Is the soul immortal?

I have for the longest time thought that our souls were immortal. But I’ve just read that our souls are not immortal unless you are a believer in Jesus (which I am, and have been since about 1995). Thus, only believers in Jesus have immortal souls.

The belief put forward is that unbelievers souls are not immortal, and will be destroyed with Satan and his cohorts at the end of time.

There seem to be many scriptures that confirm that our souls are not immortal unless you have accepted Jesus Christ as LORD AND SAVIOUR.

Please help to settle this confusion.

Many thanks, Derrick

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@Derrick Great question :slight_smile: The first thing I would note is that the immortality of the soul is not a central Christian doctrine, so there is no issue having different opinions on the matter. To me, it seems that God alone is inherently immortal and that our immortality is dependent entirely upon Him. So if we reject Him, then it is rational to me that we could cease to exist. However, very intelligent Christians have thought otherwise. You may find some of the following threads instructive if you read through the various responses.

1 Timothy 6:15-16 - which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

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I am also in limbo regarding this question. However my question which I would like to be helped with is, when is the immortality the believer is promised in Christ granted? Is it at the moment of their coming to faith in the Lord or upon their death? And again, does the believer experience immortality upon at the moment of their death or just go into a state of unconsciousness and await to experience immortality at the coming of the Lord Jesus?

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@SamuelPaul That question I can answer :slight_smile: The idea that we cease to exist or go into a state of unconsciousness until the resurrection is called “soul sleep” and does not match what we are taught in Scripture. Jesus told the thief on the cross “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43) and Paul said that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8).

Also, I believe Scripture is clear that we have eternal life at the time of salvation, when the Spirit of God makes us a new creation. The Bible says we have been raised up - past tense - and that our life is now hidden in Christ with God.

2 Cor 5:17 - If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…

Colossians 3:1-3 - Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Ephesians 2:4-7 - But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

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“And again, does the believer experience immortality upon at the moment of their death or just go into a state of unconsciousness and await to experience immortality at the coming of the Lord Jesus?”
The above question is a great and controversial question. Maybe I can shed some light on the subject. A moral or stand I take with any doctrinal belief is this, “If it is not written in the Word Of God then it is not.” And I try to always use scripture to answer any questions about Doctrine.
The fact of the matter is that there is not one single place in all of the Bible that says we go to heaven as soon as we die. Many folks quote “Ecc 12:7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it”. As proof that we go to heaven as soon as we die. However a closer look at the word “spirit” in that verse will tell you that the word “spirit” is talking about the word “breath” . What is the first thing we do when we are born?? We take in our first breath. What is the last thing we do when we die?? We breath out our last breath. The word “spirit” in Ecc 12:7 is talking about the of the “Breath of Life” that God gives to us the minute we are removed from our mothers womb. Therefore the word spirit in Ecc 12:7 is not talking about our soul which never returns back to God. Because if the souls does return back to God His word would say so and our souls would never be able to exist separately from God for an eternity.
Next folks always quote, “2 Cor 5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” However when folks quote"TO BE ABSENT FROM THE BODY IS TO BE PRESENT WITH THE LORD" they are quoting from only half of the verse, and leaving out the words “WE ARE CONFIDENT, I SAY AND WILLING RATHER”. With no insult intended here the fact of the matter is that any time a half verse is quoted it is not quoted in its intended context and the proper interpretation of the verse has been changed or skewed and corrupted. When the full text/verse is taken into account we see that this verse does not say that when we die we go straight to heaven at all. In 2 Cor. 5:8 Paul is saying that he is “WILLINGLY RATHER” to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord, and so am I quit frankly. If I had a choice right now I would willingly rather be absent from my body and present with my Lord.

Luk 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
In Luke 23:43 Christ tells the thief that he will be with Christ “In Paradise” on that very day Christ made the statement to the thief. Here we have to consider what happened to Christ on the same day He told the thief that he would be in paradise with Christ. On that day Christ died on the Cross and He did not go straight to heaven. He first descended “Down Into the Lower Reaches of the Earth”
Eph 4:9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended First into the lower parts of the earth? Christ was very clear that the thief was going to be with Christ in Paradise on the very day that both the thief and Christ died on the cross. Since Christ stayed in Paradise for 3 days and ascended from the grave after those three days. Where is the Paradise that Christ was talking about??? The answer can only be that the Paradise that Christ went too and the thief was with Christ in that Paradise means that the Paradise Christ was talking about was and still is “In The Lower Parts Of the Earth”.
1Co 15:42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in uncorruption:
1Co 15:54 So when this corruptible shall have put on uncorruption, 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.
Here is some food for thought. If every believer who has died in Christ for the past 2000 years is already in heaven when Christ comes back to raise us from the grave, who is Christ going to raise from the grave??? If we all go to heaven as soon as we die, all of the graves will be empty when Christ returns. No body, and no souls. Are we going to leave heaven, return to the grave and put back on mortality and corruption so Christ can raise us again from the grave so we can again put off corruption and mortality and become uncorrupted and put back on immortality??? I think not. I can speak more on this subject I have already spoken a mouth full.
I believe that our immortality only come after our mortal death. Because we have not yet crossed the finish line until we have endured to the end of our life and we are no longer corrupted with the sinful nature we were born with.

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To offer the other side of this question - Daniel 12:2 says, “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”

In Matthew 25:46, Jesus says, “these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.”

I would say that the breath of God which imparts His image, even if broken, still makes every human soul necessarily eternal. The question is, will that eternal condition be in connection with its Source, or will it be forsaken?

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Great observations and you quoted a couple of very interesting scriptures. Daniel 12:2 is proof that saved folks do in fact go to sleep when they die and do not go to heaven right away. Only after we are raised from the grave do we get to go to heaven. All of chapter 12 is about what is going to happen in the end times and I have long preached that only those who have died in Christ will rise from the grave when Christ comes back and Daniel 12:2 says without question that some of those raised from the grave will not be receiving eternal life but will suffer everlasting shame and contempt. We can never loose our salvation but we can give it away by making the wrong choices and walking away from God after we have given ourselves over to God. Which would means that if we walk away from God after knowing Him it would be walking away with intimate knowledge of God and our decision would be with knowledge and purpose, not in ignorance. If this is not the case then who are those who will raise from the grave with the saved at the return of Christ?
So now I have a bit of confusion because you are right. One scripture say that there will be eternal suffering for those who offend and another scripture that tells us that those not found written in the Lambs book of life are cast into the lake of fire and that will be the second death. After the body rotted away in the first death what is left to die in the second death??? Best I can tell only the soul is left.

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@jlyons Good thoughts :slight_smile: The question when the Bible says things like eternal punishment is not the duration of the punishment, but the nature of the punishment. For example, in Jude it appears the term eternal fire is used to describe the destruction of a city. In this case, the consequence of the punishment was eternal—the city ceased to exist and its inhabitants were destroyed, but the punishment itself was not necessarily eternal.

The word ‘aionos’ - translated ‘eternal’ in English - also has a few different meanings. It is not necessarily equivalent to the English word ‘forever’. It can mean ‘pertaining to the age’ - the Bible talks about the ‘age to come’ and the ‘end of the age’.

It is possible that eternal punishment is eternal in consequence rather than eternal in duration.

Jude 1:7 - And don’t forget Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, which were filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God’s judgment.

Additionally, as far as I know, there is no Biblical evidence that having the breath of life makes us immortal, but feel free to correct me if I am wrong on that point.

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So how do I square this verse? Is Jesus saying that there is eternal life for the righteous just for an age? or is He saying forever and ever? Why would he use the same word if He meant two different things? If I understand the plain reading in context he was talking with his disciples and not any religious leaders which leads me to believe that He did not need to nuance such an important subject, the final judgement day. Granted the disciple have been know to miss other direct statement from Jesus but this idea of an eschton either political of Kingdom was a topic of interest for many of that day, religious leaders and common folks alike.
I have added a text compare from 5 Bibles to make sure that I haven’t missed something. To be clear I am not questioning the idea of immortality as it pertains to the righteous but to the ‘goats’.

Just my thoughts.
Matthew 25:46

LEB And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”0% difference

RSV And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”16% difference

ESV And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”10% difference

HCSB “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”19% difference

KJV 1900 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.42% difference

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@Jimmy_Sellers Great thoughts :slight_smile: Let me try to clarify my point by using another example. In Hebrews 9, it says that Christ obtained for us aionian redemption - eternal redemption. But that does not mean that Jesus is redeeming us over and over again for all eternity. It means that He has redeemed us and we are redeemed forever. It is the results of the redemption, and not the act itself, that lasts forever.

Likewise, eternal life is life that cannot be taken away forever and eternal punishment is punishment with consequences that never end. Once the wicked are destroyed, they are destroyed forever. The results of the punishment are eternal; not the punishment itself - just like eternal redemption.

Hebrews 9:12 - He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

Note that Atkinson is not denying the endlessness of the punishment, but of the process of punishment. Fudge puts it this way:

Finally, when an adjective (including but not limited to aiōnios = “eternal”) modifies a noun—in this case a result-noun, recognizable by its form, or morphology, the adjective describes the result of the action (which is what the noun names), not the action itself (named by the noun’s cognate verb), that produced the result. We have seen this in regard to eternal salvation (not an eternal act of saving), eternal redemption (not an eternal process of redeeming), eternal judgment (not an eternal act of judging), eternal destruction (not an eternal process of destroying), and eternal punishment (not an eternal act of punishing). This punishment, more specifically identified as this destruction, will last forever. Those who are punished with everlasting destruction will cease to exist. Edward Fudge

In reality, annihilationists are not attempting to evade anything, and their understanding of the text is quite natural. After all, Jesus contrasts the eternal punishment awaiting the lost with the “eternal life” awaiting the righteous. The most natural conclusion, then, is that the punishment of the lost will entail their not living forever. Their penalty will be death—as Fudge puts it, “divine ‘capital punishment.’”30 Since their consequent lifelessness will last for eternity, their punishment will truly be eternal.

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Quality v duration is the argument and because the annihilationest view holds that man is not immortal then eternal punishment is not possible because men are granted immortality through accepting the redemptive finished work of Christ. Those that reject Jesus are simply judged and then destroyed, annihilated, forever. There are several other load bearing arguments but Immortality to me seems to be foundational to the argument as it is being presented today. From Fudge’s book he make this comparison for the ‘quality versus duration’ argument about the word aiōnios and how it is used and how we understand its use:

The word (aiōnios) means “forever,” but within the limits of the possibility inherent in the person or thing itself. When God is said to be “eternal,” that is truly “forever.” When the mountains are said to be “everlasting,” that means that they last ever so long—so long as they can last.

Fudge, E. W. (2011). The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment (Third Edition, p. 35). Eugene, OR: Cascade Books.

Getting back to Matt 25:46 the proponents of annihilation would have me believe that God incarnate, Jesus, somehow was incapable of finding a more appropriate word to describe a finite punishment. I have a hard time with that and yes I know that this the only verse where Jesus uses the word aiōnios for both the righteous and the unrighteous, Playing word games 2000 years after the fact ignores what the man in the street would likely have believed and understood.
I know it’s just one verse but it is one more verse then we have on the Trinty and because Jesus said it I am compelled to believe it.

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@Jimmy_Sellers I appreciate your desire to remain faithful to the words of Jesus brother :slight_smile:

To help you understand how I see this issue, think of Genesis 1. You and I agree, I believe, that views such as that of John Walton are reasonable. However, someone from a young earth perspective might tell you John Walton’s view is fudging Scripture, but that is incorrect. Walton’s view is based on how the original audience would have understand Genesis 1.

This argument for annihiliationism, from my perspective, is similar. I am not suggesting we play word games with Scripture. I am suggesting we are misunderstanding Jesus’ words because we do not understand the original language / context appropriately.

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I do agree with you on Walton and Wright and I will throw in Heiser, They all place a high value on context as it relates to intended audience and that is precisely my point, except I think that we can have a reasonable good idea of what a 2nd temple period citizen might have understood if he had heard Matt 25:46. I don’t think it unreasonable that they would have understood a future judgement for all, the just to eternal life and the unjust to eternal punishment. There is more I could say but we are odds on this one but with much love from a brother to a brother.:grinning:

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@Jimmy_Sellers Indeed - thankfully it is a secondary issue and brothers may dwell in unity :slight_smile:

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I understand that the concept of eternal suffering is disturbing – it is meant to be. But to lessen the dread of what looms for the lost does not help those in bondage flee to Christ for deliverance.

The summer I turned 18, as a rebel living in defiance against God, I decided to read through the Bible. I’m not sure if I was looking for errors or answers, but I was pretty alarmed at what I found. It was clear that if Adam and Eve were booted from paradise for disobeying something like biting a piece of fruit, then God certainly wasn’t going to let me in after all I’d done.

And the thing about hell that disturbed me most wasn’t the fire and darkness, the falling and other horrors – bad as they were – but the eternality of it all! I was sort of hoping to find something to suggest that hell might not be as infinitely awful as I’d always heard. Actually, I was looking for the sort of stuff you’re saying!

Well, over the course of a few months, I read all 1,189 chapters from Genesis to Revelation – including the genealogies. And in my unenlightened approach, nothing I saw ever suggested to me that hell was anything less than eternal misery. Granted, I didn’t have the scholarship of some who now question that view. But then, I don’t think it really requires a Bible scholar to understand the book – perhaps to explain away some of the more unpleasant parts – but it was written for a child to understand.

I appreciate your use of phrases like “not necessarily” and “it can mean” and “it is possible that” as you question the eternal duration of hell. You appear to be cautious about emphatically declaring that this annihilistic view is certain. I would consider that wise caution.

I would call this a case where Pascal’s Wager should be considered. If you’re right – if hell is mere annihilation – then the worst that will happen to the lost who reject that message is that they’ll “enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” and then merely cease to exist. To be honest, when I was a teenage rebel, that wouldn’t have sounded so bad!

If I’m right – if hell is eternal torment – then the worst that will happen to the lost who reject that message is, well…infinitely worse! And as a teenage rebel, that put the fear of God in me – and six months later, I came to Christ and my life was miraculously transformed!

Can someone cast a question mark over hell’s eternal nature? Oh sure. Ever since Eden, people have found ways to question inconvenient or unpleasant subjects.

Eternal torment in Revelation? Ignore it – that’s all apocalyptic.

The rich man and Lazarus? No worries – it’s just a parable.

Eternal punishment? Well, it’s not necessarily eternal.

Maybe God will one day tell you, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” for helping people question whether it’s really as bad as they’ve been led to believe. But, Pascal’s Wager – what’s the worst that can happen if you’re wrong…or if I am? If there’s really a question about it, which side shows a greater caution?

I’ll finish with a few observations that I hope will help.

  1. If annihilation is the common lot of sinners, then Hitler’s hell is no worse than the death of a house pet. Is that really divine justice?

  2. God’s holiness is infinite. To sin against it is an infinite crime demanding infinite justice. Either an infinite Messiah can satisfy it in a finite moment, or finite sinners must spend an eternity satisfying it – which means they never will. Annihilation falls infinitely short of what divine justice would demand.

  3. God’s glory is infinite. To understate the misery of hell devalues the glory of the God we’ve offended. The awfulness of hell is in inverse proportion to the majesty of God. “Hell is meant to fill us with awe at the glory we have scorned” – John Piper.

  4. God’s love is infinite. Those who consider eternal torment to be inconsistent with a loving God are completely ignoring the cross. To lessen the agony of hell cheapens the suffering of Christ on the cross. It devalues the love He demonstrated by taking upon Himself what we deserved.

I truly hope that these thoughts are helpful to you!

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@jlyons Thank you for that well thought out response :slight_smile:

One thing I want to make abundantly clear is that I did not change my mind about Hell because I was uncomfortable with the idea of it. To be honest, when I think about people who abuse or hurt helpless people, there is a part of me that wouldn’t be completely upset if they did end up in eternal torment, though I am not sure that is the better part of me. I have opened my mind to new perspectives on this topic because I read exegesis by faithful Christians, such as John Stott, that convinced me other perspectives are legitimate.

To respond to each of your points:

  1. No, this is not true. The annihilation view still holds that there will be differing levels of both reward and punishment on the Day of Judgment. Everyone is resurrected and judged and that judgment may be different for different people, but that judgment ultimately ends in annihilation.

  2. /3 These points, in my view, are incorrect for the same reason. God is in no way less glorious or holy if He chooses a form of punishment that is more merciful. This point can be made both through Scripture and using common sense. In Scripture, God says that mercy is better than sacrifice. If that is true in the way we live, why would it not bring God glory if He lived by the same principle?

Using common sense, we all respect a man who has the power to inflict terrible punishment, but chooses to show mercy. In contrast, we despise rulers who torture their subjects for seemingly menial crimes. If a King tortured a subject who stole some apples by having him whipped for weeks on end, we would call him cruel; not great. His glory would be lessened; not heightened.

The idea that sin against God is eternal in nature, because it violates his eternal honour and holiness is the invention of Anselm, writing in the 11th century.4 It is rooted not in Scripture, but in feudal understandings of homage; that homage to one’s lord must be done in perpetuity in order to sustain the favour of said lord. Insults to the honour of the lord are punished with consequences which are dolled out until the lord’s honour is satisfied. Thus, if God’s honour is insulted by human sin, argues Anselm, God’s honour is not satisfied unless man has suffered eternally for his sin (or someone, namely the God-man, in his place, the basis for satisfaction atonement theory, which was later modified by the reformers to establish penal substitutionary atonement), because God’s holiness demands his honour be acknowledged eternally. Pinnock comments on this stating:

Anselm tried to argue that our sins are worthy of an infinite punishment because they are committed against an infinite majesty. This may have worked in the Middle Ages, but it will not work as an argument today. We do not accept inequality in judgements on the basis of the honor of the victim, as if stealing from a doctor is worse than stealing from a beggar.

  1. The beauty of Christ’s love on the cross is in no way lessened if He saved us from sin, death, and destruction rather than eternal torment. What is so amazing about God’s love is not what He saved us from, but that He saved us at all. Why should He care about us? Why would He die for us? It is not the severity of judgment that makes the cross beautiful, but the humility of the love of Christ.

Well, if you turn out to be right, I’m sure we’ll all breath a great sigh of relief - but I’m really glad no one told me those things when I was 18.

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One quick afterthought - in this view, do the devils deserve everlasting torment?

@jlyons The idea of eternal torment does cause some, such as Peter Hitchens and yourself, to stop in their tracks and reconsider their life. It is also pushes other people away from Christianity entirely. So it is hard to say whether it has done more harm or good and whether or not you could have come by another road. Certainly I believe that we should have an appropriate fear of God and that judgment can motivate us to repentance. I do not think eternal torment is necessary to make judgment something that weighs upon the human heart.

For example, Paul does not mention eternal torment and yet Felix is moved so much by a fear of judgment that he must evict Paul from the room. He knows he is guilty.

Acts 24:25 - As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.”

@jlyons I’ve honestly never thought about it. I leave the demons to Jesus.