I used to work with a young woman who’d been brought up without religion. She knew God’s name was Jehovah because she’d seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. And from Dogma, she knew that God’s original purpose was for humans to live on earth forever; our planet was never a launch pad to heaven or trap door to hell. And that angels were a separate creation; they weren’t former "good people" enjoying their reward for being good.
From two movies she had more Bible knowledge than 90% of church folk who’ve spent a lifetime butts glued to pews! If you don’t approach the book determined to read in teachings that aren’t there, it becomes much easier to understand.
For instance, just try to reconcile the heaven/hell dogma with John chapter 11, which relates a resurrection Jesus performed:
He [Jesus] said these things, and after this he said to them: “Lazarus our friend has gone to rest, but I am journeying there to awaken him from sleep.” Therefore the disciples said to him: “Lord, if he has gone to rest, he will get well.” Jesus had spoken, however, about his death. But they imagined he was speaking about taking rest in sleep. At that time, therefore, Jesus said to them outspokenly: “Lazarus has died, ……
Consequently when Jesus arrived, he found he had already been four days in the memorial tomb. …….
Hence Jesus, after groaning again within himself, came to the memorial tomb. It was, in fact, a cave, and a stone was lying against it. said: “Take the stone away.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to him: “Lord, by now he must smell, for it is four days.” Jesus said to her: “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Therefore they took the stone away. Now Jesus raised his eyes heavenward and said: “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. True, I knew that you always hear me; but on account of the crowd standing around I spoke, in order that they might believe that you sent me forth.” And when he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice: “Lazarus, come on out!” The [man] that had been dead came out with his feet and hands bound with wrappings, and his countenance was bound about with a cloth. Jesus said to them: “Loose him and let him go.” John 11:11-44
He’d been dead for four days. Where was he during this time?
You don’t think if he’d been in heaven he would have said something upon being dragged back to earth? When Johnny Cash had a near-death experience during surgery and imagined he’d seen heaven, he was steamed to wake up again in the hospital. Even with his sweetheart June around. Yet Lazarus had been there four days, long enough to check out his room and settle in, if it really is so that the good all go to heaven.
For non-judgmental types, let us allow that even if he’d not gone to heaven, but spent those four days in hell, and Jesus still brought him back, letting bygones be bygones, Lazarus still did not mention a thing. And he didn't right away run for a bucket of water to sit in, as you can be sure I would have done.
No, the account suggests that Lazarus was nowhere during those four days; he was DEAD, non-existent, not conscious of a thing. Didn’t Jesus suggest as much when he likened the man to being asleep and not conscious in some other realm?
Jehovah’s Witnesses are unique among Judeo-Christian groups in not buying into the heaven/hell routine. For them, a future resurrection (foreshadowed in places like the above passage) is the hope for all who have died, or nearly all. In the meantime, dead people really are dead; they don’t exist; they’ve gone back to the dust from which they came.
Once we get this through our heads, so many scriptures make instant sense. Like this one about John the Baptist, one of the nicest people around, in fact, the fellow who baptized Jesus:
Truly I [Jesus] say to you people, Among those born of women there has not been raised up a greater than John the Baptist; but a person that is a lesser one in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is. Matt 11:11
No one of humans better than John. Yet the janitor in heaven is higher up than he. So John didn’t go to heaven. And if he didn’t, being top of the heap, no one else did, either.
Or this one about David:
It is allowable to speak with freeness of speech to you concerning the family head David, that he both deceased and was buried and his tomb is among us to this day…..Actually David did not ascend to the heavens….. Acts 2:30-34
Or this one:
All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, the place to which you are going. Eccles 9:10
Many Bible translations render sheol in this passage as “the grave;” but the New World Translation simply transliterates the original Hebrew word, for which the Greek equivalent is hades. Although sheol and hades are two of the three wordsoften rendered into English as “hell,” their actual meaning is “place of the dead“, without reference to being good or bad during life.
All basic scriptural teachings, which you could have learned by staying out of church and going to the movies.