Here is a basic outline of what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe about the ransom sacrifice of Jesus:
• Adam (a perfect man) was destined to live forever on a paradise earth (Eden).
• Adam disobeyed God and therefore lost his right to live forever on paradise earth.
• Adam (as representative head of all humanity) brought sin and death into the world and this was passed on to his offspring – so we are all sinners.
• Jehovah sent his only-begotten son, Jesus, to live a perfect life in order to ‘buy back’ that which Adam lost.
• Jesus achieved this by living a sinless life and by enduring a painful death on the ‘torture stake’.
• Jesus rose from the dead 3 days later to show that he had conquered sin and death, hence he had paid the ransom.
• Jesus bought back for us that which Adam lost and has given us the chance to do what Adam didn’t – obey Jehovah with the hope of attaining everlasting life on a paradise earth
• People need to ‘exercise’ faith in this ransom sacrifice to have any hope of attaining eternal life.
The Watchtower Society teaches its adherents that the ransom Jesus paid only – opened the way – rather than dealt with the problem. They see Jesus’ death as a kind of ‘down payment’ enabling those who exercise faith in the ransom of Jesus and who are obedient to Watchtower decrees, to possibly have a chance of everlasting life. JWs are taught that though salvation is a gift, it has to be earned… which of course means it isn’t a gift!
Imagine receiving a gift on your birthday from a loved one and after you have opened it they put they hand out and ask you to pay for it. This sums up what the Watchtower teaches. Jesus’ ransom sacrifice is not enough he has only given us the opportunity to prove ourselves ‘worthy’ of salvation.
“When a person, on the basis of the Scriptural knowledge he has gained has belief, it would be a mistake for him [one who has belief in Christ] to think that he is now saved and cannot fall. He must show by his endurance in the Christian faith that he is worthy of salvation… Salvation from death is a gift from God to those that obey him, not to those that disobey” (The Watchtower, March 1, 1960, p134)
Of course all of this is contrary to Scripture. None of us are worthy of salvation:
As it is written:
“There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” Romans 3:10 NKJV
‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…’ Romans 3:23 NKJV
The Watchtower, like many other groups have a works orientated salvation. So what did Jesus’ death and resurrection actually achieve according to the Watchtower?
Since a perfect human life was lost, no imperfect human life could ever buy it back. (Psalm 49:7, 8) What was needed was a ransom equal in value to what was lost. This is in harmony with the principle of perfect justice found in God’s Word, which says: “Soul will be for soul.” (Deuteronomy 19:21) So, what would cover the value of the perfect human soul, or life, that Adam lost? Another perfect human life was the “corresponding ransom” that was required.—1 Timothy 2:6.
(What the Bible really teaches p50)
The Watchtower believes that Jesus was nothing more than the exact equivalent to Adam. Jesus was a perfect human who did what Adam failed to do; he lived a perfect life. Therefore, Jesus was purely a corresponding (like for like) ‘human’ ransom.
“the ransom must precisely fit that which it is supposed to cover – Adam’s perfect human life”; “the loss of a perfect human life would require the payment of a perfect human life – nothing more, nothing less”; “Jesus…. possessed what Adam had lost – perfect human life. Finally a human who could cover the cost of sin”;“a corresponding ransom” (15th Feb. 1999 Watchtower)
The word ‘corresponding’ used here is taken from the New World Translation rendering of 1 Timothy 2:5. 6 which says:
‘For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all…’
It will be no surprise to learn that the word ‘corresponding’ does not appear in the original Greek and has been added to support the Watchtower’s pre-determined theological position.
The fact that the Watchtower insist that Jesus was only a man as Adam was a man, is further confused by the fact that they teach that Jesus is also the Archangel Michael. Was it a human or an angel that ransomed us?? The Bible is clear that Jesus, though fully human, was also fully God. It was the God/man Christ Jesus who paid the ransom.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 NKJV
Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. Acts 20:28 NKJV
The Watchtower’s denial of the deity of Christ flies in the face of the Bible and severely limits their understanding of what Jesus achieved on the cross.
How was the ransom paid? On the 14th day of the Jewish month Nisan in 33 C.E., God allowed his perfect and sinless Son to be executed. Jesus thus sacrificed his perfect human life “once for all time.” (Hebrews 10:10) On the third day after Jesus died, Jehovah raised him back to spirit life. In heaven, Jesus presented to God the value of his perfect human life sacrificed as a ransom in exchange for Adam’s offspring. (Hebrews 9:24) Jehovah accepted the value of Jesus’ sacrifice as the ransom needed to deliver mankind from slavery to sin and death.—Romans 3:23, 24. (What the Bible really teaches p51, 53)
Here is the classic Watchtower trick of adding scripture references to make their adherents believe that what is being said is biblical. Take Hebrews 10:10 for example. The above quote says: Jesus thus sacrificed his perfect human life “once for all time.” (Hebrews 10:10)
Jesus sanctified his perfect human life? Hebrews 10:10 says:
By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all’
The writer to the Hebrews informs us that we have been ‘sanctified’ (made holy, made righteous) through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Through the death of Jesus, we were ransomed and set free, made righteous in His sight. This is not something we can do ourselves, this is not something we earn by good works, and this is purely down to the price that Jesus paid for us; a fact the great Apostle knew all too well:
For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. Romans 4:3,4 NKJV
Later in the article, the Watchtower discusses the benefits of the ransom; which they suggest are threefold:
1) The forgiveness of sins.
Because of inherited imperfection, we have a real struggle to do what is right. All of us sin either in word or in deed. But by means of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice, we can receive “the forgiveness of our sins.” (Colossians 1:13, 14) To gain that forgiveness, however, we must be truly repentant. We must also humbly appeal to Jehovah, asking his forgiveness on the basis of our faith in the ransom sacrifice of his Son. 1 John 1:8,9
(What the Bible really teaches p53)
Though we would pretty much agree with what is said here, it is what is not said that is to be of concern. To a Jehovah’s Witness ‘sin’ is much more than breaking God’s law, it is disobedience to the Watchtower Society, it is independent thinking, it is failing to fall in line with ALL that Jehovah’s spirit-directed organisation teaches.
“Avoid independent thinking…questioning the counsel that is provided by God’s visible organization.” (Watchtower, Jan. 15, 1983 p. 22).
“[A] mature Christian must be in unity and full harmony with fellow believers as far as faith and knowledge are concerned. He does not advocate or insist on personal opinions or harbour private ideas when it comes to Bible understanding. Rather, he has complete confidence in the truth as it is revealed by Jehovah God through his Son, Jesus Christ, and “the faithful and discreet slave.”
(Watchtower, August 1st, 2001, p. 14).
2) A clean conscience before God.
A guilty conscience can easily lead to hopelessness and make us feel worthless. Through the forgiveness made possible by the ransom, though, Jehovah kindly enables us to worship him with a clean conscience despite our imperfection. (Hebrews 9:13, 14) This makes it possible for us to have freeness of speech with Jehovah. Therefore, we can freely approach him in prayer. (Hebrews 4:14- 16) Maintaining a clean conscience gives peace of mind, promotes self-respect, and contributes to happiness. (What the Bible really teaches p53)
Again, I have no problem with what is said here (other than their constant use of the name Jehovah!). Though as someone who has been involved in this group, I would testify that a guilty conscience is something that ordinary rank and file Jehovah’s Witnesses have to deal with on a daily basis. The guilt is often connected to the demands that the Watchtower places on individuals and families. The pressure to perform, to be doing ‘enough’ to please Jehovah is constant; especially so as ‘the end’ is so near!
3) The hope of everlasting life on a paradise earth.
“The wages sin pays is death,” says Romans 6:23. The same verse adds: “But the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.” In Chapter 3 of this book, we discussed the blessings of the coming earthly Paradise. (Revelation 21:3, 4) All those future blessings, including life everlasting in perfect health, are made possible because Jesus died for us. To receive those blessings, we need to show that we appreciate the gift of the ransom.
(What the Bible really teaches p54)
In quoting Romans 6:23, the Watchtower rightly points out that the gift of God is everlasting life because of Jesus ransom sacrifice; but then the wrongly tag on their own belief that everlasting life is to be on a paradise earth. (see Review of Chapter 3). Notice what it says: To receive those blessings, we need to show that we appreciate the gift of the ransom. In the final section of this chapter, the Watchtower shows what you have to do to EARN the FREE GIFT.
The article says that there are 3 things that a person can do to ‘show appreciation’ for the ransom Jehovah provided:
1) Get to know more about the Great Giver, Jehovah. (John 17:3)
A study of the Bible with the aid of this publication will help you to do that. As you grow in knowledge of Jehovah, your love for him will deepen. In turn, that love will make you want to please him.—1 John 5:3. (What the Bible really teaches p55)
In other words, study our publications and find out all that the Watchtower tells you that you have to do to please Jehovah. Then, fear of being rejected at Armageddon, will make you want to please him.
2) Exercise faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice.
Regarding Jesus, it is said: “He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life.” (John 3:36) How can we exercise faith in Jesus? Such faith is not shown by words alone. “Faith without works is dead,” says James 2:26. Yes, true faith is proved by “works,” that is, by our actions. One way to show that we have faith in Jesus is by doing our best to imitate him not just in what we say but also in what we do.—John 13:15. (What the Bible really teaches p55)
The quote from John 3:36 from the NWT has the word ‘exercises’ which does not appear in the Greek. This addition is to again endorse the Watchtower view that a person has to ‘work’ in order to receive the ‘gift of eternal life’. James 2:26 does indeed say that ‘faith without works is dead’ but this work flows from faith, out of a love for what God has done for us in Jesus. Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us that:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 1For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
No one worked as hard as the Apostle Paul to be please God, but he came to believe that salvation is by grace through faith, and no amount of good works will ever be enough to save a person.
It is interesting to note that when asked this question: “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” John 6:28,29 NKJV
3) Attend the annual observance of the Lord’s Evening Meal.
On the evening of Nisan 14, 33 C.E., Jesus introduced a special observance that the Bible calls “the Lord’s evening meal.” (1 Corinthians 11:20; Matthew 26:26-28) This observance is also called the Memorial of Christ’s death. Jesus instituted it to help his apostles and all true Christians after them to bear in mind that by means of his death as a perfect human, he gave his soul, or life, as a ransom. Regarding this observance, Jesus commanded: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) Observing the Memorial reminds us of the great love shown by both Jehovah and Jesus in connection with the ransom. We can show our appreciation for the ransom by being present at the yearly observance of the Memorial of Jesus’ death.(What the Bible really teaches p55,56)
So many things could be said about this but a couple of points will suffice.
The Watchtower are keen to invite the public to the memorial supper and every year millions of invites are given out. Linking gratitude to Jehovah with attendance at this event is just a ploy to make people attend. The memorial supper is a ‘big’ event for Jehovah’s Witnesses, but is what they do, biblical?
Clearly the Bible records Jesus words that we are to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Him (Luke 22:19), but where in the Bible does it say that partaking in it is limited to 144,000? Also, Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11 are quite challenging to Jehovah’s Witnesses:
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 NKJV
As Paul explains the Lord’s Supper to the church at Corinth, he does not limit the partakers to 144,000. He also says that as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till he comes. The Watchtower teaches that Jesus came in 1914… so why do they continue to have a memorial supper?
To a Jehovah’s Witness Christ’s ransom sacrifice did little more than give them an opportunity to prove themselves worthy of receiving everlasting life. If only they would read and accept what the Apostle Paul said:
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Romans 5:6-11 NKJV
Please share these verses with the next JW who knocks on your door, and pray that God would deliver them from the kingdom of darkness into the glorious freedom that can only be found in Jesus Christ our Lord!