UNDERSTANDING THE CULTS — JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
In this twelve-part series we are taking a brief look at some of the major cults,
past and present, that have found adherents in the United States. Your pastor
can help you if you’d like a more in-depth study of a particular group.
In a previous article addressing the errors of the Mormons, it was noted that one of the identifying signs of a cult is its claim of possessing a revelation from God that is superior to the Bible. The Jehovah’s Witnesses follow that pattern as they place more credence in their governing body, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, than they do in the Bible. In fact, the Watch Tower Society takes it upon themselves to edit their version of the Bible (the New World Translation) whenever it is pointed out that it does not agree with the Watch Tower’s teachings.
A cult may also be identified by what it does with Jesus—what it teaches about His nature, His person, and His work. This is something that can be clearly seen in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and what they do with Jesus is what makes them a cult.
When discussing matters of faith with Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is easy to get bogged down in various details. They will talk about how Jehovah loves us, wants to have a relationship with us, and sent His son, Jesus, to lead us back to Him. They will talk about possessing Jehovah’s spirit and what it means to follow Jesus. They will use words with which we are familiar: grace, forgiveness, faith, salvation, and so forth. The problem is that none of these statements or words mean the same thing to them as what the Bible means by them. This relates directly to what they do with Jesus.
It is the official teaching of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that Jesus was the first creation of God and is therefore an entirely separate being. Simply put, in their teaching, Jesus is not Jehovah. As said above, the Jehovah’s Witnesses feel free, even compelled, to alter the Bible when any passage of the Bible equates Jesus with Jehovah. They’ve spent years doing so and continue to do so. This can make it difficult to use the Bible to convince them of their error.
Take heart, though, and remember Jesus’ response to the Pharisees when they rejected His claim to be equal with God. Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” (John 5:39 ESV) This means that while the Jehovah’s Witnesses have edited some of the more prominent passages of the Bible to say something other than what the Holy Spirit gave the writers to write, there are many passages they have missed which, even in their own Bibles, testify to Jesus’ deity and reveal Him as Jehovah.
One such passage is Isaiah 40:1 and following. The opening verses of this chapter prophesy about the work of John the Baptist, who came to prepare the way of the Lord—the way of Jesus. Even in their corrupted Bible, verse three stands out as a clear testimony that John came to prepare the way of Jehovah. Yet, it goes beyond that, because later on in the same chapter, after specifically announcing that it is the “Sovereign God” who would come to “save us,” Isaiah’s prophecy even more specifically reveals who this “Sovereign God” is by telling us that “Like a shepherd he will care for his flock. With his arm he will gather together the lambs, And in his bosom he will carry them.” (40:11 NWT) This is an unmistakable description of Jesus, Who describes Himself as the “Good Shepherd” in John 10, and goes on to say, “I give them everlasting life, and they will by no means ever be destroyed, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28 NWT)
The truth is that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are not at all Jehovah’s witnesses, because they are not faithful witnesses of Jesus, Who is Jehovah. Sadly, many have been led astray by this denial of Jehovah and follow a false god of man’s invention. This false god cannot save them, but Jesus—Jehovah—can. He saves through His Gospel, which is the power of God, of Jesus, to salvation for all who believe. So may Jehovah—Jesus—make us His faithful witnesses to speak His Gospel.
Frank Gantt is pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Loganville, Georgia.