THROUGHOUT history, man has stood perplexed and
apprehensive before the dark prospect of death. What is more, fear of
death has been fueled by a mix of false religious ideas, popular
customs, and ingrained personal beliefs. The problem with fear of death
is that it can paralyze one's ability to enjoy life and erode one's
confidence that there is meaning to life.
Popular religion is especially reprehensible for
promoting a number of popular myths regarding death. By examining a few
of these under the light of Bible truth, see if your personal
perceptions about death can be clarified.
Myth 1: Death is the natural end of life.
"Death . . . is an integral part of our lives," says
the book Death—The Final Stage of Growth. Comments like this
reflect the belief that death is normal, the natural ending of all
living organisms. In turn, such a belief has fostered a nihilistic
philosophy and opportunistic behavior in many.
But is death really the natural end of life? Not all
researchers believe so. For instance, Calvin Harley, a biologist who
studies human aging, said in an interview that he does not believe that
humans "have a program to die." Immunologist William Clark observed:
"Death is not inextricably intertwined with the definition of life." And
Seymour Benzer, of the California Institute of Technology, muses that
"aging can be better described not as a clock but as a scenario, which
we can hope to edit."
When scientists study the design of humans, they are
baffled. They find that we have been endowed with resources and
capabilities that far exceed the needs of our 70- to 80-year life span.
For example, scientists have found that the human brain has immense
memory capacity. One researcher estimated that our brain can hold
information that "would fill some twenty million volumes, as many as in
the world's largest libraries." Some neuroscientists figure that during
an average lifetime, a person uses only 1/100 of 1 percent (.0001) of
his potential brain capacity. It is appropriate to ask, 'Why do we have
a brain with such a large capacity when we utilize only a tiny fraction
of it in an average lifetime?'
Consider also how unnaturally humans react to death!
For the majority, the death of a wife, a husband, or a child can be the
most upsetting experience of a lifetime. People's entire emotional
makeup is often jarred for a long time after the death of a person
dearly loved. Even those who claim that death is natural to humans find
it hard to accept the idea that their own death will mean the end of
everything. The British Medical Journal spoke of "a common expert
presumption that everybody wants to live as long as possible."
The problem with fear of death is
that it can paralyze one's ability to enjoy life
In view of man's general reaction to death, his
amazing potential for remembering and learning, and his inward longing
for eternity, is it not clear that he was made to live? Indeed, God
created humans, not with death as the natural outcome, but with the
prospect of living on indefinitely. Note what God set before the first
human pair as their future: "Be fruitful and become many and fill the
earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the
flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving
upon the earth." (Genesis 1:28) What a wonderful, lasting future that
Myth 2: God takes people in death to be with him.
A 27-year-old mother who was dying and leaving three
children behind told a Catholic nun: "Don't come in and tell me this is
God's will for me. . . . I hate it when somebody else tells me this."
Yet, this is what many religions teach about death—that God takes people
to be near him.
Is the Creator really so cruel that he would
callously inflict death on us, knowing that this breaks our hearts? No,
not the God of the Bible. According to 1 John 4:8, "God is love." Note
that it does not say that God has love or that God is loving,
but it says that God is love. So intense, so pure, so perfect is
God's love, so thoroughly does it permeate his personality and actions
that he may rightly be spoken of as the very personification of love.
This is not a God who takes people in death to be near him.
False religion has left many confused as to the
whereabouts and condition of the dead. Heaven, hell, purgatory,
Limbo—these and various other destinations range from being
incomprehensible to being downright terrifying. The Bible, on the other
hand, tells us that the dead are unconscious; they are in a condition
best compared to sleep. (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; John 11:11-14) Thus, we
need not worry about what happens to us after death, any more than we
worry when we see someone sleeping soundly. Jesus spoke of a time when
"all those in the memorial tombs" would "come out" to renewed life on a
paradise earth.—John 5:28, 29; Luke 23:43.
Myth 3: God takes little children to become angels.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who studied terminally ill
individuals, referred to another common perception among religious
people. Describing a real incident, she stated that it is "unwise to
tell a little child who lost her brother that God loved little boys so
much that he took little Johnny to heaven." Such a statement casts God
in a bad light and does not reflect his personality and behavior. Dr. Kübler-Ross
continued: "When this little girl grew up to be a woman she never solved
her anger at God, which resulted in a psychotic depression when she lost
her own little son three decades later."
Why would God snatch a child to get another angel—as
if God needed a child more than the child's parents did? If it were true
that God takes children, would that not make him an unloving, selfish
Creator? Contrary to such a perception, the Bible says: "Love is from
God." (1 John 4:7) Would a God of love cause a loss that even humans
with any measure of decency would not tolerate?
So why do children die? Part of the Bible's
answer is recorded at Ecclesiastes 9:11: "Time and unforeseen
occurrence befall them all." And Psalm 51:5 tells us that all of us
are imperfect, sinful, from the time of our conception, and the
eventuality for all men now is death from any number of causes.
Sometimes death strikes before birth, resulting in a stillbirth. In
other cases, children succumb to their dire circumstances or have
accidents and die. God is not responsible for such eventualities.
Myth 4: Some people are tormented after death.
Many religions teach that the wicked will go to a
fiery hell and be tormented forever. Is this teaching logical and
Scriptural? The human life span is limited to 70 or 80 years. Even
if someone was guilty of extreme wickedness all his life, would
everlasting torment be a just punishment? No. It would be
grossly unjust to torment a man forever for the sins that he
committed in a short lifetime.
Only God can reveal what happens after people
die, and he has done so in his written Word, the Bible. This is what
the Bible says: "As the [beast] dies, so the [man] dies; and they
all have but one spirit . . . All are going to one place. They have
all come to be from the dust, and they are all returning to the
dust." (Ecclesiastes 3:19, 20) There is no mention here of a fiery
hell. Humans return to dust—to nonexistence—when they die.
In order to be tormented, a person has to be
conscious. Are the dead conscious? Once again, the Bible gives the
answer: "The living are conscious that they will die; but as for the
dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, neither do they anymore
have wages, because the remembrance of them has been forgotten."
(Ecclesiastes 9:5) It is impossible for the dead, who are "conscious
of nothing at all," to experience agony anywhere.
Myth 5: Death means the permanent end of our
We cease to exist when we die, but this does not
mean that everything is necessarily finished. The faithful man Job
knew that he would go to the grave, Sheol, when he died. But listen
to his prayer to God: "O that in Sheol you would conceal me, that
you would keep me secret until your anger turns back, that you would
set a time limit for me and remember me! If an able-bodied man dies
can he live again? . . . You will call, and I myself shall answer
Job believed that if he was faithful until death,
he would be remembered by God and in time be resurrected. This was
the belief of all of God's servants in ancient times. Jesus himself
confirmed this hope and showed that God would use him to raise the
dead. Christ's own words give us this assurance: "The hour is coming
in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear [Jesus'] voice
and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life,
those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment."—John
shortly God will remove all wickedness and establish a new world
under heavenly rulership. (Psalm 37:10, 11; Daniel 2:44; Revelation
16:14, 16) The result will be a paradise over the whole earth,
inhabited by people who serve God. In the Bible we read: "I heard a
loud voice from the throne say: 'Look! The tent of God is with
mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples.
And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear
from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning
nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed
away.'"—Revelation 21:3, 4.
Some Common Myths About Death
What Do the Scriptures Say?
Death is the natural end of life
Genesis 1:28; 2:17; Romans 5:12
God takes people in death to be with
Job 34:15; Psalm 37:11, 29; 115:16
God takes little children to become
Psalm 51:5; 104:1, 4; Hebrews 1:7, 14
Some people are tormented after death
Psalm 146:4; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10;
Death means the permanent end of our
Job 14:14, 15; John 3:16; 17:3; Acts
Free From Fear
Knowledge of the
resurrection hope coupled with knowledge of the One who is
the source of that provision can comfort you. Jesus
promised: "You will know the truth, and the truth will set
you free." (John 8:32) That includes emancipating us from
the fear of death. Jehovah is the only one who can actually
change the process of aging and death and grant us eternal
life. Can you believe in God's promises? Yes, you can
because God's Word always comes true. (Isaiah 55:11) We urge
you to learn more about God's purposes for mankind.
Jehovah's Witnesses will be delighted to