Monday, June 17, 2013

World Religions: Jehovah's Witnesses and Christianity

Before I say anything else, let me say this: Just like with any faith, I know they're a lot of stereotypes floating around about Jehovah's Witnesses, like who they are and what they do. I'm here to tell you to drop them, right now.
As Christians, we're called to respect the beliefs of others, no matter how different or weird they seem to us. That includes all worldviews, from Atheism to Wicca. Nevertheless, we're also called to be ready give an answer for what we believe, and point others in the right direction concerning Jesus and the bible, as 1 Peter 3:15 and Titus 1:9 command.

So, that is what I'll be trying to do here.

Background
“The group now known as the Jehovah's Witnesses was founded in 1879 by Charles Taze Russell, a Pennsylvania businessman. Russell's Adventist background and study of the Bible led him to conclude, among other things, that the second coming of Christ would occur in 1914, that Hellfire did not exist, and God was not a Trinity. Today, there are 6.4 million practicing Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide. Witnesses are very active in evangelism and missions, both in the group's original home of the United States and throughout the world.Jehovah's Witnesses adhere to Russell's teachings on Hell and the Trinity and emphasize the immanent End Times, clean and moral living, the equality of all races, and adherence to the teachings of the Bible. They reject blood transfusions because of the New Testament command to "abstain from blood" and do not vote or serve in the military. Witnesses reject the symbol of the cross, do not celebrate any traditional Christian holidays, and do not celebrate birthdays.” –brief overview from religionfacts.com
A couple other things not in the overview, Witnesses also believe that only 144,000 people will be saved and live with God in heaven, while the other mass of people live on a restored Earth. They get it from Revelation 7:4, where it mentions a 144,000. They also believe that they are true Christians, as they see mainstream Christianity filled with heresy and pagan traditions; and use the New World Translation Bible, a special translation of the Bible that supports their beliefs.

For a breakdown of the Trinity and what the Bible says about it, check out this post I wrote here. 

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christianity

My first point will be that Jehovah’s Witnesses is not a Christian faith. I've heard from multiple sources that it is Christian religion, or another form of Christianity; but these statements in themselves contradict. Allow me to explain.

Firstly, the word “Christian” literally means “belonging to Christ.” With that said, “Christianity,” would most likely mean the religion or faith of Christ. This contradicts with the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion, because the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe God and Jesus to be separate. If a JW said they were a Christian; that could be taken idolatry; because God clearly commanded his people to have no other gods before him. (Deuteronomy 6:13, 1 Samuel 7:3, Matthew 4:10, Luke 4:8)
If Jesus and God are truly separate, then saying you belong solely to Christ could easily be viewed as disloyalty to God.

Another way to put it is:

  1. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they’re witnesses for God alone
  2. A Christian is a witness for Jesus (Acts 1:8)
  3. Therefore a Jehovah’s Witness isn’t a Christian

God’s Name

My second point is on God’s name. The Jehovah’s Witnesses greatly stress that God’s personal name is Jehovah, and that he should be known as such.

Firstly, we should understand there are many names for God in the bible.   

  • Elohim. “The first name we find of God in the Bible is Elohim. (Genesis 1:1). It is used over 2700 times in the Bible. The prefix "El" signifies  ‘one who is great, mighty, dreadful.’ It is also a plural word that suggests the fact that God is a Holy Trinity--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Some say that the word is related to the Hebrew word meaning ‘to swear’ and implies the covenant nature of God” ( sourced from “The Names of God.”)
  • El Shaddai. “El Shaddai (remember the song?) is another name for God. It is used 48 times in Scripture. It is always translated ‘The Almighty.’ The first time this name is used is in Genesis 17:1.” (sourced from “The names of God.”)
  •  Adonai. “A 3rd name that God uses for Himself is Adonai. It occurs about 300 times in the 
  • O.T. This name suggests Lordship and ownership. When God calls Himself by this name, 
  • Adonai, He is saying, ‘I am the One who owns and rules over everything that exists.’
  • Yahweh. “… The most frequently used name for God is YAHWEH or Jehovah. It occurs more than 6800 times in the Bible. … The Word literally means ‘I Am.’ It comes from the verb which means ‘to be’ or ‘to exist.’ In Ex. 3:14, when Moses asked God what His name was so he could tell the Israelites who had sent him, we read, ‘And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM [Yahweh, or Jehovah]: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.’”

Secondly, the name “Jehovah” is actually incorrect.
See, the ancient Hebrew the people of the bible wrote in had no vowels. Eventually, the Israelite scribes felt it would be helpful to add little dots around the letters, to help remind the reader of the exact pronunciation. We know these as vowel points.
Traditionally, whenever they found YHWH in their text—God’s name in Hebrew—they would add the vowel points for the name Adonai—meaning Lord—to remind the reader that God’s Name was not to be pronounced. They usually did this so no one would take his name in vain. (Hence, why a lot of bibles say “LORD” instead of Yahweh or Jehovah)

However, around 1500, translators for the first English bible mistook Adonai’s vowel points for YHWH. The jumbled letterings resulted in the mistranslated name “Jehovah.”
Yahweh, on the other hand, is probably the very closest we can get to pronouncing God’s name correctly. However, it is inaccurate as well, seeing how there’s no “w” sound in ancient Hebrew. (sourced from “Hebrew names for God,” and “a simple overview of the divine name.”)

The 144,000


My third point is that their teaching on the 144,000 is false as well. The Witnesses take this from 

Revelation 7:4, but let’s look at the entire verse in its context. 
Revelation 7:1-5:
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
Notice how it says the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel. The Israelites, at that time, were all Jews. Anyone not a Jew was considered a Gentile. If the number of people sealed were supposed to represent a number of Jehovah’s Witnesses, then the text would have said 144,000 Gentiles. 

So most likely, the 144,000 is a reference to the Jewish people, not Christians or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Verses 5-9 go as far to name the exact number of Jews sealed from each tribe.

Even if Revelation 7:4 was referring to non-Jewish people, that number would have probably been reached during the first century. For more detailed information on this, check out this article I found here. [link to “The Jehovah’s Witnesses Version of the 144,000”]

The Cross

Next up is the cross. As stated above, the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus was crucified on a torture stake—not a cross, and that the symbol was an invention of Roman Emperor Constantine. Therefore, they reject the cross as a symbol, teaching it is pagan in origin. However, none of these statements are correct.

Firstly, history and archaeology largely debunk this theory.
The first-century Jewish historian Josephus gives us many confirmations of Jesus, biblical history and Roman crucifixion in his writings. Although he mentions various positions and cross shapes during the Siege of Jerusalem, including the single upright stake;[sourced from Wikipedia] Josephus gives an exclusive account of Jesus’ death, included below.
“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, (9) those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; (10) And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.” (source: http://religiousstudies.uncc.edu/people/jtabor/cruc-josephus.html) [Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 3, 3]
Josephus described Jesus being condemned to a cross, not a stake. Much of what we know of the Romans during Jesus’ time comes from Josephus. If Jesus was executed on a stake, he would have said so.

The bible refutes this false doctrine as well. Consider John 20:25, quoted below.
So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “If I don’t see the mark of the nails in His hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe!” (HCSB translation, emphasis added)
If Jesus was killed on a single stake, his hands would probably be placed above his head, forcing them to overlap, with a single nail driven through them both.
But notice how Thomas recalls “the mark of the nails(plural) in His hands,(plural)”
Taking John 20:25 into account, it would make more sense to believe that Jesus was crucified on a cross, with outstretched arms. That would require multiple nails per arm, which agrees with the bible, and is backed up by historical evidence, unlike the torture stake theory. [source, "did jesus die on a stake or cross?' @carm.]

But wait, if Jesus died on a cross, why didn’t early Christians use it as a Christian symbol?
Well, for many centuries the Christians were under some form of persecution. Roman Emperor Nero blamed them for a horrible fire that broke out in Rome in 64 AD, bringing hatred and persecution on the Christians. The Emperor afterwards used a screwy law system, forcing Christians that appeared in court either renounce Jesus—or be charged with the crime of rebellion. Emperor Septimius Severus severely persecuted the Christians when they refused allegiance to the sun god, in order to create a stronger and unified Rome. (The Bible in World History, pg. 252-255)
With that said, it is quite obvious that early Christians wouldn't use the cross as a Christian symbol. That’d be the equivalent of screaming “HEY! SOLDIERS! WE’RE CHRISTIANS! COME GET US WHILE WE’RE FRESH!” Usually, they used the Ichthus; AKA, the fish. It was harder for officials to detect, and therefore safer to use.
When Emperor Constantine came into power; he converted to Christianity, stopping all Christian persecution. This allowed Christians to come out of hiding, and actually be public with their beliefs. When Constantine introduced the cross symbol—representing the literal wooden cross Jesus died on—I can imagine many Christians eager to show it off, because they could now be public about their faith without having to worry about persecution.

So no, the early first century Christians did not use the cross and a Christian symbol. Despite the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it wasn't because the cross was pagan in origin, because Jesus did in fact die on a cross. I believe it was simply because the cross was just too obvious. It would be suicide, and an unnecessary risk of a Christian and their fellow Believers’ lives.

Overall, the doctrine on Jesus’ death by torture stake simply reveals lack of historical knowledge and biblical detail. Research and analysis show the doctrine for what it really is—a false teaching.

1914

My last point is the Jehovah's Witnesses' 1914 prophecy.

Background  
A belief that is unique to Jehovah's Witnesses is that the eschatological events predicted in Revelation began in 1914. This is when God gave Jesus his Kingdom, and Jesus has been ruling from heaven ever since. At this time Jesus threw Satan and his demons out of heaven and down to earth, which is why, according to Witnesses, the world has been getting progressively worse since 1914. {12}] (sourced from religionfacts.com)
According to the JW website, King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, mentioned in Daniel 4:10-18, symbolized the future of God's kingdom. 
According to scripture, in this dream Nebuchadnezzar saw a massive tree—a tree so enormous and so incredible that it could be seen from all the ends of the earth. It provided abundant fruit, enough to feed all the people in his kingdom. It gave shelter to the animals, and birds lived on its branches.
Suddenly, an angel appeared, calling out to cut the tree down, only leaving the stump bound in iron and bronze. The angel then said “Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times pass by for him.” [Dn. 4:15-16] 
After that, Nebuchadnezzar woke up, and asked Daniel to interpret the dream for him.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses say that glorious tree Nebuchadnezzar saw represented Jerusalem, which was a symbol God’s kingdom on earth. The seven times the angel mentioned were actually 2,520 years, from the sack of Jerusalem in 607 BC, [represented by the tree being chopped down] to 1914, exactly 2,520 years later. Because of this belief, the JW’s believe Jesus officially became King in 1914, restoring God’s kingdom and fulfilling the prophecy. (Sorry if that’s a bit hard to understand, it can be somewhat confusing.)

However, there are four major flaws with this prophecy.

False interpretation

Firstly, when Daniel interprets King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, he doesn't mention anything about God’s kingdom or Jerusalem itself. Daniel made it very clear the tree represented Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom. Daniel didn't mention Jerusalem or their sack by Babylon anywhere. He’s saying the dream is a prediction of what will happen if Nebuchadnezzar keeps living the way he is. God’s kingdom isn’t represented in the dream anywhere. Neither is Jerusalem, or any twentieth-century date. The 1914 doctrine simply misuses this passage in an attempt to justify itself. [see Daniel 4:19-27]

Biblically inaccurate

Secondly, recall that in Daniel 4:16, the angel announces that Nebuchadnezzar will be given the mind of an animal “till seven times pass by for him.” If they were 2,520 years long, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim, then Nebuchadnezzar would have died insane. But in Daniel 4:34, Nebuchadnezzar’s sanity is restored, signifying that the seven times had passed. This shows that the seven times had to be within the length of a lifetime, most likely around seven years.

Historically inaccurate 

Thirdly, Jerusalem didn't fall in 607 BC. It fell sometime between 586 and 587 BC, around twenty years earlier. Public sources such as Wikipedia and Encyclopedia.com confirm this date, along with general ancient history and archaeology. So even the Jehovah’s Witness organization got the prophecy right, with all the details biblically accurate; it still would have been off by twenty years.

Contradicts scripture

Finally, Jesus wouldn't boast about something he didn't already have. In Matthew 28:18, Jesus tells His disciples “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Why would Jesus make such a claim, if He wouldn't be made King for another two thousand years? That would like me claiming I have a diploma, despite not yet finishing the tenth grade. If Jesus is who the bible says He is; He wouldn't boast about something He didn't already have. That would be a sin, and 2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15, 1 Peter 2:22 and 1 John 3:5 all make it clear on whether Jesus sinned or not.  In short, either Jesus lied, which contradicts the bible; or Jesus spoke the truth, rendering the prophecy false. Simple as that.

The 1914 prophecy could not have happened without the bible contradicting itself. That's a hard fact. God's Word neither lies or contradicts, which means that the Jehovah's Witnesses prophecy is inaccurate on it's own. 

Conclusion

As a faith, Jehovah’s Witnesses is filled with contradictions, false teachings, biblical errors, and inconsistencies. Many of their doctrines disrespect Jesus, misquote the bible, ignore opposing evidence, deceive their members, and simply go against God’s word. But don’t get the religion mixed up with the people.

Like John 3:16 says, “So God loved the world—” He loves everyone, just like He loves you and me. Everyone is created in His image. As Romans 5:8 says, Jesus loved us while we were yet sinners. If God loved us when we were dead in our sins, what do you think He wants us to do concerning those of other faiths? God wants us to love them too!
The reason I wrote this post was so the truth would be spoken. There are so few people answering the call to speak up and show others the right way to go. God’s dealt with me personally on this, and it really hurts me to think of all the people dying, each and every day, who've never really known God. I've decided to actually do something about it.


Guys, Jehovah's Witnesses are people, too. Many of them are earnest, hardworking individuals who earnestly believe they're following GodWe, the Christians, need to put our backbones back in and be ready to witness to these people when we have the chance. So many Christians neglect them the true Gospel, either because of the stereotypes we hear or read on the internet, or because of fear of rejection or doubt that they'll listen. That is not how God would want us treating others.
God loves everyone, and it should burden our hearts to think of all the lost souls out there who have been mislead into pointless religions and philosophies such as Jehovah's Witnesses. It breaks God's heart. It if it breaks His, than it should break ours as well.


I may be coming off as rude or disrespectful; and if I am, feel free to harass me about it in the comments. But I’m trying to please my God, which quite frankly means offending a few people in the process.

I apologize if you are offended, and I pray God will help you overcome your offense and allow you to see the truth. But I’m not watering it down or taking back anything I said. God’s charged me with the responsibility of proclaiming the truth. You may not like me for it, but what’s what I’m going to do.


Have a great day and God bless. :]

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” –John 8:82

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” -1 Peter 3:15


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