MANY people have a morbid fear of the dead. Some believe that spirits of the dead can either protect them as their guardians or harm them as vengeful ghosts. Many Chinese worship their ancestors as a way of showing filial piety (devotion to parents) and of ensuring blessings for future generations. Though such beliefs are common, the Bible clearly shows that the dead cannot in any way influence the living.
In the Bible, there is no mention of a soul that lives on after a person dies. Even though some Bible translations contain references to an immortal soul, they are, in fact, incorrect renderings of the original text. In fact, the Bible says: “His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground.” (Psalm 146:4) At death, the brain stops working, all senses cease to function, and memory disappears. How, then, can the dead possibly know whom to help or harm? Clearly, the dead can do nothing!
Furthermore, the Bible states: “The living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all ... Also, their love and their hate and their jealousy have already perished.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6) In other words, when a person dies, he simply ceases to exist as a living being. He can no longer suffer, nor can he benefit from any rites and rituals, the burning of candles, incense, and fake money and the offering of meats and fruits. The Bible’s teaching regarding the condition of the dead gives us great comfort and relief, does it not?
The hope for the dead lies in the resurrection. God promised that through his Son, Jesus, the dead would be brought back to life.—John 11:25; Acts 24:15.
The Bible does show that there are wicked spirit creatures who want to harm us. (Matthew 4:24; Acts 16:16) These wicked spirits, however, are not our dead ancestors; they are rebellious angels who oppose God and bring great calamities to the human race. They are demons.—2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6.