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IMMORTALITY IS GOD'S GIFT
THE HUMAN SOUL
From ancient times man has pondered his condition after death. Does a part of him live on after death? Is there a consciousness of pain or bliss? Where does the teaching of "immortality of the human soul" come from, paganism or the Bible? When will man get eternal life, at death or the resurrection? What is the condition of godly people who have died in His service? Such questions deserve to be answered for the honest truth seeker.
ORTHODOX CONCEPT OF DEATH
We find, among the teachings of both pagan and Christian believers, the doctrine known as the "immortality of the soul." For example, the Baltimore Catechism Revised Edition No. 3), page 396, poses this question, How can we prove that the soul is immortal? The answer given the reader is the official position of the Catholic Church. We quote:
The Catholic Church relies on human reasoning and the authority of the church instead of the Bible to teach this doctrine.
Protestantism for the most part has continued to teach that the soul is immortal, as borne out in Webster New World Dictionary, which we will quote in part, "soul – an entity which is regarded as being the immortal."
It is of interest to those who want to research the origin of this doctrine to know that idol worshiping pagans, centuries before Christ, taught the "immortality of the soul." There is little question that Egypt is the mother of this doctrine. According to Herodotus, who was reputed to be the first historian, born about 484 B.C., "The Egyptians were the first to accept the doctrine that the soul of man is immortal." Herodotus said this nearly 500 years before Christ.
It is common knowledge that such Greek philosophers as Socrates and Plato believed that death was separation of the immortal soul from the body. (See Five Great Dialogues Of Plato, by Walter Black, Inc., Phaedo.) These men lived and taught philosophy between 400 and 500 B.C. By 343 B.C., Aristotle was teaching no less a distinguished person than fourteen year old Alexander, son of Philip of Macedon. This is the man history labels as Alexander the Great. Aristotle was a student of Plato and thus the doctrine was spread far and wide by the Greeks.
Both Protestants and Catholics pay tribute to Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430 A.D.) Prior to his conversion to Christianity, Augustine had turned to Greek philosophy of Plato. After his conversion, he brought some of this philosophy into the Christian circle. Baker's Dictionary of Theology, under the heading of Augustianism, says:
Thus, the Egyptian philosophies found their way into the early Christian church after the death of the apostles. Paul had warned,
Having learned that this was a widespread doctrine of pagan philosophies, let's now turn our attention to what the Bible has to say about the human soul and life after death.
THE BIBLE VIEWPOINT
In the first two chapters of your Bible, the human soul is very well defined.
The Hebrew word translated soul here and elsewhere in the Old Testament is nephesh. Before man's creation, the birds of the air and the creatures of the waters were called nephesh.
The word creature, used twice in this scripture reference, has been translated from the Hebrew word nephesh. The term soul or creature both come from the same Hebrew word as used by the Bible writer, Moses. Additionally, in Genesis 1:30, nephesh is translated life. If we are correct in assuming the soul is the person or animal, we should be able to find other texts of scripture to support this idea. Consider the following:
After Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, king of Salem, he and the king of Sodom were dividing the spoils of battle.
The word persons here is nephesh in Hebrew and some Bibles footnote the word souls for persons.
When gathering manna in the wilderness, the Lor5d commanded them to gather according to the number of their SOULS.
Again, the margin reference Bibles will show the word persons as souls.
Speaking of improperly eating a sacrifice, Leviticus 7:18 says in pare, the SOUL that EATETH of it shall bear his iniquity. So, the soul can and does eat. Verse 27 is similar showing the soul eats. There are many such texts to prove this, but let's move on.
When Joshua recorded how the wicked city of Hazor was destroyed, he said the souls of that city were: (1) smote with the sword, (2) destroyed, and (3) not left to breathe.
Obviously, Joshua was speaking of the PERSONS living in the city when he called them souls. There are numerous places in your Bible where dead bodies are called souls.
The word dead here comes from the Hebrew word nephesh and is referring to a dead soul. Likewise, Numbers 6:6, 11 and Numbers 9:6, 7, 10 are only a few places where the soul refers to a dead body and nephesh is so translated in the King James Version. It should be no surprise to the Bible student to read,
No person who carefully reads and studies the Bible can prove the doctrine of the immortality of the soul; conversely, they will prove to themselves that the soul in fact is subject to death and not immortal.
Not only does the Bible omit saying the soul is immortal – it denies it. How can ministers go on contradicting such a clear truth?
After proving that the Bible says the soul can and indeed does die, some argue that it must be that Spirit then that is immortal. The scripture most often turned to for such proof is Ecclesiastes 12:7.
A careful reading, of course, will show that the text does not say the spirit is a conscious being. In face, the word spirit is from the Hebrew word ruwach and means breath. In other words, God gives the breath of life at birth and receives it back at death.
Another text that uses the word ruwach is Psalms 146:3,4 where the Psalmist is speaking of the death of a person.
This text proves that when a man dies he no longer has any conscious existence.
Another Psalm that speaks of the dead is 115:17,
King Solomon agrees when he writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,
There are so many scriptures that show how man is in an unconscious state at death, it would seem that sincere Christians would investigate the 'immortal soul' doctrine for themselves, but few care enough to challenge the orthodox thinking and, therefore, are continuing to be deceived.
As E. E. Franke said in his book, Future of Death,
MEN IN THE BIBLE
Let's now take a few specific Bible characters and see how they are spoken of in death. We will start with an even that took place while Jesus was on earth in John 11:11-14,
Jesus spoke of death and sleep in synonymous terms. Just as we sometimes wake from a deep sleep not knowing what has transpired while we slept, so it is with death.
Lazarus said nothing of any conscious existence anywhere while he was dead. So we ask the question: if he was in a place of constant torment, as some preachers might suggest, why did Jesus bring an end to divine justice? If he was in heaven with the angels, as some might argue, why would Jesus bring him back from his reward of bliss to again suffer and die a second time? It seems more reasonable to assume that he was in an unconscious state, as we've already shown the dead to be, and that Jesus was showing His power over death by bringing Lazarus back to life.
Where is David? Peter said,
Had Peter said no more, we might think the pagans were right, that the immortal soul had separated from the body and gone on to heaven as most Christians believe. But, Peter plainly says,
Where is the patriarch Job? By his own words, Job looked forward to remaining in the grave until brought back to life upon the earth in the latter day.
Job's hope was to see God, not as a disembodied spirit as some teach, but while in the flesh at the resurrection.
A long list of faithful and godly people are given us in Hebrews 11 naming such greats as Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. Speaking of these men, the writer to the Hebrews says,
If the Bible does not teach immortal human souls, what does-it have to say about immortality? The scriptures are very specific on this subject and the words immortal or immortality only occur six times in the entire Bible. Paul writes,
This text proves God alone is immortal. Later in this letter, Paul said,
Clearly, God is the only one presently immortal. These scriptures are certainly plain enough that a child could see God is the only one with immortality, but try mixing in man's pagan philosophy and traditions and we are apt to be deceived as so many Christians are.
THE GOAL OF MAN AND GOD'S GIFT TO BELIEVERS
Immortality is something man is to seek after, not something he has already been given. The Word of God makes the attainment of immortality conditional upon how we respond to the will of God. Some will resist His will and be lost to God's wrath, while those who are obedient will receive eternal life and glory.
The most convincing scripture in showing man's present mortality and the conditional gift of a future immortality when Christ returns is in the so-called resurrection chapter of your Bible.
The time for this event is "at the last trump", Christ's coming.
Realizing this may sound like a new idea to many people today, it is fitting to draw to the reader's attention that the second century Christians agreed with the Bible and taught that immortality was not naturally inherent in man, but was to be a future GIFT from God. While these writings are not a part of the inspired Word of God, they do show how believers of the generation, following the death of the apostles felt about our subject.
Clement of Rome, a companion of Paul, believed immortality to be a gift to believers. He wrote:
Ignatius, a friend of Polycarp, a disciple of John died a martyr in 107 A.D. Before his death he wrote:
Similar quotations may be found from Theophilus of Antioch who died about 181 A.D., Justin Martyr who was beheaded about 166 A.D., and Irenaeus who looked forward to the premillenial return of Christ and taught immortality was conditional upon accepting Christ. (See Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I & II).
By the beginning of the fourth century, there is evidence of a controversy over the state of the dead in the writings of Arnobius. He wrote,
Other writings could be quoted, but space forbids. Our purpose
in pointing out the beliefs of these early Christian writings is to show that it
was later than the second or third century when the Egyptian philosophy of the
immortal soul was accepted into the Christian circles. Before that time, it was
discredited by many ancient writers who are openly acknowledged as Christians.
LATER CHURCH WRITERS
An Episcopalian minister, Dr. S. D. McConnell, Rector of All Souls Church in New York City admitted in his writings, The Evolution Of Immortality (New York, 1901), the following statement:
When doing research for this publication, it was surprising to find that over 90 Protestant writers from the 16th century down to the modern day have written and preached that immortality is the future hope only for those with whom God is well pleased. These writers include Lutherans, Anabaptists, Church of England, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodists, Plymouth Brethren, etc.
The variety of backgrounds is apparent in that some were from Germany, Switzerland, England, America, etc. Some were great Hebrew and/or Greek scholars, such as William Whitson, translator of The Works Of Josephus; Charles Fred Hudson, compiler of Hudson's Greek-English Concordance; Ethelbert W. Bullinger, producer of a Greek Lexicon and The Companion Bible; Dr. Richard Francis Weymouth, New Testament translator. This has been on e of the best kept secrets from the average churchgoer.
The true hope of man is in salvation through Jesus Christ and His promise of a resurrection from the dead. Those who are asleep in death will be raised when Christ returns and not before that time.
Those living at the time of His return to this earth will be instantly changed from mortal to immortal if they belong to Him. They will be much busier than most Christians suppose, having more to do than sit around on a cloud playing a harp.
John points out how they will be ruling with Christ upon the
earth during the one-thousand years that Satan is bound in the bottomless pit.
When we find the Bible disagrees with our denominational teachings, true Christians have but one course to follow. Let God be true, even if it proves every man on earth to be a liar. If these words sound harsh to you, note that the originator was the apostle Paul:
Eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ to those who believe in Him. This gift is not bestowed upon those who refuse Him and prefer to continue in sin. Sin pays wages – death! True Christians receive a gift, eternal life, just the opposite of death.
Earlier in this writing, it was implied that this doctrine seemed to have begun in Egypt according to historians. However, the idea of disobedient man continuing to live as a god, instead of dying as God has said he would, comes directly from Satan himself.
We find the first couple in the garden of Eden at peace with their Creator, when upon the scene came the serpent. What was his reply when Eve told him they should not eat from the tree of good and evil lest they die?
Here is the only place in the Bible where intentionally rebellious men and women are promised they won't die. It is a lie of Satan that he has been promoting in nearly every pagan religion and too many Christian denominations throughout history. Satan is the father of the lie, just as Jesus said when speaking to the false teachers of His day.
Today, we must learn to trust the words of Jesus where He said, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). The truth sets us free from Satan's lies and frees us from believing that God keeps alive His enemies to be tortured for eternity.
MAN'S CHOICE TODAY
God forces no man to serve Him against his will. He lovingly leaves the choice up to you just as He did His servants of old. When the people of Israel went to their aging leader, Joshua, just before his death in the promised land, He gave them some inspired advice:
You, too, can make a covenant with the Lord. In fact, it has already been made for you. But you must CHOOSE to accept the terms of the new covenant to gain immortality. If you haven't already done so, accept Jesus Christ as your Lord as well as your Savior. That means you will accept His teachings where they disagree with men no matter whether it is popular or not.
God wants men to serve Him because of gratitude for their salvation and because they truly love Him, not because they are afraid of deathless agony of torment of their so-called immortal soul. His Word declares that we either accept His grace of salvation or perish. Jesus said:
God wants His people to know the truth. This is how He sanctifies (separates) us. We are not to be separated from the world physically such as living in a monastery, but we are to believe differently than the pagan philosophies.
May God continue to help you in your search for further truth that you may walk in His way.
Churchlight Publishing Association