A Jehovah’s Witness is a member of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society was formed in 1879, and is well known for its programs of outreach through such publications as Watchtower Magazine, the official magazine of the Jehovah’s Witness faith.
What do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?
Witnesses believe in one God, not the Trinity. Like most Christians, they believe that Jesus Christ died for humankind’s sins, however they do not believe that he was physically resurrected after his crucifixion. They believe that he was only spiritually resurrected.
One of the key elements of the Jehovah’s Witness faith is their belief that the end of the world is coming soon. Witnesses believe that we have been in the end times since 1914 and that theirs is the only branch of the Christian faith that can offer salvation.
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate Christmas, birthdays, or any holidays with a pagan origin. They are also prohibited from entering into what they consider unclean practices such as receiving blood transfusions, and entering military service is prohibited.
Members believe that only Jehovah’s Witnesses will be saved at the end of the world, and of those, only a limited number of the most faithful. Witnesses believe in Heaven, but do not believe in Hell.
Jehovah’s Witness Beliefs About Death
Unlike many other religions, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that death is not just the death of the physical body but also the death of the soul. “When a person dies, he ceases to exist. Death is the opposite of life. The dead do not see or hear or think. Not even one part of us survives the death of the body. We do not possess an immortal soul or spirit.”
However, they do believe that resurrection is possible. Witnesses believe that 144,000 of Jesus’ most faithful followers will be resurrected to rule with Him after the Earth is destroyed. Witnesses believe that most of these spots are already taken, with only about 8,500 remaining. This number declines as deaths occur, so is growing ever smaller.
It’s also important to note that they believe resurrection is spiritual, not physical, as was Jesus’ resurrection after he was crucified.
Beliefs About Cremation
As Witnesses believe in spiritual rather than physical resurrection, the faith does not have any prohibitions against cremation.
The question regarding whether cremation is a permissible practice for Jehovah’s Witnesses (or for Christianity at large) was answered in the June 2014 edition of Watchtower Magazine as follows: “Scriptures do not present any basic objection to the practice of cremation…The Scriptural hope for the dead is the resurrection—God’s restoration of the person to life. Whether a dead person is cremated or not, Jehovah is not limited in his ability to restore the person to life with a new body.”
The article continued, “Christians do well to take into consideration social norms, local sentiments, and legal requirements regarding the disposition of dead bodies. (2 Cor. 6:3, 4) Then, whether the body of a deceased person is to be cremated or not is a personal or family decision.”
Generally speaking, a funeral or memorial for a Jehovah’s Witness should be a simple affair, as similar as possible to the simple burial that was held for Christ. No wakes or celebrations are to be held. Flowers are permissible but must not give the impression of a pagan ritual.
If you or a loved one is considering cremation, we at Neptune Society encourage you to consider carefully your own position on the subject, discuss your options with your religious leader, and make the choice you believe is right for you and your family. For more articles in this series, please see our religion and cremation article archive.