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The Resurrection of the Dead by Jason Wright

Introduction

“But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raisedAnd if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:13-14)

Jehovah’s Witnesses pride themselves on preaching the “good news of God’s Kingdom”. This Kingdom, they say, will encompass two resurrections. The first they call the “heavenly resurrection” wherein a limited number of 144,000 will be chosen to rule with Christ in heaven over the earth. The heavenly resurrection is said to be “spiritual” that is the recipient receives a new “spirit-creature” body similar to angels.

Moreover the Watchtower states that Jesus himself “was put to death as a human, [but] Jehovah did not allow His faithful Son to remain in the Grave…God resurrected Jesus, but not as a human.”[1] According to this statement Jesus was not raised in the same body in which he died. Like the 144,000 Jesus is said to have received a spirit-creature body at his resurrection, his human body being dissolved by Jehovah.

We might pose the question “if Jesus in his pre-incarnation was Michael the Archangel perhaps he took up that body again?” or did he need a new spiritual body because “Jehovah had dissolved Michael’s original body?”[2] Confusing stuff! Unfortunately most witnesses do not think through the ramifications of such teachings.

The second resurrection the Watchtower calls the “earthly resurrection” wherein the dead of all the ages will be brought back to life[3]. Earthly resurrection bodies are said to be like our current bodies but “perfected”. Conjectures abound over what exactly a perfect body can and cannot do. Here in the Paradise earth each resurrected person (as well as Armageddon survivors) will enter into what Russell termed a “trail for life” viz. the personal opportunity to learn about “Jehovah” and become obedient servants and thus obtain eternal life. Please note eternal life is always dependent on maintaining eternal obedience.

In this study article I wish to explore the nature of the “resurrection” by comparing scripture with Watchtower doctrine. For example what type of body do we receive? Does death bring annihilation or does our consciousness remain? Are there really two types of resurrection: one to earth and one to heaven? If not then what does the Bible really say about mans destiny?

In order to answer these questions we will begin by exploring man’s nature, the concept of soul/spirit[4] and life after death. Next we will ponder Adamic sin and the ransom sacrifice, giving particular attention to Russell’s doctrine of the “corresponding ransom sacrifice”. It is necessary to grasp these antecedent doctrines before going on to examine the somatic (bodily) resurrection of Jesus, the believer and the unbeliever. In conclusion we will discover the scriptures present a radically different resurrection picture to that proposed by the Watchtower society.

Overall it will be argued that the Watchtower has misinterpreted the biblical resurrection and instead promulgates a false resurrection doctrine that should be categorically rejected.

The need for a Soul/Spirit.

When engaging Jehovah’s witnesses on the topic of resurrection the first monumental hurdle to overcome concerns the nature of man. The Watchtower emphatically denies that humans are composite beings of body, soul/spirit; instead man is viewed like the animals, singular in nature, a physical body animated by breathing which they like to call a “living soul”. For the Watchtower it is only mans reason that differentiates him from the animals. Thus similar to atheists, Jehovah’s Witnesses teach: “When you are dead you truly ARE dead – YOU – the person – cease to exist”. Much like the extinguishing of a candle, once the flame of life is snuffed out the light of existence is gone. Such a position may appear logical and rational however scripture explains otherwise.

Zechariah 12:1 “the Lord [Jehovah]…forms the spirit of man within him.

Luke 1:46-47 “And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

Romans 1:9 “God, whom I serve in my spirit

Romans 8:16 “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”

1 Corinthians 2:11 “For who among men knows the [thoughts] of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him?”

1 Kings 17:21-22 “O Lord [Jehovah] my God, I pray thee, let this child’s life [Heb. soul] return to him.” And the Lord [Jehovah] heard the voice of Elijah, and the life [Heb. soul] of the child returned to him and he revived.”

Matthew 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].”

Revelation 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.”

For a review of the “Soul”[5] please see:

https://watchtowerinvestigated.co.uk/2014/04/05/reasoning-from-the-scriptures-review-soul-by-jason-wright/

There is then a necessary connective between soul/spirit and resurrection. By soul I don’t mean a ghostly, ethereal, apparition living inside us, but rather by soul I mean the supra-physical consciousness that makes us who we are[6]. We may call this the immaterial part of man.

Interestingly the Greek word for resurrection (anastasis) confirms the body/soul connection. Anastasis “signifies either rising up or standing erect of someone who has been in a reclining position. Therefore resurrection in its basic sense  denotes restoration to life after an interval spent in the realm of the dead[7] (Sheol/Hades[8]).

Here then is the first major flaw in Watchtower “individual eschatology”, viz. we have no soul. However if we have no soul and cease to exist at death it raises the question as to how anyone can we be resurrected. For there is in reality nothing to resurrect! If death has annihilated the “me” then how can you or I “rise again”? It’s impossible to resurrect someone who does not exist! Yet the Watchtower continues to promulgate the idea.

Such a doctrine does not represent the true resurrection of scripture. Instead the Watchtower presents a type of re-creation wherein a new clone-like individual in created. Below is an example of how the Society attempts to reconcile the resurrection/annihilation dilemma;

“Resurrection is a restoration to life of the nonexistent dead…It is an act of God dependent entirely on God’s marvelous power through Christ and upon the memory of the dead. It is the reactivation of the life pattern of a creature, a transcription of which is on record with God, and is referred to as being in his memory”[9]

Surely we have here a serious contradiction. How can the nonexistent dead exist in the mind of God? If they are in his mind surely they DO exist albeit in a disembodied state. The idea of reactivation and transcription is false if the dead are truly nonexistent. However, if consciousness does exist in God’s memory then the dead do have a postmortem existence. You cannot have it both ways.

If then as I have argued humans do have a postmortem existence as disembodied spirits we may ask where do such spirits reside? And what are they waiting for? According to NT revelation the intermediate state is spent either in Sheol/Hades or heaven depending on your salvific state before death. Space does not permit an in-depth discussion of this topic. Suffice to say the intermediate state precedes bodily resurrection.

Consequently while man was created as a composite whole, body, soul/spirit sin has affected this reality. After the fall of man a separation took place. Firstly mankind’s direct relationship with God was severed, secondly his body began to degenerate and finally at death his mind/consciousness (soul/spirit) was ripped from his body; the ultimate separation – disembodiment in a conscious afterlife (Genesis 3:3, 15).

The apostles confirm that they themselves believed in a conscious afterlife. Both Peter and Paul understood the difference between the soul and the physical body. At death each looked forward to “being with Christ” and in due course receiving a resurrection body (soma).

2Pe 1:13-14 “I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.”

2Co 5:1-4 “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”

Philippians 1:21 “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh [body], that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”

Adamic Sin and the Ransom Sacrifice

Before proceeding we must understand what doctrine underpins the Watchtowers understanding of resurrection.

Russell formulated his individual eschatology around the erroneous doctrine of the “corresponding ransom sacrifice”. This doctrine teaches that the perfect man Adam sinned and subsequently lost perfection. In order to reclaim perfection all that was required was a corresponding perfect man. That could have been any perfect man, but Jehovah is said to have chosen the Archangel Michael who at the incarnation became Jesus. Through perfect obedience unto death Michael/Jesus is said to have become the equivalent to Adam. In this way Jesus cancels Adams sin and makes eternal life possible for all through the earthly resurrection[10].

Watchtower salvation (if it can be called that) is not based on the “finished work of Christ” but rather Jesus is said to be the corresponding sacrifice providing a foundation from which man can work to provide his own salvation. However is Adamic sin canceled in this way?

Firstly the Watchtower while it “acknowledges inherited sin, does do not have any real concept of sin’s awful penalty”[11]. What was required was more than equivalency. Through Adam sin and death had entered the world, however Jesus did not just die for Adams sin but for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 2:2 “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world”. [12]

Consequently Jesus died in the stead of those who deserved death. This makes Jesus sacrificial death more than equivalency; Jesus is a substitute[13]. He takes upon himself our individual sin. He takes the punishment of sin. He pays off our debt. No human, no matter how “perfect” could redeem the whole of mankind in this complete sense. To take upon oneself the sins of the world required a divine substitute, nothing less would do. How could a created angel forgive sin and impute righteousness? Only a God-man could achieve this (John 1:1, 14; 20:28).

Hence Jesus the Son of God veiled his deity and provided himself as the atoning sacrifice for our sins (Philippians 2:6-7). Once Russell attacked and rejected Christ deity his heretical teaching of “corresponding ransom sacrifice” was easily realized. However, for those who do accept Jesus deity the outcome is wonderful. No longer do we live under condemnation. No longer do we work to earn salvation. Instead, a restoration of relationship and fellowship between the believer and God occurs.

1 John 1:1-3 “ That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ”.

The burden of redemption falls on Jesus shoulders not ours, what Jesus accomplished is a “finished work” on behalf of sinners. Even if we allow for the Watchtowers teaching that the unrighteous dead will be given opportunity in paradise to earn salvation the truth is that NO individual could ever make himself or herself righteous before God. Why? – Because man cannot earn salvation. Salvation is a gift from God received by faith in Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

To reiterate; Salvation is a FREE gift received by FAITH in Jesus sacrificial death.

2 Timothy 1:8b-10 “the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”

The reconciliation of man to God has been accomplished through the death and bodily resurrection Jesus Christ. This is a complete work; there is nothing to add. All we can do is enter into this redemption by faith.

2 Corinthians 5:21 “For our sake he made him [Jesus] to be sin[14] who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.

Jesus HAS paid the price for YOUR sin and MY sin – the debt we owe HE has paid! Acceptance of Jesus substitutionary sacrifice brings immediate results:

  • It satisfies God’s justice (Romans 3:23-24)
  • It removes the guilt of Sin (Romans 6:23-24; Hebrews 9:26)
  • It redeems the sinner (Galatians 3:13)
  • It imputes to the sinner righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21; Revelation 14:4)
  • It gives eternal life (John 3:16; 6:40; 10:28; 1 John 5:11)
  • It guarantees our salvation (Ephesians 1:14; Hebrews 7:22)
  • It guarantees our body resurrection and glorification (Romans 8:23; 1 John 3:2)

It is heartbreaking that God’s provision of redemption has been rejected by Jehovah’s witnesses in favor of Russell’s “second chance” heresy.

The Somatic Resurrection of believers

Paul introduces the resurrection doctrine to his Corinthian brethren with these words:

1Co 15:3-4 “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day[15] in accordance with the Scriptures”

Please note Paul’s emphasis on resurrection, viz. “he was raised up” (Greek ἐγείρω) = “to cause someone to live again after having once died—‘to raise to life, to make live again.[16] Paul drove home the reality of Jesus BODILY (somatic) resurrection. It is imperative to understand that Jesus was the “first fruits” of a much larger heavenly harvest wherein believers experience BODILY resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:22-23 “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all[17] be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”

Note the resurrection takes place at the “coming of Christ” and refers to the heavenly resurrection, no mention here of any earthly resurrection. Paul envisions a heavenly harvest; Jesus had “inaugurated the new creation (John 20:22; 2 Cor. 5:17) and become the forerunner and guarantee of the subsequent admission of his people”[18] (Heb. 6:19-20).

Please understand the Corinthian error was not denial of the soul or afterlife but denial of the BODILY (somatic) resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:12 “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”

The Corinthians had carried over into their Christian faith a skewed platonic understanding of mans nature. “To the Corinthians the body was the source of man’s weakness and sin; death therefore was the welcomed means by which the soul was liberated from the body. In their thinking to receive a [resurrection] “body” would enslave the soul again”.[19]

Similarly the Watchtower has a serious problem with bodily resurrection. In part this is due to a skewed eschatology. C T Russell insisted that Jesus return (parousia) took place invisibly in 1874 (later revised to 1914) this insistence on invisibility resulted in Russell concluding Jesus own resurrection must have likewise been invisible/spiritual. A key proof text presented is 1 Peter 3:18;

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit

“In the spirit” is interpreted by the Watchtower to mean that Jesus was not resurrected BODILY in the flesh, but rather he rose as a spirit creature (whatever that is?). However the verse actually says that Christ was raised IN “the spirit” NOT “as a spirit” the reference here then is to the work of the “Holy Spirit” whom “raised Christ from the dead”[20]

Paul knowing the Corinthian error raises a rhetorical question: “But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.”

Paul is here concerned with the BODILY (somatic) resurrection of believers. In verses 37-44 he contrasts various types of “body” concluding that God gives to each its own body specific for its task. We may ask the same question today. How are the dead to be raised IN WHAT BODY?

1 Corinthians 15:42-44 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”

Unfortunately the phrase “spiritual body” conjures up in the mind of witnesses the idea of a non-physical non-human body. However Paul has already stated clearly that we are dealing with a physical BODY (soma). The question is how is the physical BODY raised. Firstly we are born or sown a body that is animated and controlled by psuche (life/Soul). Our Adamic body is perishable, weak and eventually dies. Gloriously believers will be raised with spiritual bodies such bodies will be controlled and animated by the spirit.

However we must be careful not to interpret these verses with the idea that our new bodies are entirely different, rather you might say we receive a heavenly upgrade. Our current physical bodies even though they perish at death are destined to bear the image of the man from heaven.

1 Corinthians 15:49 “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”

Romans 8:11 “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Therefore at the somatic resurrection of believers, Christians will receive a reconstituted body that is raised in glory. Such a change is essential as the earthly adamic body of “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom” (v.50) because it was not designed for existence in heaven, consequently our perishable body must be changed to fit the new realm of existence[21].

Jehovah’s witnesses may argue that Jesus body was not the same body because he was able to appear and disappear at will, entering locked rooms, etc. hence they say he must be non-corporeal. However Jesus clearly identified himself as being in the SAME BODY, providing evidence to his apostles with his crucifixion wounds.

Luke 24:39 “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

Furthermore the Psalms foretold that it would be Jesus OWN BODY that was raised from the dead:

Psalm 16:9-10 “Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption (cf. Acts 2:27).

It was this reality, viz. Jesus had truly risen from the dead in his own body that galvanised the disciples to proclaim the Gospel message. They were eye witnesses of Jesus bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).

“It is a point of very great importance to remember that the Corinthian’s were not denying the resurrection of Jesus Christ; what they were denying is the resurrection of THE BODY. Today Jehovah’s witnesses proclaim the exact same thing. Yet what “Paul is insistent upon is that if a man denies the resurrection of THE BODY he has thereby denied the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and has therefore emptied the Christian message of its truth and the Christian life of its reality.”[22] These are sobering words and should awaken Jehovah’s witnesses to the true reality of resurrection. Jesus was raised in the same body yet a body now glorified.

Additionally it is clear from 1 Corinthians 15 that when Paul expounded the resurrection doctrine he had in mind ALL believers, not just a specific 144,000 as the Watchtower teaches. In his letter to the Philippines Paul announced;

Philippians 3:20-21 “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

How far does this transformation go?

1 Corinthians 15:53 “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

Wow! Is this registering in your mind? Our mortal and corruptible body must put on immortality![23] That is the promise of God and the invitation is open to ALL! “With the acquisition of a spiritual body a new corporeality is gained, our new body becomes the organ of mans relationship with God and the redeemed”.[24]

Furthermore the resurrection is a here and now reality spiritually speaking. How do we know this? By the simple fact that the Father has “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6) “having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12). “The present life of believers is based on the life and power of Christ (Rom 5:10) which stems from Jesus resurrection (Philippians 3:10). Our life now is sustained by the indwelling risen Christ”[25] (Galatians 2:20a). Thus the resurrection simply confirms and consolidates our present position of eternal salvation by faith alone in Christ alone (John 6:40; 10:9)

This is the true and authentic teaching of scripture. How pathetic are the ramblings of the Watchtower with its two class-system of salvation. How blasphemous to replace resurrection with re-creation, wherein only a chosen few inherit heaven leaving the remainder of resurrected humanity forever striving to be “good enough” to continue living on earth.

The Somatic Resurrection of unbelievers

When it comes to the unsaved dead the Watchtower appeals to human sentimentality. They teach that the majority of the dead should receive a “second chance in paradise”. Some witnesses may suggest that apostates remain in extinction but by and large the Society teaches that the unrighteous dead will be presented with a “get out of jail free card”. This is borderline universalism and most appealing to the human mind. I remember as a witness how I felt when my non-witness Grandfather died, while I was saddened I told myself “well at least he will get a resurrection and chance to learn about Jehovah in Paradise” and this is how many witnesses view resurrection; a second chance. However the scriptural destiny for the unsaved dead is far more alarming.

We have already explored how Russell’s understanding of resurrection was informed by his doctrine of “corresponding ransom sacrifice”. Yet what do the scriptures say about the unrighteous dead? Firstly we have already established from scripture that all humans have a soul; a supra physical part that transcends death. We have also confirmed that at death those who believe in Jesus experience disembodiment and transferal into heaven where they await their bodily resurrection and glorification. Where though are the unbelieving dead?

The souls of the unrighteous dead according to scripture are retained in the underworld; an ambiguous holding place entitled Sheol in the OT and Hades in the NT.

Isaiah 14:9 “Sheol (underworld) beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come; it rouses the shades (disembodied spirits) to greet you, all who were leaders of the earth; it raises from their thrones all who were kings of the nations.”

Here the disembodied souls await their resurrection; but resurrection to what?

Daniel 12:2 “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”

Ancient Judaism taught postmortem retribution. During the inter-testamental period the abode of Sheol was understood to be divided into two main sections; Abrahams bosom (probably synonymous with Paradise) wherein the righteous dwelt and a place of darkness, fire and anguish wherein the unrighteous dwelt. The two groups are portrayed as separated by an impassable chasm (Luke 16:22; 23:43). This concept was expanded and “Apocalyptic literature proclaimed a future judgment that would separate the good and wicked so that they no longer shared the same underworld”[26].

Isaiah 26:19 “Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.

The NT revelation picks up on contemporary Jewish thought concerning Sheol/Hades and judgment. Thus is especially so in Luke chapter 16 where Jesus himself expounds the doctrine[27]. Sin then does not go unpunished. God himself demands justice be done, he cannot simply forgive sinners; the price of sin must be paid.

1 Peter 3:18-19 “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison

Herein Peter attests to a divine proclamation going forth to the “spirits in prison” identified by many as fallen postdiluvian angels (cf. Jude 6). Again divine punishment for such angels is axiomatic. A similar proclamation of Judgment awaits the unbelieving dead.

In all of this we must grasp that it is Jesus bodily resurrection and glorification that secures Christ victory over Satan, his hosts, death and Sheol/Hades. For example in the case of the righteous dead trapped in Sheol scripture informs us:

Ephesians 4:8 “Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions[28], the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)”

Many scholars believe this phrase “he led a host of captives” refers to the righteous dead trapped in Sheol. Death had figuratively speaking “taken believers as prisoners of war and kept them captive in Sheol”. At Jesus ascension he released these souls and took these captives into heaven. What was the condition for release? Pre-death FAITH! That is prior belief in the God of Israel, in short acceptance of the Gospel message[29]. Such is the power of Christ resurrection.

What though of those unbelievers in Sheol? This is where we must fully comprehend the consequence of sin.

Could my zeal no respite know,

Could my tears forever flow,

All for sin could not atone;

Thou must save, and Thou alone.

“The powerful lesson that must be learned quickly is that no human can pay for his or her own sin”[30] Therefore the unbeliever remains under the penalty of sin when he or she refuses to accept Jesus atoning sacrifice. Physical death does not annul this consequence but rather consolidates judgment.

Hebrews 9:27 “…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment

Revelation 20:11-13 “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.”

Note the Judgment described is based on what individuals have done during their earthly life. For this reason many scholars believe Revelation 20 relates the resurrection of unbelievers to Judgment.[31] The physiology of those resurrected is undisclosed. However to be raised from the dead one must logically possess a body therefore it is conjectured that the unbeliever will receive an eternal body fit for habitation in Gehenna.

Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

This statement introduces the final destiny of the unbeliever; the eternal fire viz. Gehenna. Unfortunately the rendering of Sheol/Hades/Gehenna & Grave as “Hell” has confused and obscured the various abodes of the dead. Suffice to say the abode of Gehenna is designed and prepared for Satan, his angels and the unbeliever.

The Watchtower rejects the doctrine that Gehenna is an eternal habitation. Instead it teaches the doctrine of annihilation. For example, according to Jehovah’s witnesses an unbeliever resurrected back to Paradise earth, could end up eternally destroyed if they fail to maintain 100% obedience. However the bible does not teach such nonsense. Condemnation is not through lack of obedience but a lack of faith.

John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

The result of unbelief is Judgment and wrath;

Romans 2:5-6, 8 “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works: but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”

2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 “Since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction[32], away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might”

Here we have the motifs of deprivation and retribution both of which are eternal in duration and applied to unbelievers. Remember Gehenna (hell) exists because unbelievers are eternally guilty before God. It is not a matter of working off your sin you simply cannot escape your guilt. God’s justice demands that the unbeliever remain eternally separated from his face. The enormity of this banishment and its finality should awaken even the most hardened heart to repentance.

“The concept of resurrection to judgment cannot be dismissed as foreign to the NT simply because it is repugnant to our sense of tolerance or because it is difficult to reconcile with a God of love. The hard facts remain.”[33] For a complete review of “Hell” see the video: Is Hell an eternal abode?

Review and Conclusion

We have compared the Watchtowers teaching on resurrection with scripture and found its doctrines wanting. We have noted that a faulty understanding of Jesus nature, sin and redemption (soteriology) creates a matrix into which is planted a skewed resurrection doctrine.

Foundationally the Watchtowers denial of the soul/spirit and insistence on annihilationism makes null and void any notion of bodily (somatic) resurrection. Rather individuals who have died and gone into nonexistence must be re-created. That means the person created will not be the same person who died, any suggestion that Jehovah some how stores individual consciousness/memory contradicts the annihilationist position.

Furthermore the NT nowhere divides believers into two groups viz.144,000 heavenly and the remainder earthly. Neither does the NT teach that unbelievers are resurrected to earth in order to receive a “second chance”. Rather the NT invites all believes into the same heavenly destiny.

In the case of Jesus scripture makes clear his resurrection was in exactly the same body as he died and yet one which had been glorified. Thus Jesus was most definitely not raised as a “spirit-creature”. Wonderfully Jesus is the “first fruits” of the resurrection. As such believers are guaranteed their own bodily resurrection and glorification.

Romans 8:16-17 “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Romans 8:30 “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

1 Corinthians 15:12 “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised [bodily] from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no [bodily] resurrection of the dead?”

To deny the bodily (somatic) resurrection of Christ is to deny the Christian faith. Christianity stands or falls on the truth of Jesus bodily resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:13, 16-17 “But if there is no [bodily] resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”

Here then is the consequence of Watchtower error; adherents remain in their sins! Why? – Because they have rejected the true nature of Jesus and the Gospel concerning his death, burial and resurrection. In so doing Jehovah’s witnesses have rejected Gods free gift of salvation and therefore remain sinners eternally guilty before God.

In the OT “the punishment for breaking the Mosaic Law was death and separation from God. Likewise sinners alive today need a way to escape the righteous judgment of God. Since we are stained by sin and cannot earn salvation, then the only one who could do what we cannot is God Himself. That is why Jesus is God in flesh (John 1:14). He is both divine and human. He was made under the Law (Gal. 4:4), and He fulfilled it perfectly”. Moreover only deity can give life (John 11:25). Unlike the pathetic doctrine of “corresponding ransom sacrifice” as invented by Russell scripture makes clear sin requires a sacrifice of infinitive value. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ provides that “all sufficient sacrifice” which is able to “cleanse all who beleive from their sins and undo the offense to God.”[34]

We have also explored the biblical teaching concerning death and the afterlife concluding that the resurrection is the reunification of soul/spirit with the physical body. Eternal life and eternal damnation are two sides of the same resurrection coin. Both believers and unbelievers receive bodies’ fit for their new habitation. One group because of their faith in Jesus is assigned to heavenly glory while the other group because of their rejection of Jesus is condemned to Gehenna. Both destinies are eternal and irreversible.

Which group do you belong to? Remember death does not end with annihilation, nor does God offer a second chance on a Paradise earth; resurrection ends in either glory or condemnation.

In conclusion Jehovah’s witnesses despite their “Christian” language and terminology proclaim a different Jesus and a different Gospel. For all the above reasons the Watchtowers teaching on resurrection should be categorically rejected.

If you are a Jehovah’s Witness much of what you have read will be confusing and difficult to comprehend. Please don’t reject off hand this information. Instead seek the Lord for clarification and enlightenment.

I pray this study will act as a stepping-stone for God fearing people to uncover the magnificent things of God including the true resurrection doctrine. Life eternal is but a confession away.

Acts 17:27 “seek God…he is actually not far from each one of us”

May the LORD richly bless you in your walk with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Shalom

Jason

FOOTNOTES:

[1] http://www.jw.org/en/publications/books/bible-teach/hope-resurrection-of-dead-loved-ones/

[2] https://watchtowerinvestigated.co.uk/2013/01/12/is-jesus-michael-the-archangel-looking-at-what-does-the-bible-really-teach-chapters-4-and-10/

[3] The question of who actually receives a resurrection has vacillated over the years, particularly in regard to “wicked” or “apostate” people. For example concerning the people of Sodom and Gomorrah Russell in his “Divine Plan of the Ages” 1915 ed. page 110 wrote, “the glorious doctrine of restitution of all mankind…our Lord teaches that the sodomites did not have a full opportunity; and he guarantees them an opportunity”. Later in the Watchtower June 1st 1952 (vol. page 338) the explanation was “[Jesus] was pinpointing the utter impossibility of ransom for unbelievers or those willfully wicked, because Sodom and Gomorrah were irrevocably condemned and destroyed, beyond any possible recovery” In 1982 the WT publication “You can live forever in Paradise on earth” stated “Although they [the people of Sodom] had been very immoral, we can expect some of them to be resurrected”. The 1989 revised version stated “The people of Sodom…suffered a destruction from which they will never be resurrected” These quotes unveil the flip flop, yes/no interpretations of the WT and negate any claim to having Jehovah’s special guidance.

[4] In the context of afterlife Christians disagree on whether Spirit and Soul are synonymous or different. I have used Soul/Spirit synonymously. For further discussion see: http://www.gotquestions.org/soul-spirit.html

[5] If the Soul is actually the “inner person” our consciousness and we do survive the death of the body we might ask from where does this “soul” originate? Sadly I have heard Christians say that “souls/Spirits” are made in heaven and await a human body on earth. This idea of pre-existence and transmigration comes from Greek philosophy. The doctrine did affect the Alexandrian School, Origen being a chief proponent. In modern times this view is similar to Mormonism and cannot be proven from scripture. As we have established God made man Imago Dei a composite whole (Trichotomy/ Dichotomy) so we should reject the Greek view of transmigration.

That leaves us with two Biblical theories. 1) Traducianism 2) Creationism, both of these views are valid and acceptable explanations. Both views agree that the soul comes into existence at conception.

According to Traducianism the souls of men are propagated along with the body by generation, and therefore transmitted to the children by the parents. In other words at conception a new Imago Dei being comes into existence. Just as original sin was passed onto Adams offspring so creative life was passed onto offspring. Traducianism would argue that no scripture speaks of God creating a “soul” separate from the whole person.

The second view Creationism while agreeing with Traducianism that the soul comes into existence at conception argues that God himself performs the creative act of making the soul. That is, the origin of the soul is not procreative but divine. The major problem with this view is how do we reconcile a sinful body with a divine pure soul? How would such a combination interact? For myself Traducianism better explains the transferal of sin to the “whole” person body/soul/spirit. However we cannot be dogmatic on this as the Bible is ambiguous on this subject.

[6] The IMMATERIAL element in man is referred to in Scripture by the use of at least NINE (9) different terms:

‎1. Life (Mk. 8:35)

‎2. Soul (Mk. 8:36)

‎3. Spirit (Ps. 31:5)

‎4. Mind (Rom. 7:25)

‎5. Heart (Eph. 6:6)

‎6. Strength (Lk. 10:27)

‎7. Self (1 Cor. 4:3, 4)

‎8. Will (1 Cor. 7:37)

‎9. Affections (Col. 3:2)

‎This is not to say, of course, that these terms are all synonyms. Each refers to the immaterial self from a discernibly different point of view, or describes a different function of the self. (Duffield, G. P., & Van Cleave, N. M. (1983). “Foundations of Pentecostal theology” (125–134). Los Angeles, CA: L.I.F.E. Bible College.)

[7] R. N. Longenecker “Life in the face of death – the resurrection message of the New Testament” Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. 1998 page147-148.

[8] Hades is the NT equivalent to the OT Sheol. These words (depending on context) represent the abode of the dead, the underworld, the holding place of disembodied souls/spirits.

[9] “Make sure of all things” WBTS Brooklyn 1953, page 311.

[10] http://www.jw.org/en/publications/books/draw-close/justice/god-gave-jesus-ransom-sacrifice

[11] E. C. Gruss “Apostles of Denial” Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. 1970 page 142.

[12] For a discussion of limited atonement see: http://www.gotquestions.org/unlimited-atonement.html

[13] The Greek word “antilutron” (ransom) in 1 Timothy 2:6 emphasizes the thought of substitute ransom NOT equivalency as in the Watchtower sense.

[14] Jesus did not literally become sin for he was sinless, rather he took upon himself the punishment of sin.

[15] Where was Jesus for three days after his spirit/soul left his body? Cf. http://www.gotquestions.org/where-was-Jesus.html

[16] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (262). New York: United Bible Societies.

[17] Russell applied this verse to the earthly resurrection insisting that the word ALL encompassed everyone who had ever lived. However it is clear from reading the whole context that Paul is discussing the heavenly resurrection of believers.

[18] Murray J. Harris “Raised Immortal – Resurrection and immortality in the New Testament” Wm. B. Eerdmans pub. 1983 page 111-112.

[19] Charles Ryrie NASB Study Bible footnote on 1 Cor 15:12.

[20] Incidentally it should be noted that while the Watchtower insists that the Father alone raised Jesus from the dead, 1 Pet 3:18 states the Holy Spirit raised Jesus and in John 2:19-22 Jesus claimed he raised himself; “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken”. We have then clear evidence that the triune YHWH; Father, Son and Holy Spirit each played a role in the resurrection. Cf. https://carm.org/jesus-raise-himself

[21] Witnesses often quote this verse to prove that a body of flesh cannot inhabit heaven. However they fail to understand that a glorified body can indeed inhabit heaven.

[22] William Barclay, “By What Authority?” Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1974.

[23] Immortally is not self-possessed but finds its source in the one who is alone immortal viz. God (1 Timothy 4:17)

[24] Harris page 163

[25] Harris page 108.

[26] A. E. Bernstein, The Formation of Hell UCL Press 1993 page 172.

[27] Whether this is a parable or literal example is open to debate. The main point is that Jesus believed and accepted the reality of Sheol/Hades as the abode of the dead.

[28] The language here is ambiguous and could simply mean the grave or planet earth.

[29] The Gospel is not limited by “time and space” but stretches across history encompassing all who believe in the true God.

[30] E. W. Lutzer “One minute after you die” Moody Pub. 1997 page 139.

[31] Others feel the bodily resurrection of the righteous and unrighteous is simultaneous. My understanding is that the first resurrection, viz. the rapture of the Church precedes the general resurrection.

[32] “Olethros (‘destruction’) does not refer to annihilation, which cannot be ‘everlasting’ The word in LXX and NT usages never has this meaning but rather turns on the thought of separation from God and loss of everything worthwhile in life” (Dr. Constables notes on 2 Thessalonians page 5).

[33] Harris page 184-185.

[34] https://carm.org/christianity/christian-doctrine/why-did-jesus-have-die-our-sins


Source: WatchTower Investigated