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As I was doing some research on Jehovah’s Witnesses for this edition of Jude’s Journal, I received a very timely newsletter from the Sound Doctrine Ministry which is headed by Steven Tsoukalas. It is one of my goals to highlight various ministries from time to time, and I would like to share this newsletter with you.
Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christ’s Resurrection
JWs Counter-Arguments Answered
1 Peter 3:18. This verse reads that Jesus was "put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit." The JWs translation (New World Translation, a perverted translation that robs Christ of His deity) and the New American Standard Bible (a legitimate translation) read virtually the same here. The JWs argue from this verse that Jesus’ body was put to death (and then forever disposed of by Jehovah) but then His spirit was resurrected ("made alive in the spirit," i.e., His spirit only was raised). I shall focus on answering this latter point.
There are two ways to answer this misinterpretation by JWs. First is simply to call attention to the New International Version. This respected translation states that Jesus was "made alive by the Spirit," meaning that Jesus was resurrected by the Holy Spirit. Second is to interpret the phrases "in the flesh" and "in the spirit" as referring to the spheres or realms in which Jesus was put to death and made alive. He was put to death in the realm of the flesh (that is, the fleshly realm, where soldiers nailed him to the cross). But He was made alive in the spiritual realm. It is here that verses 19-20 follow nicely, "In which [i.e., in the spiritual realm to which Peter just referred] He went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, who once were disobedient…in the days of Noah." So the flow here is that Jesus was put to death in the fleshly realm, but made alive to go into the spiritual realm where disobedient spirits existed.
Next I examine three passages wherein JWs make the claim, "They did not recognize Jesus."
Luke 24:16. JWs assert that the two persons on the Emmaus road "did not recognize Him." A closer reading of the verse, however, reveals that the two "were kept from recognizing him" (New World Translation). There is quite a difference here. JWs claim that the two did not recognize Jesus because he had another body made to look like the one with which He walked the earth. The fact is, though, that Jesus appeared to them in the same body (see John 2:19-21, cf. Luke 24:36-39), and that they were kept from recognizing Him.
John 20:14. Mary Magdalene "did not discern it was Jesus" (New World Translation), say JWs. But upon closer examination of the context, there is an answer to their argument. Beginning with verse 1 we find a number of phenomena that distracted Mary from discerning that it was Jesus who appeared to her. She came to the tomb, only to find the stone removed from the opening of the tomb. She therefore thought someone had taken away the Lord’s body (v.2). Further, just before Jesus’ appearance to her she was weeping (v. 11) and saw two angels (v. 12). Once Jesus appeared, Mary had her back to Him (v. 14) and then turned, but did not discern it was the Lord. She then turned her back to Jesus again (implied in v. 16) but then turned toward Him a second time after He called her name. She then discerned it was Jesus.
The main point I wish to make is that the fault lies with Mary that she did not discern it was Jesus, not that Jesus had a different body. Mary was preoccupied with the several phenomena previously noted, and therefore did not recognize Him at first. Let’s suppose you are window shopping at the local mall. With most of your attention given to various items in the windows of stores, you happen to look at your best friend 20-30 feet away. You quickly turn back to your window gazing, not discerning that it was your friend. Then moments later your friend approaches you and you apologize, saying, "Sorry, I looked directly at you but did not recognize you. I was so into these displays." Certainly your friend did not possess another body. The fault, rather, was yours due to your preoccupation.
John 21:4. The New World Translation of the JWs reads, "Jesus stood on the beach, but the disciples did not, of course, discern that it was Jesus." Again the assumption of JWs is that Hesus had another body, not His original body, for that body was forever gone. This is the reason the disciples did not discern it was Jesus. But, again, a closer look at the context reveals the JWs misinterpretation. First, it was just becoming morning (v. 4), so we assume here that the brightest part of the day had not yet occurred. Second, in verse 8 we read that the disciples were 300 feet away in a boat!
Though at first glance JWs arguments for their denial of the bodily resurrection of Christ might seem powerful, upon examination of the contexts of biblical passage cited by them we find that they have misinterpreted these passages. A knowledge of the correct understanding of these texts by Christians can lead to a very powerful witnessing opportunity with JWs. May the Lord give us His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit to engage them fruitfully when they come knocking at our doors.
I would like to mention that you can find Sound Doctrine Ministries on the ‘net at www.sdmin.org and I encourage you to do so as this fine ministry has very good materials to read online as well as various items in print and on video and tape to order. Steven Tsoukalas is also available for speaking engagements for your church to speak on the subjects of the cults and the occult, their influence on society and what Christians can do about it.
Earnestly contending for the Faith which was once delivered unto the saints.