Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right— Charles H. Spurgeon
There are a multitude of religions out there that identify themselves as Christians, when in fact—they are not. And, it is important for those of us who truly are Christians, born again believers in Jesus Christ (John 3:3) to speak up about it. We are duty bound to defend the faith against false teachers (Jude 3). Although there are many false teachers out there, the most dangerous are those who claim to be Christians, when they are an absolute and provable counterfeit. They claim the name of Christ, but do not know Him. These are the most dangerous, in my view, because those who are deceived, and eventually indoctrinated, might have had an opportunity for true salvation had they known truth. Whereas, those seeking other world religions, such as New Ageism, Hinduism, Islamism, and so on, know right up front that they are not pursuing salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ, whom they have likely already rejected.
What does it mean to be a Christian?
Many will answer this question by simply saying a Christian is someone who believes in Jesus (John 3:15; John 6:28-29; John 6:40; Romans 10:9, et al). Although this is accurate, in order to believe in Jesus, one must first know Him—who He is.
Biblically, Jesus is the great “I Am” (Exod 3:14; John 8:58). Jesus is God in the flesh, the second Person of the Holy Trinity (John 1:1, 14; Col 2:9). Jesus is the God-man (Col 2:9; 1 Tim 2:5; Phil 2:5-8) who was born of a virgin (Isa 7:14), who died by crucifixion (John 19:18), was buried, and rose from the grave (1Cor 15:1-4), in physical form (John 2:19-21). Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one can come to the Father in Heaven but through Him (John 14:6). Jesus is our eternal Mediator with the Father (Heb 7:24). It is only by the name of Jesus a person may be saved (Acts 4:12). Those who do not trust in Him, and Him alone for the forgiveness of sins and for their salvation will be judged accordingly (Matt. 24:41).
If this is the Jesus in whom you believe—Good News—you are a Christian. You have been saved by grace through faith alone and not by works (Eph 2:8-9), and have the assurance of your salvation forever more (Rom 10:9).
Unfortunately, there are a lot of counterfeit-Christian religions out there, teaching an entirely different Jesus, and deceiving millions of people into Hell. Jehovah’s Witnesses is one such group. They claim to be Christians[i]but clearly are not.
A Brief Overview of the Beliefs and History of the Jehovah’s Witnesses
The Jehovah’s Witnesses was founded in 1872 by Charles Taze Russell, a Congregationalist, who, at the age of eighteen-years-old, began to lose his faith. It was the doctrine of an eternal Hell that he could not reconcile with a merciful and loving God. Over the next several years of his young life, he came to deny many doctrines of Christianity, including the doctrine of the Trinity, the deity of Christ, salvation by grace alone, and the Holy Spirit, as the third Person of the Holy Trinity.[ii]
After redefining these, and many other doctrines, Russell began a Bible class to popularize his deviant ideas. He used publications, which were distributed by his followers and missionaries, to further his false teachings and gain new members. One such publication, The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom, is still in print today, with printing estimates of 46 million copies per month, the largest circulation of any other publication in the United States.[iii]
After Russell’s death in 1916, the group was taken over by Judge J.F. Rutherford, who named the group “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” and also “The Watchtower Society.” Rutherford died in 1942 and the group was taken over by Nathan Knorr, who in 1961 oversaw the rewriting of the Holy Bible to fit the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.[iv] The group renamed the Bible theNew World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Their doctrines have changed over time, resulting in amended additions of their rewritten Bible, and they explain this by claiming God is shedding more light on the truth as time goes by.[v]
According to Jehovah Witness theology, God is a single Person, not a triune God, and He is not omniscient or omnipresent. He first created Michael, the Archangel, who then created all other things, including the universe, the earth, Adam and Eve, and so on. After Adam sinned, God’s paradise was ruined. Therefore, God instituted a system of redemption, which would ultimately lead to the death of Jesus, the Messiah. Meantime, they believe God needed a visible and theocratic institution on earth to accurately represent Him. They claim that this theocratic institution has existed throughout human history, through a remnant of faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses such as, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. However, this institution was not fully developed by God until Charles Taze Russell formally began what is now known as the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. The Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that they are the one true church, the only true channel of God’s truth on earth today—the prophet of God on earth.[vi]
When it came time for the Savior to be born, Michael the Archangel became a human in the form of Jesus. They do not worship Jesus as they do not believe Jesus is God, or equal to God. Jesus grew into a man and kept all of the laws of God and led a sinless life. They believe Jesus died as a ransom for Adam’s sin, not as a substitutionary atonement for the sins of mankind. Therefore, they believe one must also perform works to be saved.[vii]
They don’t believe Jesus was crucified on a cross, but rather on a torture stake, and that Jesus rose from the dead as a spirit, not physically. After His death, He resided in Heaven in the form of Michael the Archangel, then He came back to earth in spirit form in 1914 to lead their organization.[viii]They believe He will be bodily resurrected at Armageddon, at which time He will set up His earthly 1,000 year kingdom.[ix]
During the millennium, non-Jehovah’s Witnesses will be resurrected and given a second chance to earn their salvation by following the rules of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. If they fail to convert, they will be annihilated—cease to exist, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the doctrine of Hell. Heaven, in their view, is reserved for a special group of 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, and these chosen ones will have immortal life and bodies. The remainder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses will reside in paradise on earth, where they will have eternal bodies, but not immortal bodies. They will have to maintain their bodies through diet, exercise, and rest.[x]
The Holy Bible versus the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures
According to the Watchtower Library Online, the New World Translation was written by a committee of anonymous, anointed witnesses of Jehovah. Therefore, the educational backgrounds and scholarly qualifications of these translators cannot be assessed. [xi]
When asked if the Jehovah’s Witnesses have changed the Bible to fit their beliefs, they will deny it.[xii] Instead they respond, “No, we haven’t. On the contrary, when we have discovered that our beliefs were not completely in line with the Bible, we have changed our beliefs.”[xiii]
This statement is demonstrably false.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses have rewritten the Bible to support their many false teachings. As previously discussed, not only do Jehovah’s Witnesses deny that Jesus is God in the flesh, the Second Person in the Trinity, and the Creator of all things, they reject the doctrine of the Trinity in its entirety. They deny the Holy Spirit is the third Person in the Trinity or is a Person at all. They instead teach that the Holy Spirit is “God’s active force.”[xiv] They deny salvation by grace, and alternatively teach salvation by works.[xv]They also deny the doctrine of an eternal Hell and instead believe the soul simply ceases to exist—is annihilated.[xvi]
Here are a few examples of how they have changed the Scriptures to fit these aberrant views:
CULTS OF CHRISTIANITY
Nobody joins something they think is going to hurt them. You join a religious organization or you join a political movement, and you join with people that you really like—Jonestown Survivor
“A cult of Christianity is a group of people, which claiming to be Christian, embraces a particular doctrinal system taught by an individual leader, group of leaders, or organization, which (system) denies (either explicitly or implicitly) one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian faith as taught in the sixty-six books of the Bible.”[xviii]
A cult requires a leader, or a group of leaders—sometimes leaders who preside over an entire organization. So, what measures of control might these cult leaders attempt to exercise? These questions and many others are answered by Steven Hassan, one of the foremost authorities on cults and mind control, in his book, Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves. Hassan, in chapter two of his book, outlines four major control mechanisms used by cults. Those are: behavior control, information control, thought control, and emotion control.[xix]
Behavior control can dictate a person’s physical reality—who they associate with, how they spend their time, and how their activities are supervised by the cult’s leadership.[xx]
The Watchtower organization strongly discourages social interaction with non-members, with the exception of proselytizing activities. If a non-member refuses to convert during the proselytizing activity, that person is to be strongly avoided.
They also “encourage” their members to donate their free-time, including vacation time from work or school, to performing service work for the organization. Adults and children alike are required to attend five weekly meetings to study and comment on Watchtower literature, and also go door-to-door to proselytize. They are required to keep records of their time spent during these activities, which are submitted to the leadership monthly. If found lacking, members are subject to a loss of privileges (responsibilities), within the organization.
The elders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses periodically review the personal records of members as part of their enforcement of organizational rules. Members are required to confess their sins (as defined by the organization) to the elders, and comply with whatever spiritual correction is dictated. They are also encouraged to spy on one another, so any member who refuses to confess his or her sins, is subject to being turned in by fellow members.
Christian cults teach that the Bible is an insufficient source of spiritual truth and guidance, and therefore, the leadership and its literature trump the Scriptures should any inconsistencies arise. Any non-cult sources of information are discouraged, and those that are critical of the cult teachings are strictly forbidden.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that one needs Watchtower literature to properly interpret the Bible, and as previously discussed, they have rewritten the Holy Bible to fit with their false teachings. They also distort—or cover up—prior significant errors in their teachings throughout history (e.g., the Fall of Jerusalem in 607 B.C., the second advent of Jesus Christ in 1914).
Members are told to avoid all contact with people who have left the Watchtower organization. They are discouraged from surfing the Internet, and also discouraged from listening to any religious broadcasting that is not from the Watchtower organization.
“Cults foster a “we/they” mentality to the world, claiming that only inside the group can one find truth and ultimate salvation, and that outside the group is Satan’s world. Clichés, insider lingo, and group-specific language is used to enforce the cults programming in the processes of thought. Even constructive criticism of the cult is strictly prohibited and thought-stopping techniques are used to shut down critical, analytical thinking.”[xxi]
The Watchtower organization claims to be the sole source of truth, and the only source for true salvation. They liken the organization to Noah’s Ark—outside of which is a world doomed for destruction at Armageddon.[xxii]
With regard to insider lingo, an apostate is someone who has left the cult, one to be avoided. “Theocratic War Strategy,” is a phrase used to justify lying to protect the Watchtower organization. “Babylon” refers to all non-members, comprising Satan’s system doomed to destruction.[xxiii]
Emotions—especially those of guilt and fear—are used to manipulate and control the behavior of cult members. Any failures are placed at the feet of the member, and never as a result of errors in leadership. Threats of spiritual and/or physical destruction are used to detract from any consideration of leaving the cult.[xxiv]
Jehovah’s Witnesses are strongly discouraged from attending any non-Watchtower member’s funeral. They are seen as weak, should they show any emotion during their service work or at meetings. There is no room for grieving, should such interfere with the work of the organization.
Guilt is used to pressure members into doing more, and doing better, when it comes to their service activities for the organization. If they exercise any moment of independent thinking, they fear they will be accused of being prideful, critical. They fear contact with the outside world—the influence of apostates, and also fear the shunning by members, even their own family members, should they choose to leave the organization.
Since Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that truth and eternal life are only provided through the Watchtower organization, they are consumed with guilt and fear at the thought of leaving. They are taught that if they leave the organization, they will be controlled by Satan and be annihilated at God’s future judgment.
If you are a Jehovah’s Witness, and have been taught by your organization not to worship Jesus, I encourage you to study Philippians 2:9-11. One day very soon, every knee in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth shall bow down and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. That includes you, me, and yes, even Charles Taze Russell. The choice you have to make before that happens is whether or not you will do so with abundant joy or inexorable regret.
Please come to the true Jesus. He is the only way, truth and life. No person comes to the Heavenly Father except by Him. (John 14:6). He will take you just as you are this very second. You will then be God’s child, and have a family of Christian brothers and sisters who will love you and care for you eternally.