Thursday on the show we discussed Jehovah’s Witnesses with Nelson Sanchez, which you should listen to here. In this discussion we spoke about discussing with Jehovah’s Witnesses and things to keep in mind when having exchanges with them. Nelson provided a lot of wonderful information and today I decided to do a follow up with some basic information on Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Before we begin, if you’re interested in learning more about Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, New Age Cults, the Unification Church, Baha’i Faith, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and more, I recommend you pick up a copy of “The Kingdom of the Cults”. Also, if you are interested in receiving a copy of Episode 21, 22, and 79 on Jehovah’s Witnesses, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Episode 21 is more detailed history of Jehovah’s Witnesses while episode 22 deals with passages to discuss. Some other helpful resources are here and here.
Jehovah’s Witnesses come out of the 19thCentury along with Mormonism and Christian science. They viewed the bible as a book with hidden messages and hidden clues regarding the end times. Charles Taze Russel is the founder and insisted that the tools of Satan were government, business, and the church. Russel rejected the doctrine of the trinity and the deity of Christ. Russel was also mentored by Jonas Wendell who was involved in the “great disappointment of 1844” in which a failed prediction of Christ’s return occurred. Another failed prediction occurred in 1874 in which the magazine “Herald of the Morning” claimed Jesus came invisibly. Russel supported this magazine until starting his own, “Zion’s Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s presence”. Russel held that Christ had returned, and the end of the world would be in 1914. Russel’s successor was Joseph (Judge) Rutherford, who named the organization the Jehovah’s Witnesses and focused on missionary work and mass production of magazines. President Knoor was elected and renewed the organization through his end times prophecies. Following his death the society lost 100,000 members! To this day, JW’s believe we are in the kingdom age, not the church age, which is why their buildings are called kingdom halls.
In total there have been roughly 30 failed predictions, and the current date they hold to be the end of the world is 2033. This is important given that the Watchtower has claimed to be a prophet of God and even stated, “Of course, it is easy to say that this group acts as a ‘prophet’ of God. It is another thing to prove it,” (Watchtower, Apr. 1, 1972, p. 197)” Note here: Deuteronomy 18:22, “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.” This is important to note if discussion somehow does indeed open up to the Watchtower’s history, though, many Jehovah’s Witnesses stray from discussion on the Watchtower’s history.
Differences in Doctrine:
- Deny the trinity
- Jehovah is God almighty while Jesus is “a god” but not God almighty
- Jesus is Michael the Archangel and the first created being (Arianism)
- The Holy Spirit is an impersonal force
- Deny the existence of Hell, and consciousness after death
- Jesus did not physically resurrect
- Only 144,000 are born again, go to heaven, and all those spots have been filled since 1935.
- JWs will survive the battle of Armageddon and live in the Kingdom on Earth, “paradise”
- Salvation is impossible without obedience to the Watchtower
Things to note:
- Like many groups, JW’s believe orthodox Christianity was created at the council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.
- They will not talk to “apostates” (those who have left the Jehovah’s Witnesses) so it is important to make it clear you are not an apostate
- They are taught everyone is influenced by Satan, and only they have truth.
- They are heavily discouraged from reading any spiritual material outside of Watchtower publications
- If they feel as if you are debating them or “will not receive the truth” they will cease the conversation. They also, typically, stop listening when you present material questioning the Watchtower.
- Ephesians 6:12 is important. Jehovah’s Witnesses are conditioned heavily by the organization and ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses, many times, find themselves having therapists following their detachment
- The gospel is always the endgame and so I find two topics to be the most pressing; regeneration and deity of Christ.
All of these work with their translation of the Bible. Of course, this list is not exhaustive for discussing with Jehovah’s Witnesses, but a starting point.
Jesus is God:
In Psalm 102:25-27 David is speaking directly to and about Jehovah. In Hebrews 1:10-12 we see this same Psalm quoted, but it is attributed to the Son (verse 8). Is this text talking about Jesus or Jehovah?
In Hebrews 1:6-12 as a whole we see in verse eight, “But about the Son (Jesus), he says; ‘God is your throne forever and ever, and the scepter of your Kingdom is the scepter of uprightness’”.
In John 12:39-41, John says referring to Jesus, “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory, and he spoke about him. To confirm it is about Jesus read the entire passage and following verse 41 it says; “All the same, many even of the rulers actually put faith in him, but they would not acknowledge him because of the Pharisees, so that they would not be expelled from the Synagogue…” Once confirmed that the passage is speaking about Jesus look at Isaiah 6:10 and ask who Isaiah is referring to. All of chapter six of Isaiah is Isaiah in the throne room looking at Jehovah. Once they confirm he is referring to Jehovah and that Isaiah was looking at Jehovah ask them why John in chapter 12:39-41 said Isaiah said these about Jesus in verse 41. John explicitly takes a passage where Isaiah saw God and says Isaiah saw Jesus.
John 20:28 says, “In answer Thomas said to him: ‘My Lord and my God’”! Why didn’t Jesus correct Thomas when he called him “my God” or correct him for cursing?
Revelation 1:8 says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says Jehovah God, ‘the one who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty.’” Who is speaking? Once they confirm Jehovah is speaking go to Revelation 22:12-16 and read through the passage and show that Jesus is speaking. He says in verse 13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” How can there be two “firsts” and “lasts” or two “alphas” or “omegas”?
In Acts 13:30 it says, “But God raised him up from the dead.” Ask them, who raised Jesus from the dead according to this verse? Then go to John 2:19-21 which says, “Jesus replied to them: ‘Tear down this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple was built in 46 years and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was talking about the temple of his body.’” Jesus said that he would raise up his body in three days according to this verse (emphasize verse 21), so did Jesus raise himself or did God raise him up?
The Holy Spirit:
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Holy Spirit is just a force and not God.
In John 14:26 it says, “But the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you.” Ask them, can a force be a “helper” and “teach” people?
Ephesians 4:30, Also, do not be grieving God’s Holy Spirit, with which you have been sealed for a day of releasing by ransom.” Can a force grieve?
In Acts 13:2, “As they were ministering to Jehovah and fasting, the holy spirit said, ‘Set aside for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” Can a force speak? Why did the holy spirit refer to himself as “me” and “I”? Can a force set people aside for work and call people?
In Acts 5:3-5 (read the whole passage first) Ananias lies to Peter and in verse 3 Peter says, “why has Satan emboldened you to lie to the holy spirit.” In verse 4 (at the end of the verse) Peter says, “You have lied, not to men, but to God.” Did Ananias lie to a force or to God?
Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in Hell in the same sense that we do. They don’t believe there is punishment or torment after death. Their argument is that “Hades”, which means the common grave, is just a “sleep” until the final judgement. In Luke 16:19-31 we see a rich man who goes to Hades. In verse 22-23 we see, “the rich man died and was buried. And in the Grave, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and he saw Abraham from afar and Lazarus by his side.” Not only is the rich man conscience, but in their bible, there is a mark (*) next to “grave” which indicates a footnote. The footnote says, “or Hades, that is, the common grave of mankind.” If there is no torment in hades, the common grave, after death, why does this story say the man was in “torment”, aware of where he was, in “Hades”? In verse 28 the rich man says too, “I have five brothers, in order that he may give them a thorough witness so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’” So, he died, is in torment, and wants Abraham to warn his living brothers that they will go to a place of torment if they do not listen.
While this post isn’t exhaustive, I hope it proves to be a solid resource on the discussion. In the upcoming months another episode on Jehovah’s Witnesses may be in order discussing some of the more nuanced arguments.
Have you discussed with a Jehovah’s Witness? If so, did you find anything to be particularly helpful? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!