Summary: A look at the differences between the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christianity and how we can witness to them.
There Is No Hell….Hard Work Earns “Paradise”
Knock on any door in the United States, as well as in many countries around the world, and the odds are excellent that Jehovah’s Witnesses have been there ahead of you. They are a serious challenge to Christians for several reasons.
JW’s continue to grow at a rapid pace.
1980’s ½ million members in United States
2.25 million worldwide
1998 1 million members in United States
5.9 million worldwide in 233 countries.
The amount of time JW’s spend “preaching”, either in service, door-to-door, or in other public places is enormous. In 1998, JW’s spent almost 183 million hours preaching in the United States alone. In addition, the JW’s also conducted 4.3 million Bible studies for those who showed interest in their doctrines.
Officially called The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, JW’s arm their members with the printed page in astounding amounts. They have a magazine called the Awake which is over 18 million copies and in 80 different languages. The Watchtower, is another magazine sent out semi monthly to instruct the society’s members in doctrine and practice, reached almost 21 million copies in 126 languages.
All JW witnessing efforts and tools are designed to oppose and contradict the biblical doctrines and teachings and to twist Scriptures to make the Bible fit a preconceived theology it simply does not teach. The JW’s have their version of the Bible, The new World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, which is filled with mistranslations designed to prove JW doctrines. But just like the other cults, to fully understand where they are coming from, we need to start at the beginning.
I. The History
a. The roots of the JW’s start with Charles Taze Russell
i. As a teenager he rejected many of the views taught in his congregational church, particularly the doctrines of hell and the trinity
ii. He was a skeptic and influenced by Adventist teachings that there was no eternal punishment, because the wicked were annihilated.
iii. At age 18, Russell formed his own Bible study and began developing his own system of theology, emphasizing the second coming in Christ.
1. Along with the Adventist he predicted the coming of Christ to be 1874.
2. And after the 1874 passed, he said that Christ returned in a spiritual and invisible way.
iv. In 1879, Russell parted from the Adventist and launched his own magazine, The Watchtower.
1. Russell set 1914 as the year that the battle of Armageddon would be and God would destroy all present governments of the earth, end “Gentile times” and establish His kingdom.
2. In 1896, he founded the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society and moved its headquarters to Brooklyn, New York.
3. When World War I started in 1914 Russell claimed that it was the beginning of Armageddon.
v. Russell dies in 1916 as a failed prophet.
b. Joseph F. Rutherford takes the reigns.
i. He was a lawyer who served as the legal advisor to the JW’s.
ii. Rutherford instituted many changes that alienated some of the other leaders of the society.
iii. He set 1925 as the new date for Armageddon.
1. After 1925 passed, he backed away from his prediction, claiming that he had been misunderstood by the JW faithful who had erroneously anticipated the end.
2. In 1925, he pushed through the adoption of a new name for the society, Jehovah’s Witnesses – taken from Isaiah 43:10.
3. Another innovation was the door-to-door visitation program, with the main goal to increase the membership.
a. They would do this by spreading the word that only 144,000 people were doing to make it to heaven.
b. In 1930, a real problem arouse, the ranks were filling fast, and Armageddon still had not happened.
c. So he announced that everyone who had become a JW before 1935 would go to heaven, while everyone who became a JW after 1935 would be among the “great crowd” who would not go to heaven but could look forward to living on Earth in a new paradise after Armageddon and the Millennium.
iv. Rutherford passed away in 1942.
c. The next president of the Society, was Nathan Knorr, who was cut from a different cloth and stayed in the background.
i. In 1943, the Watchtower started a new revelation that taught that Christ had returned in 1914, but invisible.
ii. He also tried to date the beginning of the second coming, but also failed.
d. In 1977, Frederick Franz, succeeded Knorr as president.
i. He was seen as the most knowledgeable Hebrew scholar in the society.
ii. He was taken to court for perjury shortly after.
1. He confessed that he could not translate even the simplest of Bible verses back into Hebrew, even though he claimed to be knowledgeable in Greek, Hebrew, as well as many other languages.