Jehovah's WitnessJehovah's Witnesses is a religious organization headquartered in the United States, Brooklyn, New York, with nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from orthodox Christianity. The organization reports worldwide membership of over 7.65 million adherents involved in "evangelism", convention attendance of over 12 million, and annual Memorial attendance of over 19.3 million.
Here are the basics of the Jehovah's Witness Watchtower doctrine: God is a single being, not a Trinity. He is not all-knowing or present everywhere. First, God created Michael the Archangel, through whom God later created all "other things," such as the earth, the universe, and all mankind. This process took place over exactly 42,000 years. When it was time for the birth of a savior, Michael became a man, in the form of Jesus Christ.
- The Historical Background
- The Basic Theology
- Distinctive Beliefs of the Jehovah's Witnesses
- 1914 – The Generation That Will Not Pass Away
- Tools to Convert a Jehovah's Witness
Jehovah Witness doctrine was founded by Charles Taze Russell. He was only 18 years old when he began a Bible study that focused on the second coming of Jesus, as well as the chronology of the Bible. As a result of his study, which took place around 1870, he published numerous books. During that decade, he also presented several formal lectures. In 1879, Russell founded Herald of Christ's Presence and Zion's Watch Tower, which became monthly publications. In 1884, the Zion's Watch Tower and Tract Society were officially formed. Russell served as the president until he died in 1916. Russell also authored a series of books called "Studies in the Scriptures," which became the basis of the Jehovah Witness theology. Today, several men lead the Jehovah's Witness "theocratic" organization, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WBTS). The organization is based in Brooklyn, New York.
Here are the basics of the Jehovah's Witness Watchtower doctrine: God is a single being, not a Trinity. He is not all-knowing or present everywhere. (At one point, the WBTS proclaimed that God ruled the universe from somewhere in the Pleiades star system. They have since backed down from this teaching.) First, God created Michael the Archangel, through whom God later created all "other things," such as the earth, the universe, and all mankind. This process took place over exactly 42,000 years. When it was time for the birth of a savior, Michael became a man, in the form of Jesus Christ. He was without sin and kept every law of God. According to Jehovah's Witness theology, Jesus was put to death on a "torture stake." It is here that He bore the sins of all mankind (except for Adam). Later, Jesus rose from death in spirit, but did not rise in physical form. Jehovah's Witnesses who faithfully abide by God's organization on earth (the WBTS) will be spared from eternal annihilation. They will live forever on Paradise Earth. Heaven is a special place that is reserved for a distinct group of 144,000 Jehovah's Witnesses, who have been deemed "born again" by the WBTS and are allowed to take annual communion. Generally, Jehovah's Witnesses agree to attend five meetings a week where they are taught from WBTS literature. After studying the material for at least six months, they answer a series of questions before a panel of elders, and upon approval, are baptized into the organization. Followers are then asked to maintain a modest appearance and demeanor, refusing to vote in government elections, salute the American flag, join the U.S. armed forces, or celebrate birthdays and Christmas. Each member is required to fulfill a schedule of public canvassing in order to distribute WBTS literature and collect donations for WBTS headquarters in New York. If a Jehovah's Witness leaves the organization, he is shunned in all ways. Outside the WBTS organization, "Christendom" is considered "demonic." Christianity is deemed "apostate," filled with pastors who are antichrists, in churches run by Satan, who support the earthly governments.
The Jehovah's Witnesses are quite forthcoming about their religious beliefs. Their religion, unlike Mormonism, isn't an esoteric one with secret doctrines known only to an initiated few. When Mormons come to your door, they don't tell you that they believe in many gods, that Jesus and Lucifer were "spirit brothers," and that dark skin (in the case of blacks, Indians, and Hispanics) is
supposedly a curse from God in punishment for wickedness. If they told you such things up front, you'd close the door immediately. Such teachings are saved for initiates. Thus, Mormonism is an esoteric religion (Webster: "esoteric: designed for or understood by the specially initiated alone"). The religion of the Jehovah's Witnesses, on the other hand, is exoteric (Webster: "suitable to be imparted to the public"). They're happy to tell you up front exactly what they believe, and they tell you not just when at your door, but in their publications. In their booklet entitled Jehovah's Witnesses in the Twentieth Century, for example, may be found a chart titled "What Jehovah's Witnesses Believe." This chart list beliefs and the supposed scriptural authority for them.
Let's examine some of the beliefs, which are peculiar to the Jehovah's Witnesses. (In this tract we give scriptural passages from the Revised Standard Version, a sound Bible translation that is recognized by Catholics and Protestants alike. Bear in mind that the Witnesses' use their own "in-house" Bible called the New World Translation (NWT), though it is regarded by Greek and Hebrew scholars as an extraordinarily poor and highly inaccurate translation. There are many places where it is not faithful to the Hebrew and Greek, especially where the text fails to support and often openly contradicts the Witnesses' peculiar doctrines. In addition, the five members of the translation committee for the NWT completely lack credentials as Bible scholars. Four of them never studied the biblical languages, and the fifth studied non-biblical Greek for a short period.)
Is Christ God?
"Christ is God's Son and is inferior to him." Given in support of this position are these verses: "And lo, a voice from heaven, saying, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased'" (Matt. 3:17). "I proceeded and came forth from God" (John 8:42). "If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I" (John 14:28). "I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (John 20:17). "The head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor. 11:3). "When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things under him, that God may be everything to every one" (1 Cor. 15:28).
At first glance these citations seem imposing. It does seem that Christ is inferior to God the Father in some sense. But the New Testament also has verses which clearly show Christ and the Father to be equals. For example, there is John 10:30: "I and the Father are one." Or, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Or, "All that the Father has is mine" (John 16:15). Or, "The Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God" (John 5:18). Or, "[Jesus], though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped" (Phil. 2:6). These seem to contradict the other verses.
How do we make sense of all this? By keeping in mind that Jesus is both God and man. Some verses, such as these last five, refer exclusively to his Godhead. Others refer to his humanity. So far as he is God, Jesus is equal to the Father. To focus on this aspect of Christ's human nature to the exclusion of his divine nature is a gross misunderstanding of who and what the Bible says Jesus Christ is. Other verses cited by the Witnesses, such as Matthew 3:17, show merely that Christ is God's Son, not that he is inferior (in fact, John 5:18 shows that being God's Son is being equal to God).
Was Christ Created?
"Christ was the first of God's creations." Verses cited by Witnesses in support of this claim include: "He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation" (Col. 1:15). "And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: 'The words of the Amen [Christ], the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation'" (Rev. 3:14).
In the first of the two verses, Witnesses think that "first-born" implies succession and inferiority. But the title "first-born" refers to Christ's place as the chief and unique Son of God (cf. Rom. 8:29).
Further, the Greek of this verse can also be translated as "the first-born over all creation," as in the New International Version of the Bible. Regarding the second verse from Revelation, it's hard to see how it helps the Witnesses at all. It merely says Christ was the source of creation. This implies Christ is divine, since God created everything. In John 1:1–3: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made", this passage shows that the Son is not a creature because all created things were made through him, and no created things were made except through him.
"Wicked will be eternally destroyed" (that is, no hell, just annihilation). Verses given in support: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels . . . And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (Matt. 25:41, 46). (The NWT renders Matthew 25:46 as "And these will depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones into everlasting life." This is one example of many where the NWT distorts the text to suit the Witnesses' beliefs.) "They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might" (2 Thess. 1:9).
You can see for yourself that these verses actually prove the opposite of what the Witnesses teach, that is, they prove the existence of hell. This is compounded when Revelation says of the damned: "And the smoke of their torment goes up for ever 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" (Rev. 14:11). If they are not given any rest, day or night, then obviously they are still around to experience torment.
No Blood Transfusions!
"Taking blood into the body through mouth or veins violates God's laws." The Jehovah's Witnesses are perhaps best known to other Americans as people who won't allow themselves or their children to have blood transfusions. In fact, they will go so far as to allow a loved one to die rather than accept a transfusion, as they believe transfusions are a gross violation of God's law. They support this notion with these verses: "Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood" (Gen. 9:4). "You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood" (Lev. 17:14). "For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity" (Acts 15:28, 29).
There are several problems with interpreting these verses to mean that transfusions are forbidden, not the least of which is the fact that the context is referring to animal blood, not human blood. Moreover, there is a great difference between eating blood and receiving a life-giving blood transfusion. Eating blood was wrong because it profaned the life of the animal. But for a person to willingly share his blood intravenously in order to share life with someone does not profane anything. Indeed, even ultra-Orthodox Jews, who strictly observe the Old Testament kosher laws, recognize that blood transfusions are not prohibited by the command not to eat blood.
The Witnesses must avoid other problematic passages that deal with God's prohibition of eating blood because these passages include a prohibition against eating fat. Witnesses do not believe eating fat is wrong, and would see no problem at all with fried pork rinds (i.e., deep-fried pieces of pig fat) or sitting down to dinner and eating a fatty cut of prime rib. But their vehement opposition to eating blood, when contrasted with their approval of eating fat, presents a serious problem for them. Why? Because Leviticus, the book they go to in order to substantiate their prohibition of eating (and receiving transfusions of) blood, contains, in the same passages, prohibitions against eating fat. Consider these examples: "It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither fat nor blood" (Lev. 3:17). "The Lord said to Moses, 'Say to the people of Israel, You shall eat no fat, of ox, or sheep, or goat. The fat of an animal that dies of itself, and the fat of one that is torn by beasts, may be put to any other use, but on no account shall you eat it. For every person who eats of the fat of an animal of which an offering by fire is made to the Lord shall be cut off from his people. Moreover you shall eat no blood whatever, whether of fowl or of animal, in any of your dwellings. Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people'" (Lev 7:22–27).
These verses and others like them are difficult for Witnesses to explain, given that they lean heavily on the prohibitions against eating blood. It's totally inconsistent to maintain that God's "perpetual statute" against eating blood must be observed, while his "perpetual statute" (that appears in the very same context) against eating fat can be safely ignored. On this subject, as on many others, the Witnesses are highly selective and must ignore much of the Bible in order to make their beliefs seem "biblical." Also, the Old Testament dietary laws simply don't apply to Christians today (cf. Col. 2:16–17, 22), and the ones given at the Council of Jerusalem passed into disuse as Jewish conversions to Christianity became uncommon toward the end of the first century and the Church became mainly Gentile. They weren't immutable doctrines, but disciplinary rules.
"A clergy class and special titles are improper." In support of this position, Witnesses refer to these verses: "I will not show partiality to any person or use flattery toward any man" (Job 32:21). "But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ" (Matt. 23:8–10). "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave" (Matt. 20:25–27).
These verses simply show our Lord was saying we shouldn't give to men credit for what really comes to us from God the Father and that his followers should be willing to serve. But Jesus shouldn't be understood in a crassly literal way. If Matthew 23:9 were taken that way, you'd have trouble finding a title for the man who married your mother. Furthermore, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul called himself the father of the church he founded in Corinth: "For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (1 Cor. 4:15). He also referred, under divine inspiration, to Timothy as "my son" (1 Tim. 1:18, 2 Tim. 2:1), but if he could call Timothy "my son" then Timothy could call him "my father," so long as he didn't confuse Paul's fatherhood with the kind of Fatherhood God has (Matt. 23:9).
The Witnesses also ignore Scripture's teaching concerning the authority of Church leaders and the appropriate honor that's due them because of their office: "Respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and...esteem them very highly in love because of their work" (1 Thess. 5:12–13), "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor . . . " (1 Tim. 5:17), and "Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you" (Heb. 13:17).
In summary, then, understand that the Witnesses' use of the Bible typically involves two main problems. First, they quote passages out of context, highlighting only those verses which appear to support their beliefs, while ignoring others which contradict those beliefs. Second, their own NWT often distorts the text so as to support their beliefs. Be wary, then, when the Witnesses come to your door.
Documentation on the Watch Tower Society's prophecies regarding the '1914 generation' -- "The Generation That Will Not Pass Away" -- and how the Society modified and eventually abandoned those prophecies.
First, before we get into the many false prophecies of the Watchtower, let's see a verse from the Bible what it teaches about false prophets:
"But the prophet, who being corrupted with pride, shall speak in my name things that I did not command him to say, or in the name of strange gods, shall be slain." Deuteronomy 18:20 – Douay-Rheims Bible (DRB)
"the Creator's promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away." —Awake! magazine [Awake! is a monthly illustrated magazine published by Jehovah's Witnesses via the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania], page 4, thru October 22, 1995
…has now been reworded to say…
"the Creator's promise of a peaceful and secure new world that is about to replace the present wicked, lawless system of things."—Awake! November 8, 1995, page 4
'New truths' in the November 1, 1995 Watchtower magazine change the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses concerning "the generation that saw the events of 1914," and the November 8, 1995 Awake! drops that magazine's long-standing prophecy.
Ever since the late 1940's Awake! magazine had been promising the "sure hope for the establishment of a righteous New World" on page 2 of each issue. Then in 1964 it added the thought that this would happen "in this generation"—"…reflecting sure hope for the establishment of God's righteous new order in this generation."
In 1975 it was no longer Awake! magazine's promise but now became the Creator's promise: "…the Creator's promise of a new order of lasting peace and true security within our generation."—January 8, 1975
It was a very serious step to add this expression, "the Creator's promise," since it meant that the Watchtower Society (the magazine's publisher) was now prophesying in the Creator's name—in God's name. The Creator warns in the Bible against doing this without receiving a command from Him to do so:
But the prophet, who being corrupted with pride, shall speak in my name things that I did not command him to say, or in the name of strange gods, shall be slain.  And if in silent thought thou answer: How shall I know the word that the Lord hath not spoken?  Thou shalt have this sign: Whatsoever that same prophet foretelleth in the name of the Lord, and it cometh not to pass: that thing the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath forged it by the pride of his mind: and therefore thou shalt not fear him. —Deuteronomy 18:20-22 (DRB)
Did the Creator really command the Society to say that He promised the new order would come "within our generation"?
Elsewhere, the Society specified more precisely what it meant by "our generation":
"Jesus was obviously speaking about those who were old enough to witness with understanding what took place when the 'last days' began.… Even if we presume that youngsters 15 years of age would be perceptive enough to realize the import of what happened in 1914, it would still make the youngest of 'this generation' nearly 70 years old today.… Jesus said that the end of this wicked world would come before that generation passed away in death." —Awake! October 8, 1968, pages 13-14
In 1982 the Watchtower Society changed the prophecy on page 2 of each Awake! issue to include the same thought about 1914. It was no longer a vague "our generation" that would see the world's end, but the generation that saw the events of 1914: "…the Creator's promise of a peaceful and secure new order before the generation that saw the events of 1914 C.E. passes away." (January 8, 1982)
Nearly identical wording repeated the same prophecy in each issue until January 8, 1987, when Awake! magazine's statement of purpose was moved to page 4 in a redesigned format. Starting with that issue, the 1914 generation prophecy was dropped entirely.
Then it was restored on page 4 of the March 8, 1988 issue—"…the Creator's promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away"—wording that continued to appear through October, 1995.
By then, however, the generation that saw the events of 1914 had largely passed away. All that remained were a relatively few surviving individuals in their late 90's—people nearly a hundred years old. Obviously, the prophecy had failed.
Continuing to print it as spiritual food for Jehovah's Witnesses was like serving meat or milk long after the "sell before" date stamped on the package. Like spoiled food, the expired prophecy began to stink. JW leaders in Brooklyn finally replaced it in the November 8, 1995 Awake! by returning to language similar to that used prior to 1964. Awake! now declares "…the Creator's promise of a peaceful and secure new world that is about to replace the present wicked, lawless system of things."
A Series of Revisions
Actually the prophecy on page 4 of each Awake! is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. It is the most prominent part of a whole chronological system of Bible interpretation that has proved false. This is the most noticeable revision, so far, in a process of changing beliefs that has only just begun.
The October 15, 1995 Watchtower (pages 22-23) changes the Watchtower Society's interpretation of when Christ sits down to separate sheep from goats at Matthew 25:31-33. It transforms this from a process that began when Christ allegedly returned invisibly and became king in 1914 to a future event associated with his judging mankind at the Battle of Armageddon.
The old teaching is presented clearly in the Society's 1982 book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth (page 183 original edition):
Yes, since Christ returned and sat down on his heavenly throne, all humankind has been on judgment… During the present judgment people are being separated as "goats" to Christ's left hand or as "sheep" to his right.
The October 15, 1995 Watchtower (pages 22-23) rejects this interpretation and substitutes a new one:
Does this parable apply when Jesus sat down in kingly power in 1914, as we have long understood?...
... the parable points to the future when the Son of man will come in his glory. He will sit down to judge...
Understanding the parable of the sheep and the goats in this way indicates that the rendering of judgment on the sheep and the goats is future. It will take place after "the tribulation" mentioned at Matthew 24:29, 30 breaks out and the Son of man 'arrives in his glory.'
The change introduced here is two-fold. The Society re-interprets Matthew 25:31-32 so that
(1) Christ's sitting down on his throne does not refer to his becoming king in 1914, as the Society has long taught. Instead, it refers to his sitting as judge during the future great tribulation.
(2) The separating of the sheep from the goats is also a future event—even though JWs had long been taught that their preaching work was accomplishing that separation right now and throughout much of this century.
"Yes, all mankind is being scrutinized to see who are 'sheep' and who are 'goats.' ...the messages are broadcast by human mouthpieces under angelic direction. A person is identified as a 'sheep' or as a 'goat' by the way he responds to the angelic messages. During this 20th century, only Jehovah's Witnesses have cooperated with the angels in this vital work."--The Watchtower January 1, 1988, page 16
Even more significant is the 'new truth' introduced in the November 1, 1995 issue of The Watchtower. On pages 17-19 it changes the Society's interpretation of Jesus' words at Matthew 24:34, "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened." (NIV)
On page 17 it admits that "Jehovah's people have at times speculated about the time when the 'great tribulation' would break out, even tying this to calculations of what is the lifetime of a generation since 1914." Now it says, instead (page 17):
Rather than providing a rule for measuring time, the term "generation" as used by Jesus refers principally to contemporary people of a certain historical period, with their identifying characteristics.
Then it goes on to identify the generation that Jesus supposedly pointed to at Matthew 24:34-35 in this way (page 19):
Therefore, in the final fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy today, "this generation" apparently refers to the peoples of earth who see the sign of Christ's presence but fail to mend their ways.
This new interpretation drops the thought that the world will end during the lifetime of the people who were alive to see the events of 1914. Instead, it has Jesus speaking of the "wicked generation"—people who see the sign of his invisible presence but fail to become JWs—with no time period attached.
A False Prophet?
Was the recently abandoned teaching about the 1914 generation really a false prophecy spoken by a false prophet? Or was it merely an instance of faithful Christians manifesting eagerness for Christ's return? Deuteronomy 18:20-22, quoted earlier, supplies the basis for determining the answer. It states that its words of condemnation apply when what a "prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true."
Obviously, the prediction did not come true, and so the Watchtower Society has now stopped making that prediction.
Was the prediction spoken "in the name of the LORD"? Yes, because it was introduced as "the Creator's promise." The Watchtower has said else where:
Those who are convinced that The Watchtower is publishing the opinion or expression of a man should not waste time in looking at it at all... Those who believe that God uses The Watchtower as a means of communicating to his people, or of calling attention to his prophecies, should study The Watchtower..." —The Watchtower January 1, 1942, page 5
More recently, the Watchtower Society has tried to escape the "false prophet" label by saying Jehovah's Witnesses have not made prophecies in God's name. "Never did they say, 'These are the words of Jehovah.'" (Awake! March 22, 1993, p. 4) But the Watchtower Society actually did describe its prediction that the 1914 generation would live to see 'the end' as Jehovah's prophetic word through Jesus Christ.
"Jehovah's prophetic word through Jesus Christ is: 'This generation [of 1914] will by no means pass away until all things occur.' (Luke 21:32) And Jehovah, who is the source of inspired and unfailing prophecy, will bring about the fulfillment…
"… Just as Jesus' prophecies regarding Jerusalem were fulfilled within the life span of the generation of the year 33 C.E., so his prophecies regarding 'the time of the end' will be fulfilled within the life span of the generation of 1914. ...
"… Yes, you may live to see this promised New Order, along with survivors of the generation of 1914—the generation that will not pass away."
—The Watchtower May 15, 1984, pages 6-7 (The bracketed expression "[of 1914]" is in the original.)
So, the Watchtower Society fits the description of a false prophet found at Deuteronomy 18:20-22. The Society made the prediction in God's name, and the prediction failed to come true.
Was this false prophecy simply a one-time offense? No, because the prediction was published repeatedly over the years, not only in Awake! magazine's masthead, but also in other places—sometimes even with minor variations which indicate that thought was given to the matter on a number of occasions:
"… the generation alive in 1914, some will see the major fulfilment of Christ Jesus' prophecy and the destruction… " —Awake! October 8, 1973, page 19
"Which generation is this, and how long is it?...
"Thus, when it comes to the application in our time, the 'generation' logically would not apply to babies born during World War I. It applies to Christ's followers and others who were able to observe that war and the other things that have occurred in fulfillment of Jesus' composite 'sign.' Some of such persons 'will by no means pass away until' all of what Christ prophesied occurs, including the end of the present wicked system." –The Watchtower Oct. 1, 1978, p. 31
"What, then, is the 'generation' that 'will by no means pass away until all these things occur"? It does not refer to a period of time, which some have tried to interpret as 30, 40, 70 or even 120 years, but, rather, it refers to people, the people living at the 'beginning of pangs of distress' for this condemned world system. It is the generation of people who saw the catastrophic events that broke forth in connection with World War I from 1914 onward. ...
"And if the wicked system of this world survived until the turn of the century, which is highly improbable in view of world trends and the fulfillment of Bible prophecy, there would still be survivors of the World War I generation. However, the fact that their number is dwindling is one more indication that the 'conclusion of the system of things' is moving fast toward its end.
"Yes, there was a generation of people that was living in 1914, and that saw the major historical changes... We can be happy, therefore, for Jesus' assurance that there will be survivors of 'the generation of 1914'—that this generation will not have completely passed away—when the 'great tribulation' rings down the curtain on this wicked world system."
—The Watchtower October 15, 1980, page 31
"Jesus used the word 'generation' many times in different settings and with various meanings. But what did he mean when he spoke of a "generation that would not pass away"? … a generation is really related to people and events, rather than to a fixed number of years.
… the babies of that generation are now 70 years old or older. And others alive in 1914 are in their 80's or 90's, a few even having reached a hundred. There are still many millions of that generation alive. Some of them 'will by no means pass away until all things occur.'" —The Watchtower May 15, 1984, page 5
Thus judgment would be executed sometime during the life span of people seeing the first evidence of the time period foretold by Jesus. … this time period began in 1914.
Thus before the 1914 generation completely dies out, God's judgment must be executed.
—The Watchtower May 1, 1985, page 4
"a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away"
"The Hebrews… reckon seventy-five years as one generation… ".
"...today, most of the generation of 1914 has passed away. … Jesus' words will come true, 'this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.' This is yet another reason for believing that Jehovah's thieflike day is imminent."
—Awake! April 8, 1988, pages 4 and 14
In fact, this episode of making predictions concerning "the generation of 1914" was not the first time the Watchtower Society made such prophecies. Years before 1914, it published volume 4 of Studies in the Scriptures, in which it calculated a hundred-year "generation" stretching "from 1780, the date of the first sign" and including the
gathering time beginning October 1874; the organization of the Kingdom and the taking by our Lord of his great power as the King in April 1878, and the time of trouble or "day of wrath" which began October 1874 and will end October 1914
—1908 edition, page 604
Alternatively, it calculated the generation of Matthew 24:34 as spanning 36 1/2 years, "the 'generation' from 1878 to 1914." (page 605)
Interestingly, the Society encountered similar problems back then as time limits ran out and prophecies proved false. The length of the "generation" was adjusted to accommodate later reinterpretations, in a manner similar to the recent adjustments during the 1970's-1990's. Thus, later editions of the same Studies in the Scriptures volume were reprinted with alterations in the dates. In the reference quoted above from page 604, for example, the words "will end October 1914" were changed to "will cease about 1915" in certain later editions.
The Watchtower Society has a long history of making prophecies and then changing them after they proved false. Dozens of references could be quoted and documented, but a few will suffice to prove the point.
For example, the 1920 booklet Millions Now Living Will Never Die, declares,
... we may expect 1925 to witness the return of these faithful men of Israel from the condition of death, being resurrected... Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old.
This failed to come true, of course.
Starting in the mid-1960's numerous discussions in the Society's publications pointed to the year 1975:
This seventh day, God's rest day, has progressed nearly 6,000 years, and there is still the 1,000-year reign of Christ to go before its end. (Rev. 20:3, 7) This seventh 1,000-year period of human existence could well be likened to a great sabbath day. . . . In what year, then, would the first 6,000 years of man's existence and also the first 6,000 years of God's rest day come to an end? The year 1975.
—Awake! October 8, 1966, page 19
The August 15, 1968 Watchtower indicates that there might be a slight delay between the end of humanity's first six thousand years in autumn 1975 and the end of the world—corresponding to the interval of time between Adam's creation and Eve's—but assures that the delay will be only a few weeks or months, not years:
Are we to assume from this study that the battle of Armageddon will be all over by the autumn of 1975, and the long-looked-for thousand-year reign of Christ will begin by then? Possibly, but we wait to see how closely the seventh thousand-year period of man's existence coincides with the sabbathlike thousand-year reign of Christ. If these two periods run parallel with each other as to the calendar year, it will not be by mere chance or accident but will be according to Jehovah's loving and timely purposes.… It may involve only a difference of weeks or months, not years."
Such predictions led Jehovah's Witnesses to believe that the end would come toward the end of 1975 or early in 1976.
When that date proved false, the organization began emphasizing "the Creator's promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away," as noted above—a prophecy that it has now dropped.
Perhaps to allow future maneuvering room, the new teachings published so far leave end-times dating loose and indefinite. Jehovah's Witnesses appear to be entering a period like that after the world failed to end in 1914 and before 1925 was named as a new target date, or after later failures and before 1975 was named.
This seems to be a typical false and evil trick from the Watchtower Society which disabuse events in our time-line that appears with their usual false prophecies. These are only very few false prophecies made from the Watchtower, there are so much more to mention but due to the length of the article we have only brought up some of them.
The principal tools that will prove useful in liberating a Jehovah's Witness fall into three main categories: (1) Scripture, (2) literature critical of the JW organization, and (3) Watchtower Society literature. In order to employ each effectively, it is necessary to understand how they can help you—or hurt your cause if used incorrectly.
Using the Bible
When using Scripture in discussions with Jehovah's Witnesses, it is important to keep in mind how they view the Bible and various translations thereof. First of all, the organization has taught them to view the Bible as the inspired Word of God. They accept it as inerrant and authoritative. Whatever the Bible says is the final word on a subject. Why then is it so difficult to get a Witness to see what the Bible says when it plainly refutes Watchtower doctrine? Why is it that a scriptural presentation that should reach a Witness's heart simply bounces off his chest like a BB pellet ricocheting off a Sherman tank? Why do your biblical arguments fail to penetrate the JWs thinking? The answer lies in a fuller comprehension of their view of the Bible.
Witnesses believe that the Scriptures are "the holy writings… All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness." They often quote these words from 2 Timothy 3:15, 16 (nwt) to show their reliance on the Bible. JW's also believe that it is absolutely necessary to have Watchtower Society publications that explain and interpret Scripture. From very early in its history the organization has portrayed the Bible as worthless without Watchtower study aids to accompany it:
... not only do we find that people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible by itself, but we see, also, that if anyone lays the SCRIPTURE STUDIES aside and goes to the Bible alone, although he has understood his Bible for ten years, our experience shows that within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the SCRIPTURE STUDIES with their references, and had not read a page of the Bible, as such, he would be in the light at the end of the two years (The Watch Tower, 9/15/10, p. 298).
This explains why you can not simply quote from the Bible and reach the mind and heart of a fully indoctrinated Jehovah's Witness. He or she does not dare look at the Bible alone, without the guidance of Watchtower publications. Doing so might lead to apostasy, which JWs redefine as the most deadly sin of turning away from God by rejecting "God's organization." In effect, they look at the Bible through Watchtower-tinted lenses. They see in the Word only what they are told to see.
If you yourself have never been a Witness, this may be difficult to grasp. It is hard to understand how someone can see a clear statement in the Bible, read it out loud, repeat it from memory, and still not get the point of what the verse is saying. But the encounter, mentioned earlier, that I had with two JW ladies on my own doorstep well illustrated that this is exactly what happens. Remember in Chapter 3 I had asked one of them to read Revelation 19:1, in her own Bible, to see where it positions the "great crowd"? She obligingly opened her New World Translation and read, " 'After these things I heard what was as a loud voice of a great crowd in heaven.' " "The 'great crowd' is on earth!" she commented, eventually admitting that "It says heaven, but the 'great crowd' is on earth" because "We have men at our headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, who explain the Bible to us. And they can prove that the 'great crowd' is on earth; I just can't explain it that well."
So although the Witnesses will tote their Bibles to your door and will read from Scripture to support their teachings, they are not actually taking their instruction from the Word of God, but rather from the men at Watchtower headquarters who tell them what the Bible says and what it means. Likewise, when you show them a verse, have them read it, and ask them what it says, their response is governed by the prior indoctrination they have received, rather than by what they have just read from the page.
To cope with this type of behavior on the part of the particular Witness you are trying to help, you must remember that what is happening is more than what meets the eye. When you ask the individual to read a verse from the Bible, he or she reads it—and then instantaneously does something else without your knowledge. The person's preprogrammed mind automatically replaces what the verse says with the organization's interpretation of what it says. This is not a conscious dodge, but rather a knee-jerk, reflex action that the JW is not even aware of. Reading the verse triggers the official interpretation to pop up in the brain.
Being aware that this is what goes on in the Witness's mind, you are in a better position to handle a biblical discussion. You will realize that it is not enough simply to read a verse and comment on it. Painstaking effort is necessary in order to get the JW to truly grasp what the verse says. The following steps are often helpful.
Rather than read the verse yourself, ask the Witness to read it aloud from the organization's New World Translation. (If you simply quote the verse from memory, the JW may assume that you misquoted it; or, if you read it first from a non-Witness translation, that it was mistranslated.)
Have the Witness break down the verse into clauses, phrases, and individual words. Ask him or her to comment on what each means. The Watchtower interpretation of the whole may disintegrate when the parts are examined separately.
Read the same verse from other translations: first from the Watchtower Society's Kingdom Interlinear word-for-word rendering of the Greek, then perhaps from Steven T. Byington's The Bible in Living English (also published by the Watchtower Society), and finally from a few other recognized translations—a multiversion parallel Bible which the Catholic Church approves is helpful in this and can be obtained through a local Christian bookstore, if not, you can also use a Catholic Bible such as the Douay-Rheims Bible. Unless you are considering one of the few hundred verses that Watchtower translators altered to fit official doctrine, the purpose of such a comparison would not be to discredit the New World Translation but rather to avoid the word pattern that triggers recall of the preprogrammed interpretation. For example, while reading the nwt's familiar wording of Christ's command regarding the communion cup, to "Drink out of it, all of you," the Witness likely will see no contradiction in the Watchtower's teaching that only a small percentage of believers should partake. But reading "Each one drink from it" in The Living Bible's paraphrase might be just enough to get him to see that "all of you" in the nwt really means "all of you"! (Matt. 26:27).
One should be very precautious with other Bibles except a Catholic one, or one that the Catholic Church accepts – because those other Bibles contain errors and a really bad uncatholic translation. So one should only use these materials for refutation and not to use them in any other way. Before leaving the subject of how to use the Bible, a word about the New World Translation itself is in order. For a number of years Jehovah's Witnesses carried with them to their neighbors' doors a green-covered copy of this Bible. The green cover was helpful as a warning to non-Witnesses, because it tipped them off that something was different. More recently, however, the Brooklyn Bethel factories have been turning out nwts with black covers, making them easier to pass off as ordinary Bibles. But that could not be further from the truth. Actually, the New World Translation contains hundreds of verses that have been altered to fit Watchtower doctrine.
Before it was published, Witnesses had to employ the standard translations used by many others. Their printing presses actually produced thousands of copies of the King James Version. Then they began using the American Standard Version, because it featured the name Jehovah more frequently in the Old Testament. But JWs were constantly facing the embarrassing problem of a knowledgeable householder asking them to look up John 1:1, where Jesus Christ is identified as "God," or Galatians 6:14, where it speaks of "the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Now, with their own tailor-made version, they can turn to these same verses and show that Jesus is merely "a god," and that he was put to death on a "torture stake" instead of a cross.
There is much more that could be said about the nwt; in fact, whole books have been written about it. But the important point to bear in mind when having discussions with a JW loved one is this: while it may prove useful to show the Witness that a certain point is in fact in his Bible, the nwt should not be relied on for unbiased accurate renderings of the Word of God.
Using Other Books
In addition to this book there are many others written to expose the errors of the Watchtower Society. The more such aids you read before your encounter, the better. They can make you more familiar with the sect's history and beliefs, and can prepare you for some of the off-the-wall arguments you can expect from well-trained JWs. But these books are best left unseen and preferably unmentioned to the Witness. The only book that you should bring to the table is the Bible itself, with the possible exception of Watchtower literature, which we will discuss shortly. (Your own hand-written notes are best kept on a small sheet of paper taped inside your Bible.) The reason that other literature should be kept out of sight is twofold: (1) Having on hand material written by an "apostate" ex-Witness would be almost as offensive as having a disfellowshiped person join you at the table. The JW views "reading apostate publications [as] similar to reading pornographic literature" (The Watchtower, 3/15/86, p. 14). If he knows that you are using such materials, he will suspect that you may be a willing instrument of the devil, or else duped by "wicked apostates." Quoting an ex-Witness: "On one occasion back in the days when I was a JW elder, I took the traveling Circuit Overseer with me to visit a man who had expressed an interest in talking with us. We had just stepped inside and had exchanged no more than a greeting with the man, when my companion noticed some 'anti-Witness' books on the table. 'Come on, Dave! Let's get out of here!' he barked, turning toward the door. 'We're not supposed to cast our pearls before swine!'" Your discussion with a Witness could similarly be cut short if such a book were to be seen. (2) It should be made clear that your faith and your beliefs are based on the Bible from the teaching of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, rather than books authored by men. This should stand out in sharp contrast to the Witness, who depends completely on publications of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. If he sees you using books in addition to the Bible, he will automatically assume that you derive your beliefs from your books, the same as he does his.
Using Watchtower Literature
The most powerful tool you can use to help a fully indoctrinated Jehovah's Witness is his own literature. But, how could that be so? Would not his own literature simply reinforce his existing beliefs? No, because it is here that you will find the documentary evidence disproving the Watchtower Society's claim to divine authority.
Buried in the back issues of The Watchtower are countless contradictions, false prophecies, back-and-forth doctrinal changes, fraudulent deceptions, and patently ludicrous notions—all taught as "the Truth." For example, the leaders in Brooklyn at one time believed that the Great Pyramid of Egypt contained prophetic wisdom from God; later, they decided the Pyramid was Satan's Bible. Although condemning others as false prophets, they themselves predicted that the world would end in 1914; later, that the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would rise from the grave in 1925; and, more recently, that the world would end and the thousand-year-reign of Christ would begin in 1975. For years they taught that Almighty God Jehovah resided in a particular location in outer space, namely, on the star Alcyone in the Pleiades star system. They proclaimed that God forbade certain medical procedures, allowed their followers to suffer or die in obedience to these beliefs, and then years later dropped the prohibitions.
Most Jehovah's Witnesses have no idea that these things happened; or else, they have heard a vague, sugar-coated version. For example, they often hear in their Kingdom Halls that the Watchtower Society back in the 1800s predicted a world war for 1914, the year World War I broke out; whereas the war predicted for that year was actually the Battle of Armageddon, in which God would destroy all human governments, replacing them with his kingdom. When confronted with the facts on such matters, JWs can not help but be shocked. And presented with one such shock after another, they can not help but question their leaders' claim to speak for God.
The evidence is all right there, in black and white, in the pages of the Society's publications. Although instructed not to read other people's "false religious literature that is designed to deceive" (The Watchtower, 5/1/84, p. 31), Witnesses can hardly refuse to look at their own literature. In fact, each one collects a personal library of the organization's books for that very purpose, and they are accustomed to doing research and looking up information in back issues of their magazines.
But it usually is not sufficient merely to quote the literature, citing the publication, page, and paragraph. The Witness will likely assume you misquoted it, or will favorably alter the quote in his own mind and never bother to look it up for verification. The most effective approach is to produce a photocopy of the actual page, with the quote highlighted, circled or underlined in its original context. This can not be dismissed as a baseless, hostile accusation. In fact, it is not your accusation that the Witness must contend with, but rather the Watchtower Society's own words printed in its own publications—literature that the JW has been taught to revere as coming from "God's organization." Jesus said, " … out of your own mouth you will be condemned" (Matt. 12:37 neb), and the Watchtower leadership certainly has furnished more than enough evidence out of its own mouth to condemn it before God and man.
Even here you must exercise discernment as to when and how you will share these photocopies with a particular Jehovah's Witness. Since the originals are not available to you and you are copying from a book, be sure to block out or cut off any added headings or page numbers, so that only the original Watchtower headings and page numbers remain. And then present them as "copies of Watchtower literature," which they truly are. If you fear the Witness will question you as to their source, you could visit the local public library to copy some Watchtower books directly, or you could visit the organization's official web site to print some pages from the literature provided online—and then say that you researched materials pro and con. You might even ask the Witness to look up the copied pages in his own Kingdom Hall library to verify their accuracy.
Be sure to read the highlighted quotes aloud with the Witness, rather than just hand him or her a pile of papers in the hope that he or she will read them later on. But let the quotes themselves do most of the talking, rather than your repeatedly hammering home the point that the organization is false. After reading all the quotes in a calm, prayerful atmosphere, the JW will reach that conclusion himself, whether or not he admits it to you then.