Did Prince know the Prince of Peace?4
With the sudden death of rock music icon Prince, many have wondered whether or not he might have known Jesus Christ as his Savior. Continue reading . . .
With the sudden death of rock music icon Prince, many have wondered whether or not he might have known Jesus Christ as his Savior. I must confess that I never followed the career of Prince and I never intentionally listened to any of his music. I say “intentionally” because somewhere along the way I may have heard him sing, even though I wouldn’t have known who it was at the time. But I’m not here today to assess his talents as a musician. I’m sure many reading this were fans. I was not.
In any case, reports are that Prince was at one time a Seventh-Day-Adventist (a religious group with which former presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson affiliates). But from all that I’m hearing, Prince converted and became a Jehovah’s Witness. Some may think that because he was open and active in his practice of this religious faith that he was a born-again Christian, a follower of the Jesus of the Bible.
Rest assured, I’m no man’s judge. But I am the judge (as you must be also) of whether or not claims made by certain religious sects, cults, or other groups align with the teaching of the Bible. And I can say without hesitation that the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not.
Several things about their understanding of God and Christ should be noted.
First, Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the truth of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity, so they argue, is a Satanic invention which originated in ancient Babylon (@ 2,200 b.c.). The Jehovah’s Witnesses are, strictly speaking, Unitarian in their understanding of God.
Second, prior to his earthly advent Jesus Christ was known as Michael, the archangel. He is a creature, the first product of Jehovah God’s creative work. He was neither then, now, nor will he ever be equal with Jehovah. In this sense the JW’s are akin more to the fourth-century heresy of Arianism than they are to evangelical Christianity. NT scholar Bruce Metzger has rightly pointed out that according to JW theology, “Throughout his existence . . . Jesus Christ never was co-equal with God” (“The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jesus Christ: A Biblical and Theological Appraisal,” Theology Today, 70). He is not eternal, so say the JW’s, because, to use the words of Arius himself, “there was a time when he was not” (Metzger, 70).
Third, Jehovah’s Witnesses provide their own distinct (and distorted) translation of John 1:1 that reveals much of their theology. According to what is known as the New World Translation (NWT), John 1:1 reads as follows: “Originally the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” Metzger points out that a footnote which is added to the first word, “Originally,” reads, “Literally, ‘In (At) a beginning’” (74). This rendering is more destructive than even they realize, for it is tantamount to an affirmation of polytheism (the existence of many gods).
Fourth, whereas Jehovah’s Witnesses affirm the doctrine of the virgin birth, they do not hold to the doctrine of the Incarnation. This curious inconsistency is due in large part to their belief that, according to Philippians 2:6-11, Jesus Christ was wholly divested of his spirit existence when he became human flesh. At the point of conception in Mary’s womb, he ceased existing as a spirit and became, to the exclusion of any other mode of being, a man.
Fifth, Anthony Hoekema explains what JW’s believe about the man Christ Jesus:
“Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that Christ had (or has) two natures. While on earth Christ had only one nature: the nature of a man. Since previous to his birth from Mary, the Son of God is said to have had a spirit nature, of which he divested himself at the time he came to earth, we must conclude, according to Watchtower teaching, that the Christ who was born in Bethlehem is not the same individual who existed previously as the Archangel Michael” (272-73).
Sixth, Jesus became Jehovah God’s anointed one, a new creation with spirit life. In sum, Jesus became a spiritually-begotten (born again) son of God at his baptism.
Seventh, Christ was raised from the dead, but not physically or bodily. He is now a “spirit Son” who “at the time of his resurrection . . . was given immortality as a reward for his faithful course on earth; he was, in fact, the first creature to receive this gift. God now exalted his Son to be higher than he was before he lived and died as a man, and made him to be Head under Jehovah of God’s capital organization over the universe. The Son now resumed the name Michael, ‘to tie him with his prehuman existence’” (Hoekema, 275).
Eighth, according to Hoekema, “the life which Christ now enjoys is not human life, nor the life of a divine Person with a human nature, but angelic life – life as a spirit-creature called Michael. It is obvious, therefore, that Christ after his resurrection is for the Witnesses not in any sense human, or a being with a human nature. Thus there is no real continuity, either, between the second and third state of Christ’s existence. For this reason Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot really speak of the exaltation of Christ, since the individual who is exalted is not the same being as the individual who was humiliated. I conclude that what the three states of Christ’s experience in Watchtower theology really amount to is this: angel – man – angel, with no real continuity between the three” (275).
To simplify, the JW’s believe that in his death Jesus’ human nature, being sacrificed, was annihilated. It was as a reward for this act of sacrificial obedience that Jehovah gave him a divine, spirit nature. Thus, Metzger agrees with Hoekema’s assessment and says, “throughout there is an ill-conceived discontinuity between the pre-existent spirit creature, the earthly man Jesus, and the present spirit existence of Christ Jesus” (70).
Ninth, Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the penal, substitutionary work of Christ as a satisfaction to divine justice. The penalty for Adam’s sin was not eternal condemnation but physical death, to be followed by total annihilation. It was from the latter that Christ died to deliver mankind. His sole purpose was to restore “perfect human life with its rights and earthly prospects” which Adam, through sin, had forfeited.
Tenth, I can’t testify one way or the other whether Prince believed each of these doctrines officially espoused by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. But if he did, the “Jehovah” he may have claimed to know is not the God and Father of the eternal Son. And the “Michael/Jesus/Michael” he may have claimed to know is not the Jesus of the Bible.