Yet in each iteration of this all-too-common scene precious opportunities for the preaching of the Gospel are lost, and damnable teaching goes undisputed. For the sake of the propagation of sound doctrine and the purity of the Gospel, it is necessary that Christians be equipped to effectively engage and evangelize Jehovah’s Witnesses. I hope that a short series of blog posts will contribute to the education of fellow believers regarding the heretical doctrines of the Watchtower Society and will equip true followers of Christ to defend an orthodox Christology from the text of Scripture.
A Synopsis of their History and Beliefs
The sect known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses began in 1872 as their founder, Charles Taze Russell, gathered a group of people for Bible study in western Pennsylvania. Over the next 35 years the organization grew to official and even international status before suffering a split and change of leadership in the early 20th century.
Though the formation of the Watchtower Society was seemingly gradual, Witnesses acknowledge its establishment in 1914, as they believe that it was then that a “spiritual ‘second coming’ of Christ occurred” (Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, 72). At this time, God “personally set up the Watchtower Society as His visible representative on earth” (Rhodes, 23), and thus the only viable arbiter and interpreter of spiritual truth. Thus, the Watchtower Society is to Jehovah’s Witnesses what the Magisterium is to Roman Catholics. “At this time Christ began to gather to himself a faithful remnant and commissioned them to be Witnesses of Jehovah and his Kingdom” (Metzger, "The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jesus Christ," 69.
Throughout history, such witnesses will not exceed 144,000, for they believe—based on a faulty interpretation of Rev 7:1ff—that those finally saved will not exceed this number. They establish such aberrant interpretations with the aid of a specious translation of the Scriptures, the New World Translation, which reputable scholars have condemned as “radically biased,” “reprehensible,” and “intellectually dishonest.” The NWT is uniquely prejudiced to maintain the theological predilections of the Witnesses.
Among the many doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, their Christology is what chiefly distinguishes their teaching from historic Christian orthodoxy. Witnesses teach that Jesus Christ is not God incarnate, but rather the first created being through whom the true God, Jehovah, made the world. They argue that He is begotten, not self-existent (John 3:16), the beginning and firstborn of the creation, not eternal (Rev 3:14; Col 1:15), and the instrument of creation (Col 1:16), but not the Creator Himself (Aid to Bible Understanding, 391).
Therefore, they teach that Jesus is inferior to Jehovah. They support such teaching by citing passages of Scripture which speak of Christ’s functional subordination to the Father. Jesus Himself said, “the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). Paul told the Corinthians that “God is the head of Christ” (1 Cor 11:3), and later said the Son will be subjected to the Father (1 Cor 15:27-28; see their Reasoning from the Scriptures, 410). And so they conclude that Christ is not equal in essence with Jehovah God. They seem unable to allow an essential equality yet functional subordination between the Father and the Son. Yet that very distinction is established between husband and wife (1Cor 11:3, 7–12); they are inherently equal, but have differing and complementary roles. Surely one may see this distinction in regards to marriage. Why not, then, within the members of the Trinity?
They do, however, stipulate that Christ existed before His incarnation, yet not as God, but as Michael the Archangel (The Watchtower [May 1969], 307). They draw upon similarities such as the fact that 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says that Jesus will return at the voice of the archangel, who is identified in Jude 1:9 as Michael. Further, Revelation 12:7–12 says that Michael will do battle with Satan, yet Revelation 19:11–16 speaks about Christ leading the armies of heaven against the nations of the world. Thus Michael and Christ must be the same person.
Consequently, the Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the physical, bodily resurrection of Christ. In His appearances after His death and burial, He was not a glorified human being, but was recreated as Michael the Archangel (Rhodes, 71). His appearance to Thomas and the others with the evidence of His crucifixion was only His using “a body with wound holes.” Such a spiritual resurrection harmonizes with the “spiritual second coming” mentioned above.
What to Make of All This
The Christology of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, falls woefully short of the Christology revealed in the pages of Scripture. In fact, one would need to study diligently to find a more well-attested Biblical doctrine than the deity of Jesus Christ. In the next couple of posts I hope to clearly lay out the Biblical evidence regarding the person of Jesus Christ, to the end that the saints be better equipped to engage and refute the doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. That way, when you hear the knock on your door on Saturday morning, it won’t be chills you feel running up your spine, but the steel that strengthens you in Christ to love your neighbor as yourself, having mercy on those who are deceived, and compassionately snatching them as brands from the burning.
always being ready to make a defense
to everyone who asks you to give an account
for the hope that is in you,
yet with gentleness and reverence;
and keep a good conscience
so that in the thing in which you are slandered,
those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.
- 1 Peter 3:15-16 -
 As cited in Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, 96. Cited are Dr. Robert Countess, Dr. Bruce Metzger, and Dr. William Barclay, respectively.
 You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1982), 143.