Jehovah’s Witnesses Answered Verse by Verse_Part 4
Verse-by-Verse Answers for JWs—New Testament
[John the Baptist said:] “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (nkjv)
According to the Watchtower Society’s 1982 book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth (p. 40), “John the Baptizer said that Jesus would baptize with holy spirit, even as John had been baptizing with water. Hence, in the same way that water is not a person, holy spirit is not a person. (Matthew 3:11)”
How valid is this Jehovah’s Witness reasoning against the personality of the Holy Spirit? Not valid at all!—because the same “baptism argument” could be used against the personality of Jesus Christ, who obviously walked the earth as a person. For example, Romans 6:3 says: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (rsv, italics added). “Hence, in the same way that death is not a person, Jesus Christ is not a person,” the parallel argument would run. And Galatians 3:27 says, that “all of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ” (niv). Here the line of thought would be: “Since people can be baptized into Christ and clothed with Christ, he must not be a person.” Do these comparisons disprove the personality of Christ? No! Then, neither does the “baptism argument” disprove the personality of the Holy Spirit.
See the discussion of the “pouring out” and “filling” with the Holy Spirit, under Acts 2:4. For further proof of the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit, see also John 16:13; Acts 5:3–4; Romans 8:26–27; and 1 Corinthians 6:19.
“You must pray, then, this way: ‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.’ ” (nwt)
Jehovah’s Witnesses point out that God’s name must be sanctified, and thus they “prove” that we must use the name Jehovah, in order for our prayers to be heard by God. But is that what Jesus taught? Did he begin his own prayers with the expression “Jehovah God,” as the Witnesses do?
Not at all! While expressing concern in the prayer that God’s name be sanctified or hallowed (treated as sacred or holy), Jesus taught his disciples to pray to “our Father,” not to “Jehovah God.” He said, “You must pray, then, this way: ‘Our Father.…’ ”
Many of Jesus’ own personal prayers are also recorded in the Bible, and in these he sets the same example:
“Father, I thank you … ” (John 11:41, nwt).
“Abba, Father, all things are possible to you … ” (Mark 14:36, nwt).
“Father, the hour has come … ” (John 17:1, nwt).
Witnesses might object by saying, “Jesus had a close, special relationship with the Father. That’s why he did not address him as ‘Jehovah.’ ” We might acknowledge that there is some truth to that, but Jesus’ purpose was to bring all of his disciples into a close, special relationship with God, too. “No one comes to the Father except through me,” Jesus taught (John 14:6, nwt). Of Christians who come to the Father through Jesus, the Bible says: “ … you have received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:15–16, nkjv).
It is obvious that Jesus’ words at Matthew 6:9 definitely do not teach a need to use the name Jehovah in prayer.
But when Herod’s birthday came.… he sent and had John beheaded in the prison. (rsv)
This verse is cited frequently by Jehovah’s Witnesses in connection with their organization’s prohibition against birthday celebrations. See the discussion of Genesis 40:20–22.
Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.” (nkjv)
Unfortunately, someone has already deceived Jehovah’s Witnesses, and we must take care that they do not deceive us. The Watchtower Society substitutes “presence” for “coming” in their translation, using this as a basis for teaching followers that Jesus returned invisibly in the year 1914 and has been present ever since. Doing what? Why, directing the Watchtower organization, naturally!
In the same context, Jesus warned against just such a deception: “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.… Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it” (vv. 11, 23–26, nkjv).
In effect, the Watchtower leaders claim that Christ is “in the inner rooms” of their organization. You must come to them, in order to receive instructions from him. Happily, though, there is an abundance of evidence to help an individual Jehovah’s Witness to see through this deception.
First of all, there is the matter of prophecy. The Watchtower Society has such a long history of failed prophecies that it qualifies for the label “false prophet” many times over. (See our discussion of Deut. 18:20–22 for specific examples of what the organization prophesied for the years 1914, 1925, and 1975).
There is also the fact that their story keeps changing. It is one thing to claim that Christ returned invisibly in 1914, but another thing to make that claim after you have already spent fifty years telling people that he returned invisibly in 1874—and then changed your mind. Yet the JW organization has done just that. When The Watchtower magazine began publication back in 1879, it was originally titled Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. And, fifty years later, in the book Prophecy by J. F. Rutherford, this 1874 “presence” was still being heralded: “The Scriptural proof is that the second presence of the Lord Jesus Christ began in 1874 a.d.” (p. 65). Now the Society says that he returned in 1914. So, by their own admission, they were false heralds, announcing the presence of a Christ who was not there, from 1874 until 1914.
Claiming that Christ is invisibly present and ruling on earth through them, the JW leaders tell their followers, “In the first century, Jerusalem was the place from which direction was given the Christian organization (Acts 15:1, 2). But today such direction is provided from Brooklyn, New York” (The Watchtower, 12/1/82, p. 23). In view of the evidence, though, should an individual Jehovah’s Witness continue in fearful obedience to these men? Let Scripture answer: “If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord and what he says does not come true, then it is not the Lord’s message. That prophet has spoken on his own authority, and you are not to fear him.” (Deut. 18:22, tev).
See also the discussions of Exodus 3:15; Deuteronomy 18:20–22; Isaiah 43:10; Matthew 24:14; and Matthew 24:45.
“And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (nwt)
This verse is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ all-time favorites. But they read into it a number of thoughts that go beyond what it says. They believe that Jesus Christ returned invisibly in the year a.d. 1914 and “established” God’s kingdom in heaven at that time, with the Watchtower Society as his visible agency on earth. So, in order to receive everlasting life, people need to “come to Jehovah’s organization for salvation” (The Watchtower, 11/15/81, p. 21).
When Jehovah’s Witnesses preach their “gospel” or “good news” of the kingdom, they are actually preaching the doctrine of Christ’s invisible return in 1914. They freely acknowledge that the “good news” they preach is not the same as the gospel or Good News preached by Christians down through the centuries. But they think it is wonderful that they have a different good news:
… the Kingdom witnessing of Jehovah’s Witnesses since 1914 has been something far different from what Christendom’s missionaries have published both before and since 1914. “Different”—how so? … What Jehovah’s Witnesses have preached world wide since 1918 is something unique … the preaching of this good news of the Messianic kingdom as having been established in the heavens in 1914.… (The Watchtower, 10/1/80, pp. 28–29)
But the Bible plainly warns against the preaching of another gospel:
However, even if we or an angel out of heaven were to declare to you as good news something beyond what we declared to you as good news, let him be accursed. As we have said above, I also now say again, Whoever it is that is declaring to you as good news something beyond what you accepted, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:8–9, nwt)
Ask the Jehovah’s Witness, “Did the apostle Paul teach the disciples in Galatia that Christ would return in 1914 and set up a visible organization with headquarters in Brooklyn, New York?” If not, then the Watchtower leaders’ “good news” is “something beyond” what the Galatians accepted—placing them under God’s curse for teaching other gospel.
See also the discussions of Deuteronomy 18:20–22; Matthew 24:3; and Matthew 24:34.
“Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled.” (nkjv)
Which generation? The subject is a matter of debate among Christian Bible readers—but not among Jehovah’s Witnesses, because their organization has told them specifically that “the evidence points to the 1914 generation as the generation spoken of by Jesus. Thus, ‘this generation will by no means pass away until all these things (including the apocalypse) occur’ ” (The Watchtower, 2/15/86, p. 5).
For many years, each issue of their Awake! magazine has featured this statement of purpose on page 2: “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.” The Awake! issue of October 8, 1968, defined the generation even more precisely by saying, “Jesus was obviously speaking about those who were old enough to witness with understanding what took place,” suggesting that these would be “youngsters 15 years of age” (p. 13, italics theirs). They said most definitely that “the ‘generation’ logically would not apply to babies born during World War I” (The Watchtower, 10/1/78, p. 31).
One need only calculate that someone fifteen years old in 1914 would be twenty-five years old in 1924, thirty-five years old in 1934—and eighty-five years old in 1984—to realize that the Watchtower’s “generation that will not pass away” was almost gone by the mid-1980s. The prophecy was about to fail. But, rather than change the prophecy, JW leaders simply stretched the generation. Instead of fifteen-year-olds, who could witness “with understanding” what took place in 1914, they began to indicate instead that the generation would be made up of “those born around the time” (the very babies that they had earlier excluded!), saying: “If Jesus used ‘generation’ in that sense and we apply it to 1914, then the babies of that generation are now 70 years old or older” (The Watchtower, 5/15/84, p. 5).
Genuine Christians pray eagerly for the Lord to come again. And we wait and watch for his coming. But persons who make false prophecies fall into the categories of those the Lord warned us to watch out for: “For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24, nkjv).
For information on the Watchtower organization’s hundred-year history of false prophesying, see our discussion of Deuteronomy 18:20–22.
“Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.” (nwt)
This is a key text for Jehovah’s Witnesses. They attach a unique interpretation to the parable. Instead of seeing it as an exhortation to each Christian to be a faithful and diligent “slave” for Christ, they believe that their organization represents the faithful and discreet slave, divinely appointed to dispense “spiritual food” to the household of faith. This interpretation gives Watchtower headquarters tremendous power and authority in the eyes of the average Witness.
For example, note how The Watchtower of December 1, 1981, elevates the organization above the Bible and makes gaining everlasting life contingent on following the Watchtower Society:
Jehovah God has also provided his visible organization, his “faithful and discreet slave,” made up of spirit-anointed ones, to help Christians in all nations to understand and apply properly the Bible in their lives. Unless we are in touch with this channel of communication that God is using, we will not progress along the road to life, no matter how much Bible reading we do [p. 27].
Favored indeed are all those who serve loyally with the “faithful and discreet slave” organization, Jehovah’s visible agent of communication! Theirs is the wise choice, for their pathway leads on to the precious goal of everlasting life … [p. 31].
Perhaps I should mention here, as a personal aside, that the above statements, especially the one on page 27, which elevates the organization above the Bible, became “the last straw”—the straw that broke the camel’s back—in my relationship with the Watchtower Society. It was after reading this that I began speaking out, questioning the organization’s claims publicly at Kingdom Hall meetings and secretly publishing my newsletter, Comments from the Friends, the first issue of which dealt with the above quote. (See chapter seven, “The Author’s Testimony,” for further details.) Unfortunately, the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses remain conditioned to the extent that they applaud such statements and blindly follow the Society wherever it leads.
Originally, it was Charles Taze Russell, the founder and first president of the Watchtower Society, who was viewed personally and individually as the “faithful and wise servant” of Matthew 24:45. After his death, there occurred a major split in the organization, with supporters of the new president, Joseph F. Rutherford, seizing complete control, and members loyal to Pastor Russell leaving to form other sects, some of which continue to exist today. These modern-day Russellite groups continue to print the pastor’s books and to view him as God’s special messenger to the church. “Judge” Rutherford’s followers insisted that Russell never claimed to be the “faithful and wise servant,” but that the Watchtower corporation as a whole was God’s chosen instrument.
It is very difficult to disabuse Jehovah’s Witnesses of this belief. They accept whatever the Society tells them because the Society is God’s channel of communication, which, in turn, they believe because it is the only religious organization on earth teaching the truth—a conclusion they defend because they accept everything the Society tells them. Although this is circular reasoning, it is the way that Jehovah’s Witnesses think. At some point after the so-called Bible study, or indoctrination program, that originally brings an individual into the organization, his or her chain of reasoning is twisted about and connected together end-to-end, so that the JW thinks in circles instead of in a straight line. That’s why you can go ’round and ’round with a Witness and get nowhere. It could be called brainwashing.
The key to breaking that vicious circle is to give the individual some information that will jar his thinking enough to get his mind off the well-worn track that it has learned to function in. This can be a long, slow process. Much prayer and persistence is required. But it can be done.
For help, see chapter six on techniques for sharing the gospel.
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you.” (rsv)
The Watchtower Society has taught its followers not to obey these clear instructions from Jesus Christ. When Jehovah’s Witnesses hold their annual communion celebration, the loaf and the cup are passed from hand to hand with hardly anyone partaking. (Statistics reported in the January 1, 1986, Watchtower magazine revealed that, of 7,792,109 in attendance at the celebration in 1985, only 9,051 partook. So, most of the 49,716 worldwide congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses had no partakers at all in their midst.)
In failing to “drink of it, all of you” as Jesus commanded, the Witnesses are responding instead to instructions from their leaders, who have taught them that new believers since the year 1935 cannot share in the New Covenant mediated by Jesus Christ (Heb. 12:24); “Those of the ‘other sheep’ class are not in the new covenant and so do not partake” (The Watchtower, 2/15/86, p. 15).
But, speaking of the lifesaving covenant represented in the communion loaf and cup, Jesus said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves” (John 6:53, nwt). If Witnesses exclude themselves from the New Covenant, they exclude themselves from eternal life.
Ask a Jehovah’s Witness to show you a Bible verse where Jesus set the year 1935 as an expiration date for his instructions regarding communion. There is no such verse. Rather, he said, “Keep doing this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19, nwt).
See also the discussion at Revelation 7:9 for more information on the “1935 doctrine,” and John 10:16 regarding the “other sheep.”
“I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (rsv)
See discussion of the same quote at Matthew 3:11.
… Herod on his birthday gave a banquet.… And she came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” (rsv)
This is one of the three passages that Jehovah’s Witnesses use to argue against celebrating birthdays. See our discussion of Genesis 40:20–22.
And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord. (kjv)
This is a text that Jehovah’s Witnesses cite in presenting their case against the doctrine of the Trinity. They focus on the statement that God is one. But what they fail to understand is that the New Testament reveals this as a composite oneness.
There is a good reason why the pre-Christian Jews did not grasp the composite oneness of God: it had not yet been revealed. But, in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the revealed truth of Scripture has been hidden from their eyes by their leaders.
Let the Witness know that you agree with him that God is one God. Tell the JW that you do not believe in three Gods. Then ask a few questions to stimulate the JWs reasoning on the matter: Can the one True God listen to different people praying at the same time? Could he speak to more than one person at the same time, if he chose to do so? Can he do things in more than one place at the same time?
Tell the Witness that you would like him to consider a hypothetical question: “Suppose God decided to personally visit the earth? Would he have to leave heaven in order to do so? Or could he visit the earth, while still remaining in heaven to run the universe?” (The Witness will not want to answer.) Go on to say: “I’m not asking you to agree that God did do such a thing. But do you think that he could do that, if he wanted to?” Without attempting an accurate description or definition of the Trinity, help the Witness to open his mind to the possibility that God’s oneness might be composite.
Then proceed to look up and read these passages with the JW: Genesis 18:1–2; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Colossians 2:9; and Revelation 1:7–8. (See discussions of these verses.)
John answered them all, “I baptize you with water … he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (rsv)
See discussion of the same quote at Matthew 3:11.
Luke 16:22–24, 27–28
Now in course of time the beggar died and he was carried off by the angles to the bosom [position] of Abraham. Also, the rich man died and was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, he existing in torments, and he saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in the bosom [position] with him. So he called and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in anguish in this blazing fire.… send him to the house of my father, for I have five brothers, in order that he may give them a thorough witness, that they also should not get into this place of torment.” (nwt)
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe their organization’s teachings that hades is simply the grave and that there is no conscious existence for the dead until a future resurrection. But, since Jesus’ words in the verses above do speak of such conscious existence, the Watchtower Society has to do something to negate those words. So they point out that the account is a parable, or illustration, and apply a purely symbolic meaning to everything in the story.
In the Watchtower’s interpretation, Lazarus pictures Jesus’ disciples, the rich man pictures the Jewish religious leaders, Abraham pictures Jehovah God, the death of each pictures a change of conditions for each group while here on earth, and the torments of the rich man picture the public exposure of Jewish religious leaders by the Apostles’ preaching. Therefore, Jesus was not really talking about the condition of the dead in Luke 16, according to the Watchtower Society.
Christians, too, will generally agree that the story of the rich man and Lazarus is one of Jesus’ many parables. But an examination of the Lord’s other parables reveals that all of them were illustrations based on real-life situations. For example, a prodigal son returned home after squandering his money; a man found a buried treasure in a field, hid it again, and sold everything he had in order to buy that field; a king put on a wedding feast for his son; a slaveowner traveled abroad and then returned home to his slaves; a man constructed a vineyard, leased it out to others, but had difficulty collecting what they owed him; and so on.
Young men really did leave home and squander their inheritance, and Jesus used his audience’s familiarity with such circumstances to illustrate things relating to the kingdom. People really did find buried treasure, put on wedding feasts, leave slaves in charge while traveling abroad, lease vineyards, and so on, and Jesus used his listeners’ familiarity with these situations to illustrate spiritual things. So, if the story of the rich man and Lazarus is like all the rest of Jesus’ parables, it also must use a real situation to illustrate spiritual things. People must really have a conscious existence after death, and some of them must really be “in torments,” deeply regretting their past life. Regardless of what the parable illustrates, the basic story, like the other stories Jesus told, must be taken from real life.
Remember what the Bible reveals to us about Jesus’ mercy and compassion and love, we know that God is not a cruel, unfeeling monster who delights in tormenting people. If we truly know him, we realize that he is more kind and loving than we are. So, if we are unable to reconcile God’s goodness with Jesus’ teaching on the condition of the dead, the problem must lie with us, in our limited comprehension, rather than with God. Abraham faced a similar problem when he learned that God was about to rain fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. He questioned God, even asking, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25). Therefore, a person who is upset by Jesus’ teaching should follow Abraham’s example by taking the matter to God in prayer and asking for help to trust in him fully, even in matters that are beyond human understanding.
But the solution is not to be found in denying what the Bible plainly says. Although Jesus Christ was by far the most loving and compassionate person ever to walk the earth, he also had the most to say about the unpleasantness facing people after death. He said, for example:
“The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.” (Matt. 13:41–42, rsv)
“But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!’ There you will weep and gnash your teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves thrust out.” (Luke 13:27–28, rsv)
“So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.” (Matt. 13:49–50, rsv)
“Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth’ ” (Matt. 22:13, rsv)
“The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 24:50–51, niv)
“The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows.… ” (Luke 12:46–48, niv)
“ ‘And throw the good-for-nothing slave out into the darkness outside. There is where his weeping and the gnashing of his teeth will be.’ ” (Matt. 25:30, nwt)
“ … but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” [Author’s note: If he had not been born, the betrayer would have been nonexistent. But nonexistence was better than the punishment now in store for him. So, the Watchtower must be wrong in its teaching that Judas’ death plunged him into eternal nonexistence.] (Matt. 26:24, rsv)
“ … it is finer for you to enter one-eyed into the kingdom of God than with two eyes to be pitched into Gehenna, where their maggot does not die and the fire is not put out.” (Mark 9:47–48, nwt)
“Rejoice in that day and leap, for, look! your reward is great in heaven.… But woe to you rich persons, because you are having your consolation in full. Woe to you who are filled up now, because you will go hungry. Woe, you who are laughing now, because you will mourn and weep.” (Luke 6:23–25, nwt)
“Moreover, I say to you, my friends, 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.” (Luke 12:4–5, nwt)
And in the revelation that Jesus gave to the aged apostle John, the Lord’s angelic messenger says,
“If anyone worships the wild beast and its image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he will also drink of the wine of the anger of God that is poured out undiluted into the cup of his wrath, and he shall be tormented with 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 they have no rest.… ” (Rev. 14:9–11, nwt)
Conclude by asking the Jehovah’s Witness, “If someone never read any Watchtower Society publications, but only read Jesus’ words, what would he believe on this subject? What did Bible readers believe for centuries before Watchtower founder ‘Pastor’ Russell came along in the late 1800s and taught his no-hell doctrine?”
The Lord used figurative language—darkness, fire, torment, exclusion—but the point is clear: Jesus taught that disobedient mankind faces some sort of unpleasantness after death, and that he came as Savior to rescue us from such a fate.
Also, he took a loaf, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them, saying: “This means my body which is to be given in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (nwt)
The Watchtower organization teaches that new converts since the year 1935 do not become part of the Christian congregation, the body of Christ, and therefore that such individuals “do not partake of the emblems” at communion (The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life, Watchtower Society, 1968, p. 80). So, even though their own Bible says to “keep doing this,” the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses do not.
For further details, see the discussions at Matthew 26:27 and Revelation 7:9.
And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (rsv)
Compare the above with how the same verse is rendered in the Jehovah’s Witnesses New World Translation: “And he said to him: ‘Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.’ ”
Do you notice the difference? It is a very small change, but very significant. The Watchtower Society’s translators have moved the comma from before the word “today” to after it. This moves the adverb “today” from the second half of the sentence to the first half. So, instead of “today” identifying the time when the repentant evildoer on the cross will be with the Lord “in Paradise,” the text is changed so that “today” appears to identify simply the time when Jesus was speaking.
This is another case in which JW leaders have changed the Bible to fit their doctrines. They teach that the man who turned to the Lord on the cross and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v. 42), did not go to be with Christ in Paradise that day. Rather, they claim that he was annihilated at death, has not existed anywhere at all for the past two thousand years, and will eventually get to be with the Lord in Paradise at some time during the future millennium. It was difficult for Jehovah’s Witnesses to teach this doctrine in view of Jesus’ words to the dying man. Therefore, when they produced their own Bible, they changed his words—or at least the punctuation, which changes the meaning of the words.
If you challenge Witnesses on this point, they will likely defend the change by reading from the footnote to verse 43 in the 1984 reference edition of their New World Translation: “Although WH [the Westcott and Hort Greek text] puts a comma in the Gr. text before the word for ‘today,’ commas were not used in Gr. uncial mss. In keeping with the context, we omit the comma before ‘today.’ ” However, what the JW translators should really say is that “in keeping with their doctrine,” they move the comma.
However, since they mention context, it would be useful to look at the rest of the Book of Luke and the other three Gospels. Jesus used the expression “truly I tell you,” or “truly I say to you,” on many different occasions. (The same Greek word is rendered both “tell” and “say.”) How did the New World Bible Translation Committee punctuate the same expression in every other place where it appears? Where did all the commas go?
There is a very easy way to find out. Ask the Jehovah’s Witness you are speaking with to show you Comprehensive Concordance that the Watchtower Society published in 1973 for the New World Translation. Since the concordance is arranged alphabetically, have the Witness look up the word “truly.” There you will find a convenient listing of the six verses where the Lord used this same expression in the Gospel of Luke, as well as all seventy-one passages where he used it in the four Gospels. In addition to the chapter-and-verse numbers, the concordance shows the words immediately before and after “truly” in each text. Just glance at the list: the commas all line up, except for Luke 23:43. This is the only verse that they punctuated differently, so as to include the time element in the first half of the sentence—obvious proof that Watchtower translators altered this verse to fit the sect’s doctrines.
For further discussion on what happens to people when they die, see Psalm 146:3–4 and Luke 16:22–28.
For additional examples of distortions in the New World Translation, see our chapter two, “The Bible That Jehovah’s Witnesses Use,” as well as the discussions of Romans 14:7–9 and Hebrews 1:6.
While they were speaking of these things he himself stood in their midst.… But because they were terrified, and had become frightened, they were imagining they beheld a spirit. So he said to them: “Why are you troubled, and why is it doubts come up in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; feel me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones just as you behold that I have.” (nwt)
In contrast to the above words in their own Bible, Jehovah’s Witness leaders teach that the resurrected Christ is a spirit and that: “The human body of flesh, which Jesus Christ laid down forever as a ransom sacrifice, was disposed of by God’s power, but not by fire on the altar of the temple in Jerusalem. The flesh of a sacrifice is always disposed of and put out of existence, so not corrupting” (Watchtower book Things in Which It Is Impossible for God to Lie, 1965, p. 354). They also say: “Following his resurrection, Jesus did not always appear in the same body of flesh [perhaps to reinforce in their minds the fact that he was then a spirit]” (Watchtower book Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1985, p. 335).
Obviously, the Jehovah’s Witness organization would have us believe the opposite of what Scripture teaches on this point. They insist that Christ’s body was not resurrected but disposed of, and that he became a spirit. If that were true, then his statements at Luke 24:36–39 would have been lies; and his showing the disciples the nail scars in his hands and feet, and inviting them to feel his flesh and bones, would have been a clever trick to deceive them.
Besides discussing the above, you might also ask Jehovah’s Witnesses to read the verses where Jesus had originally foretold what would happen to his body: “In answer Jesus said to them: ‘Break down this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ Therefore the Jews said: ‘This temple was built in forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was talking about the temple of his body” (John 2:19–21, nwt).
The Witnesses have a choice to make—to believe what Jesus said about his bodily resurrection, or to believe what the Watchtower says.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (asv)
Until around 1950, Jehovah’s Witnesses carried with them a copy of the American Standard Version of the Bible (because it features the name Jehovah throughout the Old Testament). But they faced the embarrassing problem of trying to deny the deity of Christ, while the very Bible they held in their hand said plainly that “the Word was God.” This problem was solved when the Watchtower Society published its own New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.
Now, when Christians refer JWs to John 1:1, the Witnesses can answer, “That’s not in my Bible!” They can turn to John 1:1 in their own translation, and read “… the Word was a god.”
By reducing Jesus Christ to “a god,” the Watchtower places him among the “many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’ ” of 1 Corinthians 8:5—on the same level as Satan, “the god of this system of things” (2 Cor. 4:4, nwt).
The Watchtower Society presents the New World Translation as the anonymous work of the New World Bible Translation Committee—and resists all efforts to identify the members of the committee. They say they do this in order that all credit for the work will go to God. But an unbiased observer will quickly note that such anonymity also shields the translators from any blame for errors or distortions in their renderings. And it prevents scholars from checking their credentials. In fact, defectors who have quit Watchtower headquarters in recent years have identified the alleged members of the committee, revealing that none of them was expert in Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic—the original languages from which the Bible must be translated.
For many years Jehovah’s Witnesses turned for support of their “a god” rendering to The New Testament (1937) by Johannes Greber, since Greber also translated it as “ … the Word was a god.” Watchtower Society publications quote or cite Greber in support of this and other renderings, as follows:
Aid to Bible Understanding (1969), pages 1134 and 1669
“Make Sure of All Things—Hold Fast to What Is Fine” (1965), page 489
The Watchtower, 9/15/62, page 554
The Watchtower, 10/15/75, page 640
The Watchtower, 4/15/76, page 231
“The Word”—Who Is He? According to John (1962), page 5
However, after ex-Witnesses gave considerable publicity to the fact that Greber was a spiritist who claimed that spirits showed him what words to use in his translation, The Watchtower (4/1/83) said on page 31:
This translation was used occasionally in support of renderings of Matthew 27:52, 53 and John 1:1, as given in the New World Translation and other authoritative Bible versions. But as indicated in a foreword to the 1980 edition of The New Testament by Johannes Greber, this translator relied on “God’s Spirit World” to clarify for him how he should translate difficult passages. It is stated: “His wife, a medium of God’s Spirit world was often instrumental in conveying the correct answers from God’s Messengers to Pastor Greber.” The Watchtower has deemed it improper to make use of a translation that has such a close rapport with spiritism. (Deuteronomy 18:10–12) The scholarship that forms the basis for the rendering of the above-cited texts in the New World Translation is sound and for this reason does not depend at all on Greber’s translation for authority. Nothing is lost, therefore, by ceasing to use his New Testament.
Thus, it appeared that the Society had only just then discovered Greber’s spiritistic connections and immediately repented of using him for support. However, this, too, was yet another deception—because the JW organization already knew of Greber’s spiritism back in 1956. The Watchtower of February 15, 1956, contains nearly a full page devoted to warning readers against Johannes Greber and his translation. It refers to his book titled Communication with the Spirit-World: Its Laws and Its Purpose and states, “Very plainly the spirits in which ex-priest Greber believes helped him in his translation” (The Watchtower, 2/15/56, p. 111).
Aside from Greber’s New Testament and the Watchtower Society’s slanted version, other English-language Bible translations are nearly unanimous in rendering John 1:1 as “ … the Word was God.” And this is consistent with the declaration by the apostle Thomas, also found in John’s Gospel, calling Jesus “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). The JW New World Translation still calls Jesus “God” in John 20:28 and Isaiah 9:6. In fact, their 1985 Kingdom Interlinear version reveals that the Greek literally says Jesus is “the God” (HO THEOS) in John 20:28.
Anyone who believes that the Father is God, while the Son is “a god” should read Isaiah 43 and 44, where the inspired Word dismisses such a notion: “Before Me no God was formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, and beside Me there is no saviour.… is there a god beside me? There is no other Rock; I know of none!” (Isa. 43:10–11; 44:8, mlb italics added).
For additional information on the deity of Christ and attempts by Watchtower translators to hide it in their Bible, see the discussions of Genesis 18:1–2; Exodus 3:14; Psalm 110:1; Isaiah 9:6; Daniel 10:13, 21; John 8:57–58; John 20:28; and Hebrews 1:6.
John 3:3, 7
In answer Jesus said to him: “Most truly I say to you, Unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.… You people must be born again.” (nwt)
Even though these words appear in their own Bible, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that they must be born again. “That doesn’t apply to me. It’s only for the hundred and forty-four thousand anointed ones. I belong to the ‘great crowd’ who will live on the earth under Kingdom rule” is the typical answer a JW will give when asked if he has been born again. (See the discussions of John 10:16 and Revelation 7:4 and 7:9, for information about their beliefs on the 144,000 and the “great crowd” of “other sheep.”) The organization has specifically taught them: “The ‘other sheep’ do not need any such rebirth, for their goal is life everlasting in the restored earthly paradise as subjects of the Kingdom” (The Watchtower, 2/15/86, p. 14).
The first step to take is to ask the Witness to read with you in the Watchtower’s own translation what the Bible actually says about being born again at John 3:3–15. Emphasize that Jesus did not allow for exceptions when he said, “Unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v. 3).
Then turn to 1 John 5:1, where the New World Translation says, “Everyone believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God.… ” Ask the JW whether the expression “everyone believing” leaves anyone out.
Next have the Witness go to Galatians 4:5–6, where the Bible explains that Christ came in order “that we, in turn, might receive the adoption as sons. Now because you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of his Son into our hearts and it cries out: ‘Abba, Father!’ ” (nwt). Ask him if he has been adopted as a child of God by personally receiving the Spirit of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, into his heart, as described there. In harmony with Watchtower doctrine, he will answer, “No!”
Finally, turn to Romans 8. First direct the JW to verses 14 through 16, showing him that the chapter is discussing the same subject: receiving the “spirit of adoption” and crying out “Abba, Father!”—which the Witness says does not apply to him. And then go back to the beginning of Romans 8 and read with him verses 1 through 7, commenting on the contrast between walking in the flesh and walking “in the spirit.” Now you are ready to drive home the crucial point of verses 8 and 9:
So those who are in harmony with the flesh cannot please God. However, you are in harmony, not with the flesh, but with the spirit, if God’s spirit truly dwells in you. But if anyone does not have Christ’s spirit, this one does not belong to him. (nwt, italics added)
Remind the Witness that he has admitted that he has not received Christ’s Spirit to dwell in his heart by being born again through adoption as a child of God. In the light of verses 8 and 9, therefore, can he reach any conclusion other than that he cannot please God, and he does not belong to Christ?
At this point, you will probably have to re-read Romans 8 with him. Since the passage is one seldom covered in Kingdom Hall Bible-study classes, the average Jehovah’s Witness is unaware of what it says. But, when a Witness finally grasps its meaning, it can have a devastating effect. I know that firsthand—because, when I finally encountered those verses after thirteen years in the Watchtower organization, they nearly knocked me off my feet. Within a short time I was confessing my need of the Savior and praying to receive Christ’s Spirit into my heart. And—Praise God!—he answered my prayer.
But don’t be disappointed if the Jehovah’s Witness you are talking to responds with an argument instead of a prayer. In my own case, I read Romans 8 at a time when several weeks of soul-searching and intense Bible reading had already led me to leave the organization. It usually takes a considerable period of time—perhaps even months or years—for the needed information to sink in and produce change in a JW. Plant carefully and water patiently—then God will make it grow! (1 Cor. 3:6).
“Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him.” (nwt)
Jehovah’s Witnesses often use this verse in their house-to-house preaching work. After greeting the householder, they ask, “Whom do you worship as God? What is his name?” If the answer given is “the Lord,” or “God,” the JW will respond, “That’s a title. What is God’s name?” Many people will then answer, “Jesus!” whereupon the Witness will read John 4:23 and then comment, “You are not a true worshiper, because you are worshiping the Son. The Bible says here that the true worshipers will worship ‘the Father.’ Do you know the Father’s name?” Then JWs proceed to present their standard argument about the name Jehovah.
Much of the Witnesses’ preaching activity follows this same theme: denying the deity of Christ, while teaching that only the Father (Jehovah) must be worshiped. To establish this doctrine, they take their new students on a guided tour through the Bible, studiously avoiding such passages as Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 28:9; John 1:1; John 8:58–59; John 20:28; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:6; and so on—all of which reveal the deity of Christ and the propriety of worshiping him.
In fact, Watchtower Society translators, in preparing their New World Translation, were careful to translate the Greek word proskuneo (worship, reverence, do obeisance to) in a very selective manner. Wherever the word is used of the Father, they translate it as “worship,” but wherever it refers to the Son, they render it as “do obeisance to.” (See discussion of Heb. 1:6 for further details.)
After agreeing that the Father should be worshiped, ask the Jehovah’s Witness if he respects the Father’s wishes in other matters, too. Naturally, he will answer, “Yes!” Then direct him in his own Bible to John 5:23, where it says that the Father requires “that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.… ” If the Witness does not give worshipful honor to the Son, then his worship of the Father is in vain, because the same verse goes on to read: “He that does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.”
See also Genesis 18:1–2; Exodus 3:14; Psalm 110:1; Isaiah 9:6; Daniel 10:13, 21; and Hebrews 1:6.
Accordingly Jesus said to them: “Most truly I say to you, Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves.” (nwt)
This is an important verse to bring up in a discussion with Jehovah’s Witnesses. They have been taught not only to reject taking communion but also to reject the new life that comes to all who put faith in the shed blood and crucified body of our Lord. They exclude themselves from the New Covenant ratified by the blood of Christ.
For suggestions on how to discuss this with them, see Matthew 26:27 and Revelation 7:9.
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (rsv)
To avoid the obvious implication regarding the deity of Christ, Watchtower translators changed Jesus’ words in the New World Translation to read: “Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.”
See our discussion of Exodus 3:14, where God revealed himself to Moses as the “I am.”
“And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” (nkjv)
If Jesus was here calling the future Gentile believers his “other sheep,” as is commonly understood, then he was hinting to his Jewish disciples about the time when his flock would embrace a worldwide body of believers from all nationalities. But the Watchtower Society attaches a different meaning to this text. They contrast the “other sheep” with the “little flock” mentioned at Luke 12:32, where the Lord said, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (nkjv). The “little flock,” Witnesses say, are 144,000 spirit-anointed believers who make up the body of Christ and will go to heaven, while the “other sheep” include all other believers—those who will receive everlasting life on earth. The opportunity to become part of the “little flock” ended back in the year 1935, so their story goes; thus, better than 99 percent of the Jehovah’s Witnesses today consider themselves to be of the “other sheep” class.
This matter might almost seem academic, except for the fact that those who see themselves as “other sheep” thereby exclude themselves not only from heaven, but also from the New Covenant mediated by Christ and from all that the Bible promises to members of the body of Christ.
To refute the doctrine that Christians are divided into heavenly and earthly classes, see the discussions at Revelation 7:4 (about the “little flock” of 144,000) and Revelation 7:9 (about the “great crowd” of “other sheep”).
Besides the vast majority of JWs, the Watchtower Society also throws all pre-Christian believers into the “other sheep” class with an earthly hope. Thus, Witnesses believe that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the prophets, and so on, do not go to heaven. The best response to this is to read the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, which refers to several faithful pre-Christian men and women (including the patriarchs and the prophets) and then says of them that “they were strangers and exiles on the earth.… But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God … has prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:13, 16, rsv). What city in a heavenly country? Evidently, the “city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22, rsv).
See also the discussions of Psalm 37:9, 11, 29; Psalm 115:16; Luke 23:43; and Revelation 7:9.
“ … If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.” (kjv)
This is a favorite verse for Jehovah’s Witnesses arguing against the deity of Christ. They begin by quoting from the Athanasian Creed: “And in this Trinity none is afore, or after an other; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three persons are co-eternal, and co-equal.” Then they will read Jesus’ words about the Father being greater than the Son, rather than “equal,” as that creed says.
Don’t let JWs lure you into this trap. Remind them that Jesus was speaking at a time when he had done as stated at Philippians 2:6–7: “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (kjv). Naturally, then, Christ could speak of the Father as being “greater than I.” The Son had even become “lower than the angels,” in order to act as the Savior of mankind (Heb. 2:9).
See also the discussions of Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1; John 20:28; and Revelation 1:7–8.
“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (nkjv)
The whole series of verses at John 16:7–15 is an excellent passage to turn to when discussing the Holy Spirit with Jehovah’s Witnesses. The JWs deny both the deity and the personality of the Holy Spirit, claiming instead that “it” is simply an impersonal “active force.” But here Jesus plainly referred to the Holy Spirit as “He” (a personal pronoun) and described the Spirit as speaking, hearing, telling, and so on—activities of a clearly personal nature.
See also Genesis 1:1–2; Matthew 3:11; Acts 2:4; Acts 5:3–4; and 1 Corinthians 6:19.
“This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (nwt)
One of the verses most frequently quoted by door-knocking Jehovah’s Witnesses is John 17:3. They use it in two different ways:
First, although most translations render the Greek as “to know” God, the Watchtower version says “taking in knowledge.” This enables Witnesses to use the verse in offering listeners a “free home Bible study” in order to take in this so-called knowledge of God. Those who accept the offer are quickly switched from the Bible to one of the many books published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
After that, the persons studying with the Witnesses are “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7, kjv). Jesus Christ himself revealed that he is “the Way and the Truth and the Life,” and that “no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6, mlb). The “facts” that keep filling Witnesses’ heads never make up for the lack of actually knowing Jesus, the living Truth.
It is like the situation of a young fan of a famous movie star who has seen all the start’s movies, read volumes of biographical material, and decorated his walls with the star’s pictures. Yet all of this knowledge can never add up to the sort of relationship enjoyed by the star’s adopted son, who lives in a close relationship with him. Real Christianity involves being adopted by God as his child, and really coming to know him (see Gal. 4:5–9; Rom. 8:14–39). Watchtower-supplied “knowledge” can never equal that.
The second way that Jehovah’s Witnesses use John 17:3 is to deny the deity of Christ. They point out that Jesus called the Father “the only true God” and made a distinction between “you, the only true God” and “the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” Of course, the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit within the Godhead is a matter that even orthodox Christians can at best “see through a glass, darkly,” while we look forward to going home to be with the Lord and, only then, seeing him “face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12, kjv). But, we can see clearly enough right now to know that the Watchtower Society is twisting John 17:3.
If Jesus’ reference to the Father as “the only true God” were meant to exclude the Son from deity, then the same principle of interpretation would have to apply to Jude 4, where Jesus Christ is called “our only Owner and Lord” (nwt, italics added). This would have to exclude the Father from Lordship and Ownership. Yet, Witnesses speak of the Father as “the Lord Jehovah,” even though Jude 4 calls Jesus our “only” Lord. And the Holy Spirit is called “Lord” at 2 Corinthians 3:17. Obviously, then, neither use of the word only is exclusive with reference to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ being called our “only” Lord does not rule out the Lordship of the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the Father’s being called the “only” true God does not exclude the Son and the Holy Spirit from deity.
See also the discussions of Genesis 18:1–2; Exodus 3:14; Psalm 110:1; Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1; John 20:28; and Revelation 1:7–8.
Consequently the other disciples would say to him: “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them: “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails and stick my finger into the print of the nails and stick my hands into his side, I will certainly not believe.” (nwt)
Christians do well to discuss this passage with Jehovah’s Witnesses who deny that Jesus died on a cross.
That Jesus did not die on a cross is a basic JW doctrine. In fact, Witnesses consider anyone who believes in the cross to be a “pagan false religionist.” Instead, the Watchtower Society teaches that Jesus was nailed to a “torture stake”—an upright pole, like a flagpole, without any cross beam. Wherever other Bibles have the word cross, the New World Translation substitutes the expression torture stake.
Illustrations of the Lord’s death in their books show Jesus with his arms brought together straight above his head, with a single nail pinning both hands to the stake. For years, all the Watchtower Society’s publications have depicted Jesus’ death in this way—with a single nail pinning his hands to a “torture stake.” But, what does Scripture say? Did one nail fasten Jesus’ hands above his head, or did two nails hold his hands to the opposite ends of a cross beam? At John 20:25, the Bible tells us that the apostle Thomas said the above. Even in the Watchtower Bible, Thomas spoke of the “nails” (plural) in Jesus’ hands—not a single nail, as in Watchtower illustrations.
So, although JW leaders took out the word cross from their Bible, they neglected to take out the second nail in Jesus’ hands—thus retaining evidence that he died by crucifixion, rather than the stake-fiction that they teach.
In answer Thomas said to him: “My Lord and my God!” (nwt)
Yes, this verse actually appears in the Jehovah’s Witness Bible! Perhaps it will be changed in a future edition, but, while it is still there, we can point it out to JWs in conversations about the deity of Christ. Thomas, although doubting longer than the other apostles, finally came to accept Christ as Lord and God—not “a god” as Watchtower leaders have mistranslated John 1:1 to read in their Bible, but “God,” as his words show.
Jehovah’s Witnesses find this verse very difficult to deal with because they do not want to admit the simple fact that it declares Christ’s deity. Typically, they try to cope with it in one of two ways:
First, the less knowledgeable JW may try to brush it off by saying, “Thomas was just exclaiming his surprise. If we saw a friend return from the dead, we, too, might say, ‘Oh! My God!’ out of sheer surprise. Thomas didn’t mean anything by it.”
If a Witness takes this approach, we should ask him, “Do you mean that Thomas was using God’s name in vain? That would be blasphemy! Thomas certainly wouldn’t do that.” Then point out that in the next verse Jesus commented on what Thomas has said. If Thomas had said “God” in vain, Jesus would surely have rebuked him for it, but, instead, he acknowledged that Thomas had finally “believed.” Believed what? That Jesus Christ is both Lord and God!
Second, the more sophisticated Witness will follow the approach suggested on page 213 of the Watchtower Society’s 1985 book Reasoning from the Scriptures. He will point out that the twentieth chapter of John ends by saying that “these have been written down that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God … ” (v. 31). To the JW, the fact that the Father is God, and Jesus is the Son of the Father, automatically rules out the Son’s deity. But this is not what Scripture teaches. (See verses listed below.) The Witness may also quote John 20:17, where Jesus refer to the Father as “my God,” as so-called proof that Jesus is not God. Yet, at Hebrews 1:10, the Father calls the Son “Lord”—obviously without casting doubt on the fact that the Father, too, is “Lord.”
Since the Witnesses refer to Jesus as “a god” in contrast with the Father, whom they call “the God,” you may wish to have the JW look up John 20:28 in his own Kingdom Interlinear (1985) Bible. The word-for-word English under the Greek text shows that Thomas literally called Jesus, “The Lord of me and the God of me!”
See also Genesis 18:1–2; Isaiah 9:6; Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1; John 1:1; Revelation 1:7–8; and other pertinent verses listed in the Subject-Matter Index.
“For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (niv)
See discussion of the same thought at Matthew 3:11.
… they all became filled with holy spirit.… (nwt)
The Watchtower’s 1982 book You Can Life Forever in Paradise on Earth says: “ ‘They all became filled with holy spirit.’ (Acts 2:4) Were they ‘filled’ with a person? No, but they were filled with God’s active force. Thus the facts make clear that the Trinity is not a Bible teaching.… How could the holy spirit be a person, when it filled about 120 disciples at the same time?” (pp. 40–41). And the study question at the bottom of page 41 asks, “How does the pouring out of holy spirit on Jesus’ followers prove that it is not a person?”
These Jehovah’s Witnesses arguments do not prove anything of the sort. If the pouring out of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33; 10:45; and so on) were evidence against personality, then the apostle Paul would not be a person either, because Paul wrote concerning himself: “I am being poured out … ” (Phil. 2:17, nwt) and: “ … I am already being poured out … ” (2 Tim. 4:6, nwt). Since the apostle Paul, obviously a real person, could be spoken of in the Bible as being “poured out,” then the use of the same expression with regard to the Holy Spirit could hardly be used as a proof against the Spirit’s personality.
Likewise, the Old Testament prophecy says of Jesus Christ, “like water I have been poured out” (Ps. 22:14, nwt). Therefore, applying the Watchtower argument would make him a mere impersonal force also. Clearly, the argument is a fallacy.
But what about the matter of the disciples being “filled” with the Holy Spirit? Rather than supporting what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, this verse actually proves the opposite: namely, that the Holy Spirit is the Lord God himself. He is the One who “fills all in all” (Eph. 1:23, rsv), “Him who fills all in all” (nkjv). Even the JW New World Translation refers to “him who fills up all things in all” at Ephesians 1:23. Ask the Jehovah’s Witness if this “him” who fills all the disciples is not a divine person.
Next show the Witness that the Holy Spirit can speak (Acts 13:2), bear witness (John 15:26), “say whatever He hears” (John 16:13, mlb), and “feel hurt” (Isa. 63:10, nwt).
Finally, ask the Witness to read 2 Corinthians 3:17. Most translations of that verse say, “the Lord is the Spirit.” The Watchtower’s Bible says, “Jehovah is the Spirit.” Clearly the Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit is a divine person—none other than God himself.
See also the discussions of Matthew 3:11; John 16:13; Acts 5:3–4; and 1 Corinthians 6:19.
But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? … You have lied not to me but God.” (nkjv)
Invite a Jehovah’s Witness to read this passage; then ask him to whom it was that Ananias lied. Peter mentions it twice: he lied to the Holy Spirit; he lied to God. This reveals that the Holy Spirit is a person—(How could someone lie to a “force”?)—and that this person is God.
You may have to read this passage a couple of times with the Witness before he even begins to grasp the point. JWs are so accustomed to thinking of the Holy Spirit as an “it”—“Jehovah’s active force”—that their minds have difficulty even formulating the thought of the Holy Spirit as a person.
One passage will not be enough to convince the Witness of the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit. See also our discussions of John 16:13; Romans 8:26–27; and 1 Corinthians 6:19. The Witness may still object to the Spirit’s personality, saying that the Holy Spirit can be “poured out,” and that people can be “filled” and “baptized” with the Holy Spirit. If those objections are raised, please see our discussions of Matthew 3:11 and Acts 2:4.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.… ” (niv)
Jehovah’s Witnesses never address Jesus in prayer. They have been taught that their prayers must be directed only to the Father and that they must call him “Jehovah.” If a Witness were overheard praying to Jesus, he would be put on trial by a judicial committee and would be disfellowshiped unless he repented of his “sin.”
But the Scripture passage above clearly shows Stephen praying to Jesus Christ, the risen Lord. (The JW Bible changes “Lord” in v. 60 to “Jehovah,” but v. 59 still says “Jesus.”)
A Witness may try to claim that Stephen was not praying to Jesus; he was merely speaking to him face to face, because he saw him in a vision. In that case, ask the JW to read the context. The vision in verse 56 took place when Stephen was in Jerusalem, standing trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin court. When he told the Jews that he saw a vision of Christ in heaven at the right hand of the Father, they were filled with fury. They ended the trial, dragged Stephen out of the court chamber, led him through the city streets, took him all the way out of the city (v. 57), and then stoned him. This naturally took a considerable amount of time. There is no indication that Stephen’s vision as repeated again outside the city at the time of his stoning. Rather, he was, as the Scripture states, praying to Jesus.
For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: for which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. (kjv)
Jehovah’s Witnesses use this verse, along with Old Testament dietary regulations, to support their organization’s ban on blood transfusions.
They see the above passage as a law from God, extending the Jewish dietary prohibition on blood to the Christian congregation for all time to come. But did the early church treat this apostolic letter as a permanent injunction? Obviously, fornication is permanently forbidden, but what about the other things mentioned in the letter? What about meats offered to idols? Paul discussed this subject at greater length in his first letter to the Corinthians, pointing out that “an idol is nothing” and that “neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.” He urged against eating such meat in cases where it might become a stumbling block to new believers who had only recently abandoned idolatrous worship. (See 1 Cor. 8:1–13, kjv.) But, in general, Christians were free to “Eat whatever is sold in the [pagan] meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience” and to “eat whatever is set before you” in a pagan neighbor’s home (1 Cor. 10:25, 27, rsv).
Therefore, the part of the letter of Acts 15 that refers to meats offered to idols must not have been viewed as a permanent injunction for the church. There is no basis, then, for claiming that the statement about blood has force today either.
But, even if it did, the Scripture is still taking about diet, not blood transfusions. To take a dietary regulation and stretch it to the point of denying a lifesaving medical procedure to a dying man is reminiscent of the Jewish Pharisees who were furious when Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath (Luke 6:6–11). A letter published in the December 8, 1984, issue of The Concord Monitor (New Hampshire) tells of Jehovah’s Witness elders interrogating a terminal cancer patient in a hospital and then disfellowshiping him on his deathbed because he accepted a blood transfusion. We could easily picture the Pharisees doing the same thing—but would Jesus act like that?
See also the discussions at Genesis 9:4 and Leviticus 7:26–27.
… and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (rsv)
This passage is very helpful in showing Jehovah’s Witnesses their need to be born again as children of God. They hope to please God by the works that they are busy doing. But they are still in the flesh, and, therefore, “cannot please God,” no matter how many good works they do.
Beginning at verse one, read through Romans 8 with the JW, especially up to and including verse seventeen. For help in doing this, see our discussion of John 3:3.
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (nkjv)
Jehovah’s Witnesses seldom encounter this passage in their organized “Bible studies” because their leaders prefer to skip over or ignore it. It just does not fit in with their conception of the Holy Spirit as an “it”—an impersonal “active force.”
Invite the JW to read these verses with you, and then ask him some pointed questions: Can a “force” make intercession for us? Does a “force” have a mind? The Witnesses’ own New World Translation says that the Spirit “pleads for us” (v. 26). Can an impersonal force plead for people?
To help the Witness reason further on the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit, invite him to consider also John 16:13; Acts 5:3–4; and 1 Corinthians 6:19. (See discussions of those verses.)
None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord, so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (rsv)
This is an excellent example to cite when demonstrating that the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation of the Bible is a twisted translation, containing numerous verses that have been changed to fit Watchtower doctrines.
As it reads in the above Revised Standard Version and in virtually every other translation, this passage shows our relationship to Christ both in life and in death. Verse 9 is logically connected to what precedes it in verses 7 and 8. But, now, note how Watchtower translators have changed the verse in their Bible:
None of us, in fact, lives with regard to himself only, and no one dies with regard to himself only; for both if we live, we live to Jehovah, and if we die, we die to Jehovah. Therefore both if we live and if we die, we belong to Jehovah. For to this end Christ died and came to life again, that he might be Lord over both the dead and the living (Rom. 14:7–9, nwt).
By rendering the same Greek root Kyrios as “Jehovah” in verses 7 and 8, and as “Lord” in verse 9, the Watchtower has created a logical non sequitur—verse 9 no longer follows logically from the preceding thought. Remembering that the JW leaders teach that “Jehovah” is the name of God the Father only, and that Jesus Christ is a mere created being (an angel), we see that they have totally changed the thought of this passage. In their rendering, the subject of the discussion changes from God to one of his creatures as you read from verse 8 to verse 9, and so verse 9 is no longer logically tied in with what precedes it. You don’t have to be a Greek scholar to see that something is wrong with the Watchtower Society’s rendering of this passage.
In the Jehovah’s Witness Bible it appears that two different persons are spoken of in Romans 14:7–9. Yet a quick glance at the Watchtower’s own Kingdom Interlinear Translation shows that the same root word, Kyrios (“Lord”), appears in all three verses. In order to be consistent, the English rendering should reflect this by using “Lord” throughout the discussion.
But why did the Watchtower Society’s translators not render Kyrios as “Jehovah” in all three verses? Because then it would read: “None of us, in fact, lives with regard to himself only, and no one dies with regard to himself only; for both if we live, we live to Jehovah, and if we die, we die to Jehovah. Therefore both if we live and if we die, we belong to Jehovah. For to this end Christ died and came to life again, that he might be Jehovah over both the dead and the living”—a thought totally unacceptable in Watchtower theology!
In many other ways, too, the New World Translation twists verses to fit the organization’s doctrines. Instead of being called the Watchtower’s version of the Bible, it should be called their perversion of the Bible.
See also our chapter two, “The Bible That Jehovah’s Witnesses Use.”
1 Corinthians 1:10
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no division among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (kjv)
The Watchtower Society uses this verse to impose upon its followers a degree of lockstep conformity that is incredible to outsiders. And, rather than chafe under it, Witnesses actually boast of their total obedience to the Society as evidence that they are the only true Christians, because they alone “all speak in agreement” and are “united in the same mind and in the same line of thought” (1 Cor. 1:10, nwt).
They are specifically instructed not to accept or read “the religious literature of people they meet” (The Watchtower, 5/1/84, p. 31), not to listen to “criticism of Jehovah’s organization” (The Watchtower, 5/15/84, p. 17), and not to speak words “expressing criticism of the way the appointed elders are handling matters” (The Watchtower, 1/15/84, p. 16). The Witnesses are even told to “Avoid independent thinking … questioning the counsel that is provided by God’s visible organization,” and to “Fight against independent thinking” (The Watchtower, 1/15/83, pp. 22, 27).
But did the apostle Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, mean that they should not only end their schismatic divisions but should also submit themselves to some human leader in total, unquestioning obedience—like mindless robots? Hardly! Paul’s further writings to the Romans reveal that there was plenty of room for individual freedom in the early church:
People range from those who believe they may eat any sort of meat to those whose faith is so weak they dare not eat anything except vegetables. Meat-eaters must not condemn the scrupulous. On the other hand, the scrupulous must not condemn those who feel free to eat anything they choose, since God as welcomed them.… If one man keeps certain days as holier than others, and another considers all days to be equally holy, each must be left free to hold his own opinion (Rom. 14:2–5, jb).
As Christians, we should certainly be united on the basics of our faith, all of us joining together in following Christ as Lord and looking to him as our Savior, but there is also room for diversity. We might even disagree on matters that would necessitate meeting separately from those of another opinion. For example, it would be difficult for meat-eaters and vegetarians to share a banquet together, and those who do not observe a particular “holy day” would normally not attend a service that others held to celebrate it. But such disagreements should not be allowed to break the bond of love that unites us as brothers and sisters in Christ. Even if our brother feels differently on such matters, we should “welcome him all the same without starting an argument” (Rom. 14:1, jb). Point out to the Jehovah’s Witness that it is not lockstep conformity, but love, that is “a perfect bond of union” (Col. 3:14, nwt).
In reasoning on the matter with a Witness, you might freely admit that Christians regret the divisions that plague the church. Some of these are due to traditions that developed over the centuries in different localities due to geographical separation and language barriers. Others are the result of sincere differences of opinion among men who equally respect the Bible and accept the Lordship of Christ, but who have reached different conclusions in areas where Scripture speaks ambiguously or not at all. The solution, however, does not lie in one organization’s leaders standing up and announcing to the world: “Everyone must agree with us! Then we will all be of ‘one mind’ as true Christians.” That approach has been tried many times, and it leads only to deeper divisions. In fact, there are numerous exclusivist religious groups that claim to be “the only true Christians,” the Watchtower Society being only one among many. Finding those who agree with you, and then disfellowshiping the rest of the world, is not the way to true Christian unity.
The Jehovah’s Witness should also be asked to look at one area in which the Watchtower Society specifically violates scriptural admonition. This is the matter of holidays, or holy days. As we noted above, Romans 14:5–6 makes allowance for individual Christians to observe special days that other Christians may choose not to observe. Yet the JW who dares to celebrate Christmas or Easter or Thanksgiving Day (or even Mother’s Day!) is immediately put on trial by a judicial committee and disfellowshiped—totally cut off from friends and family.
For further discussion of Jehovah’s Witness’ conformity to instructions from the Watchtower organization, see Matthew 24:45 and Revelation 19:1.
1 Corinthians 6:19
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? …
Here is a line of reasoning to use with a Jehovah’s Witness, when presenting the deity of the Holy Spirit:
Besides the temple of the True God in ancient Jerusalem, the Scriptures mention many other temples—for example: the temple of Dagon (1 Sam. 5:2), the temple of Zeus (Acts 14:13), the temple of Artemis (Acts 19:35), and so on. Each one was someone’s temple, either the True God’s or a false God’s. But the Bible also shows that the physical body of each individual Christian becomes a temple. Whose temple? A “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19).
Not recognizing the Holy Spirit as a person, namely God himself, followers of the Watchtower find it impossible to grasp this teaching of Scripture: that God becomes personally present within each believer. Yet, their own Kingdom Interlinear Translation’s literal word-for-word rendering of the Greek at 1 Corinthians 6:19 says: “… the body of you divine habitation of the in you holy spirit is.… ” Obviously, these words indicate that the Holy Spirit is divine and that he inhabits Christians.
The promise of this wonderful, close relationship with God was given by Jesus, when he said: “ … I shall ask the Father and He will give you another Helper to stay with you forever, the Spirit of Truth.… You know Him, for He remains with you and will be within you” (John 14:16, 17, mlb). Pray that the Jehovah’s Witnesses may come to know God in this intimate way.
See also the discussions of John 16:13 and Acts 5:3–4.
1 Corinthians 8:6
But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. (kjv)
“There is but one God,” says the Jehovah’s Witness in applying this verse, “and who is he? The Father! So, Jesus is not God.” However, there is a flaw in his line of reasoning. Don’t let him stop there; make him apply the same line of reasoning to the rest of the verse. Then he will have to say, “There is but one Lord, and who is he? Jesus Christ! So, the Father is not Lord.” Of course, the JW does not want to reach this conclusion, because he always speaks of Jehovah as “Lord.” Point out to him that he cannot have the one without the other. He cannot make the first half of the verse exclude Jesus from being God, without making the second half exclude the Father from being Lord.
The fact is that Scripture uses the terms God and Lord virtually interchangeably. The various false gods are called both “gods” and “lords.” The Father is called both “God” and “Lord,” and the Son is referred to by both terms. The apostle Thomas addressed Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Watchtower leaders have taught their disciples to see in 1 Corinthians 8:6 a contrast that does not exist.
See also the discussions of Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1; John 17:3; John 20:28; and Revelation 1:7–8.
1 Corinthians 11:3
But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. (kjv)
Jehovah’s Witnesses use this verse, too, in their attempt to deny the deity of Christ. But this passage does not support Watchtower doctrine that Christ was an angel created by God. It simply shows that the principle of headship applies.
Within the human family, the head of the woman is the man. Does that mean that women are a lower form of life than men? Are women somehow inferior to men? Not at all! It is simply God’s arrangement that someone act as head, and he assigned that role to the man. Likewise within the Godhead—the Father acts as head without diminishing the full deity of the Son.
See also our discussion of Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1; John 20:28; Colossians 2:9; and Revelation 1:7–8.
He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. (rsv)
Jehovah’s Witnesses cite this verse as “proof” that Jesus Christ is not God, but rather the first angel that God created. However, does the word first-born in the Bible necessarily mean the first one who was born or created? Not at all! The term is often used in Scripture to signify priority in importance or rank, rather than actual birth order.
For example, ask the Witness to turn to Psalm 89:27. This verse speaks about King David, who was the youngest, or last-born son of Jesse—as far away as he could be from being literally first-born. But note what God says about him in the psalm: “Also, I myself shall place him as firstborn … ” (nwt). Clearly, God did not reverse the order of David’s birth; he was not speaking about birth order. What the psalm meant was that King David would be elevated in rank, above the others, to the preeminent position.
Now, to demonstrate that the term is used in this sense when speaking about Christ at Colossians 1:15, ask the Witness to look at the context. Point out, particularly, verse 18, which identifies Christ as “the head” and “the first-born” and says that this is for the purpose “that in everything he might be pre-eminent” (rsv).
While you are right there in the Book of Colossians, clinch the point about the deity of Christ by reading chapter 2, verse 9: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (niv).
See also the discussions of Isaiah 9:6; Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1; John 1:1; John 20:28; Revelation 1:7–8; and other verses listed in the Subject-Matter Index.
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. (niv)
This is a text that should definitely be included when sharing with a Jehovah’s Witness the abundant scriptural evidence that Jesus Christ is God. Reading it in a number of translations may prove helpful: “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (kjv). “For in Christ there is all of God in a human body” (lb) and “in him all the fullness of deity is resident in bodily form” (The Bible in Living English, translated by Steven T. Byington, published by the Watchtower Society, 1972).
The Watchtower’s New World Translation attempts to water down the message of this verse by rendering it: “because it is in him that all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily.” But the reference edition (footnote) and the interlinear version of their Bible both admit that the Greek word they translate as “divine quality” literally means “godship.”
See also the discussions of Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1; John 20:28; Revelation 1:7–8; and other related references listed in the Subject-Matter Index.
2 Timothy 3:16–17
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 equipped for every good work. (nwt)
Jehovah’s Witnesses will express strong agreement with this passage. In fact, they quote it quite often. But, in practice, they don’t really believe the latter half of it. They don’t believe that a man of God is fully competent and completely equipped, unless he has their organization’s books and magazines. The Bible alone is not enough.
We Christians also have Christian magazines, books, concordances, Bible dictionaries, and so on. We see this literature as helpful and instructive, but we don’t feel that we need these supplements in order to understand the gospel message, come into God’s favor, and gain eternal life. In fact, testimonies are often told of individuals who—through reading the Bible alone—have come into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, on the other hand, believe that one must have their organization’s literature in order to be saved. In commenting on the Society’s own Scripture Studies books, The Watch Tower (9/15/10, p. 298) said:
Furthermore, not only do we find that people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible by itself, but we see, also, that if anyone lays the Scripture Studies aside … and goes to the Bible alone, though he has understood his Bible for ten years, our experience shows that within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the Scripture Studies with their references, and had not read a page of the Bible, as such, he would be in the light at the end of the two years.
Have Jehovah’s Witnesses of today abandoned that view expressed in the words of their organization’s founder, Charles Taze Russell, back in 1910? Compare that quote with this more recent statement in The Watchtower (12/1/81, p. 27):
But Jehovah God has also provided his visible organization, his “faithful and discreet slave,” made up of spirit-anointed ones, to help Christians in all nations to understand and apply properly the Bible in their lives. Unless we are in touch with this channel of communication that God is using, we will not progress along the road to life, no matter how much Bible reading we do.
The thought is the same! The inspired Scriptures alone do not make a person “fully competent and completely equipped” (2 Tim. 3:17) in the eyes of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
What happens if a JW does read the Bible alone, without Watchtower Society books and magazines? The organization made an amazing admission about this, when it stated the following about ex-members:
They say that it is insufficient 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… [The Watchtower, 8/15/81, pp. 28–29].
So, the Watchtower Society itself admits that Jehovah’s Witnesses who begin reading the Bible alone stop believing Watchtower doctrines and return to the doctrines taught in Christian churches. Whose doctrines, then, are the ones that are truly based on the Bible? The answer is obvious, by the Society’s own admission.
But when he again brings his First-born into the inhabited earth, he says: “And let all God’s angels worship him.” (nwt, editions of 1953, 1960, 1961, and 1970)
When the editions of the Watchtower Bible cited above were printed, somehow this reference to worshiping Jesus Christ managed to escape the censor’s knife. Every other mention of worshiping him was removed from the New World Translation, except this one that remained—but not for long! Beginning with the 1971 revision, all future editions were changed to read: “And let all God’s angels do obeisance to him.”
The context of this verse is most significant. The entire first chapter of Hebrews is devoted to contrasting Jesus Christ with the angels—showing the superiority of the Son of God over the angelic creation. But the Watchtower Society teaches that Jesus Christ is an angel. No wonder they changed verse six to eliminate the thought of worshiping him!
The Greek root here is proskuneo, which can properly be translated either “worship” or “obeisance,” depending on the context and, in this case, the translator’s bias. Invite the JW to turn to Revelation 22:8–9 in his own Kingdom Interlinear Translation, where the same word proskuneo is used in the original Greek. There the apostle John says, “I fell down to worship [root: proskuneo] before the feet of the angel.… But he tells me: ‘Be careful! Do not do that! … Worship [root: proskuneo] God.’ ” Point out to the Jehovah’s Witness that the worship that the angel refused to accept, but told John to give to God, is the same proskuneo that the Father commanded to be given to his Son Jesus at Hebrews 1:6. So, the Son is certainly not an angel.
Would it be appropriate to give the Son the same worshipful honor that is given to the Father? Let John 5:23 answer the question: “in order that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He that does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (nwt).
For further information on the deity of Christ and the propriety of worshiping him, see the discussions of Isaiah 9:6; Daniel 10:13, 21, 12:1; John 1:1; John 20:28; and other verses listed in the Subject-Matter Index.
Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, and those who pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in grief because of him. Yes, Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says Jehovah God, “the One who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty.” (nwt)
If Jesus Christ is shown to be “the Alpha and the Omega” and “the First and the Last,” while the JW Bible also says that Jehovah God is “the Alpha and the Omega” and “the First and the Last,” the Jehovah’s Witness must either admit that Jesus Christ is the Almighty God—or else close his eyes to the Word.
You might discuss these verses with a Witness as follows, using his own New World Translation:
Revelation 1:7–8, quoted above, says that someone “is coming.” Who? Verse 7 says it is someone who was “pierced.” Who was it that was pierced when he was nailed up to die? Jesus! But verse 8 says that it is Jehovah God who “is coming.” Could it be that there are two who are coming? No! Verse 8 refers to “the One who … is coming.”
Revelation 1:8 states clearly that Jehovah God is the Alpha and the Omega. Now note what he says at Revelation 22:12–13: “ ‘Look! I am coming quickly … I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last.… ’ ” So, Jehovah God is coming quickly. But notice the response when he says it again: “ ‘ “Yes; I am coming quickly.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus’ ” (22:20, nwt).
At this point you might mention that Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, while Omega is the last letter. Therefore, “the Alpha and the Omega” means the same thing as “the First and the Last.” Then, again referring to the New World Translation, continue like this:
Who is speaking in Revelation 2:8? “These are the things that he says, ‘the First and the Last,’ who became dead and came to life again.… ” Obviously, it is Jesus. Who was Jesus identifying himself as being, when he called himself “the First and the Last”? This is how Almighty God described himself in the Old Testament. Jesus knew that the apostle John, who wrote the Revelation, and later Bible readers would all remember these verses: “ ‘… I am the same One. I am the first. Moreover, I am the last. Moreover, my own hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my own right hand extended out the heavens … ’ ” (Isa. 48:12–13). And: “ … I am the same One. Before me there was no God formed, and after me there continued to be none. I—I am Jehovah, and besides me there is no savior” (Isa. 43:10–11).
Note, too, that the expression the first and the last is used this way to refer to the Jehovah God in Revelation 22:13: “ ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’ ” Yet John also records: “.… And he laid his right hand upon me and said: ‘Do not be fearful. I am the First and the Last, and the living one; and I became dead, but look! I am living forever and ever … ’ ” (Rev. 1:17–18).
Remind the Jehovah’s Witness that he has read in his own Bible that Jehovah God is the One who is coming, the One who is coming quickly, the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, and the only Savior. He has also read that our Savior Jesus Christ is the one who is coming, the One who is coming quickly, the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.
If the Witness has difficulty reaching the right conclusion, namely that Jesus Christ is Almighty God, ask him to read Colossians 2:9: “it is in him that all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily” (nwt). Or, according to the New International Version, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”
See also the discussions of Genesis 18:1–2; Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 9:6; and John 1:1.
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God. (kjv)
This verse is one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ favorites, in their attempt to “prove” that Jesus Christ is a mere created being, the first angel that God made. “Look!” they say. “Jesus is ‘the beginning of the creation.’ ” But they should be careful. They will tell you that God the Father is the speaker at Revelation 21:6 and 22:13, yet in both verses he calls himself “the beginning.” Therefore, “the beginning” must mean something else other than the first thing created.
Actually, in each of these cases, the Greek text says archem, a word listed in Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words as having such varied meanings as “beginning,” “power,” “magistrate,” and “ruler.” The Watchtower Bible translates the plural of the same word as “government officials” at Luke 12:11. It is the root of our words archbishop, architect, and other words referring to someone who is chief over others. Thus, the New International Version at Revelation 3:14 says that Christ is “the ruler of God’s creation.” So there is no basis for claiming that Revelation 3:14 makes Jesus Christ a created being.
See also Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1; John 20:28; and other verses cited in the Subject-Matter Index under “Jesus Christ.”
And I heard the number of those who were sealed, a hundred a forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel. (nwt)
The Watchtower Society teaches that the Christian church, or body of Christ, is limited to a literal number of 144,000 individuals. This gathering of the 144,000 began at Pentecost in the first century and continued through the year 1935—at which time the number was completed and the door was closed. New believers since 1935 are not part of the congregation of 144,000, but form a secondary class called the “great crowd” of “other sheep.” (See the discussion of Rev. 7:9 for further information on the “great crowd” and the 1935 date.) Since 1935, most of the remaining ones of the 144,000 have died off, leaving only about 9,000 alive on earth today—all of whom are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Among the millions of JWs, only the remnant of the 144,000 have the hope of heaven, and only they may partake of the communion loaf and cup.
As with many of the symbolic word-pictures in the Book of Revelation, there is some debate even among true Christians as to just who the 144,000 may be. We can freely admit that to the Witnesses, while showing them that the Watchtower Society’s interpretation is obviously wrong.
Revelation 7:4 says that the 144,000 are “of the sons of Israel,” but the Watchtower Society teaches that the Christian congregation is here symbolically portrayed as “spiritual Israel,” and that the 144,000 are therefore drawn from among all nations. We need only read the next few verses to discredit their interpretation: “Out of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand sealed; out of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand sealed” (Rev. 7:5–8, nwt). How more clearly could Israel be specified than by listing the twelve tribes making up that nation?
The Witnesses may respond by insisting that the references to 12,000 from each tribe are purely symbolic. But, if that is true, then the twelve symbolic numbers (12,000 + 12,000 + 12,000 + 12,000 + 12,000 + 12,000 + 12,000 + 12,000 + 12,000 + 12,000 + 12,000 + 12,000 = 144,000) must add up to a total that is also symbolic. Yet the Witnesses believe the 144,000 to be a literal number. So, again, their interpretation leads to a contradiction.
After these things I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands. (nwt)
The Watchtower Society teaches that in the year 1935 God stopped calling people to a heavenly hope in union with Christ. They say that in that year he began gathering a secondary class of believers, outside the body of Christ, whose hope would be to live forever on earth in the flesh. This class of people, they claim, is the “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9–17.
This is one of the most significant doctrines taught by the Watchtower Society. It forms the basis for convincing millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses that:
1. They cannot become members of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27).
2. They cannot be “born again” (John 3:3)
3. They cannot share in Christ’s heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. 4:18).
4. They cannot receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13).
5. They are not entitled to share in the communion loaf and cup (1 Cor. 10:16–17).
6. They are not in the New Covenant mediated by Christ (Heb. 12:24).
7. They cannot be fully justified through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:26).
Thus, the Society uses this “1935 doctrine” to deprive its followers of the relationship with God outlined in the New Testament for all believers.
Where does the Bible teach that entrance to the Christian congregation would be closed in the year 1935, with a secondary “great crowd” being gathered after that? Nowhere! Watchtower leaders claim that “light flashed up”—that Watchtower president J. F. Rutherford received a special “revelation of divine truth”—to introduce this change in 1935. They can produce no scriptural support at all for the 1935 date. Instead of turning to the Bible, they say,
These flashes of prophetic light prepared the ground for the historic discourse on “The Great Multitude,” given May 31, 1935, by the president of the Watch Tower Society, J. F. Rutherford, at the Washington, D.C., convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. What a revelation of divine truth that was! (The Watchtower, 3/1/85, p. 14, §12)
… the heavenly hope was held out, highlighted and stressed until about the year 1935. Then as “light flashed up” to reveal clearly the identity of the “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9, the emphasis began to be placed on the earthly hope (The Watchtower, 2/1/82, p. 28, §16).
There is no biblical basis whatsoever for this teaching. Scripture discusses in detail the Old Covenant for the Jews and the New Covenant for Christians. But it makes no mention of any third arrangement for gathering a “great crowd” with an earthly hope after the year 1935.
Moreover, the verses the Witnesses cite in Revelation actually locate the “great crowd” as “before the throne and before the Lamb” (7:9, nwt), “before the throne of God” (7:15, nwt) and “in his temple” (7:15, nwt)—all heavenly locations, rather than on earth as the Watchtower Society teaches.
In fact, the reference to “a great crowd … crying with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation we owe to our God … ’ ” (7:9–10) is quite similar to the wording of the only other mention of “a great crowd” in the Watchtower’s New World Translation of the Book of Revelation. This is in chapter 19, where the invitation to “Be praising our God, all you his slaves, who fear him, the small ones and the great” is responded to by “a voice of a great crowd” (19:5–6). Yet the Scripture specifically says that it is “a loud voice of a great crowd in heaven” (v. 1, italics added).
Once the Watchtower Society’s interpretation has been proved wrong, it is not necessary (or advisable) to get into a discussion with Jehovah’s Witnesses about the true identity of the “great crowd.” Rather, the fact that the Society has taught them wrongly on this important point should be used to open their ears to a presentation of the real gospel of Christ.
This may be introduced by reading Jesus’ prayer to the Father at John 17:20–24—“I make request, not concerning these only, but also concerning those putting faith in me through their word.… Father, as to what you have given me, I wish that, where I am, they also may be with me, in order to behold my glory … ” (nwt). Jesus’ prayer is that all of his present and future disciples would end up with him, where he is, to behold his glory. Show the Witnesses that the prayer applies to all future disciples who would put faith in Christ through the writings left behind by the early disciples (v. 20). Tell them that, if they will put faith in him, Jesus wants them to end up with him in the heavenly kingdom—regardless of whether they became believers before or after the year 1935.
See also the discussions of heaven versus earth at Psalms 37:9, 115:16, and John 10:16; the discussion of communion at Matthew 26:27; and an actual encounter with Jehovah’s Witnesses over this issue at Revelation 19:1.
After these things I heard what was as a loud voice of a great crowd in heaven. (nwt)
Watchtower brainwashing is so powerful that those under its spell can look at black and see white—if the Society says that black is white. That this is no exaggeration was demonstrated in an encounter that I had with a Jehovah’s Witness lady who knocked at my door in the summer of 1983. (She did not realize that I was a former member. Otherwise, she would not have spoken a word to me.) The discussion went like this:
David Reed: “I’ve heard that you people believe that you are part of a ‘great crowd’ who will receive everlasting life on earth, instead of going to heaven. Is that true! Can you show me the ‘great crowd’ in the Bible?”
Mrs. Jehovah’s Witness: “Yes, that is what the Bible says. See, here it is at Revelation 7:9. [She reads the verse discussed above, at Rev. 7:9.] I hope to be part of that ‘great crowd’ that will live on earth forever.”
David Reed: “But Revelation 7:15 places the ‘great crowd’ before the throne of God in heaven, doesn’t it?”
Mrs. Jehovah’s Witness: “Well, the throne of God is in heaven, but the ‘great crowd’ is on the earth. All creation stands before the throne of God.”
David Reed: “I don’t think the verse would mention their location before the throne if it meant it in such a general sense. But there is one other place where Revelation talks about the ‘great crowd.’ Would you please read Revelation 19:1 in your own Bible to see where it locates the ‘great crowd’?”
Mrs. Jehovah’s Witness: “Certainly! It says, ‘After these things I heard what was as a loud voice of a great crowd in heaven.’ ”
David Reed: “A ‘great crowd’ where?”
Mrs. Jehovah’s Witness: “The ‘great crowd’ is on earth!”
David Reed: “Is that what the verse says? Read it again.”
Mrs. Jehovah’s Witness: “It says heaven, but the ‘great crowd’ is on earth.”
David Reed: “How can you say that the ‘great crowd’ is on earth, when the Bible plainly says ‘a great crowd in heaven’?”
Mrs. Jehovah’s Witness: “You don’t understand. We have men at our headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, who explain the Bible to us. And they can prove that the ‘great crowd’ is on earth; I just can’t explain it that well. Wait just a moment.”
At that point she ran out into the street and shouted to another Witness woman, who was a few houses away, to come help her. This woman recognized me as an ex-Witness, and that ended the conversation. But the point had already been illustrated: A JW can look at the word heaven in the Bible but see earth instead, if the organization says so.
As the two ladies walked away from my doorstep, my mind raced back to memories of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. I recalled the frightening portrayal of a totalitarian state where everyone knows that “Big Brother is watching you!”—and so, “Whatever the Party holds to be truth is truth,” and “Two plus two equals five, instead of four, if the Party says so.” Truly, the Watchtower Society imposes that same sort of “double-think” on Jehovah’s Witnesses.
(A number of other parallels between the JWs and the fictional society of Nineteen Eighty-Four are highlighted in Gary and Heather Botting’s book The Orwellian World of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 1984, University of Toronto Press).
For further information on the question of heaven versus earth, see the discussions of John 10:16 and Revelation 7:9. For other examples of brainwashing, see the discussions of Matthew 24:45; 1 Corinthians 1:10; and “The Author’s Testimony.”