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What the Bible says about Immortal Soul
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 3:1-4

In the Garden of Eden, the serpent told Eve that she could disobey God, and she would not die. Even as that initial deception of mankind concerned death, modern conceptions about death and the afterlife commonly contradict the Bible.

Most professing Christians believe in an immortal soul that lives on beyond death. They believe that if one professed Christ then his soul goes to heaven, but if the dearly-departed did not “get saved” before dying, then his soul goes to an ever-burning hell to be tortured for eternity. This belief, rooted in Gnosticism and even further back in Egyptian and Babylonian mystery religions, proclaims that death really is not death but just part of a mystical journey.

What the Bible teaches is different. The Bible shows that man does not have a soul, but that man is a soul. Man has a spirit, and has a body, but only when God breathed life into Adam did he become a living soul (nephesh; Genesis 2:7, KJV).

Moreover, the Bible states clearly that the soul who sins will die (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). It says that God alone has immortality (I Timothy 6:16), unlike man who must seek it because he does not have it (Romans 2:7). Scripture asserts that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Death is not a shedding of the body and a freeing of the soul, as is commonly held, but a complete cessation of existence.

David C. Grabbe
What Is the Second Death?

Ecclesiastes 9:2-3

Both the righteous and the wicked—even the animals!—go to the same place at death. All physical creatures are composed of dust and return to dust again. These scriptures make it abundantly clear that no one goes to either heaven or hell at death, and further, no one who is dead has the capacity to feel joy or pain.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: The Fate of the Wicked

Ezekiel 18:4

The church of God does not accept the Doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul, instead believing God's Word, which says indisputably, “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). One of the very first things God taught Adam in the Garden of Eden was the consequence of sin: “you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17), a truth the serpent hastened to contradict (Genesis 3:4).

In the New Testament, Jesus teaches in Matthew 10:28: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna, a symbol of the Lake of Fire (see Revelation 20:11-15)].” Paul writes, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Humans are mortal, and God must give eternal life; we do not have it inherently (see Romans 2:7; I Corinthians 15:53-54; I Timothy 6:16).

We believe that man indeed has a spirit (Job 32:8), “the breath of the Almighty [that] gives him understanding,” but that it is not his soul. When combined with a human brain, the human spirit allows a person to have the powers of mind. When he dies, the body returns to the dust, but his spirit returns to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7), who safeguards it as a record of his life.

Solomon also informs us that “the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5), and “there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave” (verse 10), meaning that there is no consciousness in death. The person knows nothing, learns nothing, communicates nothing, does nothing—until the resurrection from the dead when God will unite that spirit with a new body, either a spiritual body or another physical body, depending on the resurrection (see Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 5:24-29; I Corinthians 15; I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 20).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
What Happened at En Dor?

Revelation 2:11

While the Bible speaks often of death, one death in particular, the “second death,” mankind knows little of. The phrase “second death” is found only in the book of Revelation, the first time in the letter to the church at Smyrna: “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (Revelation 2:11).

This verse does not tell us much about the second death, only that the way to avoid it is to overcome faithfully. Revelation 20:6 provides a little more detail: “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”

Just as overcomers will not be hurt by the second death, the same holds true for those who rise in the first resurrection. Popular Christianity maintains that the soul departs to its destination immediately after death, but the Bible teaches that nothing happens until or unless a resurrection occurs. In the grave there is no thought, no consciousness, and unless God resurrects someone by placing his or her spirit into another living body, that is the end of the story (see Ecclesiastes 3:19-20; 9:2-5, 10; Psalm 146:4).

The first resurrection, one to immortality for those in Christ (see I Corinthians 15:50-54; I Thessalonians 4:13-17), occurs at His return. It is also the “better resurrection” for which the heroes of faith qualified because they did not accept deliverance (Hebrews 11:35). Those in the first resurrection are raised with incorruptible, spirit bodies. These saints have been given immortality by God—there is no longer any fear of death; it is swallowed up in victory.

David C. Grabbe
What Is the Second Death?

Revelation 20:10

To understand Revelation 20:10 correctly, we must put it into its proper chronological context. Once we know when it occurs, much of the confusion about this verse clears up.

Though only twelve verses separate Revelation 19:20 from 20:10, one thousand years elapse between their respective events. The Beast and the False Prophet are cast into the Lake of Fire when Christ returns (Revelation 19:11-21). Soon afterward, a strong angel imprisons Satan in the bottomless pit for the thousand years of the Millennium (Revelation 20:1-3). When the thousand years are about to pass, Satan is released, and he gathers Gog and Magog to fight against the saints (verses 7-9). After God defeats this futile attempt, He casts the Devil, a spirit being, into the Lake of Fire to “be tormented forever and ever” (verse 10).

Obviously, the flames of the Lake of Fire will utterly consume mortal men like the Beast and False Prophet. The apostle Peter describes the end-time fire as an all-devouring holocaust: “[T]he elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (II Peter 3:10). In no way could the Beast and False Prophet survive a thousand years of such high-temperature burning! The laws of nature simply will not allow it.

The translators of the King James and New King James versions render the final clause of the first sentence of Revelation 20:10 as “where the beast and the false prophet are.” The present-tense verb “are” is not in the Greek text; it is an understood verb. In English grammar, such silent verbs take the same tense as the verb in the main clause of the sentence. The translators ignored this rule, however. The primary verb of the sentence, “was cast” (an aorist verb usually translated as simple past tense), demands that the understood verb should be “were [cast]” (past tense) to agree with the plural subject “the beast and the false prophet.”

Deceived by the unbiblical doctrine of the immortal soul, the translators had to deny nature and break the rules to make this verse fit their understanding! On the other hand, we can confidently assert that our teaching agrees with Scripture, nature, and grammar.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Eternal Torment?

Revelation 20:10

Before the explosion of modern translations, the final sentence of Revelation 20:10 roused no one's skepticism. However, the newer versions bring out the fact that the verb here (basanisth─ôsontai) is plural and is correctly rendered “they will be tormented.” Who are “they”? Does this include the Beast and False Prophet? Does God torment wicked human beings eternally? There are two ways to explain these questions:

1) The Bible denies any idea of men having innate immortality (I Corinthians 15:53; Romans 2:7; I Timothy 6:15-16). These wicked leaders of men in the last days will die and burn to ashes soon after being thrust into the Lake of Fire, their souls and bodies destroyed by Him who can do this in Gehenna fire (Matthew 10:28). This fact would preclude any human from being described as “tormented day and night forever and ever.”

The only group left is the fallen angels—Satan and his demons. But, one may counter, “the devil” in Revelation 20:10 is singular, and “they will be tormented” is plural. How can we reconcile this plural pronoun referring to a singular antecedent?

In this case, “the devil” is used in a figure of speech called metonymy. Technically, it is “the use of the name of one thing for that of another of which it is an attribute or with which it is associated.” More simply, one part of a thing represents the whole. Thus, “the devil” represents in himself all of the group we call demons, devils, fallen angels, or angels who sinned.

A parallel verse, Matthew 25:41, says that sinners will be cast into “the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Jesus intimates that the Lake of Fire's primary purpose is for the punishment of demons, but it will also be used as the means of execution for the wicked among humans, those people who unrepentantly live as demons do.

2) If we understand “they will be tormented” to include the Beast and the False Prophet, we must explain the phrase “forever and ever” (eis tous aiônas tôn aiônôn). Literally, this means “to the ages of the ages” and would seem to imply perpetuity. However, we must be careful with the word aiôn and its various forms. Its range of meaning runs from “a space or period of time” to “a lifetime” to “an age” to “eternity.” As in all such cases, the context must give the sense.

Having rejected the immortality of the soul, we have no recourse but to understand aiôn here in the sense of “as long as conditions exist” or “as long as they live.” Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words concurs:

AION . . . signifies a period of indefinite duration, or time viewed in relation to what takes place in the period. . . . The phrases containing this word should not be rendered literally, but consistently with its sense of indefinite duration. (p. 43)

Moreover, aiôn can also be rendered as “unto the ages of ages,” “until the eternal age,” or even “up to the vanishing point”! As should be plain, a precise definition of this Greek word proves extremely difficult. Dogmatism on it is not advisable.

Thus, the Beast and False Prophet will be tormented “day and night”—unceasingly—for an indeterminate period until they die, probably within a few minutes or a few hours, which is about as long as a human being can live in a fire. As long as they remain breathing, they will suffer excruciating pain as their just reward, and in an indefinite time, they will pay for their sins with death.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Eternal Torment?


 




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