This is the eighth in a series of articles about the doctrines and practices of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Read part seven.
Jehovah's Witnesses teach that man does not have an immortal soul, and that both humans and animals are in the same state of non-existence after death.
Here are the Jehovah's Witnesses false teachings about the soul of man (and, in this connection, about Jesus Christ) in their own words.
A Naturalistic View of Man
"Man is a combination of two things, namely, the 'dust of the ground' and 'the breath of life.' The combining of these two things (or factors) produced a living soul or creature called man....So we see that the claim of the religionists that man has an immortal soul and therefore differs from the beast is not scriptural."1
"At death man's spirit, his life-force, which is sustained by breathing, 'goes out.' It no longer exists....When they are dead, both humans and animals are in this same state of complete unconsciousness....That the soul lives after death is a lie started by the Devil."2
"The fact that the human soul is mortal can be amply proved by a careful study of the Holy Scriptures. An immortal soul cannot die, but God's Word, at Ezekiel 18:4, says concerning humans, 'Behold all souls are mine...The soul that sinneth it shall die.' "3
"It is clearly seen that even the man Christ Jesus was mortal. He did not have an immortal soul: Jesus, the human soul, died."4
"Thus it is seen that the serpent (the Devil) is the one that originated the doctrine of the inherent immortality of human souls."5
Authentic Christianity in Contrast
It was not the mere combining of dust and breath that "produced" a living soul. "Then God said, 'Let Us [note the plural; God is a Trinity] make man in Our image, according to Our likeness' " (Genesis 1:26). "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." (Genesis 2:7)
An accurate translation of Psalm 146:4 says this about man at death: "His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish." But in their New World Bible, the Jehovah's Witnesses mistranslate Psalm 146:4 to say that man's spirit, which they define as his breath, "goes out" - their implication being that when man stops breathing, he stops having a "spirit" and ceases to exist. They fail to compare this passage with the rest of Scripture, including Ecclesiastes 12:7: "Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it." Man's spirit does not cease to exist at death.
We see this also in Jesus' account - and it is an account and not a parable - of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. Both men, one in Paradise, the other in Hell, as well as Abraham himself, are conscious, visible, reasoning, thinking beings.
At the last judgment as described in Matthew 25 and Revelation 20, all the dead stand before the Lord to be judged. Scripture makes it clear that the passage in Ezekiel 18:4 ("the soul that sinneth it shall die"), used by Jehovah's Witnesses to attempt to prove the annihilation of man at physical death, actually refers to the "second death" of conscious souls after the Last Judgment:
"Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:11-15)
And in the next chapter of Revelation, we find the eternal state of those immortal souls who will dwell in the new heavens and new earth with the visible Christ:
"Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.' Then He who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.' And He said to me, 'Write, for these words are true and faithful.' " (Revelation 21:1-5)
"But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life." (Revelation 21:22-27)
1. Let God Be True (New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1952), p. 68.
2. You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, (New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1982), p. 77.
3. Let God Be True, p. 69-70.
4. Let God Be True, p. 71.
5. Let God Be True, p. 74-75.