IMMORTALITY is an attribute of God. It is not an attribute of man. Man is not born with it as an inheritance. He does not have it by nature. He does not have it at all, except as he obtains it from God. He can obtain it from God only on conditions which are plainly set forth in the Book of God.

Man’s relationship to immortality is that of a seeker. The idea of natural immortality is something quite unknown to the Bible. The teaching of the immortality of the soul is wholly unscriptural. No such expression is found within the pages of the Bible. Man is said to be mortal, never immortal. This is true throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. There is not even the slightest hint in the Scripture of the inherent immortality of the human soul.

On the contrary, the teaching of man’s natural immortality is uniformly and constantly denied in the plainest of terms on almost every page from Genesis to Revelation. Indeed, one of the main objects of the Word of God appears to be to make plain how brief, vapory, shadowy, evanescent, and transitory the life of fallen man is; and how enduring, substantial, and eternal is the immortal life which is God’s, and which may be imparted to the souls of His children on the conditions laid down.

Those who have taken the pains to examine the matter declare that the human soul is spoken of in the Bible more than sixteen hundred times. Not in one solitary instance of these sixteen hundred references is the soul spoken of as immortal or deathless in its nature. It is always described as short-lived and perishable. Its only hope of an eternal future existence is the hope held out to it in the offer of salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Rule of Faith

After the most careful and earnest examination of the Word of God no other conclusions can be arrived at than those which have been set forth, and which may be summarized thus:

Man was created with a capacity for an endless life, and a desire for it.

It was assured to him, however, only on condition of perfect obedience and sinlessness.

By a law of his being, and of all beings, sinlessness is absolutely and basically essential to perpetuity of existence.

In its very nature sin is disorganizing and destructive, not merely of well-being, but of being itself, when it is finished.

Nothing can exist eternally which does not conform to the law of its own being and the will of God, its Creator. It must, sooner or later, go to utter ruin, pass out of existence, and give place to that which does conform to the will of God, the loyal and the pure.

When man sinned, as sin he did, he failed in the test or probation applied to him to determine his fitness for immortality, for which he was constituted. He lost all hope and even all possibility of immortality unless some divine and supernatural remedy should be provided.

By sin he became a wholly transitory creature; subject to death and extinction.

Life out of Death

God’s purpose in His creation, however, was not to be foiled by the malice of Satan or the folly of man himself. God’s plans were laid deeper and reached farther than at first appeared. God had taken into consideration the possibility of human sin.

God has power to bring life out of death, salvation out of ruin, and to make what seemed a great and remediless disaster contribute to the display of the riches of His wisdom and grace through Jesus Christ His Son, and even to the higher glory and blessedness of man himself. This He has set Himself to do.

The purpose of God is to lift man out of the ruin into which he precipitated himself by sin; to set before him again the possibility of eternal lie through another Adam and a new birth; to give him another life; to make him a new creation, a spiritual being; and ultimately to place him in His own everlasting kingdom.

This purpose was hinted, though but vaguely, immediately after the fall. It was prefigured in the sacrificial system in the death of the victims on the altar. It was foreshadowed in the Mosaic ritual and gradually unfolded to the faith of the patriarchs and prophets as that “better thing” which God had provided for His people.

It was fully revealed in the coming of the redeeming Messiah Himself, through whom life and immortality are brought to light in the gospel.

The Unspeakable Gift

The object of Jesus’ incarnation and death was to make it possible for dying man to live again, and to live forever. This is the gift of God, “the unspeakable gift,” the gift of everlasting life through Jesus Christ to man, to all men if and as they receive it.

But it is forced on no man. It is conferred on those alone who believe. It cannot be bought. It cannot be earned. It cannot be deserved. It cannot be demanded as a right. It is a gift, a free gift. It must be desired, sought, asked for, and received from the only One who has it to confer—Jesus Christ our Saviour.

These are the conditions, the indispensable conditions, the only conditions, of the bestowment of immortality. To as many as receive Him He gives “power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” John 1:12.

This will constitute them heirs and subjects of His everlasting kingdom. Their sinlessness, happiness, and immortality will be united in endless perfection. All other kingdoms are destined to come to an end. All other life is transitory. The kingdom of this earth, Satan’s kingdom, is a kingdom of darkness and death. However long it may endure, it contains within itself the seeds of death and utter ruin. It must fade away before the light and glory of the everlasting kingdom of our Lord, and He alone “shall reign for ever‘and ever.”

Immortality Conditional

It is difficult to read the Bible without being impressed by the fact that the nature of man is everywhere contrasted with the nature of God. God is infinite; man is finite. God is immortal; man is mortal. God is eternal; man is transitory. God has immortality in Himself; man has no immortality in himself. His only hope of living forever is dependent, or conditional, upon union with God through Christ.

The Bible, in the very plainest terms, reveals that the life of man is brief and temporary. It never once calls him immortal, or deathless, or everliving. It emphatically declares him to be the opposite.

In James 4:14 the question is .asked, “What is your life?” and immediately comes the inspired answer, “It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

Man’s life is said to be like grass, which in the morning flourisheth and growth up, but which in the evening is cut down and withereth. (Psalm 90:5, 6.).

Human life is like a shadow, like a shadow that continues not, and a flower that is cut down. (Psalm 102:11; Job 8:9; 14:2.)

It is like “smoke.” (Psalm 102:3.) Like the “flower of the field.” (Psalm 103:15, 16.) Like the grass that withereth and fadeth. (Isaiah 40:6, 7.)

Peter writes, “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away.” 1 Peter 1:24.

A Shadow

Inspiration declares, “Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.” Psalm 144:4.

“Thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; … verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.” Psalm 39:5. See also Psalm 62:9.

Perhaps the most concise and impressive and convincing way we can get before us the content of Bible teaching on this subject of immortality is by the catechetical form. The forty questions and Biblical answers that follow contain a comprehensive survey of the whole Scripture on this supremely important matter.

Forty Questions and Answers

  1. Who is immortal? “The King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God.” 1 Timothy 1:17.
  2. Are not all men in possession of immortality? “The blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality.” 1 Timothy 6:15, 16.
  3. Are not all men created immortal? God “only hath immortality.” 1 Timothy 6:16.
  4. Is there a way by which “mortal” man may obtain immortality? ‘Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2 Peter 1:4.
  5. Where is this immortality revealed? “By the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2 Timothy 1:10.
  6. Who has power to bestow immortality upon man? “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23.
  7. Will God give this great gift to all persons, whatever their works may be? God “will render to every man according to his deeds.” Romans 2:6.
  8. What will be the portion of those who are contentious and obey not the truth? “Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil.” Romans 2:8, 9.
  9. To whom will God impart immortality? “To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality.” Romans 2:7.
  10. What shall be their reward? “Eternal life.” Romans 2:7.
  11. Upon what conditions may men obtain this blessing? “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.” 1 Timothy 6:12.
  12. When do men obtain immortality, at death or at the resurrection? “The dead shall be raised incorruptible.” 1 Corinthians 15:52.
  13. How shall those who are not dead become incorruptible? “We shall be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:52.
  14. When will this change take place? “At the last trump.” 1 Corinthians 15:52.
  15. How suddenly will the change occur? “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:52.
  16. Will this change be a change of the internal or the external and physical or corruptible man? “This corruptible must put on incorruption.” 1 Corinthians 15:53.
  17. What then becomes immortal? “This mortal must put on immortality.” 1 Corinthians 15:53.
  18. What scripture will be fulfilled when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality? “Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” 1 Corinthians 15:54. See also Isaiah 25:8.
  19. Who will be raised from the dead? “All that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth.” John 5:28, 29.
  20. Will the unburied rise? “The sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [the grave] delivered up the dead which were in them.” Revelation 20:13.
  21. Will different classes of characters be raised? “There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” Acts 24:15.
  22. For what purpose will the good be raised? “They that have done good, unto the resurrection of life.” John 5:29.
  23. To what will the rest be raised? “They that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” John 5:29.
  24. Will a man’s final destiny be in accordance with the life he has lived? “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7.
  25. What will be the portion of the ungodly? “He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption.” Galatians 6:8.
  26. What will be the reward of the righteous? “He that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Galatians 6:8.
  27. Where now is the Christian’s life? “Your life is hid with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3.
  28. How, then, should we live? “Let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9.
  29. What will be the fate of those who by sowing to the flesh reap corruption? “These, ss natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, … shall utterly perish in their own corruption.” 2 Peter 2:12.
  30. Is it possible for man to be utterly destroyed? “Fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28.
  31. What is the wages of sin? “The wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23.
  32. Is this only a bodily death, or a death of the whole man? “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:4.
  33. If the wicked turn away from his wickedness and do right, what then? “He shall save his soul alive.” Ezekiel 18:27.
  34. When a righteous man turns away from righteousness and commits iniquities, and dies in them, what then? “For his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.” Ezekiel 18:26.
  35. As he first dies in his iniquity and then dies for his iniquity, what must his last death be called? “The second death.” Revelation 21:8.
  36. What is the result attained by the man who converts a sinner from the error of his ways? “He … shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” James 5:20.
  37. What, then, has God placed before us to excite us to action? “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19.
  38. How does God manifest His love for men? “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.
  39. What is the Saviour’s charge against men? “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” John 5:40.
  40. What is the command of God to all? “Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” Ezekiel 18:31, 32.

When the Bible teaching regarding life, death, and immortality is understood, many related doctrines at once become clear. When the nature of man is seen in the light in which the Scriptures set it forth, as mortal and not immortal, many human traditions are bound to be discarded. When the plain teaching of the Bible is accepted, great light will be thrown on questions long shrouded in darkness.

It is not the Bible which has given rise to all the contradictory views which prevail about immortality. The Bible is a plain, common-sense, consistent revelation of the truth which God would have men understand. In the very nature of things it cannot teach, and certainly does not support, doctrines which contradict one another.

Look for a moment at the various views held by men about the nature of man and a future life. Look first, however, at the Biblical teaching and hold it in mind as opposing views are considered.

Cessation of Conscious Existence

The Bible teaching is that man is mortal. All future life depends upon Jesus Christ and is bestowed by God through Christ. Natural death, which comes to all men, is not life in another realm or state but a cessation of all conscious existence. It is, however, a temporary cessation of life, for there will be a resurrection. This resurrection at “the last day” will include the whole race of humanity, both righteous and. wicked. All will be raised to be judged. The righteous will then put on immortality; and the wicked, destitute of the life that is in Christ, will die the second death. They will be punished with everlasting destruction, not everlasting torment, and utterly perish in their own corruption.

That is the clear, positive teaching of Holy Scripture. But it is not the view held by many Christians. Many have been raised from childhood to believe that man by nature is immortal. They look upon their bodies as prisons and clogs from which, at death, their immortal souls will be released, the righteous to go at once to heaven, the wicked to be plunged into hell. The first will enjoy the presence of God forever; the second will be compelled to endure the torments of hell forever.

The teaching of the Bible, that all men are mortal, sets the truth forth in clear light. Man, being mortal, not possessing an immortal soul, does not go to heaven, hell, or purgatory when he dies. He goes into the grave. There he neither endures pain nor enjoys bliss. He is completely unconscious, knowing nothing. He is asleep, awaiting the resurrection and the judgment to determine his eternal destiny. He is not in a place of torment. He is not in a place of happiness. He is not in purgatory. All the prayers and masses in the world will not reach him or benefit him. He is dead.

Not one of the approximately forty writers of the Bible ever once speaks of any person as “dying and going to heaven,” or “dying and going to hell,” or “dying and going to purgatory.” They all knew better. Such views have their sources in places other than the Christian Scriptures. Such views, because they are not only un-Biblical but anti-Biblical, should be instantly discarded by all Christians. The Bible and the Bible alone is the basis of genuine Christianity.

All Needful Truth

The Bible is a book in which God has made a revelation of all truth necessary to salvation. This Book contains all needful information regarding man’s origin, history, condition, nature, and destiny. Its plain and positive teaching throughout is that man is mortal, not immortal; perishable, not deathless; that his only hope of a future life is in Jesus Christ and in Him alone.

The sacred writings of the Christian faith promise life to those, and those only, who believe on Jesus Christ. They threaten death and destruction to the disobedient and the rebellious. This is the Bible’s teaching regarding man and man’s destiny, regarding life and death. This is its teaching regarding a future life—life in Christ, death out of Christ.

Read Chapter Eleven

Life, Death, and Immortality—Index

Home  |  Articles Index  |  Bible Studies  |  10 Truths
Sabbath Issues  |  Bible Prophecy