In this session of Secret Church 18, Pastor David Platt teaches us what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe and how Christians should share the gospel with them. He offers an overview of the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses by answering three main questions: (1) Who are Jehovah’s Witnesses? (2) What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe? (3) How do we share the gospel with Jehovah’s Witnesses?
One of the distinctive teachings of this cult is that they believe God’s one true name is Jehovah. In addition to denying many core Christian doctrines, Jehovah’s Witnesses reject Scripture’s teaching about the Trinity and the full divinity of Jesus Christ. Like Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to be Christians. However, those who follow their official teachings have not believed in the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is revealed in Scripture. Christians should therefore present the true gospel to them.
- Who are Jehovah’s Witnesses?
- What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe?
- How do we share the gospel with Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Who are Jehovah’s Witnesses? They identify themselves as followers of God who believe that “Jehovah” is God’s one true name, hence the name “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses began with Charles Taze Russell in 1872. Here is a little background on him. Russell grew up in the church but had great difficulty with the doctrines of the Trinity and hell. At age 18, he organized a Bible class in Pittsburgh during the Bible Student Movement of the 1870s and began teaching his view of those doctrines. In 1879, he began co-publishing his teachings in The Herald of the Morning magazine. In 1884, he controlled the publishing and renamed the magazine The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom and founded Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society—now known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.
Circulation of the first edition of the The Watchtower magazine was 6,000 copies per month. Today, the publishing complex in Brooklyn—their current headquarters—produces 100,000 books and 800,000 copies of its magazines per day—not year—per day. These magazines and books are everywhere. You may recognize them or not when you see them. They are in stores and storefronts.
I was in the Department of Motor Vehicles the other day and there was this huge display with these books and magazines. People have so much time to read in this place. This is a horrible place for these to be. You look at them and see the titles, “Finding True Life”, “Is the Bible Relevant Today?”, “Can the Bible Help Me Have a Happy Family?”, “A Balanced View of Money” and on and on. It seems practical, helpful, and even biblical.
All this is to say they claim to have a circulation of 42 million copies of every issue of The Watchtower making its circulation larger than any other magazine in the world. The second largest magazine in the world also belongs to them and is titled Awake! with a circulation of 41 million copies for every issue. Needless to say, the Jehovah’s Witnesses publishing arm is active.
It all began with Charles Taze Russell who claimed the Bible could only be understood according to his interpretations. Again, this is a key characteristic of a cult.
After Russell’s death in 1916, Joseph Franklin Rutherford became President of the Watch Tower Society, and in 1931, Rutherford changed the name of the organization to “The Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
They believe they are the only “pure” religion and interpreting the Bible as the early Christians did before it was corrupted in the third and fourth centuries.
They are known for their ministry through door-to-door visits and distribution of literature.
They refer to their place of worship as a “Kingdom Hall.”
There are a few unique perspectives associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses. They do not normally celebrate Christmas or Easter since Jesus’ death is what saves. They do not celebrate birthdays because such celebrations have pagan roots and they aren’t seen in the Bible except for a few times negatively. They do not accept blood transfusions because they believe the Bible prohibits ingesting blood. Their clergy are unpaid and tithing is not practiced. They believe that Jesus is the King of God’s Kingdom and that He began ruling in 1914. The official Jehovah’s Witness site—similar to what we discussed with LDS.org—explains how they came to this belief:
“Revelation 12:6 and 14 indicates that three and a half times equal ‘1,260 days.’ ‘Seven times’ would therefore last twice as long, or 2,520 days. But the Gentile nations did not stop ‘trampling’ on God’s rulership a mere 2,520 days after Jerusalem’s fall. Evidently, then, this prophecy covers a much longer period of time. On the basis of Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6, which speak of ‘a day for a year,’ the ‘seven times’ would cover 2,520 years. The 2,520 years began in October 607 B.C.E., when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians and the Davidic king was taken off his throne. The period ended in October 1914. At that time, ‘the appointed times of the nations ended, and Jesus Christ was installed as God’s heavenly King (Psalm 2:1-6; Daniel 7:13, 14). Just as Jesus predicted, his ‘presence’ as heavenly King has been marked by dramatic world developments—war, famine, earthquakes, pestilences (Matthew 24:3-8; Luke 21:11). Such developments bear powerful testimony to the fact that 1914 indeed marked the birth of God’s heavenly Kingdom and the beginning of ‘the last days’ of this present wicked system of things” (JW.org).
Did you follow that? 1914 marked the birth of God’s heavenly Kingdom which also happened to be the start of World War 1.
Based on Revelation 7, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that only 144,000 people will be resurrected to live with Jehovah in Heaven and rule with Jesus in His Kingdom which we will look at. They also believe that God will raise billions from the dead and many who are now living may still be saved.
I just rattled off a lot of unique perspectives. With probably all of them you are thinking, “Wait a minute. What?” Those are good questions along with “How did they get there?” and “How does that work?” We do not have time to explore all of those questions tonight, so feel free to dive in on your own. Consider this a teaser.
Today, Jehovah’s Witnesses claim there are over eight million members worldwide, including over 1.2 million members in the United States. This only includes those who actively preach or spread their faith. They have sought to eliminate any concept of nominal—in name only—Jehovah’s Witnesses.
This leads to the next question.
What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?
Simply put, they say: “As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we strive to adhere to the form of Christianity that Jesus taught and that his apostles practiced” (JW.org).
That is simple enough but let’s dive into what they specifically believe and teach about God.
One, as we’ve already mentioned, is they teach that God’s one true name is Jehovah. They say: “We worship the one true and Almighty God, the Creator, whose name is Jehovah” (Psalm 83:18; Revelation 4:11, JW.org).
Jehovah is definitely a biblical name for God in Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament.
However, Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the Trinity is unbiblical; not in the Bible. I, and other followers of Christ readily acknowledge that the word Trinity is not in the Bible, but Jehovah’s Witnesses go further. They believe there is one God, that Jesus was created as a lesser god and the Holy Spirit is a force, not a divine Person.
We see these differences from the start when it comes to belief about God. Jesus is not equal to God the Father and the Holy Spirit is not a Person at all. This was Charles Taze Russell’s attempt to explain the confusion he heard in the church about the Trinity.
What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe about Scripture?
When it comes to Scripture and authority, Jehovah’s Witnesses say: “We recognize the Bible as God’s inspired message to humans” (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16, JW.org). They use the “New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures” which was published in 1961 by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. The New World Translation contains various modifications which align with Jehovah’s Witnesses’ doctrine.
For example, John 1:1 says in the orthodox translation, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We’ve already seen that tonight. The New World Translation says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” We’ll talk more in-depth about that in a minute but that sort of modification marks the New World Translation of the Bible.
When it comes to man and woman, Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that man has no immaterial soul. The soul is instead simply the life force within a person, which ceases to exist at death. In their words: “The soul, then, is the entire creature, not something inside that survives the death of the body” (JW.org). We will talk more about what happens after death in a minute.
What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe about Jesus?
“We follow the teachings and example of Jesus Christ and honor him as our Savior and as the Son of God (Matthew 20:28; Acts 5:31). Thus, we are Christians (Acts 11:26). However, we have learned from the Bible that Jesus is not Almighty God and that there is no Scriptural basis for the Trinity doctrine” (John 14:28, JW.org).
In place of the truths that we’ve seen in the Scripture that show us the Trinity, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was created as the archangel Michael before the world existed. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was a created being. That’s huge. Further, they believe Jesus is a man and lesser god. “The first human that God created, Adam, is called a ‘son of God’ (Luke 3:38). Similarly, the Bible teaches that Jesus was created by God. So Jesus is also called a ‘Son of God’” (John 1:49, JW.org).
Created similar to Adam, Jesus died on a simple stake. His resurrection was spiritual, not physical. This was followed by a second coming which occurred spiritually and invisibly in 1914.
How does this relate to salvation? According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, people can experience ransom from their sin and its penalty through Jesus’ death.
Jehovah’s Witnesses say, “How did Jehovah provide the ransom? He sent one of his perfect spirit sons to the earth. But Jehovah did not send just any spirit creature. He sent the one most precious to him, his only-begotten Son” (The Ransom, God’s Greatest Gift).
Jesus’ death on the cross provides ransom from sin and death which leads to requirements for eternal life. How can one receive this ransom? It is received through faith in Jesus and identification with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“To benefit from [Jesus’] sacrifice, people must not only exercise faith in Jesus but also change their course of life and get baptized” (JW.org). This baptism isn’t into any church but as a Jehovah’s Witness as they live in obedience to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ teachings. That’s required for eternal life.
What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe about eternity?
This leads to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ teachings on judgment and eternity. According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, hell is not a place of eternal suffering but the common grave for all people. Again, remember hell was one of Charles Taze Russell’s biggest struggles with the Bible, so he came to the conclusion that the wicked are annihilated, not punished forever. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe: “People who die pass out of existence (Psalm 146:4; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10). They do not suffer in a fiery hell of torment. God will bring billions back from death by means of a resurrection (Acts 24:15). However, those who refuse to learn God’s ways after being raised to life will be destroyed forever with no hope of a resurrection” (Revelation 20:14,15, JW.org).
All this leads to the two peoples of God. According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, there are two different categories for the people of God. One is the anointed class—the 144,000—who will live in heaven and rule with Christ. They believe: “Jehovah God, Jesus Christ, and the faithful angels reside in the spirit realm (Psalm 103:19–21; Acts 7:55). A relatively small number of people—144,000—will be resurrected to life in heaven to rule with Jesus in the Kingdom” (Daniel 7:27; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 5:9, 10; 14:1, 3, JW.org).
Then, the “other sheep”—all other believers—will live forever on a paradise earth. “God created the earth to be mankind’s eternal home (Psalm 104:5; 115:16; Ecclesiastes 1:4). God will bless obedient people with perfect health and everlasting life in an earthly paradise” (Psalm 37:11, 34, JW.org).
That’s the summary of the teachings of Charles Taze Russell and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Again, much like we discussed with Mormons, we can drill it down in all kinds of ways. This is really important. Suffice it to say, if one looks at much of what Jehovah’s Witnesses publish or listen to much of what they say, one would think undiscerning or new Christians who have not seriously thought about the truth of God and the gospel might think there is a lot here that sounds Christian. Just a quick overview makes crystal clear that this is not Christian.
This is a group that claims to be in harmony with Christianity but denies foundational Christian doctrines based primarily upon the instruction of one individual who has dictated these teachings. In the end, it is a fraudulent imitation of the gospel that deceives. And it deceives people regarding their eternal destinies. Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult and counterfeit gospel that beckons us to share the gospel.
How Do We Share the Gospel with Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Many of these things apply to sharing the gospel with anybody but let’s think about Jehovah’s Witnesses specifically.
First is to pray in the Spirit. Don’t forget when we are sharing the gospel, we are engaging in a spiritual battle. In the words of Ephesians 6:12-20:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
What are the three essentials for any gospel conversation? They are you, the Spirit of God and the Word of God. Ephesians 6 says the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit.
Second is to discuss Scripture. Go to the Word in confidence. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).
You cannot go wrong with the Word, especially with people who claim to believe the Bible—albeit a different, modified version of it which we’ll talk about.
Discuss Scripture Mutually
Discuss Scripture mutually, meaning open up the Bible together: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Talk about God with reverence. Show the glory of God’s name. I put different Scriptures that show different names for God that all reveal His glory:
- “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
- “When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless’” (Genesis 17:1).
- “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens” (Psalm 8:1).
- “Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:3).
Go to the Word and talk about Who God is and how we can be saved.
Regarding salvation, spend time on Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” What does that mean? Isn’t that good news?
What does it mean when the Bible says it counts belief as righteousness? Romans 4:1-9 says:
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness.
What does it mean when Titus 3:5 says, “(God) saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”?
Open the Bible and talk about eternity. Discuss the state of unbelievers. Ask, “What do you think it mean when it says that “(Jesus) will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41–42)?
What did Jesus mean by eternal fire in Matthew 25:41: “Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels?”
Ask about the following verses: “
And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46).
The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame” (Luke 16:22–24).
Also, discuss Revelation 14:11 when the Bible talks about eternal torment: “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”
You can discuss the state of believers as well as unbelievers.
First Corinthians 2:9 says, “But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Second Corinthians 5:6-8 talks about how being absent from the body is to be present with the Lord: “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”
Death to the follower of Christ means being with Christ: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1:21–23).
Obviously, what is important here is discussing the Scripture in context.
We should be students of God’s Word
On a side note I would like to exhort every follower of Christ to be a student of God’s Word. Read His Word daily and understand it rightly. This is not just for pastors. It is for all of us. Last year in Secret Church, we talked about how reading the Bible at least four days in the week is statistically shown to have a dramatic effect on your life. That’s huge. It’s not just huge for you. It’s also huge for those with whom you have the opportunity to share the gospel.
I fear that many Jehovah’s Witnesses get in conversations with Christians who for five, ten, 15 or more than 20+ years have been flat-out lazy with God’s Word. It only takes a Jehovah’s Witness a couple of minutes to have a follower of Christ throwing their hands up because we don’t know God’s Word nor how to study it in context. That’s huge because Jehovah’s Witnesses are going to be quick to take verses out of their context.
Let’s look at Revelation 7, for example:
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad, 12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh, 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar, 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed (Revelation 7:1–8).
This is a classic text that Jehovah’s Witnesses will pull up and say, “Only 144,000 will live in Heaven and rule with Christ.” This comes from the first part of the chapter—I wish we had time to dive in-depth into Revelation 7—but if we keep reading in context, we see in the last part where it says:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 7:9–12).
We can start to dive in and ask, “What does this mean?” In studying this passage in context together, we realize that there are different things going on in Revelation that don’t say 144,000 people are the only people who will reign in God’s Kingdom in Heaven.
We can’t have these kinds of conversations if we aren’t students of God’s Word.
Pray in the Spirit. Discuss Scripture, and as you do, focus on God as Jehovah. Obviously, when you are talking with Jehovah’s Witnesses, speak about God as Jehovah. That’s good and the biblical thing to do.
“God also said to Moses, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations’” (Exodus 3:15). This Scripture shows this as the most common name for the Lord in the Old Testament used some 6,000 times.
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6–7).
Have conversations and then, here’s the deal—here is where I want to get really practical and then we’ll bring this part to a close—focus on Jesus as God.
Explaining the Trinity
I’m going to use a helpful, simple illustration that I heard from a guy named Greg Koukl who I’ve mentioned before at different points in Secret Church. I wish I had put his in the back of the study guide, so you might take notes on this. He wrote a great book called Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Conviction.
In this illustration, he shows that it is obviously not possible to understand the Trinity exhaustively. However, how do you show Jesus is God using the gospel? That’s actually pretty simple. Basically—this is the encouragement—next time somebody comes knocking at your door, you don’t need to go searching for a Systematic Theology textbook to study. This is a simple illustration you can write out on a napkin. You don’t have to be able to counter every single argument that might come your way. Keep your conversation focused on the napkin. The whole goal is to show the Bible teaches that Jesus is God.
Look at John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We’ve talked about how the New World Translation modifies the last part of that with “the Word was a god.” That’s a key insertion. At that point, you can sit there and try to debate Greek grammar, but the reality is that neither of you really understands the intricacies of it so don’t waste your time there.
Move down to verse three. There the Bible says, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). This time, the New World Translation is pretty much the same: “All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence” (John 1:3, New World Translation). Boom! Right there! You might even have your visitor read that verse out loud so they are really thinking about it.
Now, pull out the napkin or scrap of paper and say, “Let’s think about everything that exists.” This is drawn in your notes so you can write that out and explain, “Let’s imagine that this box represents everything that exists.”
Then draw a line down the middle and separate everything that exists into two categories. You can say something like, “If this box represents everything that exists, let’s think about anything that exists that never came into being” and write that on the left side of the box. Then, ask the question: “What goes under that heading on the left side of the box?” The person should answer: “God” which is the right answer. God alone is eternal and I’m created. Write God in the left side of the box.
Then say, “Let’s think about anything that comes into being.” Write “All things that came into being” on the right side of the box. This is basically all created things so you can write that on the right side of the box.
Everything that Exists
All things that never came into being:
All things that came into being:
All created things
Now ask, “According to John 1:3, all created things came into being through Jesus, right?” Ask your friend if this makes sense according to this verse. You can draw an arrow pointing up to that in the box saying: “Created through Jesus” quoting John 1:3.
Then step back and summarize what you’ve seen. Basically, everything that exists falls into one of these two categories. Nothing can be in both categories. It’s pretty simple. Everything is either on one side or the other. That leaves the big question: “What category does Jesus belong in?”
You can pull out a coin and say, “Here’s a coin to represent Jesus.” Give it to your friend and ask him or her to place the coin in the box where Jesus belongs. With the coin in hand, the first impulse of a Jehovah’s Witness is to put the coin in the category of “All things that came into being” because they believe that God created Jesus. Though they will want to do that, John 1:3 will not allow it.
The New World Translation says, “All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence” (John 1:3). That is what is says: not even one thing.
If you look at it, you’ll see that John says it twice in two different ways: “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). So, if Jesus caused all created things to come into existence, as that verse says and the drawing makes clear, then He must have existed before all created things came into existence. Therefore, the Word—Jesus—could not have been created.
In other words, if Jesus created everything that has come into being, and Jesus also came into being—as Jehovah’s Witnesses would say—then that would mean Jesus created Himself. He would have to exist as Creator before He existed as a created thing, which is impossible. It’s absurd really.
Therefore, Jesus can’t be placed in the square labeled “All things that came into being.” If Jesus can’t be placed on the right side with created things, then He must go on the left with uncreated things, identifying Jesus as the uncreated Creator. In other words, Jesus is God.
In His own words, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
Hopefully this is a simple way with a napkin and not presuming you even got it all right now. But next time someone comes to the door, grab your booklet and find a napkin. Stay focused on the verse John 1:3, and with whatever translation of the Bible you have, get to the truth that Jesus is God.
I have a couple more thoughts.
One thought is to feel free to give them literature. They don’t have to be the only ones with literature. Give them good gospel literature.
The second thought is to be sure to show them love. Think about Luke 15:1-7 that I mentioned earlier:
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Here’s the deal, a Jehovah’s Witness will walk up and down your streets knocking on doors in pursuit of you. What will you do in love to pursue them?
A prayer for Jehovah’s Witnesses
Let me pray.
God, we pray for Jehovah’s Witnesses—friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers—these men, women, and families gathering at Kingdom Halls around us. God, we pray that You would help us to lovingly pursue them with the good news of Your grace. God, we pray for future napkin conversations to happen and that John 1:3 would open eyes. I pray that You would use Your Word to open eyes to the truth, beauty, and love of Jesus for Who He is. God, please, please, please save our friends and use us to that end. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Session 5 Discussion Questions
Study Guide pp. 51-64
1. The founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses claimed that the Bible could only be understood according to his own interpretations. How would you respond to this claim using Scripture?
2. What’s wrong with the idea that the Holy Spirit is a force and not a divine person?
3. What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe about the identity of Jesus?
4. According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, how can someone gain eternal life?
5. Have you had a gospel conversation with a Jehovah’s Witness who has come to your door? Share your experience.
6. What is the major difference between the translation of John 1 accepted by Jehovah’s Witnesses and the version of John 1 found in most English translations, and why is this an important difference?
7. Why is it so important that we believe Jesus was resurrected physically (and not merely spiritually)?
8. If a Jehovah’s Witness informed you that you were wrong for referring to God by a name other than Jehovah, how would you respond?
9. Why is prayer so important when engaging Jehovah’s Witnesses (as well as other cults and counterfeit gospels)?
10. How did this session challenge you to be humble and bold in engaging Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Key Terms and Concepts
Who Are Jehovah’s Witnesses?
- Followers of God who believe that “Jehovah” is God’s one true name. They believe they are the only “pure” religion because they interpret the Bible as the early Christians did before it was corrupted in the 3rd and 4th centuries.
- Begun by Charles Taze Russell in 1872, who claimed that the Bible could only be understood according to his interpretations.
- Jehovah’s Witnesses are well known for distributing literature, including The Watchtower and Awake!
- Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is the king of God’s kingdom and that He began ruling in 1914. They believe that only 144,000 people will be resurrected to live with Jehovah in heaven and rule with Jesus in His kingdom.
- There are currently over 8 million Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide.
What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?
- The Trinity is unbiblical (the word is not in the Bible).
- There is one God.
- Jesus was created as a lesser god.
- The Holy Spirit is a force, not a divine person.
- Use the New World Translation of Scripture (published in 1961 by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society).
- Man has no immaterial soul.
- Jesus died on a simple stake (rather than a cross), and His resurrection was spiritual rather than physical.
- Christ’s second coming occurred spiritually and invisibly in 1914.
- Requirements for eternal life include:
- Faith in Jesus.
- Identification with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
- Obedience to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ teachings.
- Hell is not a place of eternal suffering but the common grave for all people. The wicked are annihilated, not punished forever.
How Do We Share the Gospel with Jehovah’s Witnesses?
- Pray in the Spirit.
- Discuss Scripture mutually and in context.
- Focus on God as Jehovah.
- Focus on Jesus as God.
- Feel free to give them literature.
- Be sure to show them love.