Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the so-called intermediate state, the conscious existence of the soul/spirit between death and resurrection.
Their governing organization, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, teaches that the soul dies with the body and goes to “hell,” which it defines as mankind’s common grave. As the Watch Tower website states, “Scripturally, death is a state of nonexistence. The dead have no awareness, no feelings, no thoughts.”
Faithful JWs, of course, look forward to a future resurrection, at which time they populate the millennial kingdom and, if they persevere, live forever in paradise on earth.
They often focus on Old Testament passages to support their doctrine of soul sleep. Ecclesiastes 9:5 is one example: “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing at all, nor do they have any more reward, because all memory of them is forgotten” (New World Translation).
While several other passages in Ecclesiastes acknowledge the inevitability of death, this verse seems to say there is no conscious afterlife. Can this possibly be true?
Jehovah’s Witnesses have a disturbing take on the apostle Paul’s description of Jesus as the “firstborn over all creation.”
Consider how the Watch Tower renders Col. 1:15-17 in its New World Translation: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; because by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and on earth, the things visible and the things invisible, whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All other things have been created through him and for him. Also, he is before all other things, and by means of him all other things were made to exist …”
Note the unjustified insertion of the word “other” before “things” four times in the NWT.
The Watch Tower’s official website explains: “Jesus is Jehovah’s most precious Son — and for good reason. He is called ‘the firstborn of all creation,’ for he was God’s first creation. There is something else that makes this Son special. He is the ‘only-begotten Son.’ This means that Jesus is the only one directly created by God. Jesus is also the only one whom God used when He created all other things.”
To summarize, JWs believe Jesus is the first created being, known as Michael the archangel, who is sent to earth temporarily as a man, then recreated as an exalted angel after his death on a torture stake and subsequent annihilation as a human being.
But is this the proper way to understand Paul’s meaning of firstborn?
In a word, no.
This is the last in a three-part series on Jehovah’s Witnesses
Jehovah’s Witnesses regard The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures as “an accurate, easy-to-read translation of the Bible” (jw.org). What many don’t realize is that four of the five men on the translation committee producing the complete 1961 edition had no Hebrew or Greek training whatsoever.
The fifth, who claimed to know both languages, failed a simple Hebrew test while under oath in a Scottish court.
What all this means is that the Watch Tower’s official version of the Bible is “an incredibly biased translation,” writes Ron Rhodes in Reasoning from the Scriptures with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
British scholar H.H. Rowley calls it “a shining example of how the Bible should not be translated,” classifying the text as “an insult to the Word of God.”
Revisions in 1984 and 2013 have not improved the translation.
So, what’s wrong with the NWT? In a phrase, the translators consistently have sought to conform the text to Watch Tower theology, particularly with respect to the person and work of Christ.
A few examples should make this clear.
This is the second in a three-part series on Jehovah’s Witnesses
Our Jehovah’s Witness friends deny at least 10 key biblical doctrines. This is due in part to their reliance on The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, which we discuss in the next column.
Note: The Baptist Faith and Message, available as a free download from sbc.net, features a more complete treatment of Christian doctrines and includes multiple Scripture references.
1. The Trinity. The Watch Tower says Jesus is a created being and the “holy spirit” is an impersonal force. “The obvious conclusion is, therefore, that Satan is the originator of the trinity doctrine” (Let God Be True).
The Bible tells us there is one true and living God who exists as three distinct, co-equal, co-eternal persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This is the first in a three-part series on Jehovah’s Witnesses
They come to your door well prepared, using familiar terms like Jesus, kingdom, and faith. Their smiling faces and leading questions make it easy to agree with them. You might even let them start a Bible study in your home.
They are sincere, committed to their beliefs, and faithful in their endeavors. They are seeking the truth, believe they have found it, and are eager to share it with you.
They are Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Officially known as The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, the Jehovah’s Witnesses today boast more than 8.2 million active participants in 239 countries, with 115,000 Kingdom Halls and one of the largest publishing operations in the world.