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Comments on the teaching of the Jehovah’s Witnesses


(Based on their book “WHAT DOES THE BIBLE Really TEACH”)


(My web site: www.Gsimmonds.com contains the articles referred to in these comments)


            That evil is going to be put away is the consistent teaching of the Bible so that one can have no quarrel with what the Witnesses say about this in their preface (page 3).


            When we come to their first chapter (page 8) we find that they quite rightly say that in the Old Testament where the Lord is spoken of in the Authorised Version (AV) we should usually read Jehovah, the name of God. Mr Darby’s translation has Jehovah in such cases. In some cases Lord is correct where it is a translation of Adon or Adonai. In the New Testament sometimes Lord has the article before it and sometimes not. Where there is no article (the) the word is often the equivalent of Jehovah.


            It is clear from Scripture that God was known to the patriarchs as Almighty God (he is of course still that), but to Israel he was known by his name Jehovah (Exodus 3:15; 6:2/3). To Christians the particular name by which God is known is that of Father, a name of relationship (John 17:26; 20:17). Although of course God is still the Almighty and Jehovah it is not what He is generally called in the New Testament (see, for instance, the opening verses of the epistles). Christians are God’s sons (Galatians 3:25) and the appropriate name for a son to use is Father (Luke 15:21).


            When we come to chapter two (page 18) we find that the Bible is accepted as the word of God, which is correct, though strictly speaking it is the record of his word, rather than the word itself. It might be thought quibbling to say that the Bible as a whole is not just the writing of God’s secretaries. Some of it is no doubt (e.g. Revelation 21:5) but not all by any means, though all was divinely inspired (2 Timothy 3:16), that is, the writers were moved by the Spirit of God to write what they did (2 Peter 1:21).


            It is not made clear in chapter three (page 27) that Satan has always been evil (John 8:44). The evil came out in the garden of Eden, but it was there before then.


            The view of the Jehovah’s Witnesses seems to be that when persons die they cease to exist, but because what they are is held in God’s memory He can recreate them. No Scripture is quoted to support this idea. What Scripture speaks of is resurrection; not re-creation (Acts 24:15 - a passage they quote). Further, what is said to the dying thief is said to be: “You will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). They leave out the word before the quotation, that is, Today. The thief asked the Lord to remember him when He came in his kingdom. The answer the Lord gave him told him that he would be with Him that day. He would not have to wait for the kingdom. If you make Today simply mean that Christ was saying what He said that day, then the thief’s being in paradise would be at an uncertain time. In fact we know that Christ and the thief both died the same day - the latter dying after Christ by having his legs broken.


            In chapter four (page 37) the person of Christ is considered. It is accepted that He is the Christ the Son of God. However his being the Son of God is made to rest on the thought that He was created before other created things. The latter are said to have been created by Him. This is based on the statement in Colossians 1:15 “who is... firstborn of all creation”. Scripture connects this statement with the fact that by Him were created all things. This of itself should raise a question in our minds as to the logic of basing something (the creation of Christ) on the fact that by Him other things were created. Firstborn in this passage appears to be a synonym for heir as in Hebrews 1 (compare verse 2 with verse 6 of that chapter). Similarly in Deuteronomy 21:15-17 it is clear that making someone firstborn is equivalent to making him heir. The other statements in Colossians 1 as to his activities in creation are the justification for his being made heir. Other passages such as John 1:3 preclude the idea that He Himself was created because nothing that has been created has been created except by Him. He cannot have created Himself ? To base a significant doctrine on a dubious understanding of a passage such as the one in Colossians 1 is not building on the rock.


            In chapter five (page 47) Jesus is effectively brought down to the level of Adam. Adam was made in the image of God as were the angels. He had faculties that enabled God to commune with him. He was innocent but not holy. He was not full of grace and truth as was Christ (John 1:17). Had he been the latter he would never have sinned. He was only a figure of Him that was to come (Romans 5:14).


            When we say Adam and God had freewill it is a question of what we mean by the term. Certainly neither Adam nor God were robots - they were not under a compulsion that they could not resist. However, both acted according to their nature. Man was not impeccable but was capable of being deceived and influenced (Genesis 3:13 & 17) God acts according to his nature which is love (1 John 4:8). Consider what I have said regarding the five points of Calvinism on this web site.


            Saying that Christ was raised to spirit life is not strictly true. Christ is a man not a spirit (Luke 24:39). What he now has is indissoluble life (Hebrews 7:16). However, He is still a man in heaven. Stephen clearly saw a man (Acts 7:56) and so did John (Revelation 1:13).


            The thought that Christ presented the value of his sacrificial work to God in heaven is presumably based on Hebrews 9:24 and on. However, this is giving a questionable interpretation to the passage. The Witnesses tone down the thought that Christ presented his blood to God by saying: “Jesus presented to God the value of his perfect human life sacrificed as a ransom in exchange for Adam’s offspring”, but it is unclear what this means. Was God not aware of what Christ had accomplished before He was taken up into heaven?


            The breaking of bread appears to have taken place once a week rather than annually in the beginning (e.g. Acts 20:7). Annual feast days do not fit in with New Testament practices which are as regards our individual life daily, while as to church life the cycle is weekly (1 Corinthians 16:2).


            In chapter six (page 57) the statement is formally made: “When a person dies, he ceases to exist” - a statement not found in the Bible. This idea is based on certain statements found in Ecclesiastes. One wonders what the Witnesses make of Isaiah 14:9-11 and Christ’s piece about Abraham and Lazarus in Luke 16 ? The latter is not a parable. There is nothing about a certain man. Christ is speaking about historical persons. Further, what about Moses and Elijah on the mount of transfiguration ? It is true that Elijah was taken up into heaven, but Moses died. Was he resurrected for the occasion ? Where is he now ? Persons when asleep do not cease to exist. If persons have no existence when they are dead why is death called sleep by Christ ? Was he misleading people ? Did Christ cease to exist when he died ? God wrought in Christ to raise him from the dead (Ephesians 1:20). Did he work in someone who did not exist. That bodies return to the dust is true enough but persons’ spirits are committed to God’s care. See what Christ said on the cross: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit”(Luke 23:46). Was he only thinking of his physical breath ? Similarly Stephen (Acts 7:59). Then there is the case of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Christ pointed out that all live for Him (God). What do the Witnesses make of that ? (Luke 20:37). Consider what is said in my article: “After Death” which goes carefully into the matter.


            In chapter seven (page 66) the thought is that only a certain number (144,000) based on Revelation 14:1 will be resurrected in a condition that will enable them to live in heaven. It would appear that the rest will be resuscitated to live here on earth. Scripture teaches that we shall be like Christ when we are raised from the dead (1 John 3:2). There is no idea that persons living today and who die or who are here when the Lord comes for his own will simply be raised to live again here on earth. They will be raised to indissoluble life (Hebrews 7:16) not simply brought back to life as those that Christ raised in the Gospels, the other cases in the Old Testament and Dorcas in the New (Acts 9:36-43). They were only, so to speak, brought back to the nearer bank of the river of death. Christ and others who will be raised come out of the river on the farther side.


            Regarding chapter eight (page 76) it is not correct to apply 1 Timothy 6:15/16 to Christ. He does not dwell in unapproachable light. He will be seen by all (Revelation 1:7).


            It should also be noticed that the so-called Lord’s prayer is a morning prayer for persons in their pathway through this world. For instance we have: “Give us this day our daily bread”. What about the corporate relations of Christians, that is, Christ’s assembly ?


            It is certainly questionable that mount Zion is in heaven. All references to it that I am aware of are on earth.


            One cannot see that anything special took place in 1914 save the beginning of the first world war. One can see no evidence that Christ is reigning differently from that date to the way he was in charge of things before.


            In chapter nine we have the thought that Michael is another name for Christ. This is not so. If we go to Revelation 19:11-16 we find He has a number of names, but none of them is Michael.


            Regarding chapter nine (page 86) the proofs given that we are in the last days will I think not be found convincing to many people. There have been wars, earthquakes and famines long before 1914. The fact that God is today bringing the evidence of, for instance, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to the world’s attention carries more weight with me. God does not bring judgment on people without adequate warning.


            In chapter ten (page 96) it is asserted that Christ created all other things. Colossians 1:16 does not say this. There is no word for other in the original.


            We should distinguish angels from spirits. Angels do not indwell persons in the way spirits can. Certainly it does not seem that angels appear to us today, but this does not mean they cannot.


            Certainly spiritism should be given a wide birth. Of course, if one adopts the Witnesses thought that the dead do not exist one must assume that they cannot be contacted. However, it is clear that Samuel was contacted, though it was wrong for Saul to do so (1 Chronicles 10:13). Nowhere in Scripture is it stated that the dead cannot be contacted or that spirits can impersonate the dead.

 

            In chapter eleven (page 106) we have the problem of suffering considered. Please refer to my article entitled: “A Groaning Creation” which gives my thoughts on this matter.


            In chapter twelve (page 115) we are told how we may please God. Nothing is said as to recognising the Lordship of Christ - it is all about Jehovah. We are, as Christians, to be subject to Christ (Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Corinthians 9:21). We are to recognise that without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). We must keep our eye on Him if we would be pleasing to God (Hebrews 12:2). We must be marked by dependance; prayer would be an expression of this (1 Thessalonians 5:17).


            In chapter thirteen (page 125), although there is much that one would not find fault with, the question of blood transfusions is discussed. The argument against it is that if a doctor told us not to drink alcohol we should not have it injected into our veins is hardly comparable to a blood transfusion. The prohibition as to alcohol would have been made because it would harm us. The Biblical prohibition against drinking blood does not appear to have anything to do with self harm. See my article: “Blood Transfusion”. See also my article: “Unborn Child, The” as the latter has relevance as to what is said as to abortion in this chapter.


            In chapter fourteen (page 134) the practical instruction for family life in this world is generally good. However, there is nothing about having our mind on the things that are above (Colossians 3:2). Everything is on an earthly level.


            Further, Christ is said to imitate his Father. Imitating God is something that is enjoined on Christians (Ephesians 5:1). Christ Himself perfectly represents his Father, which goes much farther than simply imitation (John 14:9).


            In chapter fifteen (page 144) we are told that God requires us to obey Jesus and apply his teachings if we want everlasting life. John 3:36 is quoted to support this statement. They read the passage as: “He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; he that disobeys the Son will not see life”. The last part is really “He that is not subject to the Son shall not see life”. The note in the J.N.D Bible to the verse says that subject is the obedience of submission to his person, not practical obedience to his commands, whatever proof this may be of the other. If practical obedience were the test we could never be sure if our obedience was adequate. An earlier statement in the same paragraph by the Witnesses shows the underlying fault in their teaching. They say: “Jesus gave his life as a ransom for obedient humans” and quote Matthew 20:28 as support for this statement, but there is nothing about obedient humans in the verse. Obedient humans would not have needed one to die for them. Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6). “Christ... gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all lawlessness, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:14). Redemption comes before good works. Persons must get right inwardly before they are able to do works that are acceptable to God (works of faith 1 Thessalonians 1:3; Hebrews 11 :6). Faith is inward, but is shown by works (James 2:18). Salvation is not by works lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8/9).


            In chapter sixteen (page 154) we are told to keep clear of idolatry: image worship and the like. This is good. I know some Christians who live in Hong Kong. They told me that they did not let their children have part in the local festivals which were connected with idolatry. However they did let them have part in the Chinese festival of lanterns which was not. We need to discriminate. It is easy to go with the swim and do what others do, but we need to be able to refuse the evil and choose the good. It is not always right to refuse everything, as doing so may neutralise our testimony against what is wrong. A lot of idolatrous practices have got into the Christian churches, particularly the Romish church.


            One’s parents did not keep Christmas as a religious festival, but treated it as something for children. We did not have a Christmas tree, but were allowed to decorate our bedroom and we had Christmas presents. The fact that toys were in the shops particularly at that time of the year had a bearing on the matter I understood. One Uncle by marriage did not do anything special at Christmas, but dressed up for his children as Father Christmas at some other date. Another Uncle gave us children (myself and my Brother) a New Years present instead of a Christmas one. It may be noted that the word Christmas is a combination of Christ and Mass with the last s removed. Not a happy combination.

 

            Many Christians are not happy with the commercialisation of Christmas and speak of putting Christ back into Christmas. If one leaves out the religious aspect some would assume that we are like worldlings for whom the occasion is just a time to make merry.


            As to Birthdays many like to mark the day, but not for any religious reason. Some like to make pancakes on pancake day. As far as I am aware there is nothing religious about this latter practice.


            Scripture certainly does not enjoin us to keep days, months times or years. We are not to be condemned if we do not keep them (Colossians 2:16/17). We are not to put ourselves in bondage by making an effort to keep them (Galatians 4:9/10). However, we are not to condemn a Brother who keeps days, if he keeps them to the Lord (Romans 14:5/6).


            In this chapter it is said that trying to talk with the dead is condemned quoting Deuteronomy 18:10-12. The “trying to” is an interpolation by The Witnesses because they assume that the dead cannot be consulted because they do not exist! Many Christians take a similar view but not because the souls of persons do not exist but because they are out of reach, either in heaven or in hell.


            In chapter seventeen (page164) the question of prayer is considered. However it is far from clear how God is to be addressed. Jehovah is repeatedly mentioned. Scripture on the other hand tells us that we have one God, the Father and one Lord, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 8:6). Though usually God the Father is addressed in the New Testament, in some cases Christ is addressed. We have Stephen addressing Jesus in Acts 7:59/60 and the injunction to sing to the Lord in Ephesians 5:19. Note that Lord has the article (it is the Lord) which is likely to mean that Christ is in mind rather than Jehovah. It is noted that the Witnesses give God’s Word a capital W whereas holy spirit is all in lower case in both paragraphs where the spirit is mentioned. It gives the impression that God’s Word is considered more important than his holy spirit, though his Word itself was indited by his holy spirit (2 Timothy 3:16). See my article “Religions 3 - Christendom” for more information.


            In chapter eighteen (page 174) we have the subject of baptism dealt with. The Witnesses do not distinguish between Christian baptism and John’s baptism, though in Scripture they are distinguished (Acts 19:1-7). Further it is dogmatically stated that the only acceptable method of baptism is immersion. This is because baptism means to dip. However baptism in the Spirit is sometimes described as pouring (Isaiah 32:15; Acts 2:17,33). In some cases owing to infirmity in the candidate for baptism immersion may not be practicable. See my article on “Baptism”.


            The statement is made that you must “be firmly determined that you will do what is right from now on.” This looks like turning over a new leaf and this often, if not always, leads to failure.


            In Scripture baptisms followed closely on conversion. See for instance that of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8) and the Philippian jailor (Acts 16). They did not have to wait for an annual assembly or convention as the Witnesses apparently do (note on page 182).


            In chapter nineteen (page 184) what is presented as something to look forward to are earthly blessings, what an Israelite would expect, while the apostle Paul speaks of every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). The Law is spoken of. Christians are not under it, though they may learn from it. What the Jehovah’s Witnesses would do is effectively take us back to a system of things that existed before Christ had died, been raised, ascended into heaven and been glorified.


            In the appendix (page 194) a number of subjects are covered. What is said as to the divine name (Jehovah) appears to be correct. Mr Darby translates it so in the Old Testament rather than as Lord which the King James version does. Of course God is Lord and in some places it is the correct translation of the Hebrew word Adonai (e.g. Deuteronomy 10:17). However those who just had the English King James version did not noticeably lose out spiritually by using the title Lord and addressing God as Father.


            Daniel’s prophecy as understood by the Jehovah’s Witnesses appears to be about right.


            That Jesus was the promised Messiah is as far as I am aware believed by all true Christians so that there is nothing to object to here.


            As to the person of Christ see my article “Simplicity as to the Christ”. When John says “The Word was God”he does not put a definite article (the) before God. There is one understands no indefinite article (a) in New Testament Greek. This tells us that the nature of the Word was God, like we would say something is wood. When it says the Word was with God there is an article before God in the Greek - it is really the God. It is like when we say of something it is The Wood. Christ has the nature of God absolutely. We are only made partakers of it (2 Peter 1:4). Further, Christ perfectly represents God so that it is said He is the true God (1 John 5:20). God has the article here. Paul presents the same thought in a different way. He says that all the fulness of the Godhead dwells in Christ bodily (Colossians 2:9). This is the inward side and corresponds to the Word was God. He also says that Christ is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). This is the outward side and corresponds to the statement of John that Christ is the true God. As the Witnesses say, effectively the statements’s in John 1:1 neutralise one another in the English translation - one cannot be with a person and at the same time be that person.


            Christ was clearly hung on a tree (1 Peter 2:24). The tree was no doubt intended to connect our thoughts with Genesis 3 and also with the curse in Deuteronomy .Whether his arms were stretched out or not one would not think a vital point. However John does tell us that Christ said to Peter that Peter would stretch forth his hands. By this Christ was signifying what death Peter would die (John 21:18/19). It would appear that Peter was crucified as usually understood.


            Certainly worshipping a cross is wrong and wearing one to be discouraged - a crucifix more so. Christ should be in our hearts (Ephesians 3:17) rather than portrayed on a visible thing which is just a symbol. No one knows what Christ looked like nor his cross for that matter.


            The Christian assembly cycle is weekly and in Scripture the first day of the week is indicated as the time for the celebration of the Lord’s supper (Acts 20:7). A yearly cycle as advocated by the Witnesses was a feature of the Old order; not the Christian one (Isaiah 29:1). The Lord’s supper did not replace the Passover as the Witnesses say it did. In Christianity our Passover has been sacrificed and the feast of unleavened bread is to be celebrated spiritually (1 Corinthians 5:7/8). Further, why go to Matthew, the particularly Jewish Gospel, to find a basis for celebrating the Lord’s supper ? We should take it from Paul where it is put in an assembly setting (1 Corinthians 11:17-34). The Gospel account would do no more on its own than support the taking of the supper by those who had known Christ in his life here.


            Of course transubstantiation is wrong so that there is no need I think for me to comment on that.


            All Christians living to day are members of Christ’s body - there are not two sorts of Christians as the Witnesses would have us believe. Such an idea is not found in the Gospels or the Epistles. In Revelation 7 we have 144,000 spoken of, but they were all Israelites. In Revelation 14 the 144,000 are virgins (verse 4). One wonders what the Witnesses make of that.


            See my article “After Death”. Jehovah’s Witnesses only quote from the Old Testament regarding the soul and spirit. The light then was dim on the condition of those who had died. We need the fuller light of the New Testament to understand as far as we can the condition of the dead.


            As to Sheol (Old Testament) and Hades (the New Testament equivalent) the Witnesses are limiting their thoughts to the physical place - the earth as the common grave of mankind (Amos 9:2). However there is also a spiritual place. (Luke 16:19-31 for example).


            The Witnesses thoughts on Judgment day would require a separate article on the subject, but the absence of comment here should not be assumed to signify agreement with their understanding of the matter.


            Christ has not yet been installed as King. The year 1914 is not significant in this respect. Christ has not appeared as he will when he takes his power and reigns (Revelation 19:6-16 ). He is not yet king in Zion (Psalm 110). One could point to almost any date (say 1939) and make a case of some sort for a change in the state of things on earth. Actually a date after the second world war when the state of Israel was established would be more plausible.


            Christ is not Michael the archangel. It is true as the Witnesses say he will speak with archangel’s voice when he comes for his own, but this proves that He cannot be the archangel, for there would be no sense in saying that the archangel spoke with archangel’s voice ! It is the Lord Himself that will come (1 Thessalonians 4:16). (Probably a reference to Isaiah 35:4). The Witnesses argument that because Michael as archangel (chief angel) is spoken of in Revelation as fighting with the devil and his angels, the person on the white horse must also be the archangel is not proven. The one on the white horse has a number of names but none of them is Michael (Revelation 19:11-16). In any case Christ is clearly distinguished from angels in Hebrews 1 and 2.


            Babylon in Revelation signifies Rome. It was a great political power though subsequently it took on a religious garb (The Holy Roman Empire). When Christendom becomes apostate it will be destroyed by the confederation of ten nations as Revelation 17:15-18 tells us.


            As to the time of the birth of Jesus, no doubt, the Witnesses are correct in saying that it was not in December, if only for the fact that shepherds would not be likely to be looking after sheep in fields at night in the cold season of the year.


            There are things that one can agree with the Witnesses about such as the authority of Scripture. However, they confuse the blessings of a future Israel and a world in which Christ is supreme with the blessings of Christians living today and in the past. They say nothing about the assembly as the body of Christ for instance. This affects all their thinking including their thoughts as to Christ and the Holy Spirit. Their thought appears to be that they are the only true Christians. What about the many godly people that lived before the Witnesses came to exist as a recognisable body ?


            The writer of the above cannot see any noticeable difference between what the Witnesses now teach and what they taught half a century ago. In this they differ from the Exclusive Brethren who have changed out of all recognition in the last three quarters of a century.


            Scripture quotations are from the J.N.D translation


February 20th 2007


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