Jehovah’s Witnesses use Bible to navigate life as they await return of Jesus in near future
Question: What does the name Jehovah’s Witnesses mean, and how did your denomination come to that name?
Answer: Our name comes from Jehovah’s own words in reference to his servants at Isaiah 43:10-12. It says Jehovah said, “You are my witnesses” and “even my servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and have faith in me, and that you may understand that I am the same one. Before me there was no God formed, and after me there continued to be none. . . . So you are my witnesses and I am God.”
This name was adopted in 1931 based on this Scripture. Prior to that we were called International Bible Students.
Q: What are your core beliefs?
A: We believe that the entire Bible is the inspired word of God, and we hold the Bible as the standard for all our beliefs. We strive to apply Bible counsel and principles in all aspects of our lives. We recognize Jehovah as God’s personal name, and that he alone is Almighty God. We believe in Jesus Christ, not as part of a Trinity, but as . . . the son of God. It is through him, due to the ransom sacrifice that he provided, that makes possible salvation to eternal life for those who exercise faith.
We also believe that God’s kingdom is a real government that is ruling from the heavens, with Christ as king. It is the only hope for ending mankind’s problems, and it will soon take action to destroy wickedness and suffering.
That kingdom will produce a new world system so that God’s original purpose will be realized. It will restore the Earth to a paradise in which a perfect human family will serve God.
Q: Most people know Jehovah’s Witnesses from their door-to-door visits and the extraordinary persistence of those who come knocking. What is the purpose behind those visits, and why such persistence?
A: Jesus himself set the example for us to follow. He preached about the good news of God’s kingdom from door to door and from village to village. He commanded all of his followers to . . . “go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations.” In obedience to this command, along with our love of neighbor, we want to do that, and we feel it necessary to “witness” to all (not only locally, but throughout the world in 235 lands and in hundreds of languages). We want to inform people about the good news of God’s kingdom, Bible truths and where we stand in the stream of time according to Bible prophecy. As for our persistence, we feel that this is important information and . . . it can save lives when God’s time of judgment arrives in the near future.
Q: What takes place at your weekly congregational meetings?
A: We have five meetings a week: Congregation Book Study, which is held in smaller groups . . . using a question-and-answer format; Theocratic Ministry School, which allows members to give short Bible-based talks in front of the congregation; . . . Service Meeting, in which Bible-based talks are designed to help us be more effective and better equipped for our ministry; Public Meeting, which is a Bible-based discourse on a different topic each week; and Watchtower Study, where we examine, by means of question and answer, a Bible-based article from a recent Watchtower magazine.
Q: At several points in the early 20th century, Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted the return of Jesus and the beginning of Armageddon. How do you see those predictions today?
A: Bible prophecy and world events confirm that Christ did begin ruling in heaven in 1914. His presence is felt in directing the congregation and the worldwide preaching work today. We are awaiting his action to bring to an end to this system of things at Armageddon. Jesus himself stated as to when that would take place. “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither that angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” Though in the past, some have speculated as to when this might take place and have been eager to see this prophecy fulfilled, the Scriptures clearly indicate that only Jehovah God knows when that appointed time will be. What we can see is that prophecies concerning the last days are being fulfilled in the times we are living in now, thus indicating that appointed time is near.
Q: What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe about the divinity or mortality of Jesus?
A: Basing our beliefs on what the Bible says, Jesus is not the same person as Jehovah God. He is the only begotten son of God. As the firstborn of all creation, Jesus had a beginning and enjoyed a prehuman existence in the heavens along with his father, Jehovah. Jesus never claimed to be Almighty God or to be equal to him. However, as the second-highest person in the universe, the Bible does refer to him as a “Mighty God” at Isaiah 9:6, so in that sense we believe in the divinity of Christ as a God but not Almighty God.
Q: I’ve read that Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that only 144,000 people will go to heaven. Is that true? And if so, what happens to everyone else?
A: Reflecting back on God’s original purpose for man and for Earth, man was put here to live forever in paradise. God’s purpose is always fulfilled. By means of the kingdom, the Earth will be restored to a paradise for faithful mankind to live. . . . There will be an opportunity for a select few to reign from heaven, along with Christ, as kings and priests. Those “bought from the Earth” are 144,000. The context helps us to see that this is a literal number. Others will enjoy perfect life on Earth.
Q: Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions?
A: Jehovah, the source of life, has given us the command to abstain from blood. He gave this command to Noah and to the nation of Israel. And this continued into the Christian congregation. We are instructed “to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication.” A blood transfusion would amount to being fed intravenously. Even in a medical emergency, we would not take in blood, keeping God’s command paramount. We do want the best medical care possible (without blood), and Jehovah’s Witnesses have contributed to the progress made in the use of nonblood alternatives and bloodless surgery programs.
Q: Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid celebrating holidays and birthdays?
A: We want to consider how our heavenly father would view this. Many of the holidays celebrated today stem from and have activities taken from false religious celebrations. Although these things started before our time, Jehovah observed firsthand the pagan religious practices from which these originated. If he was offended by them in the past, would he not still be today? We feel that by not sharing in celebrations that don’t have Christian roots, we can keep our worship clean and acceptable before God.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are not against celebrations. We do enjoy parties and other activities, including weddings and anniversaries. We follow the Bible’s instruction to commemorate the memorial of Christ’s death. This is the most important religious event of the year for Jehovah’s Witnesses.
As for birthdays, the Bible makes only two references to birthday celebrations. Both of these celebrants were not servants of Jehovah, and in each account someone was put to death, such as John the Baptist at Herod’s. There are no references to Christians celebrating birthdays. Also, various customs with which people today celebrate birthdays have an origin in the realm of magic and false religion.
Q: What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe about nationalism, military duty and the flag?
A: Recognizing that God’s kingdom is a real government, that is where we put our loyalty. The governments today serve a purpose and are allowed to stand in their positions by God. We are instructed to obey the laws they set, to pay our taxes and basically be good citizens. Politics and nationalism cause divisions among people. By staying neutral in these areas, Jehovah’s Witnesses follow the example set by Jesus and remain united with our fellow worshippers around the globe.
We would not pledge our allegiance to a flag or government, but we would be respectful of it and its authority. Obeying God’s command not to kill or murder would prevent us from participating in war or military activities.
Q: There are several sites on the Internet devoted to helping people leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses. And some refer to you as being a cult. What is your response to that?
A: Ours is a voluntary organization, and no one is forced to stay a part of it. Therefore, members can leave if they choose to do so. Certainly we are not a cult. Cults are religions said to be unorthodox or devoted to prescribed rituals. Many follow a living human leader, and often their adherents live in groups apart from the rest of society. That does not describe us at all.
Q: What are some of the humanitarian causes that local Jehovah’s Witnesses have been involved in?
A: Individually, we strive to imitate Jesus in helping those in need. However, our main community service is our preaching activity, where we take the good news of God’s kingdom to the people in our community. We feel that this is the best way possible to help others.
In addition, with the recent hurricane disasters, Jehovah’s Witnesses locally and nationally have organized and provided relief efforts. We have sent money, clothing, food. Even skilled workers from among us have and are continuing to volunteer their time, traveling to Louisiana, Mississippi and South Florida to share in the cleanup and rebuilding.
Q: Jehovah’s Witnesses are considered to be among the fastest-growing denominations in the world. Why do you think that is?
A: We see that the world’s problems continue to get worse day by day. Man cannot solve all these problems, but God has the solution to every problem today, including death. . . . That truly is good news and provides a solid hope for the future.
Many people, by adhering to Bible principles and counsel, as taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses, have been able to cope with and even eliminate problems in their daily lives.
Many have been attracted by this, and we invite all to see this for themselves by visiting your local Kingdom Hall.