In 1996, I began my free home Bible study with Jehovah’s Witnesses in their publication
“Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life.”
Under the chapter heading of “What Happens To Our Dead Loved Ones?” in their Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life book, the Watchtower endeavors to answer the question “What is the Spirit in Humans?” In paragraph 4, they point out that Adam did not have a soul; he was a soul. They highlighted Genesis 2:7 from their New World Translation of the Bible as “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.” The paragraph ends by telling us that the Bible speaks of “the force of life” that is active in earthly living creatures. –Genesis 7:22. This is a key set up for their next paragraph that went on to explain what this “force of life” is. In their own words, “it is the vital spark of life that God put into the lifeless body of Adam. This force was then sustained by the breathing process.” And thus, the Knowledge book explained to me that Adam became a living soul due to God’s sustaining breath in his nostrils and calls this “the force of life.” Then it went on to ask what the spirit is since Psalm 146:4 refers to it as “going out” or departing. They explain that “when the Bible writers used the word “spirit” in this way, they did not have in mind a disembodied soul that continues living after the body dies.” — Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, page 81, paragraph 5.
Did you catch that? It’s subtle but they just managed to persuade the reader to link soul, spirit, and life force all into one category. The spirit is not a “disembodied soul.” Whoever said it was? Yet because the spirit can’t be a disembodied soul as they say, it has to be something else. They call that “the force of life.”
If there were any question about that, it’s carefully restated in the next paragraph telling us that the “spirit” that departs from humans at death is the life force that originated with our Creator. Then they conclude the section by introducing the idea that electricity does not take on the features of the equipment it powers. By calling the breath of life and spirit all “the life force” and then equating that with electricity, the student is ready to accept God’s spirit as an impersonal force that simply animates their body.
“When someone dies, the spirit (life force) ceases to animate the body cells, much as a light goes out when the electricity is turned off. When the life force stops sustaining the human body, man — the soul — dies.” — Psalm 104:29; Ecclesiastes 12:1, 7. — Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, page 82, paragraph 6.
The subheading of that chapter was “What is the Spirit in Humans?” And what did we learn about that spirit according to the Watchtower? It’s basically an electrical current keeping us breathing. As long as we’re plugged in, we’ll live another day. Upon death however, they conclude that there is no separate entity that lives beyond our bodies. And the Scriptures they include at the end seem to lend themselves well to their hypothesis since the psalm mentions human expiration when God’s spirit is removed. Ecclesiastes notes that man is dust returning to earth when the spirit returns to the God who gave it.
In other words, Jehovah is the electrical plant and He just turned off your service.
In talking with Jehovah’s Witnesses, keep in mind that they’ve come to you with this thought process. Not only will they reject the idea of being indwelt by God’s spirit and going to heaven, but they don’t even believe an eternal spirit is available to mankind. They’ve turned the spirit into electricity which Jehovah can turn on and off as He pleases. This electricity merely animates the body to make it a living soul and thus they proclaim “mankind does not have an immortal soul.” Then in paragraph 14 on page 84 of the Knowledge book, they correctly state that the Bible never uses the expression “immortal soul” and point out Ezekiel 18:4 to prove that sinning human souls die. They ask us to reason on this by proposing that nobody would need to be resurrected, or brought back to life, if an immortal soul survived death. At a loss to dispute the biblical fact that souls do in fact die, combined with already having been taught that no disembodied spirit goes to heaven, the student is now ready to accept what Jehovah’s Witnesses have to offer by way of a future, physical resurrection on a renewed paradise earth.
What Does the Bible Really Teach?
But what does the Bible really teach? Well, their more recent Watchtower publication of that same name is not going to tell you anything different from the 1995 publication I mentioned earlier. In fact, they simply state it more plainly by saying “Not even one part of us survives the death of the body. We do not possess an immortal soul or spirit.” (What Does the Bible Really Teach page 58, paragraph 5) Then they direct the reader to study in greater detail on pages 208-211 to identify the soul and spirit as two separate terms used by the Bible writers. And once again, they make sure we understand that the spirit is no different than electricity and has “no feeling and cannot think. It is an impersonal force.”
I’m glad Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize that there is a difference between soul and spirit. But I’d like to broaden out their limited assessment of both of these terms as referring to electricity. The apostle Paul clearly identified human beings as having a triune nature with his inclusion of body, soul, and spirit in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. If soul and spirit were the same thing, there would have been no need for Paul to mention them separately. Likewise, if they were of equal status, no sword would be necessary to divide them and yet that is what we read in Hebrews 4:12.
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NASB)
Why would God use His word to pierce and divide our soul from our spirit? Often the Bible uses the word “soul” to refer to the life of a person that dies when the human dies (Ezekiel 18:4), but other times it uses “soul” to refer to the innermost being of a person that can’t be killed by any human but Jesus explained at Matthew 10:28 that God is able to destroy the soul of a person.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have already laid the groundwork of truth in pointing out that Adam and all earthly creatures are simply living souls and each of us will, in turn, become dead souls when our bodies return to dust (Genesis 2:7; 3:19). But thankfully, God’s word not only pierces to the division of soul and spirit, He also slices through the misguided reasoning the Watchtower Society has presented in their publications. So let’s unpack that.
The Appendix to chapter 6 in the publication, What Does the Bible Really Teach?, is titled “ ‘Soul’ and ‘Spirit”’—What Do These Terms Really Mean?”
“Also, like electricity, the spirit has no feeling and cannot think. It is an impersonal force.”
Wow. Impersonal force? No feeling and cannot think? Is this what they really believe? And is that what the Bible REALLY teaches? How can the Holy Spirit of Jehovah have no feeling or thought? His Spirit CREATED everything! Surely His Spirit has thought if even we as imperfect humans are said to have thinking and feeling spirits in us!
For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:11 KJV)
If a man has a spirit in himself and God has a spirit, and if either spirit is just an unthinking electrical force, then the man has no thoughts and neither does God!
If the spirit has no ability to think, then how could the apostle Paul have discerned the thoughts of God when the rulers that killed Jesus did not? Wasn’t that the point of Paul getting blinded by the light on the road to Damascus? (Acts 9) Paul received the Holy Spirit and it changed the way he thought about Jesus! Paul gave all credit to Jehovah’s Spirit imparting the reasoning ability he received in order to determine the finished mystery (1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:9; 3:3-10).
But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:10 KJV)
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. (1 Corinthians 2:12 KJV)
Paul said he received “the spirit which is of God” so that he might KNOW the things freely given by God. Because “the Holy Ghost teacheth” (v.13) Now Paul made clear that it is not in our “natural man” to receive what the Holy Ghost teaches. One has to be “spiritual” in order to know them (v.14-15). So he ends that discourse with this curious statement:
For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16 KJV)
None of us dare to instruct the Lord, but what has Paul been saying in this passage about the Lord’s Spirit instructing him? How else could Paul make the claim to have the mind of Christ? Simply by receiving an unthinking and unfeeling electrical force??? No. I do not see that in the text at all. Therefore, the Watchtower is right about the soul, but the Bible is right about the spirit.
The Bible says Jesus perceived things in His spirit (Mark 2:8)
In fact, didn’t Jesus even say the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak? (Matthew 26:41)
Clearly the Spirit has a will then. And this AGREES with what the Watchtower has already established about the SOUL and SPIRIT being different. We as living souls may think and feel things that are in opposition to what the spirit desires. The soul has a will. But so does the spirit. A battle of wills.
Have you ever wondered why God even wants to divide our soul and spirit? How about this? Because as living, breathing, thinking, and emotional living souls we have a will. But God would rather we do HIS WILL. So He uses the word of God to divide our soul and spirit. His word is a sharp discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Many of us have experienced that feeling of separation from our will to God’s will while reading the Bible. That’s because His word is alive. His words are Spirit-breathed and something stirs within us proving that the Spirit has emotion and is not just an impersonal force.
Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. (Acts 17:16 KJV)
See? And it’s not just Paul’s spirit that was STIRRED with EMOTION, Daniel’s spirit was GRIEVED (Daniel 7:15)
Psalm 78:40 speaks of the Israelites also GRIEVING Jehovah in the desert. Yes, we too are capable of evoking this emotion in Jehovah!
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30 KJV)
So if imperfect humans have spirit’s that could be stirred or grieved, it clearly upholds the truth of what we know from the Genesis account that man is made in God’s image because God also has feelings, intellect, and a will.
So how can the Watchtower make the assertion that the Spirit is merely an impersonal force like electricity?
The simple answer is, they CAN’T.
Keep yourself in God’s love,
For more to explore on this topic, also see Is the Human Soul and Spirit Immortal?