Why Jehovah’s Witnesses Are Not Pacifists
“Jehovah is a man of war: Jehovah is his name.”—Ex. 15:3, AS; Yg.
1. To what question on Jehovah’s witnesses do we here search for the answer?
“JEHOVAH’S witnesses! Just a bunch of pacifists!” So a great many people will exclaim with scorn. And so they have been led to think by the charges hurled at these by their enemies. But are the witnesses pacifists, seeking refuge under the cover of “conscientious objection” because they are afraid to fight? Let us here honestly search for the right and fair answer to this hot question. What have they to say for themselves?
2. What statement did they make on this at Yankee Stadium? Why?
2 At the 1950 international assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses in Yankee Stadium, New York city, 10,000 foreign delegates were there from more than sixty other lands. Most of these had been subjected to great religious discrimination, embarrassment, hardship and inconvenience because they were obliged to clear themselves of the false charge of “extreme pacifism”. An indignation meeting was held Friday afternoon, August 4, at the assembly, at which the 70,000 American delegates in the presence of these foreign brothers unanimously passed a “Regret and Protest”, and at the close of the afternoon’s session a million copies of this were distributed. This 4-page paper vigorously called attention to the “Discrimination on False Charge of Pacifism” and said: “The smearing of us as extreme pacifists is without foundation and is a deliberate lie to provoke prejudice against us and this international assembly. They have done as the Scriptures prophesied, ‘framed mischief by law.’—Psalm 94:20. Extreme pacifism is not our preachment. We are not pacifists. . . . To charge that we are extreme pacifists is a lie.”
3. How is pacifism defined? Can the witnesses be charged with it?
3 As defined by Webster’s New International Dictionary (2d edition, unabridged, of 1943) pacifism means: “Opposition to war or to the use of military force for any purpose; especially, an attitude of mind opposing all war, emphasizing the defects of military training and cost of war, and advocating settlement of international disputes entirely by arbitration.” Such pacifism not even the Bible itself can be charged with teaching, and neither can Jehovah’s witnesses, who stick most scrupulously to the Bible.
4. How long is their history? Does it show them accusable of pacifism?
4 When expressing a judgment upon Jehovah’s witnesses people are inclined to think of them as a religious body less than a century old. True, this unique name came into the limelight in 1931, when, by public acclamation, these faithful Christians all over the earth adopted resolutions rejecting the contemptuous names the enemies had tagged onto them and accepting the Scriptural name “Jehovah’s witnesses”. But their history is much longer than a century. Already in the eighth century before Christ the prophecy declared to God’s chosen people: “Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and my servant whom I have chosen; . . . I have declared, and I have saved, and I have showed; and there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and I am God.” (Isa. 43:10-12, AS) In fact, the history of Jehovah’s witnesses runs all the way back to Adam’s son Abel, whom his brother Cain killed because Abel had received favorable witness from Jehovah God. The apostle Paul, in Heb chapters 11 and 12 of his letter to the Hebrews, shows that fact. In all that history of almost six thousand years the record fails to show Jehovah’s witnesses accusable of “opposition to war or to the use of military force for any purpose”, which is the definition of pacifism.
5. How does Paul show they were fighters? Who gave them victory?
5 We could go through the list of Jehovah’s witnesses from Abraham onward to show they were not pacifists. The apostle Paul tells us about Abraham “returning from the slaughter of the kings” and receiving the blessing of King Melchizedek. (Heb. 7:1-4; Gen. 14:14-21) He tells of Moses who led the Israelites to the borders of the Promised Land. Then he mentions one high light in Joshua’s war to purge the Promised Land of the immoral pagan inhabitants, and adds: “And what more shall I say? For the time will fail me if I go on to relate about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David as well as Samuel and the other prophets, who through faith defeated kingdoms in conflict, effected righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, stayed the force of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from a weak state were made powerful, became valiant in war, routed the armies of foreigners.” (Heb. 11:30-34, NW) Every one that Paul there names was a fighter. Jehovah gave them victory. Only because Jerusalem proved unfaithful to God after repeated warnings by his witnesses Jehovah yielded the Jews over to the Babylonian armies and did not fight for them. He had forewarned them of punishment for disobedience, and so he let that come upon them in vindication of his word.—Deut. 28:36-67.
NEHEMIAH, MORDECAI AND ESTHER FIGHTERS
6. Did the exiled Jews fight in Babylon’s armies or not? Why?
6 Seventy years the Jews or Israelites were exiles in Babylonian provinces. Did they join the armies of Babylon and fight for its world domination? No; although some Jews, like Daniel and his three Hebrew companions, were taken into the governmental service in spite of their conscientious worship of Jehovah God. Government servants of high rank those three Hebrews might be, yet they refused to violate their conscience and bend to Emperor Nebuchadnezzar’s decree and commit idolatry, saluting the image of the political state, the golden image which the dictatorial ruler had set up for united worship by all elements of his empire. (Dan. 3:1-30) When Babylon was overthrown, the captive Israelites were not mixed in with Babylon’s armies fighting against its overthrow. They knew Jehovah’s prophecies had foretold its overthrow, and so why fight against fulfillment of divine prophecy, and for an oppressive world power at that?
7. How did Daniel act toward state interference with God’s worship?
7 Under the new rule of the victorious Medes and Persians the aged Daniel was taken into the government service of King Darius the Mede. He became the leading president of all the king’s satraps. When the jealous enemies could find no occasion against Daniel except in his faithful obedience to the law of his God Jehovah, then they framed mischief against him by law. Though faced with being thrown into the lions’ den, and with his governmental office at stake, Daniel refused to violate his conscience. He did not bow to the imperial law which was against praying to Jehovah and required everybody to look to the political state for everything. Daniel rendered to the emperor only what belonged to him, but to God the worship and obedience that belonged to him. God shut the lions’ mouths for him, but those who framed mischief against him by crafty law were themselves thrown to the lions.—Dan. 6:1-28.
8, 9. After restoration from exile in Babylon did the Jews become pacifists? How does Nehemiah throw light on this question?
8 Cyrus the Persian succeeded Darius as ruler. In his first year the captive Jews were let return to the site of Jerusalem and rebuild Jehovah’s temple. They did not have to fight for their liberation by force of military arms, but Almighty God restored them for his name’s sake and because they repented and devoted themselves to his worship. But even after this restoration to their homeland the Jews did not become pacifists.
9 This fact is noteworthy in the case of Nehemiah. He was a Jew in governmental service as cupbearer and close consultant of the Persian king Ahasuerus. He was made governor of the Jewish province in Palestine and was sent to build good walls for the restored city of Jerusalem. The pagan enemies accused Nehemiah of trying to secede from the empire. “And they conspired all of them together to come and fight against Jerusalem, and to cause confusion therein.” What action did Nehemiah take? He did not leave God out of consideration, because he knew that “except Jehovah keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain”. (Ps. 127:1, AS) So the record informs us: “But we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them. . . . And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, who is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” From then on the builders carried on construction of the wall armed with spears, shields, bows, coats of mail, and swords girded at their side. The conspiracy was thus foiled. (Neh. 4:8-23, AS) God’s cause was involved and the liberty of his people to worship him freely. That was why those Israelites had chosen to fight. It was not for the glory and power of the Persian empire that they fought. They fought for their brothers who belonged to God’s organization and who worshiped him.
10, 11. How was this also shown in the case of Mordecai and Esther?
10 In other provinces of the Persian empire there was also no pacifism on the part of the Jews. Over sixty years after the restoration of a Jewish remnant to Jerusalem the Jews throughout the empire were accused by a religious enemy in high governmental position. They were different from all other people; besides the law of the empire they had Jehovah’s laws governing their worship of God. So the wicked enemy Haman said: “Their laws are diverse from those of every people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them.” And he requested and got a law passed to have them destroyed before ever another passover rolled around.—Esther 3:8-15, AS.
11 Under the counsel of Mordecai the Jew, Queen Esther carried a legal fight to the highest judicial figure of the empire, King Ahasuerus himself. At the risk of her own life she pleaded for relief for her people, at the same time exposing the mischievous designs of their religious enemy Haman. This wicked persecutor was hanged on gallows he had built for Mordecai, and Mordecai was advanced to higher office in the Persian government. By authority of the emperor he wrote a law into the government statutes, providing for the Jews on the fixed day of assault by their foes “to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, their little ones and women”. Did the Jews pacifistically refuse to act upon this law for their self-defense by force of arms? No! On the 13th and 14th days of their last month Adar, they fought valiantly for the defense of their own lives and those of their brothers. Jehovah God was with them in this and handed them the victory and fulfilled his own prophetic command to have the Amalekites wiped out to a man. The Jews, his witnesses, he used as his executioners.—Esther 8:10 to 9:16; Ex. 17:13-16, AS.
NO SHIFT TO PACIFISM AT THE WORLD’S END
12. Why do witnesses today not keep up this tradition of military combat, since they claim not to be pacifists?
12 Many of our readers or public officials may ask: If Jehovah’s witnesses of today are linked up in one unbroken chain with those witnesses of ancient times with such a history, why is it that they do not carry out this tradition of military combat? Why are they not found in the ranks of the armies of Christendom? Why do they seek exemption from military service? Why do they go so far as even to refuse to enter the Public Service camps maintained for or by pacifists and conscientious objectors, or take any part in the defense or war effort? Ask Jehovah’s witnesses why, and they will tell you it is not because they have turned pacifist. It is because they have conscientious objection to taking part in such war and defense efforts of Christendom and the rest of the world, their objection being based on God’s Word, the Bible. But, you ask, how can they be conscientious objectors and not at the same time pacifists? They are not against war between the nations, and they do not interfere with the war efforts of the nations nor with anyone who can conscientiously join in such efforts. They fight only when God commands them to do so, because then it is theocratic warfare.
13. If we claimed to be pacifists, what would we consistently have to do toward pre-Christian witnesses? Why can we not do this?
13 Were Jehovah’s witnesses today to claim to be pacifists, it would mean for them to denounce all the pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah who took up arms to uphold Jehovah’s universal sovereignty and his theocratic nation of Israel. But this denunciation we cannot make. Jesus Christ never did so, and he is Jehovah’s greatest witness, who has earned the title “The faithful and true witness”. (Rev. 3:14) Jehovah himself is no pacifist. Neither are his witnesses such, although they are conscientious objectors. Jesus was no pacifist, although there is no record that he ever took up carnal weapons in self-defense. Ah, you say, but did not Jesus make a whip of cords to drive all the commercial venders from the temple at Jerusalem? Yes, but the record does not say he used this whip on the men who were doing the selling but he used it upon their sheep and cattle which they had brought into that sacred place, “making the house of my Father a house of merchandise.”—John 2:13-16, NW.
14. When Jesus told his apostles to sell a garment and get a sword, did he mean we should take up the sword? What did his conduct show?
14 Again you object, Did not Jesus, after setting up the Memorial with his disciples, tell them before going out to Gethsemane, “Let the one having no sword sell his outer garment and buy one”? And when his disciples said, “Master, look! here are two swords,” he said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:36-38, NW) Yes; but by this Jesus indicated to them that he was to be seized by an armed band, under circumstances which could provoke armed resistance. The facts that developed showed Jesus did not resort to a sword when his illegal arrest came. Why, then, did he suggest getting a sword and let at least one sword be taken along to Gethsemane? He did it to show that he chose not to resort to armed resistance but would give himself up voluntarily in harmony with his Father’s will. Peter tried to put up armed resistance, used the sword and struck off a man’s ear. Then Jesus said to Peter: “Return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father to supply me at this moment more than twelve legions of angels? In that case, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that it must take place this way?” (Matt. 26:52-54, NW) According to John’s account Jesus added: “The cup that the Father has given me, should I not by all means drink it?” (John 18:11, NW) So we see why Jesus acted in a way that to some seems like pacifism. He was, however, not going before his Father’s court or before the courts of the land on a charge of armed resistance. He did not expose himself to being killed under armed resistance; he must die willingly, sacrificially, like a lamb led to slaughter.
CONSISTENT WITH PROPHECY AND THEIR MESSAGE
15. In view of Jesus’ prophecy, why could we not be pacifists?
15 Jehovah’s witnesses copy Jesus and obey his instructions. That is why they have not joined worldly armies and taken part in the war efforts of the nations in any way. This does not mean they are pacifists opposed to war and resisting it and interfering with worldly governments in prosecuting wars of aggression or of defense. They could not be war-resisters, for they submit to the fulfillment of Jesus’ words concerning the consummation of this system of things. Asked by his disciples, “Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the consummation of the system of things?” he told them: “You are going to hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not terrified. For these things must take place, but the accomplished end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another. All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress.” (Matt. 24:3, 6-8, NW) So how could the Christian witnesses of Jehovah oppose worldly wars or try to prevent them since Jesus prophesied that they were certain to be fought? Jesus did not tell them they would be in the fighting. They would merely hear the wars being fought within their earshot or else hear the reports about the wars fought elsewhere.
16-18. (a) If pacifists, what action soon of Jehovah would they have to oppose? (b) What unpacifistic proclamation does he have them make?
16 Were Jehovah’s witnesses today to be pacifists, then, to be consistent, they would have to oppose Jehovah’s war against the Devil’s entire world at the battle front of Armageddon. They have seen the nations of this world assault God’s visible organization of his people, prophetically spoken of as “Jerusalem”, during the world war of 1914-1918, as foretold by Zechariah. Now they look for the rest of his prophecy to be carried out shortly, namely: “Then shall Jehovah go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. . . . Jehovah my God shall come, and all the holy ones with thee. . . . And Jehovah shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall Jehovah be one, and his name one.” (Zech. 14:1-3, 5-9, AS) There will be a great slaughter then, foreshadowed by the slaughter of God’s united enemies who were marching to the attack on Jerusalem in the days of King Jehoshaphat. Hence he calls the field of slaughter “the valley of Jehoshaphat” and invites all the nations of this world to come down into it. (2 Chron. 20:1-25) He issues the command:
17 “Proclaim ye this among the nations; prepare war; stir up the mighty men; let all the men of war draw near, let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning-hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. Haste ye, and come, all ye nations round about, and gather yourselves together: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O Jehovah. Let the nations bestir themselves, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat; for there will I sit to judge all the nations round about. Put ye in the sickle; for the harvest is ripe: come, tread ye; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! for the day of Jehovah is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. And Jehovah will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but Jehovah will be a refuge unto his people.”—Joel 3:9-16, AS.
18 Jehovah’s witnesses of today are the ones commanded to make this proclamation to the nations, and this they are doing. So how could they do this and at the same time be pacifists?
19. How since 1914 is Jesus proved to be now no pacifist?
19 By his acts since A.D. 1914 Jesus Christ could never be accused of being a pacifist. Why not? Because since that date Satan the Devil and his demons have been cast out of heaven and he has come down to our earth with great wrath, knowing that now he has a short time. The unspeakable woes today smiting earth and sea, coupled with all the other fulfillments of prophecy, prove this fact. How was Satan hurled down here? Revelation 12:1-12 answers that after the birth of God’s kingdom and the enthronement of his Son Jesus Christ “war broke out in heaven”. No pacifist, it was this King Jesus Christ who battled against Satan and his demons and hurled them down to his footstool, the earth. Now the humiliated Satan is using his demons to drive all the nations to Armageddon for the “war of the great day of God the Almighty”. (Rev. 16:14-16, NW) But who are Jehovah’s “mighty ones” whom Jehovah brings down to the “valley of decision” in order to settle forever the paramount issue of world domination? They are the “Lamb of God” and the angels who fought under him in the “war in heaven” against Satan. On earth this lamblike One looked like a pacifist, but now he is the “Lion of the tribe of Judah”. (Rev. 5:5, 6) To this fearless warrior Psalm 110:4-6 (AS) says: “The Lord* at thy right hand will strike through kings in the day of his wrath. He will judge among the nations, he will fill the places with dead bodies; he will strike through the head in many countries.” Read the graphic description of this royal warrior of Jehovah God, at Revelation 19:11-16. Let all the militarized nations know that they will all meet lasting defeat in that universal war of Armageddon and the armaments race will be at last halted for all time.
20. After what will guaranteed peace come? What will survivors do?
20 After Armageddon those who have survived on the winner’s side, Jehovah’s side, will enjoy a perfectly guaranteed peace. Then they will “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”.—Isa. 2:4.
One of the 134 places where the Hebrew sopherim changed the word Jehovah in the Hebrew text to Adonai, meaning “The Lord”. See Cath. Conf. Psalms.