1-3. What questions do people ask about death, and how do some religions answer them?
THE Bible promises us that one day “death will be no more.” (Revelation 21:4) In Chapter 5, we learned that the ransom makes it possible for us to have everlasting life. But people still die. (Ecclesiastes 9:5) So one of the big questions we ask is, What happens to us when we die?
2 The answer to that question is especially important when someone we love dies. We may wonder: ‘Where has he gone? Is he watching us? Can he help us? Will we ever see him again?’
3 Religions answer those questions in different ways. Some teach that if you are a good person, you go to heaven and that if you are a bad person, you burn in hell. Some say that when you die you become a spirit and live with your family members who have already died. And others say that after you have died and are judged, you will be reborn, or come back to life with a different body, perhaps as another person or even an animal.
4. What basic idea do religions teach about death?
4 Religions seem to teach very different things. But almost all of them teach one basic idea. They teach that when a human dies, a part of him keeps on living. Is that true?
WHERE DO WE GO WHEN WE DIE?
5, 6. What happens to us when we die?
5 Jehovah knows what happens to us when we die, and he has told us that when a person dies, his life ends. Death is the opposite of life. So when someone dies, his feelings and memories do not keep on living somewhere else.* When we die we can’t see, we can’t hear, and we can’t think anymore.
6 King Solomon wrote that “the dead know nothing at all.” The dead cannot love or hate, and “there is no work nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in the Grave.” (Read Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10.) And at Psalm 146:4, the Bible tells us that when someone dies, “his thoughts” die.
WHAT JESUS SAID ABOUT DEATH
7. What did Jesus say about death?
7 When his good friend Lazarus died, Jesus said to his disciples: “Lazarus our friend has fallen asleep.” But Jesus didn’t mean that Lazarus was resting. Jesus further said: “Lazarus has died.” (John 11:11-14) So Jesus compared death to sleep. He didn’t say that Lazarus was in heaven or with his family members who had died. And he didn’t say that Lazarus was suffering in hell or being reborn as another human or an animal. No, it was as if Lazarus were in a deep sleep. Other scriptures compare death to a deep sleep. The Bible says that when Stephen was killed, “he fell asleep in death.” (Acts 7:60) The apostle Paul also wrote that some Christians had “fallen asleep in death.”—1 Corinthians 15:6.
8. How do we know that God did not create humans to die?
8 Did God create Adam and Eve so that they would eventually die? No! Jehovah created them to enjoy life forever with perfect health. When Jehovah made humans, he gave them the desire to live forever. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) Parents do not want to see their children grow old and die, and Jehovah feels the same way about us. But if God created us to live forever, why do we die?
WHY DO WE DIE?
9. Why was the command that Jehovah gave to Adam and Eve reasonable?
9 In the garden of Eden, Jehovah told Adam: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But 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 certainly die.” (Genesis 2:9, 16, 17) That clear command was not difficult to obey, and Jehovah had the right to tell Adam and Eve what is good and what is bad. By obeying Jehovah, they would show him that they respected his authority. They would also show him just how thankful they were for everything he had given them.
10, 11. (a) How did Satan mislead Adam and Eve? (b) Why is there no excuse for what Adam and Eve did?
10 Sadly, Adam and Eve chose to disobey Jehovah. Satan said to Eve: “Did God really say that you must not eat from every tree of the garden?” Eve replied: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden. But God has said about the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden: ‘You must not eat from it, no, you must not touch it; otherwise you will die.’”—Genesis 3:1-3.
11 Then Satan said: “You certainly will not die. For God knows that in the very day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad.” (Genesis 3:4-6) Satan wanted Eve to think that she could decide for herself what was good and what was bad. At the same time, he lied about what would happen if she disobeyed. Satan said that Eve wouldn’t die, so Eve ate some of the fruit and then gave some to her husband. Adam and Eve knew that Jehovah had told them not to eat the fruit. When they ate it, they chose to disobey a clear and reasonable command. By eating, they showed that they did not respect their loving heavenly Father. There is no excuse for what they did!
12. Why is it so disappointing that Adam and Eve disobeyed Jehovah?
12 How disappointing that our first parents had such disrespect for their Creator! How would you feel if you worked hard to raise a son and a daughter and then they rebelled against you and did the opposite of what you asked them to do? Wouldn’t it break your heart?
13. What did Jehovah mean when he said “to dust you will return”?
13 When they disobeyed, Adam and Eve lost the opportunity to live forever. Jehovah had told Adam: “For dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Read Genesis 3:19.) That meant that Adam would become dust again, as if he had never been created. (Genesis 2:7) After Adam sinned, he died and no longer existed.
14. Why do we die?
14 If Adam and Eve had obeyed God, they would still be alive today. But when they disobeyed him, they sinned, and eventually they died. Sin is like a terrible disease that we have inherited from our first parents. All of us are born as sinners, and that is why we die. (Romans 5:12) But that is not God’s purpose for humans. God never wanted humans to die, and the Bible calls death an “enemy.”—1 Corinthians 15:26.
THE TRUTH SETS US FREE
15. How does the truth about death set us free?
15 The truth about death sets us free from many wrong ideas. The Bible teaches us that the dead don’t feel pain or sadness. We can’t speak to them, and they can’t speak to us. We can’t help the dead, and the dead can’t help us. They can’t harm us, so we don’t need to be afraid of them. However, many religions tell us that the dead are alive somewhere and that we can help them if we pay money to priests or those viewed as holy men. But when we know the truth about death, we are not fooled by those lies.
16. What lie do many religions teach about the dead?
16 Satan uses false religion to lie to us and make us think that the dead are still alive. For example, some religions teach that when we die, a part of us keeps on living somewhere else. Does your religion teach you that, or does it teach you what the Bible says about the dead? Satan uses lies to turn people away from Jehovah.
17. Why does the idea of people burning in hell insult Jehovah?
17 What many religions teach is shocking. For example, some teach that bad people will burn forever in hell. That lie is an insult to Jehovah. He would never allow people to suffer that way! (Read 1 John 4:8.) How would you feel about someone who punishes a child by burning the child’s hands in a fire? You would think he is very cruel. You would not want to get to know him. And that is exactly how Satan wants us to feel about Jehovah!
18. Why shouldn’t we fear the dead?
18 Some religions tell us that when people die, they become spirits. Such religions teach that we must respect and even be afraid of those spirits because they can become either powerful friends or terrible enemies. Many people believe that lie. They fear the dead, so they worship them instead of Jehovah. Remember that the dead cannot feel or sense anything, so we don’t have to be afraid of them. Jehovah is our Creator. He is the true God, and we should worship only him.—Revelation 4:11.
19. How does knowing the truth about death help us?
19 When we know the truth about death, we are set free from religious lies. And this truth helps us to understand the wonderful promises that Jehovah has made about our life and our future.
20. What will we learn in the next chapter?
20 A long time ago, a servant of God named Job asked: “If a man dies, can he live again?” (Job 14:14) Is it really possible for a person who is dead to live again? The answer God gives us in the Bible is very exciting. We will see it in the next chapter.
Some people believe that a soul or spirit keeps living after someone dies. For more information, see Endnotes 17 and 18.