I recently had a knock on my door from a couple who belonged to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses). Their character and respect for my family were impressive, something we can all learn from. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I’m encouraged to be at peace with all people, even with those who have different beliefs. But the Bible also encourages me to boldly and confidently present a scriptural basis for truth and to compare differences … to be a peacemaker but not a religious negotiator.
Historical Christianity is built on two primary foundations: The fact that Jesus is God and the inerrancy of the Bible. We can’t be united if we are divided on these foundational issues. While the following points may help you to better understand the differences between Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs), I want to be clear that this article represents my interaction with many JWs over the years and may not reflect what they all believe.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, through The New World Translation (NWT), claim that their version of the Bible is scholarly and more accurate. However, the translators were not biblical scholars or theologians. David Reed, an ex-Witness, says that the NWT came into being in 1961 for the sole purpose of denying that Jesus is God. In 1913, Charles Taze Russell, the first editor of what is now called The Watchtower, was asked in court if he knew Greek. At first, he said yes—until he was asked to read the Greek alphabet. At that point, he admitted that he didn’t know the language the original manuscripts were written in. This presents an important question: Whose Bible is right?
A very brief history lesson: Christians acquired their Bible from two primary sources. The first is the Byzantine, or “Received text,” which is not the oldest, but it is the majority as far as how many manuscripts we have on hand. It was the traditional text of the Greek-speaking churches and where the KJV, NKJV, and the NASB Bibles come from. The other school of text is from Alexandria; it’s the earliest we have, but it’s in the minority regarding how many manuscripts have been found. The variances in these two manuscripts are minor and do not disagree on anything significant. (For more about how we got our Bible, click here or search “How We Got Our Bible” by Shane Idleman on YouTube.)
So here is the first divide: It’s common knowledge that Charles Taze Russell left the Christian church around 1872 at age 20 because he could not reconcile the idea of an eternal hell with God’s mercy. JWs say that Jesus is their founder, not Charles Taze Russell, yet in comparing the words of Jesus with Charles, we find a clear difference. One example out of many is that Jesus said to fear God “who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). JWs teach that this is not a literal hell, but even a plain reading of Scripture says otherwise.
Many major doctrines that Christians have agreed on for nearly 1900 years were changed in the New World Translation because of the influence of Russell. Doctrines such as hell, Jesus is God, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the Trinity, and so on were removed or reconstructed. Because they have been challenged so much over the years about their translation, many JWs now carry other translations, such as the King James, to add credibility. However, they still interpret the Scriptures much differently because of the faulty foundation their structure is built on.
Granted, hell is a hard concept, but I’m not too concerned with what I don’t fully understand. I’m concerned with what I do fully understand. The Bible is crystal clear that those who reject God are eternally separated from Him. But JWs believe in annihilation at death—that we cease to exist when we die. They cite Genesis 3, which says our bodies return to the earth, but Genesis 3 is talking about our human body … our shell, so to speak. There are many Scriptures that say that our soul or spirit—depending on how you define it—lives on. How can we reconcile annihilation with being held responsible for our actions (think Adolph Hitler)? Why would anyone fear judgment or need Jesus if they simply vanish after death?
The Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to my door told me that they talk about the kingdom of God but not the judgment of God. They don’t want to offend, but the gospel is offensive—it offends pride and crushes arrogance. This again puts JWs at odds with Jesus, who said we should fear the judgment and warn others from time to time (see John 3:18). Jesus also commanded us to preach repentance for the remission of sins (Luke 24:46–47), something JWs do not do (at least from my experience of talking to many of them).
From this point in the conversation, we went directly to Jesus being God. In the original manuscripts, John 1:1 clearly says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” But the Bible of the Jehovah’s Witnesses says “a god,” not “the” God. That’s a big deal. I could also list dozens of other Scriptures about Jesus being God that one can easily find in a Google search. Only God, not a creature, could die for the sins of the world (see more below).
JWs also have a problem with the Trinity because they perceive it as representing three Gods. They also say that the word Trinity is not in the Bible. However, this is faulty logic because the word Bible also isn’t in the Bible. Granted, I don’t understand everything about God or how He chooses to reveal Himself, but the Bible clearly teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three but one.
At this stage you may be thinking, “Shane, that seems arrogant. How do you know you’re right?” Because I’m not basing it off personal opinion but on God’s truth. All beliefs can be wrong, but they cannot all be right. Personal opinions vary—truth does not. Arrogance actually challenges God and His Word. Remember, the Bible encourages me to boldly and confidently present a scriptural basis for truth and to compare the differences. If people are going to knock on my door and present a false gospel to my family and neighbors, I must speak out. How about you? Are you truly Jehovah’s witness?
My guests also said that we can only refer to God as Jehovah, not Lord, God, or Jesus. But Jehovah is simply a modern mispronunciation of the Hebrew name of God. Moses didn’t call God Jehovah but the Hebrew name Yahweh. Jews at that time would actually write “YHWH” because the name of God was so holy to them (as it should be). God does not listen to the sounds of pronunciation from our lips; rather, He listens for humility and repentance from our hearts. It’s always a heart issue, and that’s my big concern for JWs. I see zeal but with little knowledge of who God really is. I see a form of godliness but a denial of His power (2 Timothy 3:5). I see a works-based performance with no assurance of salvation.
To my shock, my guests didn't want to pray to Jesus or worship Him. They said that Jesus was created and that we should not worship Him. They often cite Colossians 1:15, but in context, that verse means that Jesus is the heir and highly favored one. The Bible is clear that He is God, and that He is to be exalted and worshiped: Every knee will bow and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10–11). Even the God-hating groups will ultimately bow their knees.
Jesus cannot be an angel, as they say, because it’s forbidden to worship angels (Colossians 2:18), yet New Testament saints worshiped and adored Jesus because He is truly God. As GotQuestions.org brilliantly states:
The most important reason that Jesus must be God is that, if He is not God, His death would not have been sufficient to pay the penalty for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). A created being, which Jesus would be if He were not God, could not pay the infinite penalty required for sin against an infinite God. Only God could pay such an infinite penalty. Only God could take on the sins of the world (2 Corinthians 5:21), die, and be resurrected, proving His victory over sin and death. Is Jesus God? Yes. Jesus declared Himself to be God. His followers believed Him to be God. The provision of salvation only works if Jesus is God. Jesus is God incarnate, the eternal Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8; 22:13), and God our Savior (2 Peter 1:1).
False religions only survive as long as they are not scrutinized. This is why many religions do not want to be examined. For example, as soon as they realize that you will keep challenging them, they often withdraw in order to silence the voice of conviction. They also will not meet with anyone who has left the JW religion (again, this comes from my interaction with many JWs over the years and may not reflect all of them). Christ-honoring, Bible-believing Christians will jump at the opportunity to meet with anyone who has questions. Why? Because we have the truth. Truth invites scrutiny; error runs from it. Jesus leads us back to truth, not further away from it.
From a skewed view of truth, JWs also come up with other unbiblical concepts, such as not voting or being involved in politics. But we are to be “the salt and light” in all areas of life, including our civil government. If everyone believed like JWs about politics, then our system would resemble North Korea rather than how the founding fathers of America envisioned and achieved it. I wonder if they are aware that God blessed America because America honored God, at least initially. (For more information and how and why we should be involved, and how America was built on God’s Word, download my free eBook, One Nation Above God, or visit WCFAV.org and click “Free eBooks” at the top.)
As we conclude, the following questions are vitally important: Is Jesus your Lord and Savior? Have you repented of your sin and put your hope, faith, and trust in Him? If not, you’re on the broad road of destruction (Matthew 7:13–14). I don’t write this with joy but as a tear-stained plea. Do you truly know God? Many JWs don’t—they have religion but not a relationship. They lack peace and assurance. They hope that everything works out in the end as long as they knock on enough doors. Granted, Christians should be zealous to reach our neighbors, but we do it because we want to, not because we have to.
I wish I didn’t have to write any of this, but the truth of God’s Word compels me to highlight the differences. God completely and radically changed my life, and I want Him to do the same for you. Have you truly experienced God? We do not need to belong to any church or society to be saved. Salvation comes through Christ alone: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). We can stand before God because our sin debt is paid in full … no intercessors, mediators, penance, or works can add to Christ’s finished work on the cross.
Romans 10:9 states, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” My ultimate hope for this article is that people turn from darkness to light and turn to the one true God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Jeremiah 10:10; et al.).
Author’s Note: If you have questions, please reach out to us at WCFAV.org. Feel free to find this article at ShaneIdleman.com and share it with JW’s and neighbors, as well as on social media. Simply put the title of this article in the search bar on my website.