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Jehovah’s Witnesses now span 230 countries and territories, and boast more than 6 million followers. You’ve probably seen them around your neighborhood. They may have knocked on your door, offering to tell you the “Good News” before moving on to the next house. You may have even received information explaining their beliefs. So just who are these door-to-door evangelists that call themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses?

Who is Charles Taze Russell?

In 1870, Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) organized a Bible study in Pennsylvania. He began collecting his beliefs and teachings into a magazine now called The Watch Tower. Russell’s teachings were often focused on the return of Jesus Christ, as predicted in the Book of Revelation, which he believed would happen in the near future. Quickly, he gained a following and organized his followers under an organization called the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (“God’s visible organization in the world”). Today, we know this group of students as Jehovah’s Witnesses, a name drawing on the personal name of God.


  • God: Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in the trinity (God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as one God in three). Instead, they believe that the Holy Spirit is a force that God uses to make people do His will. In addition, they believe Jesus was simply a created angel, neither divine nor equal to God. He is thought to have died on a stake (instead of the traditional cross with nails) so that man’s sins could be forgiven. Witnesses do not believe Jesus was resurrected after his death. Rather, they believe he was raised in 1914 (the year they believe the world’s greatest troubles began) and that he is invisible. So, for Witnesses, Jesus is already here but will not appear visibly until the end of the world.
  • Heaven: At the time of the present world’s end, Witnesses believe Jesus will destroy Satan and purify the Earth, creating Paradise right here where we already live. They believe only 144,000 people (called the “flock” in the Book of Revelation) will enter heaven and live forever. All other believers will live in Paradise on Earth; nonbelievers will perish.
  • Holidays: Witnesses attend a memorial of Jesus’s death each year, right around the time of the Jewish/Christian Passover in the spring. However, they do not celebrate birthdays or any other holidays, including Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter. They believe man created birthdays and holidays and that they give glory to the world and not to God. Sometimes, these celebrations are thought to be under the control of Satan himself.
  • Government: Jehovah’s Witnesses are politically neutral. Their government is God’s Kingdom, so they don’t believe in allegiance to worldly governments. They do not vote, salute the flag, participate in public service, or run for office. It is absolutely forbidden to serve in the armed forces, as they are only to serve in God’s army. Anyone who performs any of these actions and is found guilty can be excommunicated, or removed from the community of believers. Family and friends may also shun that person until they seek to be forgiven and allowed back into the community of believers.


  • Meetings: Jehovah’s Witnesses meet every Sunday in a local Kingdom Hall (their version of a church) to study a biblical theme using their copies of The Watch Tower. Then, they meet weekly in each other’s homes for Bible studies, always using The Watch Tower to find out what the Bible says. In addition, Witnesses meet mid-week in Kingdom Hall to train for evangelizing, or witnessing, to local unbelievers. Afterward, Witnesses go door-to-door, explaining their beliefs and attempting to gain converts. If they find that someone is interested, they may then hold a Bible study in the potential convert’s home to better explain their beliefs in person.
  • Witnessing: Because they believe the end of the world to be right around the corner, Witnesses feel it is critical that they convert as many believers as possible so that those people may, too, live in Paradise.

Created by Religion Transcends, 2009. Portions of this overview are taken from an article written by Religion Transcends writer Jackie Walker for Relate magazine. Most information is general knowledge. You must seek permission to reuse this wording.

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