Do You Fear the Dead?
TO THIS question, many answer with a simple, “No. Why should I?” They believe that the deceased really are dead. Millions, however, are convinced that the dead live on as spirits.
In Benin, West Africa, many believe that the dead can return to kill other members of their own family. People sell possessions or go into debt to pay for animal sacrifices and ceremonies to appease dead relatives. Some practice spiritism, which includes the idea that a spirit part of humans survives at death and can communicate with the living. Others have fearsome experiences that they attribute to the influence of spirits of the dead.
One who had such an experience is Agboola, a man who lives near the border between Benin and Nigeria. He says: “Spiritism dominates life in our area. It is the custom to wash corpses ceremonially to prepare them for the spirit realm. I often gathered up leftover soap and mixed it with certain leaves. Then, as I applied the concoction to my hunting rifle, I said aloud which type of game I wanted to shoot. Practices like this are common and seemed to be quite effective. However, some aspects of spiritism were frightening.
“When two of my sons died mysteriously, I suspected that someone was practicing spiritism against me. To find out, I went to an old man, renowned for his spiritistic powers. He confirmed my suspicions. Worse, he explained that my sons were now waiting in the spirit world to become servants of their killer when he died. The old man added that my third son was doomed to the same fate. A few days later, that son too was dead.”
Agboola then met John, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses from neighboring Nigeria. John’s explanation of the condition of the dead was based on the Bible. That explanation changed Agboola’s life. It can change yours too.
Are the Dead Alive?
Who can best answer this question? Not some man, however renowned he might be. Rather, Jehovah, the Creator of all life “in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible,” has the answer. (Colossians 1:16) He created angels to inhabit the spirit realm and man and animals to live on the earth. (Psalm 104:4, 23, 24) Life everywhere is dependent on Him. (Revelation 4:11) Consider, then, what God’s own Word, the Bible, says about death.
Jehovah was the first to speak of death. He warned that Adam and Eve would die if they disobeyed him. (Genesis 2:17) What did that mean? Jehovah explained: “Dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19) At death the body disintegrates; it goes back to the dust. Life ceases.
Adam and Eve were willfully disobedient and were therefore sentenced to death. They, however, were not the first to die. Their son Abel was. His older brother, Cain, murdered him. (Genesis 4:8) Cain did not fear that his dead brother could take vengeance. Rather, Cain was apprehensive about what living men might do to him.—Genesis 4:10-16.
Many centuries later, King Herod was agitated when astrologers informed him that a “king of the Jews” had been born in his realm. Bent on eliminating this potential rival, Herod schemed to have all boys in Bethlehem two years of age and under slain. But an angel warned Joseph to take Jesus and Mary and “flee into Egypt.”—Matthew 2:1-16.
When Herod died, the angel told Joseph to return to Israel, “for those who were seeking the soul of the young child [were] dead.” (Matthew 2:19, 20) The angel, a spirit himself, knew that Herod could harm Jesus no more. Joseph had no fear of the dead King Herod. However, Joseph was afraid of what Herod’s tyrannical son, Archelaus, could do. So Joseph settled his family in Galilee, outside of Archelaus’ jurisdiction.—Matthew 2:22.
These accounts help us to see that the dead are powerless. How, then, can the experiences of Agboola and others be explained?
“Demons,” or Unclean Spirits
As an adult, Jesus encountered wicked spirit creatures. They recognized Jesus and addressed him as the “Son of God.” Jesus likewise knew who they were. They were not spirits of dead humans. Rather, Jesus identified them as “demons,” or unclean spirits.—Matthew 8:29-31; 10:8; Mark 5:8.
The Bible speaks of spirits loyal to God and of those who have rebelled against him. The book of Genesis says that when Jehovah drove disobedient Adam and Eve out of the garden of Eden, he posted cherubs, or angels, to the east of the garden to prevent anyone from entering it. (Genesis 3:24) This was apparently the first time that spirits became visible to humans.
Some time later, a number of angels came to earth and took on human form. Jehovah had not commissioned them to carry out any assignment on earth. Instead, they “forsook their own proper dwelling place” in the spirit realm. (Jude 6) Their motives were selfish. They took wives, who gave birth to hybrid offspring called Nephilim. The Nephilim and their rebellious fathers filled the earth with violence and other great badness. (Genesis 6:1-5) Jehovah dealt with the situation by bringing the global Deluge of Noah’s day. Floodwaters destroyed wicked men and women as well as the hybrids. What happened to the angels?
The Flood forced them back into the spirit realm. Jehovah, however, prevented them from resuming “their original position.” (Jude 6) The Bible states: “God did not hold back from punishing the angels that sinned, but, by throwing them into Tartarus, delivered them to pits of dense darkness to be reserved for judgment.”—2 Peter 2:4.
Tartarus is not a particular location; it is a prisonlike, abased condition that limits the activity of these outcasts. The demons can no longer materialize, but they still have great power and influence over minds and lives. They can possess humans and animals. (Matthew 12:43-45; Luke 8:27-33) They also deceive humans by posing as the spirits of the dead. Why? To keep people from worshipping Jehovah in a way that pleases him and to confuse them regarding the real condition of the dead.
How to Overcome Fear
Agboola saw the reasonableness of the Bible’s explanations regarding death and the identity of the spirits. He understood that he needed to learn more. He began to read the Bible and Bible-based publications with John. Agboola found comfort in the knowledge that his sons were asleep in the grave, not waiting in the spirit realm to become their killer’s servants.—John 11:11-13.
Agboola also realized that he had to make a complete break with spiritistic practices. He burned all his possessions connected with the occult. (Acts 19:19) Some in the community warned him that the spirits would react unfavorably. But Agboola had no fear. He followed the counsel found at Ephesians 6:11, 12: “Put on the complete suit of armor from God . . . because we have a wrestling . . . against the wicked spirit forces.” This spiritual suit of armor includes truth, righteousness, the good news of peace, faith, and the sword of the spirit, God’s Word. Such armor originates with God and is powerful!
Agboola was ostracized by some of his friends and relatives when he shunned customs associated with spiritism. However, at the local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he found new friends, who believe what the Bible teaches.
Agboola now knows that Jehovah will soon cleanse the earth of wickedness and will reduce the demons to total inactivity. Eventually, He will destroy them. (Revelation 20:1, 2, 10) God will resurrect here on the earth “all those in the memorial tombs.” (John 5:28, 29) That will include Abel, the innocent children whom King Herod murdered, and millions of others. Agboola has faith that his three sons will be included. Your loved ones who have died may well be among them. All such resurrected ones will confirm that from their death to their resurrection, they were completely unconscious—unaware of any ceremonies performed for them.
You have no reason to fear the dead. Rather, you can look forward to being reunited with dead loved ones. In the meantime, why not study the Bible to strengthen your faith? Associate with those who believe what the Bible teaches. If you dabble in spiritism, stop immediately. Protect yourself from the demons by putting on “the complete suit of armor from God.” (Ephesians 6:11) Jehovah’s Witnesses will be happy to help you. They offer free home Bible studies, using the book What Does the Bible Really Teach?*
Agboola no longer fears the dead, and he has learned how to resist the demons. He says: “I don’t know who caused the deaths of my three sons. But since I have been serving Jehovah, I have had seven other children. No one in the spirit realm has ever harmed them.”
Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
[Blurb on page 13]
Agboola no longer fears the dead, and he has learned how to resist the demons
[Picture on page 12]
Cain did not fear that his dead brother could take vengeance