Beliefs and Practices
1. God. They say, “We worship the one true and Almighty God, the Creator, whose name is Jehovah” (What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?, jw.org). They do not believe in the Trinity. “The true God is one Person, separate from Jesus Christ… God’s holy spirit is not a person. It is Jehovah’s active force, used by the Almighty to accomplish his purposes” (Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, p. 31, WTBTSOP)
2. Jesus. (a) They claim to be Christians. They say, “We follow the teachings and example of Jesus Christ and honor him as our Savior and the Son of God… Thus we are Christians… However, we have learned from the Bible that Jesus is not Almighty God” (What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?, jw.org). (b) They believe that Jesus was “God’s first creation” (What does The Bible Really Teach?, p. 41, WTBTSOP). He enjoyed close association with Jehovah “for billions of years – long before the starry heavens and earth were created” (What Does The Bible Really Teach?, p. 42, WTBTSOP). (c) They believe that Jesus is Michael the Archangel. “The Bible indicates that Michael is another name for Jesus Christ, before and after his life on earth” (What Does The Bible Really Teach?, p. 218, WTBTSOP). (d) They teach that “Jesus is not to be worshipped, as we worship only Jehovah God” (Watchtower, November 1, 1964, p. 671, wol.jw.org).
3. The Holy Spirit. They believe “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 Scripture, p. 381, WTBTSOP). Again, “The Bible’s use of ‘holy spirit’ indicates that it is a controlled force that Jehovah God uses to accomplish a variety of his purposes. To a certain extent, it can be likened to electricity, a force that can be adapted to perform a great variety of operations” (Should You Believe in the Trinity?, p. 20, WTBTSOP).
4. Man. (a) They believe that man has freedom of choice. “God dignifies us with free will, the power to make decisions of our own rather than having God or fate predetermine what we do” (What Does the Bible Say About Free Will?, jw.org). (b) They believe that man’s soul is mortal. Rutherford taught, “The doctrine that man has inherent life and that the soul of man is immortal is as false as the Devil himself and is the result of the Devil’s first lie… Every man is ‘A’ soul, that is to say, a living, breathing creature. He does not possess a soul separate and distinct from his body; but the body of flesh and the breath of living creatures, together constitute the soul. When a man dies he is completely dead and entirely without knowledge or consciousness” (J.F. Rutherford, Salvation, pp. 36-37, archive.org). The Watch Tower says, “When a person dies, he ceases to exist. Death is the opposite of life. The dead do not see or hear or think. Not even one part of us survives the death of the body. We do not possess an immortal soul or spirit” (What Does The Bible Teach?, p. 58, WTBTSOP).
5. Salvation. “Deliverance from sin and death is possible through the ransom sacrifice of Jesus… To benefit from that sacrifice, people must not only exercise faith in Jesus but also change their course of life and get baptized” (What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?, jw.org). “Water Baptism is a requirement to have a relationship with Jehovah God” (What Does The Bible Really Teach?, p. 175, WTBTSOP). This baptism is by immersion (ibid). There seems to be a lack of urgency in the matter. “If these elders agree that you qualify, they will tell you that you can be baptized at the next opportunity… Baptisms are a regular feature of annual assemblies and conventions held by Jehovah’s Witnesses” (ibid, p. 182). They point out “Baptism does not guarantee salvation. The apostle Paul wrote: ‘Keep working out your own salvation with fear and trembling.’ (Philippians 2:12). Baptism is only the beginning” (ibid, p. 183).
At times, they seem to deny that baptism is essential. They write, “repentance must precede, but sins not washed away by baptism” (Make Sure of All Things, p. 30, WTBTSOP). Their position should be clarified. I have found their position to be ambiguous when speaking with them. In 1908 Charles Taze Russell (J.W.) debated L.S. White in Cincinnati, Ohio, at Music Hall. Six propositions were debated. The fifth proposition was “The Scriptures clearly teach that immersion in water ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’ of a believing penitent is for, in order to, the remission of sin.” L.S. White affirmed this. Charles Taze Russell denied this. This probably is still their position.
6. Morals. Jehovah’s Witnesses teach many good morals. They write, for example, “We adhere to God’s original standard of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, with sexual immorality being the only valid basis for divorce (Matthew 19:4-9)” (What Do Jehovah Witnesses Believe?, jw.org).
7. Resurrection. (a) Not all will be raised. “During the millennium, the resurrection will take place. Those who willfully sinned against God’s holy spirit, or active force, by unrepentantly acting contrary to its manifestation or leadings will not be resurrected” (Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, p. 185, WTBTSOP). (b) Some righteous will a part of the First Resurrection, and be raised to life in heaven. “Raised to immortal life in the heavens, the 144,000 joints heirs of Christ cannot die” (Is This Life All There Is?, p. 183., WTBTSOP). (c) Some righteous will be raised to live again on earth (Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, p. 186). (d) Many unrighteous will be raised to live again on earth. They will be given a second chance. For some it will be their first real chance to know Jehovah (Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, p. 186). Not all those raised again to life on earth will pass the test, or judgment day (in their view – this 1,000 year period). “There will be some… who will become disloyal to God. The condemnatory judgment passed on them for unfaithfulness will be ‘second death’” (Is This All There Is?, p. 182). “The judgment will not focus on what people did before they died… Those resurrected thus come to life with a clean slate, so to speak… The individuals will be judged on the basis of what they do during Judgment Day” (What Does The Bible Really Teach?, pp. 214-215).
8. Heaven, Earth, Hell. There are three eternal destinies. (a) Heaven. “Jehovah God, Jesus Christ, and the faithful angels reside in the spirit realm… A relatively small number of people – 144,000 – will be resurrected to life in heaven to rule with Jesus in the Kingdom” (What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?, jw.org). The Kingdom “is a real government in heaven… It will replace human governments and accomplish God’s purpose for the earth” (ibid). (b) Earth. “God created the earth to be mankind’s eternal home… God will bless obedient people with perfect health and everlasting life in an earthly paradise” (ibid). “Only those who have shown themselves to be desirous of doing the divine will with a complete heart will remain after the kingdom destroys its enemies” (Is This Life All There Is?, p. 142, WTBTSOP). (c) Hell. Hell refers to “total destruction, not conscious torment for all eternity” (ibid, p. 123). Rutherford taught, “Hell is not a place, it is a condition of death, which means non-existence. The word is often used as synonymous with grave, which means not merely the place of burial but the condition of the dead” (J.F. Rutherford, Reconciliation, pp. 296-297).
9. The Lord’s Evening Meal. This is what they call the Lord’s Supper. It is observed once per year on Nisan 14th (Passover). It is for the 144,000. “Who should partake of these memorial emblems? Logically, only those in the new covenant – that is, those who have the hope of going to heaven… God’s holy spirit convinces such ones that they have been selected to be heavenly kings… What about those who have the hope of living forever in Paradise on earth? They obey Jesus’ command and attend the Lord’s Evening Meal, but they come as respectful observers, not partakers” (What Does The Bible Really Teach?, pp. 207-208, WTBTSOP).
Who composes the heavenly class? Not many do today. “By the 1930’s, then, it was becoming clear that, in general, the heavenly class had been chosen. For decades now, the search has been for other sheep, whose hope is earthly. If an anointed one proves unfaithful, it is most likely that a person who has long served God faithfully as one of the other sheep would be called to fill the vacancy thus caused in the 144,000” (Watchtower, February 15, 2003, p. 20). If you were not a convert by the 1930’s, then you are not likely to be of the heavenly class or “Little flock.”
This creates a strange situation. In many locations the unleavened bread and red wine are passed without anyone partaking.
10. Other beliefs and practices. (a) The lessons in every Kingdom hall is the same. “On any given Sunday, Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world will open the same study material and study the same lesson” (Demory, Jehovah’s Witnesses So Called, p. 21). The teachings flow from The Watch Tower, which is now located in Warwick, New York. (b) They will not usually accept your literature. They explain, “Witnesses do not go to people’s door search for truth or enlightenment. Rather, they have already devoted countless hours learning the truth from God’s word… It would be foolhardy, as well as a waste of valuable time for Jehovah’s Witnesses to accept and expose themselves to false religious literature that is designed to deceive them” (Watchtower, May 1, 1984, p. 31). (c) Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate holidays (What Does The Bible Really Teach?, p. 222-ff) or birthdays (Reasoning From the Scriptures, p. 68-ff, WTBTSOP). (d) Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in the use of blood transfusions (ibid, p. 72-ff).
When studying with certain religious groups it is important to understand that while they may use familiar sounding words, their definition is different. This is certainly true of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Here are some examples.
- The Bride of Christ, The Body of Christ, The Church, The Church of Christ are references to Jesus and the 144,000.
- The Christ may be used to refer to Jesus and the 144,000.
- The Gospel is sometimes used of the message which will be preached during the millennial kingdom.
- Salvation is sometimes used of salvation from the Battle of Armageddon.
- Judgment Day refers to the millennium, a period of 1,000 years, during which those living on earth will be tested. (Terminology points taken from Jehovah’s Witnesses, ‘So Called’ by Michael Demory and Jehovah’s Witnesses, Editor David Brown, 2002 Spring Bible Institute Lectureship).