- Religion and Philosophy
Who are Jehovah's Witnesses?
Jehovah's Witnesses is a society of Christians who all share personally in promoting study of the Bible and spreading their beliefs. Witnesses believe their founder to be Jehovah, who has had his witnesses on earth since Abel. The modern organization began in the 1870's with Charles Taze Russell of Pittsburgh, Pasadena, as an outstanding representative, who preached the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. He was the first president of what became the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, legal agent for the Witnesses and publisher of their voluminous literature.
Jehovah's Witnesses base their beliefs solely on the Bible. They worship Jehovah as the true God and teach that Jesus Christ is his Son. Unlike Trinitarian Christians, they hold that Jesus is not God but a spirit creature, the first of God's created works. They believe that by an act of God he was born as a perfect man and thereafter sacrificed his humanity as a ransom for all of Adam's offspring, who through Adam's sin were born without right to eternal life. Resurrected and restored to spirit life in heaven, Jesus is able to administer the benefits of his sacrifice as atonement for sin to all who have faith in him.
The Witnesses publicly proclaim that in 1914 Jesus Christ was enthroned in his Messianic kingdom in heaven. They point to the imminent end of the present world system in a divinely ordained "great tribulation," culminating in the Battle of Armageddon, which will rid the earth of wickedness. Thereafter will begin the millennial reign on earth of Christ with 144,000 glorified disciples. The earth will become a paradise of righteousness and peace. Billions of persons now dead will, by an earthly resurrection, live again as humans and have the chance, by demonstrating loving obedience to Jehovah, to live forever in perfection.
The Witnesses, who regard Jesus as their head, are directed by a Governing Body from international headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y. The headquarters staff publishes six versions of the Bible in English, besides many foreign translations. It also publishes two periodicals: The Watchtower, with a circulation of about 40 million in 180 languages, and Awake, and numerous books and booklets.
Local congregations are presided over by bodies of elders consisting of men meeting scriptural qualifications. Witnesses, who are all considered unsalaried preachers, attend five congregational meetings a week to train for their systematic house-to-house visits. They must also refrain from any form of political or military activity, which is held to be ungodly, and from other behavior they consider unethical.
The Witnesses have often aroused the opposition of civil governments for their public preaching, distribution of literature, and refusal to salute the flag or do military service.