Jehovah's Witnesses and salvation

Jehovah's Witnesses and salvation

Jehovah's Witnesses teach that salvation is possible only through Christ’s ransom sacrifice[1] and that individuals cannot be saved until they repent of their sins and call on the name of Jehovah.[2] Salvation is described as a free gift from God, but is said to be unattainable without good works that are prompted by faith.[3][4] Preaching is said to be one of the works necessary for salvation, both of themselves those to whom they preach.[5] They believe that people can be "saved" by identifying God's organization and serving God as a part of it.[6] Regarding whether non-Witnesses will be "saved", they have stated: "Only Jehovah's Witnesses, those of the anointed remnant and the 'great crowd,' ... have any Scriptural hope of surviving the impending end of this doomed system"[7] but that God has committed the responsibility of judging such ones to Jesus.[8][9]

The Witnesses reject the doctrine of universal salvation,[10] as well as that of predestination or fate. They believe that all intelligent creatures are endowed with free will. They regard salvation to be a result of a person's own decisions, not of fate.[11] They also reject the concept of "once saved, always saved" (or "eternal security"), instead believing that one must remain faithful until the end to be saved.[12]


The 'anointed'

Based on their understanding of scriptures such as Revelation 14:1-4, Jehovah's Witnesses believe that exactly 144,000 faithful Christians go to heaven to rule with Christ in the kingdom of God. They believe that most of those are already in heaven, and that the "remnant" at Revelation 12:17 (KJV) refers to those remaining alive on earth who will be immediately resurrected to heaven when they die. The Witnesses understand Jesus’ words at John 3:3—"except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God"—to apply to the 144,000 who are "born again" as "anointed" sons of God in heaven.[13] They teach that the New Testament, which they refer to as the Christian Greek Scriptures, is primarily directed to the 144,000, and by extension, to those associated with them.[14] They believe that the terms "Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16), "little flock" (Luke 12:32), and "the bride, the Lamb's wife" (Revelation 21:9) in the New Testament also refer to the same group of "anointed" Christians.[15][16]

Members who claim to be anointed are not given special treatment by other congregation members.[17] However, only those in the anointed class partake of the unleavened bread and wine at the yearly commemoration of Christ's death, or Memorial. Only anointed male elders can serve on the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses. In August 2011, the Governing Body cast doubt on other members' claims of being anointed, stating that "A number of factors—including past religious beliefs or even mental or emotional imbalance—might cause some to assume mistakenly that they have the heavenly calling." The Governing Body also stated that "we have no way of knowing the exact number of anointed ones on earth; nor do we need to know", and that it "does not maintain a global network of anointed ones."[18]

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that being 'anointed' involves a personal revelation by God's spirit which "gives positive assurance of adoption" to the individual alone.[19] They believe that falsely claiming to have this inner knowledge is a sin, but they are instructed not to pass judgment on members who make such a claim.

The 'other sheep' and the 'great crowd'

Watch Tower Society literature states that Jesus' use of the term "other sheep" at John 10:16 was intended to indicate that some of his followers were not part of the 144,000 and would have an earthly, rather than heavenly hope.[20] In the resurrection, those who died faithful to God are included in the 'other sheep' and will receive the "resurrection of the righteous" ("just" KJV) mentioned in Acts 24:15.[21] Those who died without faithfully serving God will receive the "resurrection of the ... unrighteous" ("unjust" KJV). They will be given the opportunity to join Jesus' 'other sheep' and live forever on a paradise earth.[22][23] There are some who will not be resurrected due to special judgment by God.[24] Those of the 'other sheep' who are alive today, some of whom survive through Armageddon without needing a resurrection, are referred to as the 'great crowd'.[25]

Development of doctrine

In 1932, as the number of Jehovah's Witnesses grew, they began to teach that those not of the 144,000 made up a class referred to as the "Jonadab" class, who hope to live on earth rather than in heaven.[26] At first, the "Jonadab's" were not considered fully consecrated witnesses. They were not included in some Witness activities.[27][28][29] Then, in 1935, the “Jonadabs” were identified as the "other sheep", a designation based on their understanding of the passage at John 10:16 where Jesus speaks of having "other sheep ... that are not of this fold."[30] Another group, based on the “great crowd” (“great multitude” KJV) of Revelation 7:9 was said to be the modern day members of the “other sheep”. These groups were now collectively understood to represent a fully consecrated group of loyal servants of God who will live forever on earth, rather than in heaven.[31] The teaching of a heavenly and an earthly class of believers is in contrast to the mainstream Christian belief that the term "other sheep" generally refers to Gentile believers who Jesus would bring into 'one fold' with Jewish believers, the "little flock".[32] After 1949 the Witnesses began teaching that the "Jerusalem" that would be exalted in the last days was "Heavenly Jerusalem," referred to in Hebrews 12:22, and not the city in the middle east.[33]

In the 1930s, the number of believers desiring to live forever on earth rather than in heaven rose sharply, leading the Witnesses to the conclusion that the 144,000 limit had been essentially filled.[34] Members who believe they were called to the heavenly hope after 1935 were for a time considered 'replacements' of other anointed who proved unfaithful.[35] The current thinking is that a date for the end of the heavenly calling cannot be determined.[36][37]

See also


  1. ^ The Watchtower 6/1/00 p. 11 par. 6 Keep Your “Hope of Salvation” Bright!
  2. ^ The Watchtower, March 15, 1989, p. 31 Call on Jehovah’s Name and Get Away Safe! “The Way of Salvation”
  3. ^ "James Urges Clean and Active Worship,", The Watchtower 3/1/83 p. 13, "Faith that does not prompt us to do good works is not genuine and will not result in our salvation."
  4. ^ "Meetings to Help Us Make Disciples", Our Kingdom Ministry, January 1979, p. 2.
  5. ^ The Watchtower, May 15, 2006 pp. 28-29 par. 12
  6. ^ The Watchtower 2/15/83 p. 12 You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth—But How?
  7. ^ "Remaining Organized for Survival Into the Millennium", The Watchtower, September 1, 1989, page 19
  8. ^ “Jehovah’s Witnesses—Who Are They? What Do They Believe?” p. 29 Questions Often Asked by Interested People
  9. ^ The Watchtower 11/1/2008 "Our Readers Ask"
  10. ^ The Watchtower 4/15/60 p. 229 Does the Bible Teach What You Believe?
  11. ^ Awake! 5/07 p. 13 Is Your Life Predestined?
  12. ^ You Can Endure to the End The Watchtower October 1, 1999, p. 17.
  13. ^ The Watchtower 11/1/96 p. 10 Look to Jehovah for Comfort: “One of the main operations of God’s spirit upon first-century Christians was to anoint them as adopted spiritual sons of God and brothers of Jesus. (2 Corinthians 1:21, 22) This is reserved for only 144,000 disciples of Christ. (Revelation 14:1, 3)”
  14. ^ Worldwide Security Under the “Prince of Peace” chap. 13 p. 110 par. 10 The “Prince of Peace” Turns to Those Outside the New Covenant
  15. ^ Survivors Out of All the Nations, ©1984 Watch Tower, page 65
  16. ^ "Congregation of God", Watchtower Publications Index 1930–1985, "CONGREGATION OF GOD (Also called 144,000; Anointed; Body of Christ; Bride of Christ; Chosen Ones; Elect; Holy Nation; Israel of God; Kingdom Class; Little Flock; New Creation; New Nation; Royal House; Royal Priesthood; Sanctuary Class; Sons of Levi; Spirit Begotten; Spiritual Israel; Spiritual Sons)"
  17. ^ The Watchtower 5/1/07 p. 31: “They do not believe that they necessarily have more holy spirit than their companions of the other sheep have; nor do they expect special treatment or claim that their partaking of the emblems places them above the appointed elders in the congregation”
  18. ^ "Question From Readers", "The Watchtower", August 15, 2011, page 22
  19. ^ “United In Worship Of The Only True God” chap. 14 pp. 112-113 ‘I Make a Covenant With You for a Kingdom’: “Spiritual Sons—How Do They Know? ... God’s spirit gives positive assurance of adoption as spiritual sons to baptized Christians who have received the heavenly calling.
  20. ^ The Watchtower 2/1/98 p. 20 par. 7 The Other Sheep and the New Covenant
  21. ^ The Watchtower 2/15/95 p. 11 par. 12 'There Will Be a Resurrection of the Righteous: “Men and women of old who exercised strong faith in Jehovah and his promises and remained faithful to the death were declared righteous by Jehovah on the basis of their faith, and they will without doubt share in the ‘resurrection of the righteous.’
  22. ^ The Watchtower 6/15/06 p. 6 A Sure Guide to Happiness: “Acts 24:15 ... “There is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” So even “the unrighteous,” many individuals who did not know and serve Jehovah, will get a future opportunity to gain God’s favor.”
  23. ^ You Can Believe in a Paradise Earth The Watchtower November 15, 2003, p. 4.
  24. ^ The Watchtower 3/15/06 p. 6 The Only Remedy!: “Some committed sins for which there is no forgiveness. They are not in Hades (mankind’s common grave) but in Gehenna, a symbolic place of eternal destruction. (Matthew 23:33)
  25. ^ The Watchtower 4/15/95 p. 31 Questions From Readers: “In summary, we might remember “other sheep” as the broader term, encompassing all of God’s servants having the hope of living forever on earth. It includes the more limited category of sheeplike ones today who are being gathered as a “great crowd” with the hope of living right through the impending great tribulation”.
  26. ^ The Watchtower 12/1/55 p. 709 Part 23—Expanding with a Trained Ministry
  27. ^ Yearbook 75 p. 156 Part 2—United States of America: “In 1932 it was concluded that this present-day class of “sheep” had been prefigured by Jehu’s associate Jonadab. First in 1934 was it made clear that these “Jonadabs” with earthly hopes should “consecrate,” or enter a dedicated relationship with Jehovah
  28. ^ The Watchtower 3/1/54 p. 153 par. 15 Restoration of True Religion Today: "The Watchtower for May 1, 1935, stated: Heretofore not many Jonadabs have had the privilege of attending a convention, and the convention at Washington may be a real comfort and benefit to them."
  29. ^ Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of chap. 7 p. 83 Advertise the King and the Kingdom! (1919-1941): “In 1932 it was explained that Jehonadab (Jonadab), King Jehu’s associate, prefigured a class of persons who would enjoy everlasting life on earth. (2 Ki. 10:15-28)”
  30. ^ The Watchtower 9/15/05 p. 16 par. 3 Walk by Faith, Not by Sight!
  31. ^ “Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom” chap. 12 pp. 169-170 The Great Crowd to Live in Heaven? Or on Earth?
  32. ^ The Watchtower 2/1/95 p. 10 par. 7 A Great Crowd of True Worshipers—From Where Have They Come? | "7 Christendom’s commentators generally take the view that these other sheep are Gentile Christians and that those in the sheepfold referred to earlier are Jewish"
  33. ^ Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom chap. 10 p. 142
  34. ^ “Revelation—Its Grand Climax at Hand!” chap. 20 p. 125 par. 18 A Multitudinous Great Crowd
  35. ^ The Watchtower 5/1/07 pp. 30-31 Questions From Readers: “Hence, especially after 1966 it was believed that the heavenly call ceased in 1935. ... Thereafter, any called to the heavenly hope were believed to be replacements for anointed Christians who had proved unfaithful.”
  36. ^ The Watchtower w07 5/1 p. 31 Questions From Readers: "On the other hand, as time has gone by, some Christians baptized after 1935 have had witness borne to them that they have the heavenly hope. (Romans 8:16, 17) Thus, it appears that we cannot set a specific date for when the calling of Christians to the heavenly hope ends.
  37. ^ The Watchtower 1/15/08 pg. 23 par. 16 "It seems, however, that not all who have been called to a heavenly hope since the 1930's are replacements..."

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