Jehovah's Witnesses and salvation
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (January 2012)|
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Jehovah's Witnesses believe salvation is a free gift from God attained by being part of "God's organization" and putting faith in Jesus' ransom sacrifice. They do not believe in predestination or eternal security. They believe in different forms of resurrection for two groups of Christians. One group, the anointed, go to heaven while the other group, "the other sheep" or "the great crowd" will live forever on earth.
Jehovah's Witnesses teach that salvation is possible only through Christ’s ransom sacrifice and that individuals cannot be saved until they repent of their sins and call on the name of Jehovah. Salvation is described as a free gift from God, but is said to be unattainable without good works that are prompted by faith. The works prove faith is genuine. Preaching is said to be one of the works necessary for salvation, both of themselves and those to whom they preach. They believe that people can be "saved" by identifying God's organization and serving God as a part of it.
The Witnesses reject the doctrine of universal salvation, 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. 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.
Regarding whether non-Witnesses will be "saved", they believe that Jesus has the responsibility of judging such ones, and that no human can judge for themselves who will be saved. Based on their interpretation of Acts 24:15, they believe there will be a resurrection of righteous and unrighteous people. They believe that non-Witnesses alive now may attain salvation if they "begin to serve God".
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, with Jesus, will also perform priestly duties that will bring faithful mankind to perfect health and 'everlasting life'.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. 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. They believe that the terms "Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16), "little flock" (Luke 12:32), "New Jerusalem," and "the bride, the Lamb's wife" (Revelation 21:2,9) in the New Testament also refer to the same group of "anointed" Christians.
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. Members who claim to be anointed are not given special treatment by other congregation members. However, only those in the anointed class partake of the unleavened bread and wine at the yearly commemoration of Christ's death, or Memorial.
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 the majority of his followers were not part of the 144,000 and would have an earthly, rather than heavenly, hope. 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. Those who died without faithfully serving God will receive the "resurrection of the ... unrighteous" ("unjust" KJV). They will be given an opportunity to gain God's favor and join Jesus' 'other sheep' and live forever in an earthly paradise. Individuals unfavorably judged by God are not resurrected, and are said to be in Gehenna, which they consider to be a metaphor for eternal destruction. 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'.
- The Watchtower 6/1/00 p. 11 par. 6 Keep Your “Hope of Salvation” Bright!
- The Watchtower, March 15, 1989, p. 31 Call on Jehovah’s Name and Get Away Safe! “The Way of Salvation”
- "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."
- "Meetings to Help Us Make Disciples", Our Kingdom Ministry, January 1979, p. 2.
- The Watchtower, May 15, 2006 pp. 28-29 par. 12
- The Watchtower 2/15/83 p. 12 You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth—But How?
- The Watchtower 4/15/60 p. 229 Does the Bible Teach What You Believe?
- Awake! 5/07 p. 13 Is Your Life Predestined?
- You Can Endure to the End The Watchtower October 1, 1999, p. 17.
- Do You Feel That You Are the Only People Who Will Be Saved?.
- "Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe That They Are the Only Ones Who Will Be Saved?". The Watchtower: 28. 1 November 2008.
- Revelation—Its Grand Climax at Hand! chap. 29 p. 200 par. 8 "Singing the Triumphal New Song "
- 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)”
- Worldwide Security Under the “Prince of Peace” chap. 13 p. 110 par. 10 The “Prince of Peace” Turns to Those Outside the New Covenant
- Survivors Out of All the Nations, ©1984 Watch Tower, page 65
- "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)"
- Chryssides, George D (2008). Historical Dictionary Of Jehovah's Witnesses. Scarecrow Press. pp. 3, 122,. ISBN 9780810860742.
- “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.
- 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”
- The Watchtower 2/1/98 p. 20 par. 7 The Other Sheep and the New Covenant
- "Awake" 1/8/95 p. 27 Who Go to Heaven?
- 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.’
- 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.”
- You Can Believe in a Paradise Earth The Watchtower November 15, 2003, p. 4.
- 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)
- 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”.
- Ankerberg, John (2003). Fast Facts on Jehovah's Witnesses. Harvest House Publisher. pp. 51–53. ISBN 9780736910811.
- Chryssides, George D. Historical Dictionary of Jehovah's Witnessess. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2008. See "Salvation," p. 122.
- Penton, M. James. Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2nd ed., 1997. See Chapter 7, "Major Doctrines," pp. 184-210.