This article is only intended as a limited discussion of some of the similarities and the differences between the Jehovah's Witnesses (JW) and the Continuing Church of God (COG).
The doctrinal differences between the two groups are many. Too many to list in a limited article. Perhaps the main ones are history; that the Jehovah's Witnesses are unitarian and the COG is binitarian; that the Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the law was done away ("nailed to cross"), but the COG does not (please see the article Were the Ten Commandments Nailed to the Cross?); and what each group considers to be the work of God today.
This article will also discuss dealing with visits from Jehovah's Witnesses.
Some similarities between the groups will also be mentioned, and this paper will begin with them.
In this article, the term Jehovah's Witnesses refers to groups who are also known as the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (affiliated groups, such as those in Pennsylvania, spell "Watch Tower", with two words). Also, the article mainly relies on written positions of the JWs and I realize that various members may have different impressions of some of its teachings.
Both the Jehovah's Witnesses and the COG believe that there was an apostasy in the early church. Both the Jehovah's Witnesses and the COG believe that what now passes for mainstream Christianity is not truly Christian, but a combination of various non-biblical religions that attempt to appear to be Christian.
Here are several beliefs that are similar to how the COG would teach (though the two groups do not explain some of the details the same):
...Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the earth will remain forever and that all people, living and dead, who will fit in with Jehovah's purpose for a beautified, inhabited earth may live on it forever...
The Bible tells us: "The wages sin pays is death." "The living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all." "The soul that is sinning—it itself will die." (Romans 6:23; Ecclesiastes 9:5; Ezekiel 18:4, 20) Then how can they live again to share in the earthly blessings? Only through the ransom sacrifice of Christ Jesus, for he said: "I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life." "All those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out."—John 5:28, 29; 11:25; Matthew 20:28. How will this come about? It is explained in "the good news of the kingdom," which Jesus started to proclaim while on earth. (Matthew 4:17-23) (Jehovah's Witnesses—Who Are They? What Do They Believe? Published in 2000. Copyright © 2006 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved. Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site http://www.watchtower.org/e/jt/index.htm?article=article_03.htm 07/09/07)
The following official beliefs of the Jehovah's Witnesses are essentially the same as COG teachings, although the two groups do not understand all of the statements below the same (note: articles on those same subjects that I have written on are shown parenthetically after the JW belief):
Beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses
Bible is God's Word and is truth... (The Bible: Fact or Fiction?)
Bible is more reliable than tradition... (Tradition and Scripture: From the Bible and Church Writings)
Christ is God's Son and is inferior to Him... (Jesus...)
Christ died on a stake, not a cross... (What Did the Early Church Teach About Idols and Icons?)
Christ's one sacrifice was sufficient... (Which Laws Are Done Away? Which Remain?)
We are now in the 'time of the end' ... (Did The Early Church Millenarianism?)
Kingdom under Christ will rule earth in righteousness and peace... (Did The Early Church Millenarianism?)
Kingdom will bring ideal living conditions to earth... (The Gospel of the Kingdom of God)
Wicked will be eternally destroyed... (Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis)
People God approves will receive everlasting life...(Universal Salvation?)
Hope for dead is resurrection... (What Did Early Christians Understand About the Resurrection?)
New covenant is made with spiritual Israel ... (Which Laws Are Done Away? Which Remain?)
Christ's congregation is built upon himself... (Was Peter the Rock Who Alone Received the Keys of the Kingdom?)
Images should not be used in worship ... (What Did the Early Church Teach About Idols and Icons?)
Spiritism must be shunned ... (Close Encounters of a 'Spirit' Kind)
Satan is invisible ruler of world... (Europa, the Beast, and Revelation)
Obey human laws that do not conflict with God's laws ... (Military Service: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare?)
Bible's laws on morals must be obeyed... (Which Laws Are Done Away? Which Remain?)
Man did not evolve but was created ... (Is Evolution Probable or Impossible or Is God's Existence Logical?)
Christ set example that must be followed in serving God ... (What Did Jesus Teach About the Ten Commandments?)
(JW Source: Jehovah's Witnesses—Who Are They? What Do They Believe? Published in 2000. Copyright © 2006 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved. Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site http://www.watchtower.org/e/jt/index.htm?article=article_03.htm 07/09/07)
There were other beliefs above, such as baptism by immersion that the COG agree with, which were omitted because of the way that they were worded at the official JW website differed too much from the way COG would word them.
Regarding crosses, perhaps it should be mentioned that while we in the COG generally understand that the word translated as "cross" normally means tree or stake, that it is possible that a cross was used for Jesus' crucifixion. However we, like the JWs, are opposed to in any way revering crosses and we in the COG have been so opposed throughout history (please see the article (The Pergamos Church Era).
Both the Jehovah's Witnesses and the COG believe that the true church would be a "little flock". Both the Jehovah's Witnesses and the COG believe that the true church would suffer persecutions throughout its history.
Both the Jehovah's Witnesses and the COG believe that abortion violates the commandment against murder.
Both the Jehovah's Witnesses and COG claim to get their doctrines from the Bible. Both are opposed the Christian observance of non-Christian, repackaged pagan holidays such as Valentine's Day, Easter, and Christmas. Both groups believe that Passover is to be observed once per year on the evening of Nisan 14 (though the Jehovah's Witnesses actually do not seem to understand when that is as they get it off by a day or so some years--to learn more about the date, please see TPM: Passover on the 14th or 15th?).
Both the Jehovah's Witnesses and COG reject the pagan concept of the immortality of the soul.
Both groups avoid worldly politics. The Jehovah's Witnesses prefer neutrality to worldly matters. Those faithful in the COG do not serve on juries or nor vote in governmental elections (please see the article Should a Christian Vote?).
Like the early church (please see the article Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity?) both groups are non-trinitarian. Here are some valid comments from the Jehovah's Witnesses against the trinity:
The Father’s superiority over the Son, as well as the fact that the Father is a separate person, is highlighted also in the prayers of Jesus, such as the one before his execution: “Father, if you wish, remove this cup [that is, an ignominious death] from me. Nevertheless, let, not my will, but yours take place.” (Luke 22:42) If God and Jesus are “one in essence,” as the Trinity doctrine says, how could Jesus’ will, or wish, seem different from that of his Father?—Hebrews 5:7, 8; 9:24. (WHO IS
“the Only True God”? Awake! April 22, 2005)
Jesus taught his disciples to pray: “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” Our heavenly Father, whose name is Jehovah, is described in the Bible as being superior to his Son. For example, Jehovah is “from everlasting to everlasting.” But the Bible says that Jesus is “the firstborn of every creature.” That Jehovah is greater than Jesus, Jesus himself taught when he said: “My Father is greater than I.” (Matthew 6:9; Psalm 90:1, 2; Colossians 1:15; John 14:28, King James Version) Yet, the Trinity doctrine holds that the Father and the Son are “equally God.” The Father’s superiority over the Son, as well as the fact that the Father is a separate person, is highlighted also in the prayers of Jesus...
The Trinity is not a teaching of Jesus or of the early Christians. (Is Jesus Christ God? http://www.watchtower.org/e/20050422/article_01.htm 070707).
But although the above is true, scripturally it only proves that the Son is under the authority of the Father--which is also the binitarian COG position, it does not prove unitarianism (which is the position of the Jehovah's Witnesses).
The Jehovah's Witnesses' teachings on the Holy Spirit are similar to those of the COG:
Notice, for one example of comparison, the Living Church of God (LCG) teaches:
THE HOLY SPIRIT God is Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the very essence, the mind, life and power of God. It is not a Being. The Spirit is inherent in the Father and the Son, and emanates from Them throughout the entire universe (1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 139:7; Jeremiah 23:24)" (Official Statement of Fundamental Beliefs. LCG, 2004).
Most in mainstream churches have never studied what the early Christian church taught about the Holy Spirit and do not realize that the current trinity doctrine was not accepted by their predecessors until 381 A.D. Documentation of this is included in the articles Did Early Christians Think the Holy Spirit Was A Separate Person in a Trinity? and Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity?
Although both groups believe that God created everything, both groups believe that the universe is billions of years old (Your will Be Done on Earth, p. 43. Cited at carm.org). The COG teaches that there was a major amount of time, perhaps billions of years between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 (e.g. Armstrong HW. Mystery of the Ages. pp. 74-75).
Partially because of their teachings against the pagan concept of the trinity, both groups tend to be classified as "cults" by those who accept mainstream Christianity. Members of both groups have been mistreated in many ways by those of mainstream Catholic and Protestant churches.
Both groups realize that the name of God in the Old Testament is not "LORD" as nearly all Protestant translators have rendered it. However, instead of "LORD" Jehovah's Witnesses prefer to use the term Jehovah (which is a remotely possible, but not likely pronunciation of the Hebrew-- Yawveh is probably closer to the original), while those in the COG often tend to translate the Hebrew word into its original meaning, like Eternal or Self-Existing.
Both groups believe that this current world is essentially Satan's world, that the Bible teaches about the resurrection, and that there will be a "Thousand Year Reign of Jesus Christ" (Pay Attention. p. 290).
Both groups oppose military participation. Notice what the Watch Tower website correctly states:
Early Christians understood their obligation to be “no part of this world.” Hence, whenever civil uprisings or military conflicts occurred, Christians remained neutral. They pursued peace with everyone.—John 14:26; 18:36; Matthew 6:9, 10; Acts 2:1-4; Romans 12:17-21 (United by LOVE OF GOD. Official Website of the Jehovah's Witnesses. http://www.watchtower.org/library/w/2005/1/1/article_02.htm 07/08/07).
More details, including the position of those who professed Christ in early centuries, is included in the article Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare?
Both the Jehovah's Witnesses and the COG have church services that last approximately two hours (though the Jehovah's Witnesses almost always do it on Sunday, while the COG does it on Saturday--both groups have other meetings/services as well).
Both groups believe that God is only calling a relatively few now, but that ultimately, all will be called and most will be saved. Even though this is a biblical concept (for documentation, please see Universal Salvation? There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis), it has been condemned by Protestant leaders (please also see Hope of Salvation: How the Genuine COG differ from most Protestants).
While those in the COGs rarely own church buildings, Jehovah's Witnesses normally do.
Here is what the Jehovah's Witnesses teach about their modern history:
THE modern history of Jehovah's Witnesses began more than a hundred years ago. In the early 1870's, a rather inconspicuous Bible study group began in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., which is now a part of Pittsburgh. Charles Taze Russell was the prime mover of the group. In July 1879, the first issue of the magazine Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence appeared. By 1880 scores of congregations had spread from that one small Bible study into nearby states. In 1881 Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society was formed, and in 1884 it was incorporated, with Russell as president. The Society's name was later changed to Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society...
THE YEAR 1914
A crucial time was drawing close. In 1876 the Bible student Charles Taze Russell contributed the article "Gentile Times: When Do They End?" to the Bible Examiner, published in Brooklyn, New York, which said on page 27 of its October issue, "The seven times will end in A.D. 1914." The Gentile Times is the period referred to in another Bible translation as "the appointed times of the nations." (Luke 21:24) Not all that was expected to happen in 1914 did happen, but it did mark the end of the Gentile Times and was a year of special significance.
The radio was used extensively in the 1920's and 1930's. By 1933 the Society was using 403 radio stations to broadcast Bible lectures. Later, the use of the radio was largely replaced by increased house-to-house visits by Witnesses with portable phonographs and recorded Bible talks. (Their Modern Development and Growth. Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site. Published in 2000. Copyright © 2006 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. http://www.watchtower.org/library/jt/article_02.htm 07/09/07)
One modern historical difference is that the JWs moved away from electronic media about the same time that the COG embraced it. Those in the COG do not consider 1914 to be nearly as significant as the JWs do.
Based upon discussions I have had with individual Witnesses, it seems that the Jehovah's Witnesses seem to teach that after the apostles an apostasy set in (that is true), that somehow some true believers remained (that is true), but that it really does not know who or where the true church was until the 1800s. The historical foundation for the JWs is weak (those who do not know where they came from are not likely to know where they are going either--JWs and non-COG types should ponder that). Hence the JWs tend to have a gap in history from around the end of the first century (the "full apostasy" per the JWs occurred in the fourth century, but I have not seen them attempt to trace themselves through leaders after those listed in the New Testament until the nineteenth century) to the mid-late nineteenth century. This differs from the COG.
Two articles that discuss the COG throughout history would include History of Early Christianity and The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3.
Unlike many of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the COG does not believe that the final appointed time (which is the subject of Daniel 11:27,29, 35) nor something like the great tribulation (Matthew 24:21) began in 1914 (nor do the COGs teach that either has yet begun--more details are in the article Who is the King of the North?).
The Jehovah's Witnesses however teach:
Without a doubt the 'horsemen of the Apocalypse' with their wars, food shortages, and disease epidemics have been cutting down large numbers of the human family since 1914.—Revelation 6:3-8...
What were the consequences for the human family? The prophecy continues: "Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time." Yes, Satan knows that his system is nearing its end, so he is doing everything he can to turn humans against God before he and his world are put out of the way. (Revelation 12:12; 20:1-3) How debased those spirit creatures are because they misused their free will! How awful conditions have been on earth under their influence, especially since 1914! (How We Know We Are in "the Last Days". Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site. Published in 1992. Copyright © 2006 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. http://www.watchtower.org/library/dg/article_09.htm 07/23/07).
When Jesus was on earth, he proved that he would be a kind, just, and perfect Ruler. When he returned to heaven, he was not enthroned as King of God's Kingdom right away. (Hebrews 10:12, 13) In 1914, Jehovah gave Jesus the authority He had promised him. Since then, Jesus has ruled in heaven as Jehovah's appointed King.—Daniel 7:13, 14...As soon as Jesus became King, he threw Satan and his wicked angels out of heaven and down to the locality of the earth. That is why things have become so bad here on earth since 1914. (Revelation 12:9, 12) (What Is the Kingdom of God? Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site. Published in 1996. Copyright © 2006 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. http://www.watchtower.org/library/rq/article_06.htm 07/23/07).
The time that God has allowed for humans to experiment with self-government is about to end. In fulfillment of Bible prophecy, his Kingdom was established in the heavens in 1914 with Jesus Christ as its King. # Shortly, it will crush and put an end to all human governments.—Daniel 2:44 (Why Does God Allow Us to Suffer? Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site. Appeared in The Watchtower January 1, 2003. Copyright © 2006 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. http://www.watchtower.org/library/w/2003/1/1/article_02.htm 07/23/07).
...when Jesus spoke of today's troubled system and "the sign" of its approaching destruction, he added, "This generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur." Some, at least, of the generation that saw the "beginning of pangs of distress" in 1914 will live to see Paradise restored on earth. (Matthew 24:3-8, 34) (Education for Entering Paradise. Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site. Published in 1986. Copyright © 2006 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. http://www.watchtower.org/library/lmn/article_11.htm 07/23/07).
Bible prophecy shows that appointed time came in 1914 C.E...For some 35 years prior to 1914, The Watchtower (now the most widely distributed religious magazine on earth) had been calling attention to 1914 as a year marked in Bible prophecy...However, if the heavenly government was established in 1914, why is there all this distress on earth? It is Satan the Devil who is responsible. When Christ received Kingdom power, his first act was to wage war on Satan in the invisible heavens. As a result, Satan, "who is misleading the entire inhabited earth," was hurled with his angels down to the vicinity of the earth. Knowing that his destruction draws near, he stirs up great trouble on earth. It is "woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time."—Revelation 12:7-9, 12. (The Perfect Government of Peace. Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site. Published in 1986. Copyright © 2006 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. http://www.watchtower.org/library/lmn/article_10.htm 07/22/07)
One source claimed that JW literature states that Jesus began "his invisible rule over the earth in 1914" (The Truth Shall Make You Free, p. 300. Cited at carm.org). If that is so, this would seem to contradict their official belief that "Satan is invisible ruler of world" (but most JWs do not seem to see this as a contradiction as they believe it is consistent with Psalm 110:1-2--yet essentially, I believe that they should be looking at Revelation 20:1-6).
I did find that the JWs teach:
God's kingdom is a heavenly government with Jesus Christ as King...The Kingdom started to rule in 1914...
The 2520 years...period ended in October 1914. At that time, "the appointed times of the nations" ended, and Jesus Christ was installed as God's heavenly King...1914 indeed marked the birth of God's heavenly Kingdom and the beginning of the "last days" (What Does the Bible Teach? Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, New York, 2005, pp. 84,217,218).
The “earth” represents the world of mankind alienated from God. Such a world existed in Noah’s day and, by divine decree, ended with the Flood. “By the same word the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.” (2 Pet. 3:7) Whereas the Flood destroyed the ungodly all at one time, the coming destruction will occur in stages during “the great tribulation.” (Rev. 7:14) In the first phase of that tribulation, God will move the political rulers of this world to destroy “Babylon the Great,” thus showing his contempt for that religious harlot. (Rev. 17:5, 16; 18:8) Then, in the war of Armageddon, the final phase of the great tribulation, Jehovah himself will wipe out the rest of Satan’s world.—Rev. 16:14, 16; 19:19-21. (July 15 2010 Watchtower, page 3, para #4)
Overall, the JW written position seems to be that what is happening now is that Satan has been thrown down to earth since 1914, even though the Father gave Jesus the Kingdom rulership then. And that the Great Tribulation, apparently, happens while Jesus has the Kingdom.
But the Bible and the COG teach that the great tribulation/Day of the Lord that Revelation discusses is 3 1/2 years long (e.g. Revelation 12:14; 11:2-3) and that period ends with Christ's return and the establishment of His Kingdom. What the Jehovah's Witnesses seem to teach is that amount of the time from Satan being sent to the earth in 1914 and until Christ returns has been from over 97 years thus far (hence this seems to contradict their translation of Revelation 12 that Satan's great anger is for "short period of time"). Also, the expression that Jesus mentioned about a particular "generation" would suggest that the timeframe probably could not be something like 100 years. The Jehovah's Witnesses are clearly in error on many of their 1914 points.
Perhaps, since the Witnesses cited Revelation 12, it would be helpful to see the time period it actually mentions:
13 Now when the dragon saw that it was hurled down to the earth, it persecuted the woman that gave birth to the male child. 14 But the two wings of the great eagle were given the woman, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place; there is where she is fed for a time and times and half a time away from the face of the serpent (NWT).
A "time and times and half a time" is 3 1/2 years, not over 97 years (and by the time Jesus comes, it will likely have been over 100 years). Three and one half years makes a lot more sense for that short period of time.
Additionally, the Jehovah's Witnesses seem to define shortly as within a timeframe apparently less than one year as they have also written:
Satan and the demons are now severely restricted. They can no longer materialize as they apparently once could. Shortly after the establishment of God's Kingdom in the hands of Christ in 1914, they were cast down to the vicinity of the earth.—Revelation 12:7-9 (THE DEVIL More Than Just Superstition. Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site. Appeared in The Watchtower September 1, 2001. Copyright © 2006 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. http://www.watchtower.org/library/w/2001/9/1/article_02.htm 07/23/07).
So since the JWs teach that Satan was thrown down in 1914 and that this was shortly after Jesus received the Kingdom in 1914, it makes no sense that they teach that the short time that Satan was thrown down for is at least 97 years.
Since the JWs seem to teach that Jesus received "Kingdom power" in 1914, this sort of reminds me of what the Seventh-day Adventists (SDA) and other Adventists called the great disappointment (when Adventists were disappointed that Jesus did not come when they thought He would). After the "great disappointment", Ellen Harmon (who became Ellen White) essentially taught that Jesus came not to the earth, but to a sanctuary and that this began a time of investigative judgment (this, thus was how they explained the error in the Advent--not that their date was wrong, but that would happened was misunderstood).
One critic of the Jehovah's Witnesses has claimed:
Russell adopted many of his doctrines from the Seventh-Day Adventists, but the JWs began to emphasize door-to-door evangelism and literature distribution after Russell's death and subsequent leadership assumption by Joseph Franklin Rutherford (Jehovah's Witnesses: Christian or Cult?* Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 11/01. http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Cults/jw.htm).
There are a couple of reasons that I included the above. One is that since the SDAs formed (as essentially originally affiliating with some in the Church of God as a subgroup) just before the Jehovah's Witnesses did and the Jehovah's Witnesses have several doctrines that are similar to those of the COG, it does make sense that C. Russell was probably familiar with SDA doctrine (even though he was probably not actually ever an SDA) and kept those he felt were appropriate (some have claimed a more direct link of Russell through the Advent Christian Church in Allegheny, Pennsylvania--which also had roots in the Millerite movement). The other reason is that I was told a long while ago by a JW member that their church essentially came out of the Millerite movement (the Millerites thought that Jesus would return in 1844-1846) in the early to mid 1800s--and this is also true of many SDAs and probably even some in the COG back then. Hence, this may explain some of the doctrinal similarities. (More on the history of the COG in the 1800s can be found in the article The Sardis Church Era; more on the SDAs can be found in the article SDA/COG Differences.)
Both the JWs and COG's believe that there have been true Christians throughout history. However, a major difference is that the COGs believe that they can identify many of them essentially throughout history, while the Jehovah's Witnesses do not attempt to do that. There was also nothing in the JW official website that provided earlier history than I was able to locate when I last looked.
The Jehovah's Witnesses teach that:
Michael is a name given to Jesus in his role as a heavenly Ruler (Pay Attention. p. 289).
Michael [another name for Jesus] and his angels battled with the dragon...Revelation 12 (What Does the Bible Really Teach?Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Brooklyn, 2005, p. 89).
Those in the CCOG believe that Michael is simply an archangel. Nowhere does the Bible teach that Jesus was once Michael.
Here is more about what the JWs teach about Michael:
The foremost angel, both in power and authority, is the archangel, Jesus Christ, also called Michael. (1 Thessalonians 4:16; Jude 9) Under his authority are seraphs, cherubs, and angels. (The Truth About Angels. Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site. Appeared in The Watchtower November 1, 1995. http://www.watchtower.org/library/w/1995/11/1/article_02.htm 07/09/07)
The Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe that Jesus is God, but the CCOG does.
Here is one "proof" from the Jehovah's Witnesses that they use to support their unitarian view of the Godhead:
John said that he had written his Gospel so that readers might come to believe that “Jesus is the Christ the Son of God”—not that he was God. (John 20:31) (WHO IS“the Only True God”? Awake! April 22, 2005).
Having read various writings from official Jehovah's Witnesses sources, I have concluded that the Jehovah's Witnesses's correctly understand that the Father and Son are separate persons, but that they do not teach that Jesus is God or part of the Godhead.
Notice the following from one of their official websites:
Rather than proclaim himself to be God’s Son, Jesus allowed others to reach that conclusion...
Yet, some argue that Jesus is not simply the Son of God but that he is actually God himself. They say that he and his Father are both Almighty God. Are they correct? Is Jesus somehow part of God? Is that what Jesus, or any of the Bible writers, said? Really, who is the only true God? Who did Jesus say He is?...
(Acts 17:24, 31) Here the apostle Paul described Jesus as “a man”—yes, lesser than God—whom God had restored to life in heaven. The apostle John too described Jesus as subordinate to God. John said that he had written his Gospel so that readers might come to believe that “Jesus is the Christ the Son of God”—not that he was God. (John 20:31) (Is Jesus Christ God? http://www.watchtower.org/e/20050422/article_01.htm 070707).
Their belief that Jesus is not God seems to be tied to a couple of verses in John 17 which they mention and explain as follows:
In prayer with his apostles—only hours before his death—Jesus petitioned: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your son, that your son may glorify you. This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:1, 3.
Notice that Jesus prays to One whom he calls “the only true God.” He points to God’s superior position when he continues: “So now you, Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you before the world was.” (John 17:5) Since Jesus prayed to God requesting to be alongside God, how could Jesus at the same time be “the only true God”? (WHO IS “the Only True God”? Awake! April 22, 2005).
This, however, at most may suggest that Jesus was not fully God while on earth, which He was not. The Bible teaches that Jesus emptied Himself of His divinity while on earth (see Philippians 2:7), hence He had to have been divine before coming on earth (this is discussed in more detail in the article on binitarianism), and would be again after His resurrection. The above in no way is proof of unitarianism.
Now, I did receive an email from a JW that stated:
We believe Isaiah 9:6 that talks about Jesus being "Mighty God" we understand him to be a replica of his father, so not the original God Almighty but a copy of him, so not "The God Almighty", we believe him to be the "image of the invisible God" Col 1:15 2 Cor4:4 Also Jn1:1 "the word was God" even though our translation says "a god' as in obedient or submisive to his father (1 Cor 11:3) whom he worships (Jn20:17) (Email to COGwriter, April 10, 2011).
The implication of the above seems to be that at least one JW believes that Jesus was a created being and a lower type of god. For scriptures that come to a different conclusion, please check out the article Did the Archangel Michael become Jesus?
The JW's New World Translation of the Bible teaches:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. (John 1:1, NEW WORLD TRANSLATION OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES, 2013 REVISION)
In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. (John 1:1, NEW WORLD TRANSLATION OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES, 1984 EDITION)
The Jehovah's Witnesses should thus consider that Jesus is God--but instead they teach He was a type of angel. The Bible teaches that Jesus was not an angel (see Did the Archangel Michael become Jesus?).
The Jehovah's Witnesses imply that Christians should keep the Ten Commandments when they make statements such as the following:
As your love for God grows, you will be filled with desire to do what he requires of you. "This is what the love of God means,", wrote the apostle John, "that we observe his commandments." If you love Jehovah with your whole heart, you will find that " his commandments are not burdensome."--1 John 5:3.
What are Jehovah's commandments? Some of them involve conduct that we must avoid. For example, note the box on page 122, entitled "Shun What Jehovah Hates." There you will find listed conduct that the Bible clearly condemns (What Does the Bible Really Teach?, p. 121).
P. 122 of What Does the Bible Really Teach? lists 14 items including 7 of the Ten Commandments (the three left out were numbers 1, 4, and 5). And while we in the real CCOG agree that tobacco use is wrong, it would not be one of only 14 specific items "that the Bible clearly condemns" as it is never directly mentioned in scripture (although biblical principles such as treating your body as the temple of the Holy Spirit, 2 Corthinthians 6:16, would explain part of why tobacco use is not appropriate).
But the bigger point is that the Jehovah's Witnesses teach that commandments against "Greed," "Idolatry," "Stealing," Lying," etc. are still in place.
Yet, although some of their members do not realize it, in writing the Jehovah's Witnesses teach that the Ten Commandments are done away. Here is one "proof" they mention:
Rom. 7:6, 7...what example from the Law does Paul cite? The Tenth Commandment, thus showing that it was included in the Law from which they had been discharged (Reasoning on the Scriptures. Jehovah's Witnesses' Booklet, p. 348).
Now any thinking person would realize that Paul specifically taught that violating the tenth commandment was still a sin and that the law is still in effect as Paul wrote:
6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. 7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." 8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good (Romans 7:6-12, NKJV).
In Romans 7, Paul is teaching that Christians have been delivered from the penalty of the law and that we still serve it--serving it in the Spirit is an even broader application--that is what Jesus Himself taught in the "Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew 5,6,7); Jesus for example taught that the letter of law against adultery spiritually included looking a woman to lust after her (Matthew 5:27-28) and that improper anger is spiritually condemned in the commandment against murder (Matthew 5:21).
How can anyone who professes Christ actually believe that God approves covetousness? But that specifically is what the logic that the Jehovah's Witnesses apparently are told to accept--even though they elsewhere teach that "Greed" (another word for covetousness) is one of the 14 items that "Jehovah Hates" (What Does the Bible Really Teach?, p. 122). So while the JWs officially teach against covetousness, they teach that the tenth commandments was "discharged". To me, this makes no sense.
In order to justify their correct position against abortion, the Jehovah's Witnesses actually cite one of the Ten Commandments when they teach:
"You must not murder" (Deuteronomy 5:17).
Now if that commandment is valid to justify a position against abortion, are not the other nine that are listed right with it in Deuteronomy 5:6-21 valid as well?
Based upon selective quoting of scripture, the Jehovah's Witnesses also seem to insist that
"2 Cor. 3:7-11:...the code which administers death and which was engraved in letters in stones"
has to be referring to "the Ten Commandments" being gone (Reasoning on the Scriptures, p. 348-349), what it is actually referring to is that it is the "administration" (with the Levitical priests as the administrators) that was changed to the Christian ministry (2 Corinthians 3:6). Hence, Paul in 2 Corinthians is not teaching that the ten commandments are done away with.
But let us look at what this section of scripture actually states:
7 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? 9 For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. 10 For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. 11 For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious. 12 Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech-- 13 unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:7-18).
Furthermore, the Jehovah's Witnesses go so far as to make the following odd statements:
Does doing away with the Mosaic law, including the Ten Commandments, imply taking away all moral restraint?
Not at all; many of the moral standards set out in the Ten Commandments were restated in the inspired books of the Christian Greek scriptures (There was, however, no stating of the sabbath law.) (Reasoning on the Scriptures, p. 349).
There are three problems with the above.
Furthermore regarding the sabbath, notice some of the following teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses:
How did Sunday become the principal day of worship for much of Christendom?
Although Christ was resurrected on the first day of the week (now called Sunday), the Bible contains no instruction to set aside that day of the week as sacred.
"The retention of the old Pagan name of 'Dies Solis,' or 'Sunday,' for the weekly Christian festival, is, in great measure owing to the union of the Pagan and [so-called] Christians sentiment with which the first day of the week was recommended by Constantine...It was his mode of harmonizing the discordant religions of the Empire under one common instruction"(Reasoning on the Scriptures, p. 346).
Actually, although Christ was not resurrected on the first day of the week (please see the article What Happened in The Crucifixion Week?) and Constantine mandated (he did not simply recommend) Sunday, the rest of the statements cited above in that Jehovah's Witnesses' booklet are correct. The Bible never enjoins Sunday and those that observe it are following pagan practices.
And while one may think that the origin of how Sunday came to be observed is no consequence, the fact is that the Jehovah's Witnesses teach that origins are very important and state that reason for one of the many for why they do not observe Christmas:
Maybe you feel that the origins of holidays have little to do with how they are celebrated today. Do origins really matter? Yes!...To take a stand for true worship, we need to have a viewpoint like that of the prophet Isaiah, who told true worshipers: "Touch nothing unclean"--Isaiah 52:11 (What Does the Bible Really Teach?, p. 159).
Since origins matter, and Sunday observance is not enjoined in the Bible, but instead was mandated by a Sun-worshiping emperor who wanted unity within his empire, then certainly the Jehovah's Witnesses should stop and realizing that by observing Sunday (the way that most of them do) that they are violating their own rules about accepting pagan practices.
And although a Witness who came to my door recently said that they so not observe Sunday as he has church meetings 2-3 times per week, I reminded him that the Roman Catholic Church has mass every day, but endorses Sunday, and that all over the world, the Jehovah's Witnesses almost alway have a meeting on Sunday (it is the other days that they normally vary on). Hence, the Jehovah's Witnesses do often follow the example of pagans that they condemn as they keep Sunday in the manner of the Catholics; that is, they attend church services, but otherwise do their own business on Sunday as they seem fit.
Another Witness who came to my door actually stated that although the principles of the law were still in effect (I did not ask him how the principle of not coveting was in effect if that was done away according to the literature of his church), that the one commandment that was done away was the Sabbath commandment--he offered no proof except he did erroneously state that one could not keep the Sabbath commandment today as the law stated that one could not travel an entire mile on the Sabbath. I informed him that I have kept the Sabbath over 30 years (hence it was possible) and that the Bible never says that one cannot travel a mile on the Sabbath. I informed him that it was from various rules of Jewish tradition that his statement came from and that he really should read what the Bible says. He, of course, really had no answer for that, so he left.
Perhaps he should have looked at his New Testament, for even the New World Translation (NWT), the one that Jehovah's Witnesses use, states the following:
4 For in one place he has said of the seventh day as follows: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works,” 5 and again in this place: “They shall not enter into my rest.” 6 Since, therefore, it remains for some to enter into it, and those to whom the good news was first declared did not enter in because of disobedience, 7 he again marks off a certain day by saying after so long a time in David’s [psalm] “Today”; just as it has been said above: “Today if YOU people listen to his own voice, do not harden YOUR hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had led them into a place of rest, [God] would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 So there remains a sabbath resting for the people of God. 10 For the man that has entered into [God’s] rest has also himself rested from his own works, just as God did from his own. 11 Let us therefore do our utmost to enter into that rest, for fear anyone should fall in the same pattern of disobedience (Hebrews 4:4-11, NWT).
Hence, the command related to the seventh day Sabbath rest is repeated in the New Testament. Also, the New Testament commands work as well (the Sabbath command in the Old Testament consisted of two parts, laboring six days and resting the seventh--Exodus 20:4).
Regarding working, the New Testament requires that as well:
In fact, also, when we were with YOU, we used to give YOU this order: “If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat.” 11 For we hear certain ones are walking disorderly among YOU, not working at all but meddling with what does not concern them. 12 To such persons we give the order and exhortation in [the] Lord Jesus Christ that by working with quietness they should eat food they themselves earn (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, NWT).
Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith (1 Timothy 5:8, NWT).
Hence, the Sabbath command is repeated in the New Testament after Jesus died. Here is another passage of scripture that shows this:
Now it was the day of Preparation, and the evening light of the sabbath was approaching. But the women, who had come with him out of Gal´i·lee, followed along and took a look at the memorial tomb and how his body was laid; and they went back to prepare spices and perfumed oils. But, of course, they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment (Luke 23:54-56, NWT).
Regarding Saturday verses Sunday, the Jehovah's Witnesses may wish to realize that even their leadership understands that seven is an important number to God:
In the Scriptures, certain numbers have symbolic significance. The number seven, for example, is often used to symbolize that which is complete, or perfect, in God's eyes. For instance, God's creative week comprises seven 'days,' or extended time periods, during which God completely accomplishes his creative purpose regarding the earth. (Genesis 1:3–2:3) God's "sayings" are like silver that has been "clarified seven times," thus perfectly refined. (Psalm 12:6; Proverbs 30:5, 6) The leper Naaman was told to bathe seven times in the Jordan River, after which he was completely healed.—2 Kings 5:10, 14 (Identifying the Wild Beast and Its Mark. Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site. http://www.watchtower.org/library/w/2004/4/1/article_02.htm 07/08/07).
So, even though the Jehovah's Witnesses teach that certain numbers have significance, especially the number seven, they for some reason do not believe that resting of the seventh-day like God did (Genesis 2) is of significance.
If a Jehovah's Witness comes to your door and tries to tell you that you do not have to keep the ten commandments (which is their official teaching), ask about why the Watch Tower Tract and Bible Society teaches:
Christ set example that must be followed in serving God (JW Source: Jehovah's Witnesses—Who Are They? What Do They Believe? Published in 2000. Copyright © 2006 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved. Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site http://www.watchtower.org/e/jt/index.htm?article=article_03.htm 07/09/07)?
Jesus certainly did set the example. And He most certainly did keep and teach all the ten commandments. This is clearly documented in the Bible and many verses are in the article What Did Jesus Teach About the Ten Commandments?
Since the Jehovah's Witnesses claim that Christians should follow Jesus' example, why do they not keep the ten commandments? Which one of them is it moral to violate? Will the Jehovah's Witnesses actually follow Jesus and the Bible?
Most people realize that Jehovah's witnesses are opposed to blood transfusions, and that they claim the Bible as their authority. Notice the following:
Taking blood into body through mouth or veins violates God's laws Gen. 9:3, 4; Lev. 17:14; Acts 15:28, 29 (Jehovah's Witnesses—Who Are They? What Do They Believe? Published in 2000. Copyright © 2006 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved. Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site http://www.watchtower.org/e/jt/index.htm?article=article_03.htm 07/09/07).
The COG would agree with the prohibition against taking blood into the body through the mouth as that is biblically taught against, but the veins (while not necessarily always a good idea) is not biblically prohibited. However, it is important to realize that the Jehovah's Witnesses are mainly basing their misunderstanding on Old Testament statutes that they indicated elsewhere were done away.
Let's look at each of the verses cited to see if they mention veins:
3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood (Gen 9:3-4 NKJV).
13 "Whatever man of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who hunts and catches any animal or bird that may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with dust; 14 for it is the life of all flesh. Its blood sustains its life. Therefore I said to the children of Israel, 'You shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.' (Leviticus 17:13-14).
Hence the Old Testament clearly prohibits the eating of blood, but says nothing about veins.
But what about the citation of Acts 15:28-29? Let us look at what it actually states, as well as a couple of verses that precede it:
... we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath...
For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well (Acts 15:20-21, 28-29).
The above is referring to the practice of drinking blood as part of pagan animal sacrifices. One abstains from "things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled" by not eating them. Furthermore, notice that these prohibitions are specifically based upon the writings from Moses.
There was no such thing as blood transfusions when the above was written, hence that is not what was being taught above. Nor are veins mentioned. However, it may be of interest to note that one JW critic reported:
"While it's true that they will not accept blood transfusions, JWs are allowed to have all the component parts of blood plasma." (Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 11/01. http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Cults/jw.htm).
So it is not that clear to me what part of blood they think is not acceptable as the Bible does not break down the components of blood in any passage I have ever seen, other than to say that the life of the flesh is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11).
The Jehovah's Witnesses specifically teach that people should be "giving up unclean habits" (What Does the Bible Really Teach?, p. 126) and they show a package of cigarettes, something not directly ever mentioned in scripture. Yet unlike the COG (which also opposes the use of tobacco based upon biblical principles), the Jehovah's Witnesses will eat biblically unclean animals. This seems odd as it is also in Leviticus that unclean meats are mentioned. If the command in Leviticus about not eating blood is valid, why are not the commands to avoid eating unclean animals not observed by the Witnesses as they are also from the writings of Moses?
Perhaps they may wish to read the article The New Testament Church and Unclean Meats.
Holy Days and Colossians 2:16-17
In its listing of beliefs the Jehovah's Witnesses teach:
Bible's laws on morals must be obeyed 1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Heb. 13:4; 1 Tim. 3:2; Prov. 5:1-23 Sabbath observance was given only to Israel and ended with Mosaic Law Deut. 5:15; Ex. 31:13; Rom. 10:4; Gal. 4:9, 10; Col. 2:16, 17 (Jehovah's Witnesses—Who Are They? What Do They Believe? Published in 2000. Copyright © 2006 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved. Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site http://www.watchtower.org/e/jt/index.htm?article=article_03.htm 07/09/07)
The Jehovah's Witnesses distinguish between those that they consider moral and those that they do not. Essentially, like many Protestants, the seem to be teaching that the Ten Commandments have been done away, but since they feel that perhaps 9 of them are moral, that in actuality only the Sabbath commandment has been done away.
Part of their rationale seems to be based upon their translation of Colossians 2:16-17:
16 Therefore let no man judge YOU in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or of an observance of the new moon or of a sabbath; 17 for those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ.
If the Jehovah's Witnesses would have properly translated Colossians 2:17 correctly they would realize that this verse (paired with the verse that immediately precedes it) is teaching that outsiders are not to judge how Christians observe the Sabbath and holy days, but that only the body of Christ (the church, Colossians 1:18) should be able to do that. Instead, they (like certain Protestant translators) have intentionally mistranslated that verse.
Why can I be so certain of that?
Because the same three Strong's words (#4983, 3588, & 5547) are used three other times in the New Testament and in those times the New World Translation translates it as "body of Christ" (Romans 7:4; 1 Corinthians 10:16; Ephesians 4:12); a similar expression is used in 1 Corinthians 12:27, where the NWT translates it as "Christ's body".
Therefore, if all the New World translators were simply consistent with themselves, they would have translated Colossians 2:16-17 to state:
16 Therefore let no man judge YOU in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or of an observance of the new moon or of a sabbath; 17 for those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the body of Christ.
If the New World translators would simply have been consistent, then Witnesses would realize that Colossians is NOT doing away with the Sabbath or festival days (even the Jehovah's Witnesses sort of observe one of those).
The seventh-day Sabbath and the biblical Holy Days have not been done away. If so, why would the Witnesses keep a version of Passover? Actually the Jehovah's Witnesses have written that observing it (which they often call "the annual observance of the Lord's Evening Meal") as one of the three ways to "show your appreciation" for Christ's sacrifice. Here is some of what they have written:
Attend the annual observance of the Lord's Evening Meal. On the evening of the 14th day of Nisan...Jesus introduced a special meal that the Bible calls "the Lord's evening meal." (I Corinthians 11:20; Matthew 26:26-28). This meal is also called the Memorial of Christ's death (What Does the Bible Really Teach?, p. 55).
Although the booklet above calls itself What Does the Bible Really Teach?, it failed to do that in the above section. Even in the New World Translation the Holy Scriptures states this a Passover meal:
17 On the first day of the unfermented cakes the disciples came up to Jesus, saying: “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the passover?” 18 He said: “Go into the city to So-and-so and say to him, The Teacher says, ‘My appointed time is near; I will celebrate the passover with my disciples at your home.’” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus ordered them, and they got things ready for the passover (Matthew 26:17-19, NWT).
In an appendix of the booklet, however, it does admit that this was on Passover (though the Jehovah's Witnesses do not seem to wish to call this observance Passover):
CHRISTIANS are commanded to observe the Memorial of Christ's death. This observance is also called "the Lord's evening meal"...
Jesus Christ instituted this observance on the night of the Jewish Passover...The Passover was a celebration held just once a year, on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan...Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples...
One a year after sundown on Nisan 14, Jehovah's Witnesses observe the Lord's Evening Meal.
(What Does the Bible Really Teach?, pp. 206,208).
Passover, Pentecost, and other so-called Jewish Holy Days were kept by Christians in and after the New Testament was written (please see Did Early Christians Observe the Fall Holy Days?). So why do the Jehovah's Witnesses keep one and not the others?
Furthermore, perhaps because they do not keep all the biblical holy days, the Jehovah's Witnesses do not actually know when the 14th of Nisan is. In 2007, they kept it one day late, and according to a calendar I saw in 2009, they seem to think that the 14th of Nisan in on April 9th, instead of April 8 (and technically, it is the evening before). So, although the Jehovah's Witnesses know that they are supposed to observe Passover (albeit with a different name) on the 14th of Nisan, they actually do not even do that. You can click here to see the Roman dates for the biblical calendar of Holy Days.
Another article of related interest may be Is There "An Annual Worship Calendar" In the Bible?
Slightly similar to the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses essentially teach that God had to start the church up again as the mainstream groups did not practice true Christianity. The Jehovah's Witnesses believe this occurred in the 1800s. And that in that 19th century, the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation were to be sealed in significant numbers.
The Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the work of God gathering the 144,000 was completed in the early 20th century:
The anointed remnant set about gathering the remaining number of the 144,000 joint heirs of Christ (Romans 8:16, 17; Revelation 7:3, 4). When that work was complete--evidently by the mid-1930's--they began gathering the "great crowd of lost sheep" (Revelation 7:9; John 10:16) (Pay Attention. p. 292).
The COG generally believes that the "great multitude" of Revelation 7:9 are converted during the great tribulation and that we are not now in that period. The Jehovah's Witnesses seem to believe that they need to accomplish the calling of the great multitude by going house to house--those in the COG believe that this is contrary to what the Bible teaches (Luke 10:7) and uses other methods (essentially public lectures and electronic media) to preach the gospel (as far as Luke 10:5-6 are concerned, this seems to be teaching that when you come across someone during public lectures who is supportive, allow them to invite you in, as opposed to knocking on everyone's door until someone does).
While the Jehovah's Witnesses seem to believe that perhaps the most important work was completed in the 1930s, the COG tend to believe that in a sense, the most important work (the raising up of the Philadelphia portion of the Church) began in the 1930s and that the "greatest work lies ahead" (Should the Church Still Try to Place its Top Priority on Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert Armstrong Change that Priority for the Work?).
In addition, Philadelphians in the Church of God believe that the work of the church is "to preach the gospel of the kingdom to the world as a witness" (Matthew 24:14) and then the end will come (ibid). Thus, the most faithful believe that the work of the church is not complete until the Philadelphia remnant of the true church flees to a place of safety at the beginning of the tribulation, while the Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Revelation 7 has been fulfilled through at least verse 8 and that verse 9 is occurring now.
The JWs also teach about the kingdom and their part in it:
How will this come about? It is explained in "the good news of the kingdom," which Jesus started to proclaim while on earth. (Matthew 4:17-23) But today Jehovah's Witnesses are preaching the good news in a very special way. (Jehovah's Witnesses—Who Are They? What Do They Believe? Published in 2000. Copyright © 2006 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved. Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site http://www.watchtower.org/e/jt/index.htm?article=article_03.htm 07/09/07)
This "very special way" is obnoxious to many.
Those in the COG tend to wonder how the Jehovah's Witnesses misunderstand the following scripture which quotes Paul:
“YOU well know how from the first day that I stepped into the [district of] Asia I was with you the whole time, 19 slaving for the Lord with the greatest lowliness of mind and tears and trials that befell me by the plots of the Jews; 20 while I did not hold back from telling YOU any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching YOU publicly and from house to house..." (Acts 20: 18-20, NWT).
The term "YOU" is capitalized in the NWT. And in a sense that is correct--Paul was stating that he taught Christians publicly and in their houses--he was NOT telling Christians to bother those who were not interested by repeatedly going to their homes like the Jehovah's Witnesses do. Jesus taught:
Also, just as YOU want men to do to YOU, do the same way to them (Luke 6:31, NWT).
I would suggest that Jehovah's Witnesses would not be pleased if they were regularly visited by members of other religions at their door. Hence, they may wish to pray about whether or not they truly are living according to the "spiritual law" (Romans 7:14).
Some Technical Points of Doctrine
There are some other differing points of doctrinal view that I will comment on briefly in this section.
While the Jehovah's Witnesses (and the COG) do believe that God will offer salvation to those who in this life did not know truly know God, the Jehovah's Witnesses believe that this opportunity will occur during the millennium (What Does the Bible Really Teach?, pp. 72-73), the COG teaches that this will happen because of the Great White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:11) and that occurs after the thousand years have ended (Revelation 20:7) (for additional information, please see the article Hope of Salvation: How the Genuine COG differs from most Protestants).
The Jehovah's Witnesses teach God will not resurrected all who died and that the "wicked" will never be resurrected (What Does the Bible Really Teach?, p. 73), while the COG teaches that they will be resurrected to be burnt up (Revelation 20:13-15). The Jehovah's Witnesses position contradicts their own translation of the New Testament:
The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended (Revelation 20:5, NWT).
Anyway, there are other points of doctrine that the two groups differ on. But it should be clear that while the COG do teach what the Bible really does teach, that the Jehovah's Witnesses often contradict what their own translation of the Bible clearly states.
How should a Church of God member respond when Jehovah's Witnesses come to the door? There are several approaches.
A wrong approach would be to invite them into your home or to wish them well in their door to door efforts. Notice from the NIV:
If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work (2 John 10-11, NIV).
I choose the NIV translation as it is closer to the Greek than the NKJV or the KJV (the KJV uses the archaic expression "God speed" which is not the literal Greek, while the NKJV uses the term "greet" which can have more than one meaning). While I believe that JWs are sincere, they simply do not truly understand the entirety of the Bible or Jesus Christ. Also, since the JW church officially teaches against the Ten Commandments, they are actually opposed to some of what John was teaching (2 John 6).
Matthew Henry's Commentary does a decent job of explaining the KJV for this passage in 2 John:
"Bless not their enterprises: Neither bid him God speed. Attend not their service with your prayers and good wishes." Bad work should not be consecrated or recommended to the divine benediction. God will be no patron of falsehood, seduction, and sin. We ought to bid God speed to evangelical ministration; but the propagation of fatal error, if we cannot prevent, we must not dare to countenance. (from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)
But what about having any discussion with them?
That requires a certain amount of wisdom. For example, the Bible teaches:
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes (Prov 26:4-5).
Now I am not trying to indicate that Jehovah's Witnesses are fools any more than any outside the COG are--the Bible clearly shows that outsiders are blinded (John 12:40; Romans 11:7). I am only emphasizing that the Bible indicates that sometimes an answer is appropriate and sometimes an answer is not. Also, sometimes asking them questions may be the wisest approach (Jesus asked a lot of questions to religious individuals who approached Him).
I once asked my then regional pastor if he thought I should dialog with Jehovah's Witnesses when they came to my door and he basically said to use wisdom and that it was up to me as we never know who God is calling.
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).
And while the above is referring to humans seeing how we Christians live, I also believe that in the case of some approaching us on theological matters, that our lights do shine when we encourage them to read the Bible to find out that the way Christ will have us live is the correct way that they should also follow.
In my case, I attempt to follow Christ's approach to religious people (whether JWs, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Orthodox, Seventh-day Adventists, etc.). Jesus both asked and answered questions of religious people who approached Him (e.g. Matthew 22:15-45).
So normally, I try to answer some of their questions, but pose questions myself back to them. Jehovah's Witnesses have never yet been able to come up with biblically correct responses to most of them (like why they almost always have Sunday services, who the final King of the North is, etc.), so then they politely decide to leave (all of my discussions with them have been polite, but unwavering).
The Jehovah's Witnesses who go door-to-door seem to have a certain zeal about them. Apostle Paul noticed that many Israelites who would not become part of the true Church of God had a certain zeal as he wrote:
Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (Romans 10:1-2).
And throughout his ministry, even after he focused on the Gentiles, the Apostle Paul still hoped and prayed that his fellow Israelites would be saved (Romans 10:1) and he also tried to tailor his message assist them to be saved (1 Corinthians 9:19-23), though relatively few accepted any calling then.
The Book of Acts also records that even within the true Church of God, Christians were capable of having zeal but without proper knowledge:
Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:24-26).
In other words, Apollos had a certain zeal and knowledge of scripture, but he did not know enough about the truth of Christianity. And because of this, Aquila and Priscilla tried to add more accurate knowledge to his zeal.
The Bible also says to follow the Apostle Paul's approach:
Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
How do I do that with Jehovah's Witnesses and others?
Well, with Jehovah's Witnesses specifically, I tend to point out that they are correct that what passes for mainstream Christianity is not biblical. I normally point out several areas of doctrinal agreement. I then normally point out that although they have some doctrines correct that mainstream groups do not, that they have ignored and reasoned around various aspects of scripture, have major gaps in their understanding of church history, and/or misunderstand certain aspects of biblical prophecy. And while it is true that God calls (John 6:44), God expects us share the good news with those who are interested--and if a Jehovah's Witness is either uninterested or partially interested, they will leave--and if being called, then they will respond to what they have been told.
I hope and pray that my responses are consistent with 1 Peter 3:15-16:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.
Having studied their doctrines to some degree, as well as biblical COG doctrines, I believe I am normally ready to give a defense of what the Bible teaches and attempt to do that when Jehovah's Witnesses come to the door. I also basically tell them to read their Bibles (even their own translation supports COG teachings more than their own where they differ) to see if what I am saying is so (c.f. Acts 17:11). If God is calling any of them now, I believe that they will check it out--if not, then they at least have received a witness.
However, since I believe that the Jehovah's Witnesses are being unintentionally rude by coming to the door, I also see no problem if people prefer not to take any time with them and instead simply and politely say no thank you and close their doors. If you are busy, uncomfortable speaking with them, or simply do not wish to, you are not required to do so. And if you are not sure how to handle their visits, pray about it. Many I know of in the COG simply give them a piece of COG literature and then close their doors.
There are many approaches that can be appropriate.
Wisdom, after all, is something that God gives (Proverbs 2:6) and expects us to use.
There are many prophetic differences between the Jehovah's Witnesses and the COG. This section will mainly limit those that are related to Daniel 11. And is here because two Jehovah’s Witnesses came to my door and dropped off a book titled Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy!
Essentially, the Jehovah's Witnesses tend to believe that some of the most significant prophetic events began with, or just prior to, World War I and that a large number of specific prophecies have been fulfilled since that time. But they also teach about other prophetic matters.
On page 56 of that book is an illustration of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream image with various dates. It starts with Babylon as the head of gold, followed by Medo-Persia as the chest and arms of silver, followed by Greece as the belly and thighs of bronze, followed by Rome (up until here, this seems to agree with positions of scholars who are of Catholic, Protestant, and COG persuasions) as the upper to middle leg.
When I saw the Jehovah's Witnesses' illustration, I immediately noticed some problems with the early dates the Jehovah's Witnesses used (even the same Jehovah's Witnesses' booklet on pages 31-33 has a much earlier start date for Nebuchadnezzar’s rulership than its illustration–though it tries to explain it), but more importantly, I was surprised that the Jehovah's Witnesses show Britain and the USA as part of the image discussed in Daniel 2. They showed what they call “Anglo-American World Power” as the lower legs, but not the feet.
Apparently the Jehovah's Witnesses believe that after Britain made a deal with France in 1763, that it became part of the image succeeding Rome. On page 140 of the same book they specifically teach that Britain was the “little horn” of Daniel 8:7 and on page 141 they teach that the USA grew out of it.
In the time of the end, the Jehovah's Witnesses seem to teach that the bottom portion of the image is either unknown or related to the United Nations. FWIW, the Jehovah's Witnesses specifically teach that ”the disgusting thing that is causing desolation…(Daniel 11:31b)” was “the League of Nations” (Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy! pp. 267,269).
The United Nations seems to be the most "official" position (though those who tend to come to my door do not seem to insist that it is):
What “disgusting thing” has been “put in place” in modern times? Apparently, it is a “disgusting” counterfeit of God’s Kingdom. This was the League of Nations, the scarlet-colored wild beast that went into the abyss, or ceased to exist as a world-peace organization, when World War II erupted. (Revelation 17:8) “The wild beast,” however, was “to ascend out of the abyss.” This it did when the United Nations, with 50 member nations including the former Soviet Union, was established on October 24, 1945. Thus “the disgusting thing” foretold by the angel—the United Nations—was put in place. (‘THE DISGUSTING THING IS PUT IN PLACE’ Chap 15, p267, para 23-24)
This differs from positions of the COGs which teach that the feet/toes of the final portion of the image will be a revival of the Roman Empire–something we believe is beginning to form currently in Europe. The COG also teaches that the “abomination that makes desolation” has to do with false Christianity stopping Jewish sacrifices (which must start before they are stopped) and more firmly establishing itself in Jerusalem at the time of the end.
In its booklet titled Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy! the Jehovah's Witnesses correctly teach,
The designations “the king of the north and “the king of the south” refer to kings north and south of Daniel’s people, who were freed from Babylonian captivity and restored to the land of Judah (p. 218).
However, they do not seem to keep that belief when it comes to explaining about them (at least not for the "King of the South").
Regarding the "king of the north" the Jehovah's Witnesses teach that it was Germany from the late nineteenth century until in World War II (pp. 256-267) fulfilling Daniel 11:27-31a (this time period was not, however, the final end-time fulfillment of these verses in Daniel). Then they teach it became the Communist Soviet Block until around 1993 (pp. 275-280), fulfilling Daniel 11:31b-43 (we in the real COG would contend that the Communist block did not fulfill these prophecies).
The JWs actually teach that the defeat in Vietnam was part of the result of the king of the north fulfilling Daniel 11:42,43. Notice:
(Daniel 11:42-43) Even the king of the south, "Egypt," did not escape the effects of the expansionist policies of the king of the north. For example, the king of the south suffered a notable defeat in Vietnam (pp. 278-280).
The above "Egypt" is not, according to the Jehovah's Witnesses the actual nation of Egypt but what they call the "Anglo-American World Power" (p. 247). Those of us in the COG believe that the term "Egypt" means the area occupied by the current nation of Egypt. Verses 40-43 of Daniel 11 are talking about more than a nation giving up, they show that the King of the South is defeated and it is overwhelmed.
Currently, the Jehovah's Witnesses teach that they do not know who the final king of the north will be:
Who will be this king when Daniel 11:44, 45 is fulfilled? Will he be part of the former Soviet Union? Or will he change identity completely, as he has done a number of times before? Will the development of nuclear weapons by additional nations result in a new arms race and have a bearing on the identity of the king of the north? Only time will provide answers to these questions. We are wise not to speculate (p. 281).
The above differs greatly from COG teachings. Essentially like Herbert W. Armstrong did, the COGs teach that Daniel 11 will have final fulfillment at the time of the end from Daniel 11:31, but probably prior (like vs. 27) as the final time of the end, the "appointed time", begins no later than Daniel 11:29. The COG teaches that the king of the north is also the same power as the feet of the image in Daniel 2 (more information is in the articles Who is the King of the North and Europa and the Beast of Revelation).
Notice what else the Jehovah's Witnesses teach in Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy!:
When World War I broke out in 1914, Egypt belonged to Turkey…Britain…declared Turkey a British protectorate. Gradually forming close ties, Britain and the United States of America became the Anglo-American World Power. Together, they came into position of the king of the south (p.247).
This causes the Jehovah's Witnesses several problems as they indicate with the image of Daniel 2 that the Anglo-American World Power formed over 100 years prior to WWI, plus the fact that since Britain and the USA no longer control Egypt, that they are not south of Judah (actually, all of Britain and the USA, with the exception of the Falkland Islands and some minor territories, are north of Judah).
A chart that the book Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy! has on page 284 shows that the Jehovah's Witnesses believe that “Anglo-American World Power” became the “king of the south” around WWI, were also the king of the south in WWII, were also the king of the south during the time of the “cold war”, and will be at the final end.
In addition, unlike the Continuing Church of God, the Jehovah's Witnesses teach:
Similarly, the king of the south is not destroyed by the king of the north (p. 285).
But the Bible is clear that the king of the south is destroyed by the king of the north in Daniel 11:40-43.
Sadly, the misunderstanding of prophecy that many groups (like the Jehovah's Witnesses and even many who are affiliated with some of the Churches of God) will deceive them about end-time events. JWs really themselves need to Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy! as they are missing most of what is happening related to it now.
Five articles of related interest may include:
Is There A Future King of the South? Some no longer believe there needs to be. Might Egypt, Islam, Iran, Arabs, or Ethiopia be involved? What does the Bible say?
Who is the King of the North? Is there one? Do biblical and Roman Catholic prophecies point to the same leader? Should he be followed? Who will be the King of the North discussed in Daniel 11? How should the prophecies in Daniel 11 be understood?
Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan? What Year Does the 6,000 Years End? Was a 6000 year time allowed for humans to rule followed by a literal thousand year reign of Christ on Earth taught by the early Christians? When does the six thousand years of human rule end?
The Bible and the Arab World In History and Prophecy The Bible discusses the origins of the Arab world and discusses the Middle East in prophecy. What is ahead for the Middle East and those who follow Islam?
Modern Nations and God’s Ancient Plan Many peoples are mentioned in the Bible. And other than the fact that the nation of Israel represents the ancient kingdom of Judah, do you know who any of these people are now?
The Jehovah's Witnesses teach:
God's Kingdom—Mankind's Only Hope...
The Mark Identified
Immediately after disclosing the number 666, Revelation mentions 144,000 followers of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, who have his name and the name of his Father, Jehovah, written on their foreheads. These names identify the bearers as belonging to Jehovah and to his Son, about whom they proudly bear witness. Likewise, those having the mark of the beast proclaim their servitude to the beast. Thus, the mark, whether on the right hand or on the forehead, figuratively speaking, is a symbol that identifies its bearer as one who gives worshipful support to the beastlike political systems of the world. Those having the mark give to "Caesar" that which rightly belongs to God...
The composite beast of Revelation 13:1, 2 symbolizes the worldwide political system, empowered and controlled by Satan. The beast's having "a man's number," or "a human number," indicates that it is a human entity, not a demon...In God's eyes, the number six, being short of the Biblically complete, or perfect, seven, points to imperfection. The mark 666 emphasizes that deficiency by repeating the number three times.
While the COG agrees that God's Kingdom is mankind's only hope, the COGs are more specific as to what 666 stands for.
Here is some of what Herbert W. Armstrong explained about the number 666 discussed in Revelation 13:18,
The founder and first king of Rome was ROMULUS. The Roman Empire was named after him. His name, the name of a MAN, also is the name of the KINGDOM. And every citizen in the kingdom bears the same name — a ROMAN. When John wrote this Revelation, telling us to COUNT the number of the Beast, he wrote in the GREEK language. Consequently, we should look for this name, and the number 666, in this language recognized in the BIBLE, not in the Latin. We are all familiar with the Roman numerals, where letters are used for numbers. All understand that I is 1, V is 5,X is 10, etc. But many do not know that the Greek language,in which the book of Revelation was written, also uses letters for numbers. In the Greek, the language in which Revelation was written, this name is “LATEINOS.” It signifies “Latin man” or“the name of Latium,” from which region the Romans derived their origin and their language. This word, too, signifies“ROMAN.” In the Greek, L is 30, A is 1, T is 300, E is 5, I is 10, N is 50, O is 70, S is 200. Count these figures. They count to exactly 666! It is indeed no coincidence that the name of the KINGDOM, its founder and first KING, and of each man in the kingdom, counts to exactly 666! Certainly THE BEAST stands identified! (Armstrong HW. Who is the Beast? Radio Church of God Booklet, 1960).
It should be noted that this understanding was NOT unique to Herbert Armstrong as it has long been the COG position. The late John Ogwyn wrote this about its meaning and origins:
Scarcely any prophetic subject has elicited more conjecture and speculation than the "mark of the Beast." In addition to a "mark," Revelation 13 also mentions an "image" of the Beast as well as the mysterious "number of his name"—666...
Since the Roman Empire is the Beast described by John in Revelation 13 and Revelation 17, the "mark" is a brand or mark of the Roman Empire. The "image" of the Beast must be something modeled or patterned after the Roman Empire...
Historically, was there an institution claiming to represent Christ ("like a lamb," v. 11) and holding sway over the populace by means of various "miracles" (v. 14)—an institution which taught the devil’s false message that God’s law was "done away" and which insisted that its adherents give their loyalty to the Holy Roman Empire? Throughout the medieval period, the Church of Rome did exactly this!...
The earliest proposed solution to the meaning of 666 is a tradition attributed to Polycarp, the disciple of the same Apostle John who wrote Revelation. This tradition is preserved in the second century writings of Irenaeus. The number 666 is "…contained in the Greek letters of Lateinos (L=30; A=1; T=300; E,=5; I=10; N=50; O=70; S=200)" (Commentary on the Whole Bible, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown). Lateinos is a Greek term referring to the Romans. Interestingly, the Greek expression meaning "the Latin kingdom" (h Latine Basileia) also has a numeric value of 666. Greek writers commonly referred to the Roman Empire in this way. The book of Revelation was originally written in Greek, as it was written to Greek-speaking churches in ancient Asia Minor...
The founder of ancient Rome was Romulus, from whose name Rome and Roman are derived. The Latin name Romvlvs is written in Hebrew as Romiith. In the Hebrew language this also adds up to 666 (resh=200, vau=6, mem=40, yod=10, yod=10, tau=400). Thus, in both Greek and Hebrew, the two languages of the Bible, the number 666 is stamped upon the kingdom that derived from Rome (Ogwyn J. The Beast of Revelation: Myth, Metaphor or Soon-Coming Reality?).
Hence, the COGs teach that 666 represents a civil Roman leader/kingdom (scripturally referred to as "the beast") who will maintain a religious alliance, while Jehovah's Witnesses seem to teach that it represents all the world's religious/political systems. Personally, I consider that the idea of 666 simply representing all the world's system leads to a discounting of the relevance of that which is revealed in the Book of Revelation--and that is that 666 represents those that follow forms of false Christianity--but also symbolizes the beast--the final leader of the Holy Roman Empire who will be ultimately influenced by the Vatican (by way of a demon-influenced individual who the Bible calls the false prophet, Revelation 16:13, and who is probably an "antipope"--Roman Catholics would consider a demon-influenced pontiff an antipope).
While the Jehovah's Witnesses seem to have a prophetic glimpse, partially because of their lack of knowledge concerning the history of early Christianity, they simply do not seem to be able to see details as they should.
Most people who consider that they are Jehovah's Witnesses seem sincere and often have a zeal to serve God. They are correct that what passes for Christianity in the mainstream is simply not biblical Christianity. They do have several teachings that differ from what passes as mainstream Christianity that are correct.
However, their views on Jesus, the law of God, prophecy, and even the work of God are simply not biblical. They also simply cannot properly explain church history as they seem to have little idea of what happened to the church from the time of the apostles until the 1800s. They have a certain dedication and zeal, but without all the knowledge that they need.
And while, officially, the Jehovah's Witnesses teach that you can identify the true religion since:
God's servants base their teaches on the Bible (What Does the Bible Really Teach?, p. 146).
By adopting Sunday, contradicting their own translation of the Bible, etc., the Jehovah's Witnesses simply are not God's true servants. In that way and more, they differ from the Continuing Church of God.
I urge Jehovah's Witnesses to be like the Bereans who “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). And if they believe that there is even one factual error in this article, they can attempt to point it out and send me an email. My email address is COGwriter@aol.com (note in all the years this article has been on the internet, this has only once ever happened. It was a matter of interpretation and I added clarifying statements to this article.).
However, if they do not find any factual errors, then they need to decide if they will obey God rather than traditions of men.
Thiel B., Ph.D. Similarities and Differences between the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of God. www.cogwriter.com/jehovahswitnesses.htm (c) 2007/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013/2015 0703
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