What do Jehovah’s Witnesses teach? Are you curious? Their central doctrine states that Christians have two different ways to eternal life. Jesus says a narrow road leads to eternal life: “How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.” (Matthew 7:14).
The road forks in two for Jehovah’s Witnesses—144,000 expect heavenly resurrection, and millions of their other sheep never go to heaven and expect eternal life on earth. This view began in 1935, as for the first fifty-six years from their 1879 inception, the two ways doctrine did not exist.
What sort of outcome comes from this view?
In 1976 I accepted the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ two ways to live forever, agreeing I was of the other sheep who would live on earth eternally, and joined their organisation—Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania (“Watchtower Society”). Twenty-four years later I resigned from this society and followed one way to eternal life. Why? The Bible states how eternal life occurs.
Jesus says, “I know my [disciples], and they follow me. I give them eternal life” (John 10:27–28).
“God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11–12).
“We will all be changed, in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye … when the mortal [is clothed] with immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51–53).
“[God] who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through His Spirit that resides in you” (Romans 8:11, New World Bible).
The Bible states Jesus gives his followers the eternal life that is “in” him, and God’s Spirit dwelling within us instantly changes our mortal bodies to live forever.
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ governing body teach:
- Jesus has never had eternal life “in” him;
- the 144,000’s mortal bodies never receive everlasting life;
- other sheep’s eternal life occurs slowly during a thousand-year period.
No New Testament scriptures teach the above Watchtower Society views. For years I read that eternal life came instantly, yet agreed my eternal life came slowly in a thousand years. How? Watchtower writers distract from Bible teaching; they change the subject or explain it away; deny plain statements, or change scriptures in the New World Bible that they print. Some examples follow.
Our human mortal bodies decay and die. At Romans 5:12 and 6:23 the Bible says to live forever humanity needs God’s Spirit to remove sin and death:
“death [entered the world] through sin, so also death passed to all men, because all sinned”;
“the [penalty] for sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”;
Also, “you were dead in transgressions and sins [before accepting Jesus Christ]” (Ephesians 2:1, 5).
“Dead” in sins means no spiritual life. In John 3:3–7 Jesus uses a double emphasis to explain the importance of spiritual life: ‘most assuredly’, ‘truly truly’; or ‘verily verily’. This is important, listen carefully.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again [born from above], he cannot see the kingdom of God … unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God … you must be born again.”
“Born again” means God puts his Spirit inside believers in Jesus (referred to as God’s indwelling Spirit) as a “new creation”, a “rebirth” to spiritual life lacking in our sin nature (2 Cor 5:17; Titus 3:5; Romans 6:20; 8:6–8). “Rebirth” nurtures love for God and believers in Christ.
Jesus stressed that unless “born again” spiritually, one will not “see” or “enter” God’s Kingdom; unless “born again” there is no spiritual life. Romans 8:10–11 says:
“You, however, are not controlled by the sinful nature but by Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ in him, he does not belong to Christ.”
Example of Watchtower distortion—explaining away Jesus’ words
Watchtower writers claim that only 144,000 are “born again” by God’s indwelling Spirit. Millions of ‘other sheep’ are taught they are never “born again”, never have God’s indwelling Spirit, and yet are assured they have spiritual life. The Bible affirms:
“There is one [spiritual] body, and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:4–5).
“God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34).
“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one [spiritual] body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
“[God] saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).
“All” believers in Christ have the “rebirth” to spiritual life, to live forever. The Watchtower Society’s New WorldBible removes “rebirth” (spiritual “regeneration”) at Titus 3:5:
“he saved us by means of the bath that brought us to life and by making us new by holy spirit”.
Bibles invariably distinguish God’s Spirit from a human spirit with a capital ‘S’. The Watchtower Society’s New World Bible only uses the lower case:
“If we are living by spirit, let us also go on walking orderly by spirit.” (Gal 5:25, NWB).
Example of Watchtower distortion—blending God’s Spirit with their governing body’s spirit
Watchtower writers limit God’s indwelling Spirit to 144,000 who, it was claimed, alone dispense God’s spiritual truth on earth—in 2012 this changed to some of the 144,000 in their governing body.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe God guides their governing body—this view tacitly blends God’s Spirit with the governing body’s spirit, adhering Jehovah’s Witnesses to living forever two ways.
The Bible confirms spiritual life and eternal life occur one way—by God’s Spirit dwelling within us.
“[God] who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through His Spirit that resides in you” (Romans 8:11, NWB).
No scripture in the New Testament describes everlasting life occurring IN a different way.
Brief history of the Watchtower Society’s two ways to live forever. In 1879 Charles Taze Russell began the group now called Jehovah’s Witnesses. After Russell’s death the second President J. F. Rutherford began the doctrine of two Christian classes (later called “two destinies”).
Since this 1935 change, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been taught they have the true Christian gospel; they alone will be saved, Christendom’s teachings are false and part of Satan’s system. Jesus says:
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brothers. He who does not love his brother abides in death” (1 John 3:14).
For more than 2,000 years Christianity has offered one way to live forever. Why do people accept two ways that began in 1935? Watchtower writers use a strategy that draws people to the forked road.
Does ‘forever’ end?
The strategy: To support two ways to live forever, Watchtower writers claim immortality and eternal life are different – that immortality lasts forever, and eternal life can end, i.e.:
- 144,000 receive immortality;
- other sheep never have immortality, their eternal life can perish.
Jesus says, “I give my [disciples] eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:28).
First-century Christians were eager to know how eternal life affected their bodies that decay and die. At 1 Corinthians 15:35 they asked, “How are the dead raised up? With what kind of body will they come?” The Apostle Paul’s reply expands Jesus’ words that “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God … [God’s] Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing” (John 3:3; 6:63).
As Paul is asked, ‘what kind of resurrected body will Christians have?’ he compares different bodies in the next 14 verses and affirms Jesus’ words that as mortal flesh decays and dies, it “counts for nothing”. At 1 Corinthians 15:50–54, Paul states that flesh and blood—the mortal body—is perishable, it cannot live forever, cannot inherit God’s imperishable kingdom; the mortal body must change.
Paul sums up his reply to, “How are the dead raised up? With what kind of body will they come?”
“I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable … we will not all [die], but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead [in Christ] will be raised imperishable, and we [living Christians] will be changed. For the perishable must [be clothed with] the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal [clothed] with immortality … ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’.”
The Bible disagrees that immortality and eternal life are different; all Christians live forever one way.
Example of Watchtower distortion—changing the subject
As Paul replies that “all” Christians change from mortal to immortal—both the dead in Christ and living Christians—at verse 50 Watchtower literature changes the subject from ‘mortal’ to ‘spirits’; claiming “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom” means the resurrected Jesus and 144,000 Christians become spirits who lose physical bodies and never have their physical bodies again. This is a form of Gnosticism. Why change the subject from ‘mortal’ to ‘spirits’? It supports Watchtower writers’ two ways to live forever—claiming other sheepstay eternally on earth and 144,000 are heavenly immortal spirits.
We don’t know how immortal bodies operate but know “the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned in the grave, nor did his body see decay” (Acts 2:31, 13:37 and Psalm 16:10 are “two or three witnesses” that Jesus kept his physical body at resurrection (Matt 18:16). The Bible says, “When we have taken our [mortal body] off, we shall not be found naked … we do not wish to be unclothed, but further clothed” (2 Cor 5:2-4). Does this mean ‘spirits’ are clothed with immortality? No, our “mortal [body] is clothed with immortality” and “transformed like [Jesus’] glorious body” (1 Cor 15:54; Phil 3:21). What results by claiming 144,000 are resurrected as spirits?—their mortal bodies are never made immortal.
Paul’s reply that “all” Christians change from mortal to immortal—the dead in Christ and living Christians—and totally rejects that 144,000 spirits become immortal.
Watchtower writers constantly reinforce ‘spirits’ at verse 50 to uphold “two destinies” for 144,000 and other sheep—distracting Jehovah’s Witnesses from Paul’s context of one way to live forever.
In Romans 8:11, the New World Bible says: “[God] who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through His Spirit that resides in you.”
The “mortal” dead in Christ and living Christians—not spirits—receive everlasting life.
What occurs when Watchtower writers transfer the Greek meaning of ‘eternal’ – that it can last forever or end – to Christian “eternal life”? It puts a leaking bucket on the forked road.
In fact, “eternal life” make up two words that have no changeable meaning. Why not? The word “life” in this context connects to Jesus. 1 John 5:11 says eternal life is Jesus’ life:
“This is [God’s] testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.”
How long is Jesus’ life? 2 Peter 1:11 says God’s Kingdom never ends, Jesus Christ is King of the Kingdom (1 Corinthians 15:24–25); Isaiah 9:6 identifies Jesus as Everlasting Father; and Hebrews 6:20 as High Priest forever, affirming one life “in” him. Jesus’ life never ends.
If Jesus had two types of everlasting life “in” him to give disciples, his life is weakened with one life that lasts forever and one that ends. In this scenario his disciples receive immortality, yet Jesus Christ would personally struggle with life and death.
Example of Watchtower distortion—denying God’s word
But Watchtower writers don’t claim two types of everlasting life are in Jesus Christ: they state Jesus has never had eternal life “in” him. Why deny it? Jesus says he gives his disciples eternal life, and one life “in” him decimates two ways to live forever.
What occurs when Watchtower writers deny eternal life is “in” Jesus Christ?
1 John 5:10, 11 says, “Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses in effect calls God a liar. They are taught their governing body’s ‘faithful slave’ is Christ’s sole representative on earth who teaches the truth, and that rejecting those teachings makes them disloyal to God.
Do you infer Almighty God is a liar by claiming eternal life is not “in” Jesus Christ?
Jesus says, “I give my [disciples] eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:28).
What results by inferring the words of Almighty God and Christ are lies? It tells us the Watchtower Society’s governing body oppose God—that two ways to live forever do not exist—none of it is Jesus Christ’s gospel. 2 Timothy 1:10 says:
“Jesus Christ … destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”.
Spiritual birth precedes everlasting life and is a down-payment of instant immortality at “the last trumpet” (1 Cor 15:51-52; 2 Cor 1:21-22). Jesus says unless one is “born again” he will not “see” or “enter” God’s kingdom—decaying mortal flesh “counts for nothing”. What does this warning tell Jehovah’s Witnesses’ other sheep who agree to never be “born again”, to never have God’s indwelling Spirit? It warns, ‘if all you have is your mortal body, you won’t live forever’.
Watchtower writers ignore this warning and invent spiritual life for their other sheep. It’s a man-made theory from the Woman’s Home Companion magazine.
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ 1954 Watchtower magazine included a Woman’s Home Companion article that everyone could develop his or her ‘spiritual side’, which was reiterated in a 1958 Watchtower magazine. From 1973 their literature ceased mentioning the Woman’s Home Companion as the source of this view, and shaped it into a doctrine for their other sheep. [Watchtower 1954 6/1, pp.323–325; W1958 6/1 p.339; W1973 8/15 p.484; Insight 1988 Vol 2 p.305; W1991 12/1 p.5; W2005 7/1 pp.4–7].
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ other sheep are told how to gain this spiritual life—their own efforts in obeying God develops a ‘spiritual side’ now and during a thousand years while they slowly acquire eternal life.
Who creates your spiritual life—God’s indwelling Spirit, or the Woman’s Home Companion?
As no Bible scriptures describe two ways to live forever, Watchtower writers hedge how their other sheep’seternal life occurs. It’s not “in” Jesus—or Almighty God (claimed for their 144,000)—the other sheep’s eternal life seems to float on the ether until it finds them. Jesus doesn’t hedge:
“I know my sheep, and they follow me. I give them eternal life” (John 10:28).
“we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet … when the mortal [is clothed] with immortality … ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’.” (1 Corinthians 15:51–54).
What results from teaching two ways to live forever? God’s word is rejected and eternal life is rejected.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:29; 3:22).
– Elizabeth Coppleman
Are your ears open? Have you agreed to never be “born again”? If so, step off the fork in the road, and accept the narrow road to eternal life.