Definition: The ceasing of all functions of life. After breathing, heartbeat, and brain activity stop, the life-force gradually ceases to function in body cells. Death is the opposite of life.
Was man created by God to die?
On the contrary, Jehovah warned Adam against disobedience, which would lead to death. (Gen. 2:17) Later, God warned Israel against conduct that would lead even to premature death for them. (Ezek. 18:31) In time he sent his Son to die on behalf of mankind so that those who would put faith in this provision might enjoy everlasting life.—John 3:16, 36.
Psalm 90:10 says that the usual human life span is 70 or 80 years. That was true when Moses wrote it, but that was not so from the beginning. (Compare Genesis 5:3-32.) Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is reserved for men to die once for all time.” This, too, was true when it was written. But it was not the case before God passed judgment on sinful Adam.
Why do we grow old and die?
Jehovah created the first human couple perfect, with the prospect of living forever. They were endowed with free will. Would they obey their Creator out of love and appreciation for all that he had done for them? They were fully capable of doing so. God told Adam: “As for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.” Using a serpent as a mouthpiece, Satan enticed Eve to violate Jehovah’s command. Adam did not reprove his wife but joined her in eating that forbidden fruit. True to his word, Jehovah passed sentence of death upon Adam, but before executing the sinful pair, Jehovah mercifully permitted them to bring forth children.—Gen. 2:17; 3:1-19; 5:3-5; compare Deuteronomy 32:4 and Revelation 12:9.
Rom. 5:12, 17, 19: “Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned—. . . . By the trespass of the one man death ruled as king . . . Through the disobedience of the one man many were constituted sinners.”
1 Cor. 15:22: “In Adam all are dying.”
See also the main heading “Fate.”
Why do babies die?
God does not “take” children from their parents, as some have been told. Although the earth produces ample food, selfish political and commercial elements often hinder its distribution to those most in need, resulting in death due to malnutrition. Some children die in accidents, as adults do. But all of us have inherited sin; we are all imperfect. We were born in a system in which everyone—both the good and the bad—eventually dies. (Eccl. 9:5) But Jehovah ‘yearns’ to reunite children with their parents by means of the resurrection, and lovingly has made provision to do so.—John 5:28, 29; Job 14:14, 15; compare Jeremiah 31:15, 16; Mark 5:40-42.
Where are the dead?
Gen. 3:19: “In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Eccl. 9:10: “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 grave,” KJ, Kx; “the world of the dead,” TEV], the place to which you are going.”
What is the condition of the dead?
Eccl. 9:5: “The living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all.”
Ps. 146:4: “His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts [“thoughts,” KJ, 145:4 in Dy; “all his thinking,” NE; “plans,” RS, NAB] do perish.”
Is there some part of man that lives on when the body dies?
Ezek. 18:4: “The soul [“soul,” RS, NE, KJ, Dy, Kx; “man,” JB; “person,” TEV] that is sinning—it itself will die.”
Are the dead in any way able to help or to harm the living?
Eccl. 9:6: “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.”
Isa. 26:14: “They are dead; they will not live. Impotent in death, they will not rise up.”
What about reports made by persons who were revived after being reported to be dead and who spoke of another life?
Normally, after a person stops breathing and the heartbeat ceases, it is several minutes before gradual cessation of the life-force in the body cells begins. If the body is subjected to severe cold, that process can be delayed for hours. For this reason, it is sometimes possible to revive persons by means of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. They were what is termed “clinically dead,” but their body cells were still alive.
Many persons revived from “clinical death” remember nothing. Others report experiencing a floating sensation. Some say they saw beautiful things; others were terrified by their experience.
Is there a medical explanation for any of these experiences?
The medical editor of The Arizona Republic wrote: “When physical prowess is at its lowest ebb, as under anesthesia, or the result of disease or injury, automatic control of bodily functions diminishes accordingly. Thus, the neurohormones and catecholamines of the nervous system are released and pour out in uncontrolled quantity. The result, among other manifestations, is the hallucination, rationalized after returning to consciousness, of having died and returned to life.”—May 28, 1977, p. C-1; also the German medical journal Fortschritte der Medizin, No. 41, 1979; Psychology Today, January 1981.
But is not the testimony of those who were revived confirmed by persons to whom deceased loved ones have appeared and spoken?
Read again, please, the scriptures quoted earlier regarding the condition of the dead. What is God’s Word of truth telling us about the condition of the dead?
Who wants humans to believe otherwise? After Jehovah warned our first parents that disobedience would bring death, who contradicted that? “The serpent [used by Satan; see Revelation 12:9] said to the woman: ‘You positively will not die.’” (Gen. 3:4) Later, of course, Adam and Eve did die. Reasonably, then, who invented the idea that a spirit part of man survives the death of the body? As we have already seen, this is not what God’s Word says. God’s law to ancient Israel condemned as “unclean” and “detestable” the practice of consulting the dead. (Lev. 19:31; Deut. 18:10-12; Isa. 8:19) Would a God of love condemn this practice if the living were simply communicating with loved ones who had departed? On the other hand, if demonic spirits were impersonating the dead and misleading mankind by conveying to their minds impressions that would perpetuate a lie, would it not be loving on God’s part to safeguard his servants against such deception?—Eph. 6:11, 12.
Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses not share in the traditional customs of mourning for the dead?
Grief over the death of a loved one is normal and may properly be expressed
But because of the resurrection hope, Christians are told: “We do not want you to be ignorant concerning those who are sleeping in death; that you may not sorrow just as the rest also do who have no hope.”—1 Thess. 4:13.
Jehovah’s servants do not reject all customs that are associated with death
Gen. 50:2, 3: “Joseph commanded his servants, the physicians, to embalm his father . . . and they took fully forty days for him, for this many days they customarily take for the embalming.”
John 19:40: “They took the body of Jesus and bound it up with bandages with the spices, just the way the Jews have the custom of preparing for burial.”
Customs that conflict with God’s Word are avoided by those who seek to please him
Some customs publicly advertise one’s grief. But Jesus said: “When you are fasting [because of sorrow], stop becoming sad-faced like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Truly I say to you, They are having their reward in full. But you, when fasting, grease your head and wash your face, that you may appear to be fasting, not to men, but to your Father who is in secrecy; then your Father who is looking on in secrecy will repay you.”—Matt. 6:16-18.
Certain customs reflect belief that man has an immortal soul that survives death of the body and, so, is aware of what the survivors are doing. But the Bible says: “The dead . . . are conscious of nothing at all.” (Eccl. 9:5) Also, “The soul that is sinning—it itself will die.”—Ezek. 18:4.
Many customs arise from belief that the dead need the help of the living or from fear that they may harm the living if not appeased. But God’s Word shows that the dead are experiencing neither pain nor pleasure. “His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts do perish.” (Ps. 146:4; see also 2 Samuel 12:22, 23.) “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.”—Eccl. 9:6.
If Someone Says—
‘It is the will of God’
You might reply: ‘That’s a very common belief. But I have found it helpful to search out what God himself says about this.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘(Read Genesis 2:17.) If a father warns his son that doing a certain thing will cost him his life, would you say that the father wants the son to do it?’ (2) ‘Then what really is God’s will regarding mankind? Jesus said: “This is the will of my Father, that everyone that beholds the Son [that is, perceives and acknowledges that Jesus truly is God’s Son] and exercises faith in him should have everlasting life, and I will resurrect him at the last day.” (John 6:40)’
‘People will always die’
You might reply: ‘That certainly is what has happened to humans right down to our day, isn’t it?’ Then perhaps add: ‘But notice this wonderful promise made by God at Revelation 21:3, 4 (or Isaiah 25:8).’
‘It comes when your time is up’
You might reply: ‘Many people feel the way you do. Did you know that many of the ancient Greeks held that same view? They believed that there were three goddesses that determined the length of life that each human would have. But the Bible presents a very different view of life.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘(Read Ecclesiastes 9:11.) Illustration: A piece of concrete may break off from a building and fall on a pedestrian. Did God cause it? If so, is it fair to charge the building owner with negligence? . . . As the Bible says, for the pedestrian, it was an unplanned and unforeseen occurrence that he was right there when the concrete fell.’ (2) ‘The Bible tells us that if we avoid bad conduct we safeguard our life. (Prov. 16:17) If you are a parent, I am sure that you apply that principle with your children. You warn them against things that could result in loss of life. Jehovah is doing the same thing for all mankind today.’ (3) ‘Jehovah knows what the future holds. By means of the Bible he tells us how we can enjoy a life much longer than that of people who ignore what he says. (John 17:3; Prov. 12:28)’ (See also the main heading “Fate.”)