I have a friend who is a Jehovah’s Witness. A while back he told me that we don’t have big differences in our beliefs so I brought up the issue of Jesus’ nature. “Do you think Jesus is divine?” I asked. “We don’t believe that” he asserted. And then he quoted a barrage of Scripture verses to prove his point.
One thing is certain: the Jehovah’s Witnesses know their Bible well. I emphasize their because Jehovah’s Witnesses only use one translation of Scripture, called the New World Translation, and as far as I know no one else uses it. If you are seeking to prove your point by quoting another Bible version you won’t gain much ground. For example, the reference to Jesus’ deity, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn. 1:1 ESV) differs in the New World Translation. Instead of stating that the Word (Jesus) “was with God and was God” it reads “the Word was with God, and the Word was a god” (Jn. 1:1 NWT). There are many more places where the NWT differs from other English Bible versions so that the text doesn’t state or imply that Jesus is divine. (To be fair, the NWT retains Thomas’s declaration to Jesus as “My Lord and my God!” (Jn. 20:28 NWT), but Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t see that as an admission of Jesus’ deity.) And these differences in translation require us to get involved in the details of Greek grammar. Needless to say, eyes start to glaze over when Greek grammar is discussed.
But there’s another way forward for the evangelical Christian conversing with a Jehovah’s Witness. Look for passages in the NWT (available online), which support Jesus’ deity. I’ll give one example. In Revelation 4, John sees a vision of God seated on his throne being worshiped by four living creatures and twenty-four elders. The twenty-four elders “fall down before him,” “worship him,” and “cast their crowns before the throne” as they say “You are worthy. ” In the next chapter, John sees another figure standing between the throne and the living creatures and elders. The figure is a lamb who looks like it has been slaughtered causing us to instantly identify the lamb with Jesus. As the scene unfolds the four living creatures and twenty-four elders fall down before the lamb and sing “You are worthy.” And then thousands of angels join in, “The Lamb that was slaughtered is worthy to receive the power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5:12 NWT). If that weren’t enough, the scene reaches its climax with every creature breaking forth in praise, “To the One sitting on the throne and to the Lamb be the blessing and the honor and the glory and the might forever and ever” (Rev. 5:13 NWT).
Think of what is happening here. Creatures who have just worshiped the one seated on the throne are worshiping the Lamb. The elders who fell down before God also fell down before the Lamb. If Jesus doesn’t share in God’s nature then John has just described the most blasphemous scene we could ever imagine happening right in front of God’s face. The scene only makes sense when we understand that Jesus shares in the nature of the one seated on the throne just as a human son shares in the nature of a human father.