Beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses



What do Jehovah's Witnesses believe?

life in Hebrew
"The Watchtower"
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The religious beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses are in some ways similar to those of orthodox Christians, but in other ways they are quite different. For example, Jehovah's Witnesses believe in one God, the authority of the Bible (i.e. The New World Translation), and they emphasize the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in their teachings. (Learn more about The New World Translation.)

Yet the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses differ from mainstream Christianity as well. Most notably they reject the doctrine of the Trinity and the existence of Hell. Witnesses also have stronger apocalyptic expectations than most Christians. Since the founding of the group, Witnesses have been expecting the imminent arrival of Armageddon and the end times. (See the Trinity, Hell, and The End Times in mainstream Christianity)

The following article summarizes the doctrines of Jehovah's Witnesses, noting where they agree and disagree with mainstream Christian doctrines.



Bible and Jehovah's Witnesses

In agreement with most orthodox Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses affirm the full inspiration of the Bible by God and the preservation of its copies over the centuries. Witnesses see the Bible as a gift from God that tells humans about what God is like, how to cope with problems, and how to please God. [1] Witnesses use a special translation of the Bible - The New World Translation, which sometimes translates key passages, such as those about the nature of Jesus Christ, differently than other reputable English-language Bible translations. (Compare John 1:1-3 and Philippians 2:5-8 in the New World Translation and the King James Version or the New International Version.)

God in Jehovah's Witnesses doctrine

Jehovah's Witnesses believe in one God, the Creator of the universe and the God of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. They stress the fact that God has revealed his personal name to humanity, which is Jehovah. Jehovah has a spirit body and lives in heaven, but sees all things. Jehovah's Witnesses reject the doctrine of the Trinity. [2]

Jesus Christ in Jehovah's Witnesses belief

Jehovah's Witnesses disagree with the mainstream Christian belief that Jesus was "fully God, fully man." Witnesses teach that Jesus was not God, but rather God's first creation. Jesus existed in pre-human form as God's agent of creation and God's chief spokesman (the Word), and took on human form as the man Jesus by means of a virgin birth. (See Jesus Christ in Christianity)

The purpose of Jesus' incarnation on earth was threefold in the view of Witnesses: (1) To teach the truth about God; (2) to provide a model of a perfect life for people to follow; and (3) to sacrifice his life to set humans free from sin and death. His crucifixion was not on a cross, but a single upright stake. After his death, God raised Jesus from the dead "as a spirit creature" and Jesus returned to his home in heaven. Jesus was not made King, however, until 1914. (See End Times below.) [3]

The Holy Spirit according to Jehovah's Witnesses

In accordance with their rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity, Witnesses disagree with mainstream Christianity that the Holy Spirit is one of the three Persons in the Godhead. Instead, they believe the Holy Spirit to be "God's active force." [4] (See the Holy Spirit in Christianity)

Human Nature

Like most Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses trace humanity's current situation to the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden. The disobedience of the first couple caused death to enter the world, and as a result, all human beings get sick, age, and die. This is against God's plan, which was to make the entire Earth a paradise. [5]

However, Witnesses do not emphasize the spiritual consequences of Adam's sin on humanity nor they teach that human free will has been damaged. Rather, Witnesses expect and encourage their members to strive to do God's will and remain pure in his eyes. [6]

Meaning of Life and Salvation

For Jehovah's Witnesses, the purpose of life is to earn the right to participate in God's future Kingdom on earth, and to help others to do so. Witnesses therefore focus on living a moral, acceptable life before God and witnessing about their faith to others. [7] (See Salvation in Christianity)

Witnesses believe that salvation was made possible through Christ's death, who made up for the sin of Adam. {8} But eternal life comes not simply from faith in Jesus but from "learning about Jehovah and obeying his requirements," proving oneself to be God's loyal subject, and listening to the Kingdom message and acting on it. {9}

Afterlife

Jehovah's Witnesses deny the existence of hell. Instead, they hold that the souls of the wicked will be annihilated. The death that Adam brought into the world is spiritual as well as physical, and only those who gain entrance into the Kingdom of God will exist eternally. However, this division will not occur until Armageddon, when all people will be resurrected and given a chance to gain eternal life. In the meantime, "the dead are conscious of nothing." [10]

Witnesses also have a slightly different view of heaven than mainstream Christianity. Based on their reading of prophetic books like Daniel and Revelation, Jehovah's Witnesses believe that only 144,000 people will go to heaven to rule with God and Jesus. The remainder of the righteous will enjoy paradise on earth - a restored Garden of Eden in which there is no sickness, old age, death or unhappiness. [11]

End Times

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]

Jehovah's Witnesses look forward to a theocracy, in which all human governments are abolished and God rules the entire earth himself. This is expected to occur soon. Although Witnesses once predicted specific dates for this event, they now state that "the Bible does not give a date for these events, but it provides evidence to show that we are living in 'the last days' of this troubled world." [13]

Other Religions

Jehovah's Witnesses consider themselves true Christians, but most mainstream Christians do not agree that they are. The feeling is mutual, however: Jehovah's Witnesses deny that other Christian groups are true Christians.

"Christendom" is defined as that part of the world where Christianity prevails. It is largely the Western world with its church systems, which from about the fourth century C.E. became prominent. ...

The nations and churches of Christendom were not, and are not, Christian. They are not God's servants. His inspired Word says of them: "They publicly declare they know God, but they disown him by their works, because they are detestable and disobedient and not approved for good work of any sort. (Titus 1:16) {14}


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References
  1. "How You Can Find Out What God Requires." Official Site of Jehovah's Witnesses.
  2. "Who is God?" Official Site of Jehovah's Witnesses.
  3. "Who is Jesus Christ?" and "Beliefs and Customs That Displease God." Official Site of Jehovah's Witnesses.
  4. "Who is God?" Official Site of Jehovah's Witnesses.
  5. "What is God's Purpose for the Earth?" Official Site of Jehovah's Witnesses.
  6. "God's Servants Must be Clean." Official Site of Jehovah's Witnesses.
  7. "Helping Others to Do God's Will." Official Site of Jehovah's Witnesses.
  8. "Who is Jesus Christ?" Official Site of Jehovah's Witnesses.
  9. "What is God's Purpose for the Earth?" and "What is the Kingdom of God?" Official Site of Jehovah's Witnesses. See also "God's Servants Must be Clean" on the importance of good works. See "Beliefs: God, Man, and the Future" for a reference to faith, and "Beliefs-FAQ" on the chance for resurrected dead to be saved.
  10. "What is God's Purpose for the Earth?" Official Site of Jehovah's Witnesses. See also "Beliefs: God, Man, and the Future" - Jehovah's Witnesses Office of Public Information; and "What Has Happened to Hellfire?" Watchtower, July 15, 2002.
  11. "What is the Kingdom of God?" Official Site of Jehovah's Witnesses.
  12. Ibid.
  13. "Beliefs: God, Man, and the Future" - Jehovah's Witnesses Office of Public Information. See also "Jehovah's Witnesses," Encyclopaedia Britannica Premium Service.
  14. "Christendom Has Betrayed God and the Bible." Official Site of Jehovah's Witnesses.