|By Carlyle B. Haynes
Chapter 2— Immortality
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. 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, 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 may be conferred upon men.
The first text which contains this term is 1 Timothy 6:13-l 6: “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 Kings 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. There is really nothing to be perverted. 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.
The verse just quoted not only establishes who has immortality, but also who does not have it. If God “only hath immortality,” it follows that we do not have it, for if we 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 being established that the attribute of 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 we can base a hope of having immortality conferred upon us at any time? Surely this is a question of vital importance.
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 as being that of 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.
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.
And 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.” Those who do not accept the gospel do not have, and can never have, immortality.
It will be seen from the explanation of this verse that we have no dispute with those who believe it is possible for men to have immortality. The possibility of it has never been denied. Just as confidently as those who accept the theory we are opposing, the inherent immortality of all men, so do we hope for immortality; and more earnestly than they, if possible, do we advocate the doctrine of immortality. It is the basis of our hope upon which we differ. They claim it as an inheritance from Adam; we, as a gift through Jesus Christ.
When Immortality Will Be Conferred
So far in this study we have found the term immortality used three times. It is used the fourth and fifth times in 1 Corinthians 15:5 l-54. In these verses we are told 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.”
And with this passage we have completed our task. The term immortality is used in no other place in the Bible. It occurs but five times, and we have carefully studied each verse in which it is used. While the words soul and spirit occur hundreds of times in the Scriptures, the word immortality is never coupled with either of them. We have found, then, in the only verses where the attribute of immortality is mentioned, that the Scriptures never affirm the natural immortality of all men, never affirm that the soul has immortality, that the spirit has immortality, never teach that it is the birthright of all men.
On the contrary, we have found the Scripture teaching clearly: first, that God alone possesses immortality; second, that men are, or should be, seekers for it; third, that, if seeking for it, they can find it in the gospel; and fourth, that if they secure it “through the gospel,” it will not then be conferred upon them until “the last trump,” or at the time of the resurrection. 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.
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