Anyone who begins to study the doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell you that, unlike the majority of other Bible believing Christian groups throughout Church history, they do not believe that Jesus Christ is Almighty God in the flesh. Rather, Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) teach that Jesus is a created being whom they identify as the Archangel Michael (see the article: Jesus Superior to Angels for a response to this doctrine).
As such, they reserve their worship for Jehovah God, the Father, alone. Therefore, they do not sing songs of worship and praise to Jesus. It may therefore come as a surprise that even the Jehovah’s Witnesses unique Bible, the New World Translation (NWT), contains a clear and unambiguis reference to the worship of Jesus. Revelation 5:1-14 in the NWT reads as follows:
"And I saw in the right hand of the One seated upon the throne a scroll written within and on the reverse side, sealed tight with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice: "Who is worthy to open the scroll and loose its seals?" But neither in heaven nor upon earth nor underneath the earth was there a single one able to open the scroll or to look into it. And I gave way to a great deal of weeping because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. But one of the elders says to me: "Stop weeping. Look! The Lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered so as to open the scroll and its seven seals." And I saw standing in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures and in the midst of the elders a lamb as though it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which [eyes] mean the seven spirits of God that have been sent forth into the whole earth. And he went and at once took [it] out of the right hand of the One seated on the throne. And when he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp and golden bowls that were full of incense, and the [incense] means the prayers of the holy ones. And they sing a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth." And I saw, and I heard a voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders, and the number of them was myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: "The Lamb that was slaughtered is worthy to receive the power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing." And every creature that is in heaven and on earth and underneath the earth and on the sea, and all the things in them, I heard saying: "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." And the four living creatures went saying: "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped." (NWT, Rev. 5:1-14).
A straight and unbiased reading of the above quoted text in Revelation clearly leads one to the conclusion that it is right to sing songs of worship and praise to Jesus Christ ("the Lamb"). Notice that the songs of worship are not simply being sung through Jesus, or about Him, but literally ‘to‘ Him.
It is worth going through the above passage and making some observations and asking some questions. What is the context of the passage in question and does it look like the worship that only God should receive?
"And they sing a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,... (Rev 5:9).
Who was "slain" here? It is obviousely Jesus who is the Lamb. Is He having songs of worshipsang 'to' Him? Yes. If the Lamb has songs sung to Him in Heaven, shouldn't we also follow heavens example and sing songs of praise to Him?
"And I saw, and I heard a voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders, and the number of them was myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: "The Lamb that was slaughtered is worthy to receive the power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing." (Rev 5:11-12).
Can we really imagine that this would be appropriate behaviour towards a mere creature? Or to a mere angel? Again, sounds suspiciously like the worship that God alone should be receiving! But who is receiving it (as well as God the Father)? - the Lamb.
"And every creature that is in heaven and on earth and underneath the earth and on the sea, and all the things in them, I heard saying: "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)
Every creature? Surely this excludes Jesus from this category of creature doesn't it, as the Jehovah‘s Witnesses teach? Again, the Lamb is also receiving "blessing and honour and glory..." Is this really appropriate for someone who is other than True God? Surely not.
"And the four living creatures went saying: "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped." (Rev 5:14).
Speaks for itself. Some JWs may argue that the worship being given here is just obesience or respect and does not always necessarily mean actual worship like that which God would receive. Indeed, the greek word for worship can be translated as "obesiance". However, when we examine the context and see that songs of praise and worship are being sung to the Lamb and to the Father it is clear that in this instance, it is much more than mere obesiance or respect. The worship described here is the worship that only God alone should receive.
The Watchtower’s commentary on the book of Revelation, Revelation: Its Grand Climax At Hand!, states some interesting and revealing things concerning this passage. Firstly, it states that the expression "new song" is usually used of an act of praise to Jehovah God:
Footnote question 17 b, on page 87 of the book asks:
"How is the expression "new song" usually used in the Bible?" (Revelation: Its Grand Climax At Hand!, p. 87)
The answer to this question is provided on the same page:
"The expression "new song" occurs several times in the Bible and usually refers to praising Jehovah for some mighty act of deliverance. (Psalm 96:1; 98:1; 144:9)" (Revelation: Its Grand Climax At Hand!, p. 87).
Page 88 of the Watchtower’s commentary on the book of Revelation says of the praise that is sung to Jesus in this passage:
"What joy those 24 elders have in singing this new song of praise to the glorified Jesus!...What an impressive song of praise!...praising both the Father and the Son."
Apparantly, realising the possible implications of what is actually being said here, the writer of the Watchtower commentary tries to brush aside the importance of this by explaining that Jesus has not "replaced" Jehovah now that this praise is being sung to the Lamb and uses Philippians 2:9-11 to emphasize that the song is sung "to the glory of God the Father" (Page 88). This comment, however, is a straw man argument as the suggestion is made that Trinitarians believe that Jesus somehow replaces the Father. However, no Trinitarian would ever dispute that Jesus replaces the Father, so to suggest as such is at best innacurate and at worst deliberately misleading. In the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each seek the glory of the other, draws attention to the other, speaks to and of the other, dwell in one another, etc. So when Trinitarians sing songs of praise to Jesus they do indeed glorify the Father. It is the Father's will that we honour His Son just as we whould honour Him (John 5:23). Surely, this would also include giving the Son equal praise and worship as well.
Some JW Objections Considered
I have spent considerable time asking a number of Jehovah’s Witnesses, on different internet message boards, the question of why Jesus is having songs of praise and worship sung to Him in Revelation 5:1-14. The answers I have received have varied very widely indeed. Some of these objections will be highlighted and responses made:
Objection 1: Symbolic Praise and Worship.
Some JWs will argue that as the book of Revelation is very symbolic, then the songs being sung to Jesus are allegorical of something else. In other words, it is not literal songs of praise and worship that are being sung.
In fairness to the Watchtower Society, I have found a reference in one of their articles that states that they view the phrase "new song" as figurative:
"THE good news of God's kingdom that Jehovah's servants bring to the people of earth is termed a song, and not without good reason. It is beautiful, harmonious, bringing comfort and joy to the listeners, even as does a beautiful literal song. Most fittingly we are repeatedly commanded to sing that song, as at Psalm 96:1 and Isaiah 42:10: "Sing to Jehovah a new song." As Jehovah's servants we are not only commanded to sing this figurative song, but are also encouraged to sing literal songs as a part of our worship." (WT CD Rom, *** w70 4/1 220-2 Singing-a Part of Our Worship ***)
This is still not cut and dried however, and there certainly does seem to be some confusion with when the expression "new song" is literal or figurative, as the following quote from another Watchtower source indicates:
"Most fittingly, time and again God's Word tells us to voice appreciation by singing praises to God. Apparently there is a tendency to be lax in this regard, for so often the urgings are stated repetitively, as at Psalm 47:6, 7: "Make melody to God, make melody. Make melody to our King, make melody. For God is King of all the earth; make melody." Five times the psalmist calls upon us to make melody._See also Psalm 96:1, 2." (WT CD Rom, *** w75 1/1 29-31 Expressing Appreciation in Song ***,emphasis added).
The first Watchtower quote cites Psalm 96:1 as figurative whereas the more recent Watchtower quote cites the same Psalm in the context of the singing of a literal song to God with one's voice.
While it is certainly true that much of Revelation is allegorical, we must ask what is allegorical and what is literal? And to what extent? Clearly, the Watchtower Society view portions of the book of Revelation as literal. For example, the following themes in the book of Revelation are viewed as literal by the Society: Jehovah is Almighty, the Great Crowd, the 144,000 as a literal number, the activity and personal nature of Satan, Armageddon, the resurrection, the thousand year reign of Christ on a paradise earth, etc. The Watchtower‘s Revelation book does not appear to view the heavenly scene of worship in Revelation 5:1-14 as allegorical. Indeed, when one reads through the description there carefully one is left with the impression that the worship (at least) is literal. The Watchtower's commentary on Revelation states:
"25 What a joyful time that will be! Surely, what John describes here makes our hearts swell with happiness and stimulates us to join the heavenly hosts in singing heartfelt praises to Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. Are we not more determined than ever to endure in right works? If we do so, we can expect that, with Jehovah's help, we will be there individually at the happy climax, adding our voices to that universal chorus of praise. Certainly, the cherubic four living creatures and the resurrected anointed Christians are in full accord, for the vision ends with the words: "And the four living creatures went saying: 'Amen!' and the elders fell down and worshiped."-Revelation 5:14." (page 89, emphasis added)
Further evidence that the author of the Watchtower's Revelation commentary seems to view the heavenly songs of worship as literal are seen in footnote question 25. (a) for the above section of the book. We are asked to consider:
"Reading John's account of the universal anthem moves us to do what?"
The only answer that one could give here is that the universal anthem moves us to worship Jehovah and the Lamb. Or are we to conclude that we should go about in our day to day lives giving Jehovah ‘literal’ worship but the Son 'allegorical worship'?
Footnote question 25. (b) also states that the vision sets us a "splendid example":
"What splendid example is set for us by the four living creature and the 24 elders as the vision ends?"
Also, notice that the above mentioned quote from the Revelation commentary suggests that certain individual JWs will literally be present at the heavenly scene during this time to join in the praise:
"we will be there individually at the happy climax, adding our voices to that universal chorus of praise. (page 89, emphasis added)
Objection 2: "Praise" V. "Worship"?
Some JWs I have spoken to about the songs that are being sung to Jesus in Revelation 5:1-14 have attempted to argue that "praise" is different than "worship". We can praise Jesus, but worship only Jehovah.
Despite this tricky attempt at word play, the Watchtower Society appear to view the two as synonymous. This can be illustrated by the following quotations I found on the Watchtower’s website:
We "praise" God in prayer:
"The more you come to know God, the more you will be moved to praise him in prayer. And the more you draw near to Jehovah in reverential prayer, the closer your relationship with him will become." (How Should We Pray?: How Should We Pray to God? http://www.watchtower.org/library/w/1996/7/15/how_should_we_pray.htm)
Prayer is part of "worship":
"Prayer is part of our worship. Thus, we should pray only to God, Jehovah." (What Does God Require of Us?, Lesson 7, Drawing Close to God in Prayer http://www.watchtower.org/library/rq/article_07.htm)
1. We "praise" God in ‘prayer‘.
2. ‘Prayer’ is part of our "worship".
The following quotes from the Society’s publications further demonstrate that they seem to view praise and worship as being synonymous terms:
"Luke tells of Paul and Silas singing when in prison, and Paul’s encouragement to fellow believers was to sing songs of praise to Jehovah. (Acts 16:25; Eph. 5:18, 19; Col. 3:16) Paul’s statement at 1 Corinthians 14:15 concerning singing appears to indicate that it was a regular feature of Christian worship. In recording his inspired vision, John tells of various heavenly creatures singing to God and Christ . - Rev. 5:8-10; 14:3; 15:2-4." (Aid to Bible Understanding, p. 1192).
"No question about it, congregational singing is a beneficial part of the pure worship of the Christian witnesses of Jehovah. It is no mere formalism, but is singing that is to be entered into wholeheartedly by all in attendance. Why, such singing is often the only active part some are privileged to take at gatherings of God's people; this being especially true of the larger assemblies, where perhaps not one in a hundred has opportunity to admonish from the platform or otherwise take an active part in the worship. Since singing is a form of worship of Jehovah and one of the means by which we can admonish others as well as ourselves, Christians should guard against becoming careless or indifferent regarding it. Just as in prayer; when public prayer is offered at a gathering of the servants of Jehovah, we do not occupy our minds and hands with other things, but stand silent and attentive, so as to enter into the spirit of the prayer. So with our songs when there is congregational singing, we give them our attention, in this case by wholehearted singing. Therefore, let all Christians enter heartily into the singing of Kingdom songs at their gatherings for worship, be they large or small. We cannot think otherwise than that Jehovah God is pleased to hear his earthly servants praise him in song, and certainly we can never praise him enough for all he has done for us. So let us not neglect this form of praise and thanksgiving." (WT CD Rom *** w65 6/1 349 Praise Jehovah in Song *** Praise Jehovah in Song, emphasis added)
"With 128 pages and many new lyrics and melodies THE singing of songs is an integral part of the worship of Jehovah God, and how glad we are that this is so! It is at once a duty and a pleasure. Recognizing the obligation of Christians to sing songs of praise to Jehovah, the publishing agency of Jehovah's witnesses has from its earliest infancy been producing songbooks, ..."(WT CD Rom *** w66 5/15 313-6 A New Songbook! *** A New Songbook!)
Objection 3: A Song ‘About’ Jesus, or a Song Sung ‘to’ Jesus?
Some JWs will say that they do sing songs to Jesus, but when asked to give a more accurate definition, most who say this soon reveal that they are not singing 'to' Jesus, but simply 'about' Him. This has come up time and time again in my discussions with JWs. However, it must be stressed that a song ‘about’ Jesus is not the same as a song being sung 'to' Jesus. Having personally examined the latest Watchtower hymn book, one notices that there are a handful of songs that are sung ‘about’ Jesus, but none being sung to Him. Probably the nearest song that even borders on a song ‘to’ Jesus is "Hail Jehovah's Firstborn!" However, a careful reading of this song reveals that it is not 'to' Jesus, but rather 'about' Him. Now there is certainly nothing wrong with a song 'about' Jesus, but why not sing one 'to' Him, especially when the Bible contains a song ‘to‘ Him?
Objection 4: There is Nothing to Say we Can't Sing to Jesus in Our Litrature.
One JW on a message board stated: "...no one said it would be "wrong" to sing toward Jesus' person when it is called for." After searching through Watchtower material, this seemed to be so. There does not appear to be anything explicit in the Watchtower literature that I have examined (at least so far, I am still looking!) that explicitly forbids singing to Jesus. However, it is most certainly heavily implied in JW culture, theology, and practice, that one is not to sing to Jesus. The vast majority of JWs simply would not sing to Jesus Christ. I have asked the question - "would you sing songs `to' Jesus", to a number of JWs on various boards and have had very mixed reactions. Some ignore the question, most have said "no, they would not sing to Jesus", although some have answered 'yes', they would sing to Him. Many who fall into this latter category though seem to be confused as to what it means to sing 'to' someone and 'about' someone. When it is stressed if they would sing songs 'to' Jesus, most have said they would not do this. Only one JW lady, so far, has said that she would sing directly 'to' Jesus. When you think about it from the perspective of Watchtower theology - that Jesus is a creature, then it would be creature worship to sing to Him. Trinitarians do not have a problem with singing freely to Him, however, as we believe Him to be fully God.
Objection 5: A Vision.
This objection is sort of similar to the objection that the praise given is just symbolic. One JW objected in the following way:
"... in our view, one can hardly compare our position here on earth to a group in heaven that are directly in his presence according to this vision. Or are you in vision when you sing? We are not."
I resonded to this in the following way:
"No. I don't believe I am in a vision either when I address Christ in song. The Watchtower's commentary on Revelation (Revelation: Its Grand Climax at Hand!) states that those on earth are to follow the example set fourth in the vision, while of course not being in that vision themselves:The only answer one could possibly give to these questions is that we should be moved to sing to Jehovah God and the Lamb as we see from the example that is given in the Revelation passage.
Page 89 of the Watchower's Revelation: It’s Grand Climax at Hand! book certainly seems to be exhorting us to be singing songs of praise to Jehovah and Jesus: "25 What a joyful time that will be! Surely, what John describes here makes our hearts swell with happiness and stimulates us to join the heavenly hosts in singing heartfelt praises to Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. Are we not more determined than ever to endure in right works? If we do so, we can expect that, with Jehovah's help, we will be there individually at the happy climax, adding our voices to that universal chorus of praise. Certainly, the cherubic four living creatures and the resurrected anointed Christians are in full accord, for the vision ends with the words: "And the four living creatures went saying: 'Amen!' and the elders fell down and worshiped."-Revelation 5:14." (emphasis added) Footnote question 25. (a) for the above section of the book asks us to consider: "Reading John's account of the universal anthem moves us to do what?" Footnote question 25. (b) asks: "What splendid example is set for us by the four living creature and the 24 elders as the vision ends?"
The whole point of drawing attention to this issue of singing songs to Jesus is to highlight the fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not do this, despite the clear example found in the Bible to do so. This, coupled with the fact that their own commentary on Revelation also appears to lead one to the conclusion that songs can be sung to Jesus. Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to honour Christ, yet do not give Him the praise, honour, adoration, and worship that is rightly due to Him. This is all connected to their belief that Jesus Christ is not Almighty Jehovah God. If they believed Him to be Jehovah God, there would be no difficulty posed for them in singing praises and worship to Him.
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