Archives for posts with tag: death

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Smita, * a 35-year-old woman in Dhaka, Bangladesh, had the reputation of being a loving and caring person. People knew her as a hardworking and happy young wife who wanted to help others know what she had learned about God. How shocked her family and friends were when Smita suddenly contracted an illness that claimed her life in less than a week!

 

James and his wife, a young couple in their 30’s, had a reputation similar to that of Smita. One springtime, they went to visit their friends on the West Coast of the United States. They never returned to their home in New York. While away, they were involved in a fatal automobile accident, leaving a tremendous void in the lives of their loved ones and coworkers.

 

You do not have to look far to see that evil and suffering abound today. Wars kill civilians as well as soldiers. Crime and violence victimize innocent people. Deadly accidents and crippling illnesses occur irrespective of a person’s age or status in life. Natural disasters wipe out communities indiscriminately. Prejudice and injustice are widespread. Perhaps you have personally suffered as a victim.

 

It is only natural to ask questions like these:

 

  • Why do bad things happen to good people?

  • Is God to blame for such things?

  • Are calamities random occurrences, or are they man-made?

  • Could it be Karma, that is, the result of one’s actions in a past life, that causes personal suffering?

  • If there is an almighty God, why does he not protect good people from harm?

  • Will life ever be free of evil and suffering?

 

To answer those questions, we need to understand the answer to these two basic questions: Why do bad things happen at all, and what will God do?

 


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IF YOU met Diana, * you would find her to be an intelligent, friendly, and gregarious young woman. But beneath Diana’s charming exterior lurks a crippling despair that leaves her feeling utterly worthless for days, weeks, or even months at a time. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about dying,” she says. “I truly believe that the world would be a better place without me.”

“Some studies have shown that for every death by suicide, 200 people have attempted suicide and 400 [other] people have thought about it.”—THE GAZETTE, MONTREAL, CANADA.

Diana says that she would never kill herself. Still, at times she sees little point in going on with life. “My greatest wish is to be killed in an accident,” she says. “I’ve come to view death as a friend—not an enemy.”

Many people can relate to Diana’s feelings, and some of them have contemplated—or attempted—suicide. Experts point out, however, that most people who try to kill themselves do not really want to end their life; they merely want to end their suffering. In short, they believe that they have a reason to die; what they need is a reason to live.

Why go on? Consider three reasons to keep living.


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Memorial of Jesus’ Death

You are warmly invited to meet with us to observe the anniversary of Jesus’ death. Find a meeting location near you.

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You Are Invited

On the night before he died, Jesus instructed his disciples to commemorate the sacrifice that he was about to make. He told them: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.”—Luke 22:19.

In 2014, the anniversary of Jesus’ death falls on Monday, April 14, after sundown. Jehovah’s Witnesses invite you, your family, and your friends to come on that date to listen to a brief talk explaining why Jesus’ death is so important.

This free event will take place at a location near you.


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COVER SUBJECT | THE WAR THAT CHANGED THE WORLD

The True Culprit Behind War and Suffering

On November 11, 1918, World War I came to an end. Businesses shut down, and people danced in the streets. But the dancing did not last long. Another menace—even more lethal than the machine gun—followed hot on the heels of the world war.

A deadly plague known as the Spanish flu had invaded the battlefields of France in June 1918. The virus soon proved how deadly it could be. For example, within a few months, it killed more American soldiers in France than did enemy fire. And the flu quickly spread worldwide as it accompanied the troops who returned to their homelands when the war ended.

The postwar years were also marked by hunger and economic misery. Much of Europe was starving when the hostilities ended in 1918. By 1923, German currency was practically worthless. Six years later, the whole world economy collapsed. And finally, in 1939, the second world war began—in some ways a continuation of the first global conflict. What was behind this unique string of catastrophes?

THE SIGN OF THE LAST DAYS

Bible prophecy enables us to see what lies behind certain historical events, and this is especially true of World War I. Jesus Christ foretold a time when ‘nation would rise against nation’ and food shortages and pestilences would sweep through the earth. (Matthew 24:3, 7; Luke 21:10, 11) He  told his disciples that such calamities would form a sign of the last days. More details are provided in the book of Revelation, which links woes on the earth to a war in heaven.—See the box  “War on Earth and War in Heaven.”

This same Bible book describes four horsemen, sometimes called the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Three of these horsemen depict the same disasters that Jesus had earlier foretold—war, famine, and pestilence. (See the box  “Are the Four Horsemen Really on the Move?”) Clearly, the first world war triggered a time of affliction that has not abated. And the Bible reveals that Satan was the one who, in a sense, pulled the trigger. (1 John 5:19) Will his power ever be checked?

The book of Revelation also reassures us that Satan has only “a short period of time.” (Revelation 12:12) That is why he is full of rage and instigates untold woe here on earth. By the same token, though, the troubles we see prove that Satan’s time is running out.

 BREAKING UP THE WORKS OF THE DEVIL

World War I was indeed a turning point in history. It brought about an age of total war, sparking revolutions and mistrust of human leaders. It also provides vivid proof of Satan’s ouster from heaven. (Revelation 12:9) And this unseen ruler of the world reacted like a vicious dictator who knows that his days are numbered. When those days come to an end, the time of troubles sparked by World War I will finally end.

In the light of Bible prophecy, you have reason to trust that Jesus Christ, our heavenly King, will soon “break up the works of the Devil.” (1 John 3:8) Many millions already pray for God’s Kingdom to come. Do you? Thanks to that Kingdom, faithful people will finally see God’s will—not Satan’s—being done on earth. (Matthew 6:9, 10) Under God’s Kingdom, there will never again be a world war—or any wars at all! (Psalm 46:9) Learn about that Kingdom, and live to see the time when peace will fill the earth!—Isaiah 9:6, 7.


 

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COVER SUBJECT

The War That Changed the World

A century ago, millions of young men left the security of their homes and went off to war. They went eagerly, swept along by a wave of patriotism. “I am happy and full of excitement over the wonderful days ahead,” wrote an American volunteer in 1914.

Soon, though, their enthusiasm turned to bitterness. No one foresaw the way those huge armies would get bogged down for years in the mud of Belgium and France. At the time, people termed it the “Great War.” Today, we know it as the first world war.

The first world war was decidedly great in terms of casualties. By some estimates, it left about 10 million dead and 20 million mutilated. It was also the result of great blunders. European statesmen were unable to stop international tensions from escalating into a global conflict. More important, perhaps, is the fact that the “Great War” left great scars. It changed the world in ways that still affect us today.

 MISTAKES THAT DESTROYED TRUST

The first world war broke out because of miscalculations. European leaders acted like a “generation of sleepwalkers that stumbled unawares over the ledge of doom during that halcyon summer of 1914,” explains the work The Fall of the Dynasties—The Collapse of the Old Order 1905-1922.

Within weeks, the assassination of an Austrian archduke plunged all the major European powers into a war that they did not want. “How did it all happen?” the German chancellor was asked a few days after hostilities began. “Ah, if only one knew,” he sadly replied.

The leaders who made the fateful decisions that led up to the war had no inkling of the consequences. But reality soon dawned on the soldiers in the trenches. They discovered that their statesmen had failed them, their clergy had deceived them, and their generals had betrayed them. How so?

A statesman, a clergyman, a general, and a globe

Their statesmen had failed them, their clergy had deceived them, and their generals had betrayed them

The statesmen promised that the war would open the way to a new and better world. The German chancellor proclaimed: “We are fighting for the fruits of our peaceful industry, for the inheritance of a great past, and for our future.” American President Woodrow Wilson helped to coin a reassuring popular slogan that the war would “make the world safe for democracy.” And in Britain, people thought it would be “a war to end war.” They were all mistaken.

The clergy supported the war enthusiastically. “The guardians of God’s word led the martial chorus. Total war came to mean total hatred,” states The Columbia History of the World. And clerics fanned rather than quenched the flames of hatred. “Clergymen were unable, and for the most part unwilling, to place Christian faith before nationality,” observes A History of Christianity. “Most took the easy way out and equated Christianity with patriotism. Christian soldiers of all denominations were exhorted to kill each other in the name of their Saviour.”

The generals promised a quick and easy victory, but it was not to be. Before long, the opposing armies came to a grueling stalemate. Thereafter, millions of soldiers faced what one historian described as “perhaps the cruelest large-scale ordeal that the flesh and spirit of man have endured.” Despite appalling losses, generals kept throwing their men against barricades of barbed wire and barrages of machine-gun fire. Not surprisingly, widespread mutinies broke out.

How did the first world war affect society? One historical work quotes a veteran as saying: “The war . . . scorched the minds and character of a generation.” Indeed, in the wake of that war, entire empires disappeared. That tragic conflict proved to be the prelude to the bloodiest century mankind has ever known. Revolutions and strikes came to seem almost commonplace.

Why did the war turn the world upside down? Was it really just a colossal accident? Do the answers reveal anything about our future?


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Do you believe in the Bible’s promise of a resurrection? * The prospect of being reunited with our loved ones who have died is appealing, to say the least. But is it realistic to nourish such a hope? To help answer that, we do well to consider the example of the apostles of Jesus Christ.

The apostles firmly believed in the resurrection of the dead. Why? For at least two reasons. First, their hope was primarily based on this fact: Jesus himself had been raised from the dead. The apostles—and “more than 500 brothers at one time”—saw the resurrected Jesus. (1 Corinthians 15:6) Additionally, Jesus’ resurrection was widely attested to and accepted, as the four Gospels show.—Matthew 27:62–28:20; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-53; John 20:1–21:25.

Second, the apostles had witnessed Jesus carry out at least three resurrections—first at Nain, then at Capernaum, and finally at Bethany. (Luke 7:11-17; 8:49-56; John 11:1-44) The last of those resurrections, described earlier in this issue, involved a family especially close to Jesus. Let us look further at what happened.

“I AM THE RESURRECTION”

“Your brother will rise.” Jesus spoke those words to Martha, whose brother, Lazarus, had been dead for four days. Martha did not at first understand the meaning of Jesus’ words. “I know he will rise,” she responded, but she thought that it would be at some time in the future. Imagine her surprise when after hearing Jesus say, “I am the resurrection and the life,” she saw Jesus raise her brother from the dead!—John 11:23-25.

Where was Lazarus during the four days after his death? Lazarus said nothing to suggest that he had been alive somewhere else during those four days. No, Lazarus did not have an immortal soul that had gone to heaven. By resurrecting Lazarus, Jesus did not bring him back down to earth, dragging him away from enjoying heavenly bliss in a place near to God. So where was Lazarus during those four days? He was, in fact, asleep in the grave.—Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10.

Remember, Jesus compared death to a sleep from which one is awakened by resurrection. The account reads: “‘Lazarus our friend has fallen asleep, but I am traveling there to awaken  him.’ The disciples then said to him: ‘Lord, if he is sleeping, he will get well.’ Jesus, however, had spoken about his death. But they imagined he was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly: ‘Lazarus has died.’” (John 11:11-14) By resurrecting Lazarus, Jesus gave him back his life and reunited him with his family. What a marvelous gift Jesus gave to that family!

The resurrections Jesus performed when on earth were a foregleam of what he will do in the future as King of God’s Kingdom. * During his rule over the earth, the heavenly Jesus will bring back to life those humans who are asleep in mankind’s common grave. That is why he said: “I am the resurrection.” Think of the happiness you will feel when you see your loved ones again! Think, too, of the joy that resurrected ones will experience!—Luke 8:56.

Think of the happiness you will feel when you see your loved ones again!

FAITH FOR EVERLASTING LIFE

Jesus said to Martha: “The one who exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life; and everyone who is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all.” (John 11:25, 26) Those whom Jesus resurrects during his thousand-year reign will have the prospect of living forever—as long as they truly put faith in him.

“The one who exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.”—John 11:25

After making those remarkable statements about the resurrection, Jesus asked Martha a soul-searching question: “‘Do you believe this?’ She said to him: ‘Yes, Lord, I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God.’” (John 11:26, 27) What about you—would you like to develop the kind of faith in the resurrection hope that Martha had? A first step is to take in knowledge of God’s purpose for humankind. (John 17:3; 1 Timothy 2:4) Such knowledge can lead to faith. Why not ask Jehovah’s Witnesses to show you what the Bible teaches about this subject? They will be happy to discuss with you the marvelous hope of the resurrection.


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Bethany was a small village that lay two miles (3 km) from Jerusalem. (John 11:18) A tragedy unfolded there a few weeks before Jesus’ death. Lazarus, one of Jesus’ close friends, unexpectedly became seriously ill and died.

When Jesus first heard the news, he told his disciples that Lazarus was asleep and that he intended to awaken him. (John 11:11) But Jesus’ disciples did not grasp his meaning, so Jesus told them plainly: “Lazarus has died.”—John 11:14.

Four days after the burial, Jesus arrived at Bethany and sought to comfort Martha, a sister of the deceased. “If you had been here, my brother would not have died,” Martha said. (John 11:17, 21) “I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus replied. “The one who exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.”—John 11:25.

“Lazarus, come out!”

To demonstrate that those words were not an empty promise, Jesus then approached the tomb and cried out: “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43) And to the astonishment of the onlookers, the dead man emerged.

Jesus had performed at least two resurrections previously. On one occasion he raised a young girl from the dead—the daughter of Jairus. Right before Jesus resurrected her, he also described her as being asleep.—Luke 8:52.

Notice that regarding the death of both Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter, Jesus compared death to sleep. That is a fitting comparison. Why? Sleep is an unconscious state and suitably conveys the idea of rest from pain and suffering. (Ecclesiastes 9:5; see the accompanying box,  “Death Is Like a Deep Sleep.”) Jesus’ early disciples clearly understood the true condition of the dead. “To the followers of Jesus death was a sleep, and the grave a resting-place . . . for those who had died in the faith,” * states theEncyclopedia of Religion and Ethics.

It comforts us to know that the dead are asleep in the grave and are not suffering. Death thereby loses its mystery and no longer needs to cause us dread.

“IF A MAN DIES, CAN HE LIVE AGAIN?”

But while we appreciate a good night’s rest, who wants to go to sleep forever? What hope do we have that the dead who lie asleep in the grave will return to life—as Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter did?

The patriarch Job raised that very question when he felt near to death. “If a man dies, can he live again?” he asked.—Job 14:14.

Addressing Almighty God, Job answered his own question, saying: “You will call, and I will answer you. You will long for the work of your hands.” (Job 14:15) Job felt sure that Jehovah longed for the day when He would resurrect His faithful servant. Was that mere wishful thinking on Job’s part? Not at all.

The resurrections performed by Jesus offered clear proof that God gave Jesus power over death. In fact, the Bible says that Jesus now possesses “the keys of death.” (Revelation 1:18) So Jesus will unlock the gates of the grave, just as he ordered that the stone of Lazarus’ tomb be rolled away.

The Bible repeats this resurrection promise time and again. An angel assured the prophet Daniel: “You will rest, but you will stand up for your lot at the end of the days.” (Daniel 12:13) Jesus told the Sadducees, Jewish leaders who denied the resurrection promise: “You are mistaken, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” (Matthew 22:23, 29) The apostle Paul said: “I have hope toward God . . . that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.”—Acts 24:15.

WHEN WILL THE DEAD ARISE?

When will this resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous occur? The angel told righteous Daniel that he would rise up “at the end of the days.” Martha likewise believed that her brother, Lazarus, would “rise in the resurrection on the last day.”—John 11:24.

The Bible connects this “last day” with Christ’s Kingdom rule. Paul wrote: “For he [Christ] must rule as king until God has put all enemies under his feet. And the last enemy, death, is to be brought to nothing.” (1 Corinthians 15:25, 26) This is a powerful reason why we should pray for God’s Kingdom to come and for God’s will to be done on the earth. *

As Job well knew, God’s will is to resurrect the dead. When that day arrives, death will truly be brought to nothing. And never again will anyone wonder, ‘Does death end it all?’