JW’s on the Soul

Witnesses teach that humans do not possess an immortal soul that survives the death of the body. Instead, Witnesses define human souls as the entire living being, both inner and outer. “The soul, then, is the entire creature, NOT something inside that survives the death of the body” (from To Witnesses, when a person dies, the conscious part of the individual “sleeps” or ceases to exist. Meanwhile, the record of his appearance and intellect is stored up in God’s memory banks. When the resurrection takes place, God will recreate his body from the dust.

2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10 puts this misconception to rest forever. Paul very clearly talks about an “inner man” that exists independent of the outer man, and which remains eternally. The earthly “outer man” is nothing more than a shell in which “we” temporarily exist—when the body dies, “we” are clothed with a new body from heaven. “While we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.”

Paul spoke further of his hope in Philippians 1:21-23, saying, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain... I am hard pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.” It is hard to see how lapsing into unconsciousness is better than life. Paul did not look forward to any sort of “soul sleep,” but to immediately going to be with Jesus after his death.

In contradiction to Witness theology, Jesus says that it is possible to kill the body without killing the soul. In Matthew 10:28 Jesus was preparing the disciples to face persecution from men, and said, “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.” Obviously, mankind is the one who can kill the body, but true disciples will not fear this, for their eternal soul is safe with the Lord.

Witness theology makes a mess of James 5:19-20, too. James says, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.” A brother can’t prevent a fellow Christian from dying. The “soul” must be something apart from the body. See also James 2:26, in which James says, “the body without the spirit is dead.”

If people do not have immortal souls which remain aware until the judgment, why do we see this scene in Revelation 6:9?

I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained. And they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they
should rest for a little while longer...

Also, listen to Jesus speak in Mark 12:26-27.

Regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; you are greatly mistaken.

Witnesses teach that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have no living souls, while Jesus teaches that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob currently have a relationship with God. According to Jesus’ words, the Witnesses are “greatly mistaken.” They are like the Sadducees that say there is no spirit (Acts 23:8).

This doctrine gets especially strange when applied to Jesus Christ. According to the Witnesses, when Jesus died and was buried in the tomb, he perished, body and soul. Then, on the Lord’s Day, God “recreated” the non-existent Christ who had perished in the grave as a spirit creature. The obvious question, then, is “What happened to Christ’s body?” Witnesses must come up with some alternative cover story to explain why the disciples found the tomb empty. One common explanation is that the body evaporated and “was disposed of by Jehovah God, dissolved into its constituent elements or atoms” which dissipated when the tomb was rolled away (Watchtower, 1 September 1953).

God took great pains to show that the tomb was empty, to show that the body of Christ had been raised and transformed into a glorious body; but a real body which could walk down the road and eat fish, and a continuation (if I’m using the right word) of the former body which bore the wounds of the cross. This forms the foundation for all believers’ hope that the Lord will do the same thing for us on the day Christ returns (1 Corinthians 15:3–28; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18). “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 indwells you” (Romans 8:11).