Corners can be dark places, requiring artificial light, and with only one way out. Christians are not usually found inhabiting them, for they are journeying along the narrow way, heading for a brilliant destination.
Yet there may be occasion for Christians to pause and pay attention to the activities of some who frequent such corners. This can happen when the people concerned make forays into the public arena; when, for example, you open your door to find two of them on your doorstep, smiling, and offering Watchtower and Awake! magazines.
Yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not spend all their time in their own corner, for they have a proselytising work to perform and a public persona to project. But they nevertheless inhabit the shadows of religious belief.
It is not my intention in this article to examine their shadowy nook. I simply want to cast fresh light upon them to help you see them in a soul-winning way. As a former Jehovah’s Witness (JW), I believe that Jesus’ words to Saul of Tarsus in Acts 16:16-18 can, by God’s grace, apply to JWs: ‘I have appeared unto thee … to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me’.
JWs are spiritually blind. Unlike Saul, they have not been struck by the glory of the risen Lord. The god of this world has blinded their minds, preventing the gospel of Christ shining into their hearts.
They would protest that they (and they alone) are in the light, but they are the ones who need to be turned from darkness to light. Sadly, their ‘light’ is an artificial one that keeps getting switched on and off by their leaders. They dazzle them by turning the spotlight away from their error and on to the latest ‘revealed truth’ or ‘new light’.
Abstaining from blood
To illustrate their blind faith in the organisation and its leaders, I detail two examples. The first has to do with ill-advised teaching that has cost many JWs their lives. Perhaps you noticed mention in the media this summer of a change in the JW blood-transfusion policy.
This appeared to improve their public image, which has been badly tarnished by their refusal to accept blood transfusions. Thousands of JWs have died, particularly since 1961 when accepting blood became a ‘disfellowshipping’ (excommunicating) offence.
From 1945 to 1961 the transfusion of blood was said to be a ‘God-dishonouring and pagan’ practice, but no sanctions were used until 1961. There is great fear among JWs of being put out of fellowship, for they believe that if Armageddon erupts (God’s war to destroy the wicked) while they are outside the organisation, they will be annihilated for ever.
Although JWs insist their stance is purely biblical, none of them gave the matter a thought until their leaders in New York issued their unique interpretation of Acts 15:29. I believe fear is the strongest motive causing most JWs to comply with this deadly doctrine.
What, if anything, changed this summer? If these leaders had said they had received ‘new light’ to the effect that God would not reject JWs if they received blood transfusions, thousands of JW lives would be saved. But this is not what has happened.
Instead, the leaders have said they will no longer disfellowship JWs who receive blood but who later repent of this ‘sin’. Those who do not repent will be viewed as having dissociated themselves from the religion.
On the surface, this looks like a softening of their harsh sanctions policy. It is not. They never did put out people who professed to repent anyway. The only change is that they will no longer officially excommunicate those who do not repent. They will simply be deemed to have excommunicated themselves!
Yet sanctions still apply to those who leave unofficially. Various Watchtower magazines have spelled out sanctioning tactics to be employed against those put out, whether officially or unofficially. Little distinction is made between the two categories.
Sanctions range from not saying ‘Hello’ to them or not inviting them to a JW wedding, to not holding a funeral service for them. Until a Watchtower article appears repealing such sanctions, JWs will continue to fear being put out, whether this happens by official action or because they have dissociated themselves. So this ‘change in policy’ will do nothing to save JW lives.
Yet it can only be a matter of time before this notorious teaching is eventually dropped altogether, because of political and internal pressure on the Society whose position is becoming untenable. They have truly backed themselves into a corner on this matter, for if they admit that their theology is wrong, members will lose faith in their claim to be God’s only channel of revelation today. The blood issue could yet cause a major split amongst JWs.
Sheep and goats
The second example concerns deception regarding their eternal prospects. Teaching adamantly declared to be God’s truth for over 50 years has now been shelved. Until quite recently, JWs were taught that Jesus’ parable of the separating of the sheep from the goats began to be fulfilled after 1914.
They were told they alone were the sheep, being put on Jesus’ right side. All who rejected their message about Christ having come (invisibly) in 1914, were goats who would be destroyed at Armageddon.
It was not long, however, before the passing years made this idea seem unlikely. The way Jesus told it, there did not seem much time between his Second Coming and the completion of this ‘separating’ work. So Watchtower leaders interpreted the parable afresh to mean that 1914 saw the beginning of ‘great tribulation’ on the earth. God then cut short those terrible days to allow the gospel to be preached (by JWs alone) and the ingathering of those who would survive Armageddon. The great tribulation would then be resumed as the precursor to Armageddon.
Latest ‘new light’
The latest ‘new light’ is that the separating of the sheep from the goats has not yet started. It remains future, as does the start of the great tribulation, and JWs will not know until then whether they are sheep or goats!
JWs never did have any assurance of salvation, but now even what little optimism they had has been destroyed. True Christians know that once Jesus has them in his hand, no one can pluck them out of his grasp. They know that only faith in Christ can save them, and they trust in him alone. They do not need to join any organisation to be saved.
But JWs believe they cannot be saved unless they are ardent supporters of the Watchtower Society. They cannot be saved if they consent to a blood transfusion. They cannot be saved if they do not fulfil their preaching work. They cannot be saved if they believe in the Trinity. They cannot be saved if they are not baptised as JWs. They cannot be baptised if they smoke cigarettes, so they cannot be saved till they give that habit up. And so it goes on.
The finished work of Christ
Can you see the threatening shadows, full of demons, that surround them in their dark corner? Can you see the way they are blinded by continual doctrinal changes and imbalanced attention to end-time matters? Can you see how secondary is Christ’s position to them? Can you see that the only way out for troubled JWs is to point them to Christ so that their eyes will focus on him?
They need to leave their cultic corner and start following the Christ of Scripture. The Christ of the Watchtower Society is a false Christ, for over 99.9% of JWs have been told he is not their mediator. He is mediator only for those with the heavenly calling (supposed to number no more than 144,000 since the time of Christ).
He was, they believe, no more than a perfect man while on earth, reclaiming only what Adam lost, namely, perfect human life in an earthly paradise. They have been told they do not need to be born again and that the Holy Spirit is merely an energy like electricity which can be ‘obtained’ in greater measure the harder they work at being obedient JWs.
The apostle Paul said the gospel was not proclaimed ‘in a corner’. It was open, public, bold and utterly centred on the finished work of Christ. What should we do when we find people on our doorstep proclaiming another gospel, another Christ? We should not only warn them that they stand to be eternally condemned for that; we should also point them to the one way out of their corner, so full of threatening shadows. Jesus is the light of the world.