Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Overview of Jehovah's Witnesses

We come now to the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Confused for Christianity as well, and well-known for knocking on the door of any home on any given day.

In fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses are estimated to have over 6 million members who make home visits each year.  Followed in at least 235 countries, with 1 million members in the United States it is reported that in 2010 the Jehovah’s Witnesses spent 1.3 billion hours spreading their message of law and deception.  Why do they do this?  Where do they come from?  Is their version of the Gospel the same as ours?

I.) History

Well, by their own definition, they are “servants of Jehovah, the Almighty God, and active witnesses of his sovereign supremacy”.  They reject being associated with Christianity as we define it, but rather they insist that their gospel is the true one, they are they true Christians.

They were founded in 1872, at age 20, by a man named Charles Taze Russell.  For 2 years or so prior Charles had been having a very hard time believing the doctrine of eternal hell fire and eternal punishment.  Unable to reconcile them, he left his church.

At age 18 he started a Bible study class in Pittsburgh, PA which served as his way to spread his errant views and accumulate followers.  By 1879 he had co-published “The Herald of the Morning” magazine with its founder NH Barbour.  The magazine was really the spring board platform for Russell to teach his heretical views on the Bible.

In 1884 Russell had taken control of the magazine and renamed it to be “The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom”.  At the same time he founded the “Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society”.  Today it is known as the “Watchtower Bible and Tract Society”.

The 1st edition of the Watchtower magazine only produced 6,000 copies per month.  Today they publish out of Brooklyn, NY and they produce 100,000 books and 800,000 copies of its 2 magazines respectively, DAILY.

Russell believed that God had opened his eyes to the truth and that the Bible could only truly be understood according to HIS interpretations.  Initially, those who followed Russell were simply known as “Russellites”, but after his death in October of 1916 his successor, a Missouri lawyer named Joseph Franklin Rutherford, took control and quickly changed the name of the Russell’s organization known the “International Bible Students Association” to simply, “Jehovah’s Witnesses”.

He did so based on Isaiah 43:10 which reads,”You are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and my servant whom I have chosen.”  Even to now they retain the belief that the only true Bible interpretation is theirs.

Their false doctrine is easily refuted from Scripture and so in 1961 they published their own version of the Bible known as the “New World Translation”.  It just blatantly alters verses that Russell denied, so that they fit their own views.

They have 2 sources primarily that they use for their teachings…

1.) Their translation of the Bible (NWT)
2.) The Watchtower Magazine

Their Bible must be read through the lens of the Magazine’s interpretation, which ironically is open to change depending on the “revelation received”.

“The Bible is an organizational book and belongs to Christian congregations and organizations, not to the individuals regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible.  For this reason, the Bible cannot be properly understood without Jehovah’s visible organization in mind.” – The Watchtower,10-1-67 p.587

II.) Beliefs

What do they believe?  Well, Russell denied the doctrine of hell.  He believed that when man dies, he simply ceases to exist.  He further denied the Trinity and the fact that Jesus was God in the flesh to just scratch the surface!

They believe that God’s Sovereignty was impugned when Adam and Eve rebelled.  So the main purpose of what God is doing in not redeeming sinners as such as it is vindicating himself from what Adam and Eve did to Him.  Vindicating Himself, they say, is more important than salvation or anything else.

They deny that God is a Trinitarian God.  “There is One God in One Person” – Make Sure of All Things p.188

They believe that since God created man in His image and “no one has ever seen a three headed human creature (Let God Be True, 2nd ed, p101-102).  They say it would be “difficult to love and worship a complicated, freakish-looking, three headed God” (ibid)

Although they do believe God to be eternal and omnipotent, they deny that He is omnipresent.  They most commonly and almost exclusively refer to God as Jehovah.

A.) Who is Jehovah?  He is not a Triune God, that they say is false doctrine, (Make Sure of All Things p.188).  They teach Him to be one person whose principle attributes are love, wisdom, justice, and power.  Incidentally, Scriptures teaches that God’s principle attribute is His Holiness and everything else that He is is informed by that.

Jehovah was alone in universal space, but never lonely, which is why He created the word and man…  so that He wouldn’t be alone?

B.) Who is Jesus?

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jehovah is Christ’s God, Christ is inferior to Jehovah God.  Jesus, they teach, is not God incarnate, He is a created being.  He is called God’s “only begotten Son” because He was the 1st and only being created directly by God.  As firstborn, Jesus was used to create all things.

Before Jesus came to the earth He existed in Heaven as Michael the Archangel.  In the virgin birth He was re-created on earth as the perfect man.

He wasn’t the Messiah from all eternity as Scripture teaches, He rather became the Messiah at His baptism and at that time He was anointed to become the King of the coming Kingdom.

Further, they deny that Christ was bodily resurrected.  They believe Jesus was buried, God disposed of His physical body, Jesus was raised as a “spirit creature” and temporarily materialized in different physical bodies in order to appear to His disciples. (Awake, 7-22-73, p. 4)

He is now back in Heaven as Michael the Archangel.  Since there was no physical resurrection, they say, there will be no 2nd Coming either.

C.) Heaven and Hell

They deny the existence of Hell, period.  “The doctrine of a burning hell where the wicked are tortured eternally after death cannot be true mainly for four reasons:  1.) It is wholly unscriptural; 2.) it is unreasonable; 3.) it is contrary to God’s love and 4.) it is repugnant to justice” (Let God Be True, p. 9, 59-60, 67)

They believe as the 7th Day Adventists do that the soul sleeps.  Humans don’t have immortal souls, so when the body dies there is no longer any conscious existence.  Hell, is simply the common grace of mankind.  From there, those who are righteous will be resurrected, those who are condemned by God will be annihilated and cease to exist.  The reason for this is because of what, they teach, a soul is.  Man consists of a “body together with the life principle or life force activating it.” (Make Sure of All Things p. 349)

Immortality (Heaven) is given as a reward for faithfulness.  Smelling works righteousness there yet?  You should be, it’s thick.  Do this… get this… all cults have this in place.  All cults believe that man isn’t so sinful that he can’t same himself through acts of his own goodness.

Their view of Heaven is that Heaven is only actually reserved for the 144,000 spoken of in the Book of Revelation.  Only these special few will get in.  Everyone else who was righteous will get eternal life for their soul, but it will be on earth.  Their soul will roam the earth for all eternity.

D.) Sin and Salvation

In the fall, man was not made spiritually dead by sin… rather we inherited “imperfection”.  Being only imperfect we can merit salvation for ourselves so there is no need for a Savior.  Jesus didn’t die to pay for your sin and merit salvation for you, He just died to make it possible for you to merit salvation.

III.) How do you obtain salvation as a Jehovah’s Witness?

It is a complicated system of belief and good works.  “Belief involves taking in accurate knowledge of God’s purposes and His way of salvation.  Then faith has to be exercised in Jesus Christ as the Chief Agent of salvation… this places the Christian in a saved condition, but he must now persevere in doing God’s will and continue to adhere to all of God’s requirements for the rest of his life.  Only then will he be saved to eternal life.” (Watchtower, 12-15-89, p.30)

In addition to faith in Jesus’ sacrifice you must also be baptized, repent, have association with the Watchtower Society, have righteous conduct, and absolute loyalty to Jehovah.  Even then there is no assurance of salvation, only hope for a resurrection.  Those who fail to meet the requirements are shunned from the fellowship of the Watchtower Society and have no hope for salvation.

The reason they knock on so many doors is because they are trying to earn salvation.  They are expected to spend 5-hours a week going door to door to conduct a monthly “Bible Study” in the homes of their converts.  Each week they are to report their status to the Watchtower Society and their performance will be evaluated and affect their status in the local “Kingdom Hall”.

IV.) Odd and/or legalistic things

I call this section, odd and legalistic things… They teach Christ was executed on a stake, not a cross, so you’ll never find a cross on them or in their churches.  You are not allowed to smoke, give blood transfusions, box, or purchase a raffle ticket.  You also cannot salute the flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, stand for the National Anthem, vote, or serve in the military.

Further, you can’t celebrate your birthday, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and any other holiday they deem as pagan.  Lastly, you aren’t allowed to associate with any non-Jehovah’s Witness.  Even if they are in your own family.  The only exception is in that family member lives in your household.

V.) How do we reach them with the Gospel?

Well, first things first, we need to be very very careful.  They use nearly all the same terms that we do but they do not mean the same things.  They must see chiefly that man is not just spiritually imperfect, we are by nature, spiritually dead.

Works are insufficient to save… BUT while Jehovah’s Witness offers them no hope for salvation, hope exists.  His Name is Jesus Christ!  He IS God, He DID come as God in the flesh, God incarnate, He died a real physical death, then 3 days later He did have a real physical resurrection.  He now sits in His glorified body in Heaven at the right Hand of the Father.  If they will repent of their sin He will forgive them and grant eternal life.

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