus Christ of the Bible is really only a created being known as Michael the Archangel and he is not God the Son. This flies in the face of an abundance of Scriptures affirming the opposite to what they teach, since John clearly states that Jesus (the Logos or Word) was from everlasting, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God" (John 1:1-2) and again anything one can say about God the Father, as it relates to his essence and attributes, one can say about God the Son for they are, along with the Holy Spirit, co-equal, "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9).
Jehovah's Witnesses make, in addition, several more false claims about Jesus Christ.
First that he was not put to death on a cross but died on a stake in the ground. The Bible is very clear that Jesus was cruelly nailed to a cross and died thereon and this is supported throughout the New Testament, "And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the son of God, come down from the cross" (Matthew 27:40) and in the same scene the chief priests, scribes and elders mocked him, "He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him come down from the cross, and we will believe him." (Matthew 27:42), and Mark affirmed this in several scriptures; "And they compelled one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross" (Mark 15:21). "Save thyself, and come down from the cross" (Mark 15:30). "Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross" (Mark 15:32). Other scriptures affirming the cross are (Luke 23:26, John 19:19, 25, Philippians 2:8, Colossians 1:20, 2:14, and Hebrews 12:2.
Second, that Jesus returned invisibly in 1914. Anyone familiar with Jehovah's Witnesses will know that they have a long history of false prognostication. They falsely predicted that the end of the world would occur in 1914, then changed it to 1918, then changed it to 1925, then changed it to 1942, then changed it to 1975.
The Second Advent of Jesus Christ will be a very public affair and no one will have any doubt about it, "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:30) and again, "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him" (Revelation 1:7). No, Jesus did not come in 1914 and when he does everyone will know.
Third, they deny the Deity of Jesus Christ, and to be consistent, if they say Jesus was a created being, then it follows that he does not possess Deity. This is a case of bad theology and wishful thinking. Jehovah's Witnesses have shown that they do not understand God's Plan of Salvation and seem unable to distinguish between the Offices of Christ and his Attributes.
When Jesus said, "for my Father is greater than I" (John 14:28) context and sound hermeneutics (interpretation) will show that Jesus was referring to his office not his essence or attributes for he mentioned the Father (John 14:24) the Holy Spirit (John 14:26) and said, "But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment so I do". This was about Jesus' office, his mission and nothing else.
Jesus' Deity is clearly put forth in Scripture both in the Old and New Testament. Coequal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ is the Creator (John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:16, Ephesians 3:9, Hebrews 1:2), he is the upholder and sustainer of all things (Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:17), he is the Redeemer of mankind (Revelation 5:9, Romans 3:24, Galatians 1:4, Titus 2:14).
Jesus Christ is called God, "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom" (Hebrews 1:8), also see Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 3:3, Isaiah 40:3), he forgave sins which only God can do, "When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." (Mark 2:5) see also Mark 2:10, Luke 7:47-48, Mark 2:7, Luke 5:21).
Jesus raised the dead, which is God's prerogative, "And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother. (Luke 7:11-15) see also John 11:38-44.
Jesus received worship, and God alone is to be worshipped: "And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy" (Luke 24:52), "And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him." (John 9:38).
These and many more scriptures, including the many unique miracles Jesus performed, show beyond any doubt that Jesus Christ is God.
Fourth, they deny the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Again because they claim Jesus came in 1914 then it follows that they need to spiritualize everything to be consistent.
That Jesus bodily rose from the dead is clearly taught in the Bible, for after his death Jesus made several appearances to his disciples, he ate with them, he broke bread with them, Thomas spoke to him and touched his body, saw his wounds, Jesus walked and talked with the two walking along the Emmaus road and Jesus body was not in the empty tomb.
If Jesus was not risen then his enemies, the rulers of the day and their supporters would certainly have produced his body to prove it but they could not because Jesus had been physically resurrected, "And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you." (Matthew 28:5- 7) see also Matthew 28: 9, Mark 16:6, Luke 24:3, and John 20:6-7.
Jehovah's Witnesses have vehemently affirmed that there is no such person as the Holy Spirit. As we have seen with regards to the Deity of Jesus, the Deity and the Person of the Holy Spirit is clearly set forth in Scripture as part of the Holy Trinity, a concept also denied by the Jehovah's Witnesses.
The Bible teaches the Trinity. The word "Trinity" is not mentioned in the Bible, I believe it was created sometime around 180 AD by Theophilus of Antioch, and for this reason is not accepted by many. However the word "Trinity" is just a word trying to explain a Biblical concept which many find hard to grasp but was accepted by the early church and affirmed in the final form of the Nicene Creed following the Council of Constantinople in AD 381.
The Bible states clearly this plurality of persons, for example in Geneses 1:26a it says, "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" clearly a plurality of persons. In Deuteronomy 6:4 we read, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord" which when given the Hebrew read like this, "Hear, O Israel: Jehovah our Elohim is one Jehovah" making it clear that Jehovah and Elohim refer to the same person and is usually translated in English as LORD God.
The number of persons in the Godhead is expressly stated in the New Testament, "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." (1 John 5:7). Other references are Isaiah 48:16; Matthew 3:16-17; John 14:16. It is clear from all this that the Trinity consisting of three individual persons, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are three distinct persons and these three are one.
Jehovah's Witnesses also teach that salvation comes only through being a Jehovah's Witness and doing all that the Watchtower asks you to do. The falsity of this can be easily shown because salvation comes only by the grace of God through faith in Christ. Salvation is God's way of bringing his righteousness to men by faith in Jesus Christ, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:16-17), see also 1 Corinthians 1:21, Galatians 3:22; and it is based on the death of Jesus Christ for remission of sins (Romans 3:21-26).
When a person believes on Jesus Christ he is saved (Acts 16:31), meaning that because of Jesus' substitutionary death he is redeemed, cleansed, justified and reconciled (John 13:10, 1 Co 6:11).
Salvation is also progressive, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1Corinthians 1:18 NIV) and needs the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the process, "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
(Romans 8:13), see also 2 Corinthians 3:18, Philippians 2:12; and the responsibility of the saved is to obey God and live a life reflective of the grace of God by exhibiting spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). This has absolutely nothing to do with the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Another false claim they make is that only 144,000 Jehovah's Witnesses will go to Heaven and no one else. Since Jehovah's Witnesses tend to neglect proper Biblical hermeneutics (interpretation) it is therefore not surprising that they make so many erroneous assertions. The 144,000 referred to is found in Revelation 7 verse 4, "And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and they were sealed a hundred and forty four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel."
This is the heavenly scene which the Apostle John saw and it is clear these people are Jews (and probably representative of all humanity) and not gentiles and can in no way, if the normal principles of Biblical hermeneutics are followed, be anybody other than the Jews. The clincher for this is what follows next in the same heavenly scene, "After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands." (Revelation 7:9). These people, vast in number, are obviously non-Jews and are all saved Gentiles throughout the ages.
This gives the lie to the Jehovah's Witness theology that the 144,000 refers to them and also their denial of a heavenly home for all believers.
Jehovah's Witnesses also claim that if you should hear their message and not become a Jehovah's Witness then God will destroy you and your children at the coming Armageddon. This is scaremongering which is one of the fundamental characteristics of most cults.
The destruction wrought at the battle of Armageddon has nothing to do with Jehovah's Witnesses except they are included for destruction as the enemy of God. Armageddon occurs at the end of the Tribulation and the Bible records it this way, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken." (Matthew 24:29) and the Apostle John in Revelation gives further details to do with the actual battle (Revelation 19:11-20:3). In every case the battle is against the enemy of God who are the people who do not accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and led by Satan and his cohorts.
People do not become the enemy of God because they think and do things differently or because they belong to this denomination or another, "And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part." (Mark 9:38-40) but rather their response to Jesus Christ, "And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (Acts 16:30-31), see also John 3:16, Luke 19:10.
The Jehovah's Witnesses also deny eternal torment in Hell and they can only do so if they completely disregard the clear teachings of the Bible. Here I quote John the Baptist as he warns against rejection of Jesus Christ like this, "but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." And again in the Gospel of Mark we find this, "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched." (Matthew 9:43-44).
In describing the fate of those who reject God and worship the beast, Revelation states, "The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name." (Revelation 14:10-11). Jesus told the people of this destiny in these words, "Then shall he say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25:41). These scriptures show that man has an eternal soul (something also denied by the Jehovah's Witnesses) otherwise they could not be perpetually tormented and it is clear that man's destiny is forever with God or forever with Satan in hell and the choice is not God's but the individual using his free will to choose one or the other.
So, is there hope for the Jehovah's Witnesses? Yes, but not if they continue in their willingness to flout the Scriptures and adhere to unsound theology. What a person believes is very important and the Bible affirms it this way, " For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7). God is merciful and his compassion fails not and all who serves him in SPIRIT and in TRUTH can look forward to a blessed eternity with him.
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2017
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