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What is the Condition of the Dead?


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According to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, a person who dies simply ceases to exist. He lays unconscious in the grave until a future resurrection. The Watchtower teaches that a person does not possess an immaterial soul and/or spirit that survives the death of the body. Using Ecclesiastes 9:5 as their ultimate proof text, “....but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all....”, they fail to understand two things.

 1.) Solomon, throughout Ecclesiastes, is contrasting two points of view regarding man‘s dilemma in this  world. One comes from a secular, limited, humanistic view while the other comes from a godly, spiritual outlook. For example, to accept Ecclesiastes 9:5 as a literal face-value proof text, in order to be consistent, one must also conclude that all our days on earth are meaningless (9:9) and that "money is the answer for everything" (10:19 NIV). Obviously, both of these verses, accepted as literal, oppose the overall teaching of God's Word.

 2.) The further revelation of the New Testament scriptures clarifies verses in the Old Testament.

Therefore, as we will see after studying the New Testament, it becomes evident that Ecclesiastes 9:5 and its surrounding context is written from the viewpoint of limited human wisdom, not God‘s.

In the brochure, What Does God Require of Us?, p. 23, the Watchtower states: “The soul dies; it does not live on after death”. In order to teach this, the Watchtower had to redefine the biblical definitions of the words “soul” and “spirit”. So, according to them, the word soul really means man, or person. In other words, your soul and body are the same thing, they are not separate entities. Also, they teach that the spirit of a man is his “life-force”, or breath, that keeps him alive. Consider the following:

The “spirit” that departs from humans at death is the life force that originated with our Creator....This life force does not have any of the characteristics of the creature it animates, just as electricity does not take on the features of the equipment it powers. When someone dies, the spirit (life force) ceases to animate the body cells, much as a light goes out when the electricity is turned off. When the life force stops sustaining the human body, man-the soul-dies. Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, 1995, pp. 81-82.

While it is true that the bible does use the word soul to mean person or life, this is not the only way in which it is used. Jehovah’s Witnesses are very quick to read verses that support their interpretation of “soul”, but carefully avoid verses that are in conflict. The following verses, taken from the New World Translation are some that the Jehovah’s Witnesses side-step when answering the question, what is the condition of the dead?

1.) Matt 10:28 “And do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna” - Jesus makes it crystal clear that it is possible for the physical body to be killed while the soul continues to live on. Therefore, the soul must not be another name for our body, but an immaterial part of man that survives after death.

2.) Rev 6:9 “And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those slaughtered because of the word of God and because of the witness work that they used to have” - This one is real apparent. The souls of those whose bodies have already died are in heaven. It’s obvious that these people are very much alive. Not only are they in heaven, but they speak. The next verse says that “they cried with a loud voice, saying: ‘Until when, Sovereign Lord holy and true, are you refraining from judging and avenging our blood upon those who dwell on the earth?”

It’s interesting to read the Watchtower’s subtle twist of  verse 9. In its commentary on Revelation, the Watchtower identifies the people whom John was referring to: “They are anointed ones who in their day were martyred for their zealous ministry in upholding Jehovah’s Word and sovereignty. Their “souls [were] slaughtered because of the word of God and because of the witness work [mar ty ri’ an] that they used to have”. Revelation Its Grand Climax At Hand, 1988, p.100

Notice, the title of this chapter, in the above publication, is Slaughtered Souls’ Rewarded. Notice the twist, however. John is not saying that these are people whose souls were slaughtered on the earth prior to coming to heaven, like the Watchtower is saying, but that they are people whose souls are existing in heaven apart from their slain bodies.

3.) John 11:25-26 “Jesus said to her: "I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life; and everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all.” - Jesus said that those who live and exercise faith in Him will never die at all. (see also John 8:51) Since thousands upon thousands of believing Christians have physically died, they must somehow still be alive. Therefore, there must be a part of man that lives on after death.

4.) Phil 1:21-23 “For in my case to live is Christ, and to die, gain.” - How could death be gain over life for Paul if he was destined to go into a state of unconscious existence?  The reason why death was an advantage over life is given in verse 23: “I am under pressure from these two things; but what I do desire is the releasing and the being with Christ, for this, to be sure, is far better.”  No unconsciousness here. Paul says that when his physical body dies, he will be transported into the presence of Jesus Christ. See also 2 Co. 5:8

5.) 1 Kings 17:21-22 “And he proceeded to stretch himself upon the child three times and call to Jehovah and say: ‘O Jehovah my God, please, cause the soul of this child to come back within him.’ Finally Jehovah listened to Elijah’s voice, so that the soul of the child came back within him and he came to life.” Here’s one from the Old Testament. I think anyone can see, from this verse, that the soul is distinct and separate from the body. See also Psalm 42:5-6; 43:5  

6.) Acts 7:59 “And they went on casting stones at Stephen as he made appeal and said: ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” -Since the Watchtower teaches that a man’s spirit is only his “life force” or “breath”, why would Stephen ask Jesus to receive something that is about to cease existing? It would make sense, however, if Stephen were asking Jesus to receive an immaterial part of him that would keep on living after his death.

7.) Luke 23:46 “And Jesus called with a loud voice and said: ‘Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit” - Again, why would Jesus entrust his spirit to His Father if it was something immaterial that was about to be extinguished?

8.) Luke 23:42-43  ....”Jesus, remember me when you get into your kingdom.” And he said to him: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.” - Let’s see what happens when we move that comma up one word. “....Truly I tell you, today You will be with me in Paradise”. Wow! What a difference a little comma can make. In the former, Jesus is telling the thief that at some indefinite time in the future he will be with Him in Paradise. In the latter, the thief will be in Paradise with Jesus in a matter of hours, clearly indicating conscious existence after death. Which is the correct location for the comma?

This introductory phrase, Truly I tell you, occurs over 70 times in the Gospels. In other sections where this phrase appears, the New World Translation always places the comma after the word you. This is the only instance where the Watchtower places the comma in a different location. (The only exception to this is where placing the comma after the word “you” would make no grammatical sense. For example: John 1:51.) This is a clear example of the Watchtower tampering with the text to make it fit into its theological bias.

After reviewing the above verses, we believe that anyone approaching the Bible honestly and without a learned preconception, would come to the conclusion that man does have an immaterial nature that survives death. Certainly, you are free to believe whatever you want regarding this important doctrine. Our purpose in presenting these verses to you is that now, after seeing the Christian argument, you may be able to make a more informed decision about your belief on this topic.

Finally, “May the very God of peace sanctify YOU completely. And sound in every respect may the spirit and soul and body of YOU [brothers] be preserved in a blameless manner at the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23

Tower To Truth Ministries

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