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What's the difference between Christianity and Jehovah's Witnesses?

Fiona Bronsdon

The Jehovah's Witnesses were founded about 140 years ago by an American, Charles T Russell, and began to be known as Jehovah's Witnesses in 1930. Here are some of the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses.

As their name suggests, they bear witness to Jehovah God. The name 'Jehovah' is derived from a translation of 'I am who I am' – the divine name that is told to Moses by God in Exodus 3 in the Bible.

'Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you', and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'”
Exodus 3:13,14

It is also translated as Yahweh, and you'll read it as LORD in our Bibles. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jehovah God is one alone. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jesus is God's son, and that Jesus is separate to God, i.e. that he is not God. They also believe that Jesus and the angel Michael are the same.

'…the archangel Michael is Jesus Christ… So the evidence indicates that the Son of God was known as Michael before he came to earth and is known also by that name since his return to heaven where he resides as the glorified spirit Son of God.'
Reasoning from the Scriptures, p.218
Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1989

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jesus returned as God's king in 1914 to begin the 'last days'.

'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.'
What does God require of us, p.12
Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1996

Also, that some who saw the events of 1914 will also witness the end of the world:

'…that some who saw the events of 1914 will also see the complete destruction of the present wicked world'
Reasoning from the Scriptures, p.200,
Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1989

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that when this world ends, there will be a separate heaven and an earthly paradise. 144,000 faithful Jehovah's Witnesses will reign with Jesus in heaven:

'God has purposed to associate a limited number of faithful humans with Jesus Christ in the heavenly Kingdom.'
Reasoning from the Scriptures, p.76
Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1989

Anyone else who is saved – those who prove themselves to be loyal subjects of Jesus – will live in an eternal earthly paradise.

How does this differ from Christianity?

Christians do believe that God is one, but we believe that God is made up of the Father, the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit as evidenced in the Bible. Christians believe that Jesus is God. We don't believe that Jesus and the angel Michael are the same.

Christians believe that Jesus has always been God's King, and that he will return – we look forward to the new heaven and new earth as described in the Bible – but he has not returned yet.

'Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”'
Revelation 21:1-3

The Bible makes it clear that Jesus' return will be an event that all people will see, but which none can know with certainty when it will happen – only God the Father knows:

'”Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But concerning that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.”'
Jesus' words in Mark 13:31-33

Christians believe that all who put their faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ will be saved to be with God in heaven for eternity:

'”…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”' Romans 10:9, the Bible (ESV) '…I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…'
Revelation 7:9

There are more differences, too many to share here, but the most significant centre on Jesus: Christians and Jehovah's Witnesses have a very different belief about who Jesus is, Jesus' return and eternal life.

Through reading and long discussions with Jehovah's Witnesses, these differences were made clear to me. Discussions, though, always concluded with the same question: Who knew the truth about Jesus?

How can we know what's the truth? As we think about the person of Jesus Christ, who he is and why he came… I just want to encourage us to keep on reading the Bible and find out for ourselves what it has to say about him.

But I'd like to finish with some words from the Bible – words that Jesus said about himself:

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him…Whoever has seen me has seen the Father…I am in the Father and the Father is in me…”
John 14:6,7,9,10