Chapter 6, “Where Are the Dead?”, begins (heading, p. 57) with several questions, one of which is, “Would it be comforting to know the truth about death?”
My answer would be, “Maybe, or it could be terrifying!”
The Watchtower gives its answer in no uncertain terms in paragraph 4 (p. 58): “According to almost every religion, past and present, we somehow live on forever with the ability to see, hear, and think. Yet, how can that be? 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. They do not survive the destruction of our brain.”
My response would be, “Doesn’t this beg the question as to whether there are immaterial parts of us that survive physical death by simply asserting that there are not? What about angels? They don’t possess physical bodies, yet they are able to experience thoughts and emotions. Why can’t the same be true of humans whose bodies no longer function?”
Paragraph 5 (p. 58) succinctly states the Watchtower’s teaching: “[The Bible’s] clear teaching is this: When a person dies, he ceases to exist. Death is the opposite of life. The dead do not see or hear or think. Not even one part of us survives the death of the body. We do not possess an immortal soul or spirit.” (emphasis original)
Putting a statement in italics makes a statement emphatic, but it doesn’t make it true.
In response, I recommend that you use part of The Justice for the Wicked Approach from my book, Getting Through to Jehovah’s Witnesses: Approaching Bible Discussions in Unexpected Ways. That approach cites a number of scriptures from the Watchtower translation that show there is conscious existence after death (pp. 263-264). These include (all quotations are from the Watchtower’s translation):
- John 11:25-26: “Jesus said to her: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life; and everyone who is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all.’”
- 2 Corinthians 5:1: “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, should be torn down, we are to have a building from God, a house not made with hands, everlasting in the heavens.”
- 2 Corinthians 5:8: “But we are of good courage and would prefer to be absent from the body and to make our home with the Lord.”
- Philippians 1:21, 23: “For in my case, to live is Christ and to die is gain…I am torn between these two things, for I do desire the releasing and the being with Christ, which is, to be sure, far better.”
Next time, we’ll examine the “Soul” and “Spirit” Appendix.