The Jehovah´s Witnesses are a religious movement which was founded in the 1870s by the American Charles Taze Russell. He considered himself able to calculate the year in which the end of the world was due, primarily from the data in the Revelation of Saint John, and the Book of Daniel. He initially came up with the year 1914. In that year the so-called Battle of Armageddon was to take place, in which all true Witnesses of Jehovah would be saved. 144,000 of these Witnesses were to obtain an exclusive salvation. In Heaven, together with Jesus, they were going to govern the coming new world. The remainder of the Witnesses were to be saved in another way: First they were to clean up after all the dead non-Jehovah´s Witnesses, and then create a paradise kingdom on earth. Signs of the imminent End were: natural disasters, increasing violence, wars and economic trouble.
When the end did not come in 1914, new dates were fixed: 1918, 1925, 1941, and 1975. These mistaken predictions have been embarrassing every time. Yet, there has been no shortage of imaginative explanations. The closeness of the end of the world remains the most important part of the teachings, though today there is no longer a fixed year for the battle of Armageddon.
At the time of Russell´s death, the foundation of a large American organization had been laid: The Watchtower Society. A lot of people all over the world were affiliated with the society. Under the leadership of President Russell´s successor, Judge Rutherford, a theocracy was introduced: The top management of the Watchtower Society, "The Governing Body", was now said to be directly led by God. What these leading men decide and agree upon becomes law for the followers, for they claim to have their authority and power from God.
The expectation of the imminent end of the world naturally influences the view of "the world" which Jehovah´s Witnesses hold. To them, participation in social and political life is in vain. Love of one’s neighbour is limited to preaching their teachings to everybody. They consider it their task to convert as many people as possible into the Jehovah´s Witnesses, because salvation depends upon it.
The Jehovah´s Witnesses call themselves true Christians, but they are not. They are not using the normal translations of the Bible, but on the contrary use their own "New World Translation".
One significant feature of the teachings of the Jehovah´s Witnesses is the sharp rejection of the Christian belief in the Triune God. They separate the Father from the Son, and they do not believe that Jesus is God. The entire Biblical preaching of the Holy Spirit as God´s personal presence and love is lost and substituted with an understanding of the Holy Spirit as a power. Their ideas of "God" have been given non-Christian content, and God is seen as a gruesome Avenger. In the teachings of the Witnesses, Jesus Christ as the merciful saviour is receding from view. Obedience to the law, merits, and principles are introduced as the basis of man´s salvation.
The Watchtower Society claims to base its teachings on the Bible. In reality, however, they have turned the Bible into a selection of proof texts that confirms the specific religion of the Jehovah´s Witnesses. Each one of them is a peg and the Bible as a whole is a kind of coat stand on which the Watchtower Society hangs its doctrines.
Preaching takes place in a systematic way within a given area, from door to door. The Witnesses almost always go in pairs, and they keep a careful record of their work, because afterwards everything is checked and filed by the Watchtower Society. The Witnesses offer the magazines Awake! and The Watchtower to attract interest. The Witnesses have purchased these magazines themselves from the Watchtower Society, and they offer them free of charge to people in countries where door-to-door selling is prohibited, such as Denmark.
Rules and Regulations
Witnesses are requested to participate in door-to-door preaching, as well as in several meetings every week in the so-called Kingdom Halls. Apart from this large amount of labour, a certain pattern of life is also demanded from the Witnesses. Gradually the Watchtower Society has drawn up a long list of prohibitions. Among other things, a Witness is not allowed to smoke, to receive blood, to do military service, to celebrate feast days such as Christmas, birthdays and Shrove tuesday, to participate in political life or to vote in elections. Nor are the Witnesses allowed to read literature that is critical of the Watchtower Society.
A Witness will be expelled if he does not comply and show loyalty to the Society. Witnesses are not allowed to question the teachings of the Watchtower Society, and they must live in accordance with the fixed rules. If they do not obey orders they will be spied upon by their own local "congregation". In the event that a Witness is expelled, he will immediately be shunned by all the other Witnesses and by all his friends. The Witnesses are not even allowed to greet an expelled one if they meet him in the street. The purpose of this psychological punishment is to make the expelled one return to "the right path" and submit. It often ends with the expelled one experiencing severe mental problems, abandoned by former friends and family members.
In recent years, a number of Witnesses have left the organization of their own free will. Gradually they have come to feel exploited by the Watchtower Society, and little by little they have realized that the teaching of the Society is false.
In order to help expelled and deserted Witnesses, national support groups have been set up in some countries. In Denmark their address is:
Kristen Frihed, Stårupvej 4, 7800 Skive. Tel. (+45) 9751 2525 or (+45) 6228 1600 (e-mail:
, home page: Kristen Frihed).
Støttegruppen, Postbox 504, 7800 Skive. Tel.: (+45) 9752 1922. Or: Støttegruppen, c/o Gitte Redsøe Eriksen, Skarridsøgade 5, 1. tv, 4450 Jyderup, Tel. (+45) 5920 8101 (e-mail:
, home Page: Støttegruppen)
You can also write to the Dialog Center,
, about Jehovah's Witnesses.
In Denmark there are approximately 15,000 preachers within the Jehovah´s Witnesses, and a total of 21,000 followers. Globally there are by now an estimated 5.2 million Witnesses.