In order to discuss Bible topics effectively with Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christians need to have a clear understanding of the differences between Christian doctrine and Watchtower teachings.
For this reason, I have decided to do a series of posts contrasting the Christian and Watchtower views of the resurrection.
Christians believe that every human being has a non-physical soul that survives physical death. This is not the resurrection; it’s an intermediate state. The resurrection is a reuniting of soul and body which will take place in the end times.
The resurrection body will not be identical to the body that died, but there will be continuity, sort of like a seed that produces a plant. 1 Corinthians 15:35-38: “But someone may ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?’ How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.”
The Watchtower’s basic teachings are set out on its website, jw.org, in an article entitled “What is the Resurrection?” This article can be found under the tab entitled “Bible Teachings.”
Witnesses believe that there is no non-physical human soul that survives physical death; when you’re dead, you go out of existence completely. The article states, “[It is a myth that the] resurrection is a reuniting of the soul with the body… The Bible teaches that the soul is the entire person, not some part that survives death…”
They believe that most people will be resurrected in physical form suitable for life on earth but that 144,000 people will be resurrected in “spirit bodies” suited for life in heaven.
The article states, “In the Bible, the word translated as ‘resurrection’… means ‘raising up’ or ‘standing up again.’ A person who is resurrected is raised up from death and restored to life as the person he was before.”
But if a person is raised as a spirit creature, what exactly is “raising up” or “standing up again”? It’s not the person’s body, nor is it the person’s soul, if indeed the soul was nothing more than the body.
But even in the case of a physical resurrection, the Watchtower says it’s not the body which died that comes to life again. The article says, ““[It is a myth that] when resurrected, a person receives exactly the same body that he had before he died… After death, a person’s body would likely have broken down and disintegrated.”
What the Watchtower believes in is not a rising from the dead of something that once was alive. Rather, it is a re-creation of the person from God’s memory: “A person who is resurrected is not reunited with his soul; he is recreated as a living soul.” In their view, Jehovah will implant the person’s memories and personality into a new body.
The Christian might well ask Jehovah’s Witnesses, “If it isn’t the deceased person’s body that is raised from the dead and if there is no separate soul or personality that survives physical death, then would it really be the person who died who comes to life again? Wouldn’t it rather be a completely new person who is being given the memories and personality of someone else?”
If, as the Watchtower teaches, it won’t be your body or your soul which dies and then comes back to life again, in what sense is it really you that is being resurrected from the dead?
Share your thoughts in the comments.