Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses Convention – Program 6

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Joan Cetnar, Duane Magnani, Lorri MacGregor, David Reed; ©1999
Our panel answers questions from the audience, including questions about Armageddon, independent thinking, mind control, and where a Jehovah’s Witness can turn for help.


Today on the John Ankerberg Show, you will meet four former Jehovah’s Witnesses who will share with you the startling evidence that proved to them that they had been deceived by their own religious organization.

David Reed became an atheist in his teens, went to Harvard University and after a year left in a determined search for God. Jehovah’s Witnesses befriended him and he joined the Watchtower, but over time, reading his Bible and examining the claims of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, he realized that he had been deceived. He left the Watchtower organization and put his belief in Jesus as his Savior.

Lorri MacGregor became a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses at age eighteen and later almost died refusing a blood transfusion. When she began to honestly question what the Watchtower taught, she was excommunicated and cut off. Eventually her study of the Bible brought her to true belief in Jesus Christ.

Duane Magnani was a child of Jehovah’s Witness parents. He left the Watchtower and later was recruited as an adult; eventually the evidence led him to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Duane is now recognized as a fully qualified expert in court cases on beliefs and practices and has testified in over 110 child custody cases.

Joan Cetnar was raised in a Jehovah’s Witness home and was one of the heirs to the S.S. Kresge fortune. Joan married a Jehovah’s Witness leader and joined him in Brooklyn Headquarters in New York. She was able to observe firsthand how the president and other leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses lived. She left the Watchtower Society and became a Christian when she realized the Watchtower was not teaching her what the Bible said. Her convictions separated her from her family and cost her an inheritance which would have made her a millionaire.

We invite you to listen as our guests present the evidence they discovered concerning the false teachings and claim of the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization.

Program 6: Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses Convention
Questions and Answers

Ankerberg: Welcome. We’re here in beautiful Pennsylvania with former Jehovah’s Witnesses. These folks that you are looking at, many of them spent most of their life or all of their life until they came into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Jehovah’s Witnesses. And others that are here, they’ve got family and friends that actually are still in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. And on stage we have four former Jehovah’s Witnesses, two of which actually grew up in Jehovah’s Witness homes and two of which actually converted in their adult years into the Jehovah’s Witnesses. One fellow was actually going to Harvard. So the fact is that just because you’re up in higher education does not leave you immune from some of the things that the cults are teaching.
And so we’ve got a very interesting panel today, and we’re going to have questions and answers from people that are here at this convention that, remember, they have been a part of this lifestyle and have come out. We’re going to try to present the questions that they still have today or that they might be asking on behalf of some of you that are Jehovah’s Witnesses that are listening, things that helped them along the way. So let’s see what happens today. First question.
Audience: The first question is for Mr. Magnani. In the courtroom, do Jehovah’s Witnesses admit that they teach that only their people will survive Armageddon?
Magnani: In court case after court case the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is now presenting the message that it’s not just Jehovah’s Witnesses who will survive Armageddon but that, in fact, people who are just sincere, including Catholics, and, in fact, in the last few cases they’ve actually claimed that atheists can survive Armageddon. And they claim that the Bible supports that in their literature. Of course, we know the Bible clearly says that you must believe that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead and that’s how you’re saved.
Ankerberg: Alright, another question.
Audience: This question is for David. I was wondering, what difference do you feel the Internet has made in your ministry to Jehovah’s Witnesses? And have you seen any changes or adjustments the Watchtower organization has made to prevent Witnesses from being influenced by this medium?
Reed: I think the Internet has made a tremendous difference. Over the years, before the arrival of the Internet, I would often be contacted by Jehovah’s Witnesses secretly who would dare to phone me. I have a tape on an answering machine that Witnesses can call 24 hours, and there were some who called during the night so the family members wouldn’t observe them listening to this tape. Well, with the advent of the Internet, Witnesses are able to act anonymously now to get information that they would have had to contact me directly to get or they would have had to go into a Christian bookstore and show their face in the daylight. Well, Witnesses are now able to access this information. I’m running into large numbers of Jehovah’s Witnesses who are finding the information about the organization, discovering this on the Internet, and then making contact afterwards, sometimes using anonymous e-mail names and addresses so that they can’t be found out in case there are spies lurking on some of the chat rooms.
Ankerberg: I’ve got a question for you that relates to what you folks used to believe in terms of Jesus. Jesus, according to the Watchtower, used to be Michael the archangel, and then he ceased to exist and you have Jesus being the one who is recreated, just a man, living on earth. He comes to the end, he dies. he is recreated—not resurrected, recreated. Charles Taze Russell said, “Jesus Christ for all practical purposes ceased to exist.” He’s dead, alright. Now, that was a mind-blower to me.
Now, you have this “new and improved” Michael the archangel that is now existing after Jesus died, and then, 1914 or somewhere along the line, Michael the archangel invisibly came back to the earth. How did we switch from Jesus returning—which most of the Christians that are listening in tonight would say, we can understand that—it’s not even Jesus that returned. Bring me up to speed on that.
Reed: Well, it’s very confusing doctrine for people who aren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses. But the Witnesses have somewhere in the back of their minds that whenever they’re talking about Jesus Christ, they’re referring to the first angel that God created. The Watchtower says in one of its publications, “This first angel that God created became like a son to him.” Well, they are thinking of Jesus Christ, but it’s not the Jesus Christ of the Bible. It’s a different Jesus Christ who supposedly is an angel. Personally, I dealt with this when I was coming out of the Witnesses by the realization that the Bible gives a much more prominent position to Jesus. The first thing that broke through in my case was the fact that Jesus is the Savior for everyone who believes and he actually comes to live in your heart by his Spirit. Now, an angel can only be in one place at one time, just like a human. So for Jesus to actually come and live in the hearts of Christians all over the world, I realized he couldn’t be an angel; he must be God.
Ankerberg: Not only that, but the fact is that the biblical teaching about Jesus is that he was “preexisting.” You go into Philippians 2, “Who, being”—that was continually existing—“in the form”—the essence—“of God,” okay. Now maybe it was because nobody ever studied Greek or they distorted the Greek, but the fact is, that was as plain as you can get that his taking on human flesh was not where Jesus started. The fact is, he was God the Son way before that ever took place.
Are there other things that came to mind, and what’s this thing about, why did you have Michael the archangel coming back “invisibly”? What was that all about?
Reed: Well, actually, that involves the Watchtower’s history. Jehovah’s Witnesses sort of believe that their organization came into existence because God wanted to restore the truth. It was actually an outgrowth of Adventism, and there were Adventists throughout the 1800s who believed that Christ was about to return on certain dates, and when those dates failed to materialize, some of those Adventists believed that Christ returned invisibly.
Now, Charles Taze Russell, who started the Watchtower, was an Adventist for nine years. From 1869 to 1879 he fellowshipped with Adventists. He was an assistant editor at an Adventist magazine that taught that Christ returned invisibly. So when he started publishing the Watchtower, he just picked up this teaching from Adventism and added to it his own personal ideas about Christ being Michael the archangel. Actually, the Adventists he came from were Trinitarians, so he adopted it. But it wasn’t his idea, it was something he got from the Adventists.
Ankerberg: And what’s Michael supposed to be doing right now?
Reed: Well, they believe that Jesus is ruling in Heaven as Michael. They believe God has given this angel the authority to be the King of the universe for a period of time.
Ankerberg: And actually Jesus, the man, does not exist. He’s dead.
Reed: That’s right. In fact, the Watchtower said that the body that was missing from the empty tomb didn’t rise. They say it was dissolved into gases and God just got rid of that body.
Ankerberg: Any other verses that come to your mind here, Joan or Lorri, in terms of this?
MacGregor: Well, concerning Michael, one of my questions to the Elders was, “How come in the book of Daniel it refers to Michael as ‘one of the chief princes’? Isn’t Jesus Christ unique?”
I pressed a Jehovah’s Witness on this one time: “If Michael is just one of the chief princes and he’s Jesus, who are the others?”
And he surprised me by saying, “Satan, of course.”
I mean, it’s so confusing. There is no way that the eternal Son of God is any kind of an angel.
Cetnar: Hebrews 1 says, “To what angel did I say, ‘Thou art my Son’?” That’s God speaking—no angel, no Michael, nobody.
Ankerberg: Yes.
Magnani: John, if the man is dead, Paul doesn’t know it. He says that, “Between God and man there is a Mediator.” Guess who. Not Michael the archangel, “the man, Jesus Christ.” And that is in the present tense.
Ankerberg: Yes. Another question.
Audience: A fundamental question. The decisions people make regarding their relationship with God and their salvation are very, very serious. It means “eternal, everlasting life” decisions. And my question to you is, why do the Jehovah’s Witnesses not go and check out what they’re being told to see if it’s true or not, with these being such serious decisions?
Cetnar: That’s called “independent thinking,” and that is an anathema. They were told in a Watchtower very clearly, there is to be no independent thinking. That’s satanic, basically. I wish I had the article in front of me, because it scares a Jehovah’s Witness to think that he can think for himself. He has to go to the Elders or to the Watchtower for what he is supposed to be thinking on that subject.
Ankerberg: Before you ever jumped in, okay, my question would be, what proof did they give that you would believe them the first time?
Cetnar: Well, they use the Bible. They’re very adept at using Scripture to prove their point. And if you don’t know anything about the Bible or you have no prior knowledge of what Scripture teaches, they have wrapped a very interesting and acceptable package to someone who doesn’t know any better.
Ankerberg: Yes. It’s really interesting that you can go from quoting Jesus to all of a sudden the Society being the authority and bypassing what Jesus actually says in the Book.
Cetnar: And that’s their first goal is to get you to believe that God only deals with the people on the earth through an organization. He did it in the past; he’s doing it today; and the Watchtower organization is it.
Ankerberg: Duane?
Magnani: You know, John, when I came to Christ, I had to have a wall that was between me and the man who was witnessing to me broken down, and that was that wall of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Once that wall fell, I could see clearly what the Bible was saying. It was like I had “Watchtower glasses” on when I was reading Scriptures. I couldn’t really understand it. As Paul talks about the mind being corrupted, you can’t really see the simplicity which is in Jesus, I couldn’t see it. And once the organization no longer became my Savior, once that was off Scripture, the Bible was illuminated and I could see Jesus Christ.
Ankerberg: Lorri, in one of the programs that we’ve done before you talked about how the book of Revelation, real quick, showed you, even in your New World Translation—the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ false translation—even if you used that, they hadn’t corrupted it enough so that it showed you that Jesus actually was saying he was God. Can you share it real quick?
MacGregor: Well, it’s just from Revelation 1 and, again, Revelation 22. Revelation 1 has “the Alpha and the Omega” speaking and saying he is coming again and he’s God Almighty. And then, if you go a little later on in Revelation, in the last chapter of Revelation, “the Alpha and Omega” gives himself another name–”the First and the Last.” And so when you take that back to the first chapter of Revelation, you find out that “the First and the Last” was alive—“but was dead and is now alive again” and it’s definitely Jesus Christ. And so I saw that Jesus Christ could be no one less than the Lord God Almighty. After all, it says, “Who is, who was, and who is to come.” And who is coming? It’s Jesus! The First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega, and the Lord God.
Ankerberg: What did you guys do with John 8 where Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I Am,” and the Jews then picked up the rocks to stone him?
MacGregor: Well, Jesus was only supposedly claiming a preexistence because they changed “I am” to “I have been.” They’re always fooling with tenses, you know? They’re not Greek scholars, but they’ll invent something if they have to.
Ankerberg: And they picked out one that doesn’t even exist, right?
Cetnar: That’s one place where their Interlinear, the Greek side, does not agree with the English side. The Greek side does say, “I Am.”
Ankerberg: Yes, and the reason that’s dynamite is that goes back to Exodus 3 where Moses is standing at the burning bush and God says, “Now listen, I’m sending you over here to Pharaoh in Egypt and to Israel and, by the way, Israel’s going to take off and you’re to tell both Israel and Pharaoh.”
Moses says, “Oh, one little thing. They’re going to ask me, ‘Who sent you?’”
And God says, “Okay, go and tell them that the great I Am has sent me to you. And my memorial name for all generations will be the I Am.”
So when Jesus said, “Boys, I’m the I Am, I’m the one who brought your forefathers out of Egypt,” that’s why they went for the rocks.
Cetnar: That’s right.
MacGregor: But you see, there’s a happy footnote in the Watchtower publications that says, “Not the same as Exodus.”
Cetnar: Yes.
Magnani: But I’ll tell you what, John, the interesting thing is that the Watchtower organization itself says that their Interlinear is to be the final authority on the translation. You are to judge the freer translation by the Interlinear translation. Therefore, go to John 1:1. Who is Jesus in the Interlinear translation? “God Almighty.”
Ankerberg: I keep hearing you guys bring up these little quirks they’ve got in the New World Translation, and I wonder, somewhere along the line are they going to clean up their act? Alright, another question.
Audience: In talking with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I know that it’s very easy to document where the Society has lied to them, where they have made numerous false prophecies. But the problem is conveying this information to the person that we are talking to, because they refuse to look at the photocopies and anything critical of the Society, even going to far as to call photocopies of their own material “spiritual pornography.” How can you share with somebody who is not willing to look at the evidence?
Reed: Well, you have to work with their mind control and not try to fight against it. You see, you’re dealing with people who have been warned ahead of time sort of almost in a post-hypnotic suggestion that someone is going to come to them and try to lead them out of the organization and that the devil is responsible for sending that person. So when you start showing them evidence against the Watchtower, they become terrified. They think, “What the Witnesses said was true. Somebody has come to try to get me out. And the devil must have sent them.” So they become very afraid. They don’t want to see or listen to what you’re saying.
But they’re also taught in their mind control that they’re there to help people and to answer people’s questions. So you take the same photocopies and you come to them and say, “I’m interested in your religion. I’d like to know more about it. I have questions. Can you help me with my questions?”
Well, see, then their response is going to be a positive one. You can show them the very same photocopies not in a confrontational way but ask them a question about each one. Ask them to take them back to their Kingdom Hall and check in the library and make sure the photocopy is accurate. And in that way you can get them to listen to you.
Ankerberg: Lorri?
MacGregor: We have another little method that has worked quite well. If the person is non-threatening to the Jehovah’s Witness, you can say to them, “I have this video here that’s about Jehovah’s Witnesses and seeing as you are a Jehovah’s Witness, would you mind watching it and checking it out and telling me if it’s correct or not?”
Ankerberg: Yeah, and give them this one. Question.
Audience: Many people watching the show this evening are going to be in the same dilemma that I was in during my last ten years as a Witness. They’re going to be confused now to some degree on some points. And they cannot go to the Elders; they cannot go to their friends for fear of being disfellowshipped; they cannot go to you—you are apostates. Some people do not trust a computer. What can you do or say to these people so they won’t spend the last ten years like I did trying to get out of the Witnesses?
Ankerberg: Boy, now there’s a good question. And those of you that are watching, you may be right in that boat right now, so let’s listen. All you guys were in that boat, too, so it’s coming from personal experience. Who wants to lead off? Okay, Dave.
Reed: We were in that situation, my wife and I, and what we found ourselves doing was turning to God. We believed that he was really there and we turned to his Word, the Bible. And before we got into any contact with Christians and before we started talking to any Christian ministries or reading Christian books, we just immersed ourselves in the Bible and in prayer. And God is there. He is really there. He listens; he cares, and he will answer your prayers. And his Word, the Bible, will open your eyes to these things.
Ankerberg: Are you saying that God is alive, Dave?
Reed: Absolutely!
Cetnar: Amen!
Ankerberg: And that God actually cares about these people that are sweating this out?
Reed: As a Jehovah’s Witness Elder, it used to always bother me that we were coming to Kingdom Hall and reading books about Christianity and studying about God and I would see in the New Testament that those people had a living relationship with God. I knew we didn’t have it. I knew we were just going out door-to-door bringing other people in so they could study about it. It was book learning, book knowledge. But the people in the New Testament had a living relationship with God and I found out that Christians today have the same thing because I have it now.
Ankerberg: Yes; 2 Peter 3:9 says that God is “not willing that any should perish.” He wants all to come to the knowledge of the truth and is willing to help. So that’s a big one. God actually is more interested in you coming to him than you are of getting there, if you can think that way. And so you may want to start off by just saying, “Hey, Lord, if you’re really there and you’ve got some information, I’m open.” Oh, when you say that one, watch out! Lorri?
MacGregor: And what I did, because I didn’t trust any person or any publication written by anybody about anything, I got myself a concordance. And I looked up things like “Jesus Christ,” and “God,” and “Holy Spirit.” And then I looked up the Scriptures in the Interlinear if I could, and I began to make notes about who God was. And I prayed, too, that God would help me to really find the truth. It just drove me to God and his Word. And all that hours and hours of study that I did every single day have stood me in good stead as a Christian because I’ll never be fooled by the counterfeit again.
Ankerberg: You know, I wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness, but I was going to the university and struggling with questions. And the reason I say you pray and then open yourself up, and kind of laughed there, is I can remember doing that when I had a question, and how fast God could usually get that answer to me. And so I just say to you, try that in the sense of go to your Bible and say, “God, if you’ve got something for me here, I’m open to it, wherever this takes me.” And the fact is, that book, as the folks have been saying, is going to come alive! It’s going to be like electricity in your hands. God does speak through his Book. Duane, you were going to say something.
Magnani: Well, I just feel that anybody who starts doubting is going to doubt themselves right out of the group. And they make not want to look at “apostate” literature and so forth, but at a certain point in time, they’re going to have to say, “Is the Watchtower apostate literature?” Because it’s the Watchtower that is causing them to doubt. So I just think the Holy Spirit—and I’ve seen it over and over and over again where someone will be afraid to talk to me or talk to somebody else and so forth—but it’s the Holy Spirit who draws. And that person will get so many doubts, their shoulders will just be weighted down with them, John, and at that point in time they’re going to cry out for Christ.
Ankerberg: Well, you ladies remember the last time we did a program together, people used to write to us in manila envelopes and then they would say, “Please send it back in a manila envelope and don’t put ‘The John Ankerberg Show’ on there so nobody will understand that I’m getting stuff from you,” okay? Fine; if that’s the way you want to do it, that’s what we’ll do, because we’re interesting in helping you. And these folks can all comprehend where you’re at right now if you’re in that dilemma.
We need some help here. They’re going to be able to turn the corner. If they do this, it’s not going to all be black. The fact is, God is going to step in. Joanie?
Cetnar: John, I just want to let them know that, because they’re questioning the Watchtower organization, don’t think that God doesn’t love you and that he doesn’t want to help you; that he has abandoned you because you’re questioning the Watchtower Society. I hope that we have given them enough evidence that there is no connection between the Watchtower Society and God. Whatever you call him—Jehovah or Yahweh or whatever—he loves you and he sent his Son to die for you. And so don’t think just because you’re questioning the men at Brooklyn Headquarters that God doesn’t love you.
Ankerberg: Yes, and in fact, the reason they’ve got the doubts is because they’re listening to the Society and not God. And the Society, realize, has lied to you. So that’s another reason that you’ve got a lot of problems.
Cetnar: God does not lie.
Ankerberg: And God doesn’t lie and God does love you. Give yourself a chance to get to know God. Open yourself up to him. And, you know, we’re talking like God is alive. He is alive, and he can handle this thing. And this is kind of a new concept to some of you. You don’t have to go through the Society.
Cetnar: That’s right.
Ankerberg: God loves you so much that he has made it possible for you to come right to him and ask for help. He has also made a Mediator that has taken your sins upon himself. He paid for every one of your sins. So you don’t have to work that sin off; you don’t have to impress God. In fact, God says he is not impressed and he’s offering you a gift which is complete freedom from the penalty of your sin; and, further, his gift of eternal life, plus a relationship with him and a whole ton more. So take it step by step and God himself will step in if you’ll give him the chance. Another question.
Audience: It has been mentioned and you just mentioned it again that salvation does not depend on works. And I know as a former Jehovah’s Witness, their first reaction will be, “Well, what about the Scripture, “Faith without works is dead”? So I think it might be wise to answer it.
Ankerberg: Yes. And I’d like even to back up for the guys that aren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses that are listening, and that is, how many works did you guys think you had to do to impress God here? I mean, how long was your list?
MacGregor: Well, I lived in the day of quotas, so it was 10, then it was 12 hours a month of door-to-door service; at least one Bible study. It was different quotas on magazines, but 10 was considered pretty good for a month. And then, of course, you had so many back calls and all the other things, so we were always trying to be good enough for God.
Ankerberg: And you did that because you felt that if you didn’t do that, what was God going to do?
MacGregor: Well, he was keeping score with his little “brownie points,” and you might not make it through Armageddon.
Ankerberg: But nobody told you how many points you had to have at the end of the day, right?
MacGregor: Well, yes, the Society told you.
Ankerberg: Really?
MacGregor: It gave you quotas and you had to meet those quotas to be even minimally eligible.
Ankerberg: Yes. Joan?
Cetnar: I think the Watchtower of February 15, 1983 makes it pretty clear how you get eternal life. It says there are four requirements. The first is taking in knowledge, which requires five meetings a week unless you’re flat on your back. Obey God’s laws, not only the ones in the Bible but every one that the Watchtower Society lays down. You must be associated with “God’s Channel,” baptized into the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. And the third is, you must be loyally advocating his Kingdom rule to others. You must be out, going from house to house, knocking on doors, putting in time. These are the four requirements for eternal life.
Those of us who are Christians, what’s missing? Jesus! Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s the whole New Testament. This is works. Ephesians 2:8-9 says it’s “by grace through faith.”
Ankerberg: Let me throw something in here because a lot of people get messed up on this thing of faith and faith plus works, okay? And faith is not you conjuring up a certain amount of energy on the speedometer, odometer, whatever you want to call it. And this thing goes up and it blinks up here and you’ve arrived. No. It doesn’t depend on you. Faith is really you just kind of holding out your hand and God filling that hand with his gift.
To show you how faith is not the thing that saves you in one sense, but it’s the receptacle, picture a two-story building and it’s burning and you get to the top and the fact is, you realize there’s no escape. So you go over to the edge on the top of this building, you look down, and here comes the fire department. And the guys get out and there’s eight guys with a net. And one guy looks up and he says, “Hey, buddy, jump!”
You say, “You’ve got to be kiddin’! I’m up here two stories.”
He says, “Don’t you have faith?”
“Yeah, I’ve got a lot of faith.”
He says, “Well, jump!”
You say, “But I’m up here two stories.”
Finally, you say, “Okay.” Your faith motivates you to put yourself in the hands of those firemen, alright? So you jump. Now, if you’re like me, if you get a story down and you forgot your glasses, a story down you look and you realize that the firemen are not standing around holding a net; they’re standing around holding hands, singing, “Kum Ba Yah.”
Now, you’ve got faith. I want to know, how much will your faith save you in that situation? Your faith is not what does the saving. Your faith can actually lead you wrong and put you in the hands of the wrong organization, which some of you that have gone toward the Watchtower, you have faith and your faith is only as valid as the object that it’s placed in. What you want is, you want a real set of firemen down there holding a real net that will save you. And when it comes to eternity, you want a real Savior that can pull off the job of forgiving your sins and saving you. The faith can motivate you to put your hand over there, but in reaching out, you better make sure you’re putting it in the right object. And the Lord Jesus is the right object. Now, faith plus works is Catholicism.
Cetnar: Well, in James it’s not talking there about how we get saved. He’s talking more, I believe, about how you know that I’m a Christian. If I don’t have Christian works, how do you know that I’m a Christian? God knows who I am, but how do you know? So I think James is talking about the horizontal, not the vertical.
MacGregor: In fact, the subject is not salvation at all, it is faith. So why are they using a Scripture on faith and not a Scripture on salvation? It’s because the salvation scriptures all say that it is free and by grace. That’s why.
Ankerberg: Yes, it’s this thing of “gift.” It’s hard to work “works” into a “gift.” No matter hard you try, it’s hard to get works into a gift.
You guys that were dating a girl here along the way, if you brought her a box of candy and said, “Here’s a gift. I would love to give you this box of candy. All you have to do to get this box of candy is to go out and wash my car,” what would she say?
You see? You can call it a gift, but they’re smart. They know there’s a lot of guys that’ll give them that candy without going out and washing the car, alright?
God says, “The gift of God is” what? “Eternal life” through who? “Jesus Christ.” Okay? Didn’t say anything about works there.
By the way, if Jesus paid it all, then you don’t have to do anything because he paid it all.
Cetnar: Amen.
Ankerberg: Got a question?
Audience: Yes, I do. As you know, I was in the circuit when I had the joy of discovering, with God’s help, of course, the essentials about the gospel. And I began to preach in Brazil as a missionary what I knew about Jesus, and I was very enthusiastic about it. After such heretical sermons—I thought they were pretty good myself—but the sisters, the elderly sisters especially, would come up and weep and say things like, “You don’t believe in Jehovah anymore because you’re always talking about Jesus!”
Additionally, a few years later, when the thing got very much more serious and I still continued to talk about Jesus—I had returned to the United States by this time—an Elder came up to me just when I was going to be appointed as an Elder and he said, “We’ve got bad news, Don. You’ve been talking about Jesus again!”
I’d already done it once before and I had been talking about Jesus a second time.
Finally, before 25 of us were kicked out of the “kingdom” into the “Kingdom” because we were talking about Jesus, we were told as a group to, “Shut up about Jesus!”
Now, my question is, simply, “Did you encounter this kind of resistance and evident fear of even the name of Jesus when you were departing from the Society? Or can you explain the mystery anyway?
Ankerberg: Dave?
Reed: My wife encountered a very similar situation. As we began reading a lot of the New Testament, she naturally came out with a lot of expressions about Jesus, and a close friend of hers said, “Jesus, Jesus, all you talk about is Jesus! I don’t want to hear about Jesus anymore.”
So this is a typical Jehovah’s Witness reaction. The Watchtower Society has published a series of hymn books or song books down through the years, and I’ve researched the difference from each one as they’ve changed them. And in one of their most recent song books, the Watchtower actually boasted that they formerly had more songs about Jesus but now they’ve taken those out and only about 20 percent of the songs are about Jesus and the rest are about Jehovah. So the Watchtower organization has systematically removed Jesus from the teaching materials and the thinking of Jehovah’s Witnesses. So when they hear Christians make expressions about Jesus, this is very foreign to them and they’re frightened by it.
MacGregor: After all, what would we expect from an organization that printed a big headline on the Watchtower magazine, “Come to Jehovah’s organization for salvation”? What an invitation. Don’t accept it.
Ankerberg: I was going to ask you, why do the Jehovah’s Witnesses call themselves “Christians” if Jesus is dead and doesn’t even exist anymore?
Cetnar: Another case of Theocratic War Strategy.
Ankerberg: Duane?
Magnani: That is so true. Oftentimes I find—and of course, at the heart of the gospel is the resurrection of Christ. I mean, this is the message, 1 Corinthians 15. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus was the whole picture in the book of Acts and is the gospel today.
Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the organization, said, “Jesus is dead, forever dead,” alright? The Bible, as you know, says there is a man, Jesus, right now and he’s coming back for us. And one of the things that really impressed me as I was coming to Christ was that in John 2 Jesus said, “You destroy this temple and in three days, I’m going to raise it up.”
And John later says that was the temple of his body and the believers in verse 22 believed him. And we know Thomas, when he believed that Jesus had been resurrected, he looked past just the human nature and he called him “God.”
Ankerberg: I was thinking while you were talking about John 14, Jesus said, you know, “Hey, listen, don’t sweat it. If you’re heart’s troubled, don’t worry about it. You believe in God, believe also in me.” Then he goes on and he says these words, “In my Father’s house” —which is Heaven—“are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you so.” And then he says, “I go to prepare a place for you.”
If he is dead, as Russell said, he’s not preparing any place. Why would you believe him in anything else he said?
“I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you”—not to Paradise Earth, not just 144,000 to a compartment in Heaven—“I will receive you”—talking about all who will believe—“unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.”
Now, look, if Jesus is telling the truth, then he’s telling the truth. And if he’s not telling the truth, then skip reading those passages, period.
MacGregor: But you see, the Society tells people those passages were not written to you of the earthly class. They were written only to those of the 144,000 class. So I used to read Scriptures like that and say, “Oh, I sure wish I’d lived earlier in the century when I could have been part of that heavenly class and been close to Jesus. But here I am in the wrong time period. Now I have to be an ‘other sheep’ instead of an ‘anointed.’” And I was kind of unhappy about that because I yearned to be close to Jesus. But that’s how the Watchtower Society gets around those Scriptures. If you bring them up to them, they’ll say, “[It’s] not talking to you, sister.”
Ankerberg: Did anybody ever ask you and say, “Well, if it was talking to those apostles only back there, or the 144,000, and Jesus is actually dead, as Russell said, then he’s going to gather all those 144,000 to himself where he’s dead”?
Magnani: He’s going to have a real big problem with that.
Ankerberg: Yeah, I mean, that doesn’t make sense either.
Cetnar: Obviously, they got rid of that doctrine that Jesus is dead.
Reed: The passage that convinced me that the hope that Jesus was calling us to was a heavenly hope was in John 17. Even reading it in my Jehovah’s Witness Bible, I read in John 17, Jesus was praying to the Father and in verse 20 he said, “I make requests, not concerning these only, but also concerning those putting faith in me through their word.”
So I realized this applied not just to the apostles back then, but to everyone in the future putting faith in him through the word of the apostles, which would include anyone who reads Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and puts trust in Jesus. And what did he request? Well, in verse 24 he said, “Father, as to what you have given me, I wish that where I am, they also may be with me in order to behold my glory.” So he was requesting that all future believers would be with him to behold his glory.
Ankerberg: Question.
Audience: When I studied with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I remember sitting with a conductor and I said to him, “I will never, ever be convinced about the blood issue. I will never, ever give any of my children up for the blood issue.” Ten years later I did that. I don’t believe that I was deceived; I believed I was brainwashed. Do any of you feel the same way, that Witnesses are brainwashed?
Reed: Yes. It is definitely a form of mind control. The experts tell us that, technically, brainwashing means coercion at the time that you’re being indoctrinated. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not coerced at that time; coercion does come in later on. But technically, it is mind control. And if you read secular psychologists who write about mind control, they’ll list a number of steps and those are the same steps Jehovah’s Witnesses follow in their indoctrination. How else could someone stay inside a burning compound at Waco, Texas, with their children? Well, people recognized that was mind control. Well, how else did you let your child bleed to death on the orders of the Watchtower Society? Jesus said, “What man of you, if his child or even his animal fell into a pit, wouldn’t pull him out on the Sabbath day?”
Well, of course, the Sabbath was a law for the Jews. Jesus said, “You’d break a law like that to pull your child out.” Well, even if blood transfusions were a law, God says, “Reach in and take your child out. Do the thing that will save the child’s life.” People who don’t do that are under mind control.
MacGregor: And I might say, too, that I wish I had known back in the days when I refused a blood transfusion and nearly died that the penalty in the old law of Israel for eating blood—which they equate to transfusing blood—was that you go outside the camp, wash your clothes and bathe in the water and be unclean until sundown, then you’re clean again.
So, if you ate blood it was no big deal. How dare Jehovah’s Witnesses say people are doomed to lose their eternal life! The penalty was not that great.
Audience: I left the organization in 1986 after watching The John Ankerberg Show and research and what I learned. And I sent in a letter of resignation and I heard through the grapevine weeks later, they said all kinds of lies about why I was disfellowshipped—and I resigned. And I understand that they’ve made some changes regarding disfellowshipping and would you explain that and the process and how to actually have the final word as to when an individual is disfellowshipped?
Magnani: Well, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are very concerned with legal action. In other words, if a person leaves of his own volition, the Watchtower organization wants to make absolutely certain that it doesn’t look like there is being pressure put on that particular person for legal reasons. So I think in the last, oh, particularly 15 years, the organization has been very careful about that.
Audience: As Jehovah’s Witnesses, most of them think that they are going to inherit the earth and plan to live on the earth in Paradise and have animals and that kind of thing. How do you explain their earthly hope, the great crowd, the meek inheriting the earth? How do you explain that in view of the Scripture?
Reed: Well, Jehovah’s Witnesses find people who don’t already know God. People know the things around them; they know the life that they’re experiencing. People who know God want to be in Heaven with him. People who know Jesus look forward to doing to be with the Lord. People who don’t yet know Jesus don’t have that hope. And so the Watchtower publications are full of beautiful pictures of the earth—fancy homes, beautiful gardens—and these things are naturally appealing to the flesh. And if you’re only thinking in the flesh and not in the Spirit, you’re not drawn to going to Heaven with God.
I remember as a Jehovah’s Witness actually walking door-to-door and people would look at one of the large houses, a big mansion we’d walk by and they’d say, “Well, when those people are destroyed at Armageddon, I’m going to get that house!” And that was very typical. I’ve heard many Jehovah’s Witnesses say the same thing. So it’s a fleshly, earthly desire that’s being fulfilled by this idea of possessing the earth and possessing the riches that other people have. But the riches in Christ are far, far greater.
Cetnar: Amen.
Audience: Yes, I have a question concerning the Trinity. And bear in mind, this was penned after Jesus’ ascension. This is 1 Corinthians 11:3, “I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” So if Christ is equal to God, then why does it say that God is the head of Christ?
Cetnar: We’re not talking about his nature here. They are both God. But it is talking about rank. I guess you could liken it to the President of the United States and us. We’re all of humankind, but his rank is higher than ours.
Ankerberg: Yes. The same place where you get “The Father is greater than I.” Not in essence, but the fact is, in terms of “job description.” That’s why the Son “humbled himself, took on the form of a servant and became a man,” okay?
Cetnar: The husband is head of the wife, but that doesn’t make him better than her, or it doesn’t make him a different “kind” than her. They’re both humankind. So just because the Father is the head of Christ doesn’t make them unequal.
Ankerberg: Yeah, the husband and the wife have different positions as far as God has ordained, and the same is true in terms of the godhead. And you were going to say something here?
MacGregor: I was going to say, you should never build a doctrine on a single scripture. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free men; there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ.” That doesn’t mean that one might not be the head of another or be in a higher position, but there is no inferiority of nature because of race, color, anything like that, sex, whatever. We’re all one in Christ.
Reed: John, let’s not forget also with Jesus we have two natures here: we have deity and we have humanity. And Christ Jesus is a man. In John 14 it says, “The Father is greater than I,” and yet a few verses earlier in verse 12 Jesus talks about how the works of the disciples will be greater than Jesus’. So it’s a matter of where in scripture, in the context, that we’ve got to concern ourselves when we discuss these words.
Cetnar: Who but God could compare himself to God and say, “The Father is greater than I”? It would be ludicrous for one of us to say that.
Ankerberg: Let me ask you guys, one of the things that they will say about the doctrine of the Trinity is that they can’t understand it, even if it’s true. How would you answer that, Dave?
Reed: Well, I would say that we can’t really expect to fully comprehend God. We have human brains that were designed to help us gather food, raise families, and survive here on the earth. We were created to have a relationship with God, but not necessarily to be able to look at him and dissect him and fully understand him. We understand in the way we understand each other. You know, I understand my wife; we know each other; I know God. But if I were to actually analyze my wife as to where thoughts come from, how the chemicals and electrons work in the brain, you know. Where is her personality? Is it in the spirit, in the heart, in the brain? I can’t figure those things out. Well, the same way if we try to dissect God. He didn’t mean for us to dissect him; he meant for us to have a relationship with him, which we can certainly do.
MacGregor: And the early Church had a common confession—we might call it an early creed—that said, “And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness.” And it goes on to say, “God who was revealed in the flesh.”
Ankerberg: Yes, and I think we’ve got to get a little humble here at what we’re trying to explain. In other words, one of our old guests used to say that if you could understand all that God says, you’d be God! And the thing is, we aren’t God, alright? Not only do we have questions about what God has told us, we’ve got questions about our own world and our own body that we can’t understand. This thing that is just about blinding us here, which is light, okay? Scientists say it’s got two properties, alright? One is wave and one is particle. Now, those are contradictory, and along the way when the scientists saw it was contradictory, they had a real struggle with that until they did all the scientific tests and they found out, “Goodness’ sakes! We don’t understand it, but it’s both wave and particle at the same time; and we can’t explain it but the evidence is there, so we will hold it.”
See, you can’t even explain when you turn a light switch on and this thing called light has wave and particle, if you can’t explain that, when God says in the one true nature of the living God there are three Persons, we can’t explain it but we better accept it if the evidence is there—I think.
Cetnar: That’s right.
Audience: When I was being raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and I was just a little child, my mother taught me that I was just like an animal; that when I died, that I just died; I went into the ground. And yet if I would be loyal to Jehovah’s organization, then I would be resurrected. And you have addressed the issue of the hundreds of children and adults who have died because of refusing blood transfusions. I think because of the false belief system as far as eternity that there are a lot of suicides. In my own family there were two attempted and one successful suicide, and I know when we listen to the testimonies here of those of us who have left, that’s very consistent, that there are a lot of us who have family who have committed suicide. And I just feel it should be addressed and I’d like to hear what you would have to say.
MacGregor: Well, there’s not much hope in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. You can never know that you’re saved; you don’t know it if you make it through Armageddon somehow because after that you’re into the thousand years and you’re going to be tested. And even if you’re faithful all the way to the end, are you saved? No. Because at the end of the thousand years, Satan will be let loose and you’re going to be tested and many will fall away. But even if you pass the test of Satan and you’re off into eternity and doing all the things you’re supposed to do according to the Watchtower, if at any time you disobey the Watchtower government, the 144,000 on Mount Zion, zap! That’s the end of you. So, no matter how good a Jehovah’s Witness you are, it’s this hopelessness! Also, teaching that man is no better than an animal and he just dies like a beast and he’s annihilated, that’s a pretty dreary thought. And really, their whole religion is dreary. It’s no wonder that there are suicides in the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Reed: In Romans 8, even in the New World Translation, the Jehovah’s Witnesses use, it says, “Therefore those in union with Christ Jesus have no condemnation.” So those who are in Christ should not be feeling condemned. But Jehovah’s Witnesses often do feel condemned. I remember when I was an Elder, a Witness woman was very prominent in the congregation. She played the organ at the Kingdom Hall. She was a full-time Pioneer, going from house to house. She told me privately, she said, “David, I’m not going to make it through Armageddon.”
And I said, “What? How can you say that? You’re doing everything you’re supposed to do.”
She said, “I’m not good enough.” She said, “Jehovah knows I’m not good enough; I’m not going to make it.”
Well, as a Jehovah’s Witness Elder I just tried to convince her she was good enough. I didn’t have the real answer. None of us are good enough. We don’t make it to Heaven because we’re good enough; we make it to Heaven because Jesus paid that price. He died for us and He was good enough. But Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t know that, and it can be very depressing. They don’t know that those who are in Christ have no condemnation. They feel condemned very often.
Ankerberg: Everybody knows that Jesus lived a perfect life, never sinned once. Just think if you could stand before God with Jesus’ track record. Would you feel comfortable? Yes. The interesting thing is, we are justified by faith, alright?
We put our faith in Christ; then here’s the transaction that the Bible says will take place: God makes, first of all, a judicial declaration about that sinner and says, “Look, we’re going to make a transfer. We’re going to impute your sin from you over here to Jesus who died and paid for every one of those sins.”
So the sin is “justly” taken care of. God’s not going to say, “Boys will be boys and let this sin get by.” No. He’s a holy, just God. Every sin will be punished. Either you can pay for your own sin—which is Hell, which is another thing we could talk about—but the fact is, you can pay for your own sin, which you don’t want to do; or, you can give it to Jesus who paid for every sin, and as a gift offers to forgive you. But along with the imputation, which is the transferring of this track record, okay, your sins are transferred to Jesus—imputed, that’s what the word means. On the return side, Jesus imputes his righteousness to you. The Bible says he wraps his righteousness around you so that when God looks at you, he sees Jesus, Okay? And, again, it’s not your works; and we’ve got hope; and it doesn’t depend on us. It’s the gift of God to us. It’s fabulous! It’s fabulous! How do you get it? You transfer your trust. A guy says, “Hey, I’ve got to really….” No, no. You’re trusting your own works, passing out your booklets, this, the rule book, whatever. Transfer your trust from all of that into Jesus’ hands. The moment you do, you’re going to connect and the Lord Jesus says he will save you.
Audience: I think it’s kind of really important to remember that the reason we all got into this condition in the first place is because we chose not to believe God. My question is, I know there’s a lot of superstition and paranoia and doubt and a lot of mental illness in the Watchtower organization, and that the Lord said in his holy Scripture that, “I am the Lord, I changeth not.” And with so many changes in doctrine of the many years affecting so many thousands of lives, in what type of ways have the many changes affected the mental health of Jehovah’s Witnesses? And in addition to that, what types of resources for recovery and wholeness are out there and available for them?
Magnani: We have a book called Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Problem of Mental Illness. A good friend of mine, Dr. Gerald Bergman, has written it. I’ve spoken to him over the years and he says the best thing for a Jehovah’s Witness is to get out of the cult. It’s amazing what can happen. And, of course, generally, the reason why a Jehovah’s Witness gets out of the cult is because he’s unhappy, and then the great Healer, Jesus Christ, can come in. And he himself, who has seen so many people…in fact, when he was a Jehovah’s Witness Elder, he said that one day he decided that he would try to help some of his brothers and sisters who were having mental problems, not to the point that they had to be hospitalized but they had neurotic experiences and so forth. And since he had experience in this area he said that he would try to help. He said, “Duane, I was just absolutely overwhelmed! It was like a third of the congregation came and needed help. I couldn’t even handle it. And then the other congregation down the road found out about the situation, that I was helping people, and they started coming to me.” He said, “I couldn’t handle it. I had to get out of the whole thing.” And he said, “Since he became a Christian himself,” he says that “the only answer is Jesus Christ and it’s amazing how fast that healing comes.”
Ankerberg: Yes. The Bible says that “unless you repent, you will perish.” And repent, in its very first, fundamental component, is you have got to turn away from whatever you’re holding onto to get you to Heaven to get rid of your sin problem and you’ve got to let go of that and you’ve got to grasp hold of the Savior. And you can’t believe and grasp hold of the Savior until you let go of trusting this thing over here, okay? He’s the only Savior. You’ve got to turn—and this is the tough part—let go of that; hold on to Jesus. Just transfer your trust from over here to him. Joan?
Cetnar: Yes, that’s the first and most important thing we’ve got to do. We’ve been trusting in an organization and men are going to let you down every time. But trusting in Jesus, if you can do that, if you can place that trust that you’ve been talking about. And then there are other things out there to help a person come out of that. This is one of them. It’s a convention for Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses. If you want to talk to someone, don’t be afraid to come. There hotlines out there for people to call; phone lines all over the country that they can call and listen to a message and then get a live person if they want. There are ministries and support groups that are just waiting with loving arms to talk to you and let you do your talking to them. So there are a lot of things in place now for someone who want to get free of the organization. You don’t have to commit suicide.
Audience: My question is not doctrinal, but what are the assets of the Jehovah’s Witnesses as far as business holdings and investments?
Reed: A recent Dun & Bradstreet report indicated that the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York at $1.25 billion in sales in one year. I believe it was 1

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