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World Religions: what do they believe?

Intelligence officials have been warning Congress that a terrorist plot is coming against Europe and America. FBI Director Robert Mueller recently told a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, "Despite the significant counterterrorism pressure abroad, al Qaeda continues to be committed to high-profile attacks directed at the West, including plans against Europe as well as the homeland."

Mueller also told the Committee that groups and people inspired by al-Qaida are switching to smaller-scale attacks which are easier to plan and carry out. They understand, according to Mueller, that "launching a large attack, perhaps a more devastating attack, is not worth the additional effort when you can get substantial coverage and impact with smaller attacks."

According to Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, 2010 brought the largest number and fastest pace of attempted attacks since September 11. And more are apparently on the way.

At the same time, talks between Israel and Palestine continue to struggle. Jordan's King Abdullah, one of the most significant leaders in the Muslim world, recently predicted that if these talks break down there will be war in the region within a year.

Israel is Jewish; Palestine and most of the Arab world are Muslim; America is Christian in background and history. All three religions claim to be descended from Abraham. All originated in the same part of the world. Why can't they get along? Where is this heading?

Where we're from Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation, which led to Christianity. Muslims see him as the father of the Arab people through Ishmael. He was a wealthy businessman who grew up in Ur of the Chaldees before moving to Canaan, Egypt, and back to Canaan.

Genesis 22 tells us of the time when God called him to sacrifice his son Isaac at the top of Mt. Moriah; then God substituted a ram for the child. This spot became the eventual location of the Jewish Temple with its Holy of Holies.

However, Islamic tradition states that Abraham offered not Isaac but Ishmael to God, so that the Arabs (Ishmael's descendants) are the true "chosen people," not the Jews. They believe that Muhammad ascended to heaven from the same rock which Jews mark as the location of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, then returned to Mecca that evening. They constructed their Dome of the Rock over this location in A.D. 691. It is the third-holiest site in the world to Muslims, next to Mecca and Medina.

Christianity began within Judaism. Jesus grew up in a very religious Jewish family in Galilee, in a tiny town called Nazareth. After beginning his public ministry, he moved to the business center of Capernaum, where he called leading businessmen to become his staff and help lead his movement.

The first Christians were all Jews. Gentiles began joining the Christian movement at Caesarea Maratime, where a Roman military official named Cornelius became a follower of Jesus. Christianity spread under the Apostle Paul across the Roman Empire, and is predominantly a Gentile faith today.

So, all three religions began in the same part of the world. They all trace themselves in various ways to Abraham. Why, then, can't they get along?

Where we agree

God is one:
  • Jewish: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one" (Deuteronomy 6:4).
  • Christian: "For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live" (1 Corinthians 8:6).
  • Muslim: "Your God is One God: there is no god but He, most gracious, most merciful" (Qur'an 2:163).

God reveals himself to us:
  • Jewish: "And God spoke all these words: 'I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery'" (Exodus 20:1-2).
  • Christian: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • Muslim: "It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the Criterion (of judgment between right and wrong) (Qur'an 3:3).

We will be judged by God:
  • Jewish: "God will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth" (Psalm 96:13).
  • Christian: "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10).
  • Muslim: "Those who reject Faith in the Signs of God will suffer the severest penalty, and God is Exalted in Might, Lord of Retribution" (Qur'an 3:4).

We will spend eternity in heaven or hell:
  • Jewish: "they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind" (Isaiah 66:24).
  • Christian: "If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15).
  • Muslim: "Say to those who reject Faith: 'Soon will ye be vanquished and gathered together in Hell—an evil bed indeed" (Qur'an 3:12).

Where we disagree


The divinity of Jesus:

  • Jewish: "It is taught: On Passover Eve they hanged Yeshu. . . . They found nothing in his favor, so they hanged him on Passover Eve" (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 43a).
  • Christian: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. . . . Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:6, 9).
  • Muslim: "They do blaspheme who say: 'God is Christ the son of Mary.' . . . Christ the son of Mary was no more than an apostle" (Qur'an 5:72, 75).

Written revelation: Judaism does not recognize the inspiration of the New Testament; Christians do not recognize the inspiration of the Qur'an; Muslims do not believe that the Old and New Testaments are trustworthy revelation today.

The basis for salvation:

  • Jewish: "The Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish" (Psalm 1:6).
  • Christian: "It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
  • Muslim: "believe in God and His Apostle; and if ye believe and do right, ye have a reward without measure" (Qur'an 3:179).
Vision for the future:

  • Jewish: "I will make the nations [Messiah's] inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery" (Psalm 2:8-9).
  • Christian: "I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea" (Revelation 21:1).
  • Muslim: "If they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith. . . . And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and Faith in God" (Qur'an 2:191, 193).

Sharia


"Sharia" means "path" in Arabic. Sharia, or Islamic law, guides every aspect of Muslim life. It is derived from the Qur'an and the Sunna (the sayings, practices, and teachings of the Prophet Muhammed). Precedents and analogy are applied by Muslim scholars, together with the consensus of the Muslim community.

Sharia developed several hundred years after Muhammed's death (AD 632). There are several "schools" of Sharia, each named for the scholars that inspired them:

  • Hanbali: embraced in Saudi Arabia and by the Taliban.
  • Hanafi: the most liberal and focused on reason and analogy; dominant in Central Asia, Egypt, Pakistan, India, China, Turkey
  • Malaki: dominant in North Africa
  • Shafi'i: Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Yemen.
  • Ja'fari: Shia law.

There are three categories of offenses: those with punishments prescribed in the Qur'an, those which fall under a judge's discretion, and those resolved through tit-for-tat (blood money paid to the family if a murder victim). Qur'anic punishments (hadd) are required for:

  • Unlawful sexual intercourse
  • False accusation of unlawful sexual intercourse
  • Wine or alcohol drinking
  • Theft
  • Highway robbery

Punishments range from flogging, stoning, amputation, exile, or execution. They are not often carried out, though vigilante justice is a major problem (cf. honor killings).

Sharia and the modern world—three options:

  • Dual legal system where government is secular but Muslims can choose to bring familial and financial disputes to sharia courts. Britain now allows sharia tribunals governing marriage, divorce, and inheritance; this is similar to Anglican and Jewish mediation. Criminal law remains under the existing legal system.
  • Government under God, where Islam is the official religion and sharia is a source or the source of laws. Examples: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, UAE. In Egypt, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq, it is illegal to enact legislation which contradicts Islam. Saudi Arabia: women are not allowed to drive, are under the guardianship of male relatives at all times, and must be completely covered in public.
  • A completely secular nation, as in Turkey.

Sharia, modern economies and banking: Islamic banking is growing 15% a year. Riba, charging or paying of interest, is banned under Islamic law. Banks such as Citigroup, HSBC and Deutsche Bank are developing Islamic banking sectors. Sharia-compliant investments are also growing, avoiding transactions related to weapons, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, pornography and pork.

Conclusion

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam envision significantly different futures for humanity. Islam seeks to lead all people to become Muslims, but it also seeks to establish a global Islamic society on earth. Judaism seeks to obey the Torah, while Christianity seeks to lead all people to saving faith in Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20).

Muslims hope that their obedient adherence to the tenets of their faith will earn them passage into heaven from God. Jews hope that their commitment to the laws of their tradition will earn them a place among the "righteous" with God. Islam and Judaism, like all world religions, are based on human efforts to attain salvation.

Christianity, by contrast, is based on God's decision to save us. We could not ascend to him, so he descended to us when he sent his perfect Son into our world. Jesus breathed our air, felt our pain, faced our temptations, then died on our cross and rose from our grave. Now when we ask him to forgive our mistakes and become our Lord, he grants us salvation and eternal life in heaven.

C. S. Lewis, perhaps the most famous Christian theologian of the 20th century, was once invited to attend a conference on world religions. He arrived late, to discover the group engaged in a heated debate. Lewis asked about the issue which had spurred such controversy, and was told that the group was arguing the question, "What is unique about Christianity?"



"That's easy," Lewis replied. "It's grace."

Four religions dominate the world today: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism. Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Scientology are also in the news nearly every day.

These various religions have much in common, and much which separates them. The best way to understand any religious perspective is to ask five questions:

  • What is its view of God or ultimate reality?
  • How does it understand humanity?
  • What is its central focus?
  • What is its view of salvation?
  • How does it understand the afterlife?

We'll use this outline to summarize each of the religions popular in America. But we should understand two facts at the beginning of our conversation. First, the world's religions do not teach the same truth or worship the same God. It is popular today to say that the various religious are just different roads up the same mountain, that they all worship the same God in their own way.

But none of the other religions believe that. Muslims are convinced that Allah is the only God, and that the Qur'an is his full revelation to mankind. Jews believe in the Old Testament but not the New, and reject the divinity of Jesus. Buddhists and Hindus in turn reject the concept of a personal afterlife in eternity, believing that we will eventually be absorbed into reality and cease to be. If any one is right, the others are wrong. They do not teach the same truth.

Second, Christianity is not a religion. In essence, a religion is our attempt to find God. For instance, the Muslim seeks to obey the Koran; the Hindu obeys strict ascetic teachings and expects multiple reincarnations; the Buddhist tries to observe the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-fold Noble Path. Religion is our effort to climb up to God or the afterlife.

Christianity is God's decision to climb down to us. God's Son became one of us, so that we can be one with him. Christianity is not about a religion of rules and regulations, but a personal relationship with our Creator and Father. We do religious things such as attending worship, reading the Bible and praying--not so God will love us, but because he already does. Our faith is not a religion we must practice, but a relationship we experience.

Have you asked Jesus to forgive your sins and become your Savior? You can step into a personal relationship with God today. He's waiting on you right now.

Islam

19% of the world's population, 1.4 billion people, are followers of the Muslim faith. There are more Muslims in America than Episcopalians or Presbyterians. Muslims now outnumber Jews in America. There are more than 1,100 mosques around the country.

History

The religion was founded by Muhammad in AD 622. Idolatry and division were running rampant among his Arab people on the Arabian peninsula. The people commonly worshiped the seven planets, the moon, and the stars. Many worshiped family household gods and various angels. Others were involved in fire worship contributed by the Magians from Persia. There was also a corrupt form of Judaism and heretical Christianity present.

For twelve years Muhammad preached in Mecca, inviting the people there to come to Allah. In the year 622 he migrated to Medina and established the first Islamic state there. The Islamic calendar begins from the day of this migration of the prophet.

Within a century, Islam spread across the Middle East, North Africa, and much of Europe. The Crusades were launched in AD 1095 to retake Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Its persecution of Muslims has made Christian relations with Islam much more difficult.

Beliefs

Islam means "peace" or "surrender." Muslims worship Allah, the Arabic name for "God." It views mankind as free yet under the sovereignty of Allah. The Koran is the central focus of Islam. "Koran" means "the reading." From the book, Muslims observe the "five pillars of Islam":
  • "The witness": "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet." Every Muslim must declare this statement of faith.
  • Prayer: made five times a day, facing toward Mecca, the Muslim holy city in Arabia.
  • Alms: 2.5% of one's income given to the poor.
  • Fasting: during the month of Ramadan.
  • Pilgrimage to Mecca: at least once in a person's life.
  • Jihad (holy war) is a sixth pillar, when declared by religious leaders.

Relation to Christianity


How do Muslims relate to the Christian faith? Because Islam began in the Middle East subsequent to Christianity, it has always had some reference to Christianity. Islam's holy book, the Koran, maintains this reference to Christianity, speaking specifically of Jesus and the Christian religion.

However, Islam is completely independent of Christianity in faith and philosophy. There is almost no direct quotation in the Koran from either Testament. All we know for certain is that Muhammad was aware of Jews and Christians and knew something of their history. Tragically, the "Christianity" Muhammad encountered was heretical, and gave him an erroneous picture of Christ and his followers.

Muhammad claimed to be a biological heir of Abraham through Ishmael. Through this tie Muhammad saw himself as the establisher of the true religion of the one God in Arabia. He claimed that the religion Abraham bequeathed to the Arabs became corrupt. He claimed to receive direct revelation from God identical in content with the original revelations to Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, and thus claimed to be in direct succession with the Old and New Testament prophets.

Muslims have historically tolerated Christians and Jews as "people of the Book" in that they have a revelation related, though inferior, to that of Muslims. Nevertheless, various regulations are imposed on Christians in Muslim lands. One of the most difficult is the law against a Christian's converting a Muslim, accompanied by an absolute prohibition against the Muslim's accepting Christianity.

So, how can Christians best relate to Muslims? Begin with common ground: we both believe in one God, and see Jesus as holy. We both emphasize personal morality. The difference is that Christians have a relationship with God based on his grace, while Muslims believe they must earn Allah's acceptance. No Muslim can be sure that he or she will go to heaven. In Christ we have the forgiveness of our sins and the promise of eternal life with God.

Have you experienced the salvation he gives us? Will you ask him to use you to share his love with a Muslim soon?

Hinduism and Buddhism

13% of the world follows the Hindu faith, more than 800 million people. 6% of the world, more than 360 million people, are Buddhists. Hinduism has existed as long as history has been recorded. Buddhism was founded in 523 B.C. The two religions have much in common, and present a similar challenge to the Christian faith.

Hindu beliefs

Hindus call reality "Brahman." Brahman is the "supreme soul of the universe," without beginning or ending, unchanging and eternal, beyond all description. Brahman is not a "god" to be worshiped, but the name for all that is. Many "gods" are worshiped in Hinduism as a means to oneness with Brahman.

Man is called "Atman," and is a part of Brahman as the air inside a jug is one with the air outside the jug. The world is not divided into the material and spiritual, for all is one. We suffer when we do not understand our identity with reality. Salvation is called "moksha," and comes through the unity of mankind with reality.

Hindus expect to experience many reincarnations as they proceed toward enlightenment. The law of "karma" states that we are punished or rewarded for our deeds in this life. The caste system recognizes this law at work. Those who are being punished for deeds in the previous life are now living in a lower caste. Those who are being rewarded for their previous life are now living in a higher caste. Hindus believe that they will eventually cease to exist individually and become one with Brahman.

Buddhist beliefs

Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 B.C.). "Buddha" means "enlightened one."

The Buddha applied Hinduism to the problem of evil and suffering, with the Four Noble Truths: suffering is inevitable; suffering comes from wrong desires; eliminating wrong desires will eliminate suffering; the way to eliminate wrong desires is to follow the Eightfold Noble Path: right understanding, thoughts, speech, action, livelihood, effort, meditation, and concentration. By practicing these disciplines, the Buddhist hopes to experience enlightenment or "nirvana" and become one with reality.

Relating to Hindus and Buddhists

How can Christians respond to Hinduism and Buddhism? First, show that our faiths do not teach the same truth. For instance, if Hindus and Buddhists are right, we will not exist as individuals in eternity but will be absorbed into reality. There is no concept of sin or salvation in either religion, no personal Lord of the universe who will forgive our failures. These are religions of works, while Christianity is a relationship founded on grace.

Second, show the relevance of Jesus' life-changing love in your life. Build a relationship with your Hindu or Buddhist friend. Show that person the compassion of Christ. Prove that your faith is relevant to your life today.

Third, explain that Jesus provides what your friend is seeking: peace now and in eternity. His death paid for our sins and gives us the way to relationship with our Creator today. We don't have to wait through multiple reincarnations or pay for our previous sins. In fact we cannot: "man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Jesus is alive today, and is ready to give the peace and joy every Hindu and Buddhist seeks. Invite your friend to trust in him today.

Judaism

Today nearly six million Jewish people live in the United States (more than half of all the Jews in the world). They live in all 50 states, and make up 2.5% of the American population. Close to half are found in the Northeast, with large populations in the South and Far West.

Jewish history

The Jews trace their beginnings to Abraham (ca. 2000 B.C.). The Lord promised him, "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Genesis 12:2-3).

The Hebrew nation is traced from Abraham through Isaac to his son Jacob and his twelve sons (the "twelve tribes of Israel"). The Jewish people spent 400 years enslaved in Egypt, before God liberated them through the parting of the Red Sea and the Exodus. They eventually conquered the land of Canaan, the Holy Land today.

After the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon, the nation split in two. The ten northern tribes were captured by Assyria in 922 B.C. and disappeared. The two southern tribes were enslaved by Babylon in 586 B.C., but returned to their land 70 years later. The nation existed until it was destroyed by Rome in A.D. 70. In 1948 the Jewish people regained their homeland, the modern state of Israel.

Contemporary Judaism

Judaism is a race which traces itself back to Abraham. And it is also a religion based on the laws of Moses (the "Torah") and the Hebrew Scriptures (the "Old Testament"). Jewish religion is practiced in three main ways in America today, something like Protestant "denominations."

"Orthodox" Jews believe that the entire Law was divine written and must not be changed. They follow a 16th century code of law compiled by Joseph Caro, applying the Law to every dimension of life. As a result, Orthodox Jews practice kosher dietary laws, strict observance of the Sabbath, and so on.

"Reform" Jews typically reject the idea of a permanently-binding religious law. They are the most progressive of the three forms of Jewish religion.

"Conservative" Jews believe that Reform Judaism is in error in rejecting the Jewish law. But they also believe that Orthodox Jews are mistaken in rejecting changed or development in their religion.

Relating Jesus to Jews

Christians can share their faith in Jesus as the Messiah with Jewish friends in several ways. First, be sure that your life supports your truth claims. The Hebrew worldview is very practical and pragmatic. We must show our lives to be different and our faith real in practice.

Second, explain that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, the Promised One sent by God to liberate his people. He fulfilled many Old Testament promises regarding the Messiah. Trusting him as Lord is not a rejection of Judaism, but its fulfillment. Jesus was himself a Jew. Those who make him their Messiah step into a personal relationship with God which is possible in no other way.

So pray for your Jewish friends, that they will one day make Jesus their Messiah. And show them that they should, by living for him as your Lord today.

Mormons

Mormons are members of the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." Their membership includes nearly 12 million people worldwide, more than five million in America. The church operates more than 130 temples around the world, with a large temple in Dallas.

Mormonism is the fastest-growing religion in America, quadrupling in membership in less than 50 years. At current growth rates, the church will number more than 250 million within a century, larger than any Christian group except the Roman Catholic Church.

History

The church was founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. (1805-44). According to church teachings, he received a vision at the age of 14 telling him that no Christian church was right (The Pearl of Great Price 2.18, 19). Three years later, the angel Moroni is said to have revealed to him a book on golden plates. Four years later he was supposedly given these plates, which he translated them into the Book of Mormon in 1830.

Smith was eventually jailed for destroying and burning printing presses and newspapers opposing his movement, and was killed by a mob. Mormons consider him a martyr to their cause. Brigham Young assumed leadership of the movement after Smith's death, leading them to Salt Lake Valley in Utah in 1847; this became their national headquarters.

Beliefs

Mormons accept the Bible as God's word, but maintain that a correct translation of it is impossible since the Catholic Church has corrupted it (1 Nephi 13.26b, 27). They use the King James Version. They also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. The Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants are other books important to Mormon theology.

The Book of Mormon claims to be an account of the original inhabitants of America, to whom Christ appeared after his resurrection. The book says that in early times America was peopled by descendants of Israel. Nephites were a race of righteous white people; Lamanites were warlike, evil, dark-skinned people, supposed to be the ancestors of Native Americans today. Mormon, the last leader of the Nephites, collected the record of his people and inscribed it on golden plates. This record claims that Jesus appeared among the Nephites, so that the Book of Mormon is "another testament of Jesus Christ."

The Lamanites destroyed the Nephites, but not before Moroni, the last surviving Nephite, buried the golden plates in a hill in what later became New York State. Joseph Smith supposedly recovered these plates in 1827 when the resurrected Moroni, appearing as an angel, directed him to them.

Mormon theology teaches that God himself was once a man, and that Mormon males have the possibility of attaining godhood (The King Follett Discourse 8-10; Doctrine and Covenants 130:22). God the Father had physical relations with the virgin Mary, resulting in the conception of the physical Christ (Mormon Doctrine 547; Doctrine and Covenants 93:21-23). Satan was originally the spirit brother of Christ (The Gospel Through the Ages 15).

Like God, we can ourselves one day become gods in the celestial kingdom. A baptized Mormon has his Gentile blood purged and replaced by the blood of Abraham through the Holy Spirit. Then he becomes the actual offspring of Abraham (History of the Church 3:380).

Every Mormon is expected to give two years to mission service. When a male is baptized by the Mormon church and married in a ceremony sealed by the Mormon priesthood, he can attain the celestial kingdom and become a god. Others will go the second or third levels of heaven.

Responding to Mormons

First, Christians need to know that Mormonism is not another Christian denomination. Its view of Jesus is contrary to Scripture, as are its teachings regarding salvation and eternity. Mormon missionaries are trained to use language which sounds Christian. Ask them if our Heavenly Father is Spirit and was eternally God, and if Jesus Christ is eternally God as well. Know that they will try to convince you that they are biblical Christians, but their beliefs are very different from ours.

Second, build long-term relationships with Mormons. Learn how the person became a Mormon, and what he or she thinks about Mormon theology. Many Mormons do not know some of the facts contained in this essay. Live in such a way that Jesus is real in you, earning the right to share your faith with Mormons and others.

Third, point out problems with the Book of Mormon. No cities, inscriptions, persons, nations, places, or artifacts unique to the Book of Mormon have been found by archaeologists. 1 Nephi 2.5-8 states that the river Lyman emptied into the Red Sea, but no river in Arabia at all has ever emptied into the Red Sea. Alma 7:10 says that Jesus was to be born at Jerusalem, not Bethlehem. Alma 46:15 indicates that believers were called "Christians" in 73 B.C. There are more than 400 examples of New Testament quotations in the Book of Mormon (supposedly possessed by the Nephites in 600 B.C.). Finally, present the Christ of the Bible and your personal witness to his life-transforming truth and power. Pray for your Mormon friends come to Jesus as Savior and Lord, and show them God's love in yours today.

Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses claim some 16 million followers worldwide in 220 countries. Their name comes from the Hebrew Yahweh, which they pronounce Jehovah. They claim to be his "witnesses" on earth.

History

The Jehovah's Witnesses were founded by Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916). In 1870, while a teenager and without formal theological training, Russell organized a Bible class; its members eventually made him their "pastor." In 1879, he founded the magazine Zion's Watchtower; in 1886 he produced the first volume of seven books later retitled Studies in the Scriptures. By his death in 1916, "Pastor" Russell had, according to the Watchtower, traveled more than a million miles, given more than thirty thousand sermons, and written books totaling over fifty thousand pages.

Joseph F. Rutherford became the second President of the Watchtower Society after Russell's death; had been the society's legal counselor beforehand. Under his leadership the name "Jehovah's Witnesses" was adopted. Rutherford moved the society's headquarters to Brooklyn. Nathan Knorr succeeded Rutherford in 1942. Under his leadership, the society increased from 115,000 to over two million members. In 1961, the society produced its own English Bible translation, The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.

Beliefs

Jehovah's Witnesses claim to be the only correct church. They teach that Christendom was founded 300 years after Jesus' death, and that its beliefs have deviated greatly from what Jesus taught. They consider themselves the only organization speaking correctly for God today. They use only their New World translation of the Bible. The Watchtower and Awake are publications considered authoritative by the church.

The church rejects the Trinity. Jesus Christ was a created being. Michael the Archangel was transferred to the embryo of the human Jesus. After his resurrection, Michael went back to his former state as an invisible spirit. The Holy Spirit is the "invisible active force of Almighty God," not a divine being. "Holy Spirit" is never capitalized in the New World Bible.

Our salvation is based on works done for Jehovah. Witnessing and missionary endeavors are essential to our eternal life. At the end of history, unbelievers will be annihilated. 144,000 Jehovah's Witnesses will live in heaven. The rest of the Witnesses will live on Paradise Earth.

Sharing Jesus with a Jehovah's Witness

First, develop a relationship and friendship with the Jehovah's Witnesses you know. Earn the right to share the biblical truth with them.

Second, show the biblical contradictions with Jehovah's Witnesses theology. Point out, for example, the divinity of Jesus (John 1:1-2; Romans 9:5; Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:3); salvation by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9); and the doctrine of hell (Matthew. 25:46; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9)

Third, respond to their claim that the Second Coming occurred in 1914. Before 1914, the society claimed that God's Kingdom would be established on earth in that year (Watchtower Reprints, March 1880, I:82). When this did not occur, they shifted their emphasis to God's Kingdom in heaven, and claimed that Christ returned invisibly in 1914. Point out the biblical predictions of Jesus' visible return (Acts 1:11; Mt. 24:26,27; Rev. 1:7).

Most of all, show God's love in yours.

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