The Watchtower teaches that the soul and spirit of a person constitutes the life-force of the individual, and thus, the Society claims that this life-force (soul and spirit) ceases to exist at the point of death. Does the Bible teach that the human soul and spirit become annihilated at death? The following verses demonstrate the fallacy of such reasoning:
* Note: This first example is a parable of Jesus in which He describes a conscious existence at death. Given the fact that Jesus always used real-life experiences in his parables and the fact that this is the only parable in which Jesus mentions people by name, we know that Jesus was not speaking in symbolic terms, but giving a clear illustration of life after death:
- LUKE 16:22-29: “…the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. And being in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me…for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, in order that those who wish to come over from here to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, Father, that you send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, lest they also come to this place of torment. But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ ” 1.
* If the soul ceases to exist at death, why does Jesus state that humans do not have the ability to “kill the soul”?
- MATTHEW 10:28: “And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” 2.
- LUKE 12:4-5: “And I say to you, ‘My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!”
* How can “souls of those who had been slain” during the Tribulations cry out to God and ask how long it will be before their blood is avenged?
- REVELATION 6:9-11: “And when He broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained. And they cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, should be completed also.”
* If our soul does not exist apart from the body, how could Moses who died (Jude 9) and Elijah who went up to Heaven (2 Kings 2) appear on earth prior to the resurrection?
- LUKE 9:30-31: “And behold, two men were talking to Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”
- MATTHEW 17:3-4: “And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. And Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ “
- MARK 9:2, 4-8: “…Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up to a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; …And Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified. Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!’ And all at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone.”
* How can God be the God of the “living” if Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ceased to exist at death? How can the dead in the tombs “hear” the “voice” of Jesus, if they no longer exist after death?
- JOHN 5:25, 28-29: ” ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live. …Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.’ “
- LUKE 20:37-38: “But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him.”
* How can one “be pleasing” to the Lord if one ceases to exist at the point that one is “absent” from the body? How can death be considered “gain”?
- PHILIPPIANS 1:21-23: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.”
- 2 CORINTHIANS 5:6-9: “Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord–for we walk by faith, not by sight–we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”
* How can non-existent people be “blessed” and have deeds that “follow with them”? How can death not “separate us” from God, if we cease to exist at death?
- ROMANS 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- REVELATION 14:13: “And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, ‘Write, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!”‘ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.’
* If godly people cease to exist at death, why is their death “precious” to Jehovah God?
- PSALM 116:15: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His godly ones.”
* Why make a distinction between spirit, soul and body if the soul and the spirit are part of the body? Why must the spirit and soul “be preserved complete” if they cease to exist at death?
- 1 THESSALONIANS 5:23: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.”
* Since the soul and spirit are described as the “hidden person of the heart” and something that exists deep “within” a person, how can the soul and spirit be nothing more than the life force of the person?
- MARK 2:8: “And immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, ‘Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts?'”
- MARK 8:12: “And sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, ‘Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.’ “
- ACTS 17:16: “Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was beholding the city full of idols.”
- JOHN 13:21: “When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.”
- 1 PETER 3:4: “but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”
- MATTHEW 26:41: “Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
- 2 CORINTHIANS 7:1: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
* If spirits do not exist apart from the body, why are they enrolled in heaven and “made perfect” after death?
- HEBREW 12:23: “to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect.”
* If the spirit and soul of a person ceases to exist after the “outer man” (i.e. flesh) decays, how can the “inner man” be renewed while the flesh is decaying?
- 2 CORINTHIANS 4:16: “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”
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1. All Scripture references are quoted from the New American Standard Bible.
2. Although Matthew 10:28 states that the “soul” can be “destroyed,” the Greek word ἀπολέσαι (ἀπόλλυμι – apollymi) translated“destroy” does not mean annihilation, but rather “to perish” in the sense of “ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being”—Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, 1977, p. 164.