Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, and author of Biblical Prayer for Today's Believers: Transform Your Prayer Life (available on Amazon).
My Perspective on Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jehovah alone is God and that Jesus Christ is the Archangel Michael, a being created by Jehovah. Their belief is different from what trinitarian Christians believe: that the one being we call God is also three distinct persons (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).
Moreover, Jehovah's Witnesses also emphasize the kingdom of Jehovah.
Finally, their favorite Bible verse is John 3:17, in which Jesus says, "And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (John 17:3, ESV). In this verse, Jesus appears to affirm that only Jehovah is God, to exclude himself, and to declare that we need to be taught about Jehovah—I'll explain this verse further ahead.
In addition, Jehovah's Witnesses have their own Bible version that has been dynamically translated in a way that supports their views, but they won't mind you using your own Bible version because most likely you'll have a difficult time defending the doctrine of the trinity. In fact, they will ask you, "Does the Bible even talk about the trinity? Isn't it a man-made concept?"
Check Your Attitude
Because talking to Jehovah's Witnesses can be challenging, it is easy for us to become frustrated and angry, and to enter into arguments with them—but such arguments will rarely (if ever) lead to anything good.
Although there are many theological differences between Jehovah's Witnesses and Trinitarians, there are also several points of agreement:
- We both believe in Jehovah (God the Father)
- We both believe Jesus is the Messiah (the Christ)
- We both believe the Lord will return to establish God's kingdom on Earth
- We both believe the Bible (both Old Testament and New Testament)
Therefore, my advice to you is that you assure them of the common ground, be kind to them, and eventually bring up the points that you believe they need to hear and believe to finally be saved.
Be Aware of The Differences
For your information, Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe souls survive death. According to Jehovah's Witnesses, when we die we're done—until the resurrection. There is no going to heaven or going to hell. If you're dead, you're dead for good until the resurrection.
Also, whereas Trinitarians often believe that the lake of fire is eternal torment in hell, Jehovah's Witnesses believe the lake of fire is the second death, meaning that you die for good and forever. In other words, people cast into the lake of fire are annihilated and cease to exist.
There are also many other doctrinal differences regarding blood transfusions, the destiny of planet Earth, Paradise, the organization of the church, the end-times, the Lord's supper, etc. My advice to you is not to ask about these issues, but to go straight to the heart of the matter: what you must do to be saved, and who Jesus really is.
Begin with John 17:3
"And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." (John 17:3)
Ask your Jehovah's Witness friend how you can enter God's kingdom, and he will most likely read to you John 17:3 to tell you that, in order to know Jehovah, you need to study the Bible. Your friend will then invite you to study the Bible together with him by talking to him again, reading literature produced by the Jehovah's Witnesses, and attending meetings with the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Now, ask your Jehovah's Witness friend what you are supposed to learn when you read the Bible—see how he answers. You need to explain to your Jehovah's Witness friend that John had a different point to make when he wrote John 17:3. That is, in the Gospel of John, Jesus did not mean that you need to study the Bible to know Jehovah—He meant something else.
You see, the Jews of Jesus' generation had been studying the Bible too, and they thought they knew Jehovah, but they didn't. Why? Because they missed the main point (just like your Jehovah's Witness friend)! Jesus told them, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." (John 5:39-40, ESV) According to Jesus, the Bible will point you to Him so you can come to Him and receive life (eternal life). So when you read the Bible, you're supposed to learn about Jesus!
Look also at what Jesus said about how to know Jehovah: “I am the way, and 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.” (John 14:6-7, ESV)
We see, then, that in order to receive eternal life, we must come to Jesus; and, in order to know Jehovah, we must know Jesus. Why? Look at what Jesus said:
"Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works." (John 14:9-10, ESV)
To see Jesus is to see the Father because the Father dwells in Jesus and Jesus is found in the Father. If you want to know the Father, you need to know Jesus; if you want to know Jesus, you need to study the Bible and believe what it says about Jesus.
What The Bible Says about Jesus
So, what does the Bible say about Jesus? Let's start with the basic stuff, points that both you and your Jehovah's Witness friend will agree on.
- Jesus was born of a virgin (Luke 1:34-35, Matthew 1:24-25)
- Jesus was sinless (1 Peter 2:22, Hebrews 4:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21)
- Jesus spoke in the name of the Father (John 5:43, 10:25, 12:49)
- Jesus performed miracles (Luke 4:40, John 2:23, 3:2, 6:2)
- Jesus is the Christ, or Messiah (Matthew 16:16, Acts 2:36)
- Jesus died on a cross for our sins (1 Peter 3:8, Ephesians 2:13)
- Jesus resurrected (Acts 2:312, Corinthians 15:4-5)
- Jesus ascended to heaven (Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9)
- In heaven, Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father (Mark 16:19, Hebrews 1:3, 10:12)
- Jesus already existed before he was born of a virgin (John 1:1-2, 14; 1 John 1:1-2)
- God grants eternal life to those who believe in Jesus (John 3:16, 1 John 5:12)
I don't think Jehovah's Witnesses will have a problem with any of the statements above.
A Point You Need to Clarify
Jehovah's Witnesses may readily agree with you that God grants eternal life to those who believe in Jesus, but then they will tell you that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:17, 26). Can you agree with this statement?
Ask them what they mean when they say "faith without works is dead." Most likely, the idea that they have in their minds is that they need to secure their salvation through good works and works of obedience.
What they need to understand, however, is that James does not mean that we must continue to do good works to either earn or retain our salvation. What he means is that true saving faith results in obedience to Jesus (John 14:21). Good works do not secure our salvation—they demonstrate (evidence) our salvation. However, salvation was given to you when you made a conscious decision to believe in Jesus—that is, to receive Him and embrace Him in your life (John 1:12, John 3:36, 1 John 5:12, Ephesians 2:8).
Points You Need to Make
The main problem arises when we talk with Jehovah's Witnesses about who Jesus is in relation to God the Father. Press them for an answer, and they'll explain that they believe Jesus is a created being: the Archangel Michael.
Was Jesus Created?
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Colossians 1:15 teaches that Jesus was created by
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." (Colossians 1:15, ESV).
Their interpretation of the verse depends on the denotation of the word firstborn. They interpret the verse to mean that Jesus is the eldest of everything that was created.
However, the rest of the New Testament contradicts their interpretation of Colossians 1:15. The book of Hebrews, for example, applies Psalm 102:24-27 (which originally speaks of God the Father) to Jesus.
8 But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
12 like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end.” (Hebrews 1:8-12, ESV)
Moreover, in the book of Revelation, Jesus calls Himself the First and the Last. This title is synonymous with the title Jehovah gave Himself in Isaiah (Is. 41:4, 44:6, 48:12), a title that points to His eternity.
"Fear not, I am the first and the last" (Revelation 1:17, ESV)
Thus, Colossians 1:15 cannot mean that Jesus is a created being—otherwise, it would contradict the rest of the New Testament. In fact, the following verse explains why Jesus is the firstborn of all creation.
"For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him." (Colossians 1:16, ESV)
Jesus is not the firstborn of all creation because He was the first to be created: He is the firstborn of all creation because all things were created by Him, through Him, and for Him. In other words, God treats Jesus as if He were a firstborn and as if He were God's heir (a concept found in the New Testament).
"Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world." (Hebrews 1:1-2, ESV)
We see, then, that Jesus is both eternal and God's heir: God's firstborn over all creation.
Is Jesus the Archangel Michael?
In order to teach that the Lord is the Archangel Michael, they will take you to Paul's first epistle to the Thessalonians:
"For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first." (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
Jehovah's Witnesses may say something along these lines: Jesus has to be the Archangel Michael, otherwise Paul would be equating him with an inferior being.
However, in this passage, Paul is not equating Jesus to Michael. Instead, Paul is telling us the means the Lord will employ to gather his people when he returns: a cry of command, the voice of an archangel, and the sound of God's trumpet. If Paul were equating Jesus with the Archangel Michael, he would also be saying that Jesus is a cry of command and the sound of a trumpet—things which Jesus is not.
We should understand the verse in this way: Lord will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. These are the instruments Jesus will use to gather his people when He returns to Earth. There really is no direct relationship between Michael and Jesus in this passage.
Jehovah's Witnesses may also use a couple of verses in Daniel and Revelation to equate Jesus with Michael.
"At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people." (Daniel 12:1, ESV)
According to Jehovah's Witnesses, Michael is described here as a prince who will rise to fight for his people. They see this being fulfilled by Jesus in Revelation 19:14.
"And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses." (Revelation 19:14, ESV)
According to Jehovah's Witnesses, the angels in Revelation 19:14 are following Jesus because Jesus is an Archangel over them—the prince who rises to fight for his people (Daniel 12:1, Revelation 12:7-8). But this conclusion is clearly the result of interpreting the book through their theological lens: the text itself does not equate Michael with Jesus.
In fact, Jesus is clearly the male child caught up to God and God's throne in Revelation 12:5, and Michael (mentioned two verses later) is not equated at all with this child.
"She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne." (Revelation 12:5, ESV)
Revelation 12:5 is making reference to Psalm 2:7-9 to indicate that the child is the Messiah, Jesus. Nothing is said about the child and Michael is the same.
Thus, when the armies of heaven follow Jesus (Revelation 19:14), we should assume that the Archangel Michael and his legion are also following Jesus, their King.
Who Jesus Really Is
So, then, who is Jesus according to the New Testament? All indications are that Jesus is a "part" or "extension" of God's own being—just as the Spirit of God in Genesis 1:2 is a part or extension of God's own being. Look at what the New Testament says:
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Hebrews 1:3, ESV)
He is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15, ESV)
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9, ESV)
Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped (Phillippians 2:6, ESV)
No one has seen God at any time; the one and only, God, the one who is in the bosom of the Father—that one has made known. (John 1:18, LEB)
His name is called the Word of God (John 19:13, LEB)
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me (John 14:11, ESV)
The title the Apostle Paul gives Jesus in 1 Corinthians 10:4, Rock, is a very important title. Paul identifies Jesus as the spiritual Rock that followed Israel in the desert. What does that mean?
According to Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31, and 1 Samuel 2:2, Jehovah is the Rock. Obviously, the reason Paul feels it is proper to identify Jesus as the Rock is that Jesus is a part or extension of God's own being—what Trinitarians call the second person of the Trinity.
Why Faith in Jesus Saves
In conclusion, Jesus is not a created being, and Jesus is not the Archangel Michael. The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that God can be known only through Jesus because Jesus is that part or extension of God's being that reveals Him—the image of God, the radiance of God's glory, the Word of God. To see Jesus is to see the Father because the fullness of God (everything that God is) dwells in Jesus.
Jesus, then, is the Rock—the God of Israel. For this reason, Paul applies Joel 2:32 to Jesus:
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13, ESV).
The only reason why calling on the name of Jesus saves us is because Jesus and the Father are truly one (see John 10:30).
It is my sincere hope that the information I presented here will help you understand the relationship of Jesus with God the Father so you can explain it to Jehovah's Witnesses.
© 2021 Marcelo Carcach
Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on May 03, 2021:
Very good explanations and a lot of solid material to read.