Resurrection! Part 1: Earthly

Luca Signorelli’s medieval Resurrection of the Flesh

The Watchtower Teaching

Unlike the Signorelli painting above, the Watchtower describes the earthly resurrection as the injecting of a dead person’s memories and personality into a newly created body.

They teach that the vast majority of humankind will be resurrected to life on earth: both the “righteous and the unrighteous.” This includes “billions of ‘unrighteous’ ones.” These are said to have gone to Sheol.

But not everyone will be resurrected. Those excluded are said to have gone to Gehanna instead of Sheol. Included in this group are:

In the past, the Watchtower has taught that resurrected ones will not be permitted to marry, or to reunite with their spouse as a married couple. In 2014, however, this understanding was revised to “we don’t know.”

A Thought About the Teaching

A question arises in my mind regarding the resurrected individual:
Is this the same person who died?

Since we have no way to test this, the best we can do is to engage in some thought experiments.

What if it were possible to inject your memories (and whatever we might mean by “personality”) into a computer, android, or living clone? Would it be you?

In Disneyland men have created an “animatronic” of Abraham Lincoln. You can watch “him” move around, gesture, and recite Lincoln’s speeches. It looks and sounds very much like the real thing.

Despite this marvelous creation though, I don’t think anyone would point to it as evidence that Abraham Lincoln literally lives. Lincoln is still very much dead.


Blade Runner was a great sci-fi movie from 1982. In the film, the character of  Rachael is of interest. She is a human-like robot injected with the memories of her creator’s niece, causing her to believe she is his niece, and that the memories are hers. However, the real niece (of course) does not believe that the robot is in fact herself.

On a lighter note, the 1996 comedy Multiplicity can aid our thought-experiment when it comes to clones. In this film, the main character (Doug) has himself cloned. The clone (dubbed “Two”) turns out to be an exact adult replica of Doug. Two has all the memories of Doug, and initially assumes that Doug is the clone! Naturally; Two thinks that he himself is Doug; he possesses all of Doug’s memories and personality. However, there is no doubt in Doug’s mind that Two is not him.

Dali Lives! On an AI interactive screen

At the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, they have used artificial intelligence and an interactive screen to “bring to life” the deceased artist in a presentation called Dali Lives! Visitors to the museum can experience what it would have been like to talk directly with Dali when he was still alive, and can even have their picture taken with him! But all of this cutting-edge technology does Dali just as much good as the Disneyland animatronic does for Lincoln: zilch. Both men are still very much dead.

For our final thought-experiment, please consider this. What if Jehovah were to create a new body right now, in front of your eyes, and place your memories and personality into it. You stand there looking at it. Do you think it is you? Or are you the one looking at this new body? What if you were to now suddenly die. Does the new body now somehow magically become you? Or are you dead?

Injecting your memories and personality into a newly create being in the New Order, seemingly will not do anything for you. It will be just like “Two” in Multiplicity and just like the android in Blade Runner. Oh yes, this new being on this new earth will think that they’re you. But is that any consolation? Can you take comfort in knowing that you will have a surrogate sincerely posing as you for eternity?

It’s not you that will be resurrected.

You will still be dead. As dead as Lincoln and Dali.

Forever.

Don’t miss Part 2: The Resurrection of the “Unrighteous”!

Resurrection! Part 2: The Unrighteous

The Resurrection of Lazarus, by Leon Bonnat, France, 1857

Part 1 described the Watchtower’s teaching on the earthly resurrection. It also gave some thought to whether the resurrected individual could possibly be the same person who died.

In part 2 we are going to discuss the resurrection of the “righteous and the unrighteous.” Especially the latter.

Resurrection of the “Unrighteous”

According to the Watchtower, the “unrighteous” are not bad people, but rather those who did not get a chance to know about Jehovah:

What about all the people who did not serve or obey Jehovah because they never knew about him? These billions of “unrighteous” ones will not be forgotten. They too will be resurrected…

What Does the Bible Really Teach? (WBTS, 2016 printing) p.72-73 parg.19

The majority of people who have ever died, died in ignorance of Jehovah. They are the untold billions of “unrighteous” to be resurrected to life on earth.

Armageddon!

The Watchtower tells us that those who are killed at Armageddon will be just like those whom Jehovah killed in Noah’s day: they will not be resurrected; they will be dead forever. (See Reasoning From the Scriptures, Armageddon: Will the Destruction be Forever? p. 19, parg. 14).

Who will be killed at Armageddon? According to the Watchtower, everyone outside of the Watchtower organization will be killed:

Only Jehovah’s Witnesses, those of the anointed remnant and the “great crowd,” as a united organization under the protection of the Supreme Organizer, have any Scriptural hope of surviving the impending end of this doomed system dominated by Satan the Devil.

Watchtower 1989 Sep 1 p.19, parg. 7

But what about those “unrighteous” ones who never heard of Jehovah? Or does the Watchtower believe that they will reach absolutely everyone with their message before Armageddon? It turns out that the answer to that last question does not matter. The Watchtower tells us that those ignorant of Jehovah will be killed at Armageddon:

“There are billions of people who do not know Jehovah. Many of them in ignorance practice things that God’s Word shows to be wicked. If they persist in this course, they will be among those who perish during the great tribulation.” 

Watchtower 1993 Oct 1 p.19

So, those who were ignorant in the past are considered “the unrighteous,” and will be resurrected and have a chance to live forever. But those who are ignorant when Armageddon comes around? If, in their ignorance of Watchtower doctrine, they engage in “wicked” practices (such as donating blood, celebrating birthdays or Christmas, giving a toast…) then they are considered “the wicked,” and will be killed, and will be dead forever.

What about children and babies? Will they be killed at Armageddon? Well, this certainly follows from the above statement about every non Jehovah’s Witness being killed at that event. The Watchtower seems reluctant to answer the question explicitly, but it implies as much when it reminds us:

in times past when God destroyed the wicked he likewise destroyed their little ones.

Reasoning from the Scriptures: Armageddon: What About the Children? p. 48

So, the Watchtower teaches that all the children who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses will be killed at Armageddon. This is in spite of the fact that the Watchtower teaches that children younger than 15 years old have not reached an “age of understanding,” and so couldn’t possibly have come to “know Jehovah,” even if Jehovah’s Witnesses were able to reach them all with the “kingdom message.” So, at any other time prior to Armageddon, children would be considered part of the “unrighteous” due a resurrection.

An Unjust Scenario

Mary, a volunteer at the Red Cross, is a woman who has dismissed Jehovah’s Witnesses many a time from her front door.

One day, Mary gives birth to identical twin daughters: Ann and Barbara. Sadly, Barbara is still-born.

The following day, Armageddon begins. Mary and Ann are killed, and — following Watchtower doctrine — will never be resurrected.

But Barbara, having died before Armageddon, is resurrected as one of the “unrighteous.” A young sister is assigned to act as her mother, and Jehovah duly induces lactation in her. [She has an easier time of it than the sisters who will have to bring to term the millions of zygotes and fetuses who died prior to birth and prior to Armageddon.]

Barbara goes on to learn the truth, and lives forever in peace and happiness on a paradise earth. She remains blissfully ignorant of both her mother and her sister [who, if they are spoken of at all, are collectively referred to as “the wicked.”]

A Horrible Scenario

John is a loyal Jehovah’s Witness, eagerly looking forward to the New System. He is also very loving, and hates the thought that his non-witness co-workers will die at Armageddon, with no chance of resurrection.

But John knows that if his co-workers die prior to Armageddon, they will be resurrected. So, one day John buys a gun, walks into the office, and shoots them all dead.

“Jehovah will forgive me,” he tells the police; “I just saved their prospects for eternal life, in the ultimate act of self-sacrificing love!”

What’s Lacking

Justice and consistency are sadly lacking in the Watchtower’s doctrine of the “resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous,” in light of their beliefs concerning Armageddon.

Don’t miss Part 3: Judgment!

Resurrection! Part 3: Judgments

Jehovah is the final Judge. (Acts 10:42) He will never resurrect those whom he judges to be wicked and unwilling to change.

What Does the Bible Really Teach? (WBTS, 2016 printing) p.74, parg. 20
Last Judgment (1549), by Marcello Venusti after Michelangelo‘s Sistine Chapel The Last Judgement (1541)

Judgment!

According to the Watchtower doctrine, stated above, Jehovah has judged some people as unchangeably wicked during their lifetime. He won’t even bother resurrecting them to give them the second chance everyone else gets in the New Order, where the truth will be made manifest so that people can make an informed decision whether to serve Jehovah.

But here’s the thing: if Jehovah can judge people in the “Old System,” why do we need to be judged during the millennium? If some have been judged as unchangeably wicked, prior to the millennium, by default the rest have already been judged as not unchangeably wicked. So, why is a second judgment needed?

Russell’s main contribution to Christian theology was his teaching that everyone living would survive Armageddon, and all of the dead would be resurrected. We would all be judged in the New Order, where our “eyes would be opened,” since Satan would be “bound” for a thousand years, and no longer able to keep us in the dark during that time.

It wasn’t fair, Russell said, to judge the blind for not being able to see. Only in the New Order would there be a level playing-field with everyone getting a fair chance to decide where they stood. No one would be judged in the Old Order.

But the Watchtower of today has us judged during our lifetimes (as being worthy of a resurrection or of surviving Armageddon), and once again in the New Order as being good enough to continue living. Then a third time, based on how we respond to Satan being once again let loose to mislead us, at the end of the millennium.

It’s sort of like when the Watchtower tells us that the angels direct our work, leading us to the “right-hearted” people who are receptive to our message. So, those people have already been judged (in this case, as worthy to hear about Jehovah, and thus have a chance of making it into the New Order). And, of course, this also means that those whom the angels don’t direct us to are already judged as unworthy of a chance.

If “Jehovah can read hearts and perceive our innermost motives,” and he has a complete record of our “memories and personality” in his own mind (in order to be able to resurrect us), then he is intimately familiar with our character, and already knows who is unchangeably wicked. The Bible relates that Jehovah had judged Esau and Jeremiah before they were even born! It says that he “knows the end from the beginning.” So, why would he need repeated testing of us?

Either the Watchtower has gotten carried away with judgments, or Jehovah doesn’t trust us — or his own judgment.

Don’t miss Part 4: The Heavenly Resurrection!

Resurrection! Part 4: Heavenly

Identity Crisis

Those resurrected to heavenly life (the 144,000 “anointed ones”) share the same identity problem as those who are expecting an earthly resurrection. Since, in Watchtower theology, nothing survives death, Jehovah is only left with his memory of the individual’s “memories and personality,” which he must recreate in a new body. In this case it’s a spirit body, but it’s the same issue as when it’s a physical body: the original person is lost in the process.

It is not you who will enjoy either a paradise earth or a life in the heavenly realm; it will be an identity thief. (Please see our first article in this series: Resurrection! (Earthly).)

William Blake‘s The Day of Judgment (1808)

Dying to go to Heaven

A problem unique to the heavenly resurrection is that all 144,000 of the anointed have to be dead before Armageddon begins, so that they can all participate, from heaven, in the slaughter of non Jehovah’s Witnesses (Please see: Vindication Vol. 3, pp. 13 ,92, 96-97; Revelation: It’s Grand Climax at Hand [WBTS, 1988 ed.] p. 53, and Armageddon–A Happy Beginning).

In fact, the Watchtower has given the decrease in the number of the anointed still on earth (known as “the remnant”) as one of the signs of the “last days”.

But, instead of dying out, in recent years more people are partaking of the “emblems” at the annual “memorial service” (a ritual that only the anointed are allowed to participate in).

Thanks to Paul Grundy of jwfacts for this chart.

It’s hard to reconcile the Watchtower’s warning about Armageddon being due “any day now,” with the fact that there are still thousands of the anointed who have to die before that event can take place. Even more so when we consider that the number of “anointed ones” has grown 2-1/2 times between 2006 and 2020! Maybe that’s why the Watchtower has stated that some of these thousands are not really anointed, but only think that they are, due to a mental problem!

So, if your “heavenly hope” goes against the neatly laid out plans of the Watchtower’s eschatology, you must be nuts!

A non-uplifting “Rapture”

Having dispensed, in such an off-handed manner, with their members’ personal religious experiences, the Watchtower tackles the dying-off problem in a similarly roughshod manner. The remnant, we are told, will all die “in an instant” at the start of the “attack of Gog of Magog” (i.e., when the nations attack the Watchtower organization during the “Great Tribulation.”) Then Jehovah will create new spirit bodies and put his memories of their “memories and personality” into them, so that these new creatures will all be ready and eager to participate in the slaughter of Armageddon. This is the Watchtower’s watered-down version of the “rapture,” though they don’t like to use that name [because there is nothing: no soul–much less a physical body–that transfers to heaven]. (See Watchtower, July 2015, pp 18-19, parg. 14-15.)

This event is actually past due. Russell and Rutherford expected that all the “faithful” would be gathered to heaven in the year 1910 (Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 3 (1891 ed.) p. 364). The photo below (from the Sept. 1910 Watchtower, page 282) shows them posing on a fitting spot in April of that year: the Mount of Olives (where they believe Jesus ascended into heaven). This seems to suggest that they were expecting to be carried bodily up into heaven. But, just like the Watchtower of today, Russell was not a believer in a physical “rapture” into heaven; he thought the faithful had to die first in order to be “instantly with the Lord.” (Studies in the Scriptures Vol III: Thy Kingdom Come (1898 ed.) p. 240)

Russell, Rutherford, et al., in Palestine, 1910: waiting for entrance to heaven.

So, I wonder how long they waited before they dejectedly returned to America; depressed that they were still alive on Earth: their hopes dashed. At least they didn’t take matters into their own hands and kill themselves — as some cults have done en masse in more recent times.

Another Job to do

After these new spirit-beings have assisted with the killing of billions of men, women, children, and babies, their work will still be far from over. They then must assist Jesus with ruling over the earth for a thousand years. This will include judging and zapping anyone who disobeys them.

According to Watchtower belief, Jesus created the entire universe all by himself. Yet, he needs 144,000 helpers to rule over one planet. “Helpers” with clear minds, who possess a remarkable sense of justice; having the personality and memories of such people as Stephen Lett, Sam Herd, and Tony Morris! Joining them, of course, will be new spirit-beings with the personalities and memories of other current and former members of the Governing Body, whose record shows that they could never quite get God’s message right the first time [or often the second or third time].

Beards!

On an amusing side-note: have you ever noticed that the Watchtower always depicts the 144,000 as gray-bearded old men? [Some examples: the cover of the Jan, 2021 Watchtower, a 2006 Watchtower article, and Who Goes to Heaven?] This is in spite of the fact that there have been many females among the “anointed.” Are we to understand that the personalities and memories of anointed women are placed into male spirit-bodies in heaven? And why does the Watchtower frown so hard upon men having beards in this “Old Order” if even the females will evidently sprout beards in the New Order (at least on the heavenly side of things)?

Don’t Miss: Part 5: Jesus’ Resurrection!