Jehovah's Witnesses follow the Bible, both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, and feel it is still practical. They use the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania and similar agencies for the distribution of their literature. Here follows a list of their beliefs, along with the Biblical citations they provide as foundations to the belief.
Interest in the fulfillment of Bible prophecy in the modern day has been a trait of Jehovah’s Witnesses dating back to C.T. Russell, the Watch Tower Society’s first president. It should be noted that there are other "Russellite" groups, usually calling themselves "Bible Students," and most of them assert that their beliefs are truer to Russell's teachings than are the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses. The movement was changed substantially under the leadership of those who succeeded Russell after his death in 1916. Of particular concern are eschatological prophecies dealing with the “last days”. Unlike religious groups that look for a future return of Christ Jesus, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Christ’s Second Coming occurred in the year 1914 AD.
1914 Beginning in the late 1870s, Bible Students (as the forerunners of the Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known) began pointing to 1914 as a special year that would see the fulfillment of Luke 21:24 and the end of “the Times of the Gentiles”. The basis for their conclusion concerns a dream by King Nebuchadnezzar that is recorded in Daniel chapter 4 in which a large tree is chopped down and banded (prohibiting growth) for a period of 7 times (Daniel 4:23). The book of Daniel shows that the prophecy originally corresponded to a period of 7 years when Nebuchadnezzar was removed from power. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that this was a “minor” fulfillment that foreshadowed a “major” fulfillment, Christ’s return and his installation as King of God’s Kingdom.
- Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the major fulfillment of this prophecy is related to the destruction of Jerusalem in the fall of 607 BC, when the Davidic line of kings that were described as sitting on the “throne of God” ended. They believe this began of the “Times of the Gentiles” that Christ referenced at Luke 21:24.
- Revelation 12:6, 14 indicates that 3.5 times equal 1,260 days. Doubling that number to match the 7 times indicated in Daniel’s prophecy the total reaches 2,520 days. Arriving at the year 1914 AD is based, in part, on the Witnesses’ use of the principle of a day for a year, based on Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6 whereby the 2,520 days is counted as 2,520 years beginning in October 607 BC when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians.
Manner of Christ’s Return Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe Christ’s return took place in a physically visible manifestation. Their basis for these beliefs include words spoken to Christ’s disciples by Jesus the night before his death at John 14:19 and by angels following his ascension at Acts 1:9-11.
- At John 14:19, Christ said: “In a little while the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.” (New Century Version)
- At Acts 1: 11, angels told the disciples that: “Jesus, whom you saw taken up from you in the heaven, will come back in the same way you saw him go.” (New Century Version)
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that these words indicate that just as Jesus’ departure was observed only by his disciples with the world in general paying no attention, Jesus’ return would take place in a similar fashion. They believe that other texts regarding Christ’s return involve spiritual vision or discernment, rather than a physical manifestation.
The Last Days Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the world has been in the “last days” (2 Timothy 3:1) since 1914 AD. They believe that world conditions fulfill the prophecy provided by Jesus Christ as recorded at Matthew 24, 25, Mark 13 and Luke 21. They also point to the prophecies of the apostle Paul at 2 Timothy 3:1-5 and John in the book of Revelation as currently being fulfilled.
Changes in Understanding Jehovah’s Witnesses readily acknowledge that their understanding in how certain prophecies would be fulfilled has changed. They believe that God enables humans to understand the Bible in a progressive manner that will require adjustments in how texts are applied. The Witnesses will point to the fact that some prophets were not able to understand what they had written (Daniel 12:8, 9) and that Christ’s apostles at times had wrong expectations (Acts 1:6, 7)
- Eschatology Belief References
- The Watchtower (September 15, 2006) Are We Living in “The Last Days”?
- The Bible Examiner, October 1876
Jehovah's Witnesses believe they have a moral and Scriptural obligation to share what they believe are important Bible truths with others. They believe that they are fulfilling Christ's command to "go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19, 20 NIV), fulfilling Christ's prophecy at Matthew 24:14, "and this good news of the kingdom (the Gospel) will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come the end." (Amplified)
Baptized Witnesses who do not share in a full-time ministry are known as "publishers". Although publishers do not need to spend a prescribed amount of time in the ministry, they are encouraged to spend as much time in the ministry as their circumstances allow. Special, regular and auxiliary "pioneers" are baptized Witnesses who commit to spending a specific number of hours in the ministry each month. Graduates of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead are missionaries who spread the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses internationally.
Jehovah's Witnesses have fought for their right to engage in their ministry in the courts of the United States and other countries. A recent instance involving the village of Stratton, Ohio resulted in a favorable ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Europe, the European Court of Human Rights has rendered numerous favorable rulings on behalf of Jehovah's Witnesses in the 41 countries making up the Council of Europe. These rulings included the affirmation that the freedom of religion and speech includes sharing your beliefs with others.
- Evangelical Belief References
Life After Death
Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs regarding life after death are based on the following core beliefs:
- The Biblical account of Adam and Eve is a historical fact and is not allegorical in nature. (2 Timothy 3:16)
- Humans are souls and that souls are mortal. (Genesis 2:7; Ezekiel 18:4)
- Human death is the consequence of Adam’s sin. (Genesis 2:16, 17; 3:17-19; Romans 5:12)
- The dead are in an unconscious, sleep-like condition. (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; John 11:11)
- Jesus Christ’s death has sacrificial value that provides deliverance from death for those that accept it. (John 3:16; Romans 5:8, 9; 1 Corinthians 15:45)
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Christ’s death provides two separate destinies for mankind. They believe that the majority of those who have died in the past will be resurrected to life on earth, joining those who survive the battle of Armageddon. (John 5:28; Acts 24:15; Revelation 7:14-17; 20:13) They believe that death and the common grave will both be eternally destroyed at the end of Christ’s 1,000 year reign. (Revelation 20:14) They believe this will allow God’s original purpose to be fulfilled with regard to the earth and mankind.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that for a smaller group of humans, Christ’s death provide an opportunity of receiving immortal life in heaven as one of the 144,000 referred to at Revelation 7:4 and 14:1, 3. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the 144,000 are made up of Christians, male and female, beginning with Christ’s apostles who are selected directly by God to fulfill a specific role in heaven. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, based on texts such as Revelation 5:10, that those selected as one of the 144,000 will serve as co-rulers with Christ for 1,000 years after the battle of Armageddon. They believe that members of this group who have died in the past have already been resurrected to spirit life in the heavens and that members who die in the present are immediately resurrected.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the wicked and unrepentant will be destroyed eternally at Armageddon. Those not resurrected by God will simply remain dead. They completely reject the concept that God punishes humans with eternal torment in a fiery hell. (Jeremiah 7:31; James 1:13; 1 John 5:14)
When it comes to medical decisions, Jehovah’s Witnesses are encouraged to make choices consistent with their Biblical beliefs. Generally speaking, The Watchtower and Awake! magazines, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses, acknowledge that they are not medical journals and refrain from promoting specific treatments. Both Eastern and Western medical options have been reviewed and the following have been identified as being contrary to the Biblical standards espoused by Jehovah’s Witnesses:
Blood Transfusions Since the 1940s, when blood transfusions became a standard practice in the medical field following World War II, Jehovah’s Witnesses have taken the position that this procedure violates Bible directives in both the Old Testament and New Testament. For their authority, they cite Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:13, 14 and Acts 15:28, 29. Although these texts refer to the eating of blood, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that a transfusion would be analogous to being fed intravenously.
Although Jehovah’s Witnesses will not accept transfusions of whole blood, the use of blood fractions are a matter left to individual conscience. To assist in making these decisions, information is provided in publications and video programs produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
- Fluids Ringer’s lactate solution, dextran, hydroxyethyl starch, and others are used to maintain blood volume, preventing hypovolemic shock.
- Drugs Genetically engineered proteins can stimulate the production of red blood cells (erythropoietin), blood platelets (interleukin-11), and various white blood cells (GM-CSF, G-CSF). Other medications greatly reduce blood loss during surgery (aprotinin, antifibrinolytics) or help to reduce acute bleeding (desmopressin).
- Biological hemostats Collagen and cellulose woven pads are used to stop bleeding by direct application. Fibrin glues and sealants can plug puncture wounds or cover large areas of bleeding tissue.
- Blood salvage Salvaging machines recover blood that is lost during surgery or trauma. The blood is cleansed and can be returned to the patient in a closed circuit. In extreme cases, liters of blood can be recovered using such a system.
- Surgical tools Some devices cut and seal blood vessels simultaneously. Other devices can seal bleeding on large areas of tissue. Laparoscopic and minimally invasive instruments allow surgeries to be performed without the blood loss associated with large incisions.
- Surgical techniques Thorough operative planning, including consultation with experienced clinicians, helps the surgical team to avoid complications. Prompt action to stop bleeding is essential. Delays greater than 24 hours can greatly increase patient mortality. Dividing large surgeries into several smaller ones decreases total blood loss.
Jehovah’s Witnesses provide information to the global medical field through “Hospital Liaison Committees”. The intent of these committees is to promote understanding of Jehovah’s Witness beliefs and to diffuse medical research that may otherwise not be known. Results have included the development of procedures to perform operations, such as open heart surgery and knee replacements, without the need to transfuse blood.
- Medical References
- Awake! (January 8, 2000) The Growing Demand for Bloodless Medicine and Surgery
- Transfusion-Alternative Strategies - Simple, Safe, Effective
- No Blood - Medicine Meets the Challenge
- Jehovah’s Witnesses The Surgical/Ethical Challenge
- Reprinted from ‘’The Journal of the American Medical Association’’, November 27, 1981 (Volume 246, No. 21, pp. 2471-2472)
- Reprinted from ‘’New York State Journal of Medicine’’ 1988; 88:463-464.
- God's Word and is Truth
- 2 Timothy 3:16, 17; 2:Peter 1:20, 21; John 17:17
- More reliable than tradition or creed
- Matthew 15:3; Colossians 2:8
God and Jesus Christ
- God's Name is Jehovah
- Exodus 6:3; Psalm 83:18; Isaiah 12:2; 26:4 (King James)
- Christ is God's Son and is inferior to Him
- Matthew 3:17; John 8:42; 14:28; 20:17; 1 Corinthians 11:3; 15:28
- Christ was first of God's creations
- Colossians 1:15; Revelation 3:14
- Christ's death a ransom for obedient humans
- Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:5, 6; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:24
Christ's Presence, Armageddon, Kingdom of God
- Christ's presence is in spirit, invisible
- John 14:19; Matthew 24:3; 2 Corinthians 5:16; Psalm 110:1,2
- We are now in the 'end times'
- Matthew 24:3-14; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Luke 17:26-30
- Wicked eternally destroyed at Armageddon
- Revelation 16:14, 15; Zephaniah 2:8; Daniel 2:44; Isaiah 34:2; Matthew 25:41-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9
- Armageddon survivors to receive eternal life
- John 3:16; 10:27, 28; 17:3; Mark 10:29, 30
- Christ to rule as King in righteousness and peace
- Isaiah 9:6,7; 11:1-5; Daniel 7:13, 14; Matthew 6:10
- Christ to be joined by 144,000 co-rulers who were faithful humans
- Luke 12:32; Revelation 14:1, 3; 1 Corinthians 15:40-53; Revelation 5:9,10; 7:3, 4
- Death is the result of Adam's sin
- Romans 5:12; 6:23
- The human soul ceases to exist at death
- Ezekiel 18:4; Ecclesiastes 9:10
- Hell is mankind's grave; a fiery place of eternal punishment inconsistent with God
- Job 14:14 (Douay); Revelation 20:13, 14; Jeremiah 7:31
- Majority of dead to be resurrected to life on earth
- John 5:28, 29; 11:25, 26
- Prayers must be directed to God through Christ Jesus
- John 14:5, 13, 14; 1 Timothy 2:5
- Spiritism must be shunned
- Deuteronomy 18:10-12; Galatians 5:19-21; Leviticus 19:31
- Bible's laws on morals must be obeyed
- 1 Corinthians 6:9,10; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Timothy 3:2; Proverbs 5:1-23
- No clergy/laity separation, use of special titles
- Matthew 23:8-12; 20:25-28; Job 32:21, 22
- Christ set example that must be followed in serving God
- 1 Peter 2:21; Hebrew 10:7; John 4:34; 6:38
- Adults, not children, are baptized to demonstrate dedication to God
- Mark 1:9, 10; John 3:23; Acts 19:4,5
- Christians must publicly testify to their faith, teach others
- Matthew 28:19, 20; Romans 10:10; Hebrews 13:15; Isaiah 43:10-12
- Rosten, Leo, ed. Religions of America: Ferment and Faith in An Age of Crisis, (1975)
- 2 Kokkinakis v. Greece (25 May 1993), Strasbourg 3/1992/348/421 (Eur. Ct. H.R.)