Former President Dwight Eisenhower, pop icon Michael Jackson, author Mickey Spillane and supermodel Naomi Campbell all have one thing in common: they were all raised as or converts to Jehovah's Witnesses. Jehovah's Witnesses share many beliefs with other Christian denominations, but have some markedly different ideas about death and dying.
Mortal Body, Mortal Soul
The human body is a mortal thing, destined one day to simply stop functioning. Jehovah's Witnesses believe the same thing about the human soul. The soul is something inherent to every living thing and simply represents the force of life. When a person's physical body stops functioning their soul stops functioning as well. Jehovah's Witnesses believe the Christian teaching that the soul is immortal came from Greek philosophy rather than from the teachings of Jesus or the Bible.
The Common Grave of Mankind
Jehovah's Witnesses teach that hell is simply a state of unconsciousness to which all of the dead go. They suggest that the New Testament word "hell" is representative of the Old Testament word "Sheol" or "the grave." Even good men and women go to this place after they die. The hope that Jehovah's Witnesses have is that one day God will resurrect the righteous, allowing them to live forever.
Destruction of the Soul
There is no literal fiery place of eternal torment for unbelievers, according to Jehovah's Witnesses. They teach that death itself is the penalty for sin, rather than eternal punishment. In fact, Jehovah's Witnesses argue that a place of eternal torment would violate God's loving nature. Instead, when the soul of the unbeliever dies it remains dead, never to be resurrected. That individual ceases to exist. As his body dies, so his soul dies.
The Great Cloud and the Anointed
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that two distinct groups of believers will experience resurrection. The first, known as "the anointed," consists of the first 144,000 believers to be raised when Christ returns. Jehovah's Witnesses teach that Jesus returned invisibly in 1914 and that this first resurrection is already taking place. Those individuals who are resurrected will go to reign with God in heaven. The remainder of believers, the "great cloud of witnesses," will be raised from the dead to live in an earthy paradise with Jesus forever.
- BBC Religions: The Beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses and How They Differ from Mainstream Christianity
- Jehovah's Witnesses: What Happens When You Die?
- Adherents: Famous Jehovah's Witnesses
- Jehovah's Witnesses: What is Hell?
- Jehovah's Witnesses: Who Goes to Hell?
- Watchtower Online Library: Questions from Readers
- Watchtower Online Library: Soul
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