By Mike Willis
The Jehovah’s Witnesses is a religious organization which had its beginning in the early twentieth century. It was founded by Charles Taze Russell in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Through the years, this religious group has been characterized by a missionary zeal which is commendable. The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach several major false doctrines; hence, in their missionary work, they confuse people who have little or no Bible knowledge. Most of us have been confronted by the Witnesses on one or more occasions; we need to know their doctrines and how to refute them.
Cardinal Tenets of the Witnesses
There are several key doctrines which the Witnesses hold. If anyone does not agree with these doctrines, the Witnesses believe him to be in a false church. Here are several of their major tenets:
1. The Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the deity of Jesus Christ. The Witnesses do not believe that Jesus is “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). The apostle John wrote, “In the beginning was the word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn. 1: 11). In commenting on this verse, the Witnesses state that “the Word was a powerful godlike one” (The Truth That Leads To Eternal Life, p. 24), but deny that He was God. They teach that Jesus is a created being, not having the same deity as God the Father.
A number of Bible verses show the deity of Jesus. The child to be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14) was to be called, “Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). Thomas confessed Jesus saying, “My Lord and my God” (Jn. 20:28). Paul said that in Jesus “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). He stated that Jesus existed on an equality with God prior to coming to this earth (Phil. 2:5-9). Jesus was “God manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:15; Jn. 1:1,14).
One of the reasons for concluding that the Jehovah’s Witnesses is a false religion is that they deny that Jesus is God. By making Him a lesser God, they teach a polytheistic concept of deity (a pantheon of gods with some having greater power than others).
2. The Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the deity of the Holy Spirit. The personality of the Holy Spirit is denied by the Witnesses. They describe Him as “God’s active force” (see Let God Be True, p. 108; The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, p. 24). Hence, they deny that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit constitute the Godhead by teaching that neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit is God. With reference to Jesus, they affirm that He was a created being; with reference to the Holy Spirit, they assert that He is merely “God’s active force,” denying that He is a separate personality from the Father and the Son.
The Holy Spirit has personality. He speaks (1 Tim. 4: 1), witnesses (Jn. 15:26), teaches (Jn. 14:26), and guides.(Jn. 16:12-13). He has mind (Rom. 8:27), knowledge (1 Cor. 2: 11), affection (Rom. 15:30), and will (1 Cor. 12: 11). He can be grieved (Eph. 4:30), despised (Heb. 10:29), blasphemed (Matt. 12:31-32), resisted (Acts 7:5 1), and lied to (Acts 5:3). He has all of the attributes of personality; He is not an impersonal, active force.
He has the attributes of deity, including eternity (Heb. 9:14), omniscience (1 Cor. 2: 10-11), omnipotence (Mic. 3:8), and omnipresence (Psa. 139:7-10). He is called God in Acts 5:3. By denying the deity of the Holy Spirit, the Witnesses teach a false doctrine about God. By denying the deity of both the Son and the Holy Spirit, they are fundamentally wrong in their concept of God, just like the pagans are.
3. The Witnesses deny that man has an immortal soul. They believe that when a person dies, no part of him continues to live. They believe that the dead are not conscious (The Truth That Leads To Eternal Life, p. 41). However, the Bible teaches that man has a soul which survives the death of his body (cf. Matt. 10:28; Acts 127; Rev. 6:9; 20:4; Jas. 5:20).
Jesus taught the lesson of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-3 1). In that lesson, the soul survived the death of the body. Some souls were rewarded with heavenly bliss and others were punished with everlasting destruction in torment after the death of the body. Hence, the soul survived the death of the body.
The Scriptures reveal that a person can be “absent from the body but at home with God” (2 Cor. 4:16-5: 10). Paul actually desired to die in order that he might be at home with Christ (Phil. 1:21-24). Jesus described Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as “living,” in spite of the fact that their bodies had been dead for centuries (Matt. 22:32). Peter said (1 Pet. 3:4) that man has an incorruptible (Greek: aptharto) spirit; the word used there is translated “immortal” in 1 Timothy 1:17 when applied to God. The Witnesses deny that man has an immortal spirit.
4. The Witnesses deny the existence of Hell (cf. The Truth That Leads To Eternal Life, pp. 41,44). Jesus spoke about Hell more than any other person in the Bible. He used it in Matthew 5:22,29; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15; Mark 9:43,45,47; and Luke 12:5. The place of eternal torment of which Jesus spoke is described as follows: (a) a place of outer darkness (Matt. 8:12; 22:13); (b) a place of pain (Rom. 2:5, 8-9); (c) a place of fire and brimstone (Rev. 21:8); (d) a fate worse than death without mercy (Heb. 10:29); and (e) a place of torment (Rev. 14:11).
There is a place of eternal torment prepared for those who disobey God. Wicked men are not annihilated at death; rather, they will be raised from the dead (Jn. 5:28-29) and judged (Matt. 25:31-36). The wicked will be placed in hell to be punished forever and ever. By denying the existence of hell, the Witnesses find themselves in conflict with the word of God.
Other False Doctrines
1. The plan of salvation. When Witnesses come to the door, they generally have a set lesson which they plan to present. If they get off that set lesson, generally they are not as skilled in their presentation. Witnesses do not know how to deal with the subject of salvation. They generally flounder and flutter around trying to get back to some of their more familiar (to them) topics. One of the more effective ways to study with Witnesses is to discuss “What must I do to be saved?”
Like many other denominations do, the Witnesses deny that water baptism has anything to do with salvation. Here is what they teach:
What, then does Christian baptism signify? It is not a washing away of one’s sins, because cleansing from sin comes only through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:7). Rather, it is a public demonstration, testifying that one has made a solemn dedication to Jehovah God and is presenting himself to do His will (The Truth That Leads To Eternal Life, pp. 183-184).
The Bible teaches that baptism in water is a condition for receiving remission of sins (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).
2. The organization of the church. The Lord revealed the organization of the church. The church in the Bible which was fully organized had elders and deacons (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3). Each church was fully autonomous; there was no ecclesiastical organization which tied all of the local churches together, legislating over the churches or overseeing brotherhood works.
The Jehovah’s Witness organization is under the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. This is an organization over each local “Kingdom Hall.” It has power over the churches, dictating policy and work. Where could we read about this organization in the Scriptures? What are its offices? What are the qualifications for those who hold those offices? What are its powers? This organization is totally unknown to the word of God and is unauthorized. It is an addition to God’s revealed pattern for the church and, therefore, stands condemned (Rev. 22:18-19; 2 Jn. 9-11; Gal. 1:6-9).
Under the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, there are regional servants, zone servants or district superintendents (see Frank S. Mead, Handbook of Denominations In The United States, pp. 100-101). What are the qualifications and job descriptions of the regional servants, zone servants or district superintendents? Where could we read of them in the Bible? These are offices as totally unknown to the Scriptures as are the offices of pope and cardinal.
3. The establishment of the kingdom of God. Witnesses teach that the kingdom of God was not established on earth until 1914 (The Truth That Leads To Eternal Life, pp. 87, 99). Jesus said that the kingdom of God would be established within the lifetime of those who heard Him speak (Mk. 9: 1). Jesus was not in error when He promised to establish His kingdom within a short period of time (cf. Mk. 1:14, 15). The kingdom and the church are the same (Matt. 16:18-19). Those in the church were citizens in the kingdom of God (Col. 1: 13-14; Eph. 2:19). Those who were “born again” were born again in order to enter the kingdom of heaven (Jn. 3:3,5).
The kingdom of God was established on the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The kingdom was to come with power (Mk. 9:1). The power was to come when the Holy Spirit came (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14). On this day, the kingdom or church (Matt. 16:18-19) was established (Acts 2:47).
By teaching that the kingdom of God was not established until 1914, the Witnesses make a number of errors. (a) They make Jesus mistaken when He promised to establish His kingdom within the lifetime of those to whom He spoke (Mk. 1: 14,15; 9:1). He was either willfully or honestly mistaken; one destroys His character and the other His deity. (b) They make the prophecy of Daniel 2 in error. Daniel stated that the kingdom of God would be established during the days of the fourth kingdom (Dan. 2:44). The fourth kingdom from Daniel was the Roman kingdom. If the kingdom was not established during the days of the Roman kings, Daniel was mistaken in his prophecy. (c) They make the new birth useless prior to 1914. Men were born again in order to enter the kingdom (Jn. 3:3-5). If the kingdom did not come into existence prior to 1914, there was no need for men to be born again prior to that time. Many other errors could be mentioned at this point. However, these suffice to show that the doctrine which states that the kingdom was not established prior to 1914 is wrong.
4. The Lord’s supper is not observed properly by the Witnesses. The New Testament church observed the Lord’s supper on the first day of every week (Acts 20:7). Every member of the local church joined in the observance of the death of Jesus.
The Witnesses divide their members into two groups the 144,000 and the “Great Crowd.” The 144,000 expect to be with God in heaven; the great crowd expects to enjoy paradise on earth. The Lord’s supper is to be partaken of only by the 144,000. Hence, in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Lord’s supper is observed yearly by those who expect to be a part of the 144,000 and live with God in heaven. Consequently, the practice of most Kingdom Halls is to serve the Lord’s supper with few, if any, partaking of it. If one should partake of it, he openly attests to other Witnesses that he is one of the 144,000, something which no humble person would do. Consequently, the Lord’s supper is distorted and perverted by the Jehovah’s Witness organization.
In addition to teaching a number of false doctrines, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are a religious group which has made numerous predictions which have not come to pass. These predictions of the end of the world have been used as evangelistic tools to motivate their members to greater zeal in propagating Jehovah’s Witness’ tenets and to motivate non-members to join them in order to have the hope of resurrection from the dead to enjoy earthly paradise. Here are some of them:
1925 – Rutherford predicted that ” 1925 shall mark the resurrection of the faithful worthies of old and the beginning of reconstruction He said, “millions now living shall never die” (Millions Now Living Shall Never Die, p. 97).
1929 – This was the year that the Witnesses built Beth Sarim, a house for the Old Testament worthies who were supposed to be resurrected in a very short time.
1941 – The book Children was written to recommend that Witnesses put off marriage until after Armageddon, which was soon to come.
1975 – The Witnesses predicted that Armageddon was to come that year.
Other prophecies which were equally as wrong as these could be cited. However, the Scriptures warn, “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him” (Deut. 18:22).
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a false religious organization which was founded by the man Charles Taze Russell. They teach a number of false doctrines and make false predictions. They spread their errors house-to-house, being unwilling to defend their doctrines in public discussion. They spread confusion, unsettling the weak and unlearned.
The Witnesses are false teachers. Their doctrines are pernicious. Jesus warned, ” . . . if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matt. 15:13-14). Beware of these false spiritual leaders!
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 1, pp. 2, 23-24
January 3, 1985