How Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Different?
PEOPLE generally view Jehovah’s witnesses as ‘just another religion’ and frequently class them as a “fundamentalist” group. However, it is often recognized, to their credit, that the Witnesses are more active than others in their zeal to share their beliefs with everyone—Catholics, Protestants, Jews and others.
There is a difference, indeed, in their manner of preaching. But the great difference lies in what Jehovah’s witnesses believe and teach.
BELIEVE ENTIRE BIBLE, BUT ARE NOT “FUNDAMENTALISTS”
The Witnesses hold the Bible to be the complete Word of God (the sixty-six books of the “Old and New Testaments,” as they are listed in most Bibles). But they are not “fundamentalists,” as that term is generally understood. They do not believe that everything in the Bible is to be taken literally. They take the balanced, commonsense view, which is indeed the Scriptural view, that, while the Bible has many direct, literal statements, such as the laws it gives to govern the Christian’s life, much in that Book is symbolic or figurative.
For example, the parables of Jesus Christ are admittedly symbolic. The Greek word used in the Bible for “parable” can be translated “illustration.” It is said of Jesus: “Indeed, without an illustration [parable] he would not speak to them [the crowds], but privately to his disciples he would explain all things.”—Mark 4:34; Matt. 13:34.
The Bible’s prophecies are often symbolic. Of the prophetic book of Revelation the opening verse explains: “He [Jesus Christ] sent forth his angel and presented it in signs through him to his slave John.” (Rev. 1:1) Either by direct statements such as this, or by the context, it can easily be determined which statements are literal and which ones are symbolic.
Therefore, Jehovah’s witnesses are not led into unreasonable and unscientific conclusions, such as the fundamentalists’ belief that the earth was created in six literal twenty-four-hour days. The Witnesses know that the expression “day” basically means a period of time. For example, we might say, ‘In our grandfather’s day,’ which would cover a number of years. The Bible helps us on this point when, after outlining God’s acts during the six creative “days,” it speaks of them all together as being performed in one “day,” saying: “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth . . . in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” Accordingly, a Biblical “day” may be a period of a thousand or many thousands of years.—Gen. 2:4, AV; Dy; 2 Pet. 3:8.
GOD’S KINGDOM A LITERAL GOVERNMENT
A marked difference between Jehovah’s witnesses and the churches of Christendom is that the Witnesses recognize God’s kingdom as a real government that will rule the earth undisputedly, from the heavens. It is not just something ‘in one’s heart’ that will gradually convert all mankind to do the will of God. The prophet Daniel was certainly speaking about a government when he said about God’s kingdom: “It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Dan. 2:44.
The God of this kingdom is no “trinitarian” god. He alone is the Universal Sovereign, whose name is Jehovah. (Ps. 83:18) Jesus Christ is not part of a “godhead,” but is Jehovah’s Son, a separate and distinct individual. This Son is the One whom God seats on the throne of the Kingdom, which will rule the earth for a thousand years, to bring about the doing of God’s will on earth as it is done in heaven. (Rev. 20:4, 6; Matt. 6:9, 10) Christ’s reign will accomplish the resurrection of the dead and will raise all obedient humans up to perfection here on earth.—Rev. 20:11–21:4.
Furthermore, Jehovah’s witnesses see, from Bible prophecy and the fast-moving world events in fulfillment of prophecy, that the Kingdom government has been established in the heavens, with Christ enthroned, at the end of the “Gentile Times” in 1914 C.E. (Luke 21:24) They realize that God is allowing time to give the people, especially those in Christendom, opportunity to receive warning of the destruction of this system of things so that they may find safety by taking their stand on the side of the Kingdom government. But Jehovah’s witnesses are giving warning that the time is now near when the Kingdom will crush all human governments at the war associated in the Bible with “Har–Magedon” or “Armageddon.”—Rev. 16:14-16; 19:11-21; Ezek. 3:17.
A WAY OF LIFE
Jehovah’s witnesses recognize Christianity as not merely a belief—it is a way of life. Actually, in apostolic times Christianity was called “The Way.” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:22) All the Bible’s fine principles must be applied in the Christian’s life, at home, in business—at all times. Any among them who may turn from this way, insisting on violating God’s righteous laws by immorality, stealing, slandering, teaching false doctrine, causing divisions or sects, are expelled from their congregations.
In contrast, consider most of the churches of Christendom, which retain and even welcome those who continue to practice bad things, including sodomy and drug abuse. But the Witnesses do not ignore the Bible command. They keep the congregation clean, in order that God may continue his favor on the congregation, and to protect the members thereof. (1 Cor. 5:5, 9-13) Do you not expect Christians to be clean, upright people with whom you can enjoy spiritual association?
NO RITUAL, NO CLERGY-LAITY DISTINCTION
At the meetings of the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses (of which there are more than 30,000 throughout the world) there is no ritual. The meetings are for education—study and discussion of the Bible. The appeal is not through highly charged emotional displays, but by an intelligent yet warm approach that appeals to mind and heart. There are no membership dues or assessments, no tithing, and no collection plate is ever passed. The expenses of maintaining their Kingdom Halls are cared for by voluntary contributions. These halls are not ornate and image bedecked, but are neat and functional.—2 Cor. 8:12-15; 9:6, 7.
There is no clergy-laity distinction. All, regardless of race or social status, are “brothers” and “sisters.” As among first-century Christians, a body of elders is appointed to oversee the activities of the congregation and to provide spiritual help to all. These men are selected on the basis of their Christian maturity, their love, their concern for and willingness to help others. They receive no salary and have no religious titles designating them as a special class, above others. They share in the work of preaching and teaching in the homes of the people, as did the apostles, and as do the rest of the congregation’s members.—1 Tim. 3:1-7.
ATTITUDE TOWARD THE WORLD
Jehovah’s witnesses do not engage in any political movement or participate in any political activity, as do most of Christendom’s church members. As Jesus said of his followers, they are “no part of the world.” They are not trying to change the political or social structure of the world. They look to God to ‘make all things new.’ (John 15:19; Rev. 21:5) They are neutral as to all wars and other affairs of the governments and do not advocate “demonstrations,” strikes or any seditious or subversive activities. They obey the laws of the land in which they live. (Matt. 22:21) However, when an attempt is made to get them to violate their Christian consciences by disobeying God’s commands they take the course of choosing to “obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:29.
For similar reasons, Jehovah’s witnesses do not join or sponsor any interfaith or ecumenical movement. The churches of Christendom and the religions of the non-Christian world make themselves part of the world by their doctrines and practices, and so they do not fit Jesus’ description of his true followers. (John 17:14-16) Such religions, the Bible shows, constitute a great religious “empire,” called “Babylon the Great.” (Rev. 17:5, 18) These will suffer destruction at the hands of the world rulers, as a judgment from God.—Rev. 17:15-17.
In short, Jehovah’s witnesses are different in that they hold closely to the Bible’s teachings. They reject worldly philosophy and the traditions of Christendom. If the Witnesses appear to some persons as “strange,” it is because these persons are measuring the Witnesses by the yardstick of Christendom’s religions. These very organizations have actually become “strangers” to God by substituting men’s philosophies for God’s Word, just as the ancient Jewish priesthood did. Jesus said to them: “You have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition.”—Matt. 15:6.
Today, Christendom lists a membership of a thousand million persons. Significantly, Jesus Christ foretold that, at the time of his presence in Kingdom power, not a few, but many professed Christians will appeal to him, saying: “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?” They will be as strangers to Jesus, who will reply: “I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”—Matt. 7:22, 23.
Although Jehovah’s witnesses are no part of the world, they have loving concern for fellow humans. They feel a sense of urgency as they talk to people, for they look upon the short time remaining for this system of things as a time of Jehovah’s exercise of patience, knowing that he does not desire the death of anyone. (2 Pet. 3:9, 15; Ezek. 33:11) Therefore they urge people to study the Bible and to make all effort to bring their lives into harmony with the Bible’s principles, not putting it off.—Zeph. 2:3.
If you are concerned for your family in these troublous, dangerous times, study the Bible in your own home with one of Jehovah’s witnesses; attend the meetings at their Kingdom Hall. In this way you will not only find safety; you will also find a happier, more peaceful, purposeful life now, with the prospect of everlasting life in the future under God’s kingdom.—1 Tim. 4:8.