Jehovah Witness is a religion founded by Charles Russell in Brooklyn, New York in 1914. The group is considered a Christian religion, but their beliefs differ from historic Christian beliefs. Jehovah Witness is said to have from 12-18 million adherents and they are know for their door to door proselyting and for the distribution of Watchtower magazine and related literature.
An Overview of Beliefs
The Jehovah Witnesses believe many of the same things as mainstream Christians including the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth and other cardinal doctrines. However, even though they believe in the Bible, they have created their own translation which differs widely from all other translations. In addition, they do not believe in the Trinity or in the deity of Christ and reject the symbols of Christianity, like the cross. They are also well known for their refusal to say the Pledge of Allegiance, allow blood transfusions or to celebrate Christmas and other traditional holidays. They reject doing these things based upon their understanding of the teaching of the Bible.
Views on Death and the After-Life
Jehovah Witnesses believe that those who gain entrance into the Kingdom will exist eternally. However, they do not believe in hell, and teach that the souls of the wicked dead will be annihilated.
The group departs from historic Christianity in their view of heaven. They believe that only 144,000 will go there to rule with God, and that other Jehovah's Witnesses will continue to live on the earth which they believe will be a restored Garden of Eden in the future.
Mourning and Funeral Rites
The funeral of a Jehovah witness normally takes place within a week after death. A short service is held at the Jehovah Witness meeting place, known as a Kingdom Hall, or at a funeral home and is led by the Congregational Elder. The funeral service is much like other Christian services including a short sermon, eulogies and prayers.
In recent decades the dress at funerals has become more casual. However, the Jehovah Witnesses have an expectation that men will wear a suit and tie and that women will dress up in modest attire. Anyone is welcome at a Jehovah Witness funeral.
Often a graveside committal service is conducted, but it is normally a very brief time I'm reading scriptures and offering prayer.
How to Express your Condolences
You may offer food or flowers to the grieving Jehovah Witness family. Expressions of sympathy can be a note of condolence, flowers, meals for the family, or a donation to a favorite charity. It is always best to express your condolences to the surviving spouse and family when possible, but otherwise you should send a card or letter of condolence when you first hear of the death.
Important note: The statements made about beliefs and rites are general in nature and may vary by sect, denomination, country or ethnic group. The information provided here is intended as an overview, and if you have questions about specific matters you should contact the clergy or other person conducting the funeral service. If you read anything in this section that differs from the beliefs in your tradition, please contact usso we can update this page.