Cults – Jehovah’s Witnesses
What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Teach About Salvation?
By Dr. Paul M. Elliott (From the Teaching theWord Bible Knowledgebase)
This is the seventh in a series of articles about the doctrines and practices of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Read part six.
Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus’ death on the cross was the death of a mere man who merely made salvation possible – but only if you will fully submit to the teachings of the Watchtower Society, and if you ultimately prove yourself worthy of eternal life.
The Atonement is Merely Salvation Made Possible
As we have said previously, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ system of false doctrine places human reason in authority over Scripture. In their teachings, Christ’s atonement on the cross is merely salvation begun, not salvation accomplished, because Jesus is not God:
“Jesus, no more and no less than a perfect human, became a ransom that compensated exactly for what Adam lost – the right to perfect human life on earth….The perfect human life of Jesus was the ‘corresponding ransom’ required by divine justice – no more, no less. A basic principle of even human justice is that the price paid should fit the wrong committed….So the ransom, to be truly in line with God’s justice, had to be strictly an equivalent – a perfect human, the ‘last Adam.’ Thus, when God sent Jesus to earth as the ransom, he made Jesus to be what would satisfy justice, not an incarnation, not a god-man, but a perfect man, ‘lower than the angels.’ “1
Since, in the Watchtower view, Jesus only regained what Adam lost, human beings must add other things in order to be saved.
Salvation is Through the Watchtower
Salvation, according to Watchtower teaching, is conditional upon these things:
“To become a friend of God, you must obtain a good knowledge of Bible truth (1 Timothy 2:3, 4), put faith in the things you have learned (Hebrews 11:6), repent of your sins (Acts 17:30, 31), and turn around in your course of life. (Acts 3:19) Then your love for God should move you to dedicate yourself to him. This means that in a personal, private prayer you tell him that you are giving yourself to him to do his will.-Matthew 16:24; 22:37.”2
Of course, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that “a good knowledge of Bible truth” comes only through submission to the teachings of the Watchtower Society and the study of their corrupt Bible, the New World Translation. This is the central focus of what they refer to as “Jehovah’s arrangement” – that the Watchtower Society is God’s only true visible organization on earth. Obtaining “a good knowledge of Bible truth” as the cult defines it involves an intensive daily study of Watchtower materials, and frequent meetings with other Jehovah’s Witnesses who have already become thoroughly indoctrinated. You put your faith not in Christ, but “in the things you have learned” from the Watchtower.
New converts are taught that God’s proper name is Jehovah (their designation for a “god” who is not the Triune God of the Bible), and that the sanctification of this name is God’s chief concern. They are taught that before He came to earth, Jesus Christ was actually Michael the archangel, and that Jesus became a man and died only to save men from their sinful natures, not to atone for their sinful acts. They teach that Jesus was not bodily, literally resurrected from the dead. They teach that Jesus’ resurrection was only a spiritual resurrection, and that God disposed of Jesus’ earthly body. They teach that since that “spiritual resurrection” took place, Jesus has reigned at Jehovah’s right hand, He will never return to earth bodily, but He “invisibly” returned in the year 1914. These are only the beginnings of the bizarre and blasphemous things that a convert to the Jehovah’s Witnesses will learn in coming to what they call “a good knowledge of Bible truth.”
You Must Prove Yourself Worthy of Salvation
According to Watchtower Society teachings, Jesus’ atonement only made salvation possible for those who subsequently prove themselves worthy of it by achieving perfection, and they teach that this is what Jesus’ atonement made possible:
“Those who prove loyal to Jehovah will have their names indelibly written in the ‘book of life,’ as being perfect in integrity and worthy of the right to everlasting life on earth. Jehovah himself will then declare them righteous in the complete sense.”3
Authentic Christianity in Contrast
In contrast to the Watchtower Society’s false teachings, the Word of God declares that Jesus Christ, God incarnate, has accomplished full and final salvation for those who believe on Him. God Himself came into the world and died for sinful man. By living a perfect life He has provided a righteousness that is credited to descendants of fallen Adam by faith. By shedding His own blood He has paid the penalty for all of our sin, once for all. And this salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, apart from works.
Next: What do Jehovah’s Witnesses teach about the soul of man?
1. This quotation is from a pamphlet that is a staple of Jehovah’s Witnesses literature called Should You Believe in the Trinity? subtitled Is Jesus Christ the Almighty God? (New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1989). And of course the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ answer to both questions is “No.”
2. “What Does God Require of Us?” at http://www.watchtower.org/e/rq/index.htm (as viewed on 9/24/08). Italics are in the original.
3. Watchtower magazine, December 1, 1985 (New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society), page 18.