The Watchtower Mind Tricks

In a bid to uphold their false doctrine about the afterlife, the Watchtower Society resorts to various tactics to validate its position.

1. Deliberate mistranslation

In their New World Translation, they swallowed a camel in a bid to sustain their annihilation belief.

Matthew 27:50. “Again Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and yielded up his breath (NWT).

Luke 23:46. “And Jesus called with a loud voice and said: Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit (NWT).

These are parallel passages describing the same event: the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In Matthew’s account, ‘the Society’ had no difficulty substituting the word “breath” for the Greek “spirit” (pneuma), whereas based on the context and grammar, there’s no justification for such a replacement.

Jesus yielded up His spirit, not His “breath.” JWs forced the word “breath” into the Matthew text in order to cement their doctrine; it’s a Jedi mind to condition the Witness’ mind.

When they arrived at the passage in Luke, the JW translators too realized that their messy cat would be easily let out of the bag if they rendered it: “Father, into your hands I entrust my breath,” so they used the correct rendering “spirit” instead.

But the very fact that Christ dismissed His spirit proves the survival of the human spirit beyond the grave, or as Solomon so wisely put it: “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7).

Let me give another example.

Philippians 1:21–23. “For in my case to live is Christ, and to die, gain. Now if it be to live on in the flesh, this is a fruitage of my work—and yet which thing to select I do not know. I am under pressure from these two things; but what I do desire is the releasing and the being with Christ, for this, to be sure, is far better” (NWT).

Notice how the word “departing” was replaced with “releasing.” In their appendix to the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures (pp. 780-781), they wrote:

“In no way is the apostle here saying that immediately at his death he would be changed into spirit and would be with Christ forever … It is to this return of Christ and the apostle’s releasing to be always with the Lord that Paul refers at Philippians 1:23 … It must refer to the events at the time of Christ’s return and second presence…”

First of all, no reputable lexical work defines the Greek word analousai as “releasing.” The passage grates against their cherished belief, so they twist the text to conform to it.

Second, what apostle Paul is saying in Philippians 1 centers on his possible death and subsequent presence with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8), and also his concern toward the believers in Philippi. The coming of Christ is not the subject of discussion at all.

Paul never believed he would “sleep” in the grave till the resurrection because he clearly states he could either be with Christ after death or continue in the body to minister to the people. He described death as “gain.” There would be no gain in dying if men became non-existent after death. God is not the God of the dead or the non-existent (Mark 12:27).

Now, by denying that apostle Paul “would be changed into spirit and would be with Christ forever,” the Watchtower is also indirectly implying that he is not part of the 144,000 “anointed class.”

Why God would bypass Paul the apostle who “laboured more strenuously than all the rest” for the Gospel (1 Cor. 15:10) and was “poured out as a drink offering” as a martyr (Phil. 2:17), and consign him to the “great crowd” is a fatal contradiction that Jehovah’s Witnesses will have to explain.

2. Misquoting sources

In Reasoning from the Scriptures (pp. 169-170), a quote is offered from Encyclopedia Britannica (vol XXV, 236) to disprove the soul’s immortality. The part appearing in bold was intentionally omitted:

“In the NT, the Greek word psyche is often translated as “soul” but again should not be readily understood to have the meaning the word had for the Greek philosophers. It usually means “life” or “vitality,” or at times “the self.” While most Christians believe in a life after death, the Bible does not provide a clear description of how a person survives after death. Christian theologians have had to resort to the discourse of philosophers for an adequate means of describing survival of the individual after death, and philosophers have traditionally utilised the concept of the soul as the vehicle of immortality.”

3. Poisoning the well

They always link the Christian doctrine of the afterlife with paganism by misquoting their sources or utilizing the biased works of other annihilationists.

They also project a very negative image of pastors or Christian Bible teachers as ‘servants of Satan.’ This is a preemptive tactic deployed to seal the minds of JWs to whatever their opponents say.

The Bible’s teaching about the condition of the dead leaves many of Christendom’s clergymen in an awkward position. The very book on which they claim to base their teachings, the Bible conflicts with their doctrines. Yet, consciously or unconsciously, they feel impelled to reach into the Bible to seize on something to prove their point, thereby blinding themselves and others to the truth” (Is this Life All There Is? 1974, 98, 99).

They continue:

The ‘burning anger of Jehovah’ is against all who have misled their fellowmen by lying about God and his purposes. And he does not hold guiltless those who support such men by attending their religious services or being members of their organizations. The time left before the execution of divine judgement is short…you need to act quickly…to break all ties with the world empire of false religion.” (Ibid p. 187)

The scare-mongering and the appeal to isolation in these quotes are obvious. The amusing thing is that, on the one hand, JWs are told to quickly cut all ties with all churches, yet the JW who wrote this claims to know what church clergymen might say or do “consciously or unconsciously.” How did he know them?

Such a screeching rhetoric is aimed at preventing JWs from reading any reputable Christian work exposing the lies of the Watchtower Society. A renowned cult expert provides some interesting insights:

“First and foremost, the belief systems of the cults are characterized by closed-mindedness. They are not interested in a rational cognitive evaluation of facts. The organizational structure interprets the facts to the cultist, generally invoking the Bible and/or its respective founder as the ultimate source of its pronouncements … Secondly, cultic beliefs are characterized by genuine antagonism on a personal level since the cultist almost always identifies his dislike of the Christian message with the messenger who holds such opposing beliefs” (Walter Martin and Hank Hanegraaff, The Kingdom of the Cults, revised edition Bethany House, 1997, p. 33).

4. Comma shifting

Luke 23:43 “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

Here, Jesus was promising the pernitent thief that he would be with Him in paradise that very day. This is another proof of the immortality of the inner man and an eternal destination. This would torpedo the JW annihilation doctrine, so they shifted the comma to after the word “today” in their New World Translation (NWT) bible to read as:

“Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise”

To defend this spurious translation, they argue that:

“Westcott and Hort text put a comma in the Greek text before the word today… in the original Greek, no comma is found” (Kingdom Interlinear Translation, 1969, 408).

The fact is, the punctuation in English is determined by the context of the passage. The NWT has no scholarly support for this mis-punctuation. This is why all Bible versions (with the exception of the NWT) renders the comma after “you” and not “today.”

Greek scholars are in agreement. Dr Randolph Yaeger in his work, The Renaissance New Testament translates Luke 23:43 as:

“Therefore He said to him, truly I am telling you, Today you shall be with me in paradise.”

Greek scholar, Kenneth Wuest renders it:

“And He said to him, Assuredly I to you am saying, Today you will be with me in paradise” (The New Testament- An Expanded Translation, Grand Rapids, MI, 1961, 203).

As stated elsewhere, these are the tactics employed when a religious organization is bereft of truth.

Dr. Ron Rhodes explains why the JWs had to tamper with this Bible text:

“It is helpful to observe how the phrase, ‘Truly, I say unto you’ is used elsewhere in Scripture. The phrase – which translates the Greek word amen soi lego – occurs 74 times in the Gospels and is always used as an introductory expression …

“In 73 out of 74 times the phrase occurs in the Gospels, the New World Translation places a break – such as a comma – immediately after the phrase, ‘Truly I tell you’. Luke 23:43 is the only occurrence of the phrase in which the New World Translation does not place a break after it. Why? … this would go against Watchtower theology” (Reasoning from The Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Harvest House, 1993, 328).

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Surviving the Loss

In my previous post, I shared on how to deal with grief which is a predictable response to the loss of a friend or even a priced possession.

Many people have “snapped” and ended up doing much damage to others and their own selves, because grief can make people say, do and think irrational things.

There is a misguided belief that I’ve encountered – and I think it’s rooted in ignorance – that a Christian who dies from an accident, sickness or natural disaster must have lacked faith in God or His approval to have so died. This is a myopic thinking.

The Bible indicates that accidents can happen to anyone at anytime (Eccl. 9:11). As Wayne Grudem points out in his work, Bible Doctrine, death is a reality, whether for Christians or non-Christians; it doesn’t mean that it’s a penalty for their individual sin.

We live in a fallen world and we all experience injuries, ageing, and natural disasters (floods, violent storms and earthquakes). Although God does answers prayers to deliver Christians (and also non-Christians) from some of these effects of the Fall for a time, nevertheless, Christians eventually experience these things.

Our salvation doesn’t make us immune to illness, ageing or physical death. Death which is “the last enemy” is not yet destroyed (1Cor 15:26). Until then, all of humanity is still subject to it.

While the world’s highest goal is preserving one’s own physical life at all costs, for a Christian, obedience to God and faithfulness to Him even in death is our greatest goal (Phil. 1:20, Rev. 12:11).

One of my friends, Wale, who lost his mother to cancer said to me, “Even though she died at the time she was supposed to enjoy the fruit of her labour on us, I’m somewhat relieved that she is no more in pain. And I’m glad that she accepted Christ as her Lord. She prayed for each one of us before her death.”

For a Christian, death is not the end, it is only an exit door to be with God in eternal glory. Drawing spiritual strength from Christ during a loss is also vital because you are more vulnerable to superstitions, hallucinations and false beliefs at that period.

Some people claim to see or hear the deceased – in dream or reality – and from there conclude that the dead do protect the living.

Many cultures actually perform various rites to honour the dead, and in some cases, supposedly invoke “their spirits” to avenge their death.

I saw a video clip of a bereaved young lady talking to her father’s remains: “Father take care of us as if you are alive … rest but don’t forget us and don’t sleep, don’t rest.”

Though, there are cultural precepts for these practices, they are unscriptural prayers (or concepts) that shouldn’t find a place among Christians. When a person dies, his spirit has departed. It’s unbiblical and illogical to suggest that a person gains the ability to answer prayers or protect because he is dead.

Finding a support group where you can talk about your loss is also helpful. Some grieving person’s need someone to talk to and share their feelings with. This is why Christians should not neglect those who are bereaved; they need our support, encouragement and prayers.

If you are still experiencing grief, you can write down what you like about the deceased and the moments you shared. You can also make an album of photographs or letters.

Participate in new activities that will fill that void. You can also use your experience to encourage others. I know a widow who lost her husband to prostate cancer. It was really tough on her, but later, she began to mine something positive out of her loss. She began advocating for men to go for prostate cancer screening and share how she overcame her own brush with grief and depression.

I also read about a woman named Valene who lost her 19 year old son to brain tumour. Her husband committed suicide due to the grief. But she finally overcame her pain and today has a support group to help other people heal after a loss. 

There is light at the end of a dark tunnel. Sometimes life takes us through the valley so we can help comfort others who will pass through the same. 

Dealing with Grief and Loss

“I was asleep in my dorm room when my sister called. She was frantic and crying, and said mum was in a plane crash. It took me a while to digest. It was the longest night of my life,” says Jimmy.

“On Sunday morning, when I later called home, my father told me they found her, but that she didn’t make it. I think at that moment, my legs buckled and the room seemed like it was spinning and I couldn’t understand it,” he said.

A widow whose husband died at work told a reporter: “He wasn’t sick before he left the house. He wasn’t given to fasting, so he would always eat well. We ate together before he left the house that morning. So, how did it happen? What happened to him?”

Holding her baby in her arms, she broke down in tears, “He never came back! They only brought his bag home. I never knew I wouldn’t see him again. The next time I saw him was in death. Who would take care of his four children?”

These scenarios play out all over the world. We have all received news of someone’s demise before. He or she could be a friend, relative, marriage partner, colleague, church member, or a lover. We all know how we felt at that moment.

“When I received news of my mother’s death, I fainted,” said Tope (who at the time didn’t know his father). “My mother put in all her effort for me to get educated. Death took her away. My hope was gone.”

The first normal reaction to the death of a loved one is sorrow and grief. Grief is a natural response to loss, and loss comes in different forms. It is an emotional suffering one feels when someone (or something) one loves is taken away.

The more significant the loss is, the more intense the grief. And the death of a loved one results in the most intense grief. Such loss usually inflicts a wound on a person’s heart and its scars can remain for a long time.

Some Christians believe weeping over someone’s death indicates a lack of faith. But the Bible furnishes us with examples of godly men and women who wept over tragic losses.

Abraham was a man of faith, yet when Sarah died, he “came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her” (Gen. 23:2). David wept over his son, Absalom’s death (2 Sam. 18:33).

When the Lord Jesus got to Lazarus’ tomb, He wept (Jn. 11:35). When Stephen died, devout men “made great lamentation over him” (Acts 8:2). God is not against crying over a loss. And it’s not an indication of lack of faith.

Grief has several symptoms. This includes sadness, depression, anger, social withdrawal, anxiety, apathy, loneliness, longing for who was lost, blaming of self or others and questioning of beliefs.

People differ in the way they grieve, sometimes depending on culture. Some people resort to alcohol, illegal drugs or abuse of prescription drugs to cope with grief. The duration of the grieving also varies from person to person.

According to a Medical textbook:

“Regardless of the duration of the grieving process, there are two basic goals: (1) healing the self and (2) recovering from the loss. Other factors that influence grieving are the type of loss, life experiences with various changes and transitions, religious beliefs, cultural background, and personality type” (Brunner & Suddarth’s Textbook of Medical-Surgical Nursing, 12th edition, Wolters Kluwer Health, 2010, pp. 105-106).

There are three main stages of grief:

(1) Early reaction – this is the stage when you newly received the news of (or witnessed) the death of a loved one. It is characterized by initial shock, disbelief, denial, emotional numbness, and anger.

At this stage, there is a tendency to become angry at the doctors, the hospital, the system, the deceased one for not taking his own health seriously and even at God for taking the person away at a critical time.

Stella, who lost her father reflects, “My mother was too flippant with my dad’s health and my dad was too stubborn. If he had listened to her he wouldn’t have died.” This is a normal stage of grief. A bereaved person lashes out at friends and relatives.

(2) Acute grief – characterized by mood changes, guilt, self-condemnation, extreme fatigue, insomnia, appetite changes, reduced work capacity, hallucinations – feeling, hearing or seeing the deceased.

A grieving person struggles with guilt. Some blame themselves for talking harshly to the deceased; for what they didn’t say or do; for not doing enough.

Ayo, who lost his wife during childbirth lamented, “The most painful thing for me is that she suffered so much before she died. She cried and bled on and on, but that did not even move [the nurses on duty] … I only took her there because that was where she had her antenatal and they knew her health history. If I had known I would have taken her to a private hospital.”

(3) Levelling off period – characterized by acceptance of the tragedy, sadness with nostalgia, more pleasant memories of the deceased and sometimes with humour. This is the stage where people recover.

It must be emphasized, however, that there is no fixed pattern of grief or time frame that everyone must follow to recover. The grieving process can be intense or shorter for many people as time goes by.

How to cope with grief after a loss.

I. Make a conscious determination to move on with life. That implies that you shouldn’t let others dictate to you how you must grieve.

Some people will tell you if don’t cry enough, you are not sorry about the loss, while some will say that you have to “be strong” in the face of a loss i.e must not cry. These are myths reinforced by cultural stereotypes.

Don’t force yourself into a mould created by the society. A grieving person needs to let out that pain and the easiest way is to cry. Though as Christians, we shouldn’t mourn like those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13-14).

II. Do not grieve alone. The grieving period is the time to turn to family and friends for support. Don’t burn all your bridges. “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgement” (Proverbs 18:1).

It’s dangerous for a grieving person to be abandoned by people. Even when Job experienced tragedy, his friends came around to comfort him (Job 2:11). If you are comforting a grieving person, you may not need to talk much, your presence and sympathy alone go a long way.

When I lost a close friend in 2012, I visited her mother. She was overwhelmed with grief. As I was struggling to offer some words of comfort, I sensed that she needed someone to listen to her tell her side of what happened. She had been accused of killing her daughter and had a lot of anger on the inside, but my presence assured her that at least someone wasn’t judging her, and that made a difference.

III. Don’t be in haste to make any critical decision. This includes moving to a new place, selling or giving away your home or items belonging to the deceased or entering a new romantic relationship. Give yourself some time to reflect on the steps you want to take.

When you are under a huge emotional stress, your sense of judgement may be clouded and you may regret some decisions later if you make them hastily. “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty” (Prov. 21:5).

IV. Look after your physical health. Grief causes either a loss of or increase in appetite for food or sleep. If these are not checked, they can affect one’s physical health. It is normal for a bereaved person to feel disoriented and anxious, but adhering to your normal daily duties and activities can help.

Have a specific time to sleep, get up, eat or do certain chores. You can combat fatigue and stress by eating, sleeping and exercising right. Avoid numbing your feeling with drugs or alcohol.

V. Find your feet spiritually. Grief makes a person vulnerable to doubting the love and power of God. There is a sort of anger that is often directed at God for not answering our prayers made for the deceased to live or for taking the person away at a critical time.

A certain man who lost his four children in a building collapse cried “I thought God would even spare one of them for me. But they came to tell me that none of them is alive.” This pain leads to doubt or apathy towards the things of God.

The devil uses such painful experiences to attack our helmet of salvation and break off our shield of faith. Some people can direct their anger inward driving them to suicide. This is why the grieving period is the time to renew one’s faith in God’s Word and seek solace in Him in prayer, otherwise it’s easy to fall away.

In the midst of that loss, look up to “the father of mercies and the God of all comfort” (2Cor. 1:3) and allow the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to comfort you in your grief. Open your heart to Jesus, the Balm of Gilead to heal your pain.