This post is part of a series of posts summarising chapters of the Jehovah Witnesses' booklet, "What does the Bible really Teach?", and seeking to evaluate those chapters against Scripture somewhat briefly. Those posts were introduced at the Introduction, and a contents page will be added to that entry once this run of posts has finished.
Chapter 6: Where are the dead?
Every religion teaches that some part of us, our soul, survives death.
What really happens at death? The Bible’s “clear teaching is this: When a person dies, he ceases to exist.” (page 58) We don’t go anywhere – we just stop being.
What Jesus said about death: He compared Lazarus’ death to sleep – he hadn’t gone somewhere else or come back as another human being. He was asleep without dreams. This was not God’s purpose from the beginning
Why humans die: Go back to Adam and Eve. They disobeyed God, thinking they would benefit from making up right and wrong for themselves. “They showed contempt for their heavenly Father and his authority. Such disrespect for their loving Creator was inexcusable.” (62). God did not sustain them. “They died… Adam and Eve ceased to exist. They did not pass on to the spirit realm” (63). God returned them to dust.
Knowing the truth about death is beneficial: We need not fear the dead, or waste our efforts trying to help them. We are freed from Satan’s lie that God would consign people to everlasting fire. We are freed from having to respect the dead as spirits who might harm us.
There appear, on the surface, to be many problems with this. The Bible teaches that death is not the end. However, chapter 7 will also say that death is not the end. So the issue here is the “intermediate state” – where we go after we die but before we are raised back to life. Sleep is one of the ways the New Testament speaks of this time – for example, 1 Thessalonians 4:15. However it is not the only way, and the language of being unclothed (2 Corinthians 5:4) and of being with Christ which is better by far (Philippians 1:23) tells us that the dead in Christ go to be with him in an existence that is better than what we enjoy now. Chapter 7 tells us how the Jehovah’s Witnesses would reply: They would argue that only the most faithful have that privilege. We’ll come to that claim in chapter 7. Suffice to say that there is no biblical warrant for two different futures for God’s people, depending on how faithful they have been.