The Afterlife and Watchtower Lies (2)

In part one, I pointed out how Jehovah’s Witnesses use specious arguments to spread their annihilation beliefs. Here I will proceed to examine their errors regarding the human soul and spirit.

The Human Soul

When writing about the soul, the Bible writers used the Hebrew word ne’phesh or the Greek word psy-khe’” (Bible Teach, 208).

This is true. A reference work says: “Usually the nephesh is regarded as departing at death (e.g Gen. 35:18), but the word is never used to mean the spirit of the dead. Since Hebrew psychology lacked precise terminology, there is some overlapping in the uses of nephesh…and ruach…one of the main differences between the OT and NT usage is the application of both psuche and pneuma to human existence beyond death” (The New Bible Dictionary, J. D Douglas, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962, “Soul”, 1208).

JWs teach that when the Bible speaks of souls, it’s referring to people, animals, or the life that a person or animal enjoys. This is a selective definition. In the New Testament, the primary Greek word used for the soul is psuche, and its defined as:
1. Breath;
a. The breath of life; the vital force which animates the body;
b. Life;
c. That in which there is life; a living being; a living soul;
2. The soul;
a. The seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions, (our soul, heart etc.)
b. The (human) soul in so far as it… can attain the highest end and secure eternal blessedness, the soul regarded as a moral being, designed for everlasting life;
c. The soul as an essence which is different from the body and is not dissolved by death” (Thayer’s Greek- English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 677).

In Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, six definitions are provided for “soul”: Actual life of the body, the invisible part of man, seat of personality, seat of the sentient element through which man perceives and reflects, the seat of will and purpose and that of appetite.

The Watchtower Society trades on the ignorance of JWs by giving a word that has a variety of different meanings only 3 definitions. For example, the definition of the soul as people or the actual life of the body when applied to passages like Gen. 1:20, 46:18, Jos. 11:11 1Pet. 3:20 fits in correct and is reasonable. But to apply that definition to the following passages is absurd:

Genesis 35:18 “And her soul [nephesh] was departing (for she was dying)…”

1Kings 17:22 “And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.”

Job 14:22 “But his flesh upon him shall have pain, and his soul within him shall mourn.”

Psalm 106:15 “And he gave them their request and sent leanness into their soul.”

The context of a passage determines which of the meanings of the soul is being referred to. It’s just like the English word “stone.” It can refer to an object, an action or a name. It can also be used metaphorically. You can’t dogmatically restrict its usage to mean an object. So when JWs say “The soul is not something inside a person; the soul is the person himself,” know that they didn’t derive that from the Bible, but from the Watchtower Society.

“…nowhere in the entire Bible are the terms ‘immortal’ or ‘everlasting’ linked with the word ‘soul.’ Instead, the Scriptures state that a soul is mortal, meaning that it dies. (Ezekiel 18:4, 20)” (Bible Teach p 210).

At this point, they have hopped from one error to another. Earlier, they misdefined death as “non-existence,” so now they are applying that wrong definition onto the soul. This argument fails for the simple fact that it was the immortal breath from God that made Adam “a living soul.” Only the body was made from dust and it is the only part of man that dies at physical death and goes back to the dust, when the inner man (soul and spirit) leaves the body (Gen. 2:7, James 2:26).

A Bible scholar pointed out that, “When God created man He created Him in His own image (Gen. 1:26-27). The question is: What is the image of God in man? The image of God in man cannot be physical because God is a spirit (John 4:24) and does not have a body. The image, then, must be non-material…” (Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, 2008, 318).

The inner man has immortality because it came from God who is eternal and immortal (1Tim. 1:17). The fact that God “only hath immortality dwelling in light” (6:16) does not negate the fact that the inner man is immortal or that Believers dwell in the light. That God “is the only wise” One doesn’t imply that He doesn’t give wisdom to men who ask Him. When the Bible speaks of the soul dying (Ezk. 18:4) being lost (Mt. 16:26) or destroyed (Acts 3:23) it;s referring to its separation from God, not non-existence. The physical body is mortal while the inner man (soul and spirit) is immortal (Eccl. 3:19-21). The Bible says “your hearts [soul] shall live for ever” (Ps. 22:26).

The soul is called the “hidden man of the heart…which is not corruptible” i.e it does not decay (1 Peter 3:4). Moses died and was buried by God (Deut. 34), yet centuries after his death, he spoke with Jesus (Mt. 17:3). If he became non-existent after death, did God re-create him that moment and made him non-existent again after then? No. Jesus said God “is not a God of the dead, but of the living” (Luke 20:38). He is not the God of the non-existent.

2Corinthians 4:16 says “but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” The outward man is the physical body which is seen while the inward man is unseen inner man. Apostle Paul desired “to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” He didn’t say “absent from the body and becoming non-existent” (2Cor. 5:8)

Jesus says “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul” but that the destruction of the soul is eternal separation in hell, not “non-existence” (Mt. 10:28) In Revelations 6:9-11, “the souls of them that were slain for the word of God cried out… And white robes were given to them” and told to rest for a time until their brethren “that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”
There is no justification for minimizing, de-emphasizing or ignoring these verses unless one is committed to Watchtower leadership.

The human spirit

The human spirit is the seat of knowledge, conscience, intuition and worship and has the soul (which is the seat of emotions, will etc). Notice how JWs defined iy:

Spirit’ thus refers to an invisible force (the spark of life) that inanimates all living creatures…like electricity, the spirit has no feeling and cannot think. It is an impersonal force” (Bible Teach, 201-11)

This is where the Watchtower missed its mark. The Bible shows that the human spirit is in the body and is not made of the material of the body (Job 32:8, Zech. 12:1, 1Cor. 2:11). Furthermore, the human spirit rejoices (Luke 1:47), receives witness (Romans 8:16), perceives (Mark 2:8), groans (John 11:33), can be stirred (Acts 17:16) and possess knowledge (1Cor. 2:11). It’s outright rebellion to say that human spirits lack feelings or thinking. Try and substitute the word “spirit” in these verses with “electricity” or “life-force” and see how absurd they sound.

The Watchtower tactics

Apart from the semantic juggling of words, the Watchtower Society also utilizes other tactics to maintain this false teaching.

1. Misquoting sources

In Reasoning from the Scriptures (p 169-170), a quote is offered from Encyclopedia Britannica (vol XXV, 236) to disprove the soul’s immortality. The part in bold were intentionally omitted:

“In the NT, the Greek word psyche is often translated as “soul” but again should not be readily understood to have the meaning the word had for the Greek philosophers. It usually means “life” or “vitality,” or at times “the self.” While most Christians believe in a life after death, the Bible does not provide a clear description of how a person survives after death. Christian theologians have had to resort to the discourse of philosophers for an adequate means of describing survival of the individual after death, and philosophers have traditionally utilised the concept of the soul as the vehicle of immortality.”

2. Poisoning the well

They attempt to link the Christian doctrine on the afterlife with paganism (by misquoting their sources or utilizing the biased works of other annihilationists).
They also project a negative image of pastors or Christian Bible teachers as ‘servants of Satan.’ This is a pre-emptive tactic employed to seal the minds of JWs to whatever their opponents say.

The Bible’s teaching about the condition of the dead leaves many of Christendom’s clergymen in an awkward position. They very book on which they claim to base their teachings, the Bible conflicts with their doctrines. Yet, consciously or unconsciously, they feel impelled to reach into the Bible to seize on something to prove their point, thereby blinding themselves and others to the truth” (Is this Life All There Is? 1974, 98, 99).

Here is another quote: “The ‘burning anger of Jehovah’ is against all who have misled their fellowmen by lying about God and his purposes. And he does not hold guiltless those who support such men by attending their religious services or being members of their organizations. The time left before the execution of divine judgement is short…you need to act quickly…to break all ties with the world empire of false religion.” (p 187)

The scare-mongering and the appeal to isolation in these quotes are obvious. The amusing thing is that, on one hand, JWs are told to quickly cut all ties with all churches, yet the JW who wrote this claims to know what church clergymen might say or do “consciously or unconsciously.” How did he know them? Such screeching rhetoric are meant to prevent JWs from reading any reputable Christian work exposing the lies of the Watchtower Society.

3. Comma shifting

Luke 23:43 “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

Here, Jesus was promising the pernitent thief that he would be with Him in paradise that very day. This is another proof of the immortality of the inner man and an eternal destination. This would turpedo the JW doctrine, so they shifted the comma to after the word “today” in their New World Translation (NWT) bible to read as:

“Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise”

To defend, this spurious translation, they argue that: “Westcott and Hort text put a comma in the Greek text before the word today… in the original Greek, no comma is found” (Kingdom Interlinear Translation, 1969, 408).

The fact is that the punctuation in English is determined by the context of the passage. The NWT has no scholarly support for this mis-punctuation. This is why all Bible versions (with the exception of the NWT) renders the comma after “you” and not “today.” Greek scholars are in agreement. Dr Randolph Yaeger in his work, The Renaissance New Testament translates Luke 23:43 as: “Therefore He said to him, truly I am telling you, Today you shall be with me in paradise.”
Greek scholar, Kenneth Wuest renders it: “And He said to him, Assuredly I to you am saying, Today you will be with me in paradise” (The New Testament- An Expanded Translation, Grand Rapids, MI, 1961, 203).

Like I have demonstrated elsewhere, these are the tactics employed when  religious organization is bereft of truth. Dr Ron Rhodes explains why the JWs had to tamper with the Bible text:

“It is helpful to observe how the phrase, ‘Truly, I say unto you’ is used elsewhere in Scripture. The phrase – which translates the Greek word amen soi lego – occurs 74 times in the Gospels and is always used as an introductory expression… In 73 out of 74 times the phrase occurs in the Gospels, the New World Translation places a break- such as a comma- immediately after the phrase, ‘Truly I tell you’. Luke 23:43 is the only occurrence of the phrase in which the New World Translation does not place a break after it. Why?…this would go against Watchtower theology” (Reasoning from The Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Harvest House, 1993, 328).

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The Afterlife and Watchtower Lies (1)

The main Watchtower Bible study book used to recruit converts is What does the Bible Really Teach? Its 6th chapter titled “Where are the Dead?” presents non-existence after death (annihilation) as a valid explanation of the afterlife. This view of the afterlife is neo-Sadduceeism which re-emerged with some 19th century cults (Christian Science, Seventh Day Adventists and Christadelphians).

This belief appeals to people trying to escape from the reality of eternity. Since the two eternal destinations (Heaven and Hell) are well spelt-out in the Bible, the efforts of annihilationists to find their theories within the pages of the Bible is a self-induced delusion. I would be focusing on the JW arguments on this topic (since they are the most popular of the bad lot).

Our senses, along with our thoughts, are all linked to the workings of our brain. At death, the brain stops working. Our memories, feelings and senses do not continue to function independently in some mysterious way” (What Does the Bible Really Teach?, 2005, 58).

This statement is based on false assumptions. It’s an argument also used by atheists and materialists to deny the reality of the spiritual dimension and it is based on faulty reasoning. The Watchtower writers assume that consciousness is generated by the brain, but irrefutable evidence show that consciousness is independent from the brain. The brain is not the source of thought, it’s only the processor, so to speak. The “system” that runs the brain is the spirit and soul. It is from there that thoughts, feelings and memories come. The brain only processes them.

The brain is a physical organ that can only experience the physical world. But there is an invisible part of man that experiences the spirit realm and which departs from the physical body after death. So a person can be conscious even after his physical body has died. The above JW assertion seems logical, but it deliberately ignores some basic facts and leads to false conclusion.

They continue: “He [Jehovah] knows the truth, and in his Word, the Bible, he explains the condition of the dead. Its clear teaching is this: When a person dies, he ceases to exist. Death is the opposite of life” (ibid).

Now, there is a big difference between what the Bible says and what the Watchtower Society claims the Bible says. This is obvious to anyone who reads the Bible without their cultic interpretative grid. The clear teaching of the Bible is that man is basically a spirit being that has a soul and lives in a physical body.

Of course, death is the opposite of life. But both must be defined from the Bible, not from a handbook of Sociology. Scripture defines life not merely as an existence, but a right existence knowing the true God (Jn. 17:3, 1Jn. 1:2) and death is defined, not just as opposite of life, but as separation or a cutting off from God’s purpose. The definition of death as cessation of existence is totally unbiblical. Death/separation is used in 3 Biblical contexts:

1. Physical death: separation of the spirit and soul from the physical body. When physical death occurs, the body (not the spirit) ceases all its physical functions (Ps. 146:4, James 2:26).

2. Spiritual death: separation of the human spirit from God due to sin. A person can be physically alive and spiritually dead. For example in Matthew 8:22, Jesus said “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.” He was referring to the spiritually dead unbelievers.

Ephesians 2:1: “And you hath he quickened [i.e made spiritually alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Every unbeliever is spiritually separated (dead) from God until he is regenerated and reconciled by faith in Christ’s ransom at the cross (vs 13-16). 1Timothy 5:6 says: “But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.” Therefore, death can describe people still physically existing, but in a wrong way.

3. Eternal or Second death: eternal separation from God in the lake of fire. It’s the ultimate penalty for sin (Rev. 2:11, 20:6, 14, 21:8).

The two main ways JWs confuse people concerning death and the afterlife is by giving death a remote, unscriptural definition, and by distorting the real penalty for sin. Once you have a proper understanding of these two areas, the lies spurn by the Watchtower to trap people will snap away before you like a thread held to a flame.

I. “Death- loss of life; termination of existence; utter cessation of conscious intellectual or physical activity, celestial, human or otherwise” (Make Sure of all Things, 1953, 86).

This definition of death cannot be substantiated by any reputable Hebrew or Greek lexicon. Not a single Hebrew or Greek word in the Bible means “cessation of consciousness” or “annihilation.” The major Hebrew words used for death in the OT are maveth and muth. And the most common Greek word for death in the NT is thanatos (Strong #2288). Greek scholar, W. E. Vine in An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defined it as: “The separation of the soul (the spiritual part of man) from the body (the material part)…the separation of man from God” (1940, “Death”).

Another Greek scholar, Joseph Thayer defined thanatos as: “The death of the body, i.e separation…of the soul from the body by which the life on earth is ended” (Greek-English Lexicon of the NT, 282).

JWs spread their false doctrines by not distinguishing between the Biblical contexts of death, but lumping both definitions of physical and spiritual death together. Perhaps realizing that giving death the “cessation of consciousness” meaning may pose some problems, in another publication, they admit:
“The Bible shows that death can be used as a symbol, representing a great change in one’s life or course of action” (The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life, 1968, 43).

II. The penalty for sin is eternal separation from God in hell. If the penalty was physical death, then everyone who dies is automatically saved, for his penalty has been paid. Yet this is what JWs teaches, that, “Those resurrected thus come to life with a clean slate, so to speak” (Bible Teach, 214). In their own words, God’s “maximum punishment for the wicked is to revoke the gift of life” (The WT., Oct. 1, 2011, 6).

So physical death justifies you from your sins.  That’s a lie! Since death is non-existence, by their own definition, that implies that God cancels out sins by making men non-existent. He just settles it while we fizzle! Wrong. The fact that some who physically die will be saved and others will be lost proves that physical death can’t be God’s “maximum penalty” for the wicked.

If the penalty of sin is spiritual death, that means sinning is the way to be saved. Since by sinning and dying spiritually, you have paid your penalty, that means all who have sinned would have eternal life. Who then needs salvation? The real penalty for sin, therefore, could not be physical or spiritual death, but eternal death (Eph. 2:1-9). A good question to ask a Witness is: what is the penalty of sin?

Two Bible texts are cited to support annihilation:

(a) Eccl. 9:5 “As for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all

This is true as far as the dead bodies are concerned. JWs already laid the foundation by misdefining death, so all they are doing is building on that wrong definition with a-contextual Bible verses. Dead bodies know nothing and are not conscious at all. They came from the dust and return to the dust, but the souls and spirits of all men are immortal and continue in full consciousness between death and the resurrection of the bodies.

The other part of the verse (which JWs omitted) says “…neither have they any more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.” If we are to take this part of the text as JWs have taken the first part, then that implies the dead have no resurrection or reward on earthly paradise. No JW would agree with this.

Verse 6 explains vs 5 “…neither have they any more a portion forever in anything that is under the sun.” In other words, the verse is saying, in relation to this world, the dead know nothing.

(b) Ps. 146:4 “[when a man dies] his thoughts do perish”

The “thoughts” here refers to unaccomplished purposes of a person on earth which ends when a person dies. The syntax or context of this verse contradicts Jehovah’s Witness beliefs. If we interpret Isaiah 55:7 “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts…” the same way, we’d conclude that an unrighteous man must cease to think and become non-existent!

Jesus told his disciples: ‘Lazarus our friend has gone to rest.’…Notice that Jesus compared death to rest and sleep. Lazarus was neither in heaven nor in a burning hell. He was not meeting angels or ancestors…He was at rest in death, as though in a deep sleep without dreams” (Bible Teach p 59)

Jesus indeed used the term “sleep” to describe the death of Lazarus. The apostles too used the term to describe the death of Believers (Acts 7:60, 1Cor. 11:30, 1Thess. 4:13-17, 5:6-10). They used the term “sleep” as a metaphorical expression indicating that death is only temporary for Christians, just as sleep is temporary. It pointed to the resurrection of Believers. To jump from the term “sleep” to “non-existence” is an unwarranted leap.

Of course, Lazarus was neither in heaven nor hell, he was in Abraham’s bosom. This was a temporary place the OT saints were kept before Christ’s resurrection (Lk. 16, Eph. 4:17). It is inconsistent to say a person who is non-existent is “in a deep sleep” and is then re-created by Jehovah at some point in the future. To bring a person out of non-existence, is not “resurrection” but re-creation. How can it be the same person who died that is being brought back from cessation? This doctrine is not only unbiblical, but also unreasonable.