On the heels of finally completing the booklet I was writing critiquing Jehovah’s Witnesses teachings based on their faulty translation of biblical manuscripts, come to our door, you guessed it – Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs). Though I was unable to speak with them, they did leave us with yet another pamphlet, this one even more patently misleading and factually incorrect than the last.
I could move along and critique the entire pamphlet, but since I just recently wrote a booklet of my own highlighting many of these false notions and wrote about what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in a previous article, it may be out of scope here. So what I am going to do instead is to take just a few of the claims made in the pamphlet and briefly examine them. We will examine the back cover of the said pamphlet, titled The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom, subtitled Do We Need God?
What is the purpose of Christ’s return?
In this section of the booklet we read the following:
“Before Jesus Christ ascended to heaven in 33 C.E., he promised to return. He likened himself to a nobleman who went away for a long time and returned with power to rule as king. The purpose of Jesus’ return is to provide mankind with good government. – Read Luke 19:11, 12.”
Let’s look at one specific claim from this section. The claim being made here is that the purpose of Christ’s return is “to provide mankind with good government” with Luke 19:11,12 provided to support the claim. Now, let’s look at the passage cited:
“As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return.””
Odd! Nowhere in this passage is there any mention that Jesus was to come back to provide mankind with good government. Hardly a good reason to overturn the orthodox Christian position that Jesus will come back to judge the world and actualize the Kingdom of God. One of the primary rules for proper exegesis is to never read a single Bible verse. Verses are most appropriately to be understood in light of their broader context. Verse 12 of the Gospel of Luke is only the first sentence that begins the parable of the talents, which teaches that everyone has one basic task – to serve God faithfully. And that has nothing to do with an earthly government.
ln what form does Christ return?
Next we take a look at the the JWs claim of the nature of Christ and the form of his return. In the following section, the booklet asserts,
“He was resurrected as an invisible spirit person. (1 Peter 3:18) Then, he went to heaven and sat at God’s right hand. (Psalm 110:1) Much later, Jesus was brought before Jehovah God, “the Ancient of Days,” who granted Jesus power to rule over mankind. So Jesus returns, not as a human, but as an invisible King. – Read Daniel 7:13,14.”
This section is so fraught with errors, one has a hard time selecting which claim to address first. Well, let’s start with the beginning and work our way down:
“He was resurrected as an invisible spirit person.”
The passage cited is 1 Peter 3:18, which reads,
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (emphasis added)
A cursory reading might lead a reader to the conclusion that Jesus came back merely as a spirit. However, there is a lot more going on here. The passage indicates that Jesus was made alive in a glorified state, not merely as a spirit, but with a glorified, physical and spiritual body. So His resurrected body was not the same as his flesh (earthly body), which was under the effects of physical breakdown and decay, but it was not merely spirit either. “In the spirit” does not necessarily refer to “an invisible spirit body,” but a spirit-directed, spirit dominated physical body, as is clarified in 1 Corinthians 15:44.
That passage also has cross references to other passages (Romans 1:4, Romans 8:11), which illuminate it further, namely that Jesus was brought into a new epoch of His personal human existence. Romans 8:11 takes this even further,
“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
This passage also adds the reality of the trinitarian view of salvation, which JWs reject. Perhaps the rejection of such doctrines is the result of inaccurate reading of these various passages. Suffice it to say for the moment, that this passage is fairly clear that “he [God, the Father] who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies” (emphasis added). So, believers are to be given mortal, in other words, physical, bodies, similar to the one with which Jesus was raised from the dead.
To exhaust the argument and leave no doubt about Jesus’ physical presence after His resurrection, we may also look at numerous New Testament passages, in which Jesus is doing things that a mere spirit without a body could not do. Let’s keep in mind one very important thing, namely that a spirit body does not have flesh and bones. In Luke 24:42-43 we read that Jesus was able to eat. How exactly would a mere non-physical spirit eat? In Luke 24:39 and John 20:27 we read that he showed people His hands and feet, with the nail prints in them. How exactly would physical trauma be translated onto a spirit? There is no warrant for or means by which to suppose this to be even remotely possible. In Matthew 28:9 we read that people grabbed His feet and worshipped Him. How exactly would people grab the feet of a mere spirit? Do spirits even have body parts, especially invisible ones that no one is supposedly able to see? In John 20:25 doubting Thomas wanted to see in Jesus’ hands with the imprint of the nails, and put his finger into the place of the nails, and put his hand into His side in order to believe. Two verses later Jesus is telling Thomas to put his fingers in his wounds, and believe. Again, how would a mere spirit be able to do such things, and why would Thomas be convinced that Jesus had resurrected if he were merely moving his fingers close to a mere spirit, and not an actual physical body? All of these examples fly in the face of the JWs claim that Jesus resurrected merely as a spirit. Further examples of Jesus’ physical resurrection can be found in John 20:19-20 and Luke 24:38-39.
The most peculiar thing about the claim from the pamphlet is that Jesus came back as “invisible spirit person.” How exactly would so many people interact with, touch, eat with, etc. with an “invisible spirit person?”
Now, let’s take a look at the next claim:
“Then, he went to heaven and sat at God’s right hand. (Psalm 110:1)”
Now, let’s consider the cited passage:
“The Lord says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.””
In this verse David, in spirit, calls Christ his Lord though he was his Son. Thus Jesus did not begin to exist and was not merely a human descendant of David, but preexisted with dominion over all creation. Jesus, himself, makes reference to this passage in Mark 12:35-37,
And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,
“”The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.””
David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?“
Jesus actually did not merely go to heaven after he was born, died and resurrected. Jesus preexisted before His incarnation and was not with God, but is God, the first person that makes up the trinitarian godhead. By using “then” to start the sentence, JWs distort the chronology, by implicitly inferring that Jesus did not have his preexistence and dominion over ALL creation. This psalm of David was written centuries before Christ’s birth. It is not necessarily a prophecy of a yet to be realized future to us. David is looking forward to the Messiah that is future to him.
Next we read this in the pamphlet:
“Much later, Jesus was brought before Jehovah God, “the Ancient of Days,” who granted Jesus power to rule over mankind.”
There is no accompanying verse for examination, but since the entirety of the Bible militates against this claim, it need not be taken seriously. Jesus does not get permission and is not granted power to rule over humanity merely later. As the second person of the trinity, Jesus has always existed and has always had that power.
Next, we read in the pamphlet the following:
“So Jesus returns, not as a human, but as an invisible King. — Read Daniel 7:13,14.”
We’ve already established the first premise to be faulty, since we’ve considered the claim that Jesus resurrected as an “invisible spirit.” Since that claim has been shown to be clearly false, most of this verse is crippled as a result as well. To do our due diligence, let’s look at the later portion of the claim – Jesus is going to come back as an invisible King according to the cited verses – Daniel 7:13,14. Now, let’s consider the passage, which is as follows:
“I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.”
Nowhere here is there any indication that Jesus will be coming back as an invisible King. Ironically, the passage the JWs cite to try to argue that Jesus is coming back as an invisible King, provide ample argument to argue for Jesus as God Almighty, which JWs adamantly reject. Here, the “son of man,” which is used in reference to Christ throughout the Old Testament (OT), New Testament (NT), and often by Jesus in reference to himself, comes with the “clouds of heaven” – always attributed to God in the OT, and most often as a reference to judgement. “Son of man” originates in heaven and comes by divine initiative.
What will Jesus do when he arrives?
Next let’s look at the claims made in the pamphlet for what Jesus will do when he arrives. We read the following:
“When Jesus arrives invisibly with his angels, he will judge mankind. He will destroy wicked people but grant everlasting life to those who accept him as King. – Read Matthew 25:31-33, 46.”
We’ve already observed the inadequacy of the argument for the “invisible King” hypothesis, so let’s set aside that particular portion and the following portion of Jesus judging, that’s inline with what the Bible communicates as well. However, Jesus will not destroy the wicked. The Bible communicates that those who have not embraced Jesus as Lord and Savior, will stand to be judged and will endure eternal punishment apart from God in hell. The notion that people will be annihilated after judgement is a late theological movement, called annihilationism. While a more thorough treatment of the text would make for a more comprehensive argument against annihilationism, for the sake of brevity we can refer to age-old classic Christian traditional understanding of the doctrine of hell – eternal punishment – and simply expect that if it were false, that we would have a compelling and overwhelming case against it and in favor of annihilationism. Now, the passage cited (Matthew 25:31-33, 46) takes us to these verses:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left… And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
That’s odd; this sounds a lot like the traditional understanding of hell. Nowhere is there mention that after the separation of the righteous (sheep) from the wicked (goats), that the wicked will be destroyed. Thus the booklet is claiming something that it does not back up with any reasonable argument. In fact, it’s worse than that as the passages cited actually adds weight for the argument against what is being claimed in the booklet.
Let’s move on. In the next portion, the booklet reads as follows:
“Jesus’ rule as King will transform the earth into a paradise. He will resurrect the dead so that they can enjoy life in that earthly Paradise. – Read Luke 23:42-43.”
So, does Jesus come back to rule as a King and transform earth into paradise? We are told to read Luke 23:42-43 in order to see this prophesied. Let’s look at the passage now. We read,
“And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.“”
To properly set the scene, Jesus is on the cross between the two thieves, when one realizes his wickedness, and asks Jesus to remember him when He goes into His kingdom. Jesus answers by saying “today you will be with me in Paradise.” This is very explicit. There is little wiggle room here. Jesus’ answer is ironically something one would not expect if He were speaking of a mere human kingdom millennia removed from the day of crucifixion. Jesus is saying that that specific day the penitent thief would be with Him in Paradise. Where then is there any room for interpreting the passage any differently? The Paradise Jesus is speaking about is the immediate heaven, or the very presence of God. And the fact that He is going into His kingdom further moves one to understand that He is the ruler of His kingdom. Thus, Jesus is going from His incarnate physical presence into His essential nature as God and ruler of His kingdom.
Jehovah’s Witnesses propagate all sorts of falsehoods, not the least of which are those things that distort the true biblical teachings on such important matters that have everlasting implications. It would probably be a bit harsh to lay the responsibility of these falsehoods on individuals who merely propagate these claims without so much as checking them out in the Bible. The bulk of the blame would need to placed on the Watchtower Society for dispensing of biblical truth and inaccurately translating passages that lead to false and extremely heretical teachings. Here we’ve only looked at a handful of such claims and shown them to be sorely lacking substance and reasonable weight.