“We distinguish the inspired statement of truth from the inspired statement of error.”—1 JOHN 4:6.
SONG 33 Fear Them Not!
1-2. (a) In what ways has Satan deceived people? (b) What will we consider in this article?
SATAN, “the father of the lie,” has deceived people since the start of human history. (John 8:44) Some of his lies include false teachings about death and about life after death. Those teachings form the basis for many popular customs and superstitions. As a result, a number of our brothers and sisters have had to “put up a hard fight for the faith” when someone in their family or community has died.—Jude 3.
2 If you face such tests, what can help you to stand firm for what the Bible teaches about death? (Eph. 6:11) How can you comfort and strengthen a fellow Christian who may be under pressure to engage in customs that displease God? This article will discuss the guidance that Jehovah has given us. First, let us consider what the Bible says about death.
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE CONDITION OF THE DEAD
3. What resulted from the first lie?
3 God did not intend for humans to die. But in order to live forever, Adam and Eve had to obey Jehovah, who gave them a simple command: “As for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Gen. 2:16, 17) Then Satan came on the scene. Speaking through a serpent, he said to Eve: “You certainly will not die.” Sadly, she believed the lie and ate the fruit. Later, her husband too ate the fruit. (Gen. 3:4, 6) In this way, sin and death entered the human family.—Rom. 5:12.
4-5. How has Satan continued to deceive humans?
4 Adam and Eve died, just as God had said they would. But Satan did not stop lying about death. At some point in time, he began to introduce other lies. One of those lies is the teaching that the physical body dies but that some part of the person lives on, perhaps in the spirit realm. Variations of that lie have deceived countless humans right down to our day.—1 Tim. 4:1.
5 Why are so many humans deceived? Satan’s lies about death exploit the way we naturally feel about death. Because we were created to live forever, we do not want to die. (Eccl. 3:11) We consider death an enemy.—1 Cor. 15:26.
6-7. (a) Has Satan succeeded in keeping the truth about the dead hidden? Explain. (b) How does Bible truth spare us needless fear?
6 Despite Satan’s efforts, the truth about death has not been kept hidden. In fact, more people than ever now know and proclaim what the Bible teaches about the condition of the dead and the hope for the dead. (Eccl. 9:5, 10; Acts 24:15) These truths comfort us, sparing us needless fear and uncertainty. For example, we do not fear the dead; nor do we fear for them. We know that they are not alive and cannot harm anyone. It is as if they were in a deep sleep. (John 11:11-14) We also know that the dead are not aware of the passing of time. So in the resurrection, even those who have been dead for centuries will view the time that elapsed as momentary, like a snap of the fingers.
7 Do you not agree that the truth about the condition of the dead is clear, simple, and logical? What a contrast to Satan’s confusing lies! In addition to misleading people, those lies also slander our Creator. To help us appreciate more fully the harm that Satan has caused, we will consider these questions: How have Satan’s lies slandered Jehovah? How have they undermined belief in Christ’s ransom sacrifice? How have they added to mankind’s grief and suffering?
SATAN’S LIES HAVE CAUSED MUCH HARM
8. As shown at Jeremiah 19:5, how do Satan’s lies about the dead slander Jehovah?
8 Satan’s lies about the dead slander Jehovah. Those lies include the false teaching that the dead suffer fiery torment. Such teachings slander God! How so? In effect, they attribute to him, the God of love, the personality of the Devil. (1 John 4:8) How does that make you feel? More important, how does it make Jehovah feel? After all, he hates all forms of cruelty.—Read Jeremiah 19:5.
9. How do Satan’s lies affect belief in Christ’s ransom sacrifice that is described at John 3:16 and 15:13?
9 Satan’s lies about death undermine belief in Christ’s ransom sacrifice. (Matt. 20:28) Another satanic lie is that humans have an immortal soul. If that were true, everyone would live forever. Christ would not have had to give his life as a ransom for us to gain everlasting life. Keep in mind that Christ’s sacrifice is the greatest expression of love ever shown to the human family. (Read John 3:16; 15:13.) Imagine how Jehovah and his Son must feel about teachings that undermine that precious gift!
10. How have Satan’s lies about death added grief and suffering to mankind?
10 Satan’s lies add grief and suffering to mankind. Parents who are grieving the death of a child may be told that God has taken the child, perhaps to be an angel in heaven. Does this satanic lie lessen their pain or add to it? The false teaching of hellfire has been used to justify torture, including the burning at the stake of those who opposed church teachings. According to a book on the Spanish Inquisition, some of those responsible for this cruelty may have believed that they were only giving heretics “a taste of what perpetual hellfire would be like” so that they would repent before dying and be saved from hellfire. In a number of lands, people feel compelled to pay homage to their dead ancestors, to honor them, or to seek a blessing from them. Others want to appease their ancestors in order to avoid some form of punishment. Sadly, beliefs based on satanic lies do not bring genuine comfort. Instead, they cause needless anxiety or even fear.
HOW WE CAN UPHOLD BIBLE TRUTH
11. How may well-meaning relatives or friends try to pressure us to go against God’s Word?
11 Love for God and his Word strengthens us to obey Jehovah even when well-meaning relatives or friends try to pressure us to share in unscriptural practices regarding the dead. They may try to shame us, perhaps by saying that we did not love or respect the deceased. Or they might say that our behavior will cause the dead person to harm the living in some way. How can we uphold Bible truth? Consider how you can apply the following Bible principles.
12. What customs regarding the dead are clearly unscriptural?
12 Be resolved to “separate yourselves” from unscriptural beliefs and customs. (2 Cor. 6:17) In a Caribbean nation, many believe that after a person dies, his “ghost” may stay around and punish those who mistreated him. The “ghost” may even “wreak havoc on a community,” says one reference. It is a custom in Africa to cover mirrors in the home of the deceased and turn pictures to face the wall. The reason? Some claim that the dead must not see themselves! As Jehovah’s servants, we certainly do not believe any myths or take part in any practices that promote Satan’s lies!—1 Cor. 10:21, 22.
13. If you are unsure about a certain custom, what should you do, as stated at James 1:5?
13 If you are unsure about a certain custom or practice, go to Jehovah in prayer, asking in faith for godly wisdom. (Read James 1:5.) Then follow up by doing research in our publications. If necessary, consult the elders in your congregation. They will not tell you what to do, but they can point you to relevant Bible principles, such as those discussed here. As you take these steps, you train your “powers of discernment,” and these powers will help you to “distinguish both right and wrong.”—Heb. 5:14.
14. In what ways can we avoid stumbling people?
14 “Do all things for God’s glory. Keep from becoming causes for stumbling.” (1 Cor. 10:31, 32) When deciding whether to share in a custom or tradition, we should also think about how our decision may affect the consciences of others, especially fellow Christians. Never would we want to stumble someone! (Mark 9:42) Also, we want to avoid needlessly offending those who are not Witnesses. Love will move us to speak to them in a respectful way, which glorifies Jehovah. We certainly would not quarrel with people or ridicule their traditions. Remember, love is powerful! When we reflect it in a considerate and respectful manner, we may even soften the hearts of opposers.
15-16. (a) Why is it wise to let others know what you believe? Give an example. (b) How do Paul’s words recorded at Romans 1:16 apply to us?
15 Make it known in your community that you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Isa. 43:10) You will likely find it easier to handle emotionally charged situations if your relatives and neighbors know that you worship Jehovah God. Francisco, who lives in Mozambique, writes: “When my wife, Carolina, and I learned the truth, we told our family that we would no longer worship the dead. Our decision was tested when Carolina’s sister died. The local custom is to bathe a corpse ceremonially. Then the closest relative must sleep for three days at the place where the bathwater was poured out. These customs are supposed to appease the spirit of the deceased. Carolina’s family expected her to carry out the sleep duty.”
16 How did Francisco and his wife respond? Francisco explains: “Because we love Jehovah and want to please him, we refused to participate in the custom. Carolina’s family became very angry. They accused us of disrespecting the dead and said that the family would no longer visit or help us. Since we had earlier explained our beliefs to them, we did not discuss the matter with them while they were angry. Some relatives even defended us, saying that we had already explained our position. In time, Carolina’s relatives calmed down, and we were able to make peace. In fact, some have even come to our house to ask for Bible literature.” May we never be ashamed of the stand that we take in defense of the truth about death.—Read Romans 1:16.
COMFORT AND SUPPORT THOSE WHO GRIEVE
17. What can help us to be a true friend to a grieving fellow Christian?
17 When a fellow Christian loses a loved one in death, we should try hard to be “a true friend . . . , a brother who is born for times of distress.” (Prov. 17:17) How can we be “a true friend,” especially if a grieving brother or sister is being pressured to engage in unscriptural practices? Consider two Bible principles that can help us to comfort the bereaved.
18. What moved Jesus to tears, and what can we learn from his example?
18 “Weep with those who weep.” (Rom. 12:15) We may find it hard to know what to say to someone who is overcome by grief. Sometimes our tears say more than our words. When Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, Mary, Martha, and others wept for their beloved brother and friend. Four days later when Jesus arrived, he too “gave way to tears,” even though he knew that he was about to resurrect Lazarus. (John 11:17, 33-35) Jesus’ tears reflected the feelings of his Father. They also confirmed Jesus’ love for the family, which no doubt comforted Mary and Martha. Similarly, when our brothers sense our love and concern, they know that they are not alone but are surrounded by caring and supportive friends.
19. When comforting a grieving fellow Christian, in what ways can we apply Ecclesiastes 3:7?
19 “A time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Eccl. 3:7) Another way to comfort a grieving fellow Christian is simply to be a good listener. Allow your brother to pour out his heart, and do not be offended by “wild talk.” (Job 6:2, 3) He may be under added emotional stress because of pressure from relatives who are not Witnesses. So pray with him. Beg the “Hearer of prayer” to give him strength and clarity of mind. (Ps. 65:2) If circumstances permit, read the Bible together. Or read an appropriate article from our publications, such as an encouraging life story.
20. What will we discuss in the following article?
20 What a privilege we have to know the truth about the dead and the wonderful future that awaits those in the memorial tombs! (John 5:28, 29) Thus, in word and deed, let us courageously uphold Bible truth and share it with others at every appropriate opportunity. The next article will look at another way that Satan tries to keep people in spiritual darkness—spiritism. We will see why we need to avoid practices and entertainment associated with that demonic trap.
SONG 16 Flee to God’s Kingdom!
^ par. 5 Satan and his demons have deceived people with lies about the condition of the dead. These lies have led to many unscriptural customs. This article will help you remain faithful to Jehovah when others try to pressure you to engage in such customs.
^ par. 55 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: While a relative mourns the loss of her loved one, family members who are Witnesses give her comfort.
^ par. 57 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: After researching funeral customs, a Witness family member kindly explains his belief to his relatives.
^ par. 59 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Elders in the Christian congregation give comfort and support to a Witness who has lost a loved one in death.