Chances are, you’ve encountered a Jehovah’s Witness in your lifetime. Whether a door-to-door traveler, or a next door neighbor, Jehovah’s Witnesses are spread across the country. They’re a collection of followers who take pride in spreading their truths. Most will recognize them as the people who travel from house to house in an effort to engage individuals in biblical conversations. If they find someone who is interested, they hope to convert them to their faith. But, as anyone who has invited them inside knows, they are much more than door to door salesmen.
It’s a fast growing religion, and one that traces its origins back quite a ways. Jehovah’s Witnesses trace their roots back to 1870, when Charles Taze Russell began studying the Bible in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The movement became known as the Bible Student Movement. Eventually, Witnesses split off from the movement and were officially known as Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1931. They have since grown to become a distinct branch of Christianity, governed by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses located in Brooklyn, New York.
Perhaps you have a growing interest in the religion, or maybe you are already practicing. Whatever the case, there are certainly some interesting facts to be found. What follows are ten facts about Jehovah’s Witnesses you never knew.
10. They Will Not Take Blood Transfusions
Jehovah’s Witnesses will reject any and all blood transfusions, interpreting the act as an infraction on God’s law. In fact, since 1961, followers who accept transfusions are liable for expulsion from the church.
The lines on this stance are somewhat blurred, though. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not allowed to take blood transfusions, even in life or death situations, yet they may accept other alternatives that do not involve blood. They may also accept some blood plasma fractions without any consequences. With all the red tape surrounding medical procedures, the church has established hospital liaisons in an effort to establish clearer communication and understanding with practicing medical professionals.
9. They Will Not Go To War Or Bear Arms
Once again, this is a conflict between societal demands and religious orientation. Jehovah’s Witnesses will refuse to go to war, or be involved with conflict of that nature, under any circumstances. Even if prison sentences or execution is threatened.
The reason behind this is multi-faceted. Witnesses are followers of the truth, which emphasizes the love of all others including enemies. In essence, they must follow Jehovah’s and Jesus’s commands to love one another and set aside arms. In the past, Witnesses refusing to enter service has led to some conflicts. Countries like Armenia, Turkey, and South Korea have gone as far as imprisonment.
8. Followers Believe Other Religions Have Demonic Inspirations
Jehovah’s Witnesses have interesting views on other religions found throughout the world. One of their lessons is that other religions are actually under the control of Satan and his demons. For example, they believe old gods such as Zeus were actually angels fallen from grace. As a result, anyone following a separate religion is actually serving the devil unbeknownst to them.
The overall notion Witnesses believe is that every other religion is a distraction attempting to pull them off the course towards resurrection when the Armageddon arrives. False religions may seem viable and real, but much like fake money, Witnesses see them as hollow and worthless.
7. They Shun Those Who Break Their Rules
Witnesses do not have a high tolerance for bending their rules, and will resort to disfellowship (read: excommunication) when the action is warranted. This means that the former Witness no longer has any chance of salvation, and must forfeit any and all contact with other Witnesses.
The disfellowship is a hard rule, and Witnesses are expected to uphold it even when it comes to friends and family members. Many Witnesses who are disfellowshipped never hear from their families again. Though, there are those who are allowed to stray from protocol, typically by email or letter, and tell their ex-acquaintances how disappointed they are in them.
6. They Don’t Recognize Holidays
This may surprise some, as many varieties of the Christian faith celebrate similar holidays, but Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate any at all. The reasoning is that many of these holidays are rooted in pagan beliefs, and do not descend from true Christian origins. For instance, the mere act of putting up Christmas trees and lights is connected to ancient druid practices, and as such is unacceptable with the Jehovah’s Witness faith.
Holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Halloween are all also rooted in pagan origins. Jehovah’s witnesses even disregard birthdays, as it is noted in the bible that people did not originally celebrate the date of one’s birth. Essentially, anything that strays from their interpretation of the true form of Christianity is to be avoided, no matter how much fun they may be.
5. Their Sermons Are The Same Around The Globe
Jehovah’s Witnesses head to Kingdom Halls for their congregations and bible studies. There, they listen to elders preach and discuss Watch Tower Society literature, as well as interpret the Bible. Much like other Christian denominations, sermons include kingdom songs, which are the Witness equivalent of church hymns.
What is especially interesting is the organization that goes into running a Kingdom Hall. All sermons throughout the week are the same worldwide, as established by the religion headquarters located in New York. The headquarters strives towards uniformity, down to the very set-up of their meetings, something that is certainly different from other religions.
4. They Were Persecuted By The Nazis
The Holocaust is largely associated with those who were Jewish, but World War Two history buffs know the Nazis persecuted nearly anyone under the sun deemed an inferior being. Unfortunately, this included thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses. At the time of the rise of the Nazi political party, nearly 20,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses resided in Germany.
According to the Holocaust Education Foundation website, nearly half of the 20,000 total Jehovah’s Witness population in Germany was imprisoned during the war. The Nazis identified them using purple triangle patches on their clothing, and sent many to concentration camps. In total nearly 1,200 Witnesses lost their lives.
3. They Believe Armageddon Is Imminent
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in a literal interpretation of Hell. Whenever the Bible discusses Hell using terms like Hades or Sheol, they interpret it as the general state of death. This is referred to as the common grave in their circles. This means there is no threat of fiery torment. It also means there is no everlasting soul which carries on after death.
What is the underlying threat in their eyes is Armageddon, which is the imminent end of the world as we know it. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe humanity is in a sorry state, and while most would probably agree, Jehovah’s Witnesses take it a step further and consider humanity’s only salvation to be the end of the world. It’s kind of like a reset button, only it leads to the death of the known world.
2. Membership Is Growing Across The World
Largely due to the concise organizational efforts of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the religion can truly be found all across the globe. In fact, because sermons are scheduled and maintained on a global scale, the Governing Body has set their practice up for large scale success. It’s no surprise that their beliefs have become a successful international movement, as Witnesses consider it their biblical duty to spread their truth and save others for the imminent Armageddon.
As one might expect, growth is closely monitored by their leaders, and accurate numbers are usually found on their website. In fact, according to the Jehovah’s Witness website, their current followers stands at 8.2 million people, all spread throughout 239 countries.
1. They Believe Their Followers Will Be Resurrected
When Armageddon comes to an end and humanity has been destroyed, it is believed that exactly 144,000 followers will be allowed to transcend to heaven. There this “small flock” will rule alongside Jesus as kings and priests.
That’s not to say those will be the only souls to survive. Though humanity will initially wiped out, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in the oncoming of Jesus’s millennial reign. During this time Jesus will resurrect other worthy Jehovah Witness followers, and together they will live on paradise on Earth and properly worship the lord. This is all in preparation for the final judgement at the conclusion of the millennial reign.