Jehovah's Witnesses


The following material was previously used in a Bible class and will require a different approach from most of the articles on this website. Please read the sections on the history and doctrinal beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and then take your Bible and study along as the material puts their teachings to the test. This material is not in any way an attack on the character of those who accept the teachings of the Watchtower, but a call to measure all things by the teachings of Christ (2 John 7–11).

  1. Brief history of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    1. Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) became a skeptic at about age 16, but at 18 became involved with Second Adventists. They helped restore his faith in the Bible, but they were also a key influence in his rejection of the idea of eternal punishment and his development of a great interest in Bible chronology and things related to the end of time.

    2. In 1879 he began to publish the Watch Tower magazine and in 1881 formed Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society. (The two words Watch Tower would later become just one word).

    3. Russell, a prolific writer and well-liked by people despite several scandals in his personal life, was able to build a small, but dedicated following.

    4. After Russell’s death Joseph Franklin Rutherford (1869-1942), usually known as Judge Rutherford, took the reins of the Watchtower Society and began to build the numbers.

    5. Under Russell the congregations of “Bible Students” were relatively autonomous, but Judge Rutherford imposed rigid controls on the local congregations.

    6. The name Jehovah’s Witnesses was adopted in 1931.

    7. From 1950 to 1961 the New World Translation was progressively released. This translation was most noted for the insertion of the name Jehovah into the New Testament despite a lack of any textual support for it.

    8. Through the years the Watchtower has been noted for setting dates and then having to explain away the failure of the prediction.

      1. Russell set 1914 as the time of Armageddon, but when 1914 passed without the return of Christ he revised his prophecy to say that Christ had come, but with an invisible presence.

      2. Rutherford set 1925 as the date and the Society suffered a huge drop in numbers for a few years after that.

      3. Later, Watchtower writings pointed to 1975 as the end.

      4. Since 1975 the Watchtower has been more cautious, but a 1990 edition ofAwake does say: “this magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away.”

    9. Today (2009) the membership numbers more than 7,000,000 worldwide.

  2. Doctrinal beliefs.

    1. Rejection of the “Trinity.”

      1. There is only one “Person” in the Godhead, i.e. God the Father, and He is known by the name Jehovah.

      2. The Deity of Jesus is denied.

        1. Jesus is a created being who is not to be worshiped. Jesus is also identified with Michael the archangel.

        2. He was not put to death on a cross, but an upright stake.

        3. Jesus was not raised from the dead with a physical body.

      3. The Holy Spirit is not a Being or Personality, but “God’s active force” and “God’s power in action.” (Phrases taken from the Witnesses’ official website).

    2. Man does not have a soul, but is a soul.

      1. They mean by this that man does not have a soul or spirit that exists separate from the body. To Witnesses, the soul is simply the life-force of the body.

      2. When the body dies all life has ceased until the body is raised.

    3. The Last Times.

      1. Jesus returned in 1914 to establish His kingdom. It was at that time that Satan and his angels were expelled from heaven and cast to the earth.

      2. The coming of Jesus in 1914 was invisible, but His “presence” is still here.

      3. Armageddon is imminent.

        1. Because 1914 marked the beginning of the end, the Watchtower contended for years that Armageddon had to come before all those living in 1914 have died.

      4. Following Armageddon there will be a 1,000 year period in which people will be given the opportunity to prove themselves worthy of eternal life.

        1. Most people will be raised from the dead and given a second chance during the millennium.

        2. Apostate Witnesses, those who battle against Christ at Armageddon, and those who died as a judgment from God (as in the flood or at Sodom) are exceptions to the second chance.

      5. Only 144,000 anointed ones will be in heaven as spirit beings; eternal life for everyone else will be in a physical body on the renewed earth.

      6. The wicked will not suffer eternal torment, but will cease to exist (annihilation).

    4. Satan.

      1. Was once a perfect “son of God,” but sought his own glory.

      2. He persuaded Adam and Eve to obey him and thus set in motion the great issue of the ages; viz. to whom does true sovereignty belong?

      3. The “vindication of Jehovah” is a key theme of Jehovah Witness theology.

    5. The Bibles commonly used are corrupt translations and only the New World Translation (NWT) can be relied on.

    6. Blood transfusions are sinful.

      1. In recent years there have been some allowances made for the medical use of blood, but standard transfusions of whole blood, plasma, and/or platelets are still forbidden.

    7. All holidays are to be shunned.

      1. Christmas, Easter, etc. are considered religious perversions.

      2. National holidays are a violation of their “neutrality.”

      3. Birthdays are also off-limits.

    8. Relationship to civil governments.

      1. Members are taught to obey the laws of the land in which they live.

      2. However, they are to remain completely neutral in the political affairs of this world, thus they will not vote, serve in the military, etc.

      3. They will not pledge allegiance to the flag. To pledge allegiance to the country is to violate their neutrality and to salute the flag is to participate in idolatry.

  3. Jesus is not a created being, but is Eternal and is Deity.

    1. Note: the KJVNKJV, and NASB render the Hebrew Tetragrammaton (i.e. the word YHWH) as Lord, while the NWT has Jehovah. The Witnesses insist that the word Lord (all capitals) or Jehovah can only be used of the Father and never of Jesus. Their NWT refers to Jesus in John 1:1 as “a god,” i.e. a mighty one, but not God, in the sense of an eternal Almighty One.

    2. List the prophetic names given Him in Isa. 9:6, 7. Who is the mighty God of Isa. 10:20, 21?

    3. Who is a stone of stumbling and rock of offense in Isa. 8:13, 14? 1 Peter 2:8?

    4. How many Gods were formed before and after the Lord? Isa. 43:10; cf. John 1:1.

    5. Who is the Savior? Isa. 43:11; Luke 2:11; Titus 2:13; Phil. 3:20

    6. Who is the first and the last? Isa. 44:6; Rev. 1:17

    7. “But to the __________ He says, ‘Your throne, ____ ________, is forever and ever.’” Heb. 1:8

    8. To whom is every knee to bow in Rom. 14:11? In Phil. 2:10, 11?

    9. Why did the Jews take up stones to kill Jesus in John 8:59? Cf. Exodus 3:13, 14.

  4. Is Jesus to be worshiped?

    1. Twice John was warned not to worship an angel. Rev. 19:10; 22:8, 9

    2. To whom was worship given in Rev. 5:8–14?

    3. Was anyone ever rebuked for worshiping Jesus in the following passages? Matt. 2:2, 8, 11; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 28:9, 17; Mark 5:6; Luke 24:52; John 9:38

    4. Heb. 1:6 exhorts the angels to worship Jesus and even the NWT rendered it this way until 1971 when they changed it “do obeisance.”

  5. Use a concordance and look up the words witness and witnesses in the book of Acts. How many times are the words used of witnesses of Jesus? How many times of witnesses of the Father?

    1. Remember that to the Jehovah’s Witnesses only the Father can be called Jehovah.

  6. What is the one name in which salvation is found? Acts 4:10–12

  7. Who will be saved according to Acts 2:21? Baptism for the remission of sins is in whose name? Acts 2:38

  8. Study Rom. 10:13 and the surrounding context. Who is the Lord (Jehovah in NWT) whom we are to call upon?

  9. The Holy Spirit is a divine being.

    1. The Watchtower says, “… it is logical to conclude that the holy spirit is the active force of God. It is not a person but is a powerful force that God causes to emanate from himself to accomplish his holy will.” Reasoning from the Scriptures, p. 381

    2. While the Witnesses seek to explain away all of the following references as the personification of a “thing,” the Scriptures (even their own biased New World Translation) clearly demonstrate the personality of the Spirit.

    3. To whom did Ananias lie in Acts 5:3, 4?

    4. What characteristics of personality or being is the Holy Spirit said to have in the following?

      1. Rom. 15:30 (Sample answer: love. Things don’t love, but a divine being can love).

      2. 1 Cor. 2:10, 11

      3. 1 Cor. 12:11

      4. Eph. 4:30

      5. 1 Tim. 4:1

    5. John 14–16 contains reference after reference to the Holy Spirit as One who possesses the characteristics of personality (existence as a distinct being and not simply a force).

      1. John 14:16, 17, 26

      2. John 15:26

      3. John 16:7-14

  10. Does man possess a soul or is he a soul?

    1. The Watchtower describes man as a soul (Heb. nephesh and Gr. psuche) and defines it simply as being a living being. Man does not have a soul, but is a soul.

      1. They define the spirit (Heb. ruach and Gr. pneuma) of man as the breath or life-force within him.

      2. When Jesus committed His spirit to God, Witnesses contend that He was simply acknowledging that God had the power to make Him breathe again.

    2. Defining soul and spirit.

      1. The Witnesses are correct in stating that the word soul sometimes means no more than a person and the word pneuma can refer to the breath.

      2. However, they err greatly when they fail to acknowledge that words can various meanings depending upon the context in which they are used.

      3. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition (1993) lists 8 definitions for soul and 14 for spirit.

    3. Soul sometimes means more than being alive.

      1. Acts 2:27 distinguishes between the soul and body of Jesus.

      2. According to Matt. 10:28, the __________ can be killed without killing the __________.

      3. What will turning a sinner from the error of his way do for him? James 5:20

    4. Study 2 Cor. 4:16–5:8.

      1. What is the earthly house of this passage?

      2. One must be absent from the _________________ to be _______________ with the Lord.

    5. Peter referred to his body as a _______________ that must soon be put off. 2 Pet. 1:12–15

      1. Did Peter not see himself as having an existence separate and apart from his body?

  11. Life after death?

    1. Jehovah’s Witnesses contend that when the body breathes its last all life ceases until God reanimates the body with breath (spirit) and he is again a living soul.

      1. See #10, d, e above. Death was not viewed as the end of all existence by the apostles.

    2. The Watchtower goes on to say that at the final judgment the wicked will be cut off forever, but there will be no conscious eternal torment, instead, the wicked will cease to exist.

      1. Witnesses use the analogy of a father with his children and say that since no father would “torture” his children, how can we think that a God who is love would torture His children?

      2. While that may be a legitimate question, the Witnesses themselves acknowledge that the God who is love has drowned some of His children (the Flood), rained burning sulfur on some (Sodom), struck others dead others (Uzzah), and will cut off forever the rebellious.

    3. The argument is that when words such as destroy, destruction, perish, etc. are used of sinners it means a complete loss of existence.

      1. Vine says of the Greek word apollumi that “the idea is not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being. This is clear from its use, e.g. of the marring of the wine skins, Luke 5:37.” p. 164

      2. The idea of loss of well-being is seen in Matt. 10:6; 15:24; Luke 15:4, 24, 32 where it is translated lost; Luke 15:17 where it is rendered perish; and Rom. 14:15 where it is given as destroy.

      3. If the word does not necessitate loss of complete existence in those passages, why is it the required meaning in Matt. 10:28; John 3:16; and 1 Cor. 1:18?

    4. How is the punishment of sinners described in the following:

      1. Matt. 8:12?

      2. Matt. 13:41, 42, 49, 50?

      3. Matt. 25:41, 46?

      4. Mark 9:47, 48?

      5. Luke 16:23, 24, 28?

      6. Heb. 10:28, 29?

      7. Rev. 14:9–11?

      8. Rev. 21:8?

    5. Will there be a “second chance resurrection?” Study the following passages and be prepared to explain what, if any, relevance they have to this question.

      1. Luke 16:19–31

      2. John 5:28, 29

      3. 2 Cor. 5:9, 10

      4. Heb. 9:27

  12. One hope or two? Eph. 4:4

    1. Jehovah’s Witnesses teach two very different hopes for two classes of people.

      1. The 144,000 anointed ones will spend eternity in heaven as spiritual beings.

      2. All other righteous people (the Great Multitude) will spend eternity on the renovated earth.

    2. Proof texts for the 144,000.

      1. Rev. 7:4–8

        1. If this number is to be taken literally, what nationality do all of these come from?

        2. Where are the 144,000 in 7:1–4?

        3. Where is the great multitude in Rev. 7:9–12?

      2. Rev. 14:1–5

        1. Where are the 144,000 in this chapter?

        2. If taken literally, these must be unmarried _____________.

    3. How is the character of God described in Acts 10:34?

    4. Where is the hope of the Christian? Col. 1:5; 1 Pet. 1:3–5

    5. What did Abraham and the other patriarchs seek? Heb. 11:13–16; 12:22–24

    6. Those who have done good will come forth to the resurrection of ____________. John 5:28, 29

    7. Read Matt. 25:31–46. Do some of the righteous receive a heavenly reward and others an earthly one or do all of the righteous receive the same blessing?

    8. Eph. 4:4–6

  13. Is it a sin to receive a blood transfusion?

    1. Proof-texts used by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Lev. 17:10–14; Acts 15:19, 20, 28, 29

    2. Blood is called the _____________ of the flesh in Leviticus.

    3. Is there not a vast difference between eating the blood of one who has been killed (given up their life blood) and receiving a transfusion from a living person who has only donated a portion of their blood, but has not surrendered their life blood?

    4. While some nourishment can be given intravenously, blood transfusions are not for the purpose of nourishment/nutrition, but to replace that which flows through the veins and arteries.

  14. Is it wrong to celebrate birthdays?

    1. The Watchtower’s “proof” is that the only two birthdays mentioned in the Bible were those of wicked men. Gen. 40:20; Mark 6:21

    2. Do these two passages establish that the birthday celebrations were wrong?

  15. While the Witnesses have some unique twists on the end times, an understanding of dispensational premillennialism will prepare you for most of the end-time teachings of the Watchtower. The following is included here from some other study materials on premillennialism. This does not deal specifically with the Witnesses, but XVII and XIX should be especially relevant to the teachings of the Watchtower.

  16. Some facts about premillennialism.

    1. Premillennial means “before the millennium,” so premillennialism reflects the belief of many that we are living in the days leading up to the time when Jesus will return to establish His kingdom and reign for 1,000 years on this earth.

    2. Premillennialism takes many different forms, but the one most prevalent today is dispensational premillennialism. (Unless noted, it is this type being discussed).

    3. Basic tenets of dispensational premillennialism.

      1. The church is not the kingdom of OT prophecy. The church was established when the Jews rejected Jesus as their King and crucified Him.

      2. When Jesus returns He will establish the kingdom of prophecy and reign on this earth for 1,000 years.

      3. At the end of the millennial reign, Satan will be loosed for a short time before his final defeat and the final judgment of all men.

        1. The righteous dead are resurrected at the time of the Rapture and the wicked are raised for judgment at the end of the millennial reign of Jesus.

      4. Just before the return of Jesus to establish His kingdom there will be a Great Tribulation that lasts 7 years. During that 7-year period the Jews will be converted to Christ and the Jews will then convert many more to Christ.

        1. Most premillennialists believe the nation of Israel remains a vital part of God’s plan.

      5. The Tribulation will end with the Battle of Armageddon, a physical battle fought in Palestine in which Satan and his forces will be defeated.

      6. Just before the Tribulation Jesus will silently and secretly return to Rapture the faithful. Without warning, all the righteous will suddenly disappear from the earth. Then, after the Tribulation, they will return to the earth with Jesus for the millennial reign. (This is the most commonly taught variation, though some place the Rapture in the middle of the Tribulation and others near the end).

      7. Note on historic premillennialism. Found in many older Protestant writings, historic premillennialism teaches that Jesus will return to the earth to establish an earthly kingdom, but does not include the doctrines of the Rapture and Tribulation. With the influence of the Scofield Bible, Dallas Theological Seminary, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Tim LaHaye, et al, the dispensational view of premillennialism has become far more widespread than the older historic premillennial position.

  17. Has the kingdom of prophecy been established?

    1. Read Daniel 2:31–45.

      1. When was God going to set up His kingdom?

    2. What did both John and Jesus say about the kingdom of heaven? Matt. 3:1, 2; 4:17; Mark 9:1

    3. Peter linked the promise that the Christ would sit on David’s throne to the ________________ of the Christ. Acts 2:29–36

    4. Jesus promised to build His _____________ and give Peter the keys of the _______________ of ______________. Matt. 16:18, 19

    5. Read Acts 3:22–26. Of what time period had all the prophets spoken?

    6. Read Psalm 110:1–4. Find at least two NT quotations from this psalm. The Messiah would rule in the midst of His ______________.

    7. The Colossians had been delivered from the power of ___________________ and conveyed (translated, transferred) into the ______________ of God’s Son. Col. 1:12, 13

  18. The Rapture.

    1. How many times is the word Rapture found in the New Testament?

    2. 1 Thes. 4:13–18 does not teach it.

      1. What sounds are associated with the return of Jesus in this section?

      2. Premillennialists argue that this is the Rapture because it does not mention the resurrection of the wicked. Why do you think the wicked are not mentioned in 1 Thes. 4:13—18?

      3. Remember that chapter divisions came long after the writing of 1 Thessalonians. In ch. 5 where the discussion continues, Paul tells us that the Day of the Lord will mean sudden destruction for some and salvation for others. 1 Thes. 5:3, 9–11

    3. 2 Thessalonians 1

      1. The return of the Lord will mean _________________ for the righteous (2 Thes. 1:7) and vengeance for those who do not _______________ the gospel and who do not ______________ God. 2 Thes. 1:8

      2. Cf. 1 Thes. 1:9, 10 with 2 Thes. 1:7–12. That for which the faithful were longing would be destructive to the wicked.

    4. John 5:28, 29

      1. The ______________ is coming when ______________ in the graves will hear the voice of Jesus and come forth. While some will partake of the resurrection of life and others the resurrection of condemnation, all will come forth at the same time.

  19. Matthew 24

    1. Many believe Matt. 24 depicts the Rapture and the Great Tribulation. 24:6–8, 21, 27, 29–31, 40, 41

    2. Read Matt. 23:29—24:2. All these things will come upon this ___________________ (23:36). What does all things refer to in this verse?

    3. Matt. 24:1, 2 foretold the complete destruction of what?

    4. What time limit did Jesus put on His words? Matt. 24:34

    5. Matt. 24 was a prophecy (promise) that Jerusalem would be destroyed. This prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70 by the Roman armies.

    6. Cf. the language used in Matt. 24:29–31 with the language used by Isaiah to depict the downfall of Babylon. Isa. 13:1, 6, 9, 10, 13–19