They Lie About the Dead
SOME say there are more lies told about the dead than the living, that no two authorities seem to agree on the subject. A biologist states that death is a necessary factor in the order of nature, that it is stupid to say there is no death. A physician says: “There has to be death,” it is natural. On the other hand, a clergyman has asserted that it is just as stupid to say man’s death is natural and necessary as it is to say there is no death. And again, not all clergymen agree with that. Now, of all these, whom are you going to believe?
Despite the universal reality of death, there are intelligent people that insist that death does not exist. For example, clergyman Norman Vincent Peale of New York city states bluntly: “There is no death. No death!” However, the Committee on Christian Faith, composed of forty-three Protestant theologians of the United Church of Canada, after five years of intensive Bible study, reports: “It is a mistake to say, ‘there is no death,’ for that is a lie.” “Death is one of the major facts of life.” So what is truth to one is a lie to another.
The corruption of the physical body is a mere matter of observation. That may be true, some say, but our soul survives the body. The booklet What Happens after Death?, a Roman Catholic publication, says: “One of the elementary teachings of the Catholic Faith is that ‘man is a creature composed of body and soul’—two parts which are not loosely connected but united to form one individual human nature. . . . When man dies his soul and body are disunited. His body loses that which made it a living human body. It decays and is reduced to the elementary materials of which it was composed. The human soul, however, does not die.” The Register, August 16, 1959, states: “The soul cannot die because it cannot disintegrate, fall into parts, as it is simple, not made up of parts.” It “is a substantial being. It can think, it can will.”
Commenting on this division of soul and body, the Committee on Christian Faith reported: “Deathlessness is not a quality of the human soul any more than it is a quality of the human body. Indeed, this division of man’s being into an immortal soul and a mortal body does not come from the Bible and actually clashes with the Christian teaching that life beyond death is a work of God’s grace, not a natural unfolding of man’s constitution, and that the Christian hope is in resurrection, a being raised from the dead, rather than in a natural immortality. As we have said, the idea that man consists of two separable parts, soul and body, does not come from the Bible; it comes from the Greek philosophers.”
The committee’s findings about the soul and the dead were widely publicized and hailed as new discoveries. Let it be known that for more than eighty years Jehovah’s witnesses have known, printed and preached what these clergymen are just now finding out! Certainly soul’s mortality and man’s hope in the resurrection of the dead are not new discoveries, for they have been in the Bible for thousands of years! However, for years clergymen have stubbornly refused to admit these facts. They lied about the dead. Now, after years of misinforming the public, some of them admit Bible truth, and they make over it as if it were a newly found gem. Not so.
There are also lies told about man’s mortality. For example, movie actress Deborah Kerr writes: “Man is immortal. He never dies. He simply IS.” “The real I,” she says, “will live on. Rather, it will return to the oneness with God. That is true immortality.” God’s Word, the Bible, however, disagrees with the actress. It says man is mortal. “This which is mortal must put on immortality,” said the apostle Paul. If creatures were already immortal, how could they “put on immortality”? Paul’s statement would be superfluous, unnecessary, untrue.—Job 4:17; 1 Cor. 15:53.
The Unconscious Dead
Others believe that the dead are alive, conscious, that they have communicated with living humans. Dr. Leslie Weatherhead, minister of City Temple in London, England, said: “I am convinced that the dead live and that in some cases—relatively few—communication has been established with them.” How can this be true, since the Bible says the dead “are conscious of nothing at all”? Certainly unconscious souls cannot communicate.—Eccl. 9:5.
Evangelist Gavin Hamilton states: “The belief that the soul sleeps at death, and is altogether unconscious of either bliss or woe, is based upon the false assumption that the physical body is necessary to activity and consciousness. . . . We know that they are eternally active and conscious.” Not only does the above-quoted scripture, Ecclesiastes 9:5, give the lie to that statement, but so does Jesus Christ, the Master Teacher, for he often spoke of death as a sleep. A certain ruler came to Jesus and said: “By now my daughter must be dead; but come and lay your hand upon her and she will come to life.” When Jesus entered the ruler’s house, the people were mourning the girl’s death. Jesus said to them: “Leave the place, for the little girl did not die, but she is sleeping.” Then Jesus raised the girl from her death-sleep.—Matt. 9:18, 23-25.
On another occasion Jesus said he was going to the home of Lazarus “to awaken him from sleep.” The disciples thought Jesus was talking of a natural sleep. Then Jesus said to them: “Lazarus has died.” No doubt with this thought in mind, the New York Times, December 7, 1959, stated editorially of the 1,102 men who had died in the sunken battleship Arizona, that they “sleep forever.” Generally, however, death is referred to as a sleep because of the hope of their being raised again in the promised resurrection of the dead.—John 11:11-14.
No Support for Hell-Fire
Many Protestants and Catholics believe that the dead who have not gone to heaven are either in purgatory or in hell-fire suffering excruciating pains. A Catholic publication distributed by the Knights of Columbus says: “There can be no doubt that purgatory is real, that suffering there is real.” As for those in hell, it says they are hopelessly lost. Hell and the Lake of Fire, a Protestant pamphlet, states: One man will enjoy the pleasures of heaven forever. “The other man is suffering everlasting punishment and shall be in hell and the lake of fire forever and forever.”
There is absolutely nothing in the Bible to support either of these doctrines. The word “purgatory” cannot be found in Catholic or Protestant Bibles. As for the word “hell,” it has its origin with the Greek word Hades and the Hebrew word Sheol. The original word in each language means mankind’s common grave, a pit, a location where the dead and buried ones are unseen. The Bible says that Jonah and Jesus were in hell. Of Jesus, Peter said: He was not “forsaken in Hades [hell, AV],” that is, the Bible hell, the grave. The Revelation prophetically states that “death and Hades [hell, AV] gave up those dead in them.” Here The Revelation states that the dead in Hades or hell are dead, not living, and that they do have hope of deliverance. The Bible is conclusive on this point, that the dead “are conscious of nothing at all.” If they are not conscious, then they cannot be suffering. Further: “There is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol [the grave, AV], the place to which you are going.” Those who teach otherwise lie about the dead.—Acts 2:31; Rev. 20:13; Eccl. 9:5, 10.
Visions of Heaven
There are those who claim that the dying get a glimpse of heaven just before death. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale is reported as having talked with the wife of the famous inventor Thomas A. Edison about his view of the afterlife. Peale writes: “When Edison was close to the moment of death, his physician saw that he was attempting to say something. He bent over and distinctly heard the dying man say, ‘It is very beautiful over there.’ The observed experience of men and women as they pass into the so-called valley of the shadow,” Peale says, “indicates that on the other side there are both life and beauty.” He continues: “A nurse who has seen many people die told me, ‘Many patients have given expression, at the moment of death, of having “seen” something, and often they spoke about wondrous light and music. Some spoke of seeing faces which they recognized. There was often a look of incredulous wonder in their eyes.’”
What do they see? To deny that these persons see anything is to dismiss the testimony of reputable witnesses who have nothing to gain by falsifying at such a time. However, not all dying people see things. Morgan and Wyatt Earp, brothers of American frontier fame, promised each other that, when one or the other was about to die, that one would try to leave for the other the truth of what he saw. Wyatt dismissed such experiences as a lot of nonsense, while Morgan partly believed in them. When Morgan was in the last few seconds of his life, Wyatt says, he asked him to bend close. “I guess you were right, Wyatt,” he whispered. “I can’t see a damn’ thing.” That is all he said before he died.
What, then, can we conclude about those who do see things? The Bible conclusively states that the dead are dead, that they are unconscious, that they are in the graves awaiting the resurrection. The only logical conclusion that can be reached is that what these see is not reality but what the imagination creates in the mind’s eye. Many of these persons have longed for heaven or have dreaded hell; now the mind before death paints pictures of heaven for them; others say they feel torments. Just as a thirsty man in a desert sees an oasis and a starving man sees and smells food and as a drowning man has his past life flash before him, just so these now have “visions” of heaven, quiet places or even torment. None are real. We cannot under any circumstances set aside the testimony of God’s Word for man’s. To reject God’s Word is to lie about the dead.
Truth About the Dead
The only sure way to arrive at truth about the origin and condition of death is to accept what the Bible has to say. It has stood the test of thousands of years. Being the Word of God, it speaks with authority on death and life. Briefly, here is what it teaches.
When all the vital functions of a living organism, be it small or large, simple or complex, cease completely, that organism is dead. What happens at death? The Bible simply states: “For dust you are and to dust you will return.” No informed persons will argue with those words.—Gen. 3:19.
What is the cause of death? Only the Bible can give us a reasonable answer. The apostle Paul states: “The wages sin pays is death.” Death is not merely a natural fruit of sin, but its just punishment, an expression of divine justice. It is sin’s wage. What is sin? The Bible answers: “All unrighteousness is sin.” Sin is the transgression of God’s law, the missing of the mark of perfection. The first record of sin is found in Genesis, when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit. Their willful disobedience was sin, and the wages of sin is death. Adam and Eve both died as a result of sin.—Rom. 6:23; 1 John 5:17; Gen. 2:16, 17; 3:17-19.
The offspring of Adam, being conceived in sin, were born sinners. They had no choice but to reap sin’s wage. Therefore the Scriptures state: “Who can produce someone clean out of someone unclean? There is not one.” “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.”—Job 14:4; Rom. 5:12.
What is the condition of the dead? We have already touched on that. The Bible speaks of the dead as being asleep, resting, unconscious. As for the soul, the witness of the Bible is that “man came to be a living soul.” (Gen. 2:7) Soul and man are used synonymously in the Bible. A living, breathing, sentient creature, animal or human, is a soul. Nowhere does the Bible say the soul is immortal. It plainly speaks of the soul as mortal. At Ezekiel 18:4 we read: “The soul that is sinning—it itself will die.” It was not God but the Devil that told Eve: “You positively will not die.” People to this day have clung to that lie.—Gen. 3:4.
Where are the dead? They have returned to the dust from which they were made. The Bible speaks of a resurrection for “the righteous and the unrighteous.” As for wicked persons, there is no hope of a resurrection for them. Such ones are “comparable with the beasts that have been destroyed.” The righteous will receive a blessing, whereas the wicked will not. “The mention of the righteous one is due for a blessing,” say the inspired Proverbs, “but the very name of the wicked ones will rot.”—Acts 24:15; Ps. 49:20; Prov. 10:7.
At a funeral a group of skeptics present asked what hope there was for the dead. “My friends,” replied a friend of the deceased, “I do not know what you believed yesterday and I do not know what you may believe tomorrow, but for today we hope in God.” Those who know the truth about the dead and of God’s purpose to resurrect them in his new world of righteousness do not despair. They rest their hope, not in a nonexistent immortal soul, but in the true and living God, who has raised his Son Jesus “to be judge of the living and the dead.”—Acts 10:42.