How to Respond to the Jehovah’s Witness’ Publication “What Does the Bible Really Teach?” — Part Six
Where Are the Dead?
by Wilbur Lingle
Since the Watchtower Society does not believe in the Biblical teaching that humans have an eternal soul which separates from the body at the time of physical death and then exists in heaven or hell, it has to use a lot of double-talk to try to justify its belief? that man does not possess an eternal soul, and that when a person dies there is nothing conscious that continues to exist.
The Watchtower Society’s false teaching that “hell” is “the common grave of mankind” is the very foundation for all the rest of its false teachings.
This belief has a domino effect. If man is not basically sinful (which is what the Society believes) so that the unrepentant do not deserve any punishment in the hereafter, then man can make himself acceptable through his own merits by following the instructions of the Watchtower Society. Thus man does not need a Divine Savior who is very God. There goes the Deity of Christ! All man needs is a “little help”–so Jesus as a “perfect man” set an example for us to follow, and His death gives just about everyone a second chance on the new earth to possibly merit eternal life. If man is not basically sinful, then he does not need the Holy Spirit to work sanctification, thus the Holy Spirit is reduced to “an influence.” The Society has a group of men in Brooklyn, NY, at its headquarters who think they know what the Bible teaches. No need of the HolySpirit to lead us into the truth of the Bible.
Many unresolved problems arise out of its teaching that man does not have a soul that is separate from the human body at death, and one of these is in what form are the 144,000 when they go to heaven–since the Society teaches that physical bodies cannot go to heaven. The Society states that the 144,000 in heaven are “spirit beings.” But since the Society teaches that man is only body and spirit, which is the breath that keeps the body alive, and nothing continues to exist when the body goes into the grave, then there is absolutely nothing available for the 144,000 to exist in heaven. The Society is very evasive and unclear as to what it actually believes, so you can use questions from this chapter to point up this problem and hopefully get the Witness to admit this problem and see the contradictory teachings of the Society.
In this chapter it is best to stick to some main questions and not spend a lot of time on issues that are not important.
Page 58, paragraph 4, lines 7-10, “Our memories, feelings and senses do not continue to function independently in some mysterious way. They do not survive the destruction of our brain.”
Then on the same page, paragraph 5, beginning with line 4, “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.”
And at the end of paragraph 6, beginning at the top of page 59, we read, “We are mortal and do not survive the death of our body. The life we enjoy is like the flame of a candle. When the flame is put out, it does not go anywhere. It is simply gone.”
Question #1: I have heard that the Society teaches that only 144,000 people are going to heaven. Is this correct?
Question #2: I have also heard that physical bodies will not be in heaven. Is this correct?
Question #3: I have further heard that the Society teaches that all the members of the 144,000 who died prior to 1914 were resurrected and went to heaven at that time. Is this correct?
Question #4: I have heard that, since 1914, those who claim to be of the 144,000 go directly to heaven at the time of their physical death. Is this correct?
Question #5: This is all very perplexing and confusing to me! We have just read that “When a person dies, he ceases to exist.” “The dead do not see or hear or think. Not even one part of us survives the death of the body.” But I understand that the 144,000 are supposed to live and reign with Christ for 1000 years! They would need to think! However, since there is nothing that can “think” outside of the body, and bodies do not go to heaven, then in what form do these 144,000 exist in heaven if these people have died and “cease to exist”? To me this is an utter impossibility. So please explain to me what went to heaven?
Response: They go as spirit beings.
Question #6: Since nothing in man exists after death, and there is nothing spiritual in man, then exactly what is this “spirit being” and where did it come from?
Response: (They might take you to 1 Corinthians 15:44 which reads, “It is sown a physical body, it is raised up a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one.” If this is the response, then you can ask these questions.)
Question #7: Are you telling me that in the resurrection everyone will be changed from a physical body to a spiritual body?
Response: (It will be hard for them to say “Yes,” since those who are to be resurrected on the new earth are to have physical bodies. Which of the following questions you use should depend upon their answer.)
Question #8: I don’t have the faintest idea of what you are talking about. According to what we just read from this book, man would need a physical body to have a brain in order to think! You have not given me anything from the Bible that would lead me to this conclusion! Please give me a more understandable answer.
Response: (You are not going to receive much of a one, but your purpose is to try and get them to think and show them the Society does not have a Biblical answer.)
Question #9: What you are telling me does not seem to harmonize with the Bible! Let’s turn and read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. These verses explain quite clearly what happens when Christ comes back in the clouds for the believers and then returns to heaven to begin to reign. In verse 14 it states that when Christ comes back He will be bring personages back with Him to be united with their resurrected bodies. So something previously had to have gone to heaven! Who are these who are coming back with Christ? Then it states that the dead will be resurrected along with the living who are in Christ, and they will “be caught away in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we shall always be with [the] Lord.” These verses are quite clear. At the return of Christ the dead physical bodies will be raised and the living who are in Christ, in physical bodies, will return to heaven with Jesus Christ and will always be with Him in heaven. (Nothing about living on a new earth!) So the Bible does teach that something continues to exist after death and that physical bodies will be in heaven. Would you please explain to me how the Watchtower Society harmonizes this and many other scriptures with its teachings that physical bodies can’t go to heaven and nothing can exist outside of a physical body, yet 144,000 go to heaven in an indescribable “spiritual body”?
Response: (Probably none.)
Page 58, paragraph 6, line two. “As for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all.” Then Scripture references are given. Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 which reads, “For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, neither do they anymore have wages, because the remembrance of them has been forgotten. Also their love and their hate and their jealousy have already perished, and they have no portion anymore to time indefinite in anything that has to be done under the sun.” (Note: This passage merely declares that the dead lose their ability to know what is taking place here on earth. (“under the sun”), from which they have departed.)
And verse 10: “All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, the place to which you are going.” Then it refers to Psalm 146:4: “His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts do perish” (Emphasis added).
If one is to take these NWT-rendered verses literally–that when people die they are conscious of nothing–then the whole section must be taken literally, and in this case it would mean that when people die they are not only annihilated and conscious of nothing, but that is the complete end of them. No resurrection. No going onto a new earth or the 144,000 going to heaven. The Witness needs to be pressed to see this contradiction. (You need to keep in mind what the Watchtower Society’s teachings are at this point. As we have just seen above, the Society teaches that nothing continues to exist when a person dies. Then, as I pointed out before, the 144,000 are said to go to heaven as “spirit beings.” It teaches that just about everyone who has lived will be resurrected during the Millennium and given a second chance to respond to new laws that will be given at that time. It further teaches that when these people are resurrected they will be given a “new” body, not a resurrected body similar to the one they had on earth. In spite of the fact that it teaches that nothing exists after death, it teaches that the thoughts and the personality of the person goes into the “memory bank” in God’s mind. Thus it still exists! Then what is stored in the “memory bank” is placed in this newly created body. But not the memory of all people is stored. The Society teaches that those who will be resurrected go to “hell=the common grave”—temporary oblivion–but those who will not be resurrected, like disfellowshipped Jehovah’s Witnesses and those who do not respond to the Watchtower teaching since 1914, go to “Gehenna” which is complete annihilation and never will be resurrected in the future. However, the Bible nowhere says that we go “into the memory of God” to await resurrection.)
Question #1: So the Watchtower Society takes the expression, “As for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all” literally and says that mankind is completely annihilated at death?
Question #2: Does the Watchtower Society hold that all that is written in Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, 10, and in Psalm 146:4 is to be taken literally?
Response: (I am not sure how they will respond, but they should say “Yes.” If they do not, then ask them what parts are to be taken as “literal” and what as “figurative.” Whatever they answer, then ask them how does one determine what is to be take “literally” and what is to be take “figuratively”? The following questions presume that they gave you a “Yes” answer for question #2.)
Question #3: For me this creates a real problem. In Ecclesiastes 9:5 it states that the remembrance of these people has been “forgotten.” Then in Psalm 146:4 it states, “his thoughts have perished.” Since there is nothing in the Bible that states that what was contained in the brain of a person at death goes into God’s memory and these verses state that the “remembrance” has been “forgotten” and “perished,” then how can the Society teach that what was in the brain before death remains in the mind of Yahweh?
Question #4: Please note the words in verses 6, “They have no portion anymore to time indefinite in anything that has to be done under the sun.” If you will turn to Psalm 90:2 we read, “Even from time indefinite to time indefinite you are God.” Other Bibles read, “Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” So the words “to time indefinite” mean “everlasting.” Therefore, if the Society is to take the expression “as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all” and have “perished,” then it must mean that at death all life ceases to exist and there will never be any kind of resurrection in the future. Could you please tell me how the Society can take a part of these verses to be literal–to try to prove one teaching and then completely ignore the rest of the verses in context and teach something that is just the opposite of what is written?
Response: (It is going to be very hard for them to give you a good explanation, but you have presented a very important point. Depending how the conversation goes, you can continue to pursue the matter.)
At the bottom of page 58 there is a note that reads, “For a discussion of the words ‘soul’ and ‘spirit,’ please see the Appendix, pages 208-211.” Since you have already discussed some of the issue, I do not see any reason for wasting you time and going over this material with the Jehovah’s Witness you are dealing with.
Page 64, paragraph 15 reads, “What the Bible teaches about the condition of the dead is comforting.”
Question: (You can uses this as an opportunity to explain the gospel and the “blessed hope” of heaven that we have in Jesus Christ.) For those of us who have come into a personal relationship with Yahweh through faith in the shed blood of Jesus, which was provided for the forgiveness of our sins so that we can fellowship with God now and spend all eternity in heaven with Him, the fact of being nonexisting is not much of a comfort! I have never read anything in the Bible that we, as born-again Christians, are to look forward to death and hope to go into an unconscious state! I read just the opposite. Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 5:1-8. The Apostle Paul had a great longing to leave this life, not to go into the grave, but to immediately go to heaven (v. 2). He knew that the very moment he breathed his last he would immediately go to heaven and be in the presence of the Father and the Son. Also we find the same thing in Philippians 1:21-23. Paul had a desire to be released from his physical body because he had the assurance of going immediately to heaven! He stated that going to heaven was far better than anything this earth could offer. So the Bible teaches, “Absent from the body, immediately present with the Lord.” To me this is far more comforting than looking forward to being unconscious in the grave! (I know that what is taught in the Bible about the future of the unsaved is not very comforting, but for the Christian it is very comforting to know that we go to heaven the very moment we die.) Could you please explain why it would be more comforting knowing you were going into a cold, damp grave than going to a perfect heaven where you can eternally worship and adore the Father and the Son?
Page 64, paragraph 16. “Does your religion agree with what the Bible teaches about the dead? Most do not. Why? Because their teachings have been influenced by Satan. He uses false religion to get people to believe that after their body dies, they will continue to live in the spirit realm. This is a lie that Satan combines with other lies to turn people away from Jehovah God. How so?” Then in the next paragraph it goes on to state that the doctrine of hell is not scriptural.
Question: This is a very confusing statement to me. Why would Satan, who wants people to do evil and have them believe that they will never be punished for their evil deeds (even as he told Eve, that she would not die if she ate the fruit) be the one responsible for the teaching that when man dies he will eternally be punished for his evil deeds? To me, this would tend to work against Satan. If people really believed that they are going to have to suffer in the next life for the evil deeds they do in this life, and for ignoring Yahweh, it seems that this should cause man to repent and live a righteous life so that he does not have to suffer in the next life! I think it would be more in character for Satan to tell people that “since God is really a God of love, they can go on sinning and get away with it because this loving God would not think of punishing evil for all eternity”! Could you tell me what advantage it would be for Satan to “scare” people into thinking that they will be punished for eternity, which might cause them to break off being a slave of Satan and instead follow Yahweh, because they didn’t want to suffer in the future?
Page 64, paragraph 17. “As noted earlier, some religions teach that if a person lives a bad life, after death he will go to a place of fiery torment to suffer forever. This teaching dishonors God. Jehovah is a God of love and would never make people suffer in this way.”
Question #1: This statement is quite disturbing. I don’t think America would be basically described as a nation of “hate.” Yet I am so thankful that our government doesn’t have the same attitude as the Watchtower Society. I do not think it is dishonoring to the American Government to put a murderer into prison and make him suffer for the rest of his life! I think this is only “justice,” and “fair” to the rest of the law-abiding citizens. In fact, I am very glad that those who commit murder and other crimes are kept off the street so that I can safely move about. Then why is God unloving if He punishes evil?
Response: (I am not sure of what reply you will receive.)
Question #2: If I was driving down the highway and there was a big sign in the road warning that a bridge was out and I should take another road, but I ignored the sign and then wrecked my car because there was no bridge, whose fault would it be?
Response: Yours, of course.
Question #3: Since God has warned people about what will happen if they ignore the salvation that Jesus Christ has provided at such a great price, if they ignore it and are punished, then why should this be “dishonoring to God”?
Response: (You will probably get a very weak one.)
Question #4: This statement is quite disturbing when we think of Job. Here was a righteous man who tried to honor God in all that he did. In Job 1:10 it says, “Have not you yourself put up a hedge about him and about his house and about everything that he has all around?” Satan could not touch Job without Yahweh’s permission. Yet God let Job be severely tried. He lost his family, health, and possessions. He lost everything he had in this world except his wife, but she turned against him. If it is so unloving to punish evil men for their own evil acts, then how do you explain God’s allowing such a righteous man to be so severely tried by Satan just to prove that Job truly honored God?
Response: (I don’t think you will receive much of a one.)
Question #5: When Paul was converted in Acts 9, God gave a message to Ananias to give to Paul, and that is found in Acts 9:16, “For I shall show him plainly how many things he must suffer for my name.” In 2 Corinthians 11:21-33 it describes some of the severe suffering the loving God let Paul endure and there was no one more faithful than Paul. In Acts 14:22 Paul gave a promise to the believers that they were going to suffer when he said, “We must enter into the kingdom of God through many tribulations.” The same thing is repeated in Philippians 1:29 where we read, “Because to you the privilege was given in behalf of Christ, not only to put your faith in him, but also to suffer in his behalf.” Since the loving Yahweh permits those who love Him to go through suffering and trials, then why is it dishonoring to God to let the wicked and ungodly suffer?
Question #6: I think that the Watchtower teaching is rather dishonoring to God since it teaches that most people will be given an equal chance on the new earth to merit salvation! Let me explain. Here is a person like Hitler, Stalin, Nero, and many others who lived very wicked lives. They murdered many innocent people.
Then there are other people who tried to live lives honoring to God and suffered much persecution for their faith. We read about some of these people in Hebrews 11. Yet, according to the Watchtower Society, when they die they all have paid the wages for their own sins and will be resurrected on the new earth, and all of them have the same opportunity to maybe merit eternal life. This just does not seem fair to me! Could you explain to me how a loving and just God could give the wicked and the righteous the same opportunities without the wicked ever being punished?
Question #7: (It depends upon the Witness you are talking to and how the conversation has been going to determine if you should use this question.) I have heard a little about the disfellowshipping policy of the Watchtower Society. I understand that for one sin, like smoking a cigarette, or even walking into a church to attend the wedding or funeral of a respected neighbor or coworker, the Society can disfellowship this person–which means that he or she will be completely cut off from his or her family, friends, and other Witnesses–which is one of the most severe punishments that can be placed upon a person. Not only that, but the
Society feels it can deny a person the chance of resurrection onto the new earth. Why does the Society speak of God as a “loving God” when the Society practices
one of the most unloving actions that is possible to be inflicted on a living person?