The Bible’s Viewpoint

Should You Be Afraid of the Dead?

Members of the Annang tribe in Nigeria believe that if the dead are not buried with appropriate praise and recognition, their souls will bring trouble​—including death—​to family members. Some Chinese also believe that if burial traditions are not followed, the soul of dead ones will attack and even kill others.

THE BELIEF that at death something leaves the body​—the soul, the spirit, the ghost—​is commonplace in many cultures throughout the world. Many also believe that this soul or spirit can interfere in the affairs of family members or friends.

Yet, is there really some conscious entity that lives on after a person dies? And can that “something” harm the living? What is the Bible’s viewpoint?

Are the Dead Conscious?

The Bible declares that the dead are “conscious of nothing at all.” It also says that the dead are “impotent in death.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5; Isaiah 26:14) Regarding the first man, Adam, God’s Word explains: “Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul.”​Genesis 2:7.

Note that Adam was created a soul, that is, a living person. According to the Bible, Adam was not given a soul that could live apart from his body. So when Adam sinned, he died. He became a “dead soul.” (Numbers 6:6) “The soul that is sinning​—it itself will die,” the Bible also says. (Ezekiel 18:4) All of us inherited sin, or imperfection, from the first man, Adam. So when we die, the soul dies.​—Romans 5:12.

When the Bible describes the condition of the dead, it does not use mysterious terms, but it uses expressions we can understand, such as “fall asleep in death.” (Psalm 13:3) Once Jesus said concerning a 12-year-old girl: “She did not die but is sleeping.” People “began to laugh at him scornfully because they knew she had died.” Yet, the Bible explains that Jesus woke her from the sleep of death.​—Luke 8:51-54.

It was similar when Lazarus died. Jesus told his disciples that he was going to visit Lazarus “to awaken him from sleep.” The disciples did not understand what Jesus meant, so “Jesus said to them outspokenly: ‘Lazarus has died.’” The apostle Paul too spoke of ones ‘who had fallen asleep in death’ and said that in God’s due time, they would be brought back to life.​—John 11:11-14; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15.

Significantly, nowhere does the Bible teach that a soul lives on after an individual dies. So there is no basis for fear of the dead. What, then, is responsible for the common belief that some part of a human lives on after death? And what is behind the fear that the dead can harm the living?

The Lie​—The Deception

False religions have promoted the idea that at death humans do not really die. Early in human history, the teaching of the immortality of the soul gained worldwide acceptance. As a result, at the death of some rulers​—such as the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt—​their slaves were killed so that the ruler would have their services in a future life.

 Many people have been harassed by what they have been led to believe are the souls, or spirits, of the dead. They are convinced that such harassment has come from the unappeased souls of dead relatives and others. Yet, as the Scriptures clearly show, this is not true. Invisible spirit forces called demons are behind such attacks, and they delight in harassing and frightening people.​—Luke 9:37-43; Ephesians 6:11, 12.

The Scriptures speak of Satan as “the father of the lie,” who “keeps transforming himself into an angel of light.” He and his demons are “misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:14; Revelation 12:9) Satan, in fact, is behind the lie that the soul is immortal and can harm the living.

Believers of the Bible, however, are protected from being deceived by such lies. They have come to know the truth about Satan’s attempts to deceive people into believing that the dead can communicate with the living. The fact is, as the Bible says: “The living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5) Truly, God’s Word contains liberating truths about the condition of the dead!​—John 8:32.


▪ Are the dead conscious of anything?​—Ecclesiastes 9:5; Isaiah 26:14.

▪ What is responsible for the common belief that some part of a human lives on after death?​—John 8:44.

▪ Where can we go to find the truth about the condition of the dead?​—John 8:32; 17:17.

[Blurb on page 23]

Evil spirit creatures, not dead people, delight in harassing humans