Can people be saved beyond death? What does the Bible teach?
Last week I saw two Jehovah’s Witnesses standing by their magazine cart. I decided to approach them and ask them a question. The question was ‘I am not a Jehovah’s Witness, so what will happen to me when I die?’
The answer I received was this: ‘You will cease to exist’. One of the ladies then opened her Bible and asked me to read this verse: ‘“The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing at all, nor do they have any more reward, because all memory of them is forgotten… Ecclesiastes 9:5 (NWT)
I already knew how they would answer my question and the Bible verse they would take me to; after all Jehovah’s Witnesses will always respond the way they are programmed to respond.
I could have discussed with them the following points:
i) The writer of Ecclesiastes is talking about life (and death) from the viewpoint of the living. Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NWT) ‘What has been is what will be, And what has been done will be done again; There is nothing new under the sun’. The writer uses the term ‘under the sun’ more than 20 times, clearly showing that he is contemplating and discussing the life he sees around him.
‘The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing at all…’(Ecc.9:5). The dead know nothing at all because their life on earth has come to an end. They no longer have any part to play in anything that happens ‘under the sun’.
ii) ‘nor do they have any more reward’… (Ecc.9:5)
Do the dead have any more reward? Well not in this life ‘under the sun’, says the writer of Ecclesiastes, but there are rewards for the dead in the life to come. Jesus said:
“‘Look! I am coming quickly, and the reward I give is with me, to repay each one according to his work” (Revelation 22:12 NWT)
So my Jehovah’s Witness friend, is Ecclesiastes 9:5 teaching that the dead cease to exist – forever – and have no further reward – forever – or that the dead cease to exist (in this life) but can have some reward in the future life?
Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that when a person dies they cease to exist, but they remain stored in Jehovah’s memory, and at some point in the future He will resurrect (more accurately ‘re-create’) them to a paradise earth where they will be given a second chance.
Now let’s return to my discussion with the ladies at the cart.
I asked the ladies if I cease to exist when I die, is that it for me? Their answer was if I die before Armageddon, I will be raised and given a second chance. If I die at Armageddon (which of course is coming soon to a town near you) I will be annihilated and that is game over for me.
I then repeated back to the ladies what they had said to confirm I had heard it right (it seems I had) and then asked a further question. ‘Are you then saying that a person can live as they feel in this life and, as long as they die before Armageddon, they will be given a second chance after death to accept Jehovah?’
Their answer was ‘Yes’, followed by ‘No’, followed by ‘kind of’, followed by ‘only Jehovah knows the hearts of men and women’.
It seems to me, and now hopefully to them, that the message they preach is indeed ‘party on… you will get a second chance’. They were quick to point out that those who have never heard the gospel, will surely be given a second chance. But I wasn’t asking about them I was asking about me.
I asked them who, if anyone, would not receive a second chance? They replied it was up to Jehovah, but when pressed offered some thoughts. Two categories emerged. Those who die at Armageddon and those who knew something of the truth but then rejected it.
I suggested to the ladies, in light of all they said, that their offer of a free home Bible study was actually damaging, not helping people to be saved. If there is a chance that learning something of the Watchtower gospel and then rejecting it, could lead to no second chance beyond death; isn’t it better to not tell people anything, let them live as they please and then they will get a second chance when they die?
At this point the two Jehovah’s Witness ladies agreed, packed up their trolley and went for a Costa Coffee (other Coffee brands are available), at least that’s how I saw it happening in my head! Of course they didn’t, they just disagreed saying once again, it is up to Jehovah who will be given a second chance.
This whole episode shows that Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t really able to process what they are taught. They are unable to connect the dots or see the obvious. This is true of anyone who has undergone any kind of ‘cult’ programming. Their faculties to reason becomes impaired as they just regurgitate that which they have been taught.
So, does the Bible really teach a Gospel of the Second Chance?
Many people like to believe that they will have a second chance to accept God after death. They reason that if God is all loving, surely he will forgive them and allow them into heaven. As appealing as this may be, it is not what the Bible teaches.
Hebrews 9:27 says: ‘And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment…’ This, and other verses, teach that each person’s eternal destiny, either reward or condemnation, will be based on what was done in this life (Matt.7:21–23;13:36–43; John5:28–29).
Jesus also taught that the future for all is set at death. Jesus shared the story of Lazarus, who was eternally in paradise, and the rich man, who was eternally in torment (Luke16:19–31). Finally, the description of the great white throne judgment in Revelation 20:11–15 categorically shows that our eternal destiny is based on our earthly life. In these and other passages, physical death marks the boundary of human opportunity to be saved.
Don’t listen to any group who promise the opportunity of salvation post mortem.
Today is the day of salvation. Choose to follow Jesus NOW.