Reasoning with Jehovah's Witnesses

6. The Nature of Death


Part 1: The Nature of God 
1. The Deity of Christ 
2. The Personality of the Holy Spirit 
3. The Trinity 
Part 2: The Nature of Man 
4. The Spirit of Man 
5. The Soul of Man 
6. The Nature of Death 
7. Resurrection 
8. The Nature of Hell 
Part 3: God's People 
9. Israel 
10. The 144,000 
11. God's Organization 
12. The Great Crowd 
13. The Faithful and Discreet Slave 
14. Persecution 
Part 4: Man's Salvation 
15. The Gospel 
16. Being Born Again 
17. Salvation 
18. Justification 
19. Sufficiency of Christ's Redemption 
20. Relationship with Christ 
21. Christian Freedom 
22. Witnessing 
Part 5: The Last Days 
23. The Return of Christ 
24. Watchtower Chronology -- The Year 1914 
25. The Rapture 
26. The Kingdom 
27. The New Heaven and New Earth 
Appendix A: Disassociation Letter 
Appendix B: The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures 
Scripture Index 
Subject Index 

6. The Nature of Death

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that:

a. The soul sleeps at death.7

b. There is no afterlife immediately following death and preceding the resurrection.8


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Q1. Is the term "sleep" ever applied to either the spirit or the soul in the Bible, or only to the body?

Ps 146:3-4-Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

Matt 9:24-he said, "Depart; for the girl is not dead but is sleeping."

John 11:11-"Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, that I may awaken him out of sleep."

Acts 7:59-60-And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon [the Lord] and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!"...he fell asleep.

Acts 13:36-"For David...fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers, and underwent decay"

1 Thess 4:14-For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.


Q2. Does the Bible speak of an afterlife immediately following death and preceding the resurrection?

Deut 18:10-11-"There shall not be found among you anyone who...calls up the dead."

1 Sam 28:11-15-"Bring up Samuel for me"..."I see a divine being coming up out of the earth"...Then Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?"

Eccl 12:7-the spirit shall return to God who gave it

Is 14:9-10-Sheol from beneath is excited over you to meet you when you come; it arouses for you the spirits of of the dead, all the leaders of the earth; it raises all the kings of the nations from their thrones. They will all respond and say to you, "Even you have become like us..."

Matt 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 [Gr. gehenna]."

Matt 17:3, Mark 9:4-And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. [Matt 17:9-vision=Gr. orama-that which is seen; a spectacle-cp. Luke 24:23]

Matt 27:49-"Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him"

Matt 27:50-And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up [His] spirit.

Mark 15:36-"Let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down"

Luke 12:5-"fear the One who after He has killed has authority to cast into Hell [Gr. gehenna]"

Luke 16:22-"the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom"

Luke 16:25-"during your life...[as opposed to his present condition-death]"

Luke 16:30-"'if someone goes to them from the dead...'"

Luke 23:43-"Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."

Luke 23:46-"Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit." And having said this, He breathed His last.

John 2:19-Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."

John 8:51-"Truly, truly I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death."

John 11:25-26-"he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die."

John 19:30-he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Acts 7:59-And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon [the Lord] and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!"

Acts 20:10-But Paul went down and fell upon him and after embracing him, he said, "Do not be troubled, for his life [Gr. soul] is in him."

Rom 8:38-39-For I am convinced that neither death, nor life...shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2 Cor 5:8-we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.

Phil 1:23-24-For 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.

Phil 2:10-that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth.

2 Ti 4:6-For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.

Heb 12:22-23-But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 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...

2 Pet 1:13-15-And I consider it right, as long as I am in this [earthly] dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my [earthly] dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure [Gr. exodus] you may be able to call these things to mind.

Rev 6:9-11-When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.

Rev 20:4-And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus...and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.


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a. The term "sleep" is never applied to either the spirit or the soul in the Bible, but only to the body.

b. Immediately following death, the Bible speaks of an afterlife in the spirit. In this state the individual awaits resurrection of the body.


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Scriptures commonly used by Jehovah's Witnesses:

Ps 146:3-4-Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.


Ez 18:4,20-The soul who sins will die.

See Q1

Eccl 9:3-10-UNDER THE SUN...For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward...UNDER THE SUN...UNDER THE SUN...UNDER THE SUN...there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.




7. Reasoning from the Scriptures, pp. 136-137

8. Ibid., pp. 30, 101; Make Sure of All Things, p. 143