On their website the Watch Tower Society asks How Can You Live Forever? It’s a good question. If there is an answer to this question, I would assume most people would want to hear it. The Jehovah’s Witnesses rightly seek to answer the question by pointing people to the Bible. They then offer what they say is ‘the Bible’s answer’, let’s consider what they say.
“The Bible promises: “The person who does what God wants lives forever.” (1 John 2:17,Holy Bible-Easy-to-Read Version) What does God want you to do?“
I am always curious why the Jehovah’s Witnesses use Bible versions other than their own New World Translation. After all, they claim their Bible is the most accurate translation available.
The NWT translates 1 John 2:17 as:
“Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.“
Should they have quoted the NWT, this verse would have equally made their point, so why did they use another? The Watchtower like to appear that they are open to using other translations, but of course this is only when the ‘other’ translation serves their purpose and agrees with the NWT.
So, what is it, according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, that God wants a person to do that they may live forever? Firstly, they say people need to:
Learn about God and his Son, Jesus.
Here we are introduced to one of Jehovah’s Witnesses favourite Bible verses – John 17:3:
“This means everlasting life, their coming to know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” (NWT)
There are a couple of reasons why JWs like this verse. Firstly, they believe that it shows that God and Jesus are separate beings. Secondly, it points to the importance coming to ‘know’ the only true God and the one whom He sent, Jesus. The article continues:
“What is involved in “coming to know” God and Jesus? We can get to know them by studying the Bible and applying its message in our life. *“
They are correct, but of course they say there is more to it than that. Notice the blue asterisk after the word life? When clicked it offers a free home bible study conducted by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Why do they not just offer to send a free Bible to the interested person to read? Wouldn’t this be enough for a person to know about God and Jesus? Not according to the Watchtower. To know the truth about God and Jesus a person needs their help.
“Thus the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible. For this reason the Bible cannot be properly understood without Jehovah’s visible organization in mind.”—The Watchtower, October 1, 1967, p. 587
“We all need help to understand the Bible, and we cannot find the Scriptural guidance we need outside the ‘faithful and discreet slave’ organization.”—The Watchtower, February 15, 1981, p. 19
Reading the Bible alone is not enough, say the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for it cannot be understood without help from Watchtower publications and their unique interpretation. If you want to know how to live forever you need to, not just read the Bible, but have a Bible study with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Their article continues and immediately introduces the reader to the one they need to know. We are now introduced to ‘Jehovah God’.
“The Bible reveals the thinking of our Creator, Jehovah God, who is the Giver of life. (Acts 17:24, 25) The Bible also tells us about his Son, Jesus, who taught “sayings of everlasting life.”—John 6:67-69.
It is interesting to note that of the 32 times Jesus addresses God in the New World Translation, he never calls Him Jehovah God. Jesus most frequently calls God, Father. In fact, the verses they give in their article – Acts 17:24-25 – do not use the term Jehovah God either. But for them, using the name Jehovah God is a matter of eternal consequence.
Consider how the NWT renders Romans 10:13:
For “everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.”
Choosing to add the name ‘Jehovah’ here, distorts the intended meaning of the verse. Other versions correctly translate the Greek word kurios as Lord, not Jehovah. Paul is not saying we are to call upon the name of Jehovah to be saved, but the name of Jesus. A quick look at the context of Romans 10 in the NWT proves this.
For if you publicly declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 (NWT)
The word translated ‘Lord’ here is kurios. If they are to be consistent in their translation then it should say: Jesus is Jehovah – but of course they cannot do that.
Elsewhere in the NWT, speaking about Jesus, we are told:
“Furthermore, there is no salvation in anyone else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.” Acts 4:12
Let’s get back to how they say a person can receive eternal life. According to the article a person needs to…
Exercise faith in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus.
Here is another example of the Watchtower adding words. In this case it is the word ‘exercise’. It is not enough to have faith in what Jesus did at Calvary, no you must exercise faith in it. Though they add the word exercise in relation to faith, it is not in the Greek text. So why do they add it? The addition is there so that a person knows that they need to ‘do’ something to receive everlasting life. In this case it is to do whatever the Faithful and Discreet Slave tells you to do.
They continue to push this point home:
“Jesus’ ransom sacrifice opened the way for humans to live forever in Paradise on earth. (Psalm 37:29) Jesus said: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Note that more is required than simply believing in Jesus. We must ‘exercise faith in him,’ choosing to live in harmony with his teachings and with the will of his Father.—Matthew 7:21;James 2:17.“
Note here what they believe Jesus’ ransom sacrifice did. They do not believe that Jesus did everything necessary for a person to receive eternal life, no he only ‘opened the way’. In other words, he did his bit now you have to do yours. Did you again notice the addition of the word ‘exercising’ in the NWT rendering of John 3:16? They then say:
“Note that more is required than simply believing in Jesus.“
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are constantly given mixed messages by their leaders. They are told that they can do nothing to earn everlasting life, but more is required than just believing in Jesus. You must ‘do something’ even though elsewhere in the NWT we read:
“By this undeserved kindness you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; rather, it is God’s gift. No, it is not a result of works, so that no one should have grounds for boasting.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Sadly, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are trained to miss the point in these verses and quickly jump to their ‘faith without works is dead’ argument. Because of this they constantly strive to make themselves worthy of salvation.
The Bible teaches that a person will exercise faith in Jesus because they have been saved, not in order to be saved. We will return to this topic as we consider the ‘Misconceptions About Living Forever’ found at the bottom of this article.
The final point they make for a person who wants to live forever, is that they need to:
Build a strong friendship with God.
In Jehovah’s Witness thinking this can only be achieved through association with God’s Organisation – the Watchtower Society. To be outside of Jehovah’s chosen vessel of salvation, is to find yourself in real danger.
Misconceptions About Living Forever
The article concludes by addressing three potential misconceptions about living forever.
“Misconception: Human efforts will result in everlasting life.
Fact: Although some medical advances promise to increase the human life span, such efforts will not lead to everlasting life. Only God can give us everlasting life, because only he is “the source of life.” (Psalm 36:9) He promises to “swallow up death forever” and grant everlasting life to all faithful humans.—Isaiah 25:8;1 John 2:25.”
Of course, only God can give everlasting life, but note the condition. He only gives it ‘to all faithful humans’.
“Misconception: Only people of certain races will live forever.
Fact: God does not show favoritism. On the contrary, “in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34, 35) People of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds who obey God can live forever.“
Of course, God does not show favouritism, but note the condition. Only those ‘who obey God can live forever’.
“Misconception: Everlasting life will be boring.
Fact: The offer of everlasting life comes from God, who loves us and wants us to be happy. (James 1:17;1 John 4:8) He knows that in order for us to be happy, we need purposeful work. (Ecclesiastes 3:12) God promises that those who live forever on earth will have satisfying, meaningful work that will benefit them and their loved ones.—Isaiah 65:22, 23.“
Interesting that they do not say what this satisfying and meaningful work will be. If they were to reveal what it will be at this point, potential converts would surely be turned off. What do they teach?
Paradise on Earth?
Many years ago, when I studied the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I remember being shown horrifying pictures of fireballs coming down from heaven. Jehovah’s judgement was smashing churches and government buildings to pieces, with people running for their lives. At Armageddon, Jehovah God would destroy everything and everyone, only his faithful ones would be protected.
If you are one of the ‘faithful ones’ who have ‘obeyed Jehovah God’, you will survive Armageddon and find yourself upon, what they call, Paradise Earth. On arrival what will this paradise earth look like?
From the Watchtower publication: You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, we read:
“First of all, those who survive Armageddon will have the work of cleaning up the earth and clearing away the ruins of this old system. And then they will have the privilege, under the direction of the Kingdom rule, of cultivating the earth and making it a beautiful place in which to live. What a happy work that will be! God will bless everything that is done. He will provide the right kind of climate to grow crops and raise livestock, and he will see to it that these are protected from disease and harm. (p.159-160)“
Here we are told what this work will be.
“First of all, those who survive Armageddon will have the work of cleaning up the earth and clearing away the ruins of this old system.“
Now that is something to look forward to. Those who survive Armageddon will have to remove millions of dead bodies and clear away the ruins of the old system. Oh happy day! What a joyous work that will be!
After this mammoth and daunting task, those who yet remain loyal and faithful will have the privilege of cultivating the earth and making it a beautiful place in which to live. Those who do not remain devoted to Jehovah, will be annihilated. Only those who strive and survive to the end of the thousand year clean up programme, will receive everlasting life.
“Moreover, those who live forever will continue to learn new things about their Creator and his vast creative works. He made humans with a desire to live forever and to learn about him, though they “will never find out the work that the true God has made from start to finish.” (Ecclesiastes 3:10, 11) Thus, those who live forever will always have interesting things to learn and do.”
As I conclude this review of what Jehovah’s Witnesses teach about how a person may receive everlasting life, I am reminded of the words Jesus spoke to the Pharisees:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut up the Kingdom of the heavens before men; for you yourselves do not go in, neither do you permit those on their way in to go in.” Matthew 23:13
It is incredibly sad that millions of ‘loyal’ Jehovah’s Witnesses are striving for something that they in themselves cannot attain. How can a person live forever? The answer is Jesus.
“You are searching the Scriptures because you think that you will have everlasting life by means of them; and these are the very ones that bear witness about me.” John 5:39 NWT