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Who Are Jehovah’s Witnesses?

In 1872, Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916), the second son of devout Presbyterian parents, founded the International Bible Students Association in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was his pur-pose, through intense Biblical study, to uncover God’s word, which had been “buried under a morass of pagan teachings” mistakenly adopted by mainstream Christian churches over the centuries.

In 1931, the Association under Russell’s successor, Joseph Franklin Rutherford (1869-1942), changed its name to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Invoking the prophet Isaiah (43:12) – “You are my witnesses, and I am God” – adherents have dedicated them-selves to bearing witness to Jehovah’s name and His Kingdom.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses anticipate the establishment of an earthly paradise under God’s Kingdom. They believe this Kingdom will emerge following Armageddon -a final battle between the forces of good and evil. The Witnesses use the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, as the main text for their beliefs. While they do not believe that Jesus is God, they consider Christ the chief agent for his father, who is God.

The Witnesses meet in churches called Kingdom Halls. Most members of local congregations are “publishers” expected to spend as much time as circumstances permit in door-to-door preaching. The Jehovah’s Witnesses publish books, tracts, record-ings, and periodicals, including The Watchtower and Awake, which appear in more than 100 languages and over 200 nations. Three corporations direct the activities of the Witnesses: the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania and the Brooklyn-based Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc. of New York and the International Bible Students Association. According to their figures, nearly five million “publishers” are presently active in 69,558 congregations in 229 countries.