Tagged: Watch Tower

When doctrine trumps Scripture

This is the first in a series of columns addressing Jehovah’s Witnesses and their understanding of Jesus.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have a high regard for Scripture. They believe the Bible is the Word of God. They base their beliefs and practices on it. And they prove themselves adept at using select Bible passages to weave convincing arguments for their unique doctrines – particularly doctrines that place the Watch Tower outside the margins of historic Christianity. These include a denial of the Trinity, the belief in Jesus as a created being, and the depiction of the “holy spirit” as an impersonal force.

Jehovah’s Witnesses display a commendable fervor for sharing the Bible, amassing millions of hours each year in door-to-door “publishing” across 240 nations. So, why do they reject basic Christian doctrines the church has embraced since the days of the apostles – most notably, the deity of Christ?

For starters, it’s because Watch Tower forefather Charles Taze Russell and his successors rejected certain biblical teachings that conflicted with their human reasoning. Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that Christianity fell into general apostasy under Emperor Constantine in the fourth century A.D. To restore pure worship, Jehovah appointed Russell to provide spiritual manna for His true worshipers.

This so-called heavenly bread featured, among other things, a denial of the deity both of the Son and Holy Spirit. The July 1882 issue of Zion’s Watch Tower said, “Our readers are aware that while we believe in Jehovah and Jesus, and the holy spirit, we reject as totally unscriptural, the teaching that these are three Gods in one person or, as some put it, one God in three persons.”

Russell later wrote, “The clergy’s God is plainly not Jehovah but the ancient deity, hoary with the iniquity of the ages – Baal, the Devil Himself.”
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What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe?

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.
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Is the Holy Spirit like electricity?

ElectricityA recent survey by LifeWay Research, as reported in Facts & Trends magazine, reveals that 59 percent of American evangelicals believe the Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being, and another 10 percent are not sure.

This lack of understanding of the divine and personal nature of the Spirit is more at home in counterfeit forms of Christianity like the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, whose adherents are known as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Our JW friends promote a “holy spirit” that is neither personal nor divine. A teaching guide called Aid to Bible Understanding explains, “The Scriptures themselves unite to show that God’s holy spirit is not a person but is God’s active force by which he accomplishes his purpose and executes his will.”

Some JWs liken the “holy spirit” to electricity – a powerful, unseen force under the sovereign control of Jehovah.

But is that truly the Holy Spirit of the Scriptures? Or does the Bible present a Holy Spirit who is personal, divine, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son?

Let’s explore two simple truths from Scripture.
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10 Biblical Truths Denied by Jehovah’s Witnesses

Every Christian should reject the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society’s (Jehovah’s Witnesses’) claim to be the only true church because it denies 10 key Biblical truths.

1. The Trinity.

The Watch Tower says:

  • “The clergy’s God is plainly not Jehovah but the ancient deity, hoary with the iniquity of the ages – Baal, the Devil Himself” (Charles Taze Russell, Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 7, p. 410).
  • “The obvious conclusion is, therefore, that Satan is the originator of the trinity doctrine” (Let God Be True, p. 101).

The Bible says:

  • There is one true and living God who exists as three distinct co-equal, co-eternal persons: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The divine persons of the Trinity are specifically mentioned in John 14:26, 15:26; 2 Corinthians 13:13; and 1 Peter 1:2). In addition, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit each is referred to as deity in Scripture (John 1:1-3, 10, 14, 10:30; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Cor. 13:13; 1 Peter 1:2).
  • The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are described as deity using similar terms: Omniscient (Matt. 9:4; Rom. 11:33; 1 Cor. 2:10); God (John 10:30; Acts 5:3-4; 1 Peter 1:2); Lord (Luke 2:11; Rom. 10:12; 2 Cor. 3:17); almighty (Gen. 17:1; Rom. 15:19; Rev. 1:8); truth (John 7:28; 1 John 5:6; Rev. 3:7);  eternal (Ps. 90:2; Micah 5:2; Heb. 9:14);  powerful (Jer. 32:17; Matt. 28:18; Luke 1:35; Rom. 15:19; Heb. 1:3; 1 Peter 1:5).

2. The deity of Christ.

The Watch Tower says:

  • Jesus is the first creation of Jehovah; Jesus then made all “other” things (see Col. 1:16 in the New World Translation).
  • “… 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 the Trinity? pp. 14, 20).
  • “… the true Scriptures speak of God’s Son, the Word, as ‘a god.’  He is a ‘mighty god,’ but not the Almighty God, who is Jehovah”  (The Truth Shall Make You Free, p. 47).

The Bible says:

  • Jesus is the virgin-born Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:18-23; Luke 1:35). He is eternal God, the Creator, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and Holy Spirit (John 1:1-3, 10, 14; 10:30; Col. 1:15-20; Phil. 2:5-11; Heb. 1:1-3).

3. The personhood and deity of the Holy Spirit.

The Watch Tower says:

  • “… The holy spirit is the invisible active force of Almighty God that moves his servants to do his will” (Let God Be True, p. 108).
  • “The Scriptures themselves unite to show that God’s holy spirit is not a person but is God’s active force by which he accomplishes his purpose and executes his will” (Aid to Bible Understanding, p. 1543).
  • “As for the ‘Holy Spirit,’ the so-called ‘third Person of the Trinity,’ we have already seen that it is not a person, but God’s active force”  (The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, p. 24).

The Bible says:

  • The Holy Spirit is the third person of the triune Godhead (Matt. 3:16-17, 28:19-20). He is described, not as a force, but as a person. Jesus never refers to the Holy Spirit as an “it.”  Further, scripture tells us the Spirit is a divine person because He testifies (John 15:26), guides (John 16:13), leads (Acts 8:29), commands (Acts 16:6-7), appoints (Acts 20:28), intercedes (Rom. 8:26) and speaks (Rev. 2:7). He can be blasphemed (Matt. 12:31-32), lied to (Acts 5:3-4), grieved (Eph. 4:30) and insulted (Heb. 10:29).
  • The Holy Spirit is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son (Acts 5:3-4).

4. Christ’s sacrificial and substitutionary death on the cross.

The Watch Tower says:

  • “Jesus died as a ‘ransom sacrifice’ to buy back what Adam lost: the right to perfect life on earth” (10 Questions & Answers on Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 7).
  • Jesus died, not on a cross, but on an “upright pole, stake or post” (www.watchtower.org).

The Bible says:

  • Jesus died on a cross (Matt. 27:32, 40, 42; John 19:19, 25, 31; 1 Cor. 1:17-18; Gal. 6:12, 14; Eph. 2:16; Phil. 2:8; Col. 1:20, 2:14; Heb. 12:2).
  • Christ’s death on the cross paid our sin debt and purchased our salvation so that everlasting life is received by grace through faith in Jesus (John 3:16; 5:24; Rom. 4:4-5; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).

5. Christ’s bodily resurrection.

The Watch Tower says:

  • “This firstborn from the dead was raised from the grave, not a human creature, but a spirit” (Let God Be True, p. 276).
  • “At death, Jesus’ human body was ‘disposed’ of by God’s power, and Michael [Jesus in his pre-earthly state] rose from the dead as the ‘resurrected Jesus Christ.’ Since angels are invisible, Jesus fabricated physical bodies resembling His original body to convince His disciples that He had risen from the dead. Since 1914, when Jesus’ ‘invisible presence’ on earth began, He has been reigning from heaven, awaiting the future battle of Armageddon in which He will rid the earth of human governments and set up ‘Paradise’ under ‘Jehovah’s Kingdom government arrangement’” (10 Questions & Answers on Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 4).

The Bible says:

  • Jesus rose physically from the dead, and our future resurrection depends on it (Matt. 12:38-40; 28:5-10; Luke 24:39-43; John 20:19-29; Rom. 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:4-8, 12-26; 1 Peter 1:18-21).

6. Christ’s physical and visible return.

The Watch Tower says:

  • “Since 1914, when Jesus’ ‘invisible presence’ on earth began, He has been reigning from heaven, awaiting the future battle of Armageddon in which He will rid the earth of human governments and set up ‘Paradise’ under ‘Jehovah’s Kingdom government arrangement’” (10 Questions & Answers on Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 4).
  • “Christ Jesus returns, not again as a human, but as a glorious spirit person” (Let God Be True, p. 196).
  • “Some wrongfully expect a literal fulfillment of the symbolic statements of the Bible. Such hope to see the glorified Jesus coming seated on a white cloud where every human eye will see him … Since no earthly men have ever seen the Father … neither will they see the glorified Son” (Let God Be True, p. 186).

The Bible says:

  • Jesus is coming back physically and visibly one day (Matt. 24:29-31; John 14:3; Acts 1:9-11; Titus 2:13; Rev. 19:11-16).

7. Salvation by grace through faith.

The Watch Tower says:

  • “The four requirements for salvation are: 1) taking in knowledge of Jehovah God and of Jesus Christ; 2) obeying God’s laws and conforming one’s life to the moral requirements set out in the Bible; 3) belonging to and serving with God’s one true channel and organization (that is, the Watchtower Society); and 4) being loyal to God’s organization” (10 Questions & Answers on Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 7).
  • “Salvation is earned through a combination of faith plus good works. True Christians can have no assurance of eternal life. They must work toward perfection throughout this life, and then throughout Christ’s 1,000-year reign on earth. Next they must pass the final test of Satan (during which Satan is released from the pit to tempt all faithful Witnesses one last time) before God will grant them eternal life. If they fail at any point they are at risk of annihilation (eternal destruction)” (10 Questions & Answers on Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 7).

The Bible says:

  • Christ’s death at Calvary paid our sin debt and purchased our salvation so that everlasting life is received by grace through faith in Jesus (John 3:16; 5:24; Rom. 4:4-5; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).
  • Believers are eternally secure based on the finished work of Christ at Calvary and the faithfulness of God (John 5:24; 10:27-30; Rom. 8:28-39; Heb. 7:25; 10:14; 1 Peter 1:1-5).
  • All who receive Christ by faith enter immediately and everlastingly into Christ’s kingdom (John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; Rom. 10:9-10, 13).

8. Consciousness of the soul after death.

The Watch Tower says:

  • “… the claim of religionists that man has an immortal soul and therefore differs from the beast is not Scriptural” (Let God Be True, p. 68).

The Bible says:

  • There is conscious existence after death (Luke 16:19-31).
  • Hell is a place of everlasting conscious existence, where the unbeliever is forever separated from God (Matt. 25:46; Rev. 14:9-11; 20:10). Heaven also is a place of everlasting conscious existence, and the believer’s soul/spirit goes there upon death (2 Cor. 5:8).

9. Everlasting punishment for unbelievers in hell.

The Watch Tower says:

  • “The doctrine of a burning hell where the wicked are tortured eternally after death cannot be true, mainly for four reasons: (1) Because 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. 99).
  • “Would a loving God really 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, pp. 81, 88-89).

The Bible says:

  • Hell is a place of everlasting conscious existence, where the unbeliever is forever separated from God (Matt. 25:46; Rev. 14:9-11; 20:10-15).

10. Heaven as the destination for all believers.

The Watch Tower says:

  • Only 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses will be in heaven. “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 the earth. Christians who hope to live forever on earth look for spiritual guidance from members of this ‘congregation of the living God’” (You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, pp. 125-26).
  • “Many millions that have lived in centuries past and who were not Jehovah’s Witnesses will come back in a resurrection and have an opportunity for life. Many now living may yet take a stand for truth and righteousness before ‘the great tribulation,’ and they will gain salvation” (www.watchtower.org).

The Bible says:

  • All believers have God’s promise of a home in heaven, will go there instantly upon physical death, and will return with Christ to earth one day (John 14:1-3; 2 Cor. 5:8; Rev. 19:11-16).
  • There is no opportunity for salvation beyond the grave (Luke 16:19-31; Heb. 9:27).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips

Why every Christian should reject the Watchtower’s claims: Part 3

 The views of Charles Taze Russell and subsequent Jehovah’s Witness leaders regarding the doctrines of Biblical Christianity are not new; for the most part, they are recent spins on the Arian heresy of the early 4th century and other more recent Scripture-twisting views. Specifically, every Christian should reject the Watchtower’s claims to be the only true church because of its numerous unbiblical views. Ten false doctrines of the Watchtower are being highlighted in this three-part series.

Click here to review Parts 1 and 2

Download an audio file of Part 3

Click play to listen to Part 3: 

JW False Doctrine 7: Salvation by grace through faith denied.

What the Watchtower says:

  • “It is evident from this that besides faith and baptism, ‘public declaration’ to the effect that Jesus Christ is Lord and the God raised him up from the dead is a requirement for salvation…. Clearly, for all who wish to gain an approved standing with God, Christian baptism is a requirement” (Aid to Bible Understanding, p. 755).
  • “Most Witnesses hope to be found worthy enough to be ‘saved’ from destruction in the future battle of Armageddon and to survive into God’s new earthly system of rule, when ‘paradise’ will be restored to Earth. The four requirements for salvation are: 1) taking in knowledge of Jehovah God and of Jesus Christ; 2) obeying God’s laws and conforming one’s life to the moral requirements set out in the Bible; 3) belonging to and serving with God’s one true channel and organization (that is, the Watchtower Society); and 4) being loyal to God’s organization” (10 Questions & Answers on Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 7).
  • “Salvation is earned through a combination of faith plus good works. True Christians can have no assurance of eternal life. They must work toward perfection throughout this life, and then throughout Christ’s 1,000-year reign on earth. Next they must pass the final test of Satan (during which Satan is released from the pit to tempt all faithful Witnesses one last time) before God will grant them eternal life. If they fail at any point they are at risk of annihilation (eternal destruction)” (10 Questions & Answers on Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 7).

What the Bible teaches:

  • Christ’s death at Calvary paid our sin debt and purchased our salvation so that everlasting life is received by grace through faith in Jesus (John 3:16; 5:24; Rom. 4:4-5; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).
  • Believers are eternally secure based on the finished work of Christ at Calvary and the faithfulness of God (John 5:24; 10:27-30; Rom. 8:28-39; Heb. 7:25; 10:14; 1 Peter 1:1-5).
  • All who receive Christ by faith enter immediately and everlastingly into Christ’s kingdom (John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; Rom. 10:9-10, 13).

JW False Doctrine 8: Consciousness of the soul after death denied.

What the Watchtower says:

  • “… the claim of religionists that man has an immortal soul and therefore differs from the beast is not Scriptural” (Let God Be True, p. 68).
  • “Hell is mankind’s common grave” (Jehovah’s Witnesses Official Web Site).
  • At death, the soul, which is inseparable from the body, ceases to exist. Jehovah “remembers” each person’s life essence and recreates it at the resurrection. In other words, the Watchtower teaches the false doctrine of “soul sleep.”
  • There are three classes of individuals who are resurrected (recreated) and are potential heirs of salvation: 1) the 144,000 elect of God who enter heaven; 2) the “earthly class’ of faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses; and 3) the rest of mankind. A fourth class, the unsaved, are annihilated at death and are not resurrected and given a second chance.

What the Bible teaches:

  • At death, man’s eternal destiny is fixed in one of two places: heaven or hell.  All people have conscious existence at death and beyond (Luke 16:19-31).
  • Hell is a place of everlasting conscious existence, where the unbeliever is forever separated from God (Matt. 25:46; Rev. 14:9-11; 20:10).
  • Heaven also is a place of everlasting conscious existence, and the believer’s soul/spirit goes there upon death (2 Cor. 5:8; Rev. 22:5).

JW False Doctrine 9: Eternal punishment in hell denied.

What the Watchtower says:

  • “Hell is mankind’s common grave” (Jehovah’s Witnesses Official Web Site).
  • “Who is responsible for this God-defaming doctrine of a hell of torment? The promulgator of it is Satan himself. His purpose in introducing it has been to frighten the people away from studying the Bible and to make them hate God” (Let God Be True, p. 98).
  • “The doctrine of a burning hell where the wicked are tortured eternally after death cannot be true, mainly for four reasons: (1) Because 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. 99).
  • “Would a loving God really 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, pp. 81, 88-89).

What the Bible teaches:

  • Hell is a place of everlasting conscious existence, where the unbeliever is forever separated from God (Matt. 25:46; Rev. 14:9-11; 20:10).

JW False Doctrine 10: Heaven as the destination for all believers denied.

What the Watchtower says:

  • Only 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, called the “anointed class” and chosen by Jehovah, will be in heaven. The remaining faithful Witnesses, after an indefinite length of time in a state of soul sleep, will be raised to populate Paradise Earth – if they remain faithful throughout the millennium and final test.
  • “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 the earth. Christians who hope to live forever on earth look for spiritual guidance from members of this ‘congregation of the living God'” (You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, pp. 125-26).
  • “Many millions that have lived in centuries past and who were not Jehovah’s Witnesses will come back in a resurrection and have an opportunity for life. Many now living may yet take a stand for truth and righteousness before the “great tribulation,” and they will gain salvation (Jehovah’s Witnesses official Web site).
  • The “anointed class” will one day rule in heaven with the elder brother Jesus. The anointed class is sovereignly chosen, or elected. Members of this class receive five benefits not given to others: 1) They are now presently “justified” by God as long as they maintain their justified status; 2) they are now consecrated and anointed as priests; 3) they are specially sanctified for Jehovah’s purposes; 4) if they remain faithful, at death they will be regenerated or born again just as Jesus was born again; 5) they will then rule in heaven with God and Jesus. At the “resurrection,” the 144,000 will be changed into spirit creatures, just as they believe Jesus was at His “resurrection.” This constitutes being “born again.” Thus, just like the Watchtower Jesus, they will live in heaven as spirits but not on earth as physical persons. They are thus said to be given immortality as spirits in heaven, in contrast to a physical eternal life on earth.
  • The “other sheep,” or “great crowd,” constitutes the rest of the Witnesses. The average Witness today has virtually no expectation of being elected to the anointed class, neither does he or she have any expectation of being “born again.” If the “other sheep” are successful in earning their salvation they will be given positions of leadership in the millennial age. However, they are also warned that if they do not pass additional millennial tests, they will forfeit their eternal life and be annihilated.
  • The rest of mankind are resurrected to life on earth in the exact moral condition in which they died, and they must then seek to attain their own perfection during the millennium. If they attain perfection and also pass the final millennial test by avoiding the judgment of God in Rev. 20:7-9, they will obtain eternal life on earth.

What the Bible teaches:

  • All believers have God’s promise of a home in heaven, will go there instantly upon physical death, and will return with Christ to earth one day (John 14:1-3; 2 Cor. 5:8; Rev. 19:11-16).
  • There is no opportunity for salvation beyond the grave, as the Watchtower teaches  (Luke 16:19-31; Heb. 9:27).

More resources:

The Jehovah’s Witnesses: An Overview (PDF)

Comparing Christianity to the Jehovah’s Witnesses (PDF)

Key Mistranslations of the New World Translation (PDF)