How did Jehovah's Witnesses Come to Practice Idolatry?

– posted by meleti

Jehovah’s Witnesses have become idolaters. An idolater is a person who worships an idol.  “Nonsense!” you say. “Untrue!” you counter. “You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about. If you go into any Kingdom Hall you won’t see any images. You won’t see people kissing the feet of an image. You won’t see people praying to an idol. You won’t see worshippers bowing down to an image.”

That’s true. I acknowledge that. Yet, I’m still going to declare that Jehovah’s Witnesses are idol worshippers. This wasn’t always the case. Certainly not when I was a young man pioneering in Colombia, a Catholic land in which there were many idols worshipped by the Catholics. But things have changed in the organization since then. Oh, I’m not saying that all Jehovah’s Witnesses have become idol worshippers, some haven’t. A small minority refuse to bow down to the graven image that Jehovah’s Witnesses now worship. But they are the exception that proves the rule, because those few faithful men and women are persecuted for refusing to worship the God of Jehovah’s Witnesses. And if you think by “God” I mean, Jehovah, you couldn’t be more wrong. For when given a choice as to which God to worship, Jehovah, or the JW idol, the majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses will bow down to the false god.

Before continuing, we need to lay a little background, because I know for many, this will be a very contentious issue.

We know that idol worship is condemned by God. But why? Why is it condemned? Revelation 22:15 tells us that outside of the gates of the New Jerusalem are “those who practice spiritism and those who are sexually immoral and the murderers and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices lying.”

So idol worship is on a par with spiritism, murder, and the promotion of falsehoods, lying, right? It is therefore a very serious offense.

Regarding what the Hebrew Scriptures have to say about idols, we have this delightful and insightful excerpt from the Insight book, published by the Watch Tower Corporation.

*** it-1 p. 1172 Idol, Idolatry ***

Faithful servants of Jehovah have always regarded idols with abhorrence. In Scripture, false gods and idols are repeatedly referred to in contemptible terms….Often mention is made of “dungy idols,” this expression being a rendering of the Hebrew word gil·lu·limʹ, which is related to a word meaning “dung.”

The 1984 New World Translation made use of this excerpt to show the Organization’s contempt for idol worship.

“And I shall certainly annihilate YOUR sacred high places and cut off YOUR incense stands and lay YOUR own carcasses upon the carcasses of YOUR dungy idols; and my soul will simply abhor YOU.” (Leviticus 26:30)

So, according to the word of God, idols are full of…well, you can finish that sentence, can’t you?

Now an idol is more than a simple image. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with having a statue or image of something.  It’s what you do with that image or statue that can constitute idolatry.

For it to be an idol, you have to worship it. In the Bible, the word most frequently translated as “to worship” is proskynéō. It means literally to bow down, “to kiss the ground when prostrating before a superior; to worship, ready "to fall down/prostrate oneself to adore on one's knees.” From HELPS Word-studies, 4352 proskynéō.

It is used at Revelation 22:9 when the angel rebukes John for bowing down to him and tells John to “Worship God!” (Literally, “bow down before God.”) It is also used at Hebrews 1:6 when it refers to God bringing his firstborn into the world and all the angels worshipping (proskynéō, bowing down before) him. The same verb is used in both places, one relating to God Almighty, and other to Jesus Christ.

If you want a more thorough discussion of this word and others which are related or rendered as “worship” in modern Bibles, see this video. [Insert card and QRcode]

But we have to ask ourselves a serious question. Is idolatry limited to worshipping physical images of wood or stone? No, it’s not. Not according to Scripture. It can also refer to rendering service to or submission to other things, both to people, institutions, and even to passions and desires. For instance:

“Deaden, therefore, your body members that are on the earth as respects sexual immorality, uncleanness, uncontrolled sexual passion, hurtful desire, and greediness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)

A greedy person obeys (bows down or submits to) his own selfish desires. Thus, he becomes an idolater.

Okay, I think we can all agree to this point. But I know that the average Jehovah’s Witness would balk at the idea that they have become like the ancient Israelites who stopped obeying God and replaced him with idol worship.

Remember, worship proskynéō means to bow down and submit to someone, to obey that person or persons as worshipping on our knees, the idea being one of total submission, not to Jehovah God, but to religious leaders, those who have placed the idol before us.

Okay, it’s time for a little self-examination. If you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses watching this video, ask yourself this: If you read in the Bible—the word of God, mind you—something which conflicts with what you have been taught in the publications of the Organization, when it comes time to share that knowledge with one of your Bible students, which do you teach? What the Bible says or what the Organization teaches?

And if you chose to teach what the Bible says, what is likely to happen when word of this gets out? Won’t your fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses tell the elders that you’re teaching something that disagrees with the publications? And when the elders hear of this, what will they do? Won’t they call you into the back room of the Kingdom Hall? You know they will.

And what will be the main question they will ask? Will they choose to discuss the merits of your discovery? Will they be willing to examine the Bible with you, reasoning with you on what God’s Word reveals? Hardly. What they will want to know, possibly the first question they will ask is, “Are you willing to obey the faithful slave?” or “Don’t you accept that the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses is God’s channel on earth?”

Rather than discuss God’s word with you, they want an affirmation of your loyalty and obedience to the men of the Governing Body. How did Jehovah’s Witnesses come to this?

They came to this point, slowly, subtly, and slyly. The way the great deceiver has always worked.

The Bible warns us: “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” (2 Corinthians 2:11)

The children of God are not unaware of Satan’s schemes, but those who only claim to be God’s children or worse, just his friends, seem to be easy prey. How did they come to believe that it is okay to submit to, or bow down to—in essence, worship—the Governing Body instead of worship Jehovah God himself? How was it possible for the Governing Body to get the elders to act as their unquestioning and loyal enforcers?

Again, some will say that they don’t bow down to the Governing Body. They simply obey Jehovah and that he uses the Governing Body as his channel. Let’s take a closer look at that reasoning and let’s allow the Governing Body to reveal what they think about this whole issue of worshipping or bowing down to them.

Back in 1988, just a few years after the Governing Body, as we now know it, was formed, the Organization released a book titled Revelation—Its Grand Climax at Hand.  We studied that book at least three different times in the Congregation Book Study. I seem to remember we did it four times, but I don’t trust my memory, so perhaps someone out there can confirm or deny that. The thing is, why study the same book over and over again?

If you go to, look up this book, and turn to Chapter 12, paragraphs 18 and 19, you’ll find the following claims which are pertinent to our discussion today:

“18 These, as a great crowd, wash their robes and make them white by exercising faith in Jesus’ sacrificial blood. (Revelation 7:9, 10, 14) Obeying Christ’s Kingdom rule, they hope to inherit its blessings here on earth. They come to Jesus’ anointed brothers and “bow down” to them, spiritually speaking, because ‘they have heard that God is with them.’ They minister to these anointed ones, with whom they themselves become united in a worldwide association of brothers.—Matthew 25:34-40; 1 Peter 5:9”

“19 From 1919 onward the anointed remnant, following Jesus’ example, launched into a vigorous campaign of declaring abroad the good news of the Kingdom. (Matthew 4:17; Romans 10:18) As a result, some of the modern synagogue of Satan, Christendom, came to this anointed  remnant, repented and ‘bowed down,’ acknowledging the slave’s authority. They too came to serve Jehovah in union with the older ones of the John class. This continued until the full number of Jesus’ anointed brothers was gathered. Following this, “a great crowd . . . out of all nations” has come to “bow down” to the anointed slave. (Revelation 7:3, 4, 9) Together, the slave and this great crowd serve as the one flock of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

You’ll notice that the term “bow down” is quoted in those paragraphs. Where are they getting that from? According to paragraph 11 of chapter 12, they get it from Revelation 3:9.

“11 Hence, Jesus promises them fruitage: “Look! I will give those from the synagogue of Satan who say they are Jews, and yet they are not but are lying​—look! I will make them come and do obeisance before your feet and make them know I have loved you.” (Revelation 3:9)”

Now, the word they render “do obeisance” in their Bible translation is the same word rendered “worship God” in Revelation 22:9 of the New World Translation: proskynéō (bow down or worship)

In 2012, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses introduced a change in their doctrine concerning the identity of the faithful and discrete slave of Matthew 24:45. No longer did it refer to the remnant of anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses on earth at any one time. Now, their “new light” declared that only the Governing Body constitutes the Faithful and Discreet Slave.  In one fell swoop, they demoted all the anointed remnant to mere has-beens, while asserting that they are the only ones worthy of being bowed down to. Since the terms “Governing Body” and “Faithful Slave” are now synonymous in Witness theology, if they were to republish the claims we’ve just read from the Revelation book, they would now read like this:

They come to the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and “bow down” to them, spiritually speaking…

some of the modern synagogue of Satan, Christendom, came to this Governing Body, repented and ‘bowed down,’ acknowledging the Governing Body’s authority.

Following this, “a great crowd . . . out of all nations” has come to “bow down” to the Governing Body.

And, if you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but you chose not to “bow down,” worship, proskynéō, this self-appointed Governing Body, you will be persecuted, ultimately by the forced shunning imposed by the laws of this so-called “faithful and discreet slave” so that you will be cut off from all family and friends. How similar this action is to that prophesied to mark the Wild Beast of Revelation which also creates an image that people must bow down to and if they don’t then “nobody can buy or sell expect the person having the mark of the wild beast or the number of its name.” (Revelation 13:16, 17)

Is this not the essence of idol worship? To obey the Governing Body even when they are teaching things that contradict the inspired Word of God is to render them the kind of sacred service or worship which we should only render to God. It is even as Song 62 from the Organization’s own song book states:

To whom do you belong?

Which god do you now obey?

Your master is he to whom you bow.

He is your god; you serve him now.

If you bow down to this self-appointed slave, this Governing Body, then it becomes your master, your god to whom you belong and who you serve.

If you analyze an ancient account of idol worship, you are going to be astonished by the parallels you’ll see between that account and what is now occurring within the ranks of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I refer to the time when the three Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were commanded to worship a golden idol. This was the occasion when the king of Babylon erected a great image of gold some 90 feet (about 30 meters) high. He then issued a command which we read in Daniel 3:4-6.

“The herald loudly proclaimed: “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and language groups, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, zither, triangular harp, stringed instrument, bagpipe, and all the other musical instruments, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Neb·u·chad·nezʹzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into the burning fiery furnace.”” (Daniel 3:4-6)

It is likely that Nebuchadnezzar went to all this trouble and expense because he needed to consolidate his rule over the many different tribes and peoples that he had conquered. Each had its own gods which it worshipped and obeyed.  Each had its own priesthood which ruled in the name of their gods. In this way, the priests served as the channel of their gods and since their gods didn’t exist, the priests became the leaders of their people. It is all about power ultimately, isn’t it? It’s a very old trick used to control people.

Nebuchadnezzar needed to be the ultimate ruler, so he sought to unify all these peoples by getting them to worship a single god image. One that he made and controlled.  “Unity” was his goal. What better way to accomplish that than to get them all to worship a single image that he himself had erected?  Then all would obey him as not only their political leader, but also as their religious leader. Then, in their eyes, he would have the power of God backing him.

But three young Hebrew men refused to bow down to this false god, this made-up idol. Of course, the king was unaware of this until some informers reported the refusal of those faithful men to bow down to the king’s image.

“. . .Now at that time some of the Chal·deʹans came forward and accused the Jews. They said to King Neb·u·chad·nezʹzar:. . .” (Daniel 3:8, 9)

“. . .there are certain Jews whom you appointed to administer the province of Babylon: Shaʹdrach, Meʹshach, and A·bedʹne·go. These men have paid no regard to you, O king. They are not serving your gods, and they refuse to worship the image of gold that you have set up.”” (Daniel 3:12)

Similarly, we all know that if you refuse to comply with the instructions from the Governing Body, the self-appointed faithful slave, there will be many, even close friends and family members, who will rush to the elders to report your “transgression”.

The elders will then demand you comply with the “direction” (a euphemism for rules or commands) of the Governing Body, and should you refuse, you will be thrown into the fiery furnace to be burnt up, consumed. In modern society, that is what shunning amounts to. It is an attempt to destroy the soul of the person. You are to be cut off from everyone you hold dear, from any support system you may have and need. You could be a teenage girl who has been sexually abused by an JW elder (it’s happened countless times) and if you turn your back on the Governing Body, they—through their faithful lieutenants, the local elders—will see that any emotional or spiritual support you may need and depend upon is removed, leaving you to fend for yourself. All this because you will not bow down to them, by mindlessly submitting to their rules and laws.

In former times, the Catholic Church would kill people that opposed their ecclesiastical power hierarchy, making them martyrs whom God will resurrect to life. But by shunning, Witnesses have caused something to occur which is far worse than the death of the body. They have caused so much trauma that many have lost their faith. We hear constant reports of suicide resulting from this emotional abuse.

Those three faithful Hebrews were saved from the fire. Their God, the true God, saved them by sending his angel. This caused a change of heart in the king, a change that is rarely seen in the local elders of any congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and certainly not in the members of the Governing Body.

“. . .Neb·u·chad·nezʹzar approached the door of the burning fiery furnace and said: “Shaʹdrach, Meʹshach, and A·bedʹne·go, you servants of the Most High God, step out and come here!” Shaʹdrach, Meʹshach, and A·bedʹne·go stepped out from the midst of the fire. And the satraps, prefects, governors, and the high officials of the king who were assembled there saw that the fire had had no effect on the bodies of these men; not a hair of their heads had been singed, their cloaks looked no different, and there was not even the smell of fire on them. Neb·u·chad·nezʹzar then declared: “Praised be the God of Shaʹdrach, Meʹshach, and A·bedʹne·go, who sent his angel and rescued his servants. They trusted in him and went against the command of the king and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.” (Daniel 3:26-28)

It took great faith for those young men to stand up to the king. They knew their God could rescue them, but they did not know that he would. If you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who has built his or her faith on belief that your salvation is based on your faith in Jesus Christ, and not on your membership in the Organization nor your obedience to the men of the Governing Body, then you might be facing a similar fiery ordeal.

Whether you survive that ordeal with your salvation hope intact depends on the foundation of your faith. Is it men? An Organization? Or Christ Jesus?

I’m not saying that you will not experience serious trauma from the ordeal of being cut off from all those you love and cherish due to the unscriptural shunning policy imposed by the Governing Body and enforced by its appointed elders.

Like the three faithful Hebrews, we also must endure a fiery test of our faith when we refuse to bow down to or worship men. Paul explains how this works in his letter to the Corinthians:

“Now if anyone builds on the foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, each one’s work will be shown for what it is, for the day will show it up, because it will be revealed by means of fire, and the fire itself will prove what sort of work each one has built. If anyone’s work that he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward; if anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved; yet, if so, it will be as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)

All those who call themselves Christians assume they have built their faith on the foundation of Jesus Christ. That means they have built their faith on his teachings. But so often, those teachings have been distorted, perverted and corrupted. As Paul points out, if we have built with such false teachings, we have been building with combustible materials like hay, straw, and wood, flammable materials that will be consumed by a fiery test.

However, if we worship in spirit and truth, rejecting the teachings of men and being faithful to the teachings of Jesus, then we have built upon the Christ as our foundation using non-flammable materials like gold, silver, and precious stones. In that case, our work remains, and we will receive the reward Paul promised.

Sadly, for many of us, we have spent a lifetime believing in doctrines of men. For me, the day came to show up what I had been using to build my faith, and it was like a fire consuming all the materials I thought were solid truths, like gold and silver. These were doctrines like the 1914 invisible presence of Christ, the generation that would see Armageddon, the salvation of the other sheep to an earthly paradise, and many more. When I saw these were all unscriptural teachings of men, they were all gone, burnt up like hay and straw. Many of you have gone through a similar situation and it can be very traumatic, a real test of faith. Many lose all faith in God.

But the teachings of Jesus were also part, a large part, of my belief structure, and those remained after this metaphorical fire. That is the case for many of us, and we have been saved, because now we can build only with the precious teachings of our Lord Jesus.

One such teaching is that Jesus is our sole leader. There is no earthly channel, no Governing Body between us and God.  Indeed, the Bible teaches us that the holy spirit leads us into all the truth and with that comes the fact expressed in 1 John 2:26, 27.

“I am writing these things to warn you about those who want to lead you astray. But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.” (1 John 2:26, 27)

So with that realization, comes the knowledge and assurance that we do not need any religious hierarchy nor human leaders to tell us what to believe. In fact, belonging to a religion is a sure way to build with hay, straw, and wood.

Men who follow men have despised us and have sought to destroy us through the sinful practice of shunning, thinking they are rendering a sacred service to God.

Their idol worship of men will not go unpunished. They despise those who refuse to bow down to the image that has been erected and which all Jehovah’s Witnesses are expected to worship and obey. But they should remember that the three Hebrews were saved by an angel of God.  Our Lord makes a similar allusion that all such haters should heed.

“. . .See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10)

Do not fear men who try to force you through fear and intimidation to worship the JW idol, their Governing Body. Be like those faithful Hebrews who were willing to die in a fiery furnace rather than bow down to a fake god. They were saved, as you will be, if you hold true to your faith. The only men who were consumed by that fire were the men who threw the Hebrews into the furnace.

“. . .So these men were tied up while still wearing their cloaks, garments, caps, and all their other clothing, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. Because the king’s command was so harsh and the furnace was exceptionally hot, the men who took up Shaʹdrach, Meʹshach, and A·bedʹne·go were the ones killed by the flames of the fire.” (Daniel 3:21, 22)

How often we see this irony in Scripture. When someone seeks to judge and condemn and punish a righteous servant of God, they will end up suffering the very condemnation and punishment they measure out to others.

It is easy for us to focus all our attention on the Governing Body or even the local elders as the perpetrators of this sin of idolatry, but remember what happened to the crowd on Pentecost after hearing Peter’s words:

He said, “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”

Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” (Acts 2:36, 37)

All Jehovah’s Witnesses and members of any religion that persecutes those who worship God in spirit and truth, all such ones who support their leaders will face a similar trial. Those Jews who repented for the sin of their community were forgiven by God, but the majority did not repent and so the Son of Man came and took away their nation. That happened only a few decades after Peter uttered his pronouncement. Nothing has changed. Hebrews 13:8 warns us that our Lord is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Thank you for watching. I’d like to thank all those who help us to continue this work through their generous contributions.

Archived Comments

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  • Comment by Peter on 2023-07-28 16:30:44

    Thanks for mentioning the elephant in the room Meleti. Idolatry is pretty common nowadays, which is basically favouring one aspect of the creator over others. Worshiping Jesus seems to come under that category too, so Christians, by definition, worship Christ and ignore the rest of the infinite creator, or assign some parts as good, and the rest not. That's probably why idolatry is frowned upon. Either you love the whole creator, or you won't achieve reunification with the Divine, which is it all - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly!

  • Comment by Zacheus on 2023-07-28 20:58:38

    I was appaled when my wife pimi came home from a convention with that badge.
    The damn thing is on the front of the kh.

  • Comment by gavindlt on 2023-07-28 23:30:18

    I loved the similarity of the FDS to the wild beast. Amazing article. Brilliant reasoning. Thank you!

  • Comment by cx_516 on 2023-07-29 19:04:06

    Thank you Eric. This was nice a nice perspective on the issue of JW misguided worship. You pointed out that much of the JW flawed logic stems from their interpretation of Rev 3:9 “…look! I will make them come and do obeisance before your feet…”

    Given that JW’s position themselves as a ‘type’ of the holy ones in Philadelphia, I’m not sure how to interpret what Jesus meant by “ proskeneio at your feet” in this instance. I’ve reviewed this verse on biblehub, but didn’t get much clarity with the differences of opinion. It seems that many groups would like the ‘honor’ of threatening their opponents with the fact that Jesus said ‘you’ll have to worship me one day’. This is obviously not what Jesus intended (we’re not being told to worship men appointed by Jesus), but I’m finding it difficult to clarify it logically. There seems to be an apparent connection to Joseph’s dream of the sun and stars and wheat where his estranged brothers repent and now before him (lots going on in that account).

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on the the misuse and correct understanding of Rev 3:9. Have you done any articles on that verse in the past?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Reply by Frankie on 2023-07-30 06:28:04

      Hi cx_516,
      I think that explanation in Barnes notes is useful:

      "Before them" not "them".

      • Reply by cx_516 on 2023-07-30 12:55:57

        Hi Frankie,

        Thank you, much appreciated. I missed that commentary reference. Very helpful.

        I also came across this concordance summary where the author makes some interesting observations of the scriptural context in instances where ‘bow down’ means either worship or respect:


        • Reply by Frankie on 2023-07-31 16:38:39

          Thank you for that link, cx_516.
          God bless you.

  • Comment by Leonardo Josephus on 2023-07-31 17:48:35

    From the moment I started reading this article, I realised where this was going, and yet somehow I had not thought of it before. But it is so true. Thank you Eric for strengthening my conviction to never return to the vomit.(2 Peter 2:22).

  • Comment by Psalmbee on 2023-08-08 22:45:34

    "The same yesterday, today and tomorrow".

    Our lord also told us "not to worry about tomorrow, it takes care of itself". (Matt 6:34)

    The idol identified in this article being as it may the GB has the entire flock that's under their influence worried to death about tomorrow. aka. (Armageddon). That's where they get their strength to sustain and maintain the Idol glory they receive from their influenced flock and also others that believe they are not influenced but still stay in the idol's camp for false protection from "tomorrow".


  • Comment by Northernexposure on 2023-08-21 09:46:08


    Another Well Stated, and True Expose!

    Never having fallen for, the JWs schemes, I still have 50 plus years of experience with them, as over the years my entire family have fallen to the allure, and become "baptized.." members... including my wife who has since faded...thankfully. Still, I am constantly intrigued, and puzzled as to how, and why people are so easily misguided, and how the JW Gov Body gains, and maintains such iron fisted, and complete mind control. I can attest that by mere association, I personally have experienced their tactics., yet It continues to baffle me how the minions have fallen under the spell, and so totally idolize the Gov Body. Satanic deception, I guess.

    Thanks Again Eric as you help to fill the great vacuum experienced by many of those faithful ones who see the light, and leave the JW org. Your articles, and Zoom meetings are truly helpful, and needed.


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