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What to Say to the Jehovah's Witnesses

You may have visitors one Saturday morning. You open your door, and there stand two conservative-looking people, both in their 60's.

They will smile. They'll ask if you think the world has lots of problems, and would you like to hear about God's solution, and his wonderful kingdom.

You'll recognize the spiel immediately: they're Jehovah's Witnesses. Whatever you do, INVITE THEM IN. Offer them coffee. You'll have lots to talk about.

Jehovah's Witnesses aren't "mainstream" Christians. They don't believe in the deity of Jesus; they say he was actually the archangel Michael. They are absolute pacifists; won't fight in a war. They won't participate in a lottery (that's gambling).

There's one "zinger" that you can nail them on (remember that they pretend to believe the Bible): They don't believe in eternal punishment for unbelievers ... perpetual torment in a fiery hell. They believe that when you get tossed into the lake of fire in Revelation 19, you are burned up   —   utterly destroyed, and it's all over for you. Annihilation of the soul.

You can nail them on this (it leaves them staring at you like a deer in headlights). Here's how:

Jesus told a story about Lazarus and a rich man; it's Luke 16:19ff. Lazarus was very poor; he ate scraps of food that fell from the rich man's table. Well, they both die (Lazarus and the rich man), and Lazarus goes to heaven, and the rich man goes to hell ("being in torment," the KJV says). The rich man (who doesn't have a name) looks over across the gulf separating heaven from hell, and begs Lazarus to go warn his brothers back on earth, so that they won't end up in this horrible place (hell).

In other words, in this story, the man in hell is suffering. He isn't being destroyed by fire.

The JW's say that this story is a PARABLE, and therefore isn't "true" (the events didn't really happen), and therefore this story told by Jesus is NOT proof that hell exists (that is, a hell of conscious suffering). That's wrong ... and here's why:

In EVERY instance where Jesus told a parable (a made-up story to illustrate a truth), it was something that COULD have happened in real life   —   farmers sowing seeds, or brides with lamps   —   Jesus never told a parable about flying dogs, or magic beans, or people spinning straw into gold. In other words, if this story (the Lazarus story) WAS a parable, then it is proof that this story (a man going to hell after he died, and suffering) COULD have happened in reality. Saying that this story is a Jesus parable proves that a "suffering-in-hell" afterlife is real.

But ... this story is NOT a parable, and here's how we know: One of the characters (Lazarus) is given a name. NOWHERE in the Gospels does Jesus ever give an actual name to a character in a parable. It's always "a man" or "a farmer" or "ten virgins."

The use of the proper name "Lazarus" indicates that Jesus is telling a story that ACTUALLY HAPPENED. He's telling a true story, not a parable.

•   If it IS a parable ... eternal suffering in hell is a Biblical reality because (a) impossible things and (b) characters with proper names are not featured in Jesus' parables.

•   If it's NOT a parable ... eternal suffering in hell is a Biblical reality because THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED (i.e., a rich man died, went to hell, and suffered).