Author: Robert M. Bowman, Jr.; summary by Alan W. Gomes
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, more commonly known as Jehovah's
Witnesses, was founded in the 1880s by Charles Taze Russell, a haberdasher
from Allegheny, Pennsylvania. Russell, who attended Presbyterian and Congregational
churches as a child, found himself unable to accept their teaching
about hell. Under Seventh-day Adventist influence, Russell embraced their
teaching that "hell" stood for the grave and that the wicked would ultimately be
annihilated, not tortured consciously for eternity. Also through Adventist influence,
Russell adopted the idea that Christ's second coming was an invisible,
spiritual "presence" that had already begun, rather than a literal, bodily return
to take place in the future. Russell also denied the doctrines of the Trinity and
of Christ's deity. He was known for his vociferous denunciations of "Christendom's"
allegedly false beliefs and practices. Russell died in 1916, believing that
World War I was Armageddon.
Joseph Franklin Rutherford (d. 1942), the society's legal counselor, succeeded
Russell as head of the movement, and it was under his tenure that they
adopted the name "Jehovah's Witnesses." The current Watchtower president is
Milton G. Henschel. In terms of social and ethical practices, JWs do not observe
birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Mother's Day, or any other such
holidays, rejecting them as "pagan." They refuse blood transfusions (based on a
misunderstanding of Leviticus 17), will not participate in politics or the military,
and will not salute the flag. They maintain strict neutrality in war. There
are presently at least 5 million active JWs worldwide. They are known for their
massive proselytizing efforts, dedicating about one billion hours per year to witnessing
(that is, over 200 hours per member per year). JWs also distribute enormous
amounts of printed literature, more so than any other cult.
Summary of Beliefs
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that there is one almighty
Godby nature, who is
also only one person. JWs wrongly allege that wicked scribes removed God's
proper name, Jehovah, from the Bible. This divine name has been restored to
its rightful place in the New World Translation of the Bible. The doctrine of the
Trinityis roundly condemned as unscriptural and the result of pagan influences.
Jesus Christwas Michael the Archangel before his incarnation as a man; after
his death and spiritual resurrection (see below), the man Jesus again became an
angel. Jesus was Jehovah's agent in creating all things after he himself was created
by Jehovah God. Although not God by nature, he is a "mighty one" and
therefore may be called "a god" in a loose sense of the word. The
not a person, nor a member of the Godhead, but is Jehovah's active force, which
emanates from him to accomplish his will.
Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in an entity
called the soul that survives the death of the body. Rather, they teach that people
cease to exist at death but that at the Resurrection Jehovah will recreate them
from his memory. In the eternal state there are different classes of Christians
with different destinies. The
144,000are those who, along with Christ Jesus,
are "born again" to exist as spirits; they will reign with Christ in heaven. The
rest will live in a paradise earth with resurrected bodies. There is no
traditional understanding of the doctrine; the finally impenitent will be annihilated,
not tortured for all eternity.
Christ's death and resurrection,
he gave his life as a ransom
price to atone for our guilt in Adam. He was raised an invisible spirit creature,
forfeiting his right to bodily, earthly life.
Salvationis accomplished by faith in
Christ Jesus plus works, such as taking in spiritual knowledge and doing God's
kingdom work (such as door-to-door witnessing). Regarding
JWs reject the notion that Christ will return bodily to earth. Rather,
his invisible "presence," which began in 1914, is engineering events leading to
the Battle of Armageddon and the beginning of the Millennium. The Watchtower
Society is known for having set several different dates for when Armageddon
would occur; after each failed prophecy, numerous disillusioned
members left the movement.
Parallel Comparison Chart
Scripture and Watchtower Authority
"They say that it is sufficient to read the
Bible exclusively, either alone or in
small groups at home. But, strangely,
through such 'Bible reading,' they have
reverted right back to the apostate doctrines
that commentaries by Christendom's
clergy were teaching 100 years
ago ." (
, August 15,
"All Scripture is inspired of God and
beneficial for teaching, for reproving,
for setting things straight, for disciplining
in righteousness, that the man of
God may be
fully competent, completely
equippedfor every good work"
(2 Tim. 3:16-17 NWT).
"I am writing these things to you about
those who are trying to lead you astray.
As for you, the anointing you received
from him remains in you, and you do
not need anyone to teach you. But as
his anointing teaches you about all
things and as that anointing is real, not
counterfeit-just as it has taught you,
remain in him" (1 John 2:26-27 NIV).
The Deity of Christ
". the Bible plainly states that in his
prehuman existence, Jesus was a created
spirit being, just as angels were
spirit beings created by God The fact
is that Jesus is not God and never
claimed to be" (
Should You Believe in
, 14, 20).
"So it was by means of this master
worker, his junior partner, as it were,
that Almighty God created all other
things he was simply addressing another
individual, his first spirit creation,
the master craftsman, the prehuman
Should You Believe in the Trinity?
"In the beginning was the Word, and
the Word was with God, and the Word
was God" (John 1:1 NIV).
"'I tell you the truth,' Jesus answered,
'before Abraham was born, I am!"' (John
"In answer Thomas said to him [Jesus]:
'My Lord and my God!"' (John 20:28
"I, Jehovah, am doing everything,
stretching out the heavens by myself,
laying out the earth. Who was with
me?" (Is. 44:24 NWT).
"All things came into existence through
him, and apart from him not even one
thing came into existence" (John 1:3
The Personhood of the Holy Spirit
"The correct identification of the holy
spirit must fit
all the scripturesthat refer
to that spirit. With this viewpoint, 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, 381).
"However, when that one
spirit of the truth, he will
into all the truth, for he will not
his own impulse
, but what things he
hearshe will speak, and he will
declareto YOU the things coming. That one will
glorifyme, because he will
what is mine and will
declare itto YOU"
(John 16:13-14 NWT).
"At death man's spirit, his life-force,
which is sustained by breathing, 'goes
It no longer existsWhen they
are dead, both humans and animals are
in this same state of complete unconsciousness
That the soul lives on
after death is a lie started by the Devil"
You Can Live Forever in Paradise on
"You have come to God, the judge of all
the spiritsof righteous men
made perfect" (Heb. 12:23 NIV).
". I saw underneath the altar the souls
of those who had been slaughtered because
of the word of God and because of
the witness work that they used to have.
And they cried with a loud voice, saying
." (Rev. 6:9-10 NWT).
loving Godreally torment people
forever? . The wicked, of course,
are not literally tormented because, as
we have seen, when a person is dead he
is completely out of existence And it
is also a lie, which the Devil spread, that
the souls of the wicked are tormented
You Can Live Forever in
Paradise on Earth
, 81, 88, 89).
"Actually, all this passage [Rev. 14:9-11]
says is that the wicked are tormented,
not that they are tormented
forever. The text says that it is the
smoke. that continues forever, not
the fiery torment" ("Hell-Eternal Torture
or Common Grave?"
April 15, 1993, 7).
"If anyone worships the wild beast and
its image . he will also drink of the
wine of the
anger of Godthat is poured
out undiluted into the cup of
he shall be tormentedwith fire and
sulphur in the sight of the holy angels
and in the sight of the Lamb. And the
smoke of their torment ascends forever
and ever, and day and night
no restAnd the Devil who was misleading
them was hurled into the lake of
fire and sulphur, where both the wild
beast and the false prophet [already
they will be tormented day
and night forever and ever"(Rev. 14:9-11;
"Jehovah God has the right to refuse to
accept a ransom for anyone he deems
unworthy. Christ's ransom covers the
sins an individual has because of being
a child of Adam, but a person can add to
that by his own, deliberate, willful
course of action, and he can thus die for
such sin that is beyond coverage by the
Insight on the Scriptures, 2:792).
allhave sinned and fall short of
the glory of God, and are justified freely
by his grace through the redemption
that came by Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:23-24
"You see, at just the right time, when
we were still powerless, Christ died for
the ungodly" (Rom. 5:6 NIV).
"Christ Jesus came into the world to
save sinners-of whom I am
(1 Tim. 1:15 NIV).
"The blood of Jesus . cleanses us from
allsin" (1 John 1:7 NWT).
"Having given up his flesh for the life of
the world, Christ could never take it
again and become a man once more.
For that basic reason his return could
never be in the human body that he sacrificed
once for all time" (
You Can Live
Forever in Paradise on Earth
"But God resurrected him by loosing the
pangs of death, because it was not possible
for him to continue to be held fast by
it. For David says respecting him .'On
this account my heart became cheerful
and my tongue rejoiced greatly. Moreover,
fleshwill reside in hope .
"'(Acts 2:24-27 NWT).
Classes of Christians
"So this 'congregation of God' is made up
of all Christians on earth who have the
hope of heavenly life. In all, only 144,000
persons finally make up the 'congregation
of God.' Today, only a few of these, a
remnant, are still on earth. Christians
who hope to live forever on earth look for
spiritual guidance from members of this
'congregation of the living God"' (
Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth
"For truly by one spirit we were
one body." (1 Cor. 12:13
". you were slain, and with your blood
you purchased men for God from every
tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom
and priests to serve our God, and
they will reign
on the earth
" (Rev. 5:9-10
The New Birth
"Being born again involves being baptized
in water ('born from water') and begotten
by God's spirit ('born from .
spirit'), thus becoming a son of God with
the prospect of sharing in the Kingdom
of God. (John 3:3-5) Jesus had this experience,
as do the 144,000 who are heirs
with him of the heavenly Kingdom"
Reasoning from the Scriptures
allwho are led by God's spirit,
these are God's sons" (Rom. 8:14 NWT).
allsons of God through faith
in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26 NIV).
Everyonebelieving that Jesus is the
Christ has been born from God" (1 John
"Some suggest that belief in Jesus is the
end of the matter However, to concentrate
on only one essential requirement
for salvation to the exclusion of the
others is like reading one crucial clause
in a contract and ignoring the rest
Yes, there are various things involved in
getting saved. We must take in accurate
knowledge of God's purposes and his way
of salvation. Then we must exercise faith
in the Chief Agent of salvation, Jesus
Christ, and do God's will the rest of our
lives. (John 3:16; Titus 2:14)" ("What We
Must Do to Be Saved,"
September 15, 1993, 5-7).
"For God so loved the world that he
gave his one and only Son, that whoever
believes in him shall not perish but
have eternal life" (John 3:16-18 NIV).
"For it is by grace you have been saved,
through faith-and this not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God-not by
works, so that no one can boast. For we
are God's workmanship, created in
Christ Jesus to do good works, which
God prepared in advance for us to do"
(Eph. 2:8-10 NIV).
". our great God and Savior, Jesus
Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem
us from all wickedness and to purify for
himself a people that are his very own,
eager to do what is good But when the
kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,
he saved us, not because of righteous
things we had done, but because of
his mercy" (Titus 2:13-14; 3:4-5 NIV).
"For some 79 years, humans on earth
have been experiencing the effects of
Christ's invisible royal presence"
("Shedding Light on Christ's Presence,"
, May 1, 1993, 11).
"For the Lord himself will come down
from heaven, with a loud command,
with the voice of the archangel and with
the trumpet call of God, and the dead in
Christ will rise first" (1 Thess. 4:16 NIV).