The religious group known as the Jehovah's Witnesses began as a Bible class in Pennsylvania in 1870, led by Charles Taze Russell. Russell's group was called the "Millennial Dawn Bible Study," and his followers were known as "Bible students." Russell wrote a series of books called "The Millennial Dawn," which contained much of the theology that the Jehovah's Witnesses currently hold. In 1886, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society was founded as the vehicle for distributing the "Millennial Dawn" movement's views. After Russell's death in 1916, Judge J. F. Rutherford, his successor, wrote the final volume of the series, "The Finished Mystery," in 1917. The organization split that year, with those who followed Rutherford calling themselves "Jehovah's Witnesses."
A close examination of the Jehovah's Witnesses' doctrinal positions on subjects such as the deity of Christ, salvation, the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, and the atonement shows that they do not hold orthodox Christian beliefs on these subjects. For example, Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jesus is Michael the archangel, the highest created being, which contradicts many Scriptures that declare Jesus to be God. They also believe that salvation is obtained by a combination of faith, good works, and obedience, which contradicts numerous Scriptures that teach salvation is received by grace through faith. Jehovah's Witnesses reject the Trinity and instead believe Jesus to be a created being and the Holy Spirit to be the inanimate power of God. Additionally, they reject the concept of Christ's substitutionary atonement and instead hold to a ransom theory that teaches Jesus' death was a ransom payment for Adam's sin.
The Jehovah's Witnesses justify these unbiblical doctrines by claiming that the church has corrupted the Bible over the centuries. Therefore, they have re-translated the Bible into what they call the New World Translation. However, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has altered the text of the Bible to fit their false doctrine rather than basing their doctrine on what the Bible actually teaches. The New World Translation has gone through numerous editions as the Jehovah's Witnesses discover more and more Scriptures that contradict their doctrines.
The Watchtower bases its beliefs and doctrines on the teachings of Charles Taze Russell, Judge Joseph Franklin Rutherford, and their successors. The governing body of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is the only body in the cult that claims authority to interpret Scripture. Independent thinking is strongly discouraged, and what the governing body says concerning any scriptural passage is viewed as the last word. This is in direct opposition to Paul's admonition to Timothy (and to us as well) to study to be approved by God, so that we need not be ashamed as we correctly handle the Word of God. God instructs each of His children to be like the Berean Christians who searched the Scriptures daily to see if the things they were being taught lined up with the Word.
While the Jehovah's Witnesses are faithful at getting their message out, unfortunately, the message is full of distortions, deceptions, and false doctrine. May God open their eyes to the truth of the gospel and the true teaching of God's Word.
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