articles from the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 5: Numbers 3-5, 1994.
The Editor of the Christian Research Newsletter is Ron Rhodes.
Jehovah's Witnesses and the Doctrine of Death
by Dr. Walter Martin
From the From The Founder column of the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 5: Number 3, 1992.
According to the Watchtower publication Make Sure of All Things, death can be defined as "loss of life, termination of existence, utter cessation of conscious intellectual or physical activity, celestial, human, or otherwise" (p. 86). Reverting to their common practice of text-lifting and term-switching, the Jehovah's Witnesses garner a handful of texts from the Old and New Testaments that speak of death as "sleep." From these out-of-context quotations, they attempt to prove that at the death of the physical form, man -- like the beasts -- ceases to exist (until the resurrection).
One must keep in mind that the Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe man's soul or spirit is distinct from the physical body. Rather, they believe that man is a combination of body and "breath" that forms a "living soul." Hence, when a person dies, there is no separate soul or spirit that departs from the physical body and retains consciousness. This view, however, is contradicted by a whole host of passages, including Genesis 35:18, 1 Samuel 28:18-19, Ecclesiastes 3:21, Acts 7:59, Hebrews 4:12, and Revelation 6:9-11.
Ignoring such passages, the Jehovah's Witnesses seize upon such texts as Psalm 13:3, Ecclesiastes 9:5--6, and Daniel 12:2, wrongly concluding that they prove that until the resurrection, the dead remain unconscious and inactive in the grave. Though the term "sleep" is used to denote death in Scripture, never once is this term used to describe the immaterial nature of man. The term sleep is always applied in Scripture to the body alone, since in death the body takes on the appearance of one who is asleep. But the term soul sleep is never found in Scripture. And nowhere does Scripture state that the soul ever passes into a state of unconsciousness.
The simplest refutation of the Jehovah's Witnesses' perversion of this doctrine is found in passages such as John 11:26, Ephesians 2:1--5, and Philippians 1:21. The usage of the word death in these passages clearly indicates a separation of the soul and spirit from the body, resulting in physical inactivity and a general appearance of sleep.
In his first epistle to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul spoke of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and made use of the term sleep as a metaphor for death (4:13--18): "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."
Verse 14 in this passage indicates that Paul, while using the metaphor sleep to describe physical death, clearly understood that when Jesus comes again, He will bring with (Greek: sun) Him those whose bodies are "sleeping." To be more explicit, the souls and spirits of those who are now with Christ in glory (2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:22--23) will be reunited with their resurrection bodies (1 Cor. 15); that is, they will be clothed with immortality, incorruptibility, and exemption from physical decay. The Greek word sun indicates that they (i.e., their souls and spirits) will be in a "side by side" position with Christ, and their physical bodies that are "sleeping" will in that instant be raised to immortality and reunited with their spirits.
For the Christian, then, physical death involves only the sleep of the body, pending the resurrection to immortality, when our resurrection bodies will be joined to our perfected souls and spirits. But in the intermediate state -- should we die before the Lord comes -- we have assurance that we shall be with Him and that we shall return with Him. As Paul puts it, "to be absent from the body is to be at home [or present] with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:8). The souls of the unsaved, by contrast, go to a place of suffering where they await final judgment.
These words were adapted from "Jehovah of the Watchtower" by Walter Martin and Norman Klann. It can be purchased from CRI for $7.00.
The Danger of Spiritism
by Dr. Walter Martin
From the From The Founder column of the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 5: Number 4, 1992.
The word spiritism refers to the occultic practice of attempting contact or communication with departed human souls or extra-human intelligences through the agency of a medium. In recent years there has been a virtual explosion of spiritism around the world and, for this reason, the subject warrants serious attention from the Christian.
Of all the religious source books in the world, the Bible unquestionably gives the history of spiritism in the most concise and dependable form. As far back as the Book of Exodus, the Scriptures reveal that the ancient Egyptians were practitioners of occultism, magic, sorcery, and necromancy, which they employed to duplicate the miracles of Moses when that great servant of the Lord appeared before Pharaoh (Exod. 7:11, 22; 8:18).
The attitude of God toward those who practiced such forbidden arts is clearly outlined in Scripture, for the Lord ordered the death penalty for all sorcerers, as recorded in Exodus 22:18 and Leviticus 20:27. The Old Testament also named among those cursed by Jehovah persons consorting with "familiar spirits" and "wizards" (Lev. 19:31; 20:6) as well as "necromancers" (Deut. 18:10-11). Such practices are utterly abominable to the Lord.
Today in the United States there are virtually hundreds of spiritist "churches" associated with the National Spiritualist Association -- with ordained "clergy" and Sunday schools. Man's ancient and unholy desire to invade the realms of God's domain for his own advantage is very much alive, and today zealous spiritists are actively proselytizing converts among any and all who will listen.
Why do so many people find spiritism attractive? Some causes are unique to our impersonalizing electronic age and some are as old as humankind itself. Causes unique to our society usually relate to what people see as social alienation. People are not satisfied with electronic marvels. They don't want to be a twelve-digit account number relating to a computer. They rebel against the rigid authority of the scientific/technological hierarchy that appears to reign supreme in developed countries today. Instead, they turn to the allure of personal knowledge and personal power offered enticingly by the occult.
Another cause is that people have always been curious about the future. In fact, more occultic practices relate to revealing and understanding the future than all other occultic practices combined. The promise of being able to see the future is one of the strongest attractions of the world of the occult.
The God of the Bible, however, reminds us that no man or demon can declare the future: "Who told of this from the beginning, so we could know, or beforehand, so we could say, 'He was right'? No one told of this, no one foretold it, no one heard any words from you" (Isa. 41:26). In fact, only the all-knowing (omniscient) God of the Bible can declare the future. God said: "I foretold the former things long ago, my mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass" (Isa. 48:3).
Finally, people have always been searching for purpose, security, and personal relationships. This need for acceptance and love is exploited by occultism (and, indeed, by the cults too). Those interested in the occult are promised attention, security, purpose, and love. Not until they are caught in the dark web do they discover that the price for such things is eternal separation from the God who is the only one ultimately able to satisfy those needs.
The proper Christian attitude toward spiritism must be one of hostility, theologically speaking, tempered with the desire to win the cultist to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible irrevocably warns against tampering with the realms of existence beyond human comprehension (Deut. 18:9-14). And, as in the case of Saul and Samuel's spirit (1 Sam. 28:14), the results usually evoke divine judgment of a severe nature. Therefore, let us beware of such forbidden dangers.
These words were adapted from Dr. Martin's book, Martin Speaks Out on the Cults (Regal Books). It may be ordered from CRI for $8.00.
The Christmas Message and Old Testament Prophecy
by Dr. Walter Martin
From the From The Founder column of the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 5: Number 5, 1992.
The Christmas message -- the good news of the birth of the Savior -- is indissolubly joined with Old Testament prophecy. The words of Isaiah the prophet, for example, bear eloquent testimony to the fact that the Christ-child would be born of a virgin: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel" (Isa. 7:14).
This prophecy clearly refers to the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, a fact substantiated by Matthew's reference to it in regard to Christ's birth (Matt. 1:23). Indeed, we read in Matthew that the Christ-child was supernaturally conceived in the Virgin Mary's womb by a direct act of the Holy Spirit, wholly apart from human agency. The record speaks articulately for itself:
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.
Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" -- which means, "God with us" (Matt. 1:18-23).
In keeping with Christ's identity as Immanuel, Isaiah prophesied elsewhere regarding the divine nature of the coming Christ-child: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever" (Isa. 9:6-7).
Micah the prophet revealed that the divine Christ-child would be born in Bethlehem, the city of David (Mic. 5:2). We read of the fulfillment of this prophecy in Luke 2. In this passage we are told that Joseph and Mary had traveled to Bethlehem in obedience to Caesar Augustus's decree that a census be taken of the entire Roman world, with every individual required to register in his own home town (Luke 2:3). While in Bethlehem, "the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son" (v. 6).
The prophets also predicted that this babe of Bethlehem's manger would become the Messiah of Calvary's cross. He would become the Savior who would be crucified for the sins of the "whole world" (Isa. 53; Dan. 9:26; 1 John 2:2). They also declared that this same child would rise again to life and would one day come in the power of Almighty God with His holy angels to sift the sons of men with eternal judgment (Zech. 12:10; cf. Rev. 1:7-9).
Clearly, in view of the above, the true message of Christmas is that through David's lineage and in David's city, in the womb of a virgin whom God had prepared, the eternal Word was made flesh (John 1:1, 14). Through this means He emerged in the world of humanity to be rejected by His own people, but at the cross purchased redemption for those who would believe in Him. The significance of the virgin birth of Christ is not so much the miraculous element of God intervening and suspending the laws of nature, but the fact that God chose to become man in Jesus Christ in order to attain our salvation. This is what Christmas is all about.
The Old Testament prophecies, hoary with age, burn brightly once again in the manger of Bethlehem. The testimony of Peter at Pentecost, regarding "thy holy child Jesus" (Acts 4:27), also flares out with new meaning. God was manifest in the flesh and born of a virgin!
End of document, CRN0051A.TXT (original CRI file name), "Jehovah's Witnesses and the Doctrine of Death," "The Danger of Spiritism," and "The Christmas Message and Old Testament Prophecy" release A, June 30, 1994 R. Poll, CRI
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