Jehovah's Witnesses

By James Bjornstad

I. Etiology
   A. Historical
       1. The founder, Charles Taze Russell, was born on February 16, 1852 in Old
           Allegheny, PA. His parents were members of the Allegheny City Congregational
           Church, where he also attended.
       2. In 1868, when challenged by an infidel, Russell expressed doubts about eternal
           torment and hell. The following year, he abandoned his church and the Bible.
       3. Russell attended a religious meeting in 1870 and heard Jonas Wendall, a Second
           Adventist, speak. From Wendall he learned that man does not have a soul and that
           the wicked are annihilated. This provided a resolve to his doubt and dislike of eternal
       4. Russell organized a Bible class in 1872.
       5. In 1877 he met N. H. Barbour, another Second Adventist, who differed from the
           Adventists in that he believed in the invisible return of Christ. Russell, who claimed
           he had already come to the same conclusion, now began to teach this doctrine
           (perhaps as a non-literal explanation for the failure of his prophecy for 1874).
       6. Russell published The Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence in 1879, and
           founded Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society in 1884.
   B. Theological - Given Russell's dislike for eternal torment, the re-formation of his theology
       was probably developed in this fashion:
       1. There is no torment that is eternal or place where such torment occurs [hell].
       2. If, after this life, there is no torment for the unbeliever, then there must not be any
           conscious existence for the unbeliever either. Therefore, man does not have a soul
           that is immortal.
       3. If, when one dies, one's existence ceases, then when Jesus Christ died, He ceased
           to exist. If Jesus ceased to exist when He died, then He cannot be God, for God
           cannot cease to exist (Let God 91).
       4. If Jesus is not God, then God does not exist eternally in three Persons -
          Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus, the Trinity is a false teaching.

II. Theology
   A. God
       1. His name is Jehovah.
       2. His nature:
           a. Jehovah is the "Greatest Personality in the universe, distinguished by that
              executive name. The Great Theocrat, The Unfailing Purposer, The True and Living
              God, Creator and Supreme Sovereign of the universe" (Make Sure 188).
           b. Jehovah is spirit, invisible, personal, and eternal. He is holy, a God of goodness
              and mercy, of grace and truth.
       3. His attributes:
           a. Jehovah's principle attributes are love, wisdom, justice, and power. \
           b. Jehovah is omnipotent, omniscient, and immutable, but He is not omnipresent.
   B. Creation
       1. Jehovah created all that exists ex nihilo [from nothing or non-existence].
       2. Jehovah's first creation was Jesus Christ through whom he created all other things
          (Let God 33).
   C. Jesus Christ
       1. His Person
           a. His pre-human state - He is the first created being, the archangel Michael, the
              Logos, "the second greatest personage of the universe" (Make Sure 207).
           b. His human state - He was nothing more than a perfect human being.
           c. His post-human state - He was recreated as a glorious immortal spirit creature,
              ascended into heaven, and is now "the head under Jehovah of God's capital
              organization over the entire universe" (From Paradise 144).
       2. His work
           a. His primary purpose was to "vindicate Jehovah's name" (What Has Religion
           b. His secondary purpose was to die and cancel death's condemnation (What
              Has Religion 240-255).
           c. The death of Christ provided an exact payment for that which was lost [perfect
              human life] (What Has Religion 105).
   D. Salvation
       1. A person has "to do more than merely accept the Kingdom message in order to be
          saved." (From Paradise 249) He must take in knowledge, believe in Jesus Christ,
          repent, dedicate himself to Jehovah, recognize the Watchtower Society as God's
          organization, conduct his life in harmony with the teachings and activities of the
          Watchtower Society, maintaining integrity to Jehovah and to his earthly organization,
          and endure faithfully to the end (From Paradise 242-246).
       2. In Watchtower soteriology, there are two classes of the saved:
           a. "The Congregation of God" ["144,000," "Anointed," "Remnant"]. These are the
               "little flock" of Lk 12:32 and the "faithful and discreet slave" of Mt 24:45. They
               have a heavenly calling; their hope is to live and reign with Christ in heaven.
               They may partake of the bread and the wine at the Memorial [communion].
           b. The "Great Crowd" ["Great Multitude," "Other Sheep"]. These are the "other
               sheep" of Jn 10:16 and the "great crowd" of Rev 7:9. They have an earthly hope;
               their hope is to live on a restored paradise earth. At the Memorial, they are
               merely observers.

III. Witnessing
   A. Some helpful hints:
       1. 2 John 9-11 does not forbid your witnessing to those who have a different
           understanding of Jesus nor does it prohibit you from inviting a Jehovah's Witness
           into your home for the purpose of witnessing to him. [You should not, however,
           invite Jehovah's Witnesses to your house to have them teach you their false
           a. 2 John was probably written to a church that met in the "elect lady's" house.
           b. "Bring not this doctrine" probably indicates false teachers coming to teach
               their false understanding of Jesus to those in this church.
       2. Your approach must be marked by love, integrity, and non-argumentation (1 Tim
           2:24-26; 1 Pet 3:15-16).
       3. You should use your translation (KJV, NKJV, NASV, or NIV). Try to avoid letting
           Jehovah's Witnesses use their New World Translation, if at all possible. Scholars
           and translators have shown beyond any doubt that it is a biased text.
   B. Focus on the Deity of Jesus Christ.
       1. Avoid peripheral issues, such as blood transfusions, Christmas and Easter,
           participation in war, the cross, etc. These can always be discussed later.
       2. If you can demonstrate from Scripture that Jesus is God, Jehovah's Witnesses will
           have to reconsider their understanding of God [they will now have two Persons that
           are God - Father and Son] and of salvation [Jesus, Who is God, provides salvation,
           not just a perfect man].
       3. Consider using passages that are clear (grammatically and/or contextually) in
           stating Jesus' deity. Know the passages reasonably well so you can explain them
           to Jehovah's Witnesses. For example:
           a. Isa 7:14 and 9:6. Note that the Messiah would be "Immanuel" ["God with us"]
              and called "the Mighty God" (the same name used for Jehovah in 10:21).
           b. Jn 1:1 "The Word [Jesus] was God." The Greek construction here emphasizes
              that the Word had all the essence and attributes of deity.
           c. Jn 20:28 "Thomas answered and said to Him [Jesus], 'My Lord and my God.'"
              Thomas not only believed that Christ was risen physically from the dead, but he
              also realized that His resurrection indicated His deity. Thomas' confession that
              Jesus is "God" functions here as the fitting capstone of John's purpose (see vs
           d. Rom 9:5 "Christ . . . the eternally blessed God." Here Paul affirms not only the
              sovereignty of Christ, but His deity as well.
           e. Titus 2:13 "Our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ." The Greek construction here
              attributes both God and Savior to Jesus Christ.
           f. Heb 1:8 "To the Son He says, 'Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.'" Here
              the declaration of the Son's deity is presented in the words of the Father Himself.
       4. Consider using a series of passages to demonstrate Christ's deity. For example
           a. "Alpha and Omega" and the "First and the Last" in Rev. 1:8; 22:12-13; 1:17-18; 2:8.
              (1) In Rev 1:8 the "Lord God," the "Almighty," is "the Alpha and Omega."
              (2) In Rev 22:13 "the Alpha and Omega" is "the first and the last."
              (3) In Rev 1:17-18 Jesus, the "living One," who "was dead" and is "alive
                   forevermore" is "the first and the last."
              (4) If Jesus is the "First and Last" (1:17), then He must be the "Alpha and Omega"
                   (22:13). If He is the "Alpha and Omega," then He must be Lord God, the
                   Almighty [Jehovah] (1:8). Cf Isa 44:6.
           b. "I Am," the name of God in Ex 3:13-15, which Jesus uses of Himself in
               Jn 8:23-24, 58-59; 13:18-19; and Mt 26:63-66.
              (1) Jehovah says He is "I Am" (Ex 3:13-15).
              (2) Jesus claims to be "I Am" in Jn 8:23-24, 58-59; 13:18-19; and Mt 26:63-66,
                   thus equating Himself with Jehovah.
   D. Focus on salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The following questions may
       provide you with some opportunities to share the truth about Jesus.
       1. Ask, are you a child of God (Acts 26:17-18)?
           a. If the answer is no, you might ask, "then whose child are you?"
           b. If the answer is yes, ask "how did you become a child of God?"
       2. Ask, are you "born-again" (Jn 3:3-6; 1 Jn 5:1)?
           a. If the answer is yes, he must be one of the 144,000.
              (1) Ask him if he were to stand before Jehovah, on what basis would Jehovah
                  accept him? By works?
              (2) If necessary, ask him to show you one verse in the Bible that says only the
                  144,000 is born again.
           b. If the answer is no, ask him why he is not.
       3. Ask, do you have eternal life (1 Jn 5:1, 11-13)?\
           a. Ask him how he can believe in Jesus Christ and not have eternal life? [Something
               must be wrong with his understanding of Jesus and/or salvation].

IV. Selected Bibliography
   Ankerberg, John and John Weldon. The Facts on Jehovah's Witnesses. Eugene, OR:
      Harvest House, 1988.
   Bowman, Robert M. Jehovah's Witnesses. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.
   ---. Why You Should Believe in the Trinity: An Answer to the Jehovah's Witnesses. Grand
      Rapids: Baker, 1989.
   Gruss, Edmund Charles. Apostles of Denial. Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1970.
   ---. We Left Jehovah's Witnesses. Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1992.
   Lingle, Wilbur. Approaching Jehovah's Witnesses in Love: How to Witness Effectively
      Without Arguing. Harrisburg, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1995.
   Martin, Walter and Norman H. Klahn. Jehovah of the Watchtower. New York: Biblical
      Truth Publishing Society, 1953.
   Reed, David A. How to Rescue Your Loved One from the Watchtower. Grand Rapids:
      Baker, 1989.
   Rhodes, Ron. Jehovah's Witnesses: What You Need to Know, Quick Reference Guide.
      Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1997.
   ---. Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah's Witnesses. Eugene, OR:
      Harvest House, 1993.

V. Sources Cited
   From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained. Brooklyn, NY: The Watchtower Bible and
      Tract Society of New York, 1958.
   Let God Be True. Brooklyn, NY: The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York,
   Make Sure of All Things. Brooklyn, NY: The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of
      New York, 1953.
   What Has Religion Done For Mankind? Brooklyn, NY: The Watchtower Bible and Tract
      Society of New York, 1951.