Former Jehovah’s Witnesses Testify – Program 4

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Bill Cetnar, Joan Cetnar, Helen Ortega, Ken Oakley, Debbie Oakley; ©1982
What is truth? What is real salvation? What does Jesus offer that cannot be found within the Watchtower Society?


Bill Cetnar. For more than 25 years he was a Jehovah’s Witness. He rose in the Brooklyn Headquarters of the Watchtower Society until he was given the responsibility to answer all questions submitted by people south of the Mason-Dixon line. He worked with the president of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He looked into doctrinal questions. He found out how the Jehovah’s Witnesses New World Translation of the Bible was really put together and who the unnamed translators were. He will explain what evidence made him come to believe that he had been deceived.
Joan Cetnar. One of the heirs to the S. S. Kresge family. Joan worked in the Brooklyn Headquarters where she observed first-hand the president and other leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She will tell why she became disillusioned and what convinced her to believe Jesus is God. Her conviction cost her an inheritance which would have made her a millionaire.
Helen Ortega. Helen was raised in a Jehovah’s Witness home. She married a Jehovah’s Witness. She conducted 13 Bible studies each week and still had time to go door to door telling people about her faith. Helen came to believe that she was one of the “special” 144,000 chosen elect and publicly announced this to her Kingdom Hall. Then one day she read something in her Bible that changed her whole life. She will be sharing that information and the events that followed.
Debbie & Ken Oakley. Debbie grew up in the Ortega home where she was taught the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She listened to her mother testify of her conviction that she was one of the 144,000 elect. Debbie and Ken married, and Ken became an elder in the local Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall. But then one day Debbie found out that the Watchtower Society leaders had told her husband that he was to disfellowship her mother from the Jehovah’s Witnesses Society. Why and what happened is what Ken and Debbie will tell us as well as what convinced them that all their lives they had been deceived about Jesus.

Program 4: Former Jehovah’s Witnesses Testify
What Does Jesus Offer that the Watchtower Society Does Not?

Ankerberg: We are doing tonight’s program with five people that between them have 120 years of experience in the Jehovah’s Witness Watchtower Society. From the highest echelons in Brooklyn, to a gal that believed she was one of the 144,000 special elect, to a daughter that was raised in the home and heard her mother say that, and finally Mom was disfellowshipped out of that, and her husband was on the committee that was asked to do the disfellowshipping, and to a lady that might have lost a million dollars or more because she decided to become a Christian and leave the Watchtower Society, an heir of S. S. Kresge. These are our guests tonight. Folks, we are really glad that you are here.
What I would like to ask you a question about goes back to something that we haven’t even talked about in any of the other programs, and that is, what is Jesus offering that you found out that was different from 20 years or more of your adult experience in the Jehovah’s Witnesses? What is the truth? What is real salvation? If we have other people that are Jehovah’s Witnesses that are watching right now, what does Jesus offer that you didn’t have before?
Ken Oakley: The answer to that is very simple: that Jesus isn’t just for 144,000 people, Jesus is for everybody. The scripture that jumped out and got me as a lost person was John 6:51, where it says anyone that partakes of this bread – speaking of Christ when He said that, “I am the Bread” – and anyone that partakes of this bread lives forever. It didn’t say 144,000, it said anyone and the message if you don’t hear anything else is that Christ died for everyone not just 144,000. He died for everyone of us.
Ankerberg: When the Jehovah’s Witnesses say that he is the Savior, they don’t mean the same thing that you mean now. What do they mean?
Bill Cetnar: This was a problem that I had. I always thought I knew who Jehovah was. I had a difficult time in fitting a position for Jesus. Now we were taught that He is a created being, that He is really Michael the archangel, and He somehow “ran shotgun” for Jehovah. Now, I just couldn’t understand when men in the Bible could worship Jesus and now I can’t. And then came the revelation that YHWH claimed to be God. So did Jesus. In John 1:1 it says, “In the beginning.” Which beginning? It doesn’t matter. “In the beginning,” whichever one you want He already was, not was created. I said, “Wow, that’s refreshing.” In fact, that stretches your mind. And then it says, “. ..the Word was with God and the Word was God.” And then I found out that all the Greek scholars, not most of them, all, say that you can’t translate that “a God” like Jehovah’s Witnesses in their Green Phantom.
Ankerberg: What is the Green Phantom?
Bill Cetnar: The Green Phantom is their translation of the Bible. It is green and the reason they call it a phantom is because nobody knows who translated it.
Ankerberg: The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures?
Bill Cetnar: Right, the men who translated it want their name secret. And if I was on a New World Translation committee I would want my name secret.
Ankerberg: Because they never debate the Greek language that is in there; and you knew the translators though, because you were one of the men in Brooklyn.
Bill Cetnar: Except that they told me they were Hebrew scholars. And I had to wait until I found it in a court manuscript, because that is the only place where you can pin down one of these characters who were the translators, that were in the courtroom.
Ankerberg: That they weren’t a Greek Scholar.
Bill Cetnar: Where they, even in a courtroom swore that they are Hebrew and Greek scholars but they can’t read Hebrew out loud, that convinced me that these men were lying and were not really translators of the Bible. Now, I have a list of all the translators that I got in touch with, such as Mantey, Metzger, you know all of these men who said you can’t put “a” in the Bible. Now, here is a publication by Jehovah’s Witnesses called Make Sure of all Things, and this is the third edition. They “made sure” three times, and in the last scripture here under Trinity, I would like every Jehovah’s Witness to take their Make Sure, that’s what you are supposed to do, and let’s make sure. Look what it says, “here’s a translation that agrees with our translation.” And you know who translated it? Johannes Greber. I couldn’t find a translation of Johannes Greber, so I had a letter send to the Watchtower Society and they said “we don’t know where you can get a copy of Johannes Greber. We don’t know his address. The address we have is such and such.” We checked that address out and the building was torn down 40 years ago.
I then happened to find a translation and the address. It is in Teaneck, New Jersey, The Johannes Greber Memorial Foundation, knocked on the door and inside that house there was a letter from the Watchtower ordering four copies. Now, that is a genuine lie. Here is a photograph of the letter, the envelope postmarked and addressed from the headquarters of the Watchtower ordering four copies of Johannes Greber translation. Here is the letter that I really wrote under a pseudo name, and they told me they don’t know where I can get a copy. Jehovah’s Witnesses for some reason were allergic to letting me get a copy of this book. When I got a copy of it I looked inside and there is his picture, Johannes Greber, and his other book is called Communication of the Spirit World of God. Here’s how this man translated this Bible. He says, “Words appeared illuminated before his eyes.” The words of this translation were passing before his eyes. Now what is interesting is that the Bible forbids going to spirit mediums for anything.
Ankerberg: Does he claim to be a spirit medium?
Bill Cetnar: He claims to be a spirit medium.
Ankerberg: Where?
Bill Cetnar: Right inside the translation.
Ankerberg: Okay, can you show it to us?
Bill Cetnar: He tells us right inside the translation that he received the words from spirit mediums beginning in 1923: “At times he was given correct answers in large illuminated letters and words passing before his eyes. He is a medium of God’s spirit world.”
Ankerberg: So he was the one that gave the translation and he’s saying he’s gotten that translation from the spirit world, as a medium, and they use that in translating?
Bill Cetnar: And it’s the only translation that agrees with theirs in John 1:1. Here is both of them. It says, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was a God.” That is exactly the way spirit mediums say it. Now 1 John 4:1 says, “Test the spirits to see if they are of God. For false prophets have gone forth.” So the false prophets are the spokesmen for spirit mediums. We are dealing with spiritual warfare.
Ankerberg: Some solid words. Alright, we’ve got a question.
Audience: Yes, some time ago the statement was made that Jehovah’s Witnesses are the sole sharers of accurate truth. With what you have shared tonight, there seems to be so much inconsistency, I would like to know what is “Truth” as the Jehovah’s Witnesses define it, and secondly, if truth is progressive in their definition, what are we progressing from?
Ankerberg: Good question.
Bill Cetnar: Jehovah’s Witnesses define truth pretty much as we do. The people who follow them really believe that they are getting accurate knowledge. What is interesting is everything about the Jehovah’s Witnesses is inaccurate. By the way, every one of the prophets, Ellen G. White, says she got information from God directly; Joseph Smith, Jr., he says he got information directly from heaven by angels; so does Mr. Franz, he talks to angels as his publications say. And I believe they do talk directly to angels, and these angels give them information. So everyone of these false prophets that Jesus warned us about, they have “the truth,” the accurate knowledge. But the Truth is Jesus. He is the Truth. We go to Him and that Jehovah’s Witness who is hearing this, he has absolutely no comprehension of how Jesus operates as the Truth and how He can communicate ideas to born again, spirit filled Christians.
Helen Ortega: Another thing too is that one of the reasons that I was disfellowshipped was the fact that prophecy, like the gentleman was saying, it’s progressive. And my question was, “Well, I read the earlier literature, and the Society would make a statement like those in Sodom and Gomorrah will get a resurrection in Russell’s time. Then in Rutherford’s time they said they would not get a resurrection. And then we have got the New Light going back to Old Light: they will get a resurrection in Knorr’s time. And there was like Romans 13, a superior authority.
Bill Cetnar: So, what you are saying is light is going off and on.
Helen Ortega: That was my question, is it like a pendulum swinging back and forth? Does God do this? Swinging truth back and forth. And that was one of the main reasons I was disfellowshipped.
Ankerberg: A couple of yes and no questions. Do the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead?
All: No.
Ankerberg: What do they believe?
Bill Cetnar: They believe He was changed into a spirit being and that His body disappeared in gases.
Ankerberg: And that He is existing now in heaven?
Joan Cetnar: A spirit creature.
Ankerberg: A spirit creature recreated by Jehovah supposedly.
Bill Cetnar: Who is Michael the archangel.
Ankerberg: And the man Jesus died, ceased to exist?
Helen Ortega: Right.
Ankerberg: What do the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe about everlasting punishment? What Jesus said was Hell.
Bill Cetnar: There is none. They claim annihilation, extermination. You will go to the condition that you were before you were born.
Joan Cetnar: That’s another thing they changed in their translation. They took out that word “punishment” and put in “annihilation.” There is no such punishment, it is annihilation. Which is another, pardon the expression, perversion, but it is. When you change the Word of God you are perverting the Word of God.
Ankerberg: Was it hard for you, I mean, Christians don’t like the doctrine of Hell either, but we hold it because Jesus said it. Was that one of those tough ones for you to come to?
Joan Cetnar: Yes, very much so.
Ken Oakley: Absolutely.
Ankerberg: Because of the fact of, like you said, Jesus said “if you do not believe that I am He you will die in your sins.” [John 8:24] And if the punishment for dying in sins is eternal Hell, then there must be a lot of Jehovah’s Witnesses that. ..
Bill Cetnar: What will really help us all is that Jesus died Himself to keep us from going there.
Ken Oakley: Right.
Bill Cetnar: That’s love.
Joan Cetnar: God shed His own blood for us so that, there is no reason for anyone, if we choose to go, that’s our choice. God does not send us there.
Ankerberg: Do the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Holy Spirit is a person?
Bill Cetnar: Absolutely not.
Ankerberg: What do they believe about the Holy Spirit?
Ken Oakley: The Holy Spirit is God’s active force. However, what they should do is find the scriptures in Isaiah and Jeremiah that says, “Jehovah said so and so,” and in the New Testament it says the “Holy Spirit said so and so” making direct quotations from the Hebrew.
Ankerberg: What other illustrations would you give about the Holy Spirit that would show that He is?
Joan Cetnar: Acts 5. The Holy Spirit said it, and in the next verse it says God said it.
Ankerberg: I believe it actually says that even in the New World Translation doesn’t it?
Joan & Bill Cetnar: Yes.
Bill Cetnar: I would like to emphasize the point, John, that to me what was so exciting, I knew how a Jehovah’s Witness is with Jehovah: he knows that is God. These sincere deceived people out there really believe in Jehovah God. What they don’t know is that YWHW, mistranslated Jehovah, is Jesus. The I Am is Jesus. He said so.
Ankerberg: Okay, so when they hear evangelical Christians say, “I know I am going to heaven,” they aren’t going, and they’re not even planning on going to heaven. Right Debbie?
Debbie Oakley: Most of them, right.
Ankerberg: Because you don’t want to leave Mom and Dad. You want to be on earth, live forever here. Not be annihilated, but you want to live forever here. So they are not really even interested in going to heaven. Why aren’t they interested in going to heaven and being with Jesus?
Ken Oakley: It’s so nice down here.
Debbie Oakley: Right, they want to stay down here.
Ken Oakley: They’ve got a great hope. You know Revelation 21:4 says, “God will wipe out every tear from the eye.” There won’t be any more death, no mourning, no sorrow, or crying of pain because the former things are passed away. God has promised a perfect condition where the Lion lies with the lamb. You know, it’s a perfect condition. It ain’t half bad.
Ankerberg: What we are saying now is that every person can have mom and dad and the whole family too can all go to heaven and all be with Jesus at the same time.
Joan Cetnar & Helen Ortega: Amen.
Bill Cetnar: But I think what is important is that we all realize that it is not where you go that’s important, it is that you do go, that you do gain everlasting life. That’s what our goal is to gain everlasting life. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house there is plenty of places to live.” There’s lots of mansions. [John 14:1]
Joan Cetnar: He promised we would be with Him, and I think that’s what we should want to do is to be with Jesus.
Ankerberg: Okay, one more quick question there and that is, how did you look at Jesus before you were a Jehovah’s Witness in terms of what did He do for your life? What has He done for you now that He did not do for you as a Jehovah’s Witness?
Bill Cetnar: I know that when I was a Jehovah’s Witness I didn’t need any help from Jesus to live right. It was all strictly flesh. I had to obey the Ten Commandments. I wanted to do those things, and it was something that I did because of obedience to those old laws. Now, when I became a Christian I found it so much easier with Jesus living in you to take on these temptations and problems, and I learned as a Christian I can become very powerful in this sense. When James says, “Resist Satan…,” he will what? “Flee.” [James 4:7] I mean, check out. I mean he is going to take off. Did you ever see anybody flee? That is the power that Christians have. All I had to do was resist Satan and he will flee from you. Well, you don’t have that power when you are following a false prophet.
Ankerberg: Alright, we have a question.
Audience: In Deuteronomy we all know that the Bible says that we should only worship God, “Him only should we worship.” [Deut. 6:13] However, in Revelation 5 we find a scene here and this is around the throne, and it says in Revelation 5:11, “And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.” And this is what they are saying, verse 12, “With a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.” My question is, who does the Jehovah’s Witness say is the Lamb there that these angels are worshipping?
Debbie Oakley: Jesus.
Bill Cetnar: You see, that is for angels – I am talking as a Jehovah’s Witness now – well, that is for the angels to worship, not for us. That would be your answer.
Debbie Oakley: They took the word “worship” out of their Bible where it refers to Jesus there.
Ken Oakley: Put “obeisance” in there.
Debbie Oakley: So it won’t be the New World; it would be do obeisance to Him. In other Scripture it talks about worshipping God, they left the word “worship” in there so it doesn’t read the same.
Ankerberg: They haven’t be consistent in their translations. They have got to watch what they are doing.
Helen Ortega: That’s right.
Ken Oakley: In fact, it’s a web.
Bill Cetnar: Isn’t that a frustrating experience?
Ankerberg: What you have to do is you have to get a hold of the right edition when you are talking with somebody.
All: Yeah, right.
Audience: John, I would like to know how these people were accepted after they had spent so many years as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and then became Christians, how were they accepted in our evangelical churches?
Helen Ortega: I was welcomed with open arms. We have a ministry, my whole family, and give our testimony in various churches. And people have come to us and loved us and cried with us in the testimony, and it has just been fantastic. It’s God people who show love, really.
Ankerberg: Sad to say, if somebody hadn’t come to you when you were in that position of being disfellowshipped, you lost your daughter through death, everybody had forsaken you that you had grown up with and had ministered to, if Christians hadn’t been there you have said before a lot of people that were wide open, if the church wasn’t there to accept them, what happens?
Helen Ortega: They would turn to these other cults and things. And many have committed suicide. And I understand that, I almost did.
Debbie Oakley: Some have become atheists, or agnostics.
Helen Ortega: We know a couple right now that have, well, the man has become an agnostic.
Ankerberg: What can evangelicals out there that are listening to your stories, what would you advise them to do? Because, you know, really you guys study. If you have 13 Bible studies a week that you teach, you know, they are saying, “You’ve got to be kidding. I am going to go and minister to you?” How would you have somebody come on over to you or they might have Jehovah’s Witnesses in their own community. What is your advice?
Debbie Oakley: Love them.
Helen Ortega: Love them and pray for them and tell them about Jesus, because God’s Word is powerful and mighty. And God will prepare their hearts and when that true seed comes it will be planted in hearts that are prepared by the Holy Spirit.
Bill Cetnar: I believe the one thing we should as Christians clear up in our minds, 2 John 7 and 10 does not mean that you are not allowed to have these people into your home.
All: That’s right.
Bill Cetnar: Some Christians read that where it says, “Don’t let them in your house” and, “Well, I wouldn’t let them in my house. Kick them off the porch hose them down good, send out the German Shepherd, remove his left pant leg.” That all happened to me. I think as Christians we should clear up 2 John 7 and 10, that that is talking to the “Elect Lady,” were are not allowed to have a Jehovah’s Witness sit here. And that is why, John, you didn’t permit a Jehovah’s Witness to come here and give his 15 minute spiel to spout off false doctrines of demons from a false prophet. That is forbidden by the apostle. That’s not talking about our house. We are allowed to have anybody come into our house. The apostle Paul let everybody come in, converted them and send them out.
Ankerberg: Question.
Audience: Bill, you talked about the mistranslations and things. Do you believe that the head of the Watchtower is deliberately and willfully lying to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and if so why?
Bill Cetnar: Absolutely. Fred Franz is a absolute diabolical liar. I believe what has happened…
Ankerberg: Don’t say it too strong, Bill.
Bill Cetnar: Mr. Franz announced the end of the world himself. I have his photograph and handbill that the world is going to end in 1925. In 1926 this man should have said, “I erred.” Not true. He didn’t. He said, “Well, it will happen within six months.” And he didn’t love the truth. Now, 2 Thessalonians 2:10 says, If you refuse to love the truth, now you are dealing with God. God says He is going to send a spirit of delusion on you so you won’t be able to tell the difference between what is true and what is false. This is what I believe has happened to Mr. Franz. He deliberately creates Greek tenses that the Greeks don’t know about.
Ankerberg: Question.
Audience: Yes, you said that you had 13 Bible studies a week.
Helen Ortega: Yes.
Audience: That tells us something about those of us who are Christians. And that is that they have got 13 a week, we had better be doing something during the week, too.
All: Amen.
Bill Cetnar: I believe the wise virgins are waking up now. And they wake up after the foolish.
Debbie Oakley: I think this is something you can do for Jehovah’s Witnesses. If you help one out stick with them. Study with them, teach them Christian doctrine. Help them to replace all that he has learned that is false.
Audience: Okay, we were talking about Christ as to whether He is actually deity or not, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses teaching that He was the first creation by God. How do you explain or answer their statement regarding Revelation 3:14, that Christ is the “beginning of the creation of God”?
Bill Cetnar: Alright, we have to go back to the Greek word which is arche. Arche here means that he is “the beginner.” He is the originator. He is the architect of all creation. It is not saying He is the beginning. The New English Translation says, “He is the prime source of all creation.”
Joan Cetnar: John, you know that the New World Translation says that Jesus is Jehovah?
Helen Ortega: Yes.
Ankerberg: It does?
Joan Cetnar: 1 Peter 3:15.
Bill Cetnar: They can’t even mistranslate it right.
Joan Cetnar: In their forward, their Kingdom Interlinear, they say that everywhere that the word “Lord” is used in the New Testament as a quote from the Old Testament that that is where the word Jehovah should appear in their translation, okay? 1 Peter 3:15 there it says, “that sanctify the Christ as Lord in your heart.” And in the footnote in their own Kingdom Interlinear it says under one of the translations, “Sanctify Jehovah God.” And we looked up another one that says, “Sanctify Jehovah God who is the Messiah in your heart.” So that’s the way it should read if they would have consistently used that rule through their whole Bible. That’s just one place.
Ankerberg: We’re all out of time. Folks we thank you very much for being with us. We really appreciate you telling us all this information.

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