Who Live in the Spirit Realm?
THE world has become a “supermarket” of religious beliefs and creeds. In Africa alone there are thousands of religious groups, each with its own opinions about what goes on in the spirit realm. But for a clear and truthful picture, we need to look to the Bible. It identifies the spirits—both good and bad—that inhabit the spirit realm. It also shows to whom we may successfully appeal for help and protection.
Jehovah, the Almighty God
Traditional religion in Africa teaches that presiding over the ancestors and divinities is an almighty God. States the book African Mythology: “There is no doubt that nearly all, if not all, African peoples believe in a Supreme Being, the creator of all things.” Says the book African Religion in African Scholarship: “Since God is the absolute controller of the universe, all other beings and all power exist in consequence of Him. Absolute authority and power is vested in Him.”
The Bible agrees that there is One who reigns supreme in the spirit realm. It describes him as “the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the God great, mighty and fear-inspiring, who treats none with partiality nor accepts a bribe.”—Deuteronomy 10:17.
Throughout Africa there are hundreds of names and titles given to the one considered supreme. Yet, what does God’s Word say about the divine name? The psalmist wrote: “You, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.” (Psalm 83:18) This sacred name occurs over 7,000 times in the Bible record, though some Bible translators have replaced it with titles such as “God” or “Lord.”
Because Jehovah is almighty in power, he can help us. He describes himself as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth, preserving loving-kindness for thousands, pardoning error and transgression and sin, but by no means will he give exemption from punishment.”—Exodus 34:6, 7; 1 Samuel 2:6, 7.
Angels, Powerful Ministers of God
Long before Jehovah created humans or even the earth itself, he created spirit persons in heaven. The Bible says that at the time when God “founded the earth . . . , all the [angelic] sons of God began shouting in applause.” (Job 38:4-7) There are millions of angels. Jehovah’s servant Daniel wrote of a vision of heavenly things in which he saw “a thousand thousands that kept ministering to [God], and ten thousand times ten thousand that kept standing right before him.”—Daniel 7:10.
The first spirit person that Jehovah created was the one who came to be known as Jesus Christ. (John 17:5; Colossians 1:15) Before he lived as a man on earth, Jesus lived in heaven as a mighty spirit creature. After his death as a human, Jesus was resurrected to heaven, where he resumed life as a mighty spirit creature.—Acts 2:32, 33.
Jesus has great power in heaven. At Jude 9, Jesus, also known as Michael, is called “the archangel,” meaning that he is the chief, or principal, angel. (1 Thessalonians 4:16) He also possesses authority over the earth. Jehovah has given him “rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him.” (Daniel 7:13, 14) Despite his great authority, Jesus remains subject to his Father, Jehovah.—1 Corinthians 11:3.
While faithful angels minister to Jehovah, they also minister to God’s servants on earth. The apostle Paul wrote: “Are [angels] not all spirits for public service, sent forth to minister for those who are going to inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14) They are especially concerned that people learn the truth about Jehovah. The apostle John saw in a vision an “angel flying in midheaven, and he had everlasting good news to declare as glad tidings to those who dwell on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people, saying in a loud voice: ‘Fear God and give him glory.’”—Revelation 14:6, 7.
Satan and the Demons, Enemies of God and Man
Sadly, not all angels have been faithful to God. Some rebelled against him, becoming enemies of both God and mankind. The principal rebel is Satan the Devil.
While many today deny that Satan exists, nobody denies that evil exists. Believing in evil while disbelieving that it has a cause leads to “an inescapable problem,” observes the book The Death of Satan. “We feel something that our culture no longer gives us the vocabulary to express.”
In contrast, the Bible does have the vocabulary and clearly spells out the truth about the source of evil. It explains that the angelic creatures whom Jehovah created were all righteous and good; he did not create any wicked angels. (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 5:4) Yet, the angels, like humans, were given the ability to choose between right and wrong. One of these perfect spirit sons developed a selfish desire to seize for himself the worship that rightfully belongs to Jehovah. He thus earned the name Satan, which means “Resister.” (Compare James 1:14, 15.) Satan is no mere trickster, as some African religions teach; neither is he a “bodyguard” who protects those who make regular sacrifices to him. The Bible shows him to be thoroughly evil and vicious.
Other angels joined Satan’s rebellion against God. These demon angels are also enemies of people on earth. They too are malicious and evil. In times past, they made some humans speechless and blind. (Matthew 9:32, 33; 12:22) Others, including children, they afflicted with illness or insanity. (Matthew 17:15, 18; Mark 5:2-5) Clearly, no sensible person would want to have anything to do with Satan or those demons.
Where Are the Ancestors?
Millions of people in Africa and elsewhere believe that death is not an end to life but merely a transition, a passage to life in the spirit realm, the domain of both divinities and ancestors. Scholar John Mbiti, an expert on African religions, writes about the belief in ancestors, whom he calls the “living-dead”: “These are the ‘spirits’ with which African peoples are most concerned . . . They know and have interest in what is going on in the family [on earth]. . . . They are the guardians of family affairs, traditions, ethics and activities. Offence in these matters is ultimately an offence against the forefathers who, in that capacity, act as the invisible police of the families and communities. Because they are still ‘people’, the living-dead are therefore the best group of intermediaries between men and God: they know the needs of men, they have ‘recently’ been here with men, and at the same time they have full access to the channels of communicating with God.”
What, though, does the Bible say about the condition of the dead? It shows that there is no such thing as the “living-dead.” People are either alive or dead—never both. God’s Word teaches that the dead are unable to hear, see, speak, or think. The dead are in no position to police the living. The Bible says: “The dead . . . are conscious of nothing at all . . . Their love and their hate and their jealousy have already perished . . . There is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol [the grave], the place to which you are going.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10) “[Man] goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts do perish.”—Psalm 146:4.
Returning to the Dust
If you find this difficult to accept, consider what happened to the first man, Adam. Jehovah formed Adam “out of dust from the ground.” (Genesis 2:7) When Adam disobeyed Jehovah’s command, the penalty was death. God said to him: “You [will] return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return.”—Genesis 3:19.
Before Jehovah created Adam from the dust, Adam did not exist. So when he ‘returned to the ground,’ he again became lifeless, like the dust. He did not cross over to the realm of ancestral spirits. He did not go to heaven or hell. When he died, that was the end of him.
Does the same thing happen to other humans at death? Yes, it does. The Bible states: “All [both humans and animals] are going to one place. They have all come to be from the dust, and they are all returning to the dust.” (Ecclesiastes 3:20) The Bible does promise that God will awaken the human dead to life in a paradise earth, but that time is yet future. (John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15) Meanwhile, we should not fear the dead or make sacrifices to them, since they can neither help us nor harm us.
Satan and his demons want to mislead people about the condition of their dead ancestors, so they promote the lie that people live on after death. One way they do this is through false stories. (1 Timothy 4:1) They also use visions, dreams, and spirit mediums to deceive people into thinking that they have communicated with the dead. But it is not the dead that are contacted. Rather, it is demons who pretend to be people who have died. That is why Jehovah strongly condemns those who inquire of the dead, either directly or indirectly, through other means, such as divination.—Deuteronomy 18:10-12.
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By means of visions, dreams, and spirit mediums, the demons deceive and frighten people
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To mislead people, demons pretend to be those who have died