And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God (John 20:28)
Almost any Saturday you will find them walking the neighborhoods in pairs smiling and handing out their literature. If you happen to have a face-to-face encounter with the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs or Witnesses), you may get the impression that these are really Christians, albeit with a few strange ideas. They quote Scripture, and they seem to be in agreement with some general tenets of Christianity, but do not be fooled, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower Society is a false religion.
As with my last post, False Religion: Mormonism, I will not spend a lot of time reviewing the history of this false religion, although it is very colorful to say the least. For an in-depth study of the Witnesses, I highly recommend The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin (1985) from which I will quote from time to time. While the history of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is a worthwhile study, my main concern is to show how the Witnesses meet the criteria for a false religion: (1) Deny or reject the God of the Bible, (2) Deny or reject the deity of Christ, (3) reject the Bible as the inerrant, infallible Word of God, and (just to add a fourth characteristic of a false religion) (4) they teach salvation through the works or efforts of the believer.
The Witnesses have other problems besides the four “biggies.” JWs reject the doctrine of an eternal hell. They believe that a lost person, one not destined for heaven, i.e., eternal life, is annihilated, that is, they just cease to exist. “To the average Jehovah’s Witness, then, Hell (sheol) is literally ‘the grave,’ the place where mortals wait the resurrection” (Martin, p. 101). The Witnesses contend that the Greek word Gehenna, translated “hell” in English, means “everlasting destruction” (annihilation). “This is indeed a bold-faced misrepresentation of the Greek language and certainly ranks next to the ‘a god’ fallacy [to be discussed later] of John 1:1 as an outstanding example of complete falsehood. There is no evidence that Gehenna ever means annihilation in the New Testament but rather abundant evidence to the contrary” (Martin, p. 102). From the JWs perspective, “The doctrine of a burning hell where the wicked are tortured eternally after death cannot be true, mainly for four reasons: (1) Because it is wholly unscriptural; (2) it is unreasonable; (3) it is contrary to God’s love; and (4) it is repugnant to justice” (Martin, pp. 55-56 quoting Let God Be True, p. 99). By the way, JWs are not the only ones that are repulsed by the doctrine of an eternal hell. Many, both Christians and non-Christians alike, take offense to the doctrine of eternal hell. See my articles “You Don’t Go to Hell Because You’re A Sinner” and “The Book of Life.” While this is a significant problem, it is not the worst problem with this false religion.
Another curious teaching of the Witnesses concerns who will enter “the Kingdom of Heaven.” According to Watchtower literature, “Who and how many are able to enter it [the Kingdom]? The Revelation limits to 144,000 the number that become a part of the Kingdom and stand on heavenly Mount Zion…” (Martin, p. 56 quoting Let God Be True, p. 136). According to http://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/, there are currently 7,965,954 Jehovah’s Witnesses in the world. A little simple math reveals that only about 2% of them will make it into “the Kingdom of Heaven.” So what happens to the other 98%? With those odds, a Jehovah’s Witness is no better off than an atheist who basically believes in annihilationism. At least the atheist does not have to work as hard to achieve that status. The prospect of not making it in is probably the greatest motivator that keeps the JWs on the streets passing out their leaflets. From their perspective, the harder they work and maintain a “holy” life style, the better their chance of being numbered among the 144,000. This fervent work activity is one of the characteristics of false religion (the forth on my list).
Now let us look at why the Jehovah’s Witnesses is a false religion. The Witnesses reject the God of the Bible primarily by their rejection of the Trinity or the triune nature of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Some astute Witness may point out that the word “Trinity” appears nowhere in the Bible, and they would be correct. Tertullian first used the word in the early part of the third century to describe the triune nature of God. Jehovah’s Witnesses accuse Christians of believing in three gods or “three gods in one,” but Christians “do believe that there are three Persons all of the same Substance, co-equal, co-existent and co-eternal. There is ample ground for this belief in Scriptures, where plurality in the Godhead is very strongly intimated if not expressly declared” (Martin, p. 61). The very first verse of the Bible expresses this. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “God” is ‘ĕlôhı̂ym, a plural, masculine noun. The Hebrew word translated “created” is bârâ’, a singular, masculine verb. Under normal circumstances, the subject and predicate must agree in number and gender, but here they do not indicating that the plural subject acts as a single entity. Just a few verses down we have: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26, emphasis mine). Again we have the plural ‘ĕlôhı̂ym with the singular verb ‘âmar (“said”). In addition we have the Godhead speaking within Himself, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” indicating the plurality of the Godhead. This plurality is also seen in Genesis 11:7 at the Tower of Babel: “let us go down, and there confound their language…” (emphasis mine). In Isaiah’s great vision of God upon His throne we hear the Godhead speak, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8, emphasis mine) Note how the uni-plurality of the Godhead is demonstrated here. Besides the physical manifestation of the Trinity at Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:16-17) there are several examples of the Trinity in the New Testament (See John 14:16; 15:26). More could be said on this, however, it ties into the second reason why the Jehovah’s Witnesses is a false religion.
The JWs deny the deity of Christ. “When Jesus said, ‘My Father is greater than I,” He spoke the truth, for in the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7) and as a man, the Son was subject to the Father willingly; but upon His Resurrection and in the radiance of His glory taken again from whence He veiled it (verses 7, 8), He showed forth His Deity when He declared, “All authority is surrendered to me in heaven and earth” (Matthew 28:18); proof positive of His intrinsic Nature and Unity of Substance. It is evident then that the Lord Jesus Christ was never inferior, speaking of His nature, to His Father during His sojourn on earth” (Martin, p. 63). One of the silly arguments offered by JWs against the deity of Christ concerns His time in the grave. “Who ran the universe the three days Jesus was dead and in the grave?” they say (Martin, p. 62). This reasoning comes from their curious idea that death is the extinction of consciousness. Naturally, if God is unconscious, how can He possibly run the universe? But Scripture clearly affirms the deity of Christ. Consider the following from the Old Testament Scriptures:
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel [“God with us”] (Isaiah 7:14, emphasis mine).
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6, emphasis mine).
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting (Micah 5:2).
These descriptions of the coming Messiah clearly show Him to be God: Immanuel (meaning “God with us”), mighty God, everlasting Father, “whose goings forth have been…from everlasting,” i.e., eternity past. Does that sound like any other mortal man? Of course there are many affirmations to Jesus’ deity in the New Testament, but probably none more poignant than Thomas’ confession, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:18). It is remarkable that Jesus did not correct him or reprove him of blasphemy, but rather accepted the worship. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Yet, the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe and this makes it a false religion.
Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the inerrant and infallible Word of God so much so that they have rewritten it in the form of The New World Translation of Holy Scriptures (NWT) to support their heretical teachings. Most of the changes are designed to deny the Trinity as a whole, but the deity of Christ in particular. One prime example is in their translation of John 1:1. Their translation reads:
In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. (emphasis mine).
Witnesses have been taught that “a god” is the proper translation because there is no definite article (i.e., “the”) preceding god (theos) in the Greek. I do not want to go into an in-depth study of Greek syntax. Rather, I would simply point out some inconsistencies in their translation were they translate the same Greek construct, i.e., the missing article before “god.”
There arose a man that was sent forth as a representative of God: his name was John (John 1:6 NWT, emphasis mine).
Happy are the peaceable, since they will be called ‘sons of God’ (Matthew 5:9 NWT, emphasis mine).
No one can slave for two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. You cannot slave for God and for Riches. (Matthew 6:24 NWT, emphasis mine).
And the young child continued growing and getting strong being filled with wisdom and God’s favor continued upon him (Luke 2:40 NWT, emphasis mine).
These are just some examples; there are many more, but in each of the above, the Greek text uses theos alone without the aid of the definite article. If the translators had been consistent in the translation of the NWT, each one of the above examples should have read “a god” not “God.” What this indicates is that they have made a distinction when this Greek construct is referring to Jesus thereby denying His deity. Furthermore, they have ignored Scripture’s stern warning against tampering with the Word of God.
So, to recapitulate, the Jehovah’s Witnesses is a false religion because they deny the God of the Bible when they deny the triune nature of God, they deny the deity of Christ, they deny the inerrant, infallible World of God, and they teach a works based salvation. Again, this was a very brief overview. For an in-depth study, I recommend, The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin.