The Rule of King Death
“Nevertheless, death ruled as king from Adam down to Moses, even over those who had not sinned after the likeness of the transgression by Adam, who hears a resemblance to him that was to come.”—Rom. 5:14, NW.
1. What evidence is there of the rule of death, and when did its rule begin?
LOOK where you will across the length and breadth of this fair earth, on hilltops or in the valleys, wherever you see any signs of life you will also see memorials to death. In the vicinity of every city, town and village, along beautiful country roadsides, your gaze will take in from perhaps a few to hundreds of memorial tablets, crosses or tombstones testifying to the fact that death rules as king. But besides these, there are thousands of unnumbered and unremembered dead who have no markers or statues identifying the place where they lie. That place may have been a battlefield, a desert, a snowfield or the seemingly endless stretches of the sea. Those who knew them are themselves no longer here to tell us. The grave is indeed one of the three things never satisfied. (Prov. 30:15, 16) But consider too the seemingly unlimited duration of this sovereign’s rule. Our ancestors all acknowledged his kingship. Yes, we can go back to the very first man and woman and find that in their day the sway of this unwelcome royal government was acknowledged, and there it had its beginning.
2. What is Jehovah’s purpose regarding man and the earth?
2 However, it was not the Creator’s purpose that death should sweep through the land and constantly add to his plunders. He finds no pleasure in death, but would rather have even the wicked turn from his way and live. (Ezek. 18:32; 33:11) The tears, heartaches, broken homes, produced by disease, plague, famine and sword, need never have been but for one wicked conspirator and two accomplices. If the Creator’s wise command had been obeyed and his earthly children had kept the love of Jehovah in their hearts, we would now have a world filled with happy, healthy, mature men and women. These would find complete happiness in instructing equally joyful children, and all without a trace of sin, sorrow, suffering, death and imperfection. How do we know this? The oldest and most reliable book in the world, the Holy Bible, reveals that such was the Creator’s purpose. It states: “And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them: and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Gen. 1:27, 28, AS) He purposes that the earth be permanently populated. “For thus saith Jehovah that created the heavens, the God that formed the earth and made it, that established it and created it not a waste, that formed it to be inhabited: I am Jehovah; and there is none else.” (Isa. 45:18, AS) His purpose shall be accomplished.—Isa. 66:1; 60:13; 11:9.
3. Who is responsible for death’s rule, and what was his ambition?
3 But who brought about the change from the perfectly ideal condition to the wretched chaos the world is in today, you may ask? The wicked conspirator who started it all, Satan the Devil, did not foresee the full and final consequences of his wrongful acts. He determined to gratify an illegitimate, selfish ambition and show others what he could accomplish. That ambition has consumed him like an intense greed and changed him from an originally perfect creature to one with no regard for the suffering and wretchedness produced by the gratification of his desire. There came a time when he decided that instead of loyally representing his Creator and using his exalted office to lead the earthly creatures under his charge to render obedience and due worship to Jehovah he would lead them to render such homage to himself. In self-conceit with corrupted wisdom his line of argument was that his personal beauty, the gift of his Creator, merited such recognition. Craving admiration and worship he vowed he would become like the Most High.—Ezek. 28:14-17.
4. How did the Devil go about to accomplish his purpose, and what caused Eve to yield?
4 To achieve his end Satan was now willing to become a slanderer, a deceiver, an opposer of Jehovah and a devourer, as identified by the names Devil, Serpent, Satan and Dragon. Using all the subtleness of his exalted position and communicating his message through the visible serpent, he assured the first woman that by following his suggestion she would have something far greater than what an untrustworthy God had given her. Whether she was shocked at the original suggestion of distrust of her heavenly Father, or not, is immaterial and the record does not state. That she yielded to the allurement of the prize and transgressed is important. James wrote: “But each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn, sin, when it has been accomplished, brings forth death.” (Jas. 1:14, 15, NW) It is evident that Eve did not fully weigh the matter as to the reliability of the authority making the promise, nor did she consult Adam, her head, on the matter. In this she showed a lack of love. Spellbound with the prospect to be gained, she decided to grasp the forbidden and then assist her husband to it.
5. (a) What issue was thereby forced upon Adam, and what caused him to decide wrongly? (b) What did the conspirator accomplish by deflecting Adam and Eve?
5 Having succeeded with Eve the cunning adversary now used her as his tool to break the integrity of Adam. She was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. When she invited Adam to eat, the full consequences of her disobedient act quite probably struck home to him. He was not deceived. How would his Creator take action? Would he immediately lose his only human companionship? Why had she forced this issue upon him? To yield to her meant disobedience to his God. It was a choice between love and duty to Jehovah and affection and attraction to his helpmate; choice between the Creator and the creature, between governing his life by principle, according to the godlike attributes with which he had been endowed, on the one hand, and passion, the strong pull of human emotion, on the other. Adam too lacked true love for his Creator and decided wrongly. Without gratitude and thankfulness to God, the first human pair became accomplices to the great conspirator. Satan had succeeded in bringing reproach on Jehovah, whose glory is above the earth and the heavens. The Devil supplanted the truth with falsehood and destroyed pure and right worship in the earth. Jesus testified of him: “That one was a manslayer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition, because he is a liar and the father of the lie.”—John 8:44, NW.
6. (a) What slander of Jehovah was implicit in Satan’s lie? (b) How should Adam and Eve have responded? How did they respond, and why?
6 Now consider for a moment the tactics employed by the Devil right from the start. By spreading his lying report, ‘You shall not surely die,’ he planted doubt, distrust and disbelief in the first human minds, and thereby dragged down the unmatchable, illustrious and praiseworthy name of Jehovah to the level of an exploiting racketeer. He charged God with being a deliberate deceiver, interested in keeping man as an underdog, and for that reason wholly untrustworthy. In all of this he manifested what he himself had become. Did the human children of their heavenly Father, surrounded by so many expressions of his love, kindness and care, resent such false accusations? Did either cry out, ‘You snake in the grass, you can’t call my Father that’? The record does not allow us to think so. The deceiver’s work was so deftly done and their personal interests were so appealed to that they forgot and turned their backs on their best friend. With no grounds for doubting Jehovah in the least, they failed to show the faith required to please God. At the suggestion of a course offering them unrestrained liberty, license, they plunged ahead on their own, and began to make of themselves copies of their master. By their choosing the course of a transgressor death became their king. He has been a hard, unrelenting ruler, and, try as man will, he is unable to break death’s power.
7. What decision must we individually make? why? and with what ends in mind?
7 But you and I too must choose between loyalty to Jehovah on one hand and submission to the archenemy Satan the Devil on the other. By our course of action we support one or the other of these two masters. This is so because we have freedom of will. To obey Jehovah means life, to yield to his enemy means eventual death. We must guard against yielding to temptation to please our flesh, and we must beware against being made tools of the adversary to ensnare others. The apostle Paul warned, “For if you live in accord with the flesh you are sure to die; but if you put the practices of the body to death by the spirit, you will live.”—Rom. 8:13; Gal. 5:16, 17; Rom 8:5-8, NW.
8. Cut off from Jehovah’s loving-kindness, how have man’s years declined?
8 Observe now man’s declining years, the result of cutting himself off from God’s undeserved kindness. Dwelling in the land where death cast its shadow neither Adam nor any of his offspring lived a full one-thousand-year day. Longevity gradually decreased with several sudden drops in the lives of men. After the first ten generations from Adam to Noah no one attained an age reaching into the nine-hundred-year age bracket. Shem, who followed Noah, lived to only six hundred years. The three succeeding generations attained an age within the four-hundred-to five-hundred-year bracket. Then followed another sudden drop, for within five generations man’s life span was cut in half. The four generations that followed, reaching to Joseph, the son of Jacob, brought man’s maximum life expectancy down near the hundred-year mark. (Genesis chapters 5, 7 and 11) Death was ruling as king from Adam to Moses and man’s fading life spark was just like a mist appearing for a little while. The great conspirator had the ability to bring the plague of death through transgression but was without the power of life, for only in Jehovah’s hand is the breath or life power of all mankind.—Jas. 4:14, NW; Job 12:10.
9. What shows that the patriarchs’ years were as long as ours today?
9 It is unsound to say that the years of the patriarchs were not as long as ours, possibly as short as our months, for God had specifically given man lights in the firmament to designate days and years. Though their annual periods were not calculated to the fraction of the day, there was no mistaking the seasons of the year, since Jehovah had said, “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”—Gen. 1:14; 8:22, AS.
MAN’S DEATH STATE
10. What various non-Biblical theories are there regarding the condition of death?
10 For six thousand years men have been dying, yet, strange as it may seem, the vast majority do not know what the condition of death really is. Those without the Bible believe either their personal theories or their particular sacred books. Even those with the Bible are greatly confused by the traditions of men. The general religious conception is that death is separation or alienation from God. Some have said it means the closing of heaven to the lost soul. Since it is assumed that the soul is immortal and must live on forever, and since a happy existence, or heaven, is denied it, it follows that it must spend its eternity in a state of misery. Pagan tradition, human philosophy, the world’s literature and education have generally followed these conclusions.
11. What is the Scriptural testimony regarding the condition of the dead?
11 For our own good, let us consult God’s Word for the correct answer. Speaking of what takes place at the moment man dies, Psalm 145, verse four (Dy), reads, “His spirit shall go forth, and he shall return into his earth: in that day all their thoughts shall perish.” (See Psalm 146:4, AS.) Certainly if one’s thoughts perish, then all knowledge and feeling perish as well. This is borne out by Ecclesiastes 9:5 (Dy), “For the living know that they shall die, but the dead know nothing more. Neither have they a reward any more: for the memory of them is forgotten.” The prophet Job also describes the death state in the words, “There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest. There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. The small and the great are there; and the servant is free from his master.” (Job 3:17-19) “But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?” (Job 14:10) There is no activity in the death condition. “The dead praise not Jehovah, neither any that go down into silence.” “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in Sheol, whither thou goest.”—Ps. 115:17; Eccl. 9:10, AS.
12. What facts support the Scriptural position regarding the death state, and how does the judgment pronounced upon Adam bear this out?
12 From the evidence, then, we can see that death is the end of one’s existence. It is physical death, and any attempt to make a distinction between it and a so-called spiritual death is unscriptural. Man dies physically, mentally and spiritually all at once. The dead person’s mind cannot function, his eyes cannot see, his ears cannot hear, nor can his lips speak. Death for man is the same as it is for the lower animals. (Eccl. 3:19-21; Ps. 104:29; 145:20) Notice how plain God made this at the time when the first death sentence was pronounced. God concluded his judgment against Adam with the words, “For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Gen. 3:19) He was to go back to the state of nonexistence from which he came. There was no part of the divinity in man that had to be kept alive.
13. How do we know that Adam was not immortal and that heaven was not to be his destiny?
13 The record furthermore says nothing about Adam or his posterity as losing heaven. That had never been promised to either Adam or his posterity, and to have claimed a right to it would have been highly presumptuous. “The heavens are the heavens of Jehovah; but the earth hath he given to the children of men.” (Ps. 115:16, AS) Mere creation did not entitle them to an unconditional, endless earthly life, much less to a spiritual or heavenly condition. Only the adversary promised that, namely, that they should be like gods, and he was unable to keep his promise that man should not die. God moreover enforced the death penalty by acting after his word: ‘And now, lest he put forth his hand, and eat, and live forever.’ Therefore Jehovah God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, and he placed the cherubim, and the flame of a sword, to keep the way of the tree of life.—Gen. 3:22-24, AS.
14. What are the alternatives that God sets before creatures?
14 Life and death, not life in happiness versus life in misery, are the Scriptural opposites. This is shown by the expression of Moses to the children of Israel: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed.” (Deut. 30:19, AS) Proverbs 8:35, 36 (AS) states: “For whoso findeth me findeth life, . . . all they that hate me love death.”
15. (a) What did Adam lose for himself and his offspring? (b) What proves that eternal torment was not God’s purpose for any of fallen mankind?
15 Death’s rulership as king contradicts any claim that eternal torment, or any future in misery, is to be the fate of Adam or of his offspring. It was not eternal torment that began to rule as king, or for which mankind was now in line. What Adam lost for himself and his offspring was the privilege of carrying out the divine mandate to reproduce, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it; he lost the dominion over the birds of the air, cattle and fish, and lost his own life. Though allowed to exist for 930 years, yet that existence was with sorrow and toil and without the peace and blessing of God. We have inherited the imperfection bequeathed us by our first parent. God’s Word says: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12, NW) All were represented in their forefather Adam, through his unborn seed, and representatively sinned in him. Hence there is not a righteous man, not even one. For this reason, too, no descendant from Adam could rescue his fellow man from death’s rulership; for how could one slave free another. It is written: “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him.” (Ps. 49:7, AS; Rom. 3:10, NW) Instead of eternal torment as the wage for sin, we read: “For the wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Rom. 6:23, NW.
16. Give Scriptural proof that death reigns not only over the bodies of men but also over souls.
16 Death’s rule is not only over the bodies but also over the souls of men. It is the soul that sins that dies. (Ezek. 18:4, 20) It is the soul that goes to the grave at death and from which it is rescued by a resurrection. Psalm 89:48 declares: “What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Selah.” Psalm 49:15 reads: “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah.” Psalm 114:8 (Dy) states: “For he hath delivered my soul from death: my eyes from tears, my feet from falling.” A few additional texts proving that the soul can die or be destroyed are the following: Ps. 30:3; 78:50; Isa. 55:3; Matt. 10:28; Mark 14:34; Luke 2:35, and Rev. 16:3.
THE HUMAN SOUL
17, 18. (a) What is the soul? (b) What scriptures disprove false teachings regarding human souls?
17 What, then, is the soul, do you ask? It is no intangible, mysterious something which no one has ever seen. The human soul is defined for us at Genesis 2:7, AS. “And Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Each person is a soul. The breath or spirit of life, by means of which God animated, made alive or energized, the human organism, and man’s body together made up the first living human creature or soul. Hence, too, man’s existence alone is also designated soul. There were fish, bird and animal souls on earth before man was created, as Bibles with a marginal reference at Genesis 1:20, 30 indicate. These marginal references supply “soul” and “living soul” for “life” in the texts.
18 From the beginning God’s great adversary has caused to be freely taught the falsehood that man has an immortal or deathproof soul that does not die. According to this human tradition each man has only one soul, whereas Exodus 1:5 says, “And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls.” How could seventy come out of Jacob’s loins when tradition teaches God gives each body one soul at its birth? Manifestly the word soul refers to Jacob’s seventy living descendants and nothing more. According to Leviticus 5:1, 2, souls can hear, see, speak, sin and touch. Can it be too difficult for anyone to understand what the souls referred to here must be, since it is only living humans that could do all of these things? Let us then no longer follow the erring traditions of men that reproach God and lead to death, when it is so easy to learn the truth that leads to life.
19. How is it possible that so many should be mistaken regarding the soul and state of the dead?
19 Someone may think, however, Millions of people cannot possibly be wrong, can they? Again let us go to the Scriptures for our answer. These show that Satan has deceived or seduced the whole world. In the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse (Revelation) it tells of Michael waging war against the Dragon and his angels. Re 12 Verse nine reads: “And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world.” (Dy) The apostle John wrote: “We know we originate with God, but the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19, NW) The prophet Jeremiah foresaw how persons of good will would recognize that they had been following error and would flee to Jehovah’s organization for refuge, when he wrote: “O Jehovah, my strength, and my stronghold, and my refuge in the day of affliction, unto thee shall the nations come from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Our fathers have inherited nought but lies, even vanity and things wherein there is no profit.”—Jer. 16:19, AS.
20. How does the question of a resurrection prove what the condition of the dead is?
20 But what if there were no resurrection of the dead? According to men’s tradition the disembodied souls would share the awful fate of remaining disembodied eternally. But according to the logical argument of the apostle Paul all who have died would have perished. (1 Cor. 15:18, NW) The apostle Paul had no misgivings regarding the resurrection, but clearly expounded and boldly taught it. He avoided fables and private interpretations. He did not formulate private definitions as some do, saying, “The wages of sin is death—a death that never dies,” for such is handling the Word of God deceitfully. He did not argue that “destroy” does not mean “destroy” but means “preserve alive in torment”, for that would be twisting the Scriptures to one’s own destruction. (Ps. 145:20) Paul let God be true though it should make every man a liar.
21, 22. (a) What two classes are being manifested, and what is the hope of those exercising faith? (b) How can seemingly conflicting texts be harmonized?
21 While death was ruling as king, two classes of persons were manifesting themselves. One had faith in God’s promise that the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head in due time. These sought to please Jehovah. The other class, like the first human pair, were intent on going their own way, and became persecutors of the godly. It was not long before the spirit of the originator of death bore fruit and Cain killed his brother Abel. To all likewise persecuted, Jehovah gave assurance, not that they would go immediately to heaven, but that they would share in the resurrection of the dead. Thousands of years later the resurrection hope was still the hope of godly men, as Jesus showed when he told Nicodemus that up to that time ‘no man had ascended into heaven but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man’. (John 3:13, NW) In the apocalyptic vision written sixty-six years after the beginning of Jesus’ ministry the apostle John saw the souls of those slaughtered because of the word of God and because of the witness work which they used to have still not yet in heaven. He wrote: “And they cried with a loud voice, saying: ‘Until when, Sovereign Lord holy and true, are you refraining from judging and avenging our blood upon those who dwell on the earth?’” (Rev. 6:10, NW) The final reward is not given them until the judgment that began in 1918.—Rev. 11:18.
22 The texts that seem to conflict with the foregoing conclusions can be readily harmonized. The appearance of Moses and Elijah on the mount of transfiguration was not a physical reality, since Jesus told the disciples, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of man is raised up from the dead.” (Matt. 17:9, NW) The taking away of Enoch and the catching up of Elijah meant the end of their ministry and death, but not the fulfillment of God’s promise to them, as is shown by Hebrews 11:39 (NW). “And yet all these, although they had witness borne to them through their faith, did not get the fulfillment of the promise.” Instead of going to a literal heaven those faithful men of olden times looked forward to the time when Almighty God, who resides in the heavens, would establish his rule and authority here on earth.
23. For what kind of government and rule did Abraham and other faithful men look?
23 Abraham and other faithful men looked for a city or government to come whose builder and maker would be God. Since it would have a heavenly origin, the apostle Paul calls it a heavenly city. (Heb. 11:8-10, 13-16) They hoped to share in its blessings through the resurrection and therefore publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land. They hailed that kingdom in which God’s will shall be done on earth as in heaven, in which the profit of the earth will be for all, and the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah as the waters cover the sea. (Eccl. 5:9; Hab. 2:14, AS) Death will no longer possess and exercise supreme power and authority over mankind then. He will no longer be king. For a thousand years Christ and his bride will rule the new world and Satan will be bound.
24. What effect should this knowledge have upon us?
24 How the knowledge of the truth should loosen our tongues in gratitude and thankfulness for the deliverance Jehovah has brought to us from the shackles of ignorance and superstition! How it should make us want to let millions know, so they too can obtain release from Satan’s bondage! Jesus told his disciples that what they heard in the ear they were to proclaim from the house-tops. What else could we do, who were once slaves to sin and death but are now free? Say to the prisoners, Go forth, worship Jehovah in holy array!