Where Are Our Dead Loved Ones Now?
“WHERE is the little fellow now?” The anguished mother (mentioned in the previous article) kept wondering where her dead baby had gone. Was he in heaven or in some other place?
Andrew’s mother was soon given an answer. Upon hearing of the tragedy, her eldest child, also a Roman Catholic, replied: “Andrew is in Limbo.” But was he?
Where or What Is Limbo?
The Concise Oxford Dictionary says that Limbo is a “region on border of hell, supposed abode of pre-Christian righteous persons and unbaptized infants; . . . condition of neglect or oblivion.” Concerning Limbo, the New Catholic Encyclopedia says: “Today the term is used by theologians to designate the state and place either of those souls who did not merit hell and its eternal punishments but could not enter heaven before the Redemption (the fathers’ Limbo) or of those souls who are eternally excluded from the beatific vision because of original sin alone (the children’s Limbo).”
However, the same encyclopedia also says: “The fate of infants dying without Baptism is indeed a very complex problem. . . . The question of Limbo still belongs among the unsettled questions of theology. An official endorsement of Limbo’s existence by the Church is not to be found.” In confirmation of this, The New Encyclopædia Britannica states: “Because the Roman Catholic Church has never officially endorsed the doctrine of limbo as an existing state or place, the concept of limbo remains a question that is unsettled.”
In spite of this, many devout Catholics accept the concept of Limbo. But please consider this point carefully: Why should babies be condemned to exist in a mysterious, incomprehensible place for all eternity simply because they were not baptized?
Does the Bible mention Limbo? No, God’s Word never mentions it. So this raises the vital question: Where do people, including babies, go when they die?
Where Do People Go at Death?
A popular view among churchgoers of Christendom is that at death people go either to heaven or to hell. But what does the Bible say about this? It states: “For the living know that they shall die; but the dead know not any thing.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, The Holy Scriptures, According to the Masoretic Text) So the dead know nothing. They are not living somewhere but are literally and completely dead. They are conscious of nothing.
This fact is confirmed by these statements in the Bible book of Psalms: “The dead themselves do not praise Jah, nor do any going down into silence.” (Psalm 115:17) “Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs. His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts do perish.”—Psalm 146:3, 4.
But what about the soul? Is it not immortal? No. Contrary to what most people believe, the soul is not immortal. This fact is plainly stated in the Bible, which says: “The soul that is sinning—it itself will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20) Further confirmation of this is found at Acts 3:23, which says: “Indeed, any soul that does not listen to that Prophet [Jesus] will be completely destroyed.”
Is Death the End of Everything?
Death is not necessarily the end of everything. The resurrection of the dead is plainly taught in the Scriptures. Jesus said: “Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28, 29) Furthermore, Jesus actually resurrected certain persons during his ministry on earth. The most amazing case was that of Jesus’ friend Lazarus. He had been dead for four days. But when Jesus cried out: “Lazarus, come on out!” the dead man responded, coming out of the tomb. What a thrill for the observing crowd! And what a joyful event for Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus!—John 11:38-45.
Where had Lazarus been during those four days? In heaven? In Limbo? No. The Bible does not say this or indicate it. If Lazarus had been conscious somewhere, surely he would have told others about this. But as the Bible says: “The dead know nothing.”—Ecclesiastes 9:5, The Jerusalem Bible.
Another heartwarming incident took place at the city of Nain. As Jesus approached the gate of the city, he met a funeral procession. The deceased was “the only-begotten son of his mother,” who was a widow. Naturally, she was weeping bitterly. This touched Jesus’ kind, loving heart. He approached, stopped the procession, and said: “Young man, I say to you, Get up!” And the dead man did! Can you imagine the ecstasy of the mother and the amazement of the bystanders?—Luke 7:11-17.
Did this young man have anything to say about being in heaven or Limbo? No. How could he? “The dead know nothing.” The Bible also likens death to a deep sleep. David said: “Answer me, O Jehovah my God. Do make my eyes shine, that I may not fall asleep in death.” (Psalm 13:3) Moreover, just before he resurrected Lazarus, Jesus likened death to sleep.—John 11:11-14.
At this point, another question arises.
Do Any Good People Go to Heaven?
Yes, some good people do go to heaven. A most interesting fact about good people, or true Christians, that is unknown to most churchgoers is that there are two groups. A small minority go to heaven to reign with Jesus Christ, while the majority will enjoy everlasting life on earth. Perhaps this surprises you. Therefore, let us consider what the Bible has to say on this interesting subject.
What was God’s original purpose for mankind? When he created Adam and Eve, did he intend that they should enjoy life for a while in the garden of Eden and then die and go to heaven? No. God gave them a special assignment as regards the earth, saying: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28) And Jehovah does not change his set purpose. He declares, at Psalm 89:34: “The expression out of my lips I shall not change.” So the Edenic Paradise must be restored and be enjoyed by faithful servants of Jehovah—the majority group mentioned above.
The minority group are given a very special privilege, that of reigning with Christ in heaven. In other words, they will share with Jesus in governing those living on earth. This is the Kingdom government that Christians pray for in the Lord’s prayer. Interestingly, in that same prayer, we say: “Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.”—Matthew 6:9, 10.
Does the Bible reveal how many are going to enjoy the very great privilege of reigning with Christ in heaven? Yes, it does. Says Revelation chapter 14, verse 1: “I saw, and, look! the Lamb standing upon the Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads.” Keep in mind that Revelation uses many symbols, or “signs,” as expressed in the opening verse, Revelation 1:1. “The Lamb” is Jesus Christ. (Compare John 1:29.) And Mount Zion refers not to the political capital of Israel but to “heavenly Jerusalem.”—Hebrews 12:22.
Revelation chapter 7 gives us information about both the heavenly group and the earthly group we have mentioned. Verses 4-8 mention the 144,000 “sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel.” This is another case of symbolism and means spiritual Israel, or “the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:16) Romans 2:29 says: “He is a Jew who is one on the inside, and his circumcision is that of the heart by spirit.” Revelation 7:9 next describes the earthly group, saying: “Look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.”
Good People Will Live on Earth
Billions of good people will live on a paradise earth. (Luke 23:43) Would you like to be among them? Of course you would. What a privilege it will be to live on a cleansed earth that is free of pollution, famine, crime, sickness, suffering, and the ghastly prospect of nuclear conflict! Does the Bible really foretell such a thing? Yes, indeed. It says: “Evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth. . . . The meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace. The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”—Psalm 37:9, 11, 29; compare Matthew 5:5.
What, then, about babies who have died? Will they too be present on the Paradise earth? They do not go to Limbo, which does not exist. But young ones in God’s memory will come back in the resurrection of the dead—one of the marvelous promises in God’s Word, as we have already noted. (John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15) Perhaps you have lost loved ones in death and often wonder where they are now. From the Scriptures it is clear that they are asleep, awaiting the resurrection. Would you like to have more information about this marvelous hope of life on a paradise earth? If so, why not discuss these matters with Jehovah’s Witnesses when they next call at your home?
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Some good people do go to heaven. Who are they?
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Where was Lazarus while he was dead?
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Photo taken at Brooklyn Botanic Garden