Scenario: You’re busy cleaning out the garage on a Saturday morning and notice two well-dressed people going door-to-door on your street. Your neighbor seems interested and takes their material. Later, the neighbor asks your thoughts on their publication called “The Watchtower”. What do you say?
Most of us have had contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses at least once. Years ago, I worked with several and they were good friends. So what do they teach, and what motivates them to give up time going door-to-door? Let’s take a look…
I. The History
- The Watchtower Bible & Tract Society was founded around 1872 by Charles T. Russell. Russell had been a follower of the Adventist movement, but left to form a new group called the International Bible Students Associations. They were first referred to as “Russellites”. In 1931, the name was changed to the WBTS under Russell’s successor “Judge” Joseph Franklin Rutherford.
- Historically, the focus has always been on the world’s end, and the establishment of Jehovah’s kingdom on Earth. Setting dates for the end has even been part of the belief over the years, with the last one being 1975.
II. The Structure
- They are headquartered in Brooklyn, NY under the direction of the “Governing Body”.
- The meeting place is called the “Kingdom Hall” due to the belief that the Church Age is already over.
- The primary method for making new converts is door-to-door visitation with materials and invites to Bible studies.
III. The Text
- Charles Russell’s writings, such as a seven volume series called Studies in the Scriptures and published sermons laid the doctrinal foundation.
- Their own proprietary Bible translation called the New World Translation (NWT) is used by Witnesses for study and proselytizing. Key passages are slightly altered to reflect WBTS doctrine.
- Publications such as The Watchtower, Awake and others are used for Sunday sermons, and giving away to potential converts.
IV. The Beliefs
- They believe in Jehovah (God the Father), but deny the deity of Christ.
- Jesus is believed to be created by God first. His name was “Michael the Archangel” before the time on Earth.
- The hope is to be of the truest 144,000 Witnesses, therefore being part of the “Anointed Class” ruling with Christ.
- The other Witnesses not part of the 144,000 hope to be part of the future Earthly Kingdom.
- Non-believers will simply cease to exist after death (Annihilation).
- There is no belief in eternal punishment such as Hell.
- The era of human political structures are said to be past, so loyalty to a flag, pledge, military service, and participating in voting are forbidden.
- To avoid misplaced recognition and worship, holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations are completely avoided.
- Witnessing and attendance (Sunday meetings and Bible Studies) are required components of being a part of WBTS.
V. The Response
Witnesses are usually nice, polite folks, but are trained to maintain strict discipline in conversation about spiritual matters. Specifically, the use of publications and certain scripture passages (NWT translation) is primary, but here are 5 key areas of response:
- The Trinity – Although the word “Trinity” is not specifically used in scripture it is described throughout the Bible. Matthew 28:19 clearly references each Person of the Trinity. I Peter 1:2 and John 15:26 illustrate separate roles.
- Jesus – Colossians 2:9 says that Jesus embodied the very fullness of God. He wasn’t a product of God’s work, but is God Himself in the flesh. Jesus on several occasions taught that He is God, John 8:58 and 10:30 are examples.
- Good Works – The Witnesses teach right works to be the key to eternal destination, but the scripture teaches different. Paul said in Ephesians 2:8-9 we’re saved by God’s grace, not works. All through the book of Romans, the Bible teaches we can never earn salvation. We have all fell far short of God’s standard (Romans 3:23). We need a savior, not better habits. Romans 10:9 states that if we confess Jesus with our mouth and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead we WILL be saved.
- Hell – Matthew 25 and Luke 16 both teach of a literal Hell. Revelation 20 says those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be cast into theLake ofFire.
- 144, 000 – the description in Revelation chapter 7 of 144,000 people saved in the end is very specific. It speaks of Jewish people who embrace Christ during the Great Tribulation, not Gentiles living now. The tribes of origin are even listed.
Even though there are points of response and doctrinal flaws to discuss, Christ’s love in us should rule the day. As a Christian, there is nothing more powerful than sharing what God has done and continues to do in your personal life. Our story of God’s grace and forgiveness is exactly what those around us need to hear. NEVER underestimate the simple sharing of what Christ means to you!
Series: Consider this… “A Conversational Defense of our Faith” – Lesson 11