SIN AND SINNERS NOT IMMORTAL
MAN was created with a capacity for an endless life. He was created with a desire for immortality. He was not created with an endless life, nor was immortality made a part of his nature when God brought him into being. Whether he should obtain what God had in mind for him, however, was made dependent on the outcome of a test, a trial, a probation, to which God put him.
His immortality was conditioned on sinlessness, holiness, and a retention of the image of God in which he was created. He did not successfully meet the test. He did not carry out the condition. He sinned, and sin brought death. Sin robbed him of his destiny. Sin prevented his immortality. Sin kept him from obtaining that for which he was constituted.
Because of this tragic loss a Redeemer came into the world. Christianity is the religion of redemption. ‘What mankind lost in Adam may be regained in Christ, the last Adam.
Immortality in Christ, Not in Man
From this emerges the great truth that immortality is in Christ; it is not in man. If man is to obtain immortality, he must obtain it in and through Christ, its source. Out of Christ man is lost, with no prospect of an endless life. Immortality, as far as humanity is concerned, is conditional, conditioned on union with Christ. Endless being is dependent on absolute and endless sinlessness; and, failing that, upon reconciliation with God and the impartation of the life of God through the redemption of Christ.
Sin, in its very nature, is disorganizing and destructive. It is destructive not merely of happiness but of life itself. It is bound to bring death to those who persist in it and who reject the salvation from it which is provided in the gospel. “Sin, when it is Cherished, bringeth forth death.” James 1:15. Nothing can exist eternally which does not conform to the will of God. There will be no eternal sinners. Everything in existence now which remains out of harmony with God’s purpose will sooner or later go to utter ruin, pass out of existence, and give place to that which is loyal and pure.
When man sinned, he became, in the essential nature and necessity of things, a mortal creature even though he was constituted for immortality. He did not become partially mortal, that is, actually perishable as far as his body was involved, but retaining immortality for his soul. He became mortal throughout—body, soul, and spirit. He lost all reasonable hope and even the possibility of immortality in any sense except by some divine and super-natural remedy.
His Thoughts Perish
Nothing is more common in present-day churches than to hear religious teachers speak of the “immortal soul,” “the immortality of the soul,” “the never-dying soul.” Nothing like this, however, can be found in the Bible. It is in the creeds; it is not in Scripture. The soul of man in the Word of God is everywhere represented as mortal and transitory, sharing the fortunes and destiny of the body. It comes with the breath; it goes with the breath. It is imprisoned with the body, killed and poured out in the blood. It has no function or power of manifestation or of action, no existence apart from the body. “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” Psalm 146:4.
In certain quarters this presentation may be called heresy, for the accepted philosophy has attached such odium to this teaching as to frighten many from seeing or acknowledging the plain teachings of the Scriptures. It is not heresy-or if it is, then it is the heresy of the Bible and will stand in spite of all the hard names that may be given it.
The Bible may be examined from Genesis to Revelation with scrupulous and searching care, and no conclusion can be arrived at other than that the soul of man nowhere is represented as a separate, conscious part of man existing as such when the body sleeps in death. The accepted theology of the day on this point is not sustained by facts, true philosophy, logic, common sense, or the Bible.
Immortality Not a Birthright
Christians should be willing to subordinate their speculation concerning the human soul and the nature of man to the Word of God. When they consent to do that and receive its plain and positive teachings with respect to the mortal effect of sin, and the necessity of another and higher life than that received from Adam, they will discern that in order to have eternal existence and perpetuity of life, they must obtain the life of God Himself. Outside the gospel of Christ that is not possible. Immortality is not inherent in man; it is not a birthright; it is conditional.
When the mortality and the transitory nature of man, constantly affirmed throughout Scripture, is accepted, it puts beyond all controversy or question—that is, to all who are willing to receive the testimony of God’s Word as the truth-the fact that there is no immortality for man except in the possession of the eternal life which is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23.) Without that men must remain mortal, must perish and become extinct.
The Bible tells us how we have become mortal and transitory. It makes plain that perpetuity of life was expressly conditioned on perpetual holiness; that the boon of continued life was lost in Adam; that the very reason why he was put out of Eden was “lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever,” after he had become a sinful creature. (Genesis 3:22.) It discloses how the blight of sin, like cancerous blood, has come upon the whole of Adam’s race, and that it is inevitable, sooner or later, that it will develop until it ends in death and oblivion—unless some divine remedy be provided. It shows that holiness is necessary not only to happiness but also to an endless life; that sin is destructive not only of well-being but of being itself; and that “sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:15.)
Notwithstanding all this, however, the Bible also makes it plain that the condition of man is not hopeless. God in His mercy has provided a ransom and a remedy. The desires and aspirations of perishing man are not altogether unwarranted or futile. God designed man for immortality, constituted him for it—but not in sin. How, then, shall this great possibility, lost by sin, be recovered? How shall man be lifted up from the mortal condition into which he has fallen, and come into fellowship with God, his Maker? How shall the life of God be imparted to his soul? How shall man become a subject of the everlasting kingdom of God?
Repeating the Devil’s Lie
The tempter assured the first parents that they would not lose their lives even by disobeying God, that is, by sin. They chose to believe him, notwithstanding God’s positive word. He has been repeating this lie to their posterity ever since, even to this day. Philosophers and theologians have had glimpses of the possibilities of man’s nature, and have interpreted these as evidences of his inherent immortality, even without a Saviour. So have their willing disciples. But none of them has been able to tell men how to make sure of the good for which they yearn.
It is not in philosophy, or in nature, or in theology to teach this truth. It can be taught only by a divine revelation. There is nothing in the natural endowment of humanity which would enable men to grasp it without such a revelation. It is supernatural—the gift of God through Jesus Christ. It is not within the reach of men by any effort of their own. It cannot be earned by good works.
It is a free gift to all who will receive it as such. This is the eternal life that is brought to light in the gospel. It was for this that the Son of God came from heaven and died, not merely to save us from sin and suffering, but from that to which sin and suffering inevitably lead—death. That life, that escape from death, is in the gospel of our divine Lord.
The Ultimate Loss of Life
The doom pronounced upon Adam and his posterity was the ultimate loss of life. He was to have a transitory life of pain and sorrow on earth until he returned to the dust from which he was taken.
If Adam had possessed immortality as an endowment from his Maker, he might have been capable of transmitting it to his posterity. But Adam did not have it to transmit. As a stream can rise no higher than its source, so the posterity of Adam, inasmuch as he had no immortality to transmit, are born without everlasting life. They receive by birth, by inheritance, only the transitory and perishing life that Adam had to transmit. He could beget children only in “his own likeness.” He had no immortality, therefore, his posterity are born without immortality. If they obtain it, they must get it from Him who alone has it.
This is in harmony with the clear and uniform teaching of God’s Word. Men possess only an earthly and transitory life. Death is the inevitable lot of the whole race.
Blessing of Life Must Be Supernatural
If men ever come to have any life other than the transitory, perishable life inherited from Adam, it must be by the quickening power of the Spirit of God. This blessing will be supernatural, not natural. This spiritual and supernatural life, which is immortal, is revealed in the gospel of Christ.
Even when the sentence of death was passed upon our first parents, they were allowed a glimpse, and given a hint, of this possibility. Intimation of it became clearer and more distinct as man passed over the course of time from age to age. Growing brighter and brighter, it burst into assured certainty of lie and immortality through Jesus Christ the Redeemer.
It is this that was offered to give man hope after the fall. It is this that was designed to keep him from utter despair and demoralization, and to encourage him to look heavenward in expectation. It is this that drew out his soul in longing for the coming of the Life-giver, the Anointed One, the Messiah.
It is because of this that “the earnest expectation of the creature waiteh for the manifestation of the sons of God,” while “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” It is this that lay at the foundation of the faith which characterized the patriarchs and prophets and other men of God to whom He more plainly revealed His purposes of grace. This is the otherwise undefined “better thing” which He had provided. (Hebrews 11:40.) It was in anticipation of this that the ancient worthies, placed on the roll of honor in Hebrews 11, were enabled to live as “strangers and pilgrims on the earth,” though they died “not having received the promises.” It is because of this that there was an unbroken succession of faithful ones till the fullness of time, when God sent forth His Son, and the veil was rent, and the future life of His people through Christ as the last Adam, which is immortal life, was fully disclosed in the gospel.
This future, immortal life is no part of the old life; it is not the continuation of the natural life into another state. It is an altogether new life, another life through the Spirit. The former passes away. This fact endures forever. The first was natural and perishable. This is supernatural and imperishable. The first was mortal. This is immortal. In order to possess it one must become a new creation; or, rather, the very possession of it makes one a new creation. He is “quickened” by the Spirit of God. He is “born again, “ ”not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13.
It is clear that the decree of death pronounced upon our first parents because of their sin, and which has passed a upon their descendants, the whole race of men, is God’s method of protecting His universe from sin’s becoming immortal. His original purpose of a clean, sinless world will yet be carried out. There will be neither immortal sin nor immortal sinners.
The Offer of a Higher Life
The first pair of our race had their genesis on this earth. Though they were the highest of all its created beings; nevertheless, like all animal creatures, they were made of and from the earth. They were given the name Adam, which means “earth made,” because they were essentially earthly. They were of the same physical organization as all other earthly creatures, made of the same materials and designed to breathe the same air, subsist on the same food, come into life by successive generations in the same way; but they differed from the animals in possessing reason and the power of choice. They were candidates for immortality, but not yet possessed of it.
Their characters were yet undetermined and immature. They must first submit to a period of probation to demonstrate their fitness for immortality. If they gave themselves to obedience, they would prove themselves worthy of the endowment of immortality offered to them, as well as capable of enjoying it. On the other hand, if they turned away from Him who is the source of life and blessedness, and went contrary to His will in disobedience, then they must lose their right to the tree of life and to continued existence.
The test was applied. They failed. Instead of believing God, they chose to believe the tempter. God warned of death as the result of disobedience; the devil declared that God was wrong, that they would “not surely die.” The penalty threatened by God, he assured them, would not be executed. Instead of suffering the loss of life, they would be great gainers by transgressing, would gain the knowledge they desired, and become as gods, knowing good and evil, and they would never die. They believed this lie and disobeyed God. As a consequence the penalty threatened was executed upon them. They fell under the sentence of death, and with them fell the human race which was in their loins.
The Penalty Visited Upon Sin
The penalty visited upon the race was precisely that which had been threatened—death. It was not eternal torment; it was not continued life in misery. Every principle of honor and of truth demands that God should have said what He meant, and meant what He said, in announcing to Adam and Eve the penalty for their disobedience. The supposition that He, had in His own mind a penalty wholly different, indeed one so terrible as to shock the moral sense, and that He covered it up and concealed it, revealing it only when the offense was committed, can be believed only by those who repudiate the truth and justice of God.
God’s own interpretation of His meaning is shown when He declared, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” They lost at once and forever all claim to immortality. They fell immediately under the sentence of death. However long their transitory existence might continue, it would surely end in returning to the earth from which they came.
From that moment of their sin they became subject to death and continued in a dying state until death itself overtook them. They passed from a state in which death was not the necessary end of their days to a state in which the seeds of ultimate death began to work in them. They passed from a state of access to the tree of life, continuance in which could have conferred immortality upon them, to a state in which they were barred from that tree, and thus became wholly mortal and perishable.
That literal death was meant by God, and all that accompanies it, of the dissolution of the entire being, is manifest when we are assured, in Genesis 5:5, that Adam “died.”
Unfit for Immortality
The human race thus proved itself unfit for immortality. If mankind had not, because of the mercy and grace of God, been granted another probation, immortality would have been forever denied the human race.
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