More Stumpers for the Jehovah's Witnesses
Some core beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) were examined in our tract entitled Stumpers for Jehovah’s Witnesses. In this "sequel" tract, we will examine some additional beliefs and teachings of the Watchtower Society (WTS), the parent organization of the JWs.
1. Are Jesus and Michael the Archangel Really the Same Person?
One of the most peculiar of the WTS’s teachings is their assertion that Jesus is actually Michael the Archangel. If the JW has difficulty explaining any particular doctrine, it will be this one. Even JWs will admit that if one were to have walked up to any of the apostles or disciples of Christ and asked them who Jesus was, they would not have said, "Well, he’s Michael the Archangel!" Not only was the very idea was unheard of before Charles Taze Russell (the founder of the WTS), but the Bible explicitly rejects the possibility of it.
For example, the author of Hebrews states, "To which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my son? . . . Let all the angels of God worship him. . . . Your throne, O God, stands firm forever. . . . O Lord, you established the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands’ . . . to which of the angels has he ever said ‘Sit at my right hand . . . ’" (Heb. 1). Here, the author of Hebrews separates Jesus from angels, and commands the angels to worship him (cf. Rev. 5:13-14,14:6-7). The obvious problem is this: Archangels are creatures, but the Bible forbids any creature to worship another creature. Thus, either the Bible is in error by commanding the angels to worship an archangel, or Jesus is uncreated and cannot be an archangel. Since this gave the JWs a tremendous problem, they even had to change their own Bible translation, called the New World Translation (NWT), to eliminate the references to worshipping Christ. (The 1950, 1961, and 1970 editions of the NWT read "worship" in Hebrews 1:6.) Beyond this, Jesus has the power to forgive sins and give eternal life, but no angel has this capacity.
2. Jesus: Creature of Creator?
The doctrine that most clearly sets the WTS apart from Christianity is its denial of the divinity of Christ. JWs maintain that Jesus is actually a creature—a highly exalted one at that—but not God himself. Scripturally, the evidence is not in their favor.
John 1:1 states unequivocally, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." This verse gave the JWs tremendous difficulty, and so in their own NWT they render the end of this verse as, "And the word was a god." One great difficulty with this translation is how it contradicts passages such as Deuteronomy 32:39, which says, "I alone, am God and there are no gods together with me." Further contradictions can be seen in Exodus 20:3, "Have no other gods besides me," and Isaiah 43:10, "Before me no god was formed nor shall there be any after me." When a particular translation so clearly opposes other verses in Scripture, one can know immediately that it is inaccurate.
In John 20:28 Thomas says to Jesus, "My Lord and my God." In the original Greek it literally reads, "The Lord of me and the God of me." It would be nothing short of blasphemy for Jesus not to rebuke Thomas if he was wrong. Jesus does nothing of the sort, but instead accepts Thomas’ profession of his identity as God.
The Bible indicates that God alone created the universe (Is. 44:24), and "he that constructed all things is God" (Heb. 3:4). However, Jesus created the heavens and the earth (Heb. 1:10). This passage by itself proves that Jesus is God, since an Old Testament reference to God (Ps. 102:26-28) is now given to him.
In John 8:58, Jesus takes the name of God, "I AM" (Ex. 3:15-18), and applies it to himself. Only God may use this title without b.aspheming (Ex. 20:7, Deut. 5:11), and the punishment for someone other than God to use the sacred "I AM" is stoning (Lev. 24:16). Thus in verse 59, Jesus’ audience picked up stones to kill him, because they correctly understood his use of "I AM" as his claim to being God and hence thought he was guilty of blasphemy. This verse also proved to be difficult for the JWs to combat, and so they changed "I AM" to "I have been." The Greek here isego eimi, which any first-semester Greek student can tell you means "I am." It should also be noted that it would be rather strange for people to stone Jesus for saying that he "had been."
JWs maintain that only Jehovah God may be prayed to. But Stephen prayed to Jesus in Acts 7:59, and so one must conclude that Jesus is God. Otherwise, Stephen b.asphemed while filled with the Holy Spirit (7:55). Now the JWs will assert that Stephen was praying as a result of the vision he originally beheld, where he saw God and Jesus in heaven (verse 55). However, verse 58 says that Stephen was dragged out of the city to be stoned, so clearly the vision had ended, for his stoning took place in a different location and at a later time. It is in the context of this later setting when Stephen clearly prays to Jesus that he might "receive [Stephen’s] spirit."
The WTS would have their followers believe that Jehovah and Jesus are necessarily different beings, though the Bible tells another story. Jesus is called Mighty God in Isaiah 9:6, and in the very next chapter the same title is given to Jehovah in verse 21. Other shared titles include: King of Kings (compare with Rev. 17:14), Lord of Lords (Deut. 10:17; Rev. 17:14), the only Savior (Is. 43:10-11; Acts 4:12), the First and the Last (Is. 44:6; Rev. 22:13), the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 1:8; Rev. 22:13-16), Rock (Is. 8:14; 1 Pet. 2:7-8), and Shepherd (Ps. 23:1; Heb. 13:20-21).
Jesus and Jehovah have much more in common than titles, though. They are both worshipped by angels (Heb. 1:6, Neh. 9:6). They are both unchanging (Heb. 13:8, Mal. 3:6). They both created the heavens and the earth (Heb. 1:10, Neh. 9:6) and are all-knowing (John 21:17, 1 John 3:20). Both give eternal life (John 10:28, 1 John 5:11), and judge the world (John 5:22, Ps. 96:13). To them every knee will bend and every tongue confess (Phil. 2:9-11, Is. 45:23).
3. Is the Holy Spirit a Force or God?
Since the WTS insists that the Trinity is unbiblical and false, they relegate the Holy Spirit to the role of God’s impersonal active force which compels believers to do his will. In fact, they compare the Holy Spirit (which they render as "holy spirit") to electricity.
The Bible begs to differ, though. There are numerous verses in the New Testament which clearly demonstrate both the personality and divinity of the Holy Spirit. For example, in Acts 13:2, the Holy Spirit says, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." In Acts 10:19-20, this "impersonal force" considers himself to be a person. John 16 supports this idea by referring to the Holy Spirit as a "he" 10 times in the same chapter. First Corinthians 12:11 states that the Holy Spirit "wills," which is an irrefutable attribute of personhood, as is the capacity to love we see demonstrated by the Spirit in Romans 15:30. Scripture also states that the Holy Spirit can: be lied to (Acts 5:3), speak (Acts 10:19-20), hear (John 16:13-15), know the future (Acts 21:11), testify (John 15:26), teach (John 14:26), reprove (John 16:8-11), pray and intercede (Rom. 8:26), guide (John 16:13), call (Acts 13:2), be grieved (Eph. 4:30), feel hurt (Is. 63:10), be outraged (Heb. 10:29), desire (Gal. 5:17) and be b.asphemed (Mark 3:29). Only a person is capable of these.
These examples demonstrate sufficiently that the Holy Spirit is a personal being, and so now one must demonstrate that he is God. Acts 5:1-4 teaches that a lie to the Holy Spirit is a lie to God himself. Isaiah 44:24 insists that God alone created the heavens and the earth, but Job 33:4 and Psalms 104:30 explains that the Holy Spirit created them. Only God is everlasting, and this is likewise an attribute Scripture gives the Holy Spirit (Heb. 9:14). The Jews put Jehovah to the test (Ex. 17:2), and the Holy Spirit takes the words of God, and claims they "tested and tried me" (Heb. 3:9). Unless the Holy Spirit is God, then he is an impostor. Again, in Hebrews 10:16, he claims to have placed his law in man’s hearts, though this was God’s work in Jeremiah 31:33. There is but one Lord (Eph. 4:5), and one Creator (Mal. 2:10), yet both the Father and the Spirit claim they are him (Matt. 11:25 and 2 Cor. 3:17; 1 Cor. 8:6 and Ps. 104:30). Only the Catholic understanding of the Trinity reconciles these passages.
4. Is There a Bodily Resurrection of Christ?
According to the WTS, "The man Jesus is dead, forever dead . . . " (Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 5, 454). "We deny that he was raised in the flesh, and challenge any statement to that effect as being unscriptural" (Studies, Vol. 7, 57). Jesus’ fleshly body "was disposed of by Jehovah God, dissolved into its constitutive elements or atoms" (The Watchtower, 9-1-1953, 518). "In order to convince Thomas of who he was, he used a body with wound holes" (You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, 145). He was raised as an invisible spirit creature, with no physical body (Reasoning From the Scriptures, 214-215).
However, according to Scripture, "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain, and you are still in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17). Jesus makes clear, even before death, that it is his body that will be raised up. He promises to raise up the temple once it is destroyed. "He was speaking about the temple of his body" (John 2:21). After he had risen, he gives the same testimony, "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; feel me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones just as you behold that I have. . . . Do you have something there to eat?" (Luke 24:39, 41). Jesus insists that Thomas place his finger into his wounded side, so as to prove that he had indeed risen from the dead (John 20:27). There is no question that Jesus had truly risen from the dead. No Christian was under the impression that he was invisibly raised as Michael the Archangel, while God the Father dissolved his natural body. Such a presumption is without historical or scriptural warrant, and the "proof is in the pudding": Ask the JW to show you a Scripture verse which backs up the WTS’s assertion about God disposing of Jesus’ body. He can’t, because there isn’t one.
5. Is Heaven Just for the "Anointed Class"?
The WTS teaches that only the anointed 144,000 seen in Revelation 7 will enter heaven (the "anointed class"), while the remainder that are not annihilated (the "other sheep") will live forever on earth in paradise. However, the Bible poses some irreconcilable difficulties with this idea.
If Revelation 7 is to be taken literally, there would only be 144,000 Jewish male virgins taken from a square shaped earth that are now in heaven worshipping a sheep. This would mean that Peter (not a virgin), the Blessed Mother (not a male), and Charles Taze Russell (not a Jew) could not be in heaven. Reading one number literally while taking the rest of a book symbolically is not sound exegesis. Beyond this, we see in Revelation 14 that the 144,000 stand before the 24 elders from Revelation 4:4. This at least brings the grand total to 144,024 people. But, the Scriptures indicate that there are still more to come. Revelation 7:9 speaks of a countless multitude before the throne, which is in heaven (Rev. 14:2-3). Still in the book of Revelation, we read that all those with their name in the book of life are in heaven (Rev. 21:27), while all whose names are not in the book of life are thrown into the pool of fire (Rev. 20:15). There is no third "earthly" class. Jesus reiterates this, and never speaks of two flocks. He has one bride, whose "reward is great in heaven" (Luke 6:23). Paul even exhorts the Christian community, calling them to remember, "As for us, our citizenship exists in the heavens" (Phil. 3:20).
The JWs attempt to use verses such as Psalms 37:29 as evidence that the just are to inherit the land forever, which is earth. In context, this refers to inheriting the promised land as a sign of God’s blessing in the Old Testament. But, Hebrews 11:8-16 indicates that there is a homeland better than the promised land on earth, and this is the heavenly one for those who die in faith. The Old Testament patriarchs "publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land . . . they are earnestly seeking a place of their own. . . . But now they are reaching out for a better [place], that is, one belonging to heaven. . . . God . . . has made a city ready for them. . . .These [OT men and women] did not get the [fulfillment of the] promise . . . as God foresaw something better for us" (Heb. 11:13-16,39-40). Even the footnote of the NWT makes clear that the "city" spoken of in these verses is the heavenly Jerusalem mentioned in Hebrews 12:22 and Revelation 21:2. But, the Watchtower still maintains that no one that lived before Christ will ever enter heaven. "The apostle Paul in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews names a long list of faithful men who died before the crucifixion of the Lord. . . . These can never be a part of the heavenly class" (Millions Now Living, p. 89). Only the 144,000 elite that all lived after the death of Christ will supposedly go to heaven. Matthew 8:11-12 provides severe difficulties for this idea, since Jesus proclaims, "many from eastern parts and western parts will come and recline at the table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens; whereas the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the darkness outside. There is where [their] weeping and the gnashing of [their] teeth will be." No verse could be clearer in declaring that the patriarchs are in heaven. The following verses all demonstrate that Christians go to heaven, and do not remain on earth: 2 Corinthians 5:1; Hebrews 3:1; Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 1:4-5; 1 Peter 1:4.
NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004
IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004