A Counterfeit Kingdom … or Not?
(by June Hunt)
“They go door to door, proclaiming a curious message of doom, in hope that their hard work will earn them eternal life on earth.”
—Joe Hewitt (former Jehovah’s Witness)
A. What Is the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
• The Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses is a religious organization that witnesses to others by distributing Watchtower publications door to door and by evangelizing with three primary messages …
• This religion was founded in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by its first President, Charles Taze Russell, whose followers were called “Russellites.”
• It was incorporated in 1884 and operated under the name Zion’s Watch Tower Society until 1931, at which time Watchtower Bible and Tract Society became the official title. (Since 1931, followers are referred to as Jehovah’s Witnesses.)
• From 1955 to 2000, the main legal entity of the corporation was the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. In 2000 the Society completely reorganized its operations into three related nonprofit organizations: The Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Religious Order of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Kingdom Support Services, Inc. Since 1931, the society has adopted the name Jehovah’s Witnesses for their followers.5 With headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, the movement is seen as the only organization on earth through which God works and speaks.6
B. Who Was the Founding Father?
• The founding father of the Jehovah’s Witnesses was Charles Taze Russell (1852–1916).
The Founding Father’s Controversies in Court
• In 1879 Charles Russell married Maria Ackley, who was for years a devoted Watchtower worker. But in 1897, she separated from him. After much litigation, Mrs. Russell’s claims for alimony were settled in 1909 with the payment of $6,036.
• Charles Russell sold “miracle wheat seeds,” claiming they produced five times more than any other seeds. When this claim was challenged, he sued the Brooklyn Daily Eagle for libel. In January, 1913, not only did he lose the libel suit, but his miracle wheat also was proven inferior—not five times superior.
• A Canadian pastor published a pamphlet against Charles Russell and his deviant doctrines. As a result, Russell sued Reverend J. J. Ross for libel. On the witness stand, Russell testified to knowing the Greek alphabet. Under further cross-examination, Russell admitted that he “might make a mistake on some of them” and then finally testified that he was not familiar with the Greek language (Russell v. Ross, 1913).
All the moral and legal rulings against the founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses cast a dark shadow on the credibility of Charles Russell and his new religion. This founder in no way meets the biblical standards of a church leader as “above reproach.”
C. What Are Their Publications?
- Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence—first published in 1879 by Charles Taze Russell and later became known as The Watchtower
- The Watchtower—a magazine used to instruct the public in Jehovah’s Witnesses doctrines
- Awake!—a periodical used to introduce Jehovah’s Witnesses to the public
- The New World Translation—the Watchtower’s own translation of the Bible, containing numerous mistranslations to support the Society’s doctrines.
For example, sincere Jehovah’s Witnesses seek to explain John 1:1 by saying that the correct translation is found in the New World Translation: “In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” This is an inaccurate translation based on a misunderstanding of Greek grammar.
D. What Terminology Is Used by Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Disfellowshipping or Shunning Punishment for disobedience of Watchtower rules and regulations resulting in excommunication. Baptized members who are disfellowshipped are no longer allowed to talk with current members—including in most cases even family members.
Faithful and Wise Servant (Matthew 24:45)Originally referring to Charles Taze Russell, now referring to the remnant of the 144,000 or “anointed class”/“Little Flock” including the “Governing Body” of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Faithful and Discreet Slave Another term for the “Faithful and Wise Servant.”
Great Crowd The great crowd are the non-anointed faithful, including those who survive Armageddon. These are also known as the “other sheep,” and they make up the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses who will not live in heaven but hope to be able to inhabit the restored “Paradise Earth.”
Governing Body A group of fewer than 25 men of the anointed class or “Faithful and Discreet Slave” who historically established the Watchtower’s policies and beliefs and direct its publications.
Jehovah The only true name for God. (The Trinity is considered a false doctrine.)
Kingdom Hall The local meeting place where Jehovah’s Witnesses receive instruction.“
Little Flock” Anointed Class Heavenly Class The elite group of 144,000 who will live in heaven and reign with Christ. This group is believed to be the Spiritual Israel as the prophecies of the Old and New Testaments are being fulfilled through them.
Memorial Meal One large, annual meeting scheduled at Passover time (Nisan 14 of the Jewish calendar), which is the only time the Lord’s Supper is observed. Only the remnant of the 144,000 “anointed” can partake of the bread and wine—currently fewer than 9,000.
The Society The informal name Jehovah’s Witnesses use for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WTBS), which is directed by the “Governing Body.”
The Truth Knowledge available only to Jehovah’s Witnesses and learned only through The Watchtower.
Spiritual Israel All of the 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Heavenly Class, which first began among Jesus’ disciples. That number was completed in the 1930s. The acting president announced that the enlightenment he received from Jehovah was that “other sheep” that were “not of this fold” would be candidates to inherit “Paradise Earth,” provided they remain faithful and “come to Jehovah’s organization for salvation.”
- A. Doctrinal Beliefs That Vary from Orthodox Christianity
Virgin Birth: Jehovah’s Witnesses admit that Jesus was born of a virgin, but maintain He is not God. Jesus was born by God’s holy power.
Atonement: Jehovah’s Witnesses admit the penalty for sin was paid by Christ’s blood, but salvation is not by grace alone. It must be accompanied by good works, Bible study, witnessing, and association with the Watchtower. “A person’s final salvation is not determined at the moment that he begins to put faith in Jesus.”
Resurrection: Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that Jesus was raised from the dead in His physical body. He was recreated as a spirit that appeared to the disciples in a number of bodily forms. He continued to maintain His original identity, Michael the Archangel.
Incarnation: Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that Jesus is God. Instead, He was a created being who is actually Michael the Archangel.
Eschatology: Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that Jesus will return in bodily form, but that He already returned in 1914 in invisible form and is ruling as King on earth through the Watchtower Society.24 They do not believe in the existence of an eternal hell. At death, every person is annihilated, except for the 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses who go to heaven and the other obedient sheep who remain in “soul sleep” until they inhabit “Paradise Earth.”
Scripture: Jehovah’s Witnesses admit that the Bible is the Word of God, but they claim all orthodox translations are distorted. Thus, they have their own Bible, the New World Translation of Holy Scripture, which they declare to be the only reliable version. It contains approximately 300 mistranslations to support their doctrine. They do not believe the Bible is a sufficient source of authority for Christian doctrine and practice apart from the Watchtower publications.
- B. Forbidden Practices Based on Beliefs
- Viewed as idolatrous …
— belonging to any political party
— holding an elected office
— pledging allegiance to the flag
— serving jury duty
— serving in the military
— singing the national anthem
— voting in elections
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that when Satan offered Jesus control of the governments of the world, he had authority over those governments. Yet Romans chapter 13 states that the governing authorities have been established by God Himself.
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
- Viewed as corrupt …
— associating with disfellowshipped Jehovah’s Witnesses, even close relatives
— attending church services not conducted by Jehovah’s Witnesses
— joining the YMCA/YWCA
— close associations with Christians or other false worshippers except for the purpose of winning them over
- Viewed as pagan …
— celebrating birthdays
— celebrating holidays (for instance, Christmas, New Year’s Day)
— celebrating Mother’s or Father’s Day
- Viewed as eating blood …
— giving or receiving blood transfusions.
- (to be continued)