Jehovah’s Witnesses and the “Soul” of Man
“Jehovah’s Witnesses” teach that man, as God created him, is (in their terminology) “wholly mortal.” By this they mean man is completely subject to death, and nothing about God’s masterpiece is immortal.
The Jehovah’s Witness doctrine concerning man is not only contrary to plain scripture, it is very dangerous. If man is completely mortal, when he dies he ceases to exist. Jehovah’s Witnesses and those associated with the Dawn Bible Student’s Association, erroneously believe man’s soul is merely the uniting of breath and body. They aver that when a being (dog or man) breathes, he is a “living soul.” When that same being (dog or man) ceases to breath the soul dies and the animal or man ceases to exist. This is sometimes known as the false doctrine of annihilation.
Here is an example, taken from official Jehovah’s Witness documents, of how they view man:
“The Scriptures declare that God formed man of the dust of the earth, breathed into his nostrils the breath of lives, and man became a living soul; which means, man became a living, moving, breathing, sentient being. (Genesis 2:7). In the law of God it is written: ‘The soul that sinneth, it shall die.’ (Ezekiel 18:4). If the soul were immortal it could not die. To the same effect it is written: ‘What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?” (Psalm 89:48) When a man dies he is as dead as a dead dog. (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 19; Psalm 115:17) He remains in that state until the resurrection.” - Deliverance, page 324.”
This is the Jehovah’s Witness view of man. There is absolutely nothing about a human that is immortal. He will die just like a dog and when dead will be as non-existent as a dog. This is the doctrine of rank materialism. It denies fundamental facts from the Bible.
Here is another of their statements. “The Scriptures do not say that God breathed into this body immortality, but merely that the soul resulted by animating the body after it had been created; and this resulted from the breath which he breathed into the nostrils.” Harp of God, page 42).
A little truth, contaminated with error, is much more dangerous than outright false doctrine. A small amount of poison in water is more dangerous because it appears to be water, but hides a deadly danger to life. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have a little truth in their ideas about man’s soul, but the error they mix with it makes it as dangerous as poisoned water.
It is true that soul sometimes means physical life or physical being. This is the only sense in which it is applied to animals. Animals have “life” (Gen.1:30). Genesis 2:7 says God the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” This is said exclusively of man -- not of beast, fish, or bird.
While animals live because gave them life, the Bible never refers to any other than “man” as a “living being,” or “living soul.” (Please read Gen. 2:7; 1 Cor. 15:45; and Rev. 16:3.) God made a distinction between man and beast that is ignored by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Man is the only creature of God made in “the image of God,” therefore the only creature of God with a spirit, patterned after God himself. Only man is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and that image is not physical but spiritual.
God almighty is the father of spirits, not to beasts, but only to mankind. Hebrews refers to God as “the father of spirits” (Heb 12:9). The offspring always bears the image of the sire. God is spirit, declared Jesus (John 4:24). Thus all of God’s offspring possess his spiritual nature. Animals are not “children of God.” Nor are beasts adopted into God’s family as children. God did not send our Lord into this world to seek and save the beast of the field. To the contrary only man, made in God’s image, is the object of God’s saving power and grace.
After God created all things suitable for man’s life, he formed the body of man from the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7) and in that body formed a spirit. “The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.(Zech. 12:1). It is that same spirit that goeth upward while the spirit of the beast goeth downward to the earth (Eccl. 3:21).
Soul sometimes refers to a person. Noah and “eight souls” were saved by water” (1 Pet. 3:20). On the Day of Pentecost, the preaching of the gospel resulted in about three thousand souls being added to the Lord (Acts 2:41). The same thought is found in verse 43 and Acts 7:14. When Paul said, “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers” (Rom. 13:1) he referred to the citizens of world governments.
Sometimes soul refers to the inner part of man, his spiritual life. The Bible teaches that the soul of man can exist apart from his physical body. Jesus said the body can be killed, but not the soul (Matt. 10:28). Witnesses object saying that God is able to kill the soul. It is not a question of his ability, but of how God constructed the soul, the inner being of man. He made it immortal and imperishable. Peter wrote, “But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit” (1 Pet. 3:4). When the spirit departs the body, the body (not the spirit) dies (James 2:26). The spirit lives on. It is immortal, imperishable.
Soul and spirit are at times used interchangeably. James 5:19, 20 reads, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth and one convert him, let him know that he which converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death and shall hide a multitude of sins.” The expression “saving of the soul” is also found in Heb. 10:39. The same thought is expressed in reference to the spirit being saved (1 Cor. 5:5). Peter wrote of the “cleansing” of the soul (1 Pet. 1:22). Paul wrote of the same thing but called it cleansing of the spirit (2 Cor. 7:1).
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the dead have no consciousness. Once more, from their very own publications, I read: “We must conclude from these scriptures that the dead are wholly unconscious from the moment of death until such future time as the Lord may be pleased to awaken them out of death and give them an opportunity of life, which he purposes to do, as set forth in his great plan. (John 5:28,29) Man was made of the dust. He was sentenced to return to the dust; that is, the condition of the dead. And the Lord said: ‘They that sleep in the dust of the earth shall arise.’-Daniel 12:2.” - Harp of God, page 47.
Please read Luke 16:19-26. It tells us of a rich man who, while alive lived luxuriously. It also tells us of a poor beggar named Lazarus. Both died. The rich man lifted up his eyes “in hell.” He was able to see Lazarus in what the Bible calls “Abraham’s bosom.” While Lazarus was in exquisite comfort the rich man was tormented in flame. He begged Abraham to send Lazarus to him with just a few drops of water to cool his tongue. Abraham reminded the rich man of his life before his death.
The rich man was fully conscious not only of his horrible state but also of the beggar’s bliss in the bosom of Abraham. He was called on to remember, a function of consciousness. He was conscious of his deplorable fate. He had concern for the lost, wanting Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his family, still alive, not to come where he was. Does this sound like the Jehovah’s Witness description of the unconscious dead? They view dead people in precisely the same way they view a dead dog.
Based on the last statement, “a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us,” Bible believers must understand there is no such thing as “a second chance” or an opportunity for another life after death. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him, shall he appear a second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb. 9:27-28).
The Bible clearly teaches the spirit God formed in man is immortal. The Bible does not that “spirit” means only “breath” or “wind.” Paul said he served God with his “mind” (Rom. 7:25) but also said he served God with his spirit (Rom. 1:9). This is proof that the spirit and mind were the same in Paul. Breath is not an acceptable rendition of pneuma in Rom. 1:9. When God formed the spirit in man (Zech. 12:1), this doesn’t mean that all he did was to make a corpse commence breathing. “Form” (same word) is used in Gen. 2:7 which tells us God formed man out of the dust. Solomon said the body, formed from dust, will return to the dust from whence it came, but the spirit will return to God who gave it (Eccl. 12:7).
The spirit of man is “in” man’s body
1. Daniel said he was grieved in his spirit which he said was “in the midst of my body” (Dan. 7:15).
2. Job 32:8 reads, “But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.”
The inspired words locate the spirit of man in man’s body, separate and distinct from the physical body, contrary to what the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach.
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