Charles Taze Russell founded the Jehovah's Witnesses in 1872. He was succeeded by Judge Rutherford, Nathan Homer Knorr, and Frederick Franz. The Jehovah's Witnesses publish two periodicals, called "Awake!" and "The Watchtower", in which their views are espoused, and which have produced numerous contradictions and changing beliefs. The JW's are not Protestant, however, and should not even be considered Christian because of their rejection of some central Christian doctrines. Their teachings range from the erroneous to the bizarre.
According to JW's, only 144,000 people will go to heaven. This group is called the "Anointed", and consist of various people that lived between the Apostolic Age (not before, in Old Testament times) and 1935. The remainder of the "saved" live forever on Earth after Armageddon. This "revelation" was apparently given to Judge Rutherford in 1935. In defense of this peculiar doctrine, Witnesses cite Revelation 7:1-8 and Revelation 14:1-5. They read, in part: "And I heard the number of those who were sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel" (Rev. 7:4); "No one was able to master that song but the hundred and forty-four thousand . . . These are the ones that did not defile themselves with women; in fact, they are virgins". If Witnesses take these passages literally, the way they do the number 144,000, they would have to conclude that the 144,000 are celibate Jewish men. But what they do is take the 144,000 literally and the "sons of Israel" figuratively. The 144,000 are divided into 12,000 from each of twelve tribes (Rev. 7:5-8) but there are no such divisions among the JW's.
Furthermore, in addition to the 144,000, John saw "a huge crowd that no one could count" (Rev. 7:9), and these are in heaven: they stand before the throne and the Lamb (Rev. 7:9), and they were among the angels (Rev. 7:11) and the elders (see Rev. 4:1-8). In reality, all those who are written in the Book of Life (Rev. 21:27), all those who are saved, go to heaven (2 Cor. 5:1; Eph. 2:6; Phil. 3:20; Col. 1:4-5; Heb. 3:1;1 Peter 1:4). Paul says that those who die before the Second Coming, long after 1935, have no advantage over those who will be alive when He comes again (1 Thess. 4:15). Witnesses point to verses such as Psalms 37:29 to show that we will inherit the Earth forever, but such passages mean that the Israelites will inherit the Promised Land, which is now a heavenly home: "They [the Old Testament Saints] were seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking back to the place from which they had come, they would have had the opportunity of returning there. But they were searching for a better, a heavenly home" (Heb. 11:13-16). As to those in Old Testament times being excluded from heaven, we know that at least two Old Testament figures, Enoch and Elijah, were taken up to heaven (2 Kgs 2:11; Heb. 11:5). And Matthew states: "Many will come . . . and will find a place at the banquet in the kingdom of God with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Matt. 8:11).
Witnesses deny the Trinity, and as such, they say the Holy Spirit is not a person, but rather the active force of God. But in Acts, the Holy Spirit identifies Himself as a person: "the Spirit said to him: ‘There are two men in search of you. Go downstairs and set out with them unhesitatingly, for it is I who sent them'" (Acts 10:19-20). Jesus, in John 16, refers to the Holy Spirit as "He" numerous times. The Holy Spirit teaches, testifies, and reproves (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:8-11), speaks and hears (John 16:13-15; Acts 10:19-20), has knowledge of future events (Acts 21:11), prays and intercedes (Rom. 8:26), desires (Gal. 5:17), and grieves (Eph. 4:30), which proves His personhood.
According to Witnesses, Michael the Archangel and Jesus Christ are one and the same person. This is based on Daniel 10:13 and 12:1, Jude 9, and Revelation 12:7-8. But Hebrews reads: "To which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my son; today I have begotten you' . . . ‘Let all the angels of God worship him' . . . Of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels winds, and his ministers flaming fire'; but of the Son, ‘Your throne, O God, stands forever and ever' . . . To which of the angels has God ever said, ‘Sit at my right hand'" (Heb. 1:5, 6, 7-8, 13). Here, Jesus and the angels, which would include Michael the Archangel, are separated. Furthermore, God commands the angels to worship Jesus (Heb. 1:7), and since a creature cannot worship another creature, Jesus must not be a fellow angel.
In relation to this belief, Witnesses claim that the body of Christ no longer exists, because Jesus was not raised from the dead. But Paul says, "If Christ was not raised, your faith is worthless" (1 Cor. 15:17). Jesus says, "Destroy this temple . . . and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19), the "temple" being his body (John 2:21). He also says: "Look at my hands and my feet; it is really I. Touch me, and see that a ghost does not have flesh and bones like I do" (Luke 24:39). Jesus asked Thomas to put his fingers in the holes in his hands and side to prove He had risen from the dead (John 20:27), which He would not have done had He not risen.
One of their most distinctive characteristics is their refusal to receive blood transfusions. They say the Bible teaches that it is wrong: "You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood" (Lev. 17:14); "Abstain from . . . blood" (Acts 15:28, 29). First of all, these passages refer to animal blood. Secondly, profaning the life of an animal by eating its blood, and freely donating one's blood in order to sustain the life of another human, are completely different things. The Bible did not address blood transfusions because there was no such thing in those days, but Orthodox Jews today, who strictly obey the laws of the Old Testament, have nothing against blood transfusions. The biggest problem with the Witnesses' prohibition against "eating blood" is that "eating fat" is also prohibited by the same passages: "You [must] eat neither fat nor blood" (Lev. 3:17); "You shall eat no fat . . . the fat of an animal . . . may be put to any other use, but on no account shall you eat it . . . moreover you shall eat no blood whatever" (Lev 7:22-27). Now even Witnesses have nothing against eating a fatty piece of steak, but is it wrong to do so? No, because the Old Testament dietary laws were done away with in the Apostolic Age: "No one is free, therefore, to pass judgment on you in terms of what you eat or drink . . . All these were but a shadow of things to come" (Col. 2:16-17); "Thus did he [Jesus] render all foods clean" (Mark 7:19). Even the disciplinary laws made at the Council of Jerusalem were done away with as Jewish conversions ceased and the Judaizers died off (this was the reason the laws were made in the first place). Paul later instructs that Christians should not worry about abstaining from food that was offered to idols, unless it would confuse others they may have been with (1 Cor. 10:28-30). Jesus also commanded us to drink his blood (John 6), and whether he was speaking literally or not, He would not have said this if drinking blood was immoral.