Bible Truth About the Dead Gives Hope
Can you give real comfort to mourning ones?
WHEN a loved one lies between life and death, there is still hope that the body may yet successfully fight off the effects of disease or accident. But when that one is stilled in death, what then? Has hope gone forever? When you visit such a bereaved household, are you able to share with the sorrowing ones some strong hope? Or do you feel somewhat helpless when faced with their tragedy?
Hope lightens the burden of grief. Hope brightens the darkness that descends upon mourners like a pall. But it must be a genuine hope, one that is well-founded. It needs to be a hope that is based on unquestionable authority. It must be the truth. Do you believe that such a comforting hope is available?
It may be that, when faced with such a need for comfort, you offer the same expressions of condolence that you have heard offered by clergymen at funeral services. It is true that many people look to their church for comfort in time of sorrow. But many are plunged into a deeper sense of loss by what they have been taught to believe about death.
Put yourself in the position of parents who are mourning the death of a child. How would you react if a clergyman came and told you not to grieve, because God took your child? This statement is not uncommon. Many clergymen adopt the view expressed by one religious writer, namely: ‘Who knows but that God took your baby home to Heaven in order to turn your heart to Heaven also?’ Would that comfort you? Rather, it has actually embittered some, as they kept wondering why a God of love would inflict such a loss.
And what comfort can be given to the multitudes of persons who look upon death’s approach with terror? They have been taught that death really is not death, but is instead a time of punishment of wrongdoers in terrible torments. Some clergymen have vividly portrayed the flames of hell and harangued their congregations about the endlessness of the miseries that will be suffered by the “damned.” What kind of comfort can you offer to mourners who have been subjected to this kind of religion of terrorism?
Perhaps some feel that they have lived a fairly decent life. They may take comfort in the thought that “all good persons go to heaven.” This is what they have been taught to expect, but they may have their misgivings. Really, how many persons do you know who profess to have such a prospect and who are anxious to die? Most persons feel that the present life is preferable to the uncertainty of the future.
However, what if such one at death does not really go to heaven? Then the bereaved ones are being misled. You would not want to be thus misled, would you? Besides, even if you did get some measure of comfort from the deception, surely it would only be of a temporary nature! Real comfort that is lasting, to which we may cling with assurance, must be in harmony with the truth. If we cling to a lie, to something that is contrary to God’s Word of truth, then all our worship of God will be to no purpose, for Christ declared that “those worshiping [the Father] must worship with spirit and truth.”—John 4:23, 24.
One is truly placed in a very awkward position when he enters the house of mourning and can only say to the bereaved ones: “Oh, your beloved dead one will eventually get to heaven. Just have faith.” Is it not likely that the minds of some Catholic mourners will be distressed at the thought that the deceased may first have to undergo a lengthy period of affliction in purgatory before he qualifies for heaven?
WHY THE DILEMMA?
Has it ever occurred to you why you may be in such a dilemma—wanting to console your sorrowing friends and relatives, yet without any clear message of hope to offer? You may have been taught that man has some kind of invisible soul that leaves the body at death and takes up residence elsewhere as a conscious creature, whether in heaven, purgatory or a “hot hell.” Then, too, you have probably been taught that there is a resurrection of the dead. Jesus Christ gave assurance of resurrection from the dead.—John 11:25.
But pause, now, and consider the matter. If the dead are really not dead, but quite alive in another sphere, why would they need to be resurrected? If the dead soul has been consigned to a “hot hell” forever, how could the person be resurrected? Yet the Bible says that both “the righteous and the unrighteous” will be resurrected. (Acts 24:15) And if the dead soul has gone to heaven, there would be less reason for restoring it in the resurrection. One who is in heaven would surely want to stay there!
Of course, if it is true that man has an “immortal soul,” then we might agree that at death the soul must go somewhere. But even clergymen who have long clung to the idea are now expressing doubts about the matter. One Presbyterian minister in Australia, for example, is reported as saying: “In our theological training it was pointed out fairly clearly, and to me conclusively, that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul was not one which is derived from the New Testament; that it was a concept which originated, it seems, in Greek philosophy, particularly with Plato.” Can any genuine comfort be derived from a pagan philosophy?
THE BIBLE GIVES HOPE
The authoritative source of religious truth is the Bible, God’s written Word. (John 17:17) If your worship is to be acceptable to God, then it must be in harmony with Bible truth. Worship that is tied in with confusing teachings about death and the hope for the dead cannot be pleasing to God. How vital then for those who would gain favor and blessings from God to find out what his Book truly says on such vital matters!
The Bible declares that every ‘soul that is sinning will die.’ (Ezek. 18:4, 20) And in the Bible the word “soul” very often is used in the same sense as the words “being,” “person,” “creature.” God’s Word refers to a “dead soul” or a “living soul” just as we would speak about a dead person or a living one. (See Leviticus 23:30; 21:1, 11; Numbers 5:2 and Genesis 2:7, in which verses in the King James Version the same Hebrew word is variously translated “soul,” “dead” and “body.”) In the same way you yourself may refer to some “poor soul” and really mean the person—not something inside the person.
And why do souls or persons die? The Bible answer, as given at Romans 5:12, is: “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.” So people die, the young and the old, the wise and the unwise, because of the unavoidable inheritance of sin. And when they die they are really dead, out of existence, conscious of nothing at all. The dead are represented in the Holy Scriptures as being in a deep, dreamless sleep. They know nothing and will be conscious of nothing again until the day they are resurrected.
In proof of those statements consider these significant Bible texts: “For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, neither do they any more have wages, because the remembrance of them has been forgotten.” (Eccl. 9:5) “For David, on the one hand, served the express will of God in his own generation and fell asleep in death and was laid with his forefathers and did see corruption.” (Acts 13:36) “O that in Sheol [Hebrew for “the grave”] you would conceal me, that you would keep me secret until your anger turns back, that you would set a time limit for me and remember me! If an able-bodied man dies can he live again? All the days of my compulsory service I shall wait, until my relief comes. You will call, and I myself shall answer you.”—Job 14:13-15.
Those words of Job are in full agreement with the prophecy uttered by Christ Jesus, namely: “The hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear [my] voice and come out.” (John 5:28, 29) All the human dead whom God through Christ mercifully raises to life on earth again, just as Lazarus was raised to life, will have no recollection of their sleep in death, whether its duration was four days or four thousand years. (John 11:11-17, 43, 44) Those resurrected ones, however, will come back to life under an entirely different state of affairs.
THE DEAD RETURN TO LIFE—IN PARADISE!
Christ’s thousand-year reign will then have commenced, he having crushed all enemies of peace and righteousness. Under his heavenly government marvelous things will be accomplished on earth. For example, earth is to be transformed into a Paradise, a place of beauty, peace and fruitfulness. All the debris resulting from the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” will be cleared away. The soil, with God’s blessing, will become productive. Its fruitage will help mankind to grow to perfect health.—Rev. 16:14; 20:4; 21:1-4; 1 Cor. 15:25.
Now perhaps you can understand why Jesus answered the way he did when an evildoer being executed alongside him requested: “Jesus, remember me when you get into your kingdom.” Note that Jesus did not promise him that he would be in the heavenly kingdom or a part of it—a privilege accorded only to a few select ones from among humankind. No, but Jesus promised that evildoer that he would be in Paradise. He said nothing whatever about a “hot hell” or purgatory. His promise is in full accord with the fact that even unrighteous persons will be resurrected from the grave and offered the opportunity, under paradisaic conditions, to prove their worthiness of everlasting life.—Luke 23:39-43; 12:32; Acts 24:15.
Is not that a wonderful expectation? Imagine your beloved dead restored to life on earth under those grand conditions! A whole new future thus opens up for vast multitudes who have gone into the sleep of death. That there will be a vast crowd of unrighteous ones, as well as righteous ones, resurrected from the grave is also borne out by the words at Revelation 20:13: “And the sea gave up those dead in it, and death and Hades [Greek for “the grave”] gave up those dead in them, and they were judged individually according to their deeds.”
Not a mass trial and judgment, it should be noted, but each one “individually.” That will take time. Also, we may be sure that they will not be judged on their past record, for on that basis the evildoer who received Christ’s promise would have little chance. Rather, “he who has died has been acquitted from his sin.” (Rom. 6:7) How they respond to the loving rule of Christ’s heavenly kingdom after their resurrection will be the basis for judging each one. Those who yield themselves willingly to its direction will make marvelous progress toward human perfection and the gift of life unending.
Can you see how comforting to multitudes of bereaved ones this message of Bible truth can be? Yet only those who believe and accept God’s Word can be convinced of these truths. No one who continues in association with church organizations that go on teaching doctrines that hide or deny this wonderful hope can possibly convey this message with conviction to others. Surely you can see that there can be nothing in common with those who accept God’s Word as the basis for truth and those who mix God’s Word with human traditions and theological theories!—2 Tim. 3:2-5.
All the developments of these times show that the day draws near when Jehovah God will bring about the destruction of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. Those who want to attain life in a paradise earth must act swiftly to get out of her many religious systems, whether these are labeled “pagan” or “Christian.” These have all misrepresented and dishonored the true God and have failed to give genuine comfort to the mourning ones of earth.—Rev. 18:4-8.
You, too, can flee out of the midst of Babylonish religious associations. How? By associating with Jehovah’s witnesses, a great crowd of Christians who have already separated themselves from the doomed system that has perpetuated Satan’s lies and kept people in ignorance of Bible truth. You, too, can become equipped to ‘comfort those in any sort of tribulation through the comfort with which Jehovah’s worshipers are themselves being comforted by God.’ (2 Cor. 1:4) Jehovah’s witnesses will be happy to conduct a home Bible study with you free of charge. They will also welcome you at Bible-study meetings in their Kingdom Halls. You will be wonderfully encouraged to learn all about the Bible’s thrilling message of hope for the dead.