Sunday, June 28, 2009

Are All Souls Immortal ?

Are all souls born immortal?

This is a key question. Please take a moment and think about it. What you believe about the nature of the soul will be the lens by which you view the very important question about the fate of unbelievers.

It will affect how you present the good news to an unbeliever. Is immortality inherent or is immortality a gift that only believers receive? This is a question of immense proportions. I cannot stress this enough. The Greeks had one view, the scriptures have another.

* "Among major schools of Greek thought, only Epicureans denied the soul's immortality." (Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament, Downers Grove, Inter Varsity Press, 1993, p.374)

* " 'immortality of the soul' , as normally understood, is not a Biblical doctrine…" (The International Bible Commentary, second edition, Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan Publishing House, 1986, p.60 column 2)

* "It is a truism that Plato's teaching has profoundly influenced Christian anthropology." (Forward by F.F. Bruce, The Fire that Consumes, Edward Fudge .)

If you believe the souls of unsaved men live forever, then which of these two statements do you believe?

There really are only two choices.

1) Do you believe, "God cannot destroy the soul, (even if He wanted to). The souls of all men are born indestructible."

May I ask, on what basis do you believe this? Do you believe God cannot destroy the soul? Why? There are very few things God cannot do and they all have to do with sinful behavior. God cannot be tempted to sin or do wrong. That's all God cannot do. So why would you believe God cannot destroy the soul, something that He Himself created? Does He lack the power? Does He lack the ability? There is absolutely no biblical foundation to the belief that God does not have the ability to destroy the soul.

2) Or do you believe,"God does have the ability to destroy the soul, but chooses not to."

If this were true, then why would the specific word "destroy" even come up in the New Testament writings in relation to the unsaved? Why would God use the word "destroy" if He really will not destroy the soul? Is God trying to intentionally deceive us by using words that have a different meaning than what their plain meaning is? Isn't this a basic rule of hermeneutics? The literal meaning is the first meaning used unless context declares otherwise. Don't you have to redefine "destroy" in every single one of these instances in order to get something other than "destruction" as the final fate of the unsaved?

* Matthew 10:28...............rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell

* James 4:12....................There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy

* Philippians 3:19.............Whose end is destruction

* 2 Thessalonians 1:9........Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction

* Hebrews 10:39...............But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition (Greek: destruction)

The great Inter-Varsity Press evangelical author, John R. Stott, (who also left the traditional view) brings up a well-argued point for 'conditional immortality', when he states:

"…it would seem strange ... if people who are said to suffer destruction are in fact not destroyed; and ... it is difficult to imagine a perpetually inconclusive process of perishing". (J. Stott and D. Edwards, Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1988, p. 316);

Stott is correct. Reread that statement. The word destruction is meaningless if there is not a point where the destruction is complete. In other words, you can't keep on destroying something for all eternity. It's a contradiction in terms. Therefore, conditional immortality correctly affirms the biblical position that the souls of the all lost will be destroyed at the end of the age. (Revelation 20:15) This is what the scripture calls the "second death".

The first death is temporary. In the first death, only the body is destroyed in the graveyard. However, there will be a resurrection one day of all humanity, a bodily resurrection. The second death will never be followed by a resurrection. In the second death, the body and soul are both destroyed (not preserved), (Matthew 10:28) forever.

The second death could not mean eternal torment because it is linked to the first death. The numerical values "first" and "second" show that they are related terms and therefore the deaths must be related too. In the first death, the body stops functioning. In the second death, the body and soul stop functioning forever. They are both destroyed. Yeshua (Jesus) says specifically "both" in Matthew 10:28. Sadly, traditional theology wrongly states that the soul cannot be destroyed in clear contradiction to the Lord's word.

Scripture clearly states that Adam and Eve lost the chance at immortality in their natural state. "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever:" (Genesis 3:22) If Adam and Eve would have eaten of the tree of life in their sinful state – that would have been a disaster. They would then have immortality ("live forever") in their sinful state. Therefore, God put a guard there to make sure they would not become immortal in this state. "So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." (Genesis 3:24). It is clear as a bell that God did not want them to live forever as sinners. He specifically stopped it from happening by placing angels and a flaming sword there to block the way. It is only by believing in Yeshua (Jesus) that mankind has another chance at immortality. "...and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel..." (2 Timothy 1:10). It will be on Resurrection day that believers only will put on immortality "... this mortal must put on immortality." (1 Corinthians 15:53).

Even traditional Judaism and Bible believers alike all correctly conclude that there will be a bodily resurrection one day. It is called the Tehiyyat ha-Metim = "the resurrection of the dead" and even written in the traditional Jewish prayer 'the Shmona Esre'; and the writer of the book of Hebrews refers to this fact (the resurrection) as "foundational" teachings in Hebrews 6:1-2. However, those who hold to "conditional immortality" know that the lost will not gain immortality on resurrection day, but will be destroyed (cremated) only after suffering for their sins – no more and no less than they specifically deserve.

Evangelical Pastor Al Maxey, who after studying this now believes in conditional immortality, writes:

Trees with bad fruit are burned (Matthew 7:19), and so are unfruitful vines (John 15:6) and useless weeds (Matthew 13:40). These figures are all employed to depict the fate of sinners at the final reckoning. They will be cast into "unquenchable fire." This is the Greek word asbestos which means "inextinguishable." It describes a fire which burns without interruption; it is an enduring fire which none can extinguish no matter how hard they might try. It is important to notice here, however, that it is the fire that Jesus describes as enduring, NOT that which is cast into it. To try and transfer the quality of endurance from the fire itself to that which is cast into it is completely unwarranted either grammatically, logically, or theologically.

That which is cast into the fire will BURN UP. This is the Greek word katakaio which means "to burn up; consume." It signifies to completely, utterly, totally destroy with fire. It is enlightening, in the context of this study, to note that this word is used in the LXX (Septuagint) in Exodus 3:2 where Moses beholds a burning bush --- "The bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was NOT consumed." This particular bush was preserved in the fire (what the traditionalists proclaim will happen with the wicked), yet Jesus disagrees with this doctrine. Jesus informs us that sinners will NOT be preserved in the fire (like the burning bush was), but rather will be "burned up" --- just the opposite of preservation. Thus, the view of final punishment promoted by many is actually in direct opposition to the teaching of Jesus Christ. Jesus says the wicked will NOT be preserved in the fire, the traditionalists say they WILL. Jesus says they will be consumed in the fire (unlike the burning bush), the traditionalists say just the opposite (that they will endure without being consumed, just as the bush). Whom will you believe? As for me and my family, we choose to believe JESUS. ( )

Respected Messianic Rabbi, Loren Jacobs also correctly states...

The human soul is not immortal. The Torah teaches us that in the beginning man was banished from the Garden of Eden and forbidden to eat from the Tree of Life, so that he would not live forever, so that he would not be immortal. Mankind is headed toward death - the first death, followed by the Second Death. He is not, by nature, immortal. In 1 Timothy 6:15 16, Paul says that God alone possesses immortality - not us. In 1 Corinthians 15:53 the great Rabbi teaches that the redeemed will not become immortal until the time of their resurrection. "For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality." In other words, immortality is a gift of God which He gives in His grace to the redeemed at the time of their resurrection. In 2 Timothy 1:10, Paul states that because of the appearing of our Savior, Messiah Yeshua, He has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. It is Yeshua who brings immortality to those who receive the Message of Salvation that He alone offers. There is no need to believe that most human beings will suffer eternally in hell if the human soul is not intrinsically immortal - and it isn't. (

Another important point…

In John 3:16, the word 'perish' in the Greek is "apollumi". It is correctly translated many other times as 'destroy' throughout the New Testament. Therefore, let's correctly understand John 3:16 as follows...

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish (Gk: apollumi; be destroyed), but have everlasting life (i.e. immortality - knowing God).

Therefore, the proper biblical question is not, "Where will you be in eternity?", but "Will you have an eternity?"

Sadly, most of humanity will be destroyed on Judgment Day. They will not gain immortality. They will not gain life. Jesus states this plainly, "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal." John 12:25. It is life itself that we can 'keep' or 'lose'. As a matter of fact – God choice to us is always "life" or "death" – never "life in bliss" or "life in eternal torment." He always urges us to "choose life."

Scripturally, the choice is between destruction (not preservation in torment), and life! (see Matthew 7:13-14, Romans 8:13, Galatians 6:8)

Immortality is only for a select few... those who are born again ("who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" 2 Timothy 1:10). The rest of humanity, after suffering according to the level of their sins, will be destroyed. The wages of sin for them will be death (Rom 6:23). God only has immortality -- anyone else becomes immortal only as a result of God's gracious gift (1 Timothy 6:16, Romans 2:7).

If you still doubt this, then look at what Jesus Himself clearly offers to the world....

Again, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever…" John 6:51.

Why would Jesus make such an offer... to "live forever" - if everyone lives forever, (as I have heard countless preachers say?) No, the truth is "living forever" is reserved only as a gift of the gospel. ( hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" 2 Tim 1:10). The wicked will have to pay accordingly on Judgment day, but their final destiny is destruction (not preservation). Apart from the gospel, there is no immortality.

Philippians 3:19 "Their destiny is destruction..." How can it be any more plain than that? They will be destroyed.

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Are you saying there is no 'punishment' for the unsaved?

Absolutely not. The lost clearly need to be saved from their sins. (see Matthew 1:21) What 'Conditional Immortality' correctly and simply teaches is that immortality is 'conditional'. It is only for the saved (2 Timothy 1:10). Therefore, the 'punishment' of the sinner is not preservation in torment, but eschatological death. It is "Capital Punishment" of body and soul on 'Resurrection Day' from the judicial hand of God. It is loss of life forever; it is eternal death beginning on Judgment Day. It is rather interesting that most believe "death" is the worst punishment you can face on this earth in a court of law, yet do not believe this about Judgment day in God's court. The hold such a low view of 'life' that death is not a punishment for them. Yet this is exactly what the wages of sin are (Romans 6:23).

"The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23) Paul wrote. This scripture is not to be given any theological 'spin' to its meaning. Read it plainly. Death is the absence of life. 'Death' (Gk: thanatos) does not mean torment in Greek - never. Its parallel is in Romans 6:23 which is the gift of "eternal life" for the believer. The setting is clearly eschatological. The "wages of sin" will be the sinners' loss of life (death) at the end of the age. It is their "second death" (Revelation 20:14-15) which ends (not preserves) their body and soul's living forever (Matthew 10:28).

Let us think for a moment what we do to murderers in our society. Do we torture them endlessly? No. This would be called "cruel and unusual punishment". The 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution states this. Is this amendment godly or ungodly? It is clearly godly! So we can see that even an "unsaved" lawmaker instinctively knows that the unending (24/7) physical torturing of a twenty year old murderer for the next 50 years (assuming his life span to be seventy years) would certainly not make the punishment fit the crime. Never ceasing, unending physical conscious torture for 50 years would not be a fitting punishment to any crime committed. Even evangelical biblical scholar Clark Pinnock rightly states about this eternal torture doctrine, "How can one love a God like that? I suppose one might be afraid of Him, but could we love and respect Him? ...who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for his enemies whom he does not even allow to die."

Again, I cannot state this strongly enough, even unsaved man knows this fact. Why do the unsaved even know that? Because they still have some retention God's law in their thoughts of right and wrong. God would certainly NOT approve of any courtroom sentencing any human criminal to unending conscious physical torture 24/7/365. That judgment would certainly be worse than the crime itself! They would understand that this would go against the very moral fiber built into their consciences (fallen as they may be). So we see in this specific area of our own penal system, God has placed this right understanding of punishment even among the unsaved (Romans 2:15). Then why do believers "shut off" their God given consciences and suppress every fiber in their being which screams 'Eternal conscious torture (the traditional view of hell) really does not make sense!' The punishment does not fit the crime.

Messianic Rabbi Loren Jacobs rightly observes ...

Hell is a place of eternal punishment, but there is a difference between eternal punishment and eternal punishing. It is one thing to experience a punishment that is eternal in its consequences; it is another thing to experience eternal punishing. The Bible also speaks of eternal judgment (Hebrews 6:2), but it is not a judgment that continues eternally, rather a judgment that comes to an end that has eternal consequences.

The punishment must fit the crime. It does not seem right that trillions of years of torture, and more (since that would only be the beginning of one's torture), await those who committed crimes for a few years here on Earth. (

Even in Torah (Books of Moses), there was no basis for unending physical torture, none. The conscience strokes due to a person were always limited.

* If the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall make him lie down and have him flogged in his presence with the number of lashes his crime deserves, but he must not give him more than forty lashes. (Deuteronomy 25:2-3)

Even Yeshua (Jesus) taught limited conscience physical sufferings upon the guilty:

* "That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. (Luke 12:47-48)

The adjectives "many" and "few" in Luke 12 could not be used if eternal conscious torment were what He was teaching here. He would have used "heavier" and "lighter" if the duration of conscience sufferings were eternal. So according to Yeshua's (Jesus') own words, some will have "many stripes" (Hitler types) and some will have "few stripes" (only God knows).

Now there will indeed be pain and suffering in the dying process. That much is absolutely true, (just look at what happened to Jesus (Yeshua) on the cross). However, the "wage of sin" (Romans 6:23) is ultimately death, not the suffering process in getting to death itself. It is the "second death" (Rev. 2:11).

Again, it is eternal punishment, not eternal punishings. (Matthew 25:46) Death is the punishment; and it lasts forever. It is a punishment with everlasting effects. Remember, Jesus Himself tells us that the fire was never made for humans, it was "prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). The fire will hold satan (a non-human) and demons there, but humans will be destroyed there.

Notice, Paul also tells us exactly what the punishment of the lost is... "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction…" (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Paul clearly says they will be destroyed (not preserved) ; and that the destruction will last forever. After suffering according to their sins, they will be shut out from everlasting life and miss out on seeing the glory of God. It is capital punishment of the body and soul.

*Look at "Capital Punishment" in theory.

What is the judicial underlying basis for capital punishment? In other words, how is putting them to death really a punishment? It is the years of life a condemned murderer is missing out on. That is really why it is a "punishment" to him or her. It is the removal of what 'could have been' for them. That is the only valid basis for such a "punishment" really being a "punishment" to them. Please give some deep thought behind the judicial notion of 'capital punishment' for a few moments and you will see that "the loss of what could have been" for them is indeed the main 'punishment' to a criminal being put to death. The suffering that goes along with the process may be valid, but the final payment and penalty is death itself.

This, then, is precisely the same punishment awaiting the unsaved at the 'Final Judgment.' The only difference will be that a human judicial court can only remove the bodily life of a person as punishment. Jesus (Yeshua) taught that God will "destroy (not preserve) both soul and body" in Gehenna (hell) (Matthew 10:28). The word "both" is the operative word here. Jesus is saying, there is nothing left alive (functioning) of a person after God's destruction (in whatever time frame it occurs) has taken place.

The fact that it will last forever makes it "eternal punishment" (Matthew 25:46) Remember, this occurs after their resurrection (Revelation 20:12). They now know that God exists and certainly has the power to raise the dead (after all, they will have just been resurrected themselves.) Maybe they will have hope that this upcoming death will also be temporary and they can then gain eternal joy in the New Jerusalem? But the statement to them of their "eternal punishment" (Matthew 25:46) will remove all hope from them. Since they refused the payment of Yeshua (Jesus), they will suffer for their own sins and then face the "second death."

Evangelical author Edward Fudge, a former traditionalist, makes the same point in his classic book "The Fire that Consumes"

"Where a very serious crime is punished by death and the execution of the sentence takes only a minute, no laws consider that minute as the measure of the punishment, but rather the fact that the criminal is forever removed from the community of the living."

On this basis we regard a 20-year prison sentence to be greater than a 10-year sentence, a 50-year sentence worse than one for 20, and life imprisonment greater than these all. Yet, as Constible pointed out, "From the earliest records of our race capital punishment has been reckoned as not only the greatest but also the most lasting of all punishments; and it is only reckoned the greatest because it is the most lasting. A flogging, inflicted on a petty thief, inflicts more actual pain than decapitation of hanging inflicts upon a murderer. Why then is it greater and more lasting? Because it has deprived the sufferer of every hour of that life which but for it he would have had. Its duration is supposed co-existent with the period of his natural life." (Edward W. Fudge, The Fire That Consumes. A Biblical and Historical Study of the Final Punishment (Houston, 1982), p. 199)

The unsaved will be destroyed forever. Paul clearly states that the unsaved will "be punished with everlasting destruction" (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Notice he does not say "everlasting preservation." No hope of resurrection, no hope of life anymore. Just as a judicial court merits out the death penalty with the underlying basis of it being "missing out on the rest of your life," so too, will the sinners punishment be "missing out on the rest of your eternity."

This is why Jesus (Yeshua) and the apostles and the Psalmist can all state...

* James 4:12 ..........................There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy...

* Matthew 7:13-14 ..................broad the road that leads to destruction...

* 2 Thessalonians 1:9 .............Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction…

* Philippians 3:19 ...................whose end is destruction…

* Galatians 6:8 ........................from that nature will reap destruction

* Psalm 92:7 is that they (i.e. all evil doers) shall be destroyed forever…

But what is the meaning of the word "destroy"? Perhaps it means eternal torment? You certainly have to import an alien meaning to the definition of the word 'destroy' (Gk: apollumi) if it means eternal torture. It is never directly translated this way in any New Testament writings. Never.

Again, I repeat the keen observation of that great evangelical commentator, John R. Stott, when he states:

"…it would seem strange ... if people who are said to suffer destruction are in fact not destroyed; and ... it is difficult to imagine a perpetually inconclusive process of perishing". (J. Stott and D. Edwards, Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1988, p. 316);

The fact of the matter is this, the body and soul of unbelievers can and will be destroyed one day. It will be Judgment Day to be exact. This "Day" is spoken about over and over again in scripture. Yes, the process itself will include suffering, but the end result according to the Jewish scriptures (the Bible) is destruction, death, cessation of life and thought.

Jesus taught that God would not "preserve" (as is commonly taught) but "destroy" both soul and body one day. Even if no other biblical writer ever used the word "destroy", we would still be forced to accept the 'destructibility' of the unsaved soul even if only based upon this rock solid statement of the Son of God in Matthew 10:28.

Plato was wrong, the soul is not indestructible.

Jesus was right, it is destructible.

This is what is biblically true. Conditionalism correctly teaches this truth from God's Holy Word.

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