What do Jehovah’s Witnesses Teach about Salvation?
What do Jehovah’s Witnesses Teach about Salvation? Dr John Ankerberg and Dr Walter Martin break it down in this insightful interview.
Dr. John Ankerberg: I would like to come back to the Watchtower Society, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In terms of the atonement, the Jehovah’s Witnesses says, “The atonement is a ransom paid to Jehovah God by Christ Jesus and is applicable to all who accept it in righteousness.” In brief, “The death of Jesus removed the effects of Adam’s sin on his offspring and laid the foundation of the new world of righteousness. Immortality is a reward for faithfulness. It does not come automatically to a human at birth.” And then finally, “You must love Jehovah’s universal sovereignty. You must uphold it and proclaim it and remain true to it at all costs until it is vindicated. Only then may you survive Armageddon.” What are they talking about in terms of salvation here?
Dr. Walter Martin: Works. All cults are works oriented.
Dr. John Ankerberg: What does that mean?
Dr. Walter Martin: They always have Jesus, Christian terminology and works. For instance, if you talked to them about the cross, well, they don’t believe He died on the cross anyhow, he was nailed to a stake they say. And they tell you His….
Dr. John Ankerberg: What’s that all about? I mean why are they so picky on that point?
Dr. Walter Martin: Because they want to get attention so they say that the word for cross is stavros, which is “stake” and they say, therefore, Jesus was impaled on a stake with both hands over his head. The only problem with that is that when you read John 20 you find that Thomas, who was an eyewitness, said, “Unless I put my finger into the print of the nails,” plural. So Thomas is there telling you that Jesus was crucified on a crosspiece because it is more than one nail. You couldn’t put two nails through hands lifted up. It would break the bones. And the Bible says, “Not a bone of Him shall be broken.” [Psa. 34:20]
Anyhow, they believe that the blood of Christ only paid for Adam’s sin and the effect of Adam’s sin. They have to add their own good works, keeping the commandments that the Watchtower gives them, selling their literature and enduring to the end and then they are going to be finally saved. But they do not believe in the new birth as the entrance into the kingdom of God, except for 144,000 people. That is definitely not Christian theology. First Peter 1:20 says, “Having been born again of incorruptible seed by the Word of God which lives and abides forever.” So, we are delivered by the blood of Christ totally. He cleanses us from all sin. Our works have nothing to do with the cleansing of sin.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Yes, we had a dear lady that actually announced that she was one of those 144,000 elect on the program. And her daughter, when she announced that, got mad at God. Can you tell us why?
Dr. Walter Martin: Well, maybe she thought she was being proud. I have a friend who left Jehovah’s Witnesses and he was one of the 144,000 and worked out of Brooklyn, their headquarters.
Dr. John Ankerberg: I think that one side of the family thought it was pride, but this one, if I remember now, said that meant that she would never be with her mother for all eternity. Her mother, if she was one of the 144,000, would be in heaven and she would be on earth.
Dr. Walter Martin: Be in heaven and she would be here on earth. Yes. This friend of mine when he left wrote a tract called “143,999.” They got very upset about that.
Dr. John Ankerberg: What is the 144,000 talking about in Revelation?
Dr. Walter Martin: 12,000 of each of the 12 tribes of Israel. And they even name the tribes.
Dr. John Ankerberg: And why is it not limited just to 144,000?
Dr. Walter Martin: Well, it depends on the scholars who are looking at it. If you look at an amillennialist, it refers to the body of Christ. If you look at a premillennialist, it’s just the Jews who are going to be witnesses for Christ. It’s “Pay your nickel and take your choice,” as to the final application.
Dr. John Ankerberg: But there are a few more mentioned right around those verses that are going to be there too.
Dr. Walter Martin: It says “a great multitude,” but nobody wants to talk about that.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Okay, what’s the good news to a person that’s a Jehovah’s Witness that’s looking in tonight that, man, they’re having their 10 Bible studies every week and they’re passing out their magazines and they still don’t have peace with God. They don’t know if they were to die right now they’re going to make it, if they’re going to be accepted, if they’re going to be one of the sheep left on earth that are going to be the good ones. What would you say to them that would really bring joy to them if they looked into it? Dr. Walter Martin: Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “By grace we have been saved.” It’s a past tense. They’re working for something Christ already paid for. “Through faith,” not by ourselves, “it’s the gift of God, not by works,” your works, your magazines, your Watchtower studies. “Not by works lest any man should boast.”
Editor’s note: In 1983 we asked Dr. Walter Martin, author of The Kingdom of the Cults, to comment on what various groups believe about The Bible, God, Jesus, Salvation, and a number of other topics. This article is excerpted from that interview. Some groups mentioned may have changed names, disbanded, or modified their beliefs since this interview took place.