Jehovah’s Witnesses Answered Verse by Verse_Part 3
Verse-by-Verse Answers for JWs—Old Testament
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth proved to be formless and waste and there was darkness upon the surface of the watery deep; and God’s active force was moving to and fro over the surface of the waters. (nwt, emphasis added)
Jehovah’s Witnesses use this verse to attack Christian belief in the personality of the Holy Spirit. Most translations of verse 2 state that “the Spirit of God” was moving over the surface of the waters. But the Watchtower organization has taught its followers that the Holy Spirit is merely an impersonal force at God’s disposal. To prove this point to anyone who will listen, Witnesses quote the verse as it appears in their own New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. This is a situation in which individual JWs do not need to twist Scripture to fit the doctrines they have been taught—the verse comes already pre-twisted in their own Bible. (See chapter two.) In other texts, the Watchtower version speaks of “holy spirit,” not capitalized and without the definite article in English.
To answer the JW claim that the Holy Spirit is a mere impersonal force, emphasize to Witnesses that the Bible repeatedly refers to the Holy Spirit as having personal attributes. For example, even their own New World Translation reveals that the Spirit speaks (Acts 13:2), bears witness (John 15:26), says whatever he hears (John 16:13), feels hurt (Isa. 63:10), and so forth.
For further discussion on the Holy Spirit, see John 16:13; Acts 5:3–4; Romans 8:26–27; 1 Corinthians 6:19; and Subject Index.
Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood (rsv).
This is the first of several Scripture verses that Jehovah’s Witnesses use to argue in support of the Watchtower Society’s ban on blood transfusions. The organization teaches that a blood transfusion is the same as eating blood, because it resembles intravenous feeding. The Society accordingly prohibits blood transfusions for its followers. A Witness who accepts a transfusion can expect to be summoned before a judicial committee to be put on trial behind closed doors for violation of “God’s law.” The punishment, if found guilty, is “disfellowshiping,” whereby the individual is shunned by family and friends who are forbidden even to greet the offender.
Jehovah’s Witnesses feel very strongly about this issue. They will die rather than accept a transfusion to replace blood lost in an operation or accident. And they follow this same course with respect to their minor children. Most Witnesses carry a signed card in their wallet or purse, stating their refusal to accept blood and instructing emergency personnel not to administer a transfusion if the Witness is found unconscious. The card is a legal document, signed by the JW and countersigned by two others.
JWs recognize that they are unique among religious people in their stand on blood transfusions, although it does not occur to them that this very fact shows that the doctrine does not really derive from the Bible. No one else who attempts to follow the Bible as a guide in life has come up with a ban on transfusions—and even the Watchtower organization did not promulgate the doctrine until 1944.
Most Jehovah’s Witnesses are unaware that their leaders have had a history of introducing other medical prohibitions and then later changing their mind. In 1967, for example, they prohibited organ transplants. Followers were expected to choose blindness rather than accept a cornea transplant, or to die rather than submit to a kidney transplant. But then, in 1980, the leaders reversed the teaching and allowed transplants once again (see The Watchtower, 11/15/67, pp. 702–704; Awake! 6/8/68, p. 21; and The Watchtower, 3/15/80, p. 31). In addition, between the years 1931 and 1952, JWs had to refuse vaccinations for themselves and their children because the organization taught them: “Vaccination is a direct violation of the everlasting covenant that God made … ” (The Golden Age, 2/4/31, p. 293).
Even though Witnesses will attempt to quote Scripture to support their position on blood transfusions, the real reason for their stand is blind obedience to the Watchtower Society. If the organization lifted its prohibition tomorrow, Witnesses would freely accept transfusions—just as they did an about-face when the vaccination ban was lifted in 1952 and when the ban on organ transplants was rescinded in 1980.
See also the discussions of Leviticus 7:26–27 and Acts 15:28–29.
Yahweh appeared to him.… He looked up, and there he saw three men.… (jb)
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that it is impossible for the one true God to exist as three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet, the Bible, in Genesis 18 and 19, shows God appearing to Abraham as three men. This account can be used to help JWs see that even the impossible (from a human viewpoint) is possible with God. Discuss it with them, as suggested here:
In the Watchtower Society’s own New World Translation, at Genesis 18:1–2, God appears to Abraham as three men (or angels). Abraham addresses the three as “Jehovah” (v. 3). When the three men respond, the episode is described interchangeably as “they” speaking (v. 9) and “Jehovah” speaking (v. 13). When two of the three men depart to visit Lot in Sodom, Abraham continues to call the remaining one “Jehovah,” but Lot addresses the other two as “Jehovah” (Gen. 18:22, 30 and 19:1, 18).
By itself, this account does not prove the Trinity doctrine. But, at the very least, it demonstrates that it is possible for God to manifest himself as three-in-one. The fact that this concept is beyond the full grasp of human intellect should not cause Jehovah’s Witnesses to rule it out. As the apostle Paul wrote: “ … we can see and understand only a little about God now, as if we were peering at his reflection in a poor mirror; but someday we are going to see him in his completeness, face to face. Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now” (1 Cor. 13:12, lb).
The discussion above may help a Jehovah’s Witness to reconsider the concept of one God in three persons. For further help, see also Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1; John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 2:9; and Revelation 1:7–8.
And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants.… But he hanged the chief baker.… (kjv)
The Watchtower organization has prohibited birthday celebrations among its adherents, using Genesis 40:20–22 as a key part of the “scriptural basis” for this ruling. Their thought is that the word birthday appears in the Bible only in reference to Pharaoh of Egypt (as above) and King Herod of Galilee (Matt. 14:6 and Mark 6:21). Both of them were pagans, and both men had someone put to death in connection with the celebration. Since no men of faith are recorded in the Bible as having celebrated their birthdays, but only wicked men—so the Watchtower reasoning goes—Jehovah’s Witnesses of today must not be allowed to celebrate birthdays either.
It is worth noting that, as with other teachings, it is not left up to the individual Witness to read the Bible and come up with this conclusion. Rather, the sect’s secretive governing body has promulgated this official interpretation and uses its disciplinary procedures to enforce the policy on all Witnesses. For example, one elderly JW of our acquaintance in Massachusetts decided that he would send a birthday card to his non-Witness son, but his wife reported it to the local elders. They summoned him before a closed-door judicial-committee meeting and put him on trial for this offense. The seventy-year-old gentleman challenged them to show him one Scripture verse prohibiting sending a birthday card, but the committee went ahead and disfellowshiped him on the basis of the Watchtower Society’s ruling. His Witness relatives now refuse him admittance to their home, and Witnesses who encounter him on the street turn away without even saying hello.
In refuting the Watchtower’s so-called scriptural basis for banning birthday celebrations, you can point out that Pharaoh and King Herod were arbitrary rulers and violent men; such monarchs were accustomed to executing people on all sorts of occasions, not just on their birthdays. Moreover, a person sending a birthday card, or a parent providing a cake with candles at a children’s party, can hardly be accused of following the pattern of those murderous men.
Although the actual word birthday appears only in connection with Pharaoh and Herod in most translations, the Bible does contain reference to such celebrations in godly families:
In Job 1:4, it says of the patriarch Job’s family, “And his sons went and held a banquet at the house of each one on his own day; and they sent and invited their three sisters to eat and drink with them” (nwt, italics added). That “his own day” refers to each one’s birthday becomes clear when we read further: “It was after this that Job opened his mouth and began to call down evil upon his day. Job now answered and said: ‘Let the day perish on which I came to be born … ’ ” (Job 3:1–3, nwt, italics added). The Living Bible’s paraphrase of Job 1:4–5 expresses this thought: “Every year when each of Job’s sons had a birthday, he invited his brothers and sisters to his home for a celebration. On these occasions they would eat and drink with great merriment. When these birthday parties ended.… ”
Even the Watchtower Society’s own translation reveals that the birth of John the Baptist was celebrated, when it records this angelic announcement: “And you will have joy and great gladness, and many will rejoice over his birth” (Luke 1:14, nwt).
If the birth of John the Baptist was an occasion for rejoicing and if faithful Job’s children celebrated their birthdays, the fact that Pharaoh and Herod also celebrated theirs cannot logically be used as a basis for banning birthday parties among Bible believers today.
God said to Moses, “I am WHO I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” (rsv)
Christians universally recognize that Jesus Christ was claiming to be the Deity when he referred to himself as the I am: “The Jews then said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am’ ” (John 8:57–58, rsv). Even Jesus’ enemies recognized what he was saying. The next verse tells us that, when they heard this, “they took up stones to throw at him … ” (v. 59). The unbelieving Jews viewed Jesus’ claim to be the I am as blasphemy, a crime for which they wanted to stone him to death.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, teach that Jesus Christ is really just Michael the archangel and that Christ never claimed to be God. So, to make Scripture agree with their doctrine, they change the reading of both verses in their Bible. The Watchtower Society’s translation says, “This is what you are to say to the sons of Israel, ‘I shall prove to be has sent me to you’ ” (Exod. 3:14, nwt), and “Most truly I say to you, Before Abraham came into existence, I have been” (John 8:58, nwt). So, in the JW Bible, Jesus’ words appear to have no connection with Exodus 3:14.
But you do not have to be a Greek and Hebrew scholar to prove that the Watchtower Society has twisted these verses. Jehovah’s Witnesses’ own study Bibles prove that Jesus was claiming to be the I am. Their 1984 large-print New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures with References has a footnote on Exodus 3:14, admitting that the Hebrew would be rendered into Greek a “Ego eimi”—“I am.” And their 1985 Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures reveals that Jesus’ words at John 8:58 are the same: “ego eimi” (footnotes), “I am” (interlinear text).
Then God said once more to Moses: “This is what you are to say to the sons of Israel, ‘Jehovah the God of your forefathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name to time indefinite, and this is the memorial of me to generation after generation.” (nwt)
Jehovah’s Witnesses use this verse to argue that they are the only true worshipers of God, because they are the only ones who still call God by his name—Jehovah. The above verse, they insist, is God’s command to call him by that sacred name “to time indefinite,” or forever. In the eyes of JWs, Christians who pray to “God” or to “the Lord” are actually praying to the false god, Satan; the true God, Jehovah, does not hear prayers unless they are addressed to him by name. Therefore, Witnesses always use the name Jehovah in their prayers. In fact, they often repeat the name many times during a single prayer, as if God might forget that he is the one being addressed, or as if the Witness might forget to which God he was praying.
Although their own publications admit that “Jehovah” is an Anglicized misrendering and not the correct pronunciation of the original Hebrew Tetragrammaton YHWH, they insist upon using that pronunciation only, rather than the more correct name Yahweh. JWs never pray to “Yahweh.”
A comparison of Exodus 3:15 with verse 14 shows that the name Yahweh, or Jehovah, has meaning: God is the self-existing Eternal One. He is much more than a name, and knowing him involves much more than using a name. Jesus showed that more than just a name is involved, when he said: “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers’ ” (Matt. 7:22–23, rsv [italics added]).
Ask a Jehovah’s Witness to examine with you the prayers of Jesus Christ. Point out that Jesus never started out his prayers by saying, “Jehovah God … ”—as JWs do. Rather, Jesus began his prayers by saying, “Father.… ” (See Matt. 11:25, 26:39–42; Mark 14:36; Luke 10:21, 22:42, 23:34, 46; John 11:41, 12:27–28, 17:1–26). And, when teaching his disciples how to pray, Jesus instructed them to address “Our Father … ” (Matt. 6:9; Luke 11:2). Christians, then, are to have an intimate relationship with God as his children who call out to him, “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).
And, as to the importance of names, the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to stress “ … the name of Jesus Christ … there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:10–12, rsv). Moreover, Jesus is “the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9–11, rsv).
See also the discussions on Psalm 83:18 and Isaiah 43:10 in this chapter.
And you must not eat any blood in any places where you dwell, whether that of fowl or that of beast. Any soul who eats any blood, that soul must be cut off from his people. (nwt)
This text is frequently quoted in support of the Watchtower Society’s ban on blood transfusions. Even though the verse specifically forbade Israelites to eat the blood of fowl or beast, Jehovah’s Witnesses stretch its meaning to include medical administration of human blood to save life—a thought obviously not intended when Moses recorded God’s words. Leviticus discusses at great length the divinely ordained arrangements for animal sacrifice by the Jewish priesthood, and blood played a major role in those sacrifices as a foreshadow of the precious blood of our Savior, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Any attempt to read these verses as a prophetic ruling on the pros and cons of modern medical procedures totally ignores the context of the passage.
When discussing Leviticus 7:26–27 with Jehovah’s Witnesses, you might bring up the fact that Orthodox Jews of today, who still scrupulously observe the regulations for kosher butchering and bleeding of meat, have no religious objection to blood transfusions. Therefore, the original Hebrew text does not even hint at the interpretation that the Watchtower imposes upon it.
If a Jehovah’s Witness still insists that he must refuse blood transfusions on account of Leviticus 7:26–27, the next move would be to show him Leviticus 3:17, which says: “You must not eat any fat or any blood at all” (nwt). Ask him to explain why Watchtower leaders tell him to refuse blood transfusions but allow him to eat fat. Are they not simply pulling words out of context from Jewish dietary laws?
See also the discussions of Genesis 9:4 and Acts 15:28–29.
“However, the prophet who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded him to speak or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die. And in case you should say in your heart: ‘How shall we know the word that Jehovah has not spoken?’ when the prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and the word does not occur or come true, that is the word that Jehovah did not speak. With presumptuousness the prophet spoke it. You must not get frightened at him.” (nwt).
The Watchtower organization identifies itself as “The Prophet,” saying: “This ‘prophet’ was not one man, but was a body of men and women. It was the small group of footstep followers of Jesus Christ, known at that time as International Bible Students. Today they are known as Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. They are still proclaiming a warning … ” (The Watchtower, 4/1/72, p. 197). The added claim is made that: “Unless we are in touch with this channel of communication that God is using, we will not progress along the road of life, no matter how much Bible reading we do” (The Watchtower, 12/1/81, p. 27).
Are these claims true? Is the Watchtower organization really the Prophet, the channel of communication from God? Or, is it a false prophet, fitting the description of Deuteronomy 18:20–22? The test is simple: Step #1—We know the organization “spoke in the name of Jehovah”; Step #2—We must determine whether or not the prophecies actually did occur or come true. Let’s examine the facts:
Throughout half of its hundred-year history, the Watchtower Society taught the belief of its founder and first president, Charles Taze Russell, that the Great Pyramid of Egypt was “inspired” of God—just like the Bible (see the Watchtower’s book Thy Kingdom Come, 1903 edition, p. 362). The Society’s publications translated inches of pyramid measurements into calendar years, in attempts to foretell future events. Thus, they predicted that the Battle of Armageddon “will end in A.D. 1914 with the complete overthrow of earth’s present rulership” (The Time Is at Hand, 1904 edition, p. 101). Obviously, this did not occur or come true.
Still determined to act as a prophet, the Watchtower Society went on to predict an earthly resurrection for the year 1925: “They are to be resurrected as perfect men and constitute the princes or rulers in the earth, according to his promise.… Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old” (Watchtower’s book Millions Now Living Will Never Die, 1920, pp. 89–90). Did this occur or come true? No!
More recently, the organization misled millions into believing that “the end” would come in 1975. They asked: “Why Are You Looking Forward to 1975?” (title of article in The Watchtower, 8/15/68, p. 494):
Are we to assume from this study that the battle of Armageddon will be all over by the autumn of 1975, and the long-looked-for thousand-year reign of Christ will begin by then? Possibly, but we wait to see how closely the seventh thousand-year period of man’s existence coincides with the sabbathlike thousand-year reign of Christ. If these two periods run parallel with each other as to the calendar year, it will not be by mere chance or accident but will be according to Jehovah’s loving and timely purposes.… It may involve only a difference of weeks or months, not years [p. 499].
Certainly, by now, enough weeks, months, and years have passed to prove that this prophecy concerning 1975 did not occur or come true.
A JW may try to defend the Watchtower Society, saying that those false prophecies were all “mistakes” and that the organization has learned from these mistakes and no longer makes prophetic statements about when the end will come. In that case, ask the Witness to take out a copy of his latest Awake! magazine. Inside the front cover, on the page listing the contents of the magazine, there is a statement of purpose telling why Awake! is published. Ask the Witness to read it. As of this writing (1986), each issue still says: “Most importantly, this magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure New Order before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away.” Another prophecy! (See our discussion of Matt. 24:34 in the next chapter.)
The facts are inescapable: The Watchtower Society spoke as a prophet in the name of God, and what was prophesied did not come true. What does it mean for the individual Jehovah’s Witness? Invite one to read what God’s Word says about false prophets—and then ask what God would have him or her do. The Bible contains these warnings from Jesus Christ: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” “For false Christs and false prophets will arise … ” (Matt. 7:15, and 24:24, rsv). And the strong words quoted above from Deuteronomy 18:20–22, besides expressing God’s judgment that the false prophet “must die,” also tell listeners, “You must not get frightened at him.” Rather than remain fearfully obedient to Watchtower leaders, the individual Jehovah’s Witness who recognizes the organization as a false prophet should quit following it and start following the true Prophet, Jesus Christ.
Psalm 37:9, 11, 29
For evildoers themselves will be cut off, But those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth.… But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth.… The righteous themselves will possess the earth, And they will reside forever upon it. (nwt)
Jehovah’s Witnesses commonly turn to these verses in their door-to-door preaching to introduce listeners to the hope of life in an earthly paradise, rather than going to heaven. According to the Watchtower Society, the opportunity to go to heaven ended in the year 1935. Instead, Witnesses look forward to surviving the destruction of the rest of mankind at Armageddon and living forever on earth.
When read in context, however, the verses quoted from Psalm 37 paint a different picture. The psalm is not foretelling a future time when God will remove the wicked and turn control of the earth over to good people. Rather, the psalmist was inspired to tell his fellow Israelites what they could expect to see in their won lifetime—good men would prosper under God’s blessing, while wicked men would fare badly. For example, in verse 25, David writes, “A young man I used to be, I have also grown old, And yet I have not seen anyone righteous left entirely, Nor his offspring looking for bread” (nwt). He is speaking of events during his own lifetime. And in verse 37, he adds, “Watch the blameless one and keep the upright one in sight, For the future of that man will be peaceful.” Again, the context concerns the immediate benefits of good conduct. The psalm contains no indication that it should be taken as a prophetic statement about the end of the world.
Other verses used by Jehovah’s Witnesses to teach an earthly hope, instead of heaven, include Psalm 115:16, John 10:16, and Revelation 7:9. See discussions elsewhere in this book.
That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth. (kjv)
This is one of the few verses that Jehovah’s Witnesses like to quote from versions other than their own slanted New World Translation. In particular, they like to quote Psalm 83:18 from the King James Version, because the name JEHOVAH appears there in all capital letters.
Many Witnesses have noted in the back of their Bibles a list of the four places where JEHOVAH can be found in the King James Version: Exodus 6:3, Psalm 83:18, Isaiah 12:2, and Isaiah 26:4. In their door-to-door preaching they will ask an unsuspecting householder, “Do you have your own Bible handy?” and then focus attention on one of those verses. Caught off guard by finding JEHOVAH in their own Bible where the Witnesses said it would be, some people become impressed with their knowledge and allow the Witnesses into the home to teach them more.
Of course, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ use of the Bible in this way—to demonstrate their superior knowledge and their claim to “know God by name”—is just a clever trick. There are other cultic and occultic groups that use transliterations of Hebrew names for God, with similar effect on the uninitiated. But the fact of the matter is that using a name for God does not guarantee that the user knows God or is approved by him.
For example, when sinner Eve gave birth to her first son after being driven out from the Garden of Eden, she exclaimed, “I have produced a man with the aid of Jehovah” (Gen. 4:1, nwt). Her use of God’s name did not in any way prove that she had his approval.
To show Jehovah’s Witnesses that their use of the name Jehovah does not guarantee that they belong to him, you may wish to quote Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:22–23: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (kjv, italics added).
See also the discussions on Exodus 3:15 and Isaiah 43:10.
The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. (kjv)
Jehovah’s Witnesses calling at a home may invite the householder to get his own Bible and open it to Psalm 110:1. Then they will ask him to read the verse. The householder reads that “the Lord said unto my Lord … ” and is immediately confused. Then the Witnesses open their New World Translation and read the same verse: “The utterance of Jehovah to my Lord is.… ” They go on to argue (1) that the New World Translation is a superior Bible to use, because it does not have the Lord talking to himself; and (2) that the Lord Jesus must be a mere created being, since Jehovah God is addressing a person distinct from himself.
To answer the first argument, it is only necessary to look at the text more closely. It does not say that “the Lord” was talking to “the Lord.” Most translations render the Hebrew tetragrammaton YHWH as “the Lord” (all capital letters), who is talking to the psalmist’s “Lord” (both capital and small letters), the Messiah. If confusion results, the problem is not with the translation but rather with a lack of biblical education on the part of the reader. Knowledgeable Christians who read this verse will grasp that God the Father is speaking to the Son.
The second Witness argument—that Jesus cannot be God because “the Lord” spoke to him—is also a faulty one. The New Testament records many conversations between Jesus and the Father, but this does not disprove the deity of Christ. The Bible reveals that the Father is God (John 6:27, etc.) and that the Son is God (Isa. 9:6, John 20:28, etc.), yet there is only one God (1 Cor. 8:4). Although this appears to contradict everyday human logic, are we right to assume that God must fit into the logical patterns with which we are familiar in the world around us? He is from the realms above; we are from the realms below. His ways are beyond our full understanding.
In explaining to Witnesses the fact that Psalm 110 shows God, the Father in heaven, talking to the Son (also God) upon the earth, it may help to invite them to turn to Genesis 18 and 19 in their own New World Translation. There it says that “Jehovah appeared to him” [Abraham] as “three men” or angels (18:1–2). Abraham addressed the three as “Jehovah” (18:3). Two of them left Abraham and went toward the city of Sodom, but Abraham continued to address the remaining individual as “Jehovah” (18:22, 19:1). When the other two reached Sodom and spoke with Abraham’s relative Lot, he addressed the two of them as “Jehovah” (19:18). And, when the city of Sodom was destroyed, the New World Translation says at Genesis 19:24: “Then Jehovah made it rain sulphur and fire from Jehovah, from the heavens.… ” So, unless the Witnesses want to claim that there is more than one Jehovah, they will have to admit that God can be in more than one place at the same time, and that he can hold simultaneous conversations with different people in different places. This should make it easier for them to grasp that the Father can talk to the Son, without calling into question the deity of Christ.
The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s: but the earth hath he given to the children of men. (kjv)
Jehovah’s Witnesses often quote this verse to “prove” that man’s destiny is life on earth, not in heaven. The Watchtower Society teaches that only a limited number of 144,000 would be eligible for heavenly life, and that this number was reached by the year 1935. Since then, the sect has been teaching new converts to look forward to everlasting life on an earth restored to paradise conditions. (See the discussion of Rev. 7:9, for consideration of the 1935 date.)
This is one of the many areas in which the Watchtower organization turns mainly to the Old Testament and leads its members back into a twisted form of Judaism, denying essential features of the New Covenant mediated by Jesus Christ. (Other examples of Judaizing include focusing on the Hebrew name Jehovah; denying the deity of Christ; inculcating a salvation-through-works mentality; strict legalism; and so on.) The best way to answer the Witnesses on this point is to turn them to the New Testament and show them the “heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1) given by the Savior to all who would follow him.
For example, Jesus tells us: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2–3, kjv). When Jesus prayed to the Father “that they also, whom thou has given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory,” he was praying not only for his original disciples, “but for them also which shall believe on me through their word” (John 17:20, 24, kjv). Ask the Witnesses if they have believed on Christ through the word of the apostles. If they can truly answer yes, then they are included in Christ’s prayer that all future believers would end up with him in heaven.
See also the discussions of Psalm 37:9, 11, 29; John 10:16; Revelation 7:9.
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no help. When his breath departs he returns to his earth; on that very day his plans perish. (rsv)
In the King James Version, verse 4 ends with the expression “in that very day his thoughts perish,” and the Watchtower’s New World Translation similarly says, “In that day his thoughts do perish.” Jehovah’s Witnesses read the passage from either of these translations and use it to argue that there is no conscious existence after death—man’s “thoughts” have perished, they point out.
However, is that the message that the writer of Psalm 146 meant to get across? Were those verses penned to instruct readers about the condition of the dead? Or do Jehovah’s Witnesses extract from these words an idea beyond what the writer (and the divine Author) had in mind?
The lesson of Psalm 146 is that we should put our trust in God rather than in human leaders. Get the Jehovah’s Witness to read the other verses with you to establish the real context. God is to be praised (v. 1–2). In contrast to man, God is a Helper who gives secure hope (v. 5), who created heaven and earth (v. 6), who brings justice for the oppressed (v. 7), who heals the sick (v. 8), who cares about the lowly ones (v. 9), and who is King forever (v. 10). Man, on the other hand, offers no real salvation (v. 3), because he himself dies and everything he intended to do dies with him (v. 4).
An actual example of the lesson of Psalm 146 is found in the death of President John F. Kennedy. He was a “prince” whom many people trusted to help them improve their lot in life. Yet, when he died, “all his thoughts did perish”—with him gone, his plans and programs soon collapsed. People who had put all their trust in him were disappointed. Their primary trust should have been in God, who offers real hope, justice, healing, and salvation—and who remains King forever.
When all of Psalm 146 is read in context, it becomes obvious that verse 4 does not deny conscious life after death. Jehovah’s Witnesses misuse the verse by taking it out of context.
For further discussion of the condition of the dead, see Ecclesiastes 9:5; Ezekiel 18:4; and Luke 16:22–28.
For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward; but the memory of them is lost. (rsv)
This verse is frequently used by Jehovah’s Witnesses in arguing that death bring annihilation—total nonexistence. To support the point even more conclusively, the Watchtower version reads this way: “For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all … ” (nwt). Now, if this verse is simply pulled out of context and quoted as authoritative, it appears to prove the JWs right. But taking such a passage out of context can be very dangerous.
A perfect illustration is the case of a certain transplant surgeon who, in speaking to reporters about a surgical procedure he was advocating, quoted Scripture: “Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.” When I read the account in the newspaper, I was disturbed by his use of the verse, and, looking it up, I discovered that my suspicions were confirmed—he had quoted the devil! In context the verse in the King James Version says, “And Satan answered the Lord, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life” (Job 2:4, italics added).
Besides giving God’s viewpoint on matters, the Bible also relates many things said and done by others, some good and some not so good. It presents human viewpoints and even the devil’s viewpoint, as noted above.
If we carefully study the Song of Solomon, found in most Bibles immediately after Ecclesiastes, we will discover that it is actually a running conversation involving at least three different speakers, although they are not clearly identified in the text. Could something similar be said about Ecclesiastes?
Scholars acknowledge that it is a very difficult book to understand. But, apparently, the inspired writer of Ecclesiastes is presenting a contrast of viewpoints: the secular, materialistic viewpoint versus the godly, spiritual one. The book reads like a running debate taking place in the mind of the writer. The godly viewpoint triumphs in the end, though, with the Ecclesiastes 12 admonition to “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.… Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (vv. 1, 13, kjv).
But what of the parts that go before? The first ten verses of Ecclesiastes 9 appear to reflect the secular side of the struggle. Not only does the writer say in verse 5 that the dead know nothing, but he also adds that “they have no more for ever any share in all that is done under the sun” (v. 6, rsv, italics added). (Ask the Jehovah’s Witness if he believes that the dead are gone forever. He will answer no, because he believes in a future resurrection to this earth under the sun.) Verse 2 (rsv) expresses the thought that “one fate comes to all, to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil,” an idea contradictory to all the rest of Scripture. (Ask the Witness if he believes that he will receive the same fate, whether he is righteous or wicked. His answer will have to be no.)
We can conclude that verse 5 is located in the midst of a section expressing the faithless, secular viewpoint—not God’s.
What is God’s viewpoint? Obviously, God knows whether or not the dead are conscious. And he has put into Scripture a number of references indicating the answer. Read those verses with the Jehovah’s Witness, asking him what each one reveals about the condition of the dead:
And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those slaughtered because of the word of God and because of the witness work that they used to have. And they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Until when, Sovereign Lord holy and true, are you refraining from judging and avenging our blood upon those who dwell on the earth?” And a white robe was given to each of them; and they were told to rest a little while longer, until the number was filled also of their fellow slaves and their brothers who were about to be killed as they also had been (Rev. 6:9–11, nwt).
I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account (Phil. 1:23–24, rsv).
[Jesus said:] “The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes.… ” (Luke 16:22–23, rsv).
See also our discussions of Psalm 37:9, 11, 29; Psalm 146:3–4; Ezekiel 18:4; and Luke 16:22–28.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (kjv)
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not question that this verse speaks prophetically of Jesus Christ, identifying him as the “Mighty God” (nwt). But they believe that the Son is mere “a god”—one of the “many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’ ” (1 Cor. 8:5, nwt)—just as Satan, the devil, is called “the god of this system of things” (2 Cor. 4:4, nwt). They see Jesus Christ as a created being, an angel. According to Watchtower theology, he is definitely not Almighty God Jehovah.
The Witnesses actually have two gods, a big one and a little one: an “Almighty God,” Jehovah—and a “mighty god,” Jesus Christ. In practice, though, Jehovah gets all the worship, and Jesus is only called “a god” by way of concession.
You might start out by asking the Witnesses if they believe there is only one True God. They will answer “yes.” Ask them who he is, and they will answer “Jehovah.” Then have them read Isaiah 9:6, and ask them who is the Mighty God spoken of there—the “child born to us … a son given to us” (nwt). They will admit that Jesus is the Mighty God. Now ask them if Jesus is the one True God. They will answer “no!”—that Jesus is merely “a god.” At this juncture, point out to them that their theology leads to one of two conclusions: either (1) not being the True God, Jesus would have to be a false god, or (2) they have two True Gods.
Now turn to the Bible to show the Jehovah’s Witnesses that the Mighty God and the Almighty God are the same. You can do this in two steps. First, show that the risen Christ is not just mighty, but Almighty; and second, show that Almighty God Jehovah is also called the Mighty God.
First: Have the Witness read, at Hebrews 1:3, that Jesus Christ is “upholding the universe by his word of power” (rsv). How could anyone be more almighty than that? Then turn to Matthew 28:18 and show that Jesus Christ has “all authority” (nwt) or “all power … in heaven and in earth” (kjv). By definition, this is what the word almighty means. Therefore, Jesus Christ is almighty.
Second: Ask the Witness: “Since Isaiah was a Jew and therefore believed in only one God—Jehovah—who did Isaiah understand the Mighty God to be?” Certainly, Isaiah understood the Mighty God to be Jehovah. Next, invite the Witness to read Isaiah 10:20–21 in his own Watchtower Bible: “ … those remaining over of Israel … will certainly support themselves upon Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, in trueness. A mere remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God.” Yes, the inspired Word penned through Isaiah calls Jehovah “the Mighty God.”
Finally, to reinforce the point, ask the Witness to turn to Jeremiah 32:18 in his own New World Translation. But, before he reads it, remind him that the Watchtower organization teaches that the Mighty God and the Almighty God are different—Jesus being the Mighty one and Jehovah the Almighty one. Then have the Witness read what Jeremiah wrote about “the true God, the great One, the mighty One, Jehovah of armies being his name … ” (Jer. 32:18, nwt, italics added). So, since Jesus is the Mighty God, and Jehovah is the Mighty God, who must Jesus be? (Let the JW reach the inescapable conclusion in his own mind that Jesus is Jehovah.)
See also our consideration of John 1:1; John 20:28; and Revelation 1:7–8.
“You are my witnesses,” is the utterance of Jehovah.… (nwt)
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that they alone, out of all the religious groups on earth, are God’s people, chosen by God and named as his witnesses. They love to point an accusing finger at Lutherans, Mennonites, and other denominations, as followers of men they are named after—Luther, Menno, and so on—while only JWs are followers of Jehovah God.
Actually, though, Jehovah’s Witnesses were widely known as “Russellites” (after the Watchtower Society’s founder, Charles Taze Russell), from the beginning of the movement in the 1870s, until the year 1931. The new name, Jehovah’s Witnesses, was officially adopted by a resolution passed at their Columbus, Ohio, convention in 1931—primarily to distinguish them from other groups that also followed Russell.
But the simplistic idea that God singles out JWs from among all professing Christians, and considers them alone as his people because they use the name Jehovah’s Witnesses, is just as preposterous as the view that any group calling itself “the Church of Christ” or “the Church of God” must actually be what its name implies—to the exclusion of all others.
Jesus showed that more is involved than just a name, when he said:
“Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never know you; depart from me, you evildoers.’ ” (Matt. 7:21–23, rsv, italics added)
By seeking to identify themselves with the ancient Hebrew name of God, rather than with the name of Jesus Christ, Jehovah’s Witnesses are unconsciously revealing themselves as modern Judaizers. Jesus said, “You will be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8, mlb, italics added). And history records that “the disciples were called Christians” (Acts 11:26, kjv, italics added).
Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (kjv)
“So,” says the Jehovah’s Witness, “the soul dies. This verse proves that there is no conscious life after death.” Does it? Not at all! First, look at the context. What is the writer talking about? The Israelites were grumbling against God, quoting a proverb that said: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (v. 2)—they were complaining that punishment for what a father did fell upon his offering. Verse 4 is God’s reply: The one who sins is the one who will die. The Living Bible’s paraphrase renders it, accordingly: “For all souls are mine to judge—fathers and sons alike—and my rule is this: It is for a man’s own sins that he will die.” So, the context reveals that the inspired Word was not speaking here about the condition of the dead.
The word soul is used in many different senses throughout Scripture. It sometimes refers to a person’s life, sometimes to the person himself (as it does here at Ezekiel 18:4), and sometimes it refers to the inner part of man that lives on after death. Jehovah’s Witnesses deny this last use of the word soul. They say that man totally ceases to exist at death, that when the body dies, there is nothing left. But there are many Scripture verses that prove them wrong:
For example, ask them to turn to Luke 12:4–5. Their own New World Translation says, “ … Do not fear those who kill the body and after this are not able to do anything more. But I will indicate to you whom to fear: Fear him who after killing has authority to throw into Gehenna. Yes, I tell you, fear this One.” Therefore, a man’s body can be killed. He is dead. But something can be done to him after he is dead. He can then be thrown into Gehenna. Now if, as the Witnesses say, the man ceased to exist when his body was killed, what would be left afterwards to be thrown into Gehenna?
Likewise, in 2 Corinthians 5, the apostle Paul wrote of the body as “the earthly tent we live in,” adding that he “would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord,” and warning that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body” (vv. 1, 8–10, rsv). If the Jehovah’s Witnesses were correct, what part of Paul could leave his body and go to be with the Lord?
You might also ask the JW to read Revelation 6:9–11 in his own Bible. There it speaks of “the souls of those slaughtered,” asking God when their blood would be avenged. It adds that “a white robe was given to each of them; and they were told to rest a little while longer, until the number was filled also of their fellow slaves and their brothers who were about to be killed as they also had been.” Yes, these souls had been killed, but they are depicted as being in God’s presence and engaging in conversation with him.
See also the discussions of Psalm 146:3–4; Ecclesiastes 9:5; Luke 16:22–28; and Luke 23:43.
Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1
“ … Michael, one of the foremost princes, came to help me.… Michael, the prince of you people.… And during that time Michael will stand up, the great prince who is standing in behalf of the sons of your people.… ” (nwt)
The Watchtower Society teaches Jehovah’s Witnesses that Jesus Christ was a mere angel, who was born as a human, died as a sacrifice for sins, and was raised up as an angel once again. They refer to him as “Jesus Christ, whom we understand from the Scriptures to be Michael the archangel … ” (The Watchtower, 2/15/79, p. 31). But is that really what the Bible teaches? Or is it, rather, a teaching that Watchtower leaders superimpose on Scripture?
God’s inspired Word mentions Michael five times—as (1) “one of the foremost princes” (Dan. 10:13, nwt); (2) “the prince of [Daniel’s] people” (Dan. 10:21, nwt); (3) “the great prince who is standing in behalf of the sons of [Daniel’s] people” (Dan. 12:1, nwt); (4) “the archangel” who “had a difference with the Devil and was disputing about Moses’ body” but “did not dare to bring a judgment against him in abusive terms” (Jude 9, nwt); and (5) a participant in heavenly conflict when “Michael and his angels battled with the dragon” (Rev. 12:7, nwt). Which of these verses state that Michael is Jesus Christ? None of them! It is necessary to read Scripture plus a complicated Watchtower argument to reach that conclusion.
The Society also turns for support to another verse that does not use the name Michael but says that “the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet” (1 Thess. 4:16, nwt). But, if using an archangel’s voice makes the Lord an archangel, then having God’s trumpet makes him God—even though Watchtower leaders would have us look at only the first part of the verse.
Does the Bible teach elsewhere that Jesus Christ is a mere angel? To the contrary, the entire first chapter of Hebrews was written to show the superiority of the Son of God as compared to angels. Verse after verse contrasts the angels with
… His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person … having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He ever say: “You are My Son, today I have begotten you”? … But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” And of the angels He says: “Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire.” But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.… ” And: “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth.… ” (Heb. 1:2–8, 10, nkjv)
The Son is “the reflection” of the Father’s glory, “and the exact representation of his very being, and he sustains all things by the word of his power”—something no angel could do—even according to the Watchtower’s own translations of Hebrews 1:3 (nwt).
Moreover, good angels consistently refuse to accept worship. When the apostle John fell down to worship at the feet of an angel, the angel rebuked him, saying, “Be careful! Do not do that! … Worship God” (Rev. 22:8–9, nwt). But the Father’s command concerning the Son is to “let all God’s angels worship him” (Heb. 1:6, nwt, 1961 edition). In later editions, the Watchtower Society changed “worship” to “obeisance” at Hebrew 1:6. Still, regardless of how it is translated, the same Greek word proskuneo is used at both Rev. 22:8–9 and Hebrews 1:6. The proskuneo (worship or obeisance) that angels refuse to accept, but say to give only to God, is the same proskuneo (worship or obeisance) that the Father commands to be given to the Son at Hebrews 1:6. So, the Son cannot be an angel, but must be God. (See discussion of Heb. 1:6).
Persons who stop following the Watchtower organization, and start following Jesus Christ, soon come to appreciate that he is no mere angel. This realization is important, in order that they may “honor the Son just as they honor the Father” (John 5:23, nwt).
See also the discussions of Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1; John 20:28; Colossians 1:15; Revelation 1:7–8; and Revelation 3:14.