Friday, 8 February 2008

Awake! to the Watchtower

The following is a sample chapter from the Reachout Trust Book – Awake! to the Watchtower. It is an in-depth look at the Watchtower Society especially in Britain and a valuable help to get us ready to communicate with the Jehovah’s Witnesses we meet.

The full product can be ordered direct from the Reachout Trust website at:

http://shopping.reachouttrust.org/Shopping/reachout.nsf/(ProductsByCode)/A001

5. The Godhead — Jesus

Summary

Jehovah’s Witnesses Teach:

1 Jesus is a created Being
2 He is the same person as the Archangel Michael
3 He is ‘a god’ but not Almighty God.

Evangelical Christians Teach:

1 Jesus is eternal
2 Jesus cannot be an angel
3 Jesus is God

See: Heb.7:3, 1:7, 8 and John 1:1

Who Is Jesus?

The Watchtower belief can be seen in the Watchtower publication, The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived, 1991, and it is different from the Jesus in the Bible:

“But more than that happens as Jesus is baptized. ‘The heavens are opened up’ to him. What does this mean? Evidently it means that while he is being baptized, the memory of his pre-human life in heaven returns to him. Thus, Jesus now fully recalls his life as a spirit son of Jehovah God, including all the things that God spoke to him in heaven during his pre-human existence.” - Section 12, p.2.

“However at his baptism, Jesus enters into a new relationship with God, becoming also God’s spiritual Son.” - Section 12, p.3.

“‘Unless anyone is born from water and spirit,’ Jesus explains, ‘he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’ When Jesus was baptized and holy spirit descended upon him, he was thus born ‘from water and spirit’... Later, at Pentecost 33 CE, other baptized ones will receive holy spirit and will thus also be born again as spiritual sons of God.” - Section 17, p.2.

The Watchtower Jesus:

1 Is only a spirit Son of God.
2 Only became God’s spiritual Son at baptism
3 Needed to be born again to see God’s kingdom.

Is this the Jesus portrayed in the Bible?

Is Jesus A Created Being?

The Watchtower says that Jesus is a spiritual son because Jehovah created Him. In this regard they quote Rev.3:14. In the NWT this reads that Jesus is “the beginning of the creation by God”, which seems to confirm the Watchtower belief that Jesus is the first one to be created by Jehovah. But does this verse say that?

The KIT shows that the Greek is “of God” not “by God” and this puts a different light on the verse. The KIT also shows that the Greek word translated ‘beginning’ is arche. In some versions this word is translated ‘source’ or ‘origin’; which one is right? Think of the English word ‘architect’ and you see that they are all right; it means beginning in the sense of source. The architect is the source and designer of the whole building.

Put these two things together and we see that Rev.3:14 says that Jesus is the source of all God’s creation, not the first one to be created.

“Arche means a beginning. The root arch - primarily indicated what was of worth. Hence the verb archo meant ‘to be first’ and archon denoted a ruler. So also the idea of a beginning, the origin, the active cause, whether a person or thing.” -Vine, Vol. 1, p.111.

The Witnesses also make much of the phrase ‘firstborn’ and retranslate it in their minds to read, ‘the first to be created’.

In Col. 1:15, the Greek word translated ‘firstborn’ is prototokos whereas the Greek for ‘first-created’ would be protoktistos. Prototokos means the first-begotten and can never mean the first one to be born. Its meaning is priority to, or pre-eminence over; therefore Jesus is the pre-eminent one over all creation and not a created being Himself.

Whichever English word is used, we must discover what the Greek means. For instance, does Col. 1:18 mean that Jesus was the first one to be born from the dead? That would not be true because Lazarus rose from the dead before Him, as indeed did others in the Old and New Testaments. Is the Scripture wrong? No, because the Greek word has the meaning of position, place, or ranking. This is seen in the Old Testament, where on two occasions the first to be born lost the position of firstborn to the second to be born.

Firstborn, in the Hebrew tradition, has always had to do with place and pre-eminence over. The context of Colossians makes it clear that the word is used in the same way. That ‘He might come to have first place in everything’. (v. 18)

Jesus the Messiah

The Society has no problem about calling Jesus the Messiah:

“The Bible states that Andrew rushed to his brother and said: ‘We have found the Messiah [or, Christ].’” - WT, 15 September 2005, p.4.

The significance of this fact has not dawned on the Society because in the same article they conclude that:

“Jesus today is neither a man nor God Almighty. Rather, he is a mighty spirit creature…” - Ibid., p.6.

However, there are more than 300 predictions concerning the Messiah in the Old Testament and if you accept Jesus is the Messiah, He cannot be a spirit creature with a beginning. We only need to look at one of the places in the Old Testament to show the proof of this statement:

"But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity." - Micah 5:2

This prophecy indicates that, as a man, Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, but He already existed “from the days of eternity”. By acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah, the Society has acknowledged that Jesus was eternal - no beginning - and so could not be a created spirit creature.

Is Jesus An Angel?

The Watchtower teaches that Jesus, the first creation of Jehovah, is also a special spirit creature, called Michael the Archangel in Scripture. What does the Bible show?

Dan. 10:13 says that Michael is one of the princes. When we compare Dan. 8:25 we find that Jesus is the Prince. Jesus is unique, Michael is not. How can they be the same person?

In Jude 9 Michael says, “the Lord rebuke you”. However, when on earth, Jesus rebuked Satan and the demons directly and they fled before Him. How can this be the same person?

Heb.1:7 & 8 shows beyond doubt that Jesus is not an angel. Verse 7 has Jehovah speaking, ‘to the angels’. The ‘but’ at the beginning of verse 8 shows He is talking to someone different; ‘to the Son’. The angels are on one side and the Son on the other, with a dividing line down the middle.
The Son, Jesus, cannot be an angel, not even an archangel because He would still be by nature an angel.

An article answering the question, “Michael the Archangel - Who Is He?” can be found in the WT, 1 March 2005, p.30. Also the WT 15 January 2006 has an article about angels and boldly states on p.6:

“The angel foremost in power and authority is Michael the archangel, or Jesus Christ.”

This is interesting because starting on p.21 of the same issue is an article about the Devil who, of course, was an angel, Lucifer. Jesus and the Devil, according to the Society, are of the same substance - the Bible shows differently.

What Was Declared At Jesus’ Birth?

The Watchtower teaches that at baptism Jesus enters into a new relationship with Jehovah. Yet the Scripture says:

“... for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” - Luke 2:11.

Today He is, not in thirty years, He will be the Christ!

Who Does The Bible Declare Jesus To Be?

John 5:16-23: If the Jehovah’s Witness believed these verses, even in the NWT, they would know who Jesus is. However they do not believe their Bible, but what the Society has told them their Bible says. We need, therefore, to understand these Scriptures and then explain them to the Witness.

From verse 16 we know that Jesus was being persecuted for healing on the Sabbath. In verse 17 Jesus makes a simple statement - ‘My Father’. From this the Jews understood that Jesus was claiming to be equal with God (v.18). This is clear but the Witness is taught that it is the unbelieving Jew calling Jesus ‘God’ and we should not believe them!

Jesus could teach so that no one could understand Him (e.g. the parable of the Sower - Matt. 13). But here He spoke plainly so that the people understood. Jesus was a Jew and understood how the Jewish mind worked. He knew that when He said, ‘My Father’ the Jews would understand that He was claiming to be of the same substance as Jehovah, God.

If Jesus is not equal with God, who is at fault - Jesus for misleading them or the Jews for believing what Jesus said? Of course, in these circumstances, Jesus would be at fault and would be a liar and a fraud. This is not true; therefore, the statement must be correct. It is also clear that the Jews were not unbelieving; they believed what Jesus said but rejected it.

John 20:28: This is the second time that Jesus appeared to the disciples but the first time that Thomas saw Him. His immediate response is to acknowledge Jesus as “my Lord and my God”. Again this seems clear until we realise that the Witness has been taught that either Thomas got so excited he blasphemed or he said ‘my Lord’ looking at Jesus and ‘My God’ looking up to Jehovah in heaven.

It clearly says ‘Thomas said to Him’ (Jesus) both statements. Secondly, ask the Witness what the KIT shows for the words Thomas used. He said ho theos, the phrase that the Society uses exclusively of Jehovah God. Jesus is called not just ‘a god’ but ‘the God.’ Thomas literally says, ‘the God of me’. If this were not true, Jesus would have rebuked Thomas. However, in verse 29, He commends all those who will believe the same as Thomas believed.

In the midst of those who would go out to teach the early church, Jesus accepts the acclamation of God. What would the apostles believe and what should we believe?

Rev. 5:13 & 14: Here Jesus is in His heavenly ministry. Who is receiving this honour, glory and worship? The One on the throne (Jehovah) and the Lamb (Jesus). Are we not to do what heaven is doing?

A Witness might say something like, “only because Jesus was standing next to Jehovah does it appear that when they bow down to Jehovah, they are bowing down to Jesus”! But in verse 8 they bow down to Jesus without Jehovah. Also, ‘every creature’ gives this to Jesus, Who therefore cannot be a created being.

I cannot believe the Bible and the Watchtower; which one do I choose? The Society says that Jesus is Michael the Archangel, a created being. If this is true there is idol worship in heaven because creature is worshipping creature. No angels, except fallen ones, nor any other heavenly creatures, ever receive worship. Jesus, therefore, must be God.

Worship Or Obeisance?

The Witness seeks to make a distinction about the heavenly creatures, saying they were only doing obeisance to Jesus and that would be acceptable. In all the New Testament it is the same Greek word, but the Watchtower will translate it as ‘obeisance’ referring to Jesus, and ‘worship’ referring to Jehovah. But note the following:

“When the Gentile Cornelius bowed reverently to the apostle Peter, note what happened: ‘As Peter entered Cornelius met him fell down at his feet and did obeisance to him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Rise; I myself am also a man”.’ (Acts 10:25,26). Bowing worshipfully to a human was improper, and Peter would not accept it.” - WT, 1 May 1989, p.22.

One human doing obeisance to another human is bowing worshipfully and is wrong. In the same way one heavenly creature doing obeisance, bowing worshipfully, to another would also be wrong.

Is Jesus God?

No comparison of Jesus in the light of Watchtower teaching would be complete without a mention of John 1:1. This verse probably causes more problems than any other. To show that Jesus is not God the NWT translates it, “... and the Word was a god...” And appears to provide ample evidence to prove that this is the correct translation. Here we examine this evidence. Between 1962 and 1983 the WBTS quoted Johannes Greber to support its rendering of John 1:1, even though they knew in 1956 that his wife acted as a spirit medium to produce the translation. (For more detailed information see Reachout Trust’s booklet, The Truth Revealed). We will look here at the article from Reasoning and an article in KIT, p.1139.

Besides the attempt to find scholarly evidence, the Society’s main defence for its translation is:

“John 1:18 says: ‘No one has ever seen God.’ Verse 14 clearly says that ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us ... we have beheld his glory’. Also, verses 1, 2 say that in the beginning he was ‘with God’. Can one be with someone and at the same time be that person? At John 17:3, Jesus addresses the Father as ‘the only true God’; so, Jesus as ‘a god’ merely reflects his Father’s divine qualities -Heb. 1:3.” - Reasoning, p.416.

This sounds convincing but it is not backed up with the facts. The Watchtower argues that because the first ‘God’ in John 1:1 is preceded by the Greek definite article ‘the’ it must have a big ‘G’ and refer to Jehovah. However the second ‘god’ does not have the definite article and so is translated ‘a god’, and refers to the ‘little god’, Jesus.

What most Jehovah’s Witnesses have not seen, however, is that in John 1:18 there is no definite article connected with the first theon1 translated ‘God’, but the second theos1 is followed by the definite article ‘the one’ and yet it is translated ‘god’. Add to this the meaning of the term ‘only
1. Word endings do not change in English for male, female, neuter or for a different grammatical case but they do in many European languages. This is the same word with a different ending because of the different case it is in. (See confirmation of this in WT, 15 May 1977, p.319)
begotten’ (see p.82) and this verse says no man has ever seen God but now God the unique Son, clothed in flesh, reveals God in a way that can be seen by men..

The Society also uses an argument that speaks of Jesus being ‘with’ God and then asks ‘how can He also be God?’ This does not stand the test of comparing Scripture with Scripture.

The Father is God, and Jesus is God. Therefore, Jesus the Word was with God, but that does not make Him any less part of the Godhead. To check this out look at Heb.1:3.

The NWT translates that Jesus is the ‘reflection of’ His Father and argues that you are not the same as your reflection! The Greek word is apaugasma, literally translated in the KIT as ‘beaming forth from’. Joy beams forth from a face and that is not a reflection; it is what is in the person coming out. The AV uses ‘effulgence’, more modern translations ‘radiance’, and that is exactly what the word means: not looking at a reflection but a shining out from that which is within. Note the next phrase, ‘the exact representation of his very being’. Jesus is not a pale reflection but from His being shines forth that which He is; God.

Conclusion

How different is the Jesus of Scripture from the one portrayed in the Watchtower Bible and publications such as The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived. Which one will the Witness believe in, the one in the Bible or the one in the Watchtower publication? The answer is made clear by The Articles of Amendment to the Articles of Incorporation of Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. This document, dated January 1945, includes as part of the purpose of the Society in Article seven,

“... and for public Christian worship of Almighty God and Jesus Christ.”

The Watchtower knows about this document and tries to overcome the problem by misquoting its own official Articles,

“... and for public Christian worship of Almighty God [through] Christ Jesus.” - WT, 15 December 1971, pp.759-60.

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