§ Founder: Charles T Russell
§ Year: 1879 (however Russell did have a bible study group running from the early 1870’s)
§ Charles Russell’s organization now publishes the by-monthly Watchtower and Awake magazine, along with a huge assortment of different Watchtower “bible based” publications.
§ Organization is run by a “Governing Body” of men. They teach that these men belong to a special group that God has personally anointed. These men believe that they will rule alongside Jesus Christ from the heavens. Romans 8:12-17 says:
§ So, then, brothers, we are under obligation, not to the flesh to live in accord with the flesh; 13 for if YOU live in accord with the flesh YOU are sure to die; but if YOU put the practices of the body to death by the spirit, YOU will live. 14 For all who are led by God’s spirit, these are God’s sons. 15 For YOU did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but YOU received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: “Abba, Father!” 16 The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together.
So they believe that only those “adopted as sons” by Gods Holy Spirit will actually go to heaven.
§ They teach that the number going to heaven from earth is 144000. Up until relatively recently (late ‘90’s) the Watchtower claimed that some of the anointed would be alive when the end came and that less than 10,000 were alive at that time. Numbers and dates were still very important in the late 1990’s as the organization still held that those alive in 1914 would be here to see the end of the world.
§ Time has now caught up on this time line prophecy so once again the Watchtower has move the goal posts and changed its “understanding” because “the light is getting lighter” as the end approaches. Proverbs 4:18 is a scripture that the Watchtower will use in its defense to cover ignorance. Interestingly when they actually say that they had a poor understanding of an issue and then use this scripture is used to defend their position they are actually putting their poor understanding of scripture at Gods feet, blaming God for holding back. Next time you speak with a JW ask him if it is the Organizations fault that so many prophecies haven’t been fulfilled? It will be everyone else’s fault but theirs.
§ The Watchtower will generally agree that the earth is many billions of years old, as the scientific evidence is overwhelming. However they do teach that mankind is about 6000 years old. This is based on two primary pieces of scripture from the gospels of Matthew Chapter 1 and Luke Chapter 3. Here the genealogy of Jesus is recorded all the way back to Adam and Eve the genealogy of the Christ is supported by the Hebrew Scriptures, or Old Testament.
§ Adam and Eve are believed to be real people, the beginning of the human race, despite a huge amount of information to the contrary.
§ They believe that they disobeyed God and listened to a jealous angel, who became known as Satan the Devil. He made Adam and Eve believe that they could do without God thus rejecting his intention for mankind. The Devil told them that they could get along fine without God, that he was holding them back, forbidding them to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and bad. So by eating of the tree of knowledge they sided with Satan and rejected God.
Adam and Eve had now sinned and as sinners they no longer could even stand in the presence of god. Something else was needed to buy back everything that Adam and Eve had lost through Satan the devil. This is called the ransom price, the price that Jesus paid through his death in the flesh. A perfect offering for what was lost in the garden some 4000 years before. All had been lost through a perfect man, now the exact equal born in the flesh, suffering in the flesh presented himself to God as a ransom sacrifice on behalf of all mankind. Now through Jesus Christ we now had a way to God again, no longer via the spilling of blood through the sacrificial arrangement, now we had a way back to God through the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ. All that was lost in Adam was regained in Jesus. This belief is fundamental to the teachings of almost all Christian churches however this is where the Witnesses' believes become a little cloudy and complicated.
§ They believe that since 1914 the Resurrected Jesus Christ is ruling a select group of people that he has chosen to rule alongside him. This group numbers 144000 people resurrected to heaven. These will eventually destroy and remove all badness from the world including Satan the devil. These chosen ones will then rule over a paradise earth for eternity.
§ In 1914 the Witnesses say that there was a war in the heavens and that Satan the devil was cast down from Heaven to earth by Jesus Christ in his role of Michael the Archangel. They use the 1st World War to prove this point.
§ They do not believe in the Trinity citing that Jesus never spoke of it in any tangible way. There were many triune beliefs around in the 1st century was partly to the turn of the century, however as the belief or teaching is not specifically mentioned in the Bible so it is not accepted as a truth.
§ The Witnesses’ don’t celebrate birthdays as they claim that birthday celebrations are steeped in pagan origins, and from a scriptural view point the bible only talks about them in a negative light. For example the first mention of a birthday in the bible is that of the Pharaoh in Genesis 40:20-23 here the chief baker was hanged by the Pharaoh during the celebration. In the New Testament we have the account of the death of John the Baptist; he was beheaded during another birthday celebration (Matthew 14:6-10). Over the past 2000 years birthday celebrations have become part of daily life however they are no longer steeped in the ungodly acts of old. Jehovah Witnesses take a very presumptuous approach to the birthday arrangement; they presume that it is wrong to celebrate birthdays based on the above however the bible makes no direct comment as to the rights or wrongs of celebrating birthdays.
§ While Jehovah Witnesses’ do not celebrate Easter in the same fashion as mainstream Christian do, they do however have a celebration around the same time that recognizes the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is called the Memorial celebration where the remaining ones of the 144000 still alive on the earth partake of the bread and wine which represents the body and blood of Jesus Christ; they celebrate this in recognition of Luke 22:19 where Jesus commanded “do this in remembrance of me”. The Witnesses celebrate the Memorial on a different date each year as with all annual events the same date will fall on a different day each year. After sundown on Nican 14th Jesus Memorial celebration is held; it is worth noting that Nican is a month on the then Jewish calendar, as these months were lunar in nature, thus having 28 days per month there is a huge variance in the Memorial celebration date. There are several things that are hugely different in nature from the beliefs of mainstream Christendom, they are
1. Only those with a heavenly calling can partake of the emblems. These are the ones in Romans chapter 8 where Paul reminds us that the spirit of God would almost tap these ones on the shoulder and “adopt them as sons” they cry out “abba” in recognition of the closeness of their relationship with God. So unlike those that attend church services when the emblems are passed around the congregations of Jehovah Witnesses all over the world only a handful of the remaining 144000 (about 8000 or so) eat and drink these representations.
2. Even after a prayer and a blessing the Witnesses believe that the bread and wine remain exactly that, bread and wine. They do not subscribe to the transubstantiation of the emblems as they believe that the body of Jesus whole and complete was offered to God on the day of his death. It was Jesus that uttered these words recorded for us in the Gospels, and as it was Jesus that spoke them they obviously were only used as representations of his physical body, in recognition of what he was about to do.
3. They don’t exchange gifts or Easter Eggs in recognition of the festival. It is easy to see where the Easter Bunny came from, the rabbit in recognition of the life it can give via it’s huge capacity to breed and the egg another symbol of life. Both of these beliefs steeped in paganism. However as with the paganism mentioned above regarding birthday celebrations the bunny and egg are merely symbolic representations of life itself, and the connection Jesus has with that very issue for all of us.
§ Christmas, or the lack of it, is one of the most difficult obstacles that newly attached Jehovah Witnesses must overcome. Unlike other annual holidays Christmas lasts for two weeks incorporating the New Year celebrations as well. Primarily they argue that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th using several scriptural references to back up their opinion. Most people accept that Jesus wasn’t born on the 25th of December however as an accurate date is not available the 25th of December was selected. What most people don’t know is that the 25th of December was used to celebrate a pagan festival, the Saturnalia Festival a pagan celebration worshipping the God of the Sun
§ Perhaps the most controversial issue is the blood issue. Based on several biblical verses not least that of Acts 15:18-21
Many years ago the Witnesses argued that taking blood into the body under any circumstances was a direct violation of scripture, even blood parts were not accepted by conscientious Witnesses. As a direct result of this many thousands of Witnesses over the years have died or have been seriously ill due to their no blood stance. In recent years the society has softened their teachings around the blood issue. They still teach that taking whole blood is in direct violation of the above scripture however the taking of some blood parts is now a "matter of conscience".
Also over the years many thousands of Witnesses and their children have died because they accepted the decisions of the Governing Body concerning the blood issue amongst others. For example in the 1960's the medical world made some huge advances in drugs and medical procedures and for the first time surgeons were able to successfully transplant hearts, kidneys and livers but to name a few. In an article published in a Watchtower magazine (A by monthly JW publication that the society uses to "preach the good news") the society warned against such operations saying that it was nothing short of cannibalism. Around the same time they published another article that called into question the use of the Factor 8 for Haemophilia sufferers.
Most will agree that Jim Jones was a classic cult leader. He alone issued the instructions and was a very charismatic individual. He is directly responsible for the deaths of almost 1000 people. Some of them died as a result of gun shot wounds, the vast majority were suicides due to the ingestion of cyanide laced drink.
I argue that there is very little if any difference between Jones and the Witnesses, I also argue that the Watchtower leadership is responsible for far more deaths and untold suffering, indeed I believe that a close examination of Watchtower teachings will testify to this.
The teachings of this organization all come from the same source "The Governing Body". This is a body of men that claim they are part of the 144000 who will rule with Jesus from heaven. They claim to be gods representatives here on earth, they claim that god is using them as a channel to preach the "good news of the Kingdom" before the "end of the system of things"
Imagine if you will that a loved one is in dire need of a blood transfusion, you are a Jehovah Witness and as such you cannot give permission to administer the life saving treatment. You may do this out of a sense of loyalty as your loved one has asked that blood not be administered no matter what the circumstances. Under these circumstances the wishes of the sick individual would normally be respected, especially if the request was made while in sound mind.
What if a minor is involved and the parents are Jehovah Witnesses? Witnesses do not allow children to be baptized, all baptism candidates must be able to fully understand their baptism commitments, such as the blood issue. The Witnesses teach that while the child is in their care as parents they must peruse a "non blood treatment", while this may be possible in some circumstances normally the case ends in a court room, and in order to ensure that the child gets the required treatment the child can be made a "ward of court" effectively taking away parenting responsibilities from the parents.
The courts are aware of another potential issue with regard to Watchtower cases. Over the years they have flip flopped on many of their major health teachings. For example organ transplants are now generally accepted by the society and individual members, it is no longer viewed as cannibalism, it is now a matter of conscience. Factor 8 is now a part of every day life for thousands of Witnesses even open heart surgery is left as a "matter of conscience". With that thought in mind try to imagine how you would feel if a family member died for one of the above reasons. Maybe they needed factor 8 to prevent bleeding to death or needed a life saving kidney exchange. Your loved one dies because they cling to "Gods Word" expressed by the governing body via the pages of the Watchtower magazine. Imagine how you feel when your loved one is dead and you read the latest magazine, you come to a new study article that contains "new light", the article informs you that taking factor 8 or receiving a kidney or liver is now a matter of conscience. How would you feel? Your loved one has died in vain, worst of all the magazine is telling you that God has changed his mind. How could this be? God is constant he never goes to the left or right, these issues are not small issues they are fundamental issues that affect our daily worship, not to mention our very lives.
So Mr Jones was responsible for 920 deaths. he is viewed as a very dangerous cult leader, I would suggest that the Watchtower is also a cult as it operates in the very same manner as Jones did. For example the decisions of the leadership cannot be challenged, many have been disfellowshipped from the organization for trying to get a deeper understanding of things, as after a certain point genuine questions can be seen as a sign of weakness. One example is a book written by a then Jehovah Witnesses in Sweden, the book is entitled "The Gentile Times Considered" by Carl Olof Jonsson. In it he asked a genuine question about the method that the organization used when calculating the important time line prophecies. As a direct result of this publication that many hundreds if not thousands of Witnesses left the organization.
The practice of shunning (The practice of ignoring people, used as a collective public chastisement of past members)
If you become a JW and then leave them for any reason, you will be shunned.
Even close family members are encouraged to shun or ignore a past member. Why? The organization teaches that this is done for the benefit of the erring Witnesses, that it will somehow encourage these lost sheep back into the fold. This ridiculous teaching is believed and practiced by millions of Jehovah Witnesses all around the world. Most of them are oblivious to the fact that shunning is a relatively new practice, it was introduced late in the last century in a bid to keep the truth about the organization from getting out. In particular one individual an ex-Witnesses and ex-Bethalite called Raymond Franz. Mr Franz most of his adult life to the Watchtower organization and was a member of the governing body who "rebelled" by challenging the official Watchtower line on ancient chronology.
In the 1980's the Watchtower organization decided to publish a new encyclopaedia to replace the Aid to Bible Understanding, when finished the encyclopaedia was published in two volumes they were called Insight to the Scriptures. Publishing a book of this nature is a huge undertaking as there are many thousands of entries to deal with, one can imagine the amount of research involved. Only those of good stead were asked to contribute articles, the Watchtower organization selected each topic and allocated it out accordingly. One of Mr Franz' assignments was chronology, he was asked to research scriptural chronology, obviously his findings would have to "agree" with Watchtower teachings. There were many different historical artefacts and publications available to him. As he studied these he discovered that there were conflicts with several key dates that the Watchtower used to support many of its key teachings and time line prophecies. As Mr Franz went about putting his assignment together he began to unearth information that completely refuted the Watchtowers chronology of events, right back to the fall of Israel to the Assyrians almost 600 years BC. This had major implications for the Society so they had to act, within a very short time period Ray Franz found himself isolated and shunned by his "brothers and sisters" in the Watchtower organization. Eventually Mr Franz and his wife had to leave the Bethel community where they had lived for most of their lives to lives, they now found themselves starting life all over again having to find work when others of his age were retiring. The Watchtower would stop at nothing to keep its lies and false teachings out of the public arena. Thankfully this act of shunning failed to stop Mr. Franz from speaking his mind his book Crises of Conscience gives a great insight to the problems he had to overcome.
From the very beginning Charles Russell decided that time line prophecies were key to understanding Gods intentions for mankind. Time and again via the Watchtower magazine Russell claimed that the world was going to end and that God was going to seek retribution with disobedient mankind. One key date was that of 1914, Russell prophesised through the pages of the Watchtower magazine and other associated publications that the world was going to end in 1914. Following another failed prophecy Russell now looked for something to justify this date there was one event that made this year different to all others, it was the year that the first world war broke out. He now had some justification for choosing this year and with a little tweaking he seemed to have a plausible explanation. There are many thousands of articles that the Watchtower organization has published during the past 100 years that have sought to prove the year 1914 as a marked year. The following article published in December of 1964 entitled "Length of the Appointed Times of the Nations" is a typical example of the reasoning that the Watchtower uses to back up its stance:
"The year of the Jewish and Babylonian calendars varied in length from as low as 354 days to as high as 385 days. But in the Bible’s symbolic or prophetic “time,” or year, the number of days is fixed at 360. Seven of such years would be 7 X 360 = 2,520 days. This is corroborated by the statement in Revelation 12:6, 14, where it speaks of “a time and times and half a time” or three and one-half times, as 1,260 days. If we divide 1,260 by three and one-half (3.5), it gives us three hundred and sixty (360) days to a “time,” or year.
As to the greater length of time that these 2,520 days pictured, we find the rule of “a day for a year” in a prophecy of Ezekiel, who prophesied contemporaneously with Daniel and who also had the matter of “bands” connected with his prophecy. Another prophecy by Daniel with respect to the first coming of the Messiah, namely, the prophecy of the “seventy weeks,” is understood by Bible scholars to apply the same rule.—Ezek. 4:6; Dan. 9:24, 25. See also Numbers 14:34, which deals with a period of punishment or disfavour.
Therefore, the 2,520 days of the “seven times” would be 2,520 years in fulfilment. These years, in their fulfilment, would not be merely 360 days each, but full calendar years as we count them. For we must remember that the variation of the Jewish calendar was to adjust the lunar year to harmonize with the solar year. It could be termed a “soli-lunar” or “bound lunar” year. Days, or months, were inserted at intervals to make up the difference of approximately eleven days between the lunar and the solar year. By this means the seasons always fell in their proper place in the calendar. So their calendar would be almost exactly in line with the currently used Gregorian calendar. So the 2,520 years are to be counted as solar years.
These 2,520 years began to count in 607 B.C.E., when God let go the world domination as represented by his typical kingdom on earth. That was when Jehovah used Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem and its temple, chase King Zedekiah off “Jehovah’s throne” and take him into exile, after which the fear of the Chaldeans caused the lowly people left behind to flee down into Egypt, leaving the territory of Judah desolate, with no governor there, leaving no possibility of interference from Judah. Nebuchadnezzar thereby “chopped down” the “tree” representing world domination, which was now transferred to Babylon. Thus desolation was accomplished in the seventh lunar month of the year 607 B.C.E. First then, Jerusalem, as representative of God’s kingdom, began to be trodden down, and thus the Gentile Times, “the appointed times of the nations,” began. Now Gentile domination, without interference from God’s kingdom, held sway over the earth. Moreover, the Gentile world powers acted beastly, like Nebuchadnezzar during his “seven times” of madness."
Russell didn't always use the bible to verify or back up his wild predictions, in 1886 Russell published The Devine Plan of the Ages. In this publication Russell attempted to use Pyramidology in conjunction with scripture to prophecy forthcoming events. In fact Russell was so taken by this that he has a Pyramid shaped headstone on his grave (see below). Here he used the disagreed of the general agreed date of 586/8. Despite a huge amount of evidence to the contrary the Watchtower still maintain that this date was 607, why? Because this date is vital to one of the Watchtowers primary that supposedly identifies the year that Jesus took control of issues in heaven and here on earth. So Mr Franz was seen as a direct treat to the organization because he was so well respected through the world, the only option that the Watchtower had was to stop him from talking to fellow Witnesses thus exposing the lies that the Watchtower was teaching. So it is now a common practice for disassociated and disfellowshipped members to be ignored by friends and families. it is also wordy to note that this practice is a world wide practice so for example if a Witness left the organization here in Ireland that same individual would be shunned in the USA. If a witness moves to another jurisdiction or country he must bring a letter of good stead with him if he doesn't have this he will be given any status in the new congregation, this practice is applied all over the world.
And its followers are all prophets of God today and the Governing Body is directed by angels from God.