IN THE Scriptures immortality is never affirmed of mankind. That is, it is never stated in the Bible that man possesses in himself, inherently, the attribute of immortality. On the contrary, as we have seen, the uniform teaching of the Bible is that man is mortal. It is not denied, however, that he is capable of immortality. The Bible clearly teaches that under certain conditions the gift of immortality will be conferred upon men.

In this chapter we shall study every passage of the Scriptures which contains the term “immortality” in the expectation that by so doing we shall come to a full knowledge of the teaching of the Bible on this subject. Surely if we shall search out every passage where this term is used in any connection, we shall learn what the Bible has to say and to teach concerning this important question. We should discover who has immortality, who does not have it, how those who do not have it may get it, upon what conditions it is given, and at what time it will be given if the conditions for obtaining it are met. The whole relation of humanity to this attribute should be clearly established by such a study.

God Alone Has Immortality

The first text which contains this term is 1 Timothy 6:13-16: “I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, … that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see.”

If the plain testimony of this verse is accepted, the whole question as to whether mankind possesses immortality is at once settled; for here is the plain, bold statement of fact that God “only hath immortality.” There is no vagueness about this, no indefiniteness, nor is there anything left to the imagination of those who may believe the opposite. The sense is so clear as to make a twisting of its meaning impossible. In fact, no other words in the English language could be put together in any different way to make the thought any clearer than these words make it that God alone in all the universe has immortality. If all were willing to accept the plain and obvious meaning of the Scriptures, there would be no need to continue this discussion, for this passage would fully settle the question.

But all are not willing to accept what the Scriptures say in just the way they say it. These men bring to their study of the Bible ideas which they feel are true and which they search the Scriptures to confirm. When passages are discovered which do not completely agree with the theory they seek, the meaning of such passages, and sometimes even the words, are changed to suit the theory of the one who holds it. Thus, the plain meaning of the Bible is perverted, and it is made to teach what it does not teach at all. This practice of “accommodating” the Scriptures to theories already held is the source of many serious errors, but especially that of the natural immortality of the soul.

The verse quoted above not only establishes who has immortality, but also who does not have it. If God “only hath immortality,” it follows that men do not have it; for if they did, this statement would not be true. If the theory of the natural immortality of all men is true, then the statement that God “only hath immortality” could never truthfully be made. Being made, and made by God Himself, it is settled forever that the theory of inherent human immortality is not true.

The fact having been established that immortality is the possession of God alone, the question at once arises, Is it then impossible for men ever to secure this precious gift? God has given to men many great and precious promises. Has He said anything upon which men can base a hope of having immortality conferred upon them at any time? Has He in some way made it possible to impart this attribute, which is peculiar to Himself alone, to others? Surely this is a question of vital importance.

The Relation of Mankind to Immortality

The relation which men should sustain to this attribute of immortality is set forth very clearly in Romans 2:5-7: “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life.” That is, God will render eternal life to those who are seeking for immortality.

In this passage the relation of mankind to immortality is set forth plainly. They are seekers for it. Men do not seek for that which they already have. The very fact that men are seeking for immortality is conclusive evidence that they do not possess it.

But this verse shows something more. It reveals clearly that only those who seek for immortality by patient continuance in well-doing will secure this attribute. Only a certain class will have it conferred upon them. And this class is composed of those who continue in well-doing. Those who “are contentious, and do not obey the truth” (verse 8), whatever else they may receive, cannot expect to receive immortality, which is given to those alone who patiently continue in well-doing. This verse certainly teaches that immortality is conditional, conditioned upon the attainment of a certain character, a certain experience, an experience in well-doing. Those who do not have this character or experience have no promise of ever receiving immortality.

The Source of Immortality

If we are seekers for immortality, where shall we find it? From what source shall we secure it? To whom shall we go for it? An answer to these questions will be found in 2 Timothy 1:10: “But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

Death passed upon all men through Adam, but through Christ it has been abolished. If Christ had never come to this world to die for sinners, they would have died in their own sins. All had sinned, and the wages of sin is death. They were all under condemnation, all under the sentence of death. The human race would have perished had it not been for the voluntary sacrifice of Christ. But “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The sentence of death, the wages of sin, was abolished by Christ; and those who believe in Him will not have this sentence executed upon them.

Belief in Christ not only abolishes the penalty for sin, but also secures to the believer the inestimable boon of immortality. This has been brought to light “through the gospel.” Immortality, therefore, is in the gospel. It is possible for men to secure it, but only “through the gospel.” It follows that those who do not accept the gospel do not have, and can never have, immortality. The only way to secure it is through the gospel. If men reject the gospel, whatever else they may get, there is one thing they do not get, and that is immortality.

It will be seen from the explanation of this verse that there can be no dispute with those who believe it is possible for men to have immortality. The possibility of it has never been denied.

When Immortality Will Be Conferred

So far in this study the term “immortality” has been used three times. It is used the fourth and fifth times in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, the fifty-first to the fifty-fourth verses. These verses reveal when this attribute of immortality will be conferred upon those who secure it “through the gospel.” These verses are as follows: “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So 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.”

These verses clearly teach that the time of putting on immortality will not be at death, but at the resurrection, at “the last trump.” And it is “this mortal” which at that time shall “put on immortality.” Therefore, even if we accept the gospel of Jesus Christ, where immortality is “brought to light,” we will not actually have it bestowed upon us until the time when the “dead shall be raised incorruptible.” Until that time we shall be “mortal.” But at that time “we shall be changed” from “mortal” to “immortality,” and from “corruptible” to “incorruption.”

With this passage the task is completed. The term “immortality” is used in no other place in the Bible. It occurs but five times, and each verse in which it is used has been carefully studied. Although the words “soul” and “spirit” occur hundreds of times in the Scriptures, the word “immortality” is never coupled with either of them. In the only verses where the attribute of immortality is mentioned, the Scriptures never affirm that the soul has immortality, that the spirit has immortality. The Bible never teaches that it is the birthright of all men.

On the contrary, the Scriptures teach clearly: first, that God alone possesses immortality; secondly, that men are, or should be, seekers for it; thirdly, that, if seeking for it, they can find it “through the gospel,” but it will not then be conferred upon them until “the last trump,” or at the time of the resurrection.

The Entire Teaching of the Bible

This, then, is the entire teaching of the Bible on this subject, for here every verse which mentions the words “immortal” and “immortality” has been considered. Surely there is no reason for anyone to be in ignorance or doubt concerning this subject when the Bible so clearly sets forth the truth.

The sixty-six books which comprise the Bible were written by almost forty men. Of these forty only one, Paul, makes use of the words “immortal” and “immortality.” The remaining thirty-nine do not use these words at all. Paul wrote fourteen of the books of the New Testament. He is the chief doctrinal teacher of the Christian faith. In his own words he declared the whole counsel of God. His writings have a complete statement regarding the question of immortality. No other Bible writer uses the term in any connection whatever.

Paul never attributes immortality to sinners. Moreover, he never applies the term either to the righteous or to the wicked in this world. He never applies it to the souls of men, either before or after death. He speaks of it only as an attribute of the King Eternal. (1 Timothy 1:17.) He declares God is the only possessor of immortality. (1 Timothy 6:16.) He speaks of immortality as revealed or brought to light, not in heathen philosophy, but in the gospel of the Son of God. (2 Timothy 1:10.) He presents it as an objective which men are to seek by patient continuance in well-doing. (Romans 2:7.) He fixes the time when it shall be “put on” by the saints of God, and declares it to be at the resurrection, when Christ, who is our Life, will appear. (1 Corinthians 15:52, 54.) Paul never taught, in anything he ever wrote or said, the prevalent and popular doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul of man.

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