The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (WTBTS), also known as the
Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) was formed as the Zion's Watch Tower in 1879
by Charles Taze Russell.
Because of his rejection of the concept of Hell, Russell began to challenge
many other concepts in the bible and ultimately added and removed the ones
he didn't agree with until he built a theology that does not even mirror
Christianity any longer. Many of these original retranslations and
interpretations can be found in his series of books called, Studies in the
When Russell died in 1916, the nod for leadership of this group went to
Joseph F. Rutherford, who in turn revised the writings of Russell, deleting
doctrines he didn't agree with and adding his own commentary at will. This
began with his book, Harp of God in 1921. He authored some additional 20
books over the next 20 years but none caused as much controversy in the
movement as his addition of a new volume of Russell's series, Studies in the
Scriptures. Because of this writing, the movement splintered and
Rutherford's group changed their name to the WTBTS.
Nathan H. Knorr was the third president of this organization and it was under
his direction that the WTBTS bible, the New World Edition, was published in
Today, the organization is based in Brooklyn, NY and generally referred to as
the Watch Tower or the JWs. Their leader as of this writing is Milton G.
As with most sects originating out of the 1800s, JWs believe their group to be
the only true church on earth, the remnant. Other doctrines include the
denial of the deity of Jesus, soul sleep and extreme legalism as a means of
salvation. The JWs are best known for their doomsday predictions and their
practice of date 'setting' the time of Armageddon.
Beliefs and Doctrines
This is the most well known of the Jehovah's Witness doctrines and is
adhered to by the Seventh Day Adventists (SDAs) as well: the concepts of no
hell and soul sleep.
The doctrine of soul sleep is based on the belief that human beings don't have
an immortal soul, that their soul is their physical existence, and when the
body dies, the soul goes to the grave. From there, those who are righteous
are said to be risen at the resurrection, those who are evil are annihilated.
JWs maintain that it would be unloving and unjust for God to punish
someone forever. Unfortunately, they are denying the teachings of Jesus
himself on this subject. Jesus spoke more about hell than he did about
heaven. Jesus described hell (Hades as well as Ghenna) as a place of
torment, agony in the fire, where the fire does not go out. All of these
teachings are denied in lieu of a doctrine of eternal sleep and a cessation of
Again, as seen in the 'remnant churches' of the 1800s, the JWs teach that
there is no salvation outside of their membership. They actively proselytize
Christians as they consider them the 'false religion', the 'harlot' and 'Babylon',
all referenced in Revelation to the false prophet and the ecumenical
JWs teach that there are three possible outcomes for eternity - the first two
are restricted to the members of the sect.
1. Heaven - this is limited to 144,000 people, called the "John Class" or
"Heavenly Kingdom Class". This is made up of select JWs and the count
began in 1893 with their first official baptism ceremony.
2. Earth - this is the destiny of the rest of the faithful members. They claim
this represents the "Great Multitude" in Rev 7:9 who will live forever in a
3. Soul Sleep and Annihilation - This is for the balance of society, those who
do not belong to the JW organization.
The JW organization claims that they preach 'salvation by grace' but there is
a huge flaw in this assertation. As their membership grew, the 144,000
theory became less plausible so the doctrine was altered to say that it is not
the original 144,000 members as once taught, but your destiny being heaven
or earth will be determined at the end and based upon your works.
The organization claims that by joining and being baptized by them that you
will gain eternal life BUT your destiny is contingent on your works.
As mentioned, a destiny of heaven or earth for eternity is based on a strict
system of dos and dont's. Here are a few select rules that the JW's promote.
Witnessing - the most important. People are even given different titles based
on their hours of service. It is believed that the witnessing activity in
conjunction with abstinence of the items listed below will directly affect your
Baptism - full body immersion and only by a qualified church leader.
Secular - they are not to have anything to do with the secular world. This
includes music, television, movies, drinking alcohol, smoking, sports, school
activities such as clubs, girl/boy scouts and the like.
Traditional - believing most traditions to be pagan in nature, they reject the
practices of holidays and observances such as Easter, Christmas,
Anniversaries, Birthdays, Mothers/Fathers day as well as most other holidays
and milestone observances.
Political - The JWs refuse to be involved in any political actions including
voting, saluting the flag and serving in the armed forces. This is all based on
their refusal to pledge allegiance to anything other than Jehovah.
Religious - No crosses are to be displayed in the worship hall, on a person or
in their house. They teach that Jesus was crucified on a stake and that the
cross is a pagan symbol. Only the 'anointed' members may take
communion. These are determined by the organization and are very few and
far between in number. Communion for the anointed is held in the spring.
Medical - Organ transplants and blood transfusions are expressly forbidden.
This goes back to the Old Testament time when the Lord warned Israel about
their handling of blood. Vaccinations were once forbidden as well, but the JW
organization has changed their position on that due to the numerous deaths of
its members over its history due to improper medical care.
Trinity and Deity of Christ
Jehovah's Witnesses deny the deity of Christ, his physical resurrection and
his visible return. They teach that the first creative act of the Father was to
create the spirit being, Archangel Michael, who later donned a physical body
to be seen by his followers in the persona of Jesus. Additionally, they hold
that as Jesus, the Archangel was a perfect man who became the Messiah at
the time of his baptism. The resurrection of Jesus is said to be a spiritual
one, not a physical one.
They deny the deity of the Holy Spirit as well, describing it as an
"...impersonal, invisible, inactive force that finds its source and reservoir in
Jehovah God." (Let Your Name be Sanctified, p. 269).
One of the major changes made when the New World Edition bible was
written was the rewrite of all verses pertaining to the deity of Christ and the
New World Edition Bible
As is common with splinter groups, the JWs decided that the bible had been
translated improperly and set about to create their own version of scripture.
The New World Edition (NWE) was written by a committee of 5.
One of the most notable changes in the NWE is the rewrite of John 1:1.
The King James Version says,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word
The NWE added the qualifier, "a" and takes the capitalization emphasis off of
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word
was a god.
The logic here is that Michael/Jesus is a little "g" god but inferior to Jehovah
In addition to the door to door witnessing techniques, this is the other item
that the JWs are renowned for - their obsession with prophesy.
As seen above in the salvation section, JWs have their own unique
interpretation of the end times events and who the scriptures are speaking of.
They deny the doctrine of the rapture of the church and are incessant date
setters, with false prediction after false prediction about the timing of
Their most notable dates (usually followed by some promise to never do it
again) include 1914, 1918, 1925, 1975 and 1989. When the 1914 date failed,
rather than acknowledge it for the false prediction that it was, they simply
declared that Jesus had returned to the earth, just in invisible form and they
continued setting Armageddon dates for future fulfillment.
Angels - the basis for their doctrine
The book of Galatians warns about receiving 'another gospel' from an angel
that does not agree with the message of Christ...
Gal 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel
unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
Lets compare that admonishion to the following two quotes from the
Jehovah's Witnesses' leadership...
"...the heavenly messengers or angels of the Lord now used by the Lord in
behalf of the remnant. These angels are invisible to human eyes and are there
to carry out the orders of the Lord. No doubt they first hear the instruction
which the Lord issues to his remnant and then these invisible messengers pass
such instruction on to the remnant." (Vindication, volume III, 1932, p. 250)
"Again God put it in the mind of his people, by his angel, to act and to carry
out his purposes." (Light, volume 1, 1930, p. 120.)
Jehovah's Witnesses appear to be Christians on the outside. They teach
against evolution and apostasy in the church. That is where the similarities
Sadly, with their twisting of scripture to make it read how they want it to read
as opposed to accepting it as the Word of God, they have totally gotten lost in
the process and become yet another legalistic, man made religion.