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Talking to Jehovah's Witnesses

  • JASON EVERT

If you open your home to the Witnesses, that is more than most people do. Know that your charity and willingness to share your faith will leave a mark on the hearts and minds of Jehovah's Witnesses.

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  1. Hi. We're making visits in the neighborhood. Did you see on the news that bombing that happened in the Middle East? Wouldn't it be great if we could live in a world without war?

    If you've ever opened your door to find a pair of Jehovah's Witnesses, odds are you've heard a question such as this. This query and countless other door-to-door strategies of the Jehovah's Witnesses are laid out in their book Reasoning from the Scriptures. Long before they knock on your door, they have a carefully planned conversation designed to lead you to the Kingdom Hall. Do you have carefully planned response?

    When opening a discussion with a prospective convert, the first thing Jehovah's Witnesses are trained to do is to establish a common ground with you. Long before letting you know who they are or what they believe, they usually discuss global problems that everyone would like to see solved. If you listen, they'll explain how the Bible says that the Creator has a plan for us: to restore paradise on earth. The Witnesses will invite you to study Scripture with them in your home or to come to hear lessons given at the local Kingdom Hall.

    Here is your opportunity. Instead listening their pre-planned discussion of the Watchtower teachings, let them know that you are interested in them personally. What are their stories? What is the Lord doing in their lives? You'll find that a large number of Jehovah's Witnesses were raised Catholic, and this gives you an opportunity to share your love for the Church and invite them home. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to listen.

    When your turn comes, focus the discussion on the one topic you need to address with any door-to-door missionary: authority. "Who is your authority, and why should we trust him? With the number of denominations approaching 30,000, all using Scripture and all claiming to be correct, what assurance can we have that the Watchtower's interpretations are accurate?"

    This is the crux of the matter, and you want to start here before getting into random doctrinal disputes. At www.catholic.com you'll be able to find several tracts showing that the Watchtower is an unreliable authority and many others that present the scriptural and historical reasons why you can trust the Catholic Church. Witness to the Witnesses about these things first and then deal with other doctrinal issues they'll bring up-such as the identity of Christ, the name "Jehovah," the 144,000, and the existence of hell.

  2. Before Jesus Christ came to earth, he was Michael, prince of the angels.

    This is one teaching that the Witnesses don't speak about often, because the Bible is silent with regard to any evidence supporting such a claim. Witnesses will admit that if you had walked up to any of the twelve apostles and asked him who Jesus was, none would have said, "But of course, he's Michael the Archangel!" The very idea was unheard of before Charles Taze Russell, and the Bible rejects the possibility of it.

    The book of Hebrews states, "To which of the angels did God ever say, 'You are my son'? . . . Let all the angels of God worship him. . . . Your throne, O God, stands firm forever. . . . O Lord, you established the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands . . . to which of the angels has he ever said, 'Sit at my right hand'?" (Heb. 1).

    The obvious problem is this: Archangels are creatures, but the Bible forbids any creature to worship another creature. Thus, either the Bible is in error by commanding the angels to worship an archangel, or Jesus is uncreated and cannot be an archangel. Since this issue gave the Watchtower a tremendous problem, it changed its own original 1961 Bible translation to eliminate the references to worshiping Christ. Beyond this, Jesus has the power to forgive sins and give eternal life, but no angel has this capacity.

  3. Jehovah is the proper pronunciation of God's name, and "Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved" (Rom. 10:13). Therefore, references to God in the New Testament should be translated as Jehovah.

    When the topic of the name of God comes up, first address the fact that the New Testament Greek always uses the word Lord and never Jehovah, even in quotes from the Old Testament. Encyclopedia Judaica, Webster's Encyclopedia, Jewish Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Britannica, Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, and many other authoritative sources agree that the title Jehovah is erroneous and was never used by the Jews.

    So where did the name Jehovah come from? According to the Watchtower's own publication, Aid to Bible Understanding, "The first recorded use of this form dates from the thirteenth century. C. E. Raymundus Martini, a Spanish monk of the Dominican order, used it in his book Pugeo Fidei of the year 1270. Hebrew scholars generally favor 'Yahweh' as the most likely pronunciation."

    In regard to Romans 10:13, the Greek word used is kurios, which is translated Lord. However, when this passage is read in context with the preceding verse, the Lord being spoken of is Jesus Christ. So if the Lord in Romans 10:13 is Jehovah, then Jesus is Jehovah.

  4. According to Revelation 7 and 14, only 144,000 people will inherit the heavenly kingdom. All others who are saved will reside forever on a paradise earth.

    Look up Revelation 7 and read it from beginning to end. You'll notice that if the seventh chapter of Revelation is to be taken literally, heaven would consist of 144,000 Jewish male virgins who were taken from a square-shaped earth and are now worshiping a sheep. This would mean that Peter (not a virgin), the Blessed Mother (not a male), and Jehovah's Witnesses founder Charles Taze Russell (not a Jew) could not be in heaven.

    Beyond this, we see in Revelation 14 that the 144,000 stand before the twenty-four elders from Revelation 4:4. This brings the grand total to 144,024 total people. But Scripture indicates that there are still more. Revelation 7:9 speaks of a countless multitude before the throne, which is in heaven (Rev. 14:2-3). We read also that all those with their name in the book of life are in heaven (Rev. 21:27), while all whose names are not in the book of life are thrown into the pool of fire (Rev. 20:15). There is no third "earthly" class.

  5. Everlasting punishment is a lie invented by Satan. Such an idea is not in the Bible, which teaches that hell is only a place of rest in hope where the dead are conscious of nothing and feel no pain.

    Secondly, you can show them that you are Catholic, you love them, and you are devoted to the Word of God. So even if you can't remember all the verses at the right time, know that kindness has converted more souls than eloquence ever will.

    When discussing hell with a Jehovah's Witness, you must address the issue of the immortal human soul, since Witnesses deny its existence. Address the nature of the afterlife in general before dealing with the issue of hellfire in particular.

    In the Old Testament, Isaiah 14:9-17 indicates clearly that the dead are conscious, and the New Testament tells the same story. In 1 Peter 3:19, the apostle tells his audience how, after Jesus died on the cross, he "preached to the spirits in prison." If the dead were aware of nothing, his preaching would have been futile.

    So to be absent from the body is not to be unconscious; rather, it enables one to be home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8, Phil. 1:23). The body is just a tent or a tabernacle that does not last (2 Cor. 5:1-4; 2 Pet. 1:13), while man cannot kill the soul (Matt 10:28). Our souls live after the death of our bodies, since John "saw . . . the souls of those slaughtered . . . and they cried with a loud voice, saying . . . and they were told . . ." (Rev. 6:9-11). Because the soul does not die with the flesh, those in heaven are able to offer our prayers to God (Rev. 5:8) and live in happiness (Rev. 14:13).

    Those who led an unrighteous life are just as conscious of their punishment as the just are of their joy. If one is in hell, "he shall be tormented with fire and sulfur . . . the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever, and day and night they have no rest" (Rev. 14:11). This is an "everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41-46).

    Jesus tells his listeners of Lazarus and the rich man, where the rich man dies and "existing in torments . . . he sees . . . calls out . . . 'I am in anguish in this blazing fire'" (Luke 16:19-31). As a further illustration, Jesus stated that hell is likened to Gehenna. This Valley of Hinnom was located southeast of Jerusalem and was used as a garbage dump where trash and waste were burned continuously day and night. Jesus informs the listeners that hell is like this, "where the maggot does not die, and fire is not put out" (Mark 9:42-48). It is the place where the wicked are sent, and from this "everlasting fire" (Matt. 18:8) will come "weeping and the gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 8:12). Now, if hell were "a place of rest in hope" as the Watchtower teaches, Jesus would not have chosen such contradictory illustrations to convey this.

Each one of the above topics could be a long conversation. So know that your charity and willingness to share your faith will leave a mark on the hearts and minds of Jehovah's Witnesses. If you open your home to the Witnesses, that is more than most people do. Secondly, you can show them that you are Catholic, you love them, and you are devoted to the Word of God. So even if you can't remember all the verses at the right time, know that kindness has converted more souls than eloquence ever will.

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Acknowledgement

Jason Evert. "Talking to Jehovah's Witnesses." This Rock (July/August 2001).

Reprinted by permission of Catholic Answers.

This Rock magazine began publication in 1990 and quickly established itself as the definitive magazine of Catholic apologetics and evangelization.

Its mission continues to be the one for which it was created: to explain and defend the tenets of the Catholic faith and present practical ways to spread God's truth. It does so using unfailingly orthodox defenses of the Church's beliefs and always in a spirit of charity. Through This Rock, Catholic Answers cleaves to Peter's exhortation to apologists: "Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence" (1 Pet. 3:15).

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The Author

Evert4 Evert71Jason Evert has spoken about the Catholic faith to more than one million people on six continents, and is the author of more than a dozen books, including Saint John Paul The Great: His Five Loves, Pure Faith, Theology of the Body for Teens, and How to Find Your Soulmate without Losing Your Soul. He and his wife Crystalina run the website chastityproject.com and live in Colorado with their children.

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