It’s 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. The sun is shining and there’s a cool breeze blowing. The cup of morning joe is perfected by the fact that you are still in your pajamas, sitting in your favorite chair while the kids are still sleeping. You think: now is the perfect opportunity to get some alone time with the Lord. You quietly grab your Bible (hoping not to wake the kids), get settled and begin to pray. Until…a knock on the door sends the dog barking. You can hear the pounding of feet getting out of bed upstairs. Your fruit of the Spirit is cast aside by this disturbance of the peace.
You rush to the front door and fling it open. Standing there are two well-dressed individuals who want to talk about God’s kingdom with you. They begin to tell you things about the Bible you have never heard before. You do your best to compose yourself and provide a response, but find yourself reeling by the barrage of Bible verses and questions aimed at you. In the end, you feel like what Dr. Walter Martin describes as a doctrinal pretzel.
Jehovah’s Witnesses. We have probably all encountered them at some point; at our door, at work, or even in the supermarket parking lot. They claim to be Christian. So what’s the difference? How do we respond to them?
Denial of the Trinity
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in the biblical concept of who God is: the Trinity. As Christians, we believe that God exists as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For Jehovah’s Witnesses, God exists only as the Father. They teach that the Father created the Son, and that the Holy Spirit is not a person at all, but rather God’s active force or power.
In addressing this, it is important to remind Jehovah’s Witnesses that we believe in one God. The Bible gives us ample evidence concerning who he is. For instance, John 1:2-3 and Colossians 1:15-20 clearly state that all things were created or made by Jesus. However, Isaiah 44:24 reads: “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and He who formed you from the womb: ‘I am the LORD, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself.’” If the Lord, Jehovah says that he created all things alone and by himself, and the New Testament teaches that Jesus created all things, it leaves us with a clear answer to who Jesus really is!
We also find that there are verses in the Old Testament about God that are applied to Jesus in the New Testament. Peter applies a verse about Jehovah in Isaiah 8:14 to Jesus in 1 Peter 2:7-8; and Paul applies Joel 2:32 concerning Jehovah to Jesus in Romans 10:13.
Who is the Holy Spirit?
Is the Holy Spirit just God’s active force or power? When it comes to the Person of the Holy Spirit, we find that he has mind, will, and emotion (Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 12:11; Ephesians 4:30). John also used the masculine pronoun when referring to the Holy Spirit in his gospel account (John 14:26; 16:13). But is the Holy Spirit God? Peter makes this clear connection when he equates lying to the Holy Spirit with lying to God (Acts 5:3-4).
We see that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit work together in unity in the Godhead. For example, all are responsible for the resurrection of Jesus (Galatians 1:1; John 2:19-21; Romans 8:11).
Another teaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that only 144,000 go to heaven. This, of course, is limited to members of their religion. Jehovah’s Witnesses interpret this to be “spiritual Israel,” since the list of tribes in Revelation 7 is not the original twelve. The rest of the “faithful” are referred to as the “great crowd” of Revelation who, according to Jehovah’s Witnesses, will not be in Heaven, but live on paradise earth.
But what does the Bible have to say about this? First, the 144,000 cannot be a literal number and a figurative group in the same context. Revelation 14 says that they are also virgins, which again causes a problem for Jehovah’s Witnesses because they interpret the number to be literal but the virginal status figurative. So why the different tribes in Revelation 7? A study of the Bible reveals several different listings of tribes (Genesis 49, Deuteronomy 33, Ezekiel 48, 1 Chronicles 4-7 and Revelation 7). The fact that this listing is different does not discard a literal interpretation for Israel.
And where is the “great crowd”? Revelation 7:9 tells us that they are standing before the throne. The Bible also tells us that the 24 elders and four living creatures are standing before the throne (Revelation 5:8) and that the 144,000 are standing before the throne (Revelation 14:3). We know that these groups are in Heaven, so we can conclude that the “great crowd” will be also. Revelation 7:15 also tells us that they are in the temple, and it is also clear in Revelation that the temple is in heaven (See Revelation 11:19; 14:17).
Salvation by works
Jehovah’s Witnesses also believe that works are attached to salvation. While they will tell you that they believe we are saved by God’s grace, this is clearly not evident in their teaching. The Watchtower magazine, May 1, 1979, page 20, states: “So, taking a comprehensive view of our sacrifices, we must admit that at meetings, when sharing the ‘good news’ with others, and in attitude, word and action, yes, in all areas of life, we should be prepared to give our very best. We should not be halfhearted about such vital matters. What is at stake is Jehovah’s approval and our being granted life.”
The Bible is clear that we are saved by grace alone and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9)! Any good works in our lives are simply a result of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and of God’s sanctifying grace (James 2:15-16; Galatians 5:22-23; Romans 12:2).
There are many other differences between Jehovah’s Witness doctrines and teachings and true, biblical Christianity. Study and prepare yourself so that the next time your doorbell rings on a Saturday morning, you are prepared to engage your visitors with the real and accurate truth found in the Word of God.
Michael Rust is a pastor at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale’s regional campus in Boca Raton. He can be reached at [email protected].