What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?/Program 2

By: Joan Cetnar, Brian Garcia, Bob Gray, Keith Walker, and Don Veinot; ©2011
In this session of The John Ankerberg Show, we’ll hear former Jehovah’s Witnesses share about their experiences in the movement as well as some of the concerning beliefs proclaimed by the Watchtower. We’ll also see some of the concerns that helped these individuals begin to question Watchtower beliefs and later convert to Christianity.



Today, one out of every 282 Americans is a Jehovah’s Witness. Across the world, 7.5 million Jehovah’s Witnesses in 236 countries go door to door preaching the Watchtower message. Who are the Jehovah’s Witnesses and what do they believe? Their headquarters, called the Watchtower, are in Brooklyn, New York. In their publications, the Watchtower claims to be Jehovah’s only channel of communication on earth today; God’s prophet; speaking for God; the only right religion on earth. Yet the Watchtower holds vastly different beliefs than historic Christianity. It has its own Bible, the New World Translation; holds false views of Jesus, Scripture, salvation, and the afterlife; and forbids all Jehovah’s Witnesses from having blood transfusions, celebrating Christmas or Easter, birthdays or holidays. Where did these false beliefs come from? How can you show a Jehovah’s Witness what the Bible really teaches? Today you will find out.

My guests are: Joan Cetnar a former fourth-generation Jehovah’s Witness who served at the Watchtower headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, where she observed first-hand the President and other leaders. Her husband Bill held the position of answering questions submitted to the Watchtower for one-third of the United States. You’ll hear the shocking story of the doctrinal and behavioral deceptions that caused them to leave, later becoming Christians, and founding a ministry that helps those raised with Watchtower beliefs.

Then, Brian Garcia. He was brought up in a Jehovah’s Witness family, and defended its beliefs in college and on the internet. You’ll hear how a Christian friend helped him understand the message of the true Jesus and the good news of the gospel—that everyone who puts their trust in Jesus, they will go to heaven.

Bob Gray was a Jehovah’s Witness for 24 years and served as an elder in his congregation. He went door to door 100 hours each month. But he came to realize he had no basis in Scripture for what he was teaching, and decided to leave.

And, finally, you will hear from two experts who minister to Jehovah’s Witnesses: Keith Walker, president of Evidence Ministries, and Don Veinot Jr., president of Midwest Christian Outreach. We hope today’s program will help you and others around the world to share the truth with those who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Join us for this special edition of the John Ankerberg show.

Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We are talking about, “What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe?” and if you are a Jehovah’s Witness, we want to be a friend to you today. We want to talk to you about the things that you are reading in your Bible, and when you have questions, you’ve got nobody to go to. If you go to the Watchtower and they disagree with you, and you say, “Well, I think my Bible is telling me something the Jehovah’s Witnesses at the Watchtower Society aren’t telling me,” you’re stuck, okay. We’ve got people that have been in that position. We’ve got three ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses today: We’ve got Brian Garcia; we’ve got Joan Cetnar; Bob Gray. And then we’ve got two experts on the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Don Veinot and Keith Walker. Folks, we are glad that you’re here today.
Brian, I’m going to start with you, because you used to watch the program and you used to get mad at me for bringing up some of the things that we are bringing up in this very program. And I want folks to hear your story. You were born into a Jehovah’s Witness home. Tell me about what you started to believe.
Garcia: I was a second-generation Jehovah Witness. My mother converted to the Jehovah Witnesses on the island of Puerto Rico when she was about nine years old; and my father’s family also. So I grew up in a very devout Jehovah Witness family. I have memories of me having a little bow tie at three years old, knocking on doors, leaving literature under the doors, and giving premeditated speeches.
Ankerberg: Three years old?
Garcia: Three years old. I remember that. So even from then they raise you to be devout in the faith, to be loyal to Jehovah, to be in the work of the ministry, going house to house, field ministry, all the nine yards. When I got baptized at the age of 13, I started to investigate what the scriptures were teaching so that I could prove to myself that this was the truth, and so I could talk to other people and share the truth with them. I started talking to a young man who was a Catholic, and he started just totally destroying my theology on who Jesus was. Now, this was coming from a Catholic who knew his Bible, and so I was pretty ashamed of myself. So I started going into what the scriptures were teaching and to what the Watchtower was teaching. When I was about 16 or 17, I started really looking into what the Watchtower was saying. I would go online and start making videos defending the Watchtower, defending the organization on YouTube. I got into many debates with Christians, and we had very interesting conversations.
Ankerberg: I really enjoy the fact that you were zealous for God. I mean, you felt—as they claim—you were a part of the only right religion on the earth and that everybody else was wrong. You had the sole communication from God, through the leaders of the Watchtower Society, who then published the literature. And what they said in that literature, you basically lived your life according to that, because they said they were speaking for God. I mean, did that process through your mind, that you had given your allegiance to an organization that was claiming things for God?
Garcia: I would cling to every word that was studied at the Watchtower, because we were taught that the end of the world was going to come any moment now. I was even told I might not make it through Middle School. When I made it through Middle School, they said I may never get through High School. I got through High School and the end hasn’t come yet. So there’s always this imminent expectation that Jesus will destroy the world through Jehovah and Armageddon. This hope never was realized; not yet. And I always loved Jehovah God; I had a zeal for Jehovah God; I had a sense of urgency to share the good news of the Kingdom with people. So I’ve always been in love with Jehovah. So that really helped me in coming to know Jesus Christ and who he really was.
Ankerberg: How many times did the Jehovah’s Witnesses, through the years, guys, when you look at their literature, say that the world was going to come to an end?
Veinot: About eight or nine.
Ankerberg: Do you remember what the dates are?
Veinot: 1874, 1914, 1918, 1925, 1941, 1975, and 1995.
Ankerberg: All of these dates, the reason this is devastating is, it’s printed in their books. We’ve got some of the books, the original books from the 1920s …
Veinot: Printed material is the worst enemy of a false prophet. And a lot of their material is out there and available. And that’s what Keith and I use, as ministries to people in the groups like this is, what do they say about themselves? It’s not as important what a particular individual Jehovah’s Witness may or may not say, because they can make up things on the spur of the moment. What do the official organizations say themselves?
Ankerberg: Yes, I think you have to go back to Deuteronomy 18:21. If God says,… Look, prophets come and go. Jesus said there’s going to be false prophets that are going to come. Beware of false prophets who are going to come in sheep’s clothing.
Veinot: Matthew 7:15 and following, right.
Ankerberg: So apparently there are going to be some false prophets that show up. Now, how do you tell the difference between a good one and a bad one? God said in Deuteronomy, if the guy says something and it doesn’t come true, he’s not the one God sent; don’t follow him. And so, the organization, they didn’t put out just five little tracts here, or a few pamphlets, they’re putting out 20 million magazines a month now—which would be like ten stacks all taller than the Empire State Building, okay, every month—with this kind of information. So it came down into your homes and you believed it.
I mean, I had a guy, just before we did this program, a nice couple stepped out of their car. I was pumping gas. The guy came over and he put a tract right in my pocket. I picked it up and it said, “Are you prepared, for the end is coming?” and it was a Jehovah’s Witness. They’re still saying the end is coming any minute, okay. But they have been saying this and been wrong eight different times. And probably millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses that were Jehovah’s Witnesses when they lived through those eight different periods and it didn’t happen, they realized they were following a false prophet.
Brian, take me back some more. You were on the internet and you were defending the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. You were baptized at 13. What did it mean when you were baptized?
Garcia: Baptized means that you are fully now devoted to Jehovah God, to do his will and to serve shoulder-to-shoulder with God’s spirit-directed organization. In fact, when I was baptized, the formula they gave us, the two questions they asked us, were: “Have you repented of your sins and have decided to follow Jesus Christ?” You say, yes. The second question is: “Do you now understand that your dedication of baptism now signifies that you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a member of God’s spirit-directed organization?” And you say, yes. So it’s that formula that they baptize you into, not in the name of the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit, the one singular name that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 28. So there’s a very big difference between the Christian baptism and the Jehovah’s Witness ones.
Ankerberg: For Christians that are watching, what was the goal? What was salvation? What were you promised, and what did you have to do to get to what you were promised? In other words, you sign up as a Jehovah’s Witness, you are baptized; okay, now what are you supposed to do?
Garcia: Every Jehovah’s Witness knows this in his heart; that they need to work for their salvation. They need to keep exhorting themselves through the narrow door. They need to keep trying and trying and trying. They need to do the works that the organization sets before them and go to meetings three times a week, go to the field service at least ten hours …
Ankerberg: You’ve got to go to meetings three times a week…
Garcia: Yes.
Ankerberg: Then how much do you go door-to-door?
Garcia: The average that the elders will expect you to do is at least ten hours. If you are doing pioneer work, that can go up to 70.
Ankerberg: Ten hours a week? If you’re working a fulltime job, where are you putting in ten hours?
Garcia: That’s the thing. You’ve got to make time for the organization. My father was working a fulltime job and he had to cut back on that because he wasn’t preaching enough and the elders were getting on him.
Ankerberg: But wait a minute. You’ve got a fulltime job, you’re putting in ten hours going door-to-door, and you’re still making three other meetings a week?
Garcia: Yes.
Cetnar: There’s requirements in the Watchtower magazine. They actually wrote an article: “You can live forever in paradise on earth, but how?” And they laid down four requirements: You must take in knowledge—that was five one-hour meetings a week; you have to obey all of God’s commands—that includes the Watchtower commands; you must be baptized into the organization; and actively going from door to door. I see a big thing missing here, a real big thing—Jesus.
Ankerberg: Jesus. And the other thing is, what if you didn’t do that, Brian?
Garcia: If you didn’t do it then you’d be considered a weak brother in the faith. You’d be considered inactive and unfruitful in the work of the ministry. And so you’d probably get a few talks from the elders. And if the whole congregation was kind of going towards a lukewarm congregation, the elders would definitely step in and give talks about it.
Ankerberg: Okay, but eventually, if you kept on that way, what would happen to you eternally?
Garcia: Eternally you would be stardust in Armageddon. You would just cease to exist.
Ankerberg: Annihilated?
Garcia: Yes.
Ankerberg: You don’t get to go on to do anything?
Garcia: No.
Ankerberg: Were you ever promised heaven? What were you promised?
Garcia: No. We were promised Paradise Earth—to live here forever on earth.
Ankerberg: Why is it that you weren’t promised to go to heaven when you die; if you followed all these things and you worked your way like mad?
Garcia: Well, the average Jehovah’s Witness doesn’t desire to be with God in heaven. He desires to be on Paradise Earth forever and to be with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Ankerberg: Why? Why wouldn’t he want to be in heaven?
Garcia: Well, they say…
Cetnar: It wasn’t allowed.
Ankerberg: Why wasn’t it allowed, Joanie?
Cetnar: In 1935 they slammed the doors shut. Said they had enough people—144,000.
Ankerberg: Why did they slam the doors shut? Because they said there was only 144,000 that were able to go to heaven. And everybody else that was a Jehovah’s Witnesses, you were moved down to second class, and the best thing you could get was Paradise Earth later on. Who were these 144,000 people that were supposed to be so lucky to go to heaven?
Cetnar: Just a few from, actually, Russell’s time. They might let the Twelve Apostles in. But mostly it was people from the organization started with Russell. And what’s weird is, today, rather than that number going down and down and down over the years, it’s started going up and up and up. And they don’t have any explanation for it.
Ankerberg: I remember when we did a program with you 20 years ago, there was a lady we had here whose name was Helen Ortega. She felt that she was one of these lucky 144,000. But her daughter, who was sitting right next to her, was ticked at God because she didn’t think she was one of the 144,000, which meant she would be separated from her mother for all eternity. She’d be on earth; her mother would be in heaven. For people to even contemplate that, but really, at that time, almost all the seats were taken. The only way those seats could …
Cetnar: If somebody fell away from that special class. That was the only way you could get a seat in heaven—if somebody vacates it.
Ankerberg: So that’s why you had no even dreams or hopes of going to heaven. Your best deal you could get was on planet Earth.
Cetnar: You didn’t even think about it.
Ankerberg: Now, they’ve got a third class, too. That is, if there are non-Jehovah’s Witnesses that are good enough, they live good enough lives, they get a second chance, right, during the millennium? And you’ve got to live perfect for 1,000 years to be able to continue living into eternity. Is that correct?
Veinot: That’s right.
Garcia: What they fail to realize is that they’re not actually promoting a true biblical Paradise on earth. Because Revelation 20 says so clearly, that the dwelling of God is now with man. It says that John “saw the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, adorned for her husband.” And so the New Jerusalem will be here on the earth; God will dwell with man. The quote is from Revelation 21. And Jehovah Witnesses love quoting that to you in a door; “It says ’death will be no more, neither mourning, nor outcry, nor pain be any more. The former things have passed away.’” But they don’t really believe that, because he says “And I will make my dwelling among them and I will be their God and they will be my people.” That’s the true biblical paradise of scripture.
Ankerberg: Yeah. We are going to take a break. When we come back, we are going to talk about Jesus’ words. What did you think when you read Jesus’ words? “I know my sheep… and I give unto them eternal life…” and “nobody’s going to snatch them out of my hand,” alright? We are going to talk about that and talk about more of the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and how you can talk with them. And if you are a Jehovah’s Witness, maybe more of the questions that you are asking yourself about what you’re hearing. Stick with us. We’ll be right back.

Ankerberg: Alright, we are back. We are talking about the Jehovah’s Witnesses. We have three ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses and two experts on the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. And, Brian, as an ex-Jehovah’s Witness, the main ballgame was Jesus. I mean, as you were reading the scripture you were constantly being confronted with questions about Jesus. What, first of all, were you taught about Jesus? And then, what bothered you in the scripture when you started reading the verses?
Garcia: Well, what we have here is the April 1, 2010 Watchtower. In here there’s a question from a reader. “Is Jesus the archangel Michael?” It says in the last paragraph, “So Michael the archangel is Jesus in his pre-human existence. After his resurrection and return to heaven, Jesus resumed his service as Michael, the chief angel, to the glory of God the father.” So they’re quoting Philippians 2:11 and saying that Jesus Christ is indeed Michael, to the glory of God the father.
Ankerberg: So, here you have… first of all, you don’t have eternal God the Son coming in the incarnation and joining himself to a man so you have both man and God fully in one person. What you have in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, you start out with a created being—namely an angel, Michael the archangel. Somewhere along the line, God says, time’s up, snuffs him out, and then makes Jesus—just the man, not even an angel, he’s just a man; certainly not God, Jehovah’s Witnesses teaching. Then, at the end of Jesus’ life what happens? Well, he stops existing there, and God recreates a spirit-being, Michael again, at the end. And, again, you have a created being all along the line. Jesus never was taught to you as being God the Son at all. Now, what bothered you about that?
Garcia: We need to go back to the authority. And the authority here is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. He says, “Whom do you say that I am?” This is the most important question we could possibly ask. “Whom do you say that I am?” Now, the Jehovah’s Witness and the Christian will both say the same thing. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” But that means two entirely different things to us; because when they say it, they mean that he is a created angel; and when we say it, we say that he shares in the very nature of God.
Ankerberg: So you are redefining terms. They’ll use “Jesus is the Savior;” they’ll use “born again;” they use all of our words, the Christian words, and they’ll give a completely new definition. Joanie, you had that too, when you were growing up.
Cetnar: That’s right. They didn’t stress Michael as much as they stressed the fact that he was the first and only direct creation of the father Jehovah. And so he was second. Like Bill used to say, he rode shotgun. So we never were allowed to worship Jesus. We were not allowed to pray to Jesus. And when you start reading the Bible—after the shackles are off and you realize this is not God’s organization, and that’s what we did then, is started reading our Bibles without the Watchtower interpretation—and you have to see Jesus. I remember reading John 14, and I believe it was Philip who said, “Well, what is the way? We don’t know the way?” And Jesus said, “I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life.” That’s what I thought the Watchtower was. And Jesus jumps right out of the Bible at you.
Ankerberg: How did you think about this when you realized it was the gift of God coming through Jesus Christ?
Garcia: I was only 16 years old, and I already knew that I was tired. I was tired, because I could not work enough to please Jehovah God. And I loved Jehovah God; I didn’t want to disappoint Jehovah God. But it says, “While we were yet sinners”—while we were yet helpless—“Christ Jesus died for us.” I didn’t have to do a thing. I didn’t have to lift a finger. Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished.” I didn’t have to do anything; he did all the work.
Ankerberg: Yeah. Full of grace and truth, and we beheld him. Just like the glory of the Father when we beheld him, according to John 1. Isaiah says God tells everybody, “I’m not going to share my glory with anybody else.” Then Jesus, according to John, is sharing it, there in John 1. And then Jesus, later on in the priestly prayer, says “Father, glorify me now with the glory that I had with you before the world began.” So it’s the same glory. But this thing of Jesus, there’s a spot in Revelation that really got to you. Tell me about that.
Garcia: Now, once again, we’ve got to go back to what Jesus himself says. Jesus says this in Revelation 1:17. He says to John, “I am the first and the last. Behold, I was dead but now I am alive forevermore, and I hold the keys of death and of Hades.” In Isaiah 44 is something interesting that Yahweh, the Lord himself, says. He says, “I am Yahweh, the purchaser of Israel, the King and redeemer of Israel. I am the first and the last; and besides me there is no God.” Revelation 1:7 says “Look he is coming with the clouds and every eye will see him.” Who is coming? Verse 8 says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord of Hosts, the one who is, who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Who is coming? The Almighty. Revelation 22 says it very clearly that there’s someone else who is coming. Verse 12 says, “Look, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me to repay each person according to what he has done.” Revelation 2:23 says that it is Jesus who searches the heart and will give to each man what he deserves. And it says in verse 13 of [chapter] 22, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” And so, Alpha and Omega in Greek just simply means the first and the last.
Ankerberg: According to Isaiah, there’s only one “first and last;” there’s not two of them.
Garcia: There can’t be.
Ankerberg: And if Jesus is “the first and the last” in Revelation, the fact is, he’s got to be Jehovah God.
Garcia: That’s right. And it says it there, “I am coming quickly.” Who is coming quickly? Verse 20, “He who testifies about these things says, yes, I am coming quickly. Even so come, Lord Jesus.”
Ankerberg: Alright, but here’s the deal. Joanie, you were an heir to the S.S. Kresge fortune. You got to the spot where you could lose your whole fortune by making this decision for Jesus., when you came to making this decision, and you [Brian] came to making this decision, how did you have the courage to leave your friends, possibly being disfellowshipped by your family? How did you get into this relationship with Jesus when you finally said, okay, that’s the truth?
Garcia: It says in Scripture that Jesus says that “if you want to be my disciple you must pick up your cross and follow me.” No ifs or buts about it. If you want to be a disciple of Jesus you must forsake your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, everything that you have to follow him. This is a radical call that Christ is calling us to do. It will cost you more than that; it will cost you your life. And Jesus wants it. And Jesus is worth it.
Ankerberg: But the good news is, it may cost you these material things, but you don’t have to do a thing to receive his gift.
Garcia: It’s all grace.
Ankerberg: You got off the works program and you got into the gifts program.
Cetnar: That’s right.
Ankerberg: Because Jesus paid it all. And if a person will believe that Jesus did all that’s necessary for you to stand before the Father, and for him to say, “you are absolutely free from all of your sins, you’re my child;” when you put your faith in Christ, that moment God looks at you and says “you’re my child and I give you everlasting life from that moment on.” And that’s the thing that’s mind-blowing to Jehovah’s Witnesses. I get off this works program and it’s a free gift. Can it really, really, really be true? Folks, it is true.
Cetnar: It is.
Ankerberg: The gift of God is eternal life and it comes through Jesus Christ our Lord, according to Paul in Romans.
Ankerberg: Folks, those of you that are listening that re Jehovah’s Witnesses, or you have got a member of your family that is a Jehovah’s Witness, and you would like to ask these folks a question. Go to our web site at JAshow or Johnankerberg.org either one you can use JAshow.org and ask your question. And I am going to ask these folks to answer as many as they’ve got time to answer, and we will post them for everybody to see. Now, we are going to continue this. We have got lots of other good news that we want to share with you. We are going to continue doing that. And some interesting things: What about this New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses? And is it true that unless you read the Jehovah’s Witness literature you can read the Bible and still be in darkness for 20 years, but if you just read the Jehovah’s Witnesses literature, even apart from the Bible you’ll have the truth within two years? We are going to talk all about that next week, so please join us.

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