A gracEmail subscriber wants to know more about the so-called “Jehovah’s Witnesses” who go door-to-door evangelizing, and whether he should regard them as Christians.
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The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is an American-born, now international, apocalyptic religious movement founded about 1884 by Charles Taze Russell. Since 1931, its members have called themselves “Jehovah’s Witnesses” based on Isaiah 43:10-12. These people are usually very high-principled morally and are extremely zealous for their faith. They teach that Jesus set up his invisible heavenly kingdom in 1914, which he will establish visibly on earth following a final Battle of Armageddon. In the meantime, they believe, God’s work is accomplished through their organization, and they always refer to their meeting places as “Kingdom Halls” rather than as “churches.” They believe that their organization alone has divine approval and that all other churches have been misled.
Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the deity of Jesus, saying instead that he was originally Michael the Archangel, a created being. Yet they teach that Jesus’ atoning sacrifice paid for human sins. They also teach that one must repent and be baptized by immersion in order to have sins forgiven. They believe that Jesus will come again to raise the righteous dead and to bring in new heavens and new earth. They believe that hell is the grave, and that the wicked dead will simply stay dead forever. The wicked who live until Jesus comes, they say, will be destroyed completely by him when he returns.
They refer to the cross as a “torture stake” rather than a “cross,” because they believe that Jesus died on an upright pole instead of an instrument with a horizontal beam on it. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not accept blood transfusions, refuse to take any pledge of allegiance or salute any flag, and are willing to die rather than violate their beliefs. Their members are taught not to celebrate birthdays or any secular or religious holidays.
Some evangelical Christians are quick to say that no Jehovah’s Witness can possibly be saved. I would not dare say that, although I believe that some of the group’s official doctrines are clearly heretical. God will not judge us by official organizational teachings, however, but by our true heart and life in view of our opportunities and the light we had. I always fear that one who is quick to condemn others based on their inability to correctly articulate scriptural teaching just might be trusting in his or her own doctrinal accuracy for salvation rather than trusting solely and wholly in Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.