“Jehovah’s Witnesses have used many different translations in their study of the Bible. In languages where it is available, though, we especially appreciate the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures for its use of God’s name, for its accuracy, and for its clarity.
Use of God’s name. Some Bible publishers have failed to give credit where credit is due. For example, one Bible translation lists the names of over 70 people who in some way contributed to its production. Yet, this same Bible omits the name of the Author—Jehovah God—altogether! In contrast, the New World Translation restores the divine name in the thousands of places where it existed in the original text, while the committee that produced the translation remains anonymous.
Accuracy. Not all translations accurately convey the Bible’s original message. One translation, for instance, renders Matthew 7:13 in this way: “Go in through the narrow gate, because the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy.” However, the original text used the term “destruction,” not “hell.” Perhaps the translators inserted the word “hell” because they believed that the wicked would be tormented forever in hellfire. But that idea is not supported by the Bible. Hence, the New World Translation reads accurately: ‘Go in through the narrow gate, because broad is the gate and spacious is the road leading off into destruction.‘”
Yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses do have their own Bible. Watchtower notably does not answer the posed question directly, instead stating that they “especially appreciate The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures [NWT].” To say that they merely “appreciate” the NWT is a misleading understatement.
JW.ORG fails to mention that the NWT was translated, edited and published entirely by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Thus the anonymous translators all went into the project with the assertion that Watchtower doctrine is correct. Put another way, their doctrine influenced the translation of their Bible, as opposed to letting a translation of the Bible influence their doctrine.
Let us break down some of the dubious statements in the above article from JW.ORG
More Than a Preference
Often Watchtower will underplay the significance of the NWT in their worship by describing it as their “preferred” translation, or as stated above, one that they “especially appreciate.” One who studies with Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, will quickly realize through social cues that the use of the NWT is not a personal choice–it is mandatory.
The language and shorthand of Jehovah’s Witnesses is based around the unique wording found in the NWT. “The faithful and discreet slave,” “system of things,” “the fruitages of the spirit,” “bad association,” etc.
The titles of Jehovah’s Witness meeting, convention, and assembly parts are all taken from the wording of the NWT.
Save for very few exceptions, all of the Biblical quotes and scriptural references in all Watchtower publications are from the NWT.
You will never see a member of or helper to the Governing Body use another translation during an episode of JW Broadcasting, aside from perhaps a stray verse.
In Watchtower photos and artwork depicting “proper” Bible study, only the NWT is portrayed.
Every congregation member will use the NWT during their comments and student assignments.
More overt coercion, however, can be seen in the “Christian Life and Ministry Meeting” (Witnesses’ midweek worship service). The meeting is based around a scheduled Bible reading, and there are “study questions” that Witnesses are meant to find and answer. The “correct” answers are increasingly found in A) References to Watchtower publications that cite the NWT or B) the study notes of the New World Translation: Study Edition. Thus, one studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses can only find “correct” information by using the NWT.
Of course the primary reason Jehovah’s Witnesses prefer the New World Translation is that it claims to have restored God’s name, Jehovah, to the Bible. We will discuss this later in the article.
Some Bible publishers have failed to give credit where credit is due. For example, one Bible translation lists the names of over 70 people who in some way contributed to its production. Yet, this same Bible omits the name of the Author—Jehovah God—altogether! In contrast, the New World Translation restores the divine name in the thousands of places where it existed in the original text, while the committee that produced the translation remains anonymous.
This is a curious passage for several reasons. First, the Bible translation being referenced is almost certainly the New Revised Standard Version, considered by scholars to be one of the most accurate Bible translations specifically because of its wide variety of translators. As opposed to a committee of scholars who ascribe to a single Christian denomination, the NRSV committee was made up of scholars of multiple denominations, including non-Christians. This is good academic practice, as it ensures that the process focuses on accurately translating the ancient languages, as opposed to twisting words to reinforce the doctrine of one denomination.
The fact that the translators are not anonymous is implied by JW.ORG to be a bad thing. However, being able to check the credentials of a proclaimed-expert can only be a good thing. Imagine if a medical handbook was written by an anonymous group of people who claimed to be doctors, but refused to give their credentials; it would hardly be considered trustworthy.
We do not know who worked on the New World Translation committee, which means we have no idea if any of the members of that committee are fluent in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Coptic, etcetera. We have no idea what training, if any, they received or how long they have worked as translators of ancient manuscripts–nor indeed if they have any prior experience at all.
…often going far in secular education is solely a means of self-fulfillment, and not necessarily to help others. Some study what’s called ‘pure science,’ and just to advance mankind’s understanding of science, but with no practical benefit. Some study dead languages. Some study bacteria or insects, which is wonderful if you like insects. It may increase knowledge but it doesn’t necessarily help anyone.”
Thus it is almost certain that the NWT committee is primarily made up of people who are not formal experts in translating.
A particularly manipulative bit of wording is found in the same passage, where Watchtower notes that one translation “lists the names of over 70 people who in some way contributed to its production. Yet, this same Bible omits the name of the Author—Jehovah God—altogether!“
This raises the question: is the use of “Jehovah” in the New World Translation justified or accurate?
The Divine Name
By Watchtower’s own admission, rendering the tetragrammaton as “Jehovah” is less accurate than “Yahweh.” In an article entitled “Yahweh” or “Jehovah”? in the March 22nd, 1973 issue of Awake!, the Watchtower writers acknowledge criticisms of the use of Jehovah as opposed to Yahweh.
Concerning the form “Jehovah,” a Jesuit writer says: “It is disconcerting to see the divine name written as Jehovah, a 16th-century . . . error for Jahweh.”—America, Nov. 27, 1971, p. 460…
In the same vein the New Catholic Encyclopedia says: “JEHOVAH, false form of the divine name Yahweh. The name Jehovah first appeared in manuscripts in the 13th century A.D., but had probably been in use for some time.” (Vol. 7, p. 863) Likewise the Revised Standard Version translators objected to the form “Jehovah,” stating that “the word ‘Jehovah’ does not accurately represent any form of the Name ever used in Hebrew,” and that “it is almost if not quite certain that the Name was originally pronounced ‘Yahweh.’”
Watchtower does not refute the facts stated in these criticisms. How then, does Watchtower justify its use of Jehovah?
In view of these opinions, why do the witnesses of Jehovah prefer to use “Jehovah” rather than “Yahweh”? For one thing, no one can be certain just what the original pronunciation was, even as admitted by those who prefer “Yahweh.”
That “no one can be certain” is a curious defense from Watchtower, whose very identity is tied up in the supposed importance of God’s literal name. If no one can be certain, why be defensive about the rendering “Jehovah” in the first place–a rendering which most modern scholarship rejects? By Watchtower’s own stated interest in accuracy and dignifying the divine name, is it not be more appropriate to use the most accurate approximation?
Their other primary defense is stated in the Appendix to the all 2013-onward editions of the New World Translation.
Why, then, does this translation use the form “Jehovah”? Because that form of the divine name has a long history in the English language…
Explaining why he used ‘Jehovah’ instead of ‘Yahweh’ in his 1911 work Studies in the Psalms, respected Bible scholar Joseph Bryant Rotherham said that he wanted to employ a ‘form of the name more familiar (while perfectly acceptable) to the general Bible-reading public.’
The stated reason comes down to the suggestion that “Jehovah” is more culturally popular than “Yahweh.” This is a rather subjective opinion, as many churches regularly use “Yahweh,” and it is referenced in plenty of modern media.
What is perhaps more hypocritical is the fact that “Jehovah” is known to be an inaccurate rendering, which by Watchtower’s own admission (see A4 of the NWT) did not come into the English language until the 1500’s.
The word ‘Jehovah’ does not accurately represent any form of the name ever used in Hebrew”
“Many translations of the Bible sacrifice faithfulness to God’s message in favor of following human traditions, for instance by replacing God’s personal name, Jehovah, with titles such as Lord or God.”
However, the translators of the New World Translation have sacrificed faithfulness to the Bible by adding the name “Jehovah” to the New Testament 237 times.
One only has to compare New Testament verses containing the divine name in the New World Translation to the original Greek in the Kingdom Interlinearto see that these 237 additions are unfounded. No existing manuscripts of the New Testament contain the divine name, a fact which Watchtower acknowledges in the Appendix to the 2013 Revision:
The Greek manuscripts we possess today are not the originals. Of the thousands of copies in existence today, most were made at least two centuries after the originals were composed. (2) By that time, those copying the manuscripts either replaced the Tetragrammaton with Kyʹri·os, the Greek word for “Lord,” or they copied from manuscripts where this had already been done.
The New World Bible Translation Committee determined that there is compelling evidence that the Tetragrammaton did appear in the original Greek manuscripts.
Deceptively, Watchtower states that “those copying the manuscripts replaced the Tetragrammaton with Ky’rios,” even as they acknowledge that there are no existing manuscripts that support this assertion.
As Watchtower itself outlines, we do not have the original Greek manuscripts. This means that when they say “there is compelling evidence that the Tetragrammaton did appear in the original Greek manuscripts,” they are basing their entire translation around assumptions about non-existent manuscripts.
“Following the model of first-century Christianity, Jehovah’s Witnesses have no clergy-laity division. All baptized Witnesses are ordained ministers and share in the preaching and teaching work. Witnesses are organized into congregations of about 100 believers. Spiritually mature men in each congregation serve as “older men,” or elders. (Titus 1:5) They do so without being paid for their services.”
In one short paragraph Watchtower makes multiple false or misleading claims. They claim that “Jehovah’s Witnesses have no clergy-laity division,” meaning there is no division between church leaders and church members. They assert this division does not exist because “all baptized Witnesses are ordained ministers.”
As discussed in the article “Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Have Women Preachers?” Watchtower’s terminology differs greatly from other Christian religions. This gives a distorted representation of reality to any non-Witness reading the article. Wikipedia describes ordination this way:
Ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart and elevated from the laity class to the clergy, who are thus then authorized to perform various religious rites and ceremonies
This is how most non-Witnesses would understand the phrase “ordained minister.” For Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, an “ordained minister” is simply one who engages in the door-to-door ministry–a requirement to be considered a member. So when Watchtower states that “all baptized Witnesses are ordained ministers and share in the preaching and teaching work,” they really mean that they are ordained ministers because they share in the preaching and teaching work.
More importantly, Watchtower’s statement that there is no clergy-laity division within the organization is patently false.
Perhaps they feel they can claim this because within the religion the terms “clergy” and “laity” are not used to describe group members. In fact, a quick search for “clergy” in Watchtower’s database of publications reveals that the word is almost exclusively used as a disparaging term for leaders of “false religion.”
Political rulers have abused their power and oppressed the common people. Religious leaders—in particular, the clergy of Christendom—have blessed the wars of the nations that have caused the loss of countless millions of lives. The clergy have watered down the Bible’s pure and clear standards regarding sexual morality. As a result, the moral standards of the world around us keep sinking ever lower. Surely Jehovah would say to Christendom what he said to apostate Judah: “You have entirely forgotten me.”
Behind closed doors, however, the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize that they do, in fact, have a clergy, and have used clergy-confidentiality in court cases to defend their mishandling of child sexual abuse.
Regardless of whether or not Watchtower prefers to use the terms “clergy” and “laity” to describe their own organizational structure, they absolutely have a division between congregation leaders (“appointed men”) and average “publishers” (Watchtower’s word for rank-and-file members).
It is true, however, that Jehovah has appointed men to take the lead in teaching and worship in the congregation, and he has not given women that same authority.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are a hierarchical religion, with each class of “appointed men” being accountable to those above them. The hierarchy, from the top down, is as follows:
Publishers, then, must answer to the elders, who in turn must answer to the local circuit overseers, etc. Within a congregation setting, elders “take the lead” in worship and organizing weekly services; they are described as “shepherds,” with the congregation members being the “sheep,” and qualify for organizational “privileges” not available to non-elders. If a publisher has committed what Watchtower deems to be a sin, she must seek the counsel of the elders, who are given the authority to discipline or even expel (disfellowship) her. Elders are even given a confidential manual which rank-and-file members are forbidden from reading. So while all members are “ordained ministers,” only elders are ordained with oversight, power and leadership in the congregation.
What, though, about Watchtower paying its clergy? It is certainly true that congregation elders are not paid for their services. Circuit overseers, Branch committee members and Governing Body members, however, do receive a stipend, as well as room and board.
No, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not practice tithing; our work is financed by voluntary donations. What is a tithe, and why don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses practice tithing?
The commandment to tithe, or contribute a tenth of one’s belongings, was part of the Law given to the ancient nation of Israel. However, the Bible makes it clear that this Law—including the “commandment to collect tithes”—does not apply to Christians.—Hebrews 7:5, 18; Colossians 2:13, 14.
Rather than giving required tithes and offerings, Jehovah’s Witnesses imitate the early Christians and support their ministry in two ways: by performing their personal ministerial work without pay and by making voluntary donations.
We thus follow the Bible’s direction to Christians: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”—2 Corinthians 9:7.
It is telling that the preview for the article on JW.ORG (pictured above) asks, “Are Jehovah’s Witnesses required to donate a specific amount of money?” While it is true that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not mandated to give “required tithes and offerings,” can it be said that Watchtower does not put its members “under compulsion”? Is donating purely voluntary, or are its members coerced?
Like most Churches, attending a worship service of Jehovah’s Witnesses is free. Witnesses also refrain from passing collection plates during congregation “meetings,” instead placing “contribution boxes” in the lobby of their Kingdom Halls. However, for congregation members, giving monetary donations is far from optional.
Part of [Israelite] worship at these festivals involved giving to Jehovah. The people were told not to “appear before Jehovah empty-handed.” (Deuteronomy 16:16) Today, too, an important part of our worship is unselfish giving. In this way, we show that we value and support the work of Jehovah’s organization.
The clear implication for members is that if one does not donate, they are not showing that they “value and support the work of Jehovah’s organization.” The concept of giving monetarily is set up in the introductory paragraphs of the cited article, where it is described as an expectation from Jehovah:
Jehovah can use anything he chooses in order to support his creation. Still, he invites his servants to give what they can to support the work of his organization. (Exodus 36:3-7; read Proverbs 3:9.) Why does Jehovah expect us to use our valuable things to give back to him?
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they are the only true religion, and thus present the only way to serve God. Because of this, as seen above, the phrases “giving to Jehovah” and “giving to Jehovah’s organization” are used interchangeably. Donations, then, are not merely an expression of appreciation, but “an important part of [Witness] worship” and something God expects of them.
Jehovah dignifies us with the opportunity to support the grand work taking place today. He guarantees that we will receive blessings when we give in support of the Kingdom. (Mal. 3:10) Jehovah promises that the one who gives generously will prosper. (Read Proverbs 11:24, 25.)
Again, the clear implication is that if a member does not donate “generously,” they are being undignified, will not receive blessings, and will not prosper. Generously giving money to the organization is expected even if a member is in “deep poverty.”
Our brothers, even those who are in poor economic situations, are like the Macedonians who were in “deep poverty” and yet begged for the privilege to give and did so generously.—2 Cor. 8:1-4.” w18 January pp. 17-21
The importance of giving money to the organization is stressed even to very young children, as seen in the Watchtower-produced animated short “Help Others.” In the video, Caleb and Sophia are shown the benefits of donating their allowance to the organization instead of spending it on ice cream.
Far from being a spontaneous expression of gratitude, Witnesses are encouraged to make specific plans to set aside income for “Jehovah’s Organization”:
“Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver,” said the apostle Paul to the Christians in Corinth. (2 Corinthians 9:7) Cheerful giving calls for good planning. Paul told the Corinthians: “Every first day of the week let each of you at his own house set something aside in store as he may be prospering, so that when I arrive collections will not take place then.” (1 Corinthians 16:2) Similarly, in a private and voluntary way, those wishing to make donations to further the Kingdom work today can set aside some of their income for that purpose.
This is not merely a suggestion. Bodies of Elders worldwide are instructed by Jehovah’s Witness World Headquarters to send a monthly amount of money to the organization. In order to accomplish this, the Elders are asked to conduct an annual “financial survey” of congregation members to determine how much everyone can donate.
In practice, the financial survey amounts to passing out blank slips of paper to congregants during the midweek worship service and having them anonymously write down the amount of money they are able to donate to the organization monthly.
The above is an internal letter to the body of elders, not to be read to the congregation. Information on donating written for rank-and-file members is typically less transparent. In order to maintain the illusion of donations being truly voluntary, the organization will not outright tell members what to do, and instead imply what they should do by describing what “many are doing.”
Our brothers and sisters in many lands have been adapting their spiritual activities in the wake of the global health crisis. In many cases, attending meetings in person at a Kingdom Hall has temporarily been replaced with virtual meetings using videoconferencing apps. Because of this, many have also adjusted the way they support the worldwide preaching work by making their donations online.
Jehovah’s Witnesses in over 112 lands can use donate.jw.org to contribute electronically, such as by using a debit or credit card.
Because most publishers can no longer donate at their local Kingdom Hall, a number have set up a recurring donation on donate.jw.org. Sister Susan Cohen, a 74-year-old publisher from the United States, uses the recurring donation feature. She says: “It is so easy; if I can do it, anybody can do it. It makes me so happy to know my donation is taken care of.”
Brother Eduardo Paiva from Brazil previously considered the use of donate.jw.org as just a supplement to making donations in person. He states: “Recently, I realized that it is a perfect way to continue supporting the worldwide work in times of emergency and difficulties. We can use this way to keep expressing our gratitude and love in these last days.”
“Yes. A person can resign from our organization in two ways:
By formal request. Either orally or in writing, a person can state his decision that he no longer wants to be known as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
By action. A person can take an action that places him outside our worldwide brotherhood. (1 Peter 5:9) For example, he might join another religion and make known his intention to remain part of it.—1 John 2:19.”
While the above is narrowly correct, Watchtower makes it sound as though leaving the organization is a painless process as simple as writing a letter or joining a different church, failing to mention the consequences of “resigning,” or as they would put it, “disassociating.”
Per Jehovah’s Witnesses’ internal manual, Organized to Do Jehovah’s Will:
…if a person who is a Christian chooses to disassociate himself, a brief announcement is made to inform the congregation, stating: “[Name of person] is no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Such a person is treated the same way as a disfellowshipped person.
What does it mean to be “treated the same way as a disfellowshipped person?” In Jehovah’s Witnesses, being disfellowshipped means being shunned by the entire Witness community–not just the congregation, but one’s believing friends and family. (See: Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Break Up Families or Build Them Up?)
Disfellowshipping is a punishment that Watchtower tells its members is only used for unrepentant sinners. According to the Organized book, the purpose is to “expel the unrepentant wrongdoer from the congregation, thus denying him fellowship with Jehovah’s clean people. The bad influence of the wrongdoer is removed from the congregation, thereby safeguarding its moral and spiritual cleanness and protecting its good name.” (od chap. 14 par. 25)
The May 2015 Study Edition of the Watchtower says of disfellowshipping only that, “If one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who is baptized commits a serious sin and does not repent, he will be disfellowshipped.”
Since the announcement and punishment of a disfellowshipped person is the same for someone who resigns–and since congregants will be forbidden from speaking to the one resigning–members will have no idea if the person has committed adultery, murder, or is simply resigning for conscientious reasons.
In addition, a member can be considered as “disassociated” even if she desires to remain a Jehovah’s Witness. The elder’s manual Shepherd the Flock of God(which is not available to any Jehovah’s Witness who is not an elder) outlines that “willingly and unrepentantly accepting a blood transfusion” as well as “taking a course that violates Christian neutrality” are considered actions that disassociate a person.
To be clear, in practice this means choosing to save one’s life by accepting a blood transfusion or voting in an election can result in a member being shunned.
Clearly, then, resigning from Jehovah’s Witnesses is far from the casual, painless process that JW.ORG would have one believe. Yet the FAQ article goes on to say the following:
…the elders are not authorized to coerce or pressure someone to remain as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Each person makes his own choice regarding religion.
Can a Person Resign From Being One of Jehovah’s Witnesses? (JW.ORG)
This is patently false. The threat of being shunned by one’s friends and family is inherently coercive and pressurizing, and countless testimonials from former members have shown that Jehovah’s Witnesses elders can be rather ruthless in the pressure they put on inactive, “spiritually weak” or “fading” Jehovah’s Witnesses.
For an excellent resource with examples of this, watch the video series “Fade Interrupted: When the Elders Come Calling,” by YouTuber Lloyd Evans.
“No, you are not obligated in any way. Millions enjoy our Bible study program without becoming Jehovah’s Witnesses. * The purpose of the program is to show you what the Bible teaches. What you decide to do with that knowledge is up to you. We recognize that faith is a personal matter.—Joshua 24:15.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses are explicitly told by their leaders that their goal in the ministry is not simply to “show you what the Bible teaches,” but to make you a “disciple.”
What a joy it is to start a Bible study! However, finding someone who has an interest in studying the Bible is only the beginning. The purpose of the study is to help the person to become a genuine disciple of Christ. (Matt. 28:19, 20)
Witnesses believe that the only way for someone to be a “genuine disciple of Christ” is to be a Jehovah’s Witness. They assert that only their religion is being used by God, and only their religion will inherit “God’s Kingdom.”
Jehovah is using only one organization today to accomplish his will. To receive everlasting life in the earthly Paradise we must identify that organization and serve God as part of it.”
Watchtower’s goal, then, is for its members to conduct “progressive Bible studies,” meaning a Bible study with someone who is willing to take steps toward becoming a baptized Jehovah’s Witness. A Bible student is considered “progressive” if they begin to attend Witness meetings and start the process of conforming to the lifestyle dictated by Watchtower publications. (Or as said publications would put it, “bring their lives into harmony with Jehovah’s righteous requirements“)
Talk openly about Christian dedication and baptism. After all, our goal in conducting a Bible study is to help a person become a baptized disciple. Within a few months of having a regular Bible study and especially after beginning to attend meetings, the student should understand that the purpose of the Bible study is to help him to start serving Jehovah as one of His Witnesses.
The above quote is almost an open admission that Witnesses are not necessarily upfront about their intentions in starting a Bible study at the outset. It is only “within a few months of having a regular Bible study” that the true goal of the study is to be made clear to their student.
Witnesses are encouraged to invite their Bible Studies to the Kingdom Hall (Jehovah’s Witnesses’ places of worship) as soon as possible.
Invite your Bible student to attend the meetings as soon as possible. What your student hears and observes at Christian meetings can touch his heart and help him to progress. Show the video What Happens at a Kingdom Hall? and warmly invite him to accompany you. Offer to provide transportation if possible. It is a good idea to invite a variety of publishers to accompany you on the study. In that way, your student will get acquainted with others in the congregation, and he will likely feel more at home when he attends our meetings.
Note that “progressing” does not simply mean understanding the Bible, as jw.org claims–progressing means coming to meetings, beginning to preach, and giving up friendships with those outside of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are referred to as “worldly people.”
Teachers must show genuine, personal interest in their students. View them as your future spiritual brothers or sisters. (Read 1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8.) It is not easy for them to give up friends in the world and to make all the necessary changes to serve Jehovah. We need to help them find true friends in the congregation.
…It has been said: “It takes a village to raise a child.” We could say: “It takes a congregation to make a disciple.” That is why effective Bible teachers introduce their students to others in the congregation who can have a good influence on them. The students can then enjoy associating with God’s people, who can give them spiritual and emotional support. We want each student to feel that he belongs in the congregation and is part of our spiritual family. We want him to be drawn to our warm and loving Christian brotherhood. Then it will be easier for him to stop having close association with people who do not help him to love Jehovah. (Prov. 13:20) If his former associates reject him, he will know that he can find true friends in Jehovah’s organization.—Mark 10:29, 30; 1 Pet. 4:4.
A person who does not begin to take these steps will eventually declared an “unprogressive” Bible student, and the Witness in charge of the study is advised to discontinue the study program.
Sad to say, some students are like the Israelites of Ezekiel’s day. Of them, Jehovah told Ezekiel: “Look! You are to them like a romantic love song, sung with a beautiful voice and skillfully played on a stringed instrument. They will hear your words, but no one will act on them.” (Ezek. 33:32) We may find it hard to tell a person that we will stop studying with him. However, “the time left is reduced.” (1 Cor. 7:29) Rather than spend more time conducting an unproductive study, we need to find someone who gives evidence that he is “rightly disposed for everlasting life.
Watchtower Study Edition January 2020 p. 7 par. 20
As the last quote shows, one who is not sufficiently “progressive” in their study is dismissed as someone not giving evidence that they are “rightly disposed for everlasting life.” In Watchtower terms, this essentially means the student will not survive Armageddon.
Witnesses of course cannot force someone to join their religion. However, such strong, life-or-death language, and the constant reiteration that becoming a baptized Jehovah’s Witness is “a requirement for those seeking salvation,” can make the student feel unduly conflicted about discontinuing their study.
Far from being a simple Bible study with a friendly neighbor, studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses comes with a great deal of pressure, baggage and expectations. When jw.org says “millions enjoy our Bible study program without becoming Jehovah’s Witnesses,” they are really stating that millions have proven to not be “rightly disposed for everlasting life.”
Can I use my own Bible during the study?
What JW.ORG Says
“Yes. Although we enjoy using the modern-language New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures and will give you a copy free of charge if you would like to have one, we would be happy for you to use your own Bible. You can learn about the Bible’s message of hope and salvation from nearly any translation.”
Sort of. Jehovah’s Witnesses actually have different translations available on their official app, JW Library. From time to time Watchtower publications will cite another translation of the Bible. However, the New World Translation is definitely the official Bible of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
For the most part, this is something that is more subtly enforced through social cues than stated outright in the publications. For example:
Save for very few exceptions, all of the Biblical quotes and scriptural references in all Watchtower publications are from the NWT.
You will never see a member of or helper to the Governing Body use another translation during an episode of JW Broadcasting, aside from perhaps a stray verse.
In Watchtower photos and artwork depicting “proper” Bible study, only the NWT is portrayed.
Every congregation member will use the NWT during their comments and student assignments.
The language and shorthand of Jehovah’s Witnesses is based around the specific wording found in the NWT. “The faithful and discreet slave,” “the fruitages of the spirit,” “bad association,” etc.
The titles of Jehovah’s Witness convention and assembly parts are all taken from the wording of the NWT.
More overt coercion, however, can be seen in the “Christian Life and Ministry Meeting” (Witnesses’ midweek worship service). The meeting is based around scheduled Bible reading, and there are “study questions” that Witnesses are meant to find and answer. The “correct” answers are increasingly found in A) References to Watchtower publications that cite the NWT or B) the study notes of the New World Translation: Study Edition. Thus, one studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses can only find “correct” information by using the NWT.
Beyond any of these things, ingrained in JW theology is the notion that using God’s name (which the NWT renders “Jehovah”), sanctifying God’s name and spreading God’s name is essential for salvation. It is so essential that the translators of the NWT (all of whom are Jehovah’s Witnesses) have inserted the name Jehovah into the New Testament 237 times, despite their own admission that no existing New Testament manuscripts contain the divine name even once.
Because the name Jehovah is so integral to the worship of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the importance of that name is stressed early on in a JW bible study, their students will likely be disillusioned to translations that do not use the name Jehovah.
If somebody spoke to you about the God of the Bible and used the name Jehovah, with which religious group would you associate him? There is but one group in the world that uses God’s name regularly in their worship, just as his worshipers of ancient times did. They are Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Bible-based name Jehovah’s Witnesses identifies these Christians as a ‘people for God’s name.’ They are proud to bear that name, for it is one that Jehovah God himself gave to true worshipers.
In any case, using other translations of the Bible is not discouraged for independent study or research, but the culture of Jehovah’s Witnesses is such that a Bible student will quickly understand that the New World Translation is to be used and trusted above all others.
The phrase “paradise earth” does not occur in the Bible. However, the promise of a paradise earth is the foundation of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ hope for the future. Watchtower publications are often laden with idyllic imagery of smiling people in lush, verdant landscapes.
Witnesses are often encouraged to use their imaginations to envision paradise as a beautiful Utopia.
“Imagine the future blessings that you will enjoy if you listen to Jehovah! You will have perfect health; no one will be sick or infirm. There will be no bad people, and you will be able to trust everyone. There will be no pain, sorrow, or tears. No one will grow old and die. You will be surrounded by friends and family. Life in Paradise will be a delight. There will be no fear. People will be truly happy.
Watchtower is typically vague about what this paradise will be like, particularly in their tracts, books and articles aimed at the public and children. However, at times they have been quite specific in their vision of just exactly what this “new earth” will entail. In this article we will examine what the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses tell their followers to expect of “the new system of things.”
Preceded by Genocide
The “good news” that Witnesses preach is of the coming “new heavens” and “new earth” described in Revelation chapter 21. It is hardly remarked upon in their door to door ministry that this “new earth” will only come about after Jehovah commits the greatest act of genocide in human history.
The vast majority of people living on earth today will not survive this world’s end…The idea that God might destroy millions, yes, billions of people whom he considers ungodly might be shocking to some. But keep in mind that God “does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) No, God does not enjoy destroying even wicked people: “I take delight, not in the death of the wicked one, but in that someone wicked turns back from his way and actually keeps living.” (Ezekiel 33:11) However, God must be true to his Word and must fulfill his purpose for this earth. To do that, those whom he regards as lawless must go.”
“Only Jehovah’s Witnesses, those of the anointed remnant and the “great crowd,” as a united organization under the protection of the Supreme Organizer, have any Scriptural hope of surviving the impending end of this doomed system dominated by Satan the Devil.”
During a talk at Jehovah’s Witnesses’ 2009/2010 Special Assembly Day entitled “The Time Left is Reduced–How Will You Use It?” Governing Body member Anthony Morris III gave a rather grim account of the sort of carnage and mutilation Witnesses can expect during Armageddon:
“You see, I was in Vietnam, a medic in that war. I’ve seen what happens to humans when they’re mangled. And you see it on TV and some of that, well–until you smell human flesh burning from a helicopter crash, people that look like humans, like a hot dog on a grill, blackened and splitting open…I know what’s coming at Armageddon. Lotta dead people. Lotta dead people. So it’s absolutely urgent for us to get our minds off ourselves, and let’s get out there and help as many people as we can. Because when it comes, it’s gonna be numbing for you. You think seeing a deer mangled on the side of the road from the truck that it it is upsetting? You’ll see humans like that. So, it’s gonna be numbing.
These mangled dead bodies will not simply dissipate after the destruction of “Satan’s system of things.” Watchtower has stated on several occasions that birds and beasts will pick the rotting corpses of their flesh:
Their bones will be picked clean by the wild birds and beasts so long ill-treated by godless men.”
“Come on, birds and beasts! Have your fill then from the human corpses…”
You May Survive Armageddon Into God’s New World (1955) p. 342
The bones of billions of non-Witnesses, though, will have to be cleaned up by those who have inherited the new earth.
Yet the survivors of Armageddon will not let the earth lie littered with bleached bones, but will bury them to cleanse the land, as Ezekiel 39:12 states: “And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying of them, that they may cleanse the land.” The Mosaic law declared unclean for seven days anyone touching a corpse, and the land would likewise be polluted by such remains. For an executed criminal to remain exposed was a defilement of the land, and the law required his burial to avoid this. (Num. 19:11; Deut. 21:23) Topheth of the Valley of Hinnom was defiled by its becoming a dumping place of garbage and dead bodies. (2 Ki. 23:10) Hence in time there must be a burial of the bones of those slain at Armageddon, but only to cleanse the land, and not to memorialize their existence or imply hope of resurrection.
God apparently will not immediately, miraculously restore the earth to its Edenic state. Watchtower claims that this will be a millennium-long process that will take place during a period known as “The Thousand Year Reign.”
The Thousand Year Reign/”Judgment Day”
Per Watchtower theology, The Thousand Year Reign (mentioned obliquely at Revelation 20:4) is a literal period of time immediately following Armageddon. During this time, Satan is “abyssed” and, according to Insight on the Scriptures, “a thousand-year period begins in which Christ Jesus and his associates rule as kings and priests over earth’s inhabitants.—Re 20:1, 6.” This thousand year period is how Witnesses’ define “Judgment Day.”
Judgment Day will be a period of a thousand years during which humans will have the opportunity to regain what Adam and Eve lost.* Notice that Acts 17:31, quoted above, says that Judgment Day will affect those living on “the inhabited earth.” Those receiving favorable judgment will live on earth and will enjoy everlasting life in perfect conditions. (Revelation 21:3, 4) Thus, Judgment Day helps to accomplish God’s original purpose for humans and the earth.
One of the main promises Witnesses proclaim is the ability to “live forever in perfect conditions.” However, Watchtower has made it increasingly clear that these perfect conditions will only come into effect after the thousand year “judgment day” is completed.
It seems that all mankind will gradually grow to perfection during the Thousand Year Reign of Christ. It is only at the end of the thousand years that Jesus will hand the Kingdom back to his Father. Then the Kingdom will have accomplished its work completely, including the raising of mankind to a perfect state.—1 Cor. 15:24-28; Rev. 20:1-3.
Paradise, then, has a sort of dualistic meaning within the religion, one part consisting of an imperfect thousand year period of restoration, and the second a “perfect” paradise after one last apocalyptic event, which will be described later in the article. This delineation is rarely made in Watchtower publications, however, and its members use terms such as “paradise,” “the new world” and “the new system” interchangeably. This gives casual readers of Watchtower publications as well as Witness children the impression that beautiful, perfect conditions will immediately follow Armageddon. A deeper dive into Watchtower literature reveals that true, perfect paradise is a long way off, and the “thousand year reign” is full of provisos and restrictions.
As mentioned earlier, Watchtower encourages its members to use their imaginations to envision paradise–their dream houses, their dream jobs, the sort of exotic animals they’d like to have as pets, etc.
When you envision a paradise, what do you see? Does your mind’s eye visualize a gorgeous garden or park? Do you see multicolored flowers, shrubs, well-kept lawns, fountains and calm, clear pools? Do you also envision cascading waterfalls, rushing streams, lush green meadows fenced by towering trees, and tangy air filled with the fragrance of deep woods and the songs of birds? Would you desire to live in such a paradise, free from the worries and threats of this present system of things?
To sharpen your mental image of God’s Kingdom, look “intently” toward your life in Paradise. Use your imagination. For example, when you study the lives of pre-Christian Bible characters, consider what you might ask them when they are resurrected. Imagine what they might ask you about your life during the last days. Envision how excited you will be to meet your ancestors from centuries ago and to teach them about all that God has done for them. Picture your delight as you learn about many wild animals by observing them in peaceful surroundings. Reflect on how much closer you will feel to Jehovah as you progress to perfection.
Watchtower frequently quotes the book of Isaiah to imply that all those living in paradise will be able to live where they want, grow their own food, and be completely independent of human rule.
They will certainly build houses and have occupancy; and they will certainly plant vineyards and eat their fruitage. They will not build and someone else have occupancy; they will not plant and someone else do the eating
For Witnesses, such quotes and verses conjure images of a world beyond imagination, one with complete freedom, though governed by “God’s Heavenly Kingdom.” This is all at odds with the restrictive vision of paradise described in recent publications.
In this world, Satan wants people to think that they can do whatever they like. Many feel that it is important to be independent and that there is no need to obey God. What has been the result? Much suffering and unhappiness. (Jeremiah 10:23) But Jehovah is a loving Ruler. How much better life will be in the new world when everyone obeys him!
In the new world, we will enjoy following direction from Jehovah’s organization to help make this earth into a beautiful paradise and help teach those who are resurrected. Jehovah will have much work for us. But what if those taking the lead asked us to do something that we do not really like? Would we obey? Would we do our best to fulfill and enjoy our assignment? To prepare for everlasting life in the new world, we need to obey the direction from Jehovah’s organizationnow.
Not only is the idea of “doing whatever [you] like” to be viewed as Satanic, Paradise may well not live up to your boundless imagination. You will evidently still be assigned by humans to do things you may not want to do. The same article goes on to say that you will likely not be able to live in your dream home in the new world; in fact, you’ll be assigned to live somewhere.
When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they were assigned where to live. (Numbers 26:52-56; Joshua 14:1, 2) We do not know where each one of us may be assigned to live in the new world. But if we have learned to cooperate, we will be happy to do Jehovah’s will wherever we live.
…What if, in the new world, we would love to live in one area but Jehovah’s organization asks us to move to another? At that time, it will not matter where we live or what we do. We will simply be thankful to be living in the new world
Perhaps the most appealing promise of the New World is that of seeing one’s dead family and friends again, resurrected to youthful, perfect bodies. But this miraculous event is also presented with caveats:
In the new world, at times we may need to be patient. For example, we may hear that some people are very excited because their relatives and friends have been resurrected. However, we may have to wait for the resurrection of our loved ones. If that happens, will we rejoice with others and be patient? (Romans 12:15)
When Jehovah through his Son resurrects countless millions, we may assume that not all of them will come back to life at the same time. Why not? Because an explosion in the earth’s population would likely cause chaos. And Jehovah never does anything in a disorganized, chaotic way.
Watchtower Study Edition August, 2020 p.16 par. 6
Recent JW Broadcasting videos, such as Just Around the Corner depict resurrections as scheduled events, with a party planned for the resurrected person in a gazebo. A recent public talk by a Branch member in the Philippines described a “resurrection calendar.” (Though this does not necessarily reflect canonical Watchtower doctrine) And the above quotes show that Witnesses will have to refrain from showing impatience–an “imperfect” quality–as they wait for family and friends to come back from the dead.
By now it should be obvious that Watchtower’s depiction of “The New World” seemingly includes many of the human imperfections of the old world. Qualities such as jealousy, impatience, resentment and disobedience will still be allowed to persist during the “thousand year reign.” The primary difference will be that humans will be ruled by Jehovah’s Witnesses, who will somehow receive guidance from Jesus.
Who will govern or direct activities on the paradise earth? All laws and instructions will come from the “new heavens” above.But on earth there will be faithful men appointed to see that these laws and instructions are carried out. Because these men represent the heavenly kingdom in a special way, the Bible calls them “princes.” (Isaiah 32:1, 2; Psalm 45:16) Even in the Christian congregation today men are appointed by God’s holy spirit to care for and direct its activities. (Acts 20:28) After Armageddon we can be confident that Christ will see to it that the right men are appointed to represent the Kingdom government, for then he will be taking a direct hand in earth’s affairs.
All of this paints a rather stipulated, rigid, even bureaucratic picture of the “new system” that’s far less fantastical than Watchtower’s artwork would have one believe. Many Witnesses have put off having children, learning a new instrument, or pursuing a hobby “until the New System.” Its publications actively encourage such ideas:
Think of how good it will be to spend time with your family and friends, including those who will be resurrected. (John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15) You will have time to learn new skills and become better at the things you enjoy. For example, you could learn more about science. Or you could learn how to play musical instruments or how to design your own home.
Watchtower’s descriptions of the “thousand year reign,” however, leave one to wonder whether there will be any time for personal enjoyment for the first millennium after Armageddon.
Let your mind dwell for a moment, please, on some of the monumental tasks that will need to be accomplished in that new, divine system of things. For one thing, a vast educational program will be required to teach a new language to the millions of resurrected dead as they come forth from the graves. (John 5:28, 29) And, further, think of the work required in order to transform the hearts and minds of these people, many of whom have never heard of the Bible, or of God’s laws and purposes for mankind. Then, think of the program that will be inaugurated in order to transform this earth of ours into the lovely garden that God has purposed. When one thinks of how long it takes to clear just one acre of ground, cultivate the soil and plant it so that it will bring forth shrubs and trees and other plants in a manner that makes that area worthy of being called a garden park, one gets some idea of the colossal undertaking to transform the whole earth into a global paradise with sufficient food-producing areas to sustain a comfortable population on the earth.—Gen. 1:28; Ps. 72:16; 67:6; Ezek. 34:27.
A native American man who died hundreds of years ago is resurrected during the Thousand Year Rule of Christ. A brother who survived Armageddon gladly teaches the resurrected man what he needs to do to benefit from Christ’s ransom.
Watchtower August 2020 August p. 16; picture description (footnote)
Teaching resurrected individuals about Jehovah’s Witness theology is said to be “the most important” part of the first thousand years of life in the New World.
Most important of all, those who survive Armageddon will need to teach resurrected ones about God’s Kingdom and about Jehovah’s requirements. Why? Because the majority of those who return to life will be among “the unrighteous.” (Read Acts 24:15.) They will have to make many changes in order to benefit from Christ’s ransom. Just think of the work involved in teaching the truth about God to millions of people who have no knowledge of Jehovah. Will each person receive individual instruction, similar to the way we conduct Bible studies today? Will these new ones be assigned to congregations and be trained to teach those who are resurrected after them? We will have to wait and see. We do know, however, that by the end of Christ’s Thousand Year Reign, “the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah.” (Isa. 11:9) What a busy but enjoyable thousand years that will be!
No scriptures are cited for any of the speculative claims made above. Acts 24:15 merely mentions the resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous; Isaiah 11:9 mentions only “the earth” being “filled with the knowledge of Jehovah.” The not-so-rhetorical questions are tempered only with a “we will have to wait and see.”
But so far it’s evident that the majority of one’s time in the New World will be spent obeying organizational direction, attending congregation meetings, engaging in “theocratic construction projects” and conducting Bible studies–all things that Witnesses are expected to do currently. Given that all this is purely speculative fantasy, one has to wonder why Witness leaders would put so many limitations on its followers’ future hope?
The reason can be found in the title of the August 15th Study Watchtower : “Prepare Now for Life in the New World.” For the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the notion of paradise is not just a hope–it is a method of control.
If we want to live forever in the new world, now is the time to “get a firm hold” on everlasting life. We know that the end is coming soon, so we must live in a way that shows we expect the end to come at any time. We need to do everything we can now to prepare for life in the new world.
If we want to be ready for life in the new world, we need to learn to be content and to cooperate with Jehovah’s organization and with one another. For example, when we are given a new assignment, we willingly cooperate and do our best to be happy and content. If we learn to cooperate with those taking the lead now, we will likely do the same in the new world.
Such statements stress that, since the New World will supposedly operate much in the same way that “Jehovah’s Organization” today does, if a Witness wants to survive Armageddon and make it into the New System, they must live by Watchtower standards. If you don’t preach now, how will you be able to preach in the New World? If you’re impatient with the organization now, how can you be patient with Jehovah as you await the resurrection of your loved ones? If you don’t expect to survive this Armageddon, how could you possibly expect to survive the next one?
As mentioned previously, Watchtower claims that Satan is to be banished to an “abyss” for the duration of the thousand year reign. After the thousand years are up, he will be set free again to cause one last bout of genocidal destruction.
“It all depends upon the resurrected ones. Will they let themselves be incorporated into that righteous “new earth,” or will they return to their former bad ways that they pursued during this present system of things? Those who do so will be judged and condemned as unworthy of the gift of eternal life in human perfection and godliness.
This test does not only apply to resurrected ones, however.
…Pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah were declared righteous as to friendship with God; and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were spoken of as “living” even though they were physically dead. However, they and all others who are resurrected, as well as the great crowd of faithful other sheep who survive Armageddon and any children that may be born to these in the new world, must yet be raised to human perfection. This will be accomplished by Christ and his associate kings and priests during the thousand-year Judgment Day, on the basis of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. By the end of that Day, “the rest of the dead” will have “come to life” in the sense that they will be perfect humans. As we shall see, they must then pass a final test, but they will face that test as perfected humans.
Who could possibly side with Satan after a thousand years of joyful, upbuilding theocratic rule? Well, do not forget that Satan was able to mislead the perfect Adam and Eve while they were enjoying life in the Paradise of Eden. And he was able to lead astray heavenly angels who had seen the bad results of the original rebellion. (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6) So we should not be surprised that some perfect humans will be enticed to follow Satan even after a delightful thousand years of rule by God’s Kingdom.
Surviving Armageddon, then, is not enough. After a thousand years humans will once again be tempted by Satan, who will once again succeed in misleading many. How many? The Revelation book goes on to say that “The number of those who join Satan in his revolt will be ‘as the sand of the sea.'” After this, those who followed the Devil will be destroyed, and Satan will be not merely “abyssed.” “This time,” the Revelation book continues, “Satan, the original serpent, will actually be crushed out of existence, pulverized, completely annihilated as if by fire.”
It is only after all these things, after two Armageddons and a thousand years of reconstructing the annihilated earth, after burying the bones of billions, that the “perfect conditions” of paradise seen in so many pieces of Watchtower artwork can be attained.
All of this reinforces the culture of fear curated by the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses–they tell their members that even if they manage to survive Armageddon, they have another thousand years to potentially screw up and start serving Satan. Perfection will not be enough, since the perfect Adam and Eve were misled. And all the while, even in paradise, members will be subservient to human representatives of “Jehovah’s organization.”
Wittingly or not, when Jehovah’s Witnesses come to your door with colorful pictures of a paradise earth, this is the hope they are describing.
The word “Armageddon” appears only once in the Bible, but this one word defines Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their preaching work, their understanding of history, current events, their stance on higher education–everything comes down to the imminence of “Jehovah’s Day.” Unlike mainstream Christianity, which typically speaks of Armageddon in vague, “fire and brimstone” terms, Watchtower has given its followers an increasingly specific picture about the series of events that they can expect to occur. In this article we will examine exactly what Jehovah’s Witnesses anticipate Armageddon to entail.
The reasoning behind Armageddon happening at all is based upon what Jehovah’s Witnesses assert is the grand theme of the Bible: the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty . Per Watchtower theology:
At the Garden of Eden, Satan, disguised as a serpent, challenged Jehovah’s right to rule mankind by tempting Eve.
In order to answer this challenge, Jehovah allowed Satan to rule mankind, to prove that his rule is superior to man’s.
However, Jehovah also promised that he would restore earth to its Edenic state–a paradise–and cleanse the earth of the wickedness that had risen up in the intervening generations.
After Armageddon, in “the new system of things,” wicked and righteous people alike will be resurrected in the flesh and be given the chance to serve Jehovah under perfect conditions.
All of Watchtower’s theology is filtered through this lens. They are so certain of its exactitude that they have put it in the introduction to their translation of the Bible. And it is from this unique lens that all interpretations of prophecy are extrapolated.*
Given this framework, then, let’s examine how Watchtower asserts Armageddon will come about.
Step One: The Cry of “Peace and Security.”
Per Jehovah’s Witnesses’ theology, Armageddon is preceded by a period of time known as “the great tribulation.” The phrase is taken from Jesus’ words in the book of Matthew.
“for then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” Matthew 24:21 NWT
Watchtower asserts that the beginning of the great tribulation is marked by a worldwide “cry of peace and security,” a phrase taken from a completely different book of the Bible.
Whenever it is that they are saying, “Peace and security!” then sudden destruction is to be instantly on them, just like birth pains on a pregnant woman, and they will by no means escape. 1 Thessalonians 5:3 NWT
This cry of peace and security, they say, will be made by the United Nations, who Watchtower alleges is the “wild beast” from Revelation.
World leaders sometimes use similar expressions when they talk about stabilizing relationships between nations.* However, the announcement of “peace and security” that the Bible describes will be different. Why? When this happens, people may think that world leaders have succeeded in making the world a safer, more secure place. But in reality, “sudden destruction” will follow as the “great tribulation” unfolds”
To translate: world leaders will, in some way, declare that world peace has been achieved, and the masses will believe that this is in fact the case. The manner in which this will be declared is unclear, which Watchtower admits in the same study article cited above:
We do not know what will lead up to it or how the declaration will be made. And we do not know whether it will involve just one proclamation or a series of announcements. Whatever happens, we do know this: We should not be fooled into thinking that world leaders can actually achieve world peace. Rather, it is that declaration that we have been told to watch for. It is the signal that “Jehovah’s day” is about to begin!
“Peace and security,” then, is the Armageddon starter pistol. What happens next is an incredible worldwide conflict that puts Jehovah’s Witnesses front and center.
Step Two: The Abolition of “False Religion.”
The nations may claim that they have achieved peace and security. Then, the nations supporting the UN destroy the institutions of false religion. This marks the opening phase of the great tribulation. That tribulation will end with the destruction of the entire world system at Armageddon.
Yes, according to Watchtower, the United Nations will enact a worldwide ban on religion. Why would they do such a thing? They’ll have no choice but to do it, actually. As Watchtower sees it, Jehovah himself will be the one to put this idea “into the hearts” of world leaders.
…the nations will have no control over what happens at this point. Why not? Because “God [will] put it into their hearts to carry out his thought.” What is that thought? To destroy the world empire of false religion, including Christendom.* God will put his thought into the hearts of “the ten horns” of the “scarlet-colored wild beast.” The ten horns represent all the political powers that support “the wild beast”—the United Nations. (Rev. 17:3, 11-13; 18:8) When those political powers turn on false religion, that will mark the beginning of the great tribulation. It will be a truly catastrophic world event.
Here we have something of a paradox with Witness theology. Watchtower asserts that Jehovah is allowing Satan to rule this current “system of things” in order to prove that Satan’s rule is inadequate. However, they also contend that Satan will actually succeed in achieving worldwide peace and security, and it is only because Jehovah puts an idea “in the hearts” of world leaders that Satan fails. Basically, if this is a contest, it seemingly ends with God cheating.
Nevertheless, this is central to Watchtower canon. Because religion is banned, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, God’s “one true organization” will have to worship in secret. Recent organizational videos and artwork has depicted groups of Witnesses hiding in bunkers and attics.
Witnesses are told that they will be the only remaining religion on earth during this time. “Even some clergymen may abandon false religion and claim that they were never a part of it,” says the book Pure Worship of Jehovah–Restored at Last!They expect to become “objects of ridicule,” and imply that authorities will resort to extreme, possibly violent measures to try and stop them.
..The nations may try to disrupt our way of life and stop us from carrying out our worship. To that end, perhaps they will try to interrupt the flow of spiritual food, prevent us from meeting together, break up the unity we enjoy, and stop us from zealously proclaiming God’s message. All of those are elements of the spiritual paradise. Egged on by Satan, the nations will try to efface true worshippers—and along with them pure worship—from the earth.
Recent Watchtower depictions of the Great Tribulation show Witnesses being pursued and/or raided by armed SWAT teams. This has really happened in Russia, where Jehovah’s Witnesses are currently under ban; re-purposing this upsetting real-life imagery in the context of an inevitable Armageddon undoubtedly stirs up fear and anxiety among Watchtower members.
Despite all this persecution, Witnesses’ preaching work will continue, albeit in a different form.
Step 3: A Message of Judgment
After the Great Tribulation begins, Jehovah’s Witnesses are told that nobody will be able to join the organization. However, they are still told that they must preach a message of judgment to those people who have no hope of survival:
“Let us remember that once the great tribulation begins, it will be too late for people to turn to Jehovah. That is why our preaching work is so urgent!*”
“During the great tribulation, the message that we proclaim will likely change. Currently, we are preaching the good news of the Kingdom and we are endeavoring to make disciples. But at that time, we may well deliver a message as hard-hitting as hailstones. (Rev. 16:21) We may proclaim the impending doom of Satan’s world. In time, we will find out exactly what our message will be and how we will deliver it. Will we use the same methods we have used for over a hundred years to accomplish our ministry? Or will we use some other methods? We will have to wait and see. In any case, it seems that we will have the privilege of boldly proclaiming Jehovah’s judgment message!—Ezek. 2:3-5.”
In another case of twisted logic, Witnesses are told that this judgment message will actually be the reason why the Nations start persecuting them.
Sometime after false religion is devastated, Jehovah may well have his people deliver a hard-hitting message, one that the book of Revelation likens to a hailstorm in which each hailstone weighs about 45 pounds (20 kg). (Rev. 16:21, ftn.) This message, possibly a declaration that the political and commercial system is about to end, torments the hearers to such a degree that they blaspheme God. Likely it is this message that provokes the nations into making an all-out assault on God’s people, to silence us once and for all. They will think that we are defenseless, an easy target to destroy. What a mistake that will be!
Witnesses will provoke the nations into attacking them.
This attack will happen, because Jehovah has put into the hearts of world leaders the desire to turn against his people.
Jehovah will then punish the nations whose hearts he himself turned against Witnesses.
Beyond this, Jehovah’s Witnesses are told that during this Great Tribulation they must preach an apocalyptic judgment message that nobody will be able to accept.
Step Four: The Grand Finale
It is at this point, when Jehovah’s Witnesses are under attack for pure worship and all hope seems lost, that the typical “fire and brimstone” Armageddon begins. But preceding the destruction will be a supernatural display in the heavens, something that says, more or less, “we told you so.”
Before they are destroyed, our enemies will see the sign of the Son of man, likely a supernatural manifestation of the power of Jehovah and Jesus. The opposers will see things that cause them extreme anxiety. As Jesus foretold, “people will become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.” (Luke 21:25-27) To their horror, they will realize that they miscalculated when they attacked Jehovah’s people. They will be forced to know the Creator in his role as military commander, Jehovah of armies. (Ps. 46:6-11; Ezek. 38:23)
Billions are in line for destruction on this day, the most horrific act of genocide in history. Witnesses are told not to be shocked or disturbed by this notion.
The vast majority of people living on earth today will not survive this world’s end…The idea that God might destroy millions, yes, billions of people whom he considers ungodly might be shocking to some. But keep in mind that God “does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) No, God does not enjoy destroying even wicked people: “I take delight, not in the death of the wicked one, but in that someone wicked turns back from his way and actually keeps living.” (Ezekiel 33:11) However, God must be true to his Word and must fulfill his purpose for this earth. To do that, those whom he regards as lawless must go.
All of this reinforces the central teaching of Watchtower: imminent destruction looms ahead, and the only way to avoid that destruction is to become a Jehovah’s Witness. While the rest of the world will wallow in despair, Witnesses will be protected, as depicted below:
After these events, Witnesses are told that they will begin to return to a perfect, sinless state and live forever in a Paradise earth, which they will help rebuild. But much like Armageddon, Watchtower has painted an increasingly specific picture of what they imagine this paradise to be. Jehovah’s Witnesses Vision of Paradise–next week on JWFAQ.
*These interpretations are bold, to say the least. Using apocalyptic prophecies such as Daniel, Revelation and Ezekiel Watchtower has compiled a convoluted series of symbols and meanings. The “Wild Beast” is the United Nations, for example; the “great harlot” is false religion; the “king of the north” is “Russia and its allies.” We won’t be getting into all these specifics, but for a complete list of all these bizarre ciphers, see this recent Watchtower article.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses follow the Bible’s advice not to respond to all accusations and instances of ridicule. For example, a Bible proverb says: “The one who corrects a ridiculer invites dishonor.” (Proverbs 9:7, 8; 26:4) Rather than being pulled into quarreling by an undue concern over false accusations, we focus on pleasing God.—Psalm 119:69.
Of course, there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7) We respond to sincere people who are interested in finding out the truth, but we avoid getting into pointless arguments. We thus follow the teachings and examples of Jesus and the early Christians.”
What are these accusations that Watchtower is supposedly not responding to? A quick look at the “Controversies and Criticisms” section of the Wikipedia entry for Jehovah’s Witnesses shows three main “allegations”:
Free Speech and Thought: “Doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses are established by the Governing Body. The denomination does not tolerate dissent over doctrines and practices; members who openly disagree with the group’s teachings are expelled and shunned. Witness publications strongly discourage followers from questioning doctrine and counsel received from the Governing Body, reasoning that it is to be trusted as part of “God’s organization”. It also warns members to “avoid independent thinking”, claiming such thinking “was introduced by Satan the Devil” and would “cause division”. Those who openly disagree with official teachings are condemned as “apostates” who are “mentally diseased”.
Mishandling of Child Sex Abuse Cases: “Jehovah’s Witnesses have been accused of having policies and culture that help to conceal cases of sexual abuse within the organization. The group has been criticized for its “two witness rule” for church discipline, based on its application of scriptures at Deuteronomy 19:15 and Matthew 18:15–17, which requires sexual abuse to be substantiated by secondary evidence if the accused person denies any wrongdoing. In cases where corroboration is lacking, the Watch Tower Society’s instruction is that “the elders will leave the matter in Jehovah’s hands”.
The curious thing is that Watchtower has responded to all these accusations on their website, in their publications and in videos.*
Why, then, does Watchtower say it does not respond to such accusations?
The primary reason is that Watchtower (meaning the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses) does not want to frame these accusations as as such. They have no earnest desire to genuinely address the points made against them. Instead, they have used JW.ORG as a platform to re-frame allegations as silly misunderstandings, and thereby respond to arguments that don’t really exist. Rebutting the deceptive logic and bad-faith arguments presented on JW.ORG is why JWFAQ was started in the first place.
Many of the Frequently Asked Questions articles on JW.ORG are asked in such a way to be easily disprovable, or to skirt the underlying problem. A number of these have already been debunked in detail on this website, but to cite one additional example:
Jehovah’s Witnesses are a sect by most definitions, but by framing the question around being an American sect, Watchtower can avoid the issue of what constitutes a religion being considered a sect, and instead focus on whether or not Jehovah’s Witnesses are distinctly American.
When the issue of whether or not they are a sect is brought up, Watchtower says “Some define a sect as a group that has broken away from an established religion.” They do not say who supposedlydefines the word this way, and the fact that they do not explore all possible definitions of the word allows them to argue with “some” imaginary third party.
The primary definition of the word sect in the Oxford English Dictionary is “a group of people with somewhat different religious beliefs (typically regarded as heretical) from those of a larger group to which they belong.” Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian group with somewhat different beliefs to most Christian denominations. By this definition, Jehovah’s Witnesses are a sect.
As far as your average, everyday Witnesses who may encounter allegations in their ministry, they are often unable to respond because they are unaware that the accusations exist in the first place.
Watchtower tells its members that any and all negative/critical news reports of their organization are to be entirely dismissed, as a recent Watchtower article shows:
Satan, “the father of the lie,” uses those under his control to spread lies about Jehovah and about our brothers and sisters. (John 8:44) For instance, apostates publish lies and distort facts about Jehovah’s organization on websites and through television and other media. Those lies are among Satan’s “burning arrows.” (Eph. 6:16) How should we respond if someone confronts us with such lies? We reject them! Why? Because we have faith in Jehovah and we trust our brothers. In fact, we avoid all contact with apostates. We do not allow anyone or anything, including curiosity, to draw us into arguing with them.
Watchtower–Study Edition November 2019, “Are You Maintaining Your ‘Large Shield of Faith’?”
The article, of course, does not state what these “lies” are. The impression given to Witnesses, then, is that any negative information about the organization must be inherently untrue. The direction given to Jehovah’s Witnesses is clear: Don’t engage. “Reject them.”
In truth, rank-and-file Jehovah’s Witnesses do not respond to accusations because they are either unaware of them or assume them to be “lies” among “Satan’s burning arrows.” Watchtower itself does respond to allegations, but only subtly, on its own home turf, and without acknowledging any of the actual nuanced criticisms leveled against them.
*Rebuttals to the three cited articles are available on JWFAQ
“No. We engage regularly in our door-to-door ministry, but we don’t believe that we earn our salvation by doing such work. (Ephesians 2:8) … We endeavor to share our faith with others, hoping that they will benefit from God’s promises. But we don’t believe that we earn our salvation by engaging in our ministry. (Romans 1:17; 3:28) Really, no human could ever do enough to merit such an astounding blessing from God. “He saved us because of his mercy, and not because of any good things that we have done.”—Titus 3:5, Contemporary English Version.“
Jehovah’s Witnesses do believe that they will earn salvation by means of their preaching work, a fact which is stated outright in their publications.
It is by our endurance in proclaiming “this good news of the kingdom” that we may attain to salvation.”
A part of Jehovah’s merciful provision for salvation is the maintaining of a continued preaching campaign. Even those who do not believe must be told of the impending execution of divine judgment. And it is the privilege of Jehovah’s witnesses to do this preaching. Yes, that is why Jehovah’s witnesses must continue to preach until Jehovah himself brings about the termination of this work at Armageddon.”
The Frequently Asked Questions article on JW.ORG is, to be blunt, a lie. It is true that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that the preaching work alone will grant them salvation, but even a cursory glance at their publications shows that they don’t believe they can attain salvation without it.
The writer of the article seems to be focused on the word “earn,” clarifying that humans, in fact, cannot earn their salvation. But consider the above citations. If one is told that “It is by our endurance in proclaiming “this good news of the kingdom” that we may attain to salvation,” that the preaching campaign is “a part of Jehovah’s merciful provision for salvation,” and that preaching is “vitally related” to one’s salvation, what is the impression one would get? The answer is clear to Jehovah’s Witnesses: if they do not regularly engage in the preaching work, they will not survive Armageddon.
Per another FAQ article on their official website, a Jehovah’s Witness’ membership to the organization is dependent on being “active” in the preaching work on a monthly basis:
We count as Jehovah’s Witnesses only those who are actively preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom each month.”
If someone asks: “What’s your view of homosexuality?”
You might reply: “I don’t hate homosexuals, but I can’t approve of their conduct.”
✔ Remember: If you’re guided by the Bible’s moral code, then that is your lifestyle choice, and you have a right to it. (Joshua 24:15) Don’t feel ashamed of your view.—Psalm 119:46.”
Yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses are literally the dictionary definition of homophobic, which encompasses anyone who has prejudice against homosexual individuals and/or homosexual conduct.
Watchtower also attempts to frame the Bible’s stance on homosexuality as a simple black-and-white issue. It is not. The Bible was written two thousand years ago, and thus historical and textual context is needed when examining how the Old and New Testaments frame homosexuality.
For example, the Bible speaks positively of slavery. However, Watchtower regularly asserts that examining the historical context surrounding slavery reveals that the Israelites’ view of slavery differs from how it was utilized in modern history:
“Clearly, Jehovah did not approve of ‘man dominating man’ through abusive slavery. But did not God later allow slavery among his people? Yes, he did. However, the slavery that existed in Israel was vastly different from the tyrannical forms of slavery that have existed throughout history.” Awake! | September 8, 2001
So too must we examine the Bible’s view of homosexuality in historical context. Many Christian denominations have reconsidered their stance on LGBTQ+ issues in recent years, not because of being “’carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching'” as Watchtower accuses, but because of studying historical context, Bible principles, and our increasing understanding of gender identity and sexuality.
Consider the Reformation Project, a “Christian organization that works to promote inclusion of LGBTQ people by reforming church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity”:
“For the first 1,600 years of the church, nearly all Christians believed that the earth stood still at the center of the universe. But the invention of the telescope led Christians to reconsider their interpretation of the Bible.
Psalm 93:1 says, “The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.” Joshua 10:13 says the sun “stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.” Ecclesiastes 1:5 says, “The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.”
Galileo argued that the biblical authors used figurative language when describing the heavens, so the text “would be accommodated to the understanding of every man.”
Despite the weight of tradition, the telescope presented Christians with new information that required them to reconsider some of their beliefs—and their interpretation of Scripture.
Christians today are in a similar position because of new information that we have about sexual orientation.
In the ancient world, same-sex attraction and behavior were widely considered to be vices of excess that might tempt anyone—like gluttony or drunkenness. Same-sex attraction was not understood as the sexual orientation of a small minority of people.
Such Christian movements argue that Christianity promoted a message of inclusion and understanding, upending the exclusionary practices of the Mosaic law:
Christians have reconsidered their interpretation of Scripture due to their experiences in the past. The early Christians chose to include Gentiles in the church without requiring them to be circumcised and obey the Old Testament law—and they made this decision based on their experience. Peter declared of early Gentile believers, “God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us… Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:8, 10)
By proclaiming a rigid, “LGBTQ+ Bad” agenda Watchtower is refusing to engage with meaningful conversations around the history of the book upon which they claim to base their beliefs.
More importantly, however, Watchtower’s rhetoric is harmful, and is traumatizing to its repressed LGBTQ+ members:
What JW.ORG Says
“If you’re guided by the Bible’s moral code, then that is your lifestyle choice, and you have a right to it. (Joshua 24:15) Don’t feel ashamed of your view.”
You could add: “To illustrate it, I also choose not to smoke. In fact, I find the very idea of it repugnant. But suppose you’re a smoker and you feel differently. I wouldn’t be prejudiced against you for your view, just as I’m sure you wouldn’t be prejudiced against me for my view—am I right? The same principle applies to our differing views of homosexuality.”
If someone says: “Homosexuals can’t change their orientation; they’re born that way.” You might reply: “The Bible doesn’t comment on the biology of homosexuals, although it acknowledges that some traits are deeply ingrained. (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5) Even if some are oriented toward the same sex, the Bible tells Christians to shun homosexual acts.” ✔ Suggestion: Rather than get ensnared in a debate about the cause of homosexual desires, emphasize that the Bible prohibits homosexual conduct. To make a comparison, you could say: “You know, many claim that violent behavior can have a genetic root and that as a result, some people are predisposed to it. (Proverbs 29:22) What if that was true? As you might know, the Bible condemns fits of anger. (Psalm 37:8; Ephesians 4:31) Is that standard unfair just because some may be inclined toward violence?”
Watchtower begins by implying that homosexuality is a “lifestyle choice,” yet later encourages its members to avoid conversations about “the cause of homosexual desires.”
Rates of attempted suicide by LGBT young people whose parents tried to change their sexual orientation were more than double (48%) the rate of LGBT young adults who reported no conversion experiences (22%).
Suicide attempts nearly tripled for LGBT young people who reported both home-based efforts to change their sexual orientation by parents and intervention efforts by therapists and religious leaders (63%).
This is why Watchtower discourages its members from getting “ensnared” in a conversation about choice–because it is demonstrably false.
Watchtower attempts to defend its stance by decrying the “flawed notion that humans must act on their sexual impulses.” They say, “The Bible dignifies humans by assuring them that they can choose not to act on their improper sexual urges if they truly want to.”
This places the blame purely on the individual; if she should act on her natural desire to experience romantic love and intimacy, this is her “not truly wanting” to serve God. This has been stated quite overtly in previous Watchtower publications:
“Homosexuals find themselves “in darkness mentally, and alienated from the life that belongs to God.”” Awake! 1995 Feb 22 p.14
There is absolutely nothing harmful about a safe, consensual, loving relationship. However, Watchtower hatefully compares non-hetero sexual identity with “smoking cigarettes” and having a “genetic predisposition for violence,” as though ingesting nicotine or choosing to punch someone in the face is the same as wanting to act upon one’s innate sexuality. Historically, Watchtower has also compared homosexuality with pedophilia:
“Similarly, a Christian cannot excuse immoral behavior by saying he was ‘born that way.’ Child molesters invoke the same pathetic excuse when they say their craving for children is “innate.” But can any one deny that their sexual appetite is perverted? So is the desire for someone of the same sex.” Awake! 1995 Feb 8 p.16
The article is also full of bizarre, unfounded statements such as “same-sex attraction is often nothing more than a passing phase,” and “although it can be found among both genders, it seems that bisexuality is becoming increasingly common in girls.” And most dubiously:
“The fact is, millions of heterosexuals who wish to conform to the Bible’s standards employ self-control despite any temptations they might face. Their numbers include many who are single with little prospect of marriage and many who are married to a disabled partner who is unable to function sexually. They are able to live happily without fulfilling their sexual urges.”
Unmarried heterosexuals within Watchtower have the prospect of getting married, whereas this option would never be open to an LGBTQ+ person under Watchtower’s standards. This quote also underscores Watchtower’s underlying assertion that sexuality is all about sexual intercourse. The hypothetical married couple with a disabled spouse mentioned above are, well, married. They have love, companionship, romance–all things that LGBTQ+ people are forbidden from experiencing within Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Suffice it to say that despite their arguments to the contrary Watchtower is dangerously homophobic, and a significant amount of Christian scholars disagree with their black-and-white reading of homosexuality as presented in the Bible.
If you are a LGBTQ+ Jehovah’s Witness in need of support, head over to the wonderful resources at jw.support