When a family member or friend dies, we often hear the expression, “He passed away.” This is based on the belief that upon death the immortal soul passes into heaven. Are souls immortal? Not according to the Bible! Notice what Ezekiel wrote: “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:4). So, souls die. The fact is, souls die because all men have sinned. This is what the Apostle Paul tells us. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Both the Old and New Testaments clearly attest to the fact that souls die.
Notice the following Old Testament texts which tell us souls die:
All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul (Ps. 22:29).
Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine (Ps. 33:18-19).
He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence (Ps. 78:50).
Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling (Ps. 116:7-8).
Notice the following New Testament passages:
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt. 10:28).
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matt. 16:26).
Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins (Jas. 5:20).
And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea (Rev. 16:3).
Is there, then, any Bible substantiation to the belief that souls go to heaven? The Scriptures plainly tell us: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” (John 3:13). If souls go to heaven, certainly a man as righteous as David is there. But notice this text: “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. . . . For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand. Until I make thy foes thy footstool” (Acts 2:29-35). The above Scriptures clearly tell us that souls are not immortal, that they are subject to death and do not go to heaven. Christ alone has immortality (1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16). If the soul is not immortal, how does man gain immortality?
The answer-by means of the Resurrection! Notice what the Apostle Paul wrote. He first describes the differences of glory in the heavenly bodies. He demonstrates the glory of one as opposed to the other.
Then, he speaks of the Resurrection:
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. . . . Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. 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 (1 Cor. 15:42-44, 50-54).
Those who believe man has an immortal soul would do well to carefully study the above passages. What needs to be realized is what man really is.
What Man Is
In the book of Genesis, we read of man’s creation. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (Gen. 2:7). The Hebrew word for “soul” is nephesh. It simply means “a living being.” It carries no connotation of immortality. This can be quickly affirmed by checking any concordance for the many Old Testament passages which use the word nephesh. What will quickly become apparent is that nephesh refers to physical life-life which is sustained by oxygen supplied to the blood through the lungs. Man was made of the dust of the earth. He is composed of flesh (Gen. 6:3). Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Man is not yet born of the Spirit; he is presently born of the flesh. The patriarch Job knew this very well. He said, “Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and hast fenced me with bones and sinews” (Job 10:11). He later said, “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet [without] my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:26). After his earthly body returned to the dust of the earth, Job knew there would be a Resurrection. The Apostle Paul said the same thing. He wrote: “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:49).
Man is a living being. He is subject to death. He has a soul, but it is not immortal. His soul is simply his physical life. What did God first tell man? “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17). When man disobeyed God’s command, the Creator said:
. . . Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. . . . In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return (Gen. 3:17, 19).
The die was cast. Adam and Eve did not immediately die. But the penalty for sin had been set in motion, and eventual death was man’s sure fate. Paul wrote: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). From that time on the human cycle has been birth, growth, senility, and death. As a result of Adam’s sin, all men must suffer the physical death. Man is mortal, subject to death. He has no immortal soul, and no inherent immortality within. Paul tells us, “For the wages of sin is death . . . (Rom. 6:23). But, what is sin? The Apostle John instructs: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). Sin is the breaking of God’s Law-the Ten Commandments. Remember what Ezekiel said, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. . . ” (Ezek. 18:20). To attain to immortality, man must be resurrected from the dead. So says the Apostle Paul. “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom. 8:11). Paul yearned for the time when his present life of mortality would be swallowed up in immortality-eternal life (2 Cor. 5:4).
The Basic Question of Life
Job asked the question: “If a man die, shall he live again ?. . . (Job 14:14). This question has troubled man from the very beginning. But, Job knew the answer. He said, “. . . all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands” (Job 14:14-15). Job knew he would be changed from mortal to immortal. He knew he would live again.
Jesus said the same thing: “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life . . . ” (John 5:28-29). What the Bible reveals is the Resurrection of the dead. Yet, it is assumed by millions today that man has an immortal soul that is not subject to death. But, this is just the opposite of what the Bible really teaches. The doctrine of the immortality of the soul did not originate in the Word of God. It came from pagan philosophers who were searching for the meaning of life. But they had no knowledge of the true God. They knew man was different from animals, and assumed that the gap between man and animals presupposed the existence of an immortal component in man. Job, however, knew better. He knew the truth about man. The One who inspired Job to speak the words recorded in Job 14:14-15 was none other than Jesus Christ-the God of the Old Testament (1 Cor. 10:1-4).
Man’s One Hope-the Resurrection
The Bible clearly reveals that the one hope for life after death is the Resurrection. Notice again what the Apostle Paul wrote: “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” (1 Cor.15:54). Job looked forward to that time. He stated: “So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!” (Job 14:12-13).
Other righteous men during the Old Testament period were aware of the same thing. David wrote:
Arise, O LORD. . . deliver my soul from the wicked, [by] thy sword: From men [by] thy hand, O LORD, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes. As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness (Ps. 17:13-15).
Notice what we read in Psalm 49:
Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about? They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him. . . . This their way is their folly. . . . Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling. But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah (Ps. 49:5-7, 13-15).
Isaiah also spoke of the Resurrection:
Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead (Isa. 26:19).
Let us again notice what the Apostle Paul wrote:
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead . . . . 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 (1 Cor. 15:21, 51-52).
The one hope of life after death is the Resurrection of the dead. So says your Bible! This hope is attained through Jesus Christ. Jesus said: “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” (John 5:26). “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11-12). Those who have been begotten of the Holy Spirit belong to Christ. Paul wrote: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. . . . For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:9, 14). Those truly converted are the sons of God. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
How does Christ look today?
And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength (Rev. 1:13-16).
In the Resurrection, we shall see Him as He is, so wrote John.
If we are truly converted, we are promised life after death. Notice how the Apostle Paul described this assurance.
“And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom. 8:10-11).
The Resurrection is a certainty for those who have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. As the sons of God, they are the heirs of salvation! Paul describes those who are converted. He wrote: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new [creation]: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:23-24). “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col. 3:10). One who has received the Holy Spirit has put on Christ. He has put on Christ by means of the Holy Spirit!
The Just and the Unjust
Jesus said there would be a resurrection of the just and the unjust. “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of [judgment]” (John 5:28-29). This same thing was recorded by Daniel. He wrote: “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2). Jesus often spoke of both categories. When referring to the resurrection of the just, He said:
. . . When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:12-14).
When referring to the resurrection of the unjust He stated:
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal (Matt. 25:41-46).
The Apostle Paul also mentioned a resurrection of the just and of the unjust.
But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust (Acts 24:14-15).
For the righteous, eternal life in the Kingdom of God is promised many times. Here are a few examples. “And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father” (Rev. 2:26-27). “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev. 3:21). “And [thou] hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:10).
The Bible plainly tells us we will be rewarded according to our works.
And. . . I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works (Rev. 2:23).
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works (Rev. 20:12-13).
He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be (Rev. 22:11-12).
Works do not save us, but they are a prerequisite to receiving God’s grace.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:8-10).
Notice carefully what this text says. It states that we were created for the purpose of walking in good works. What, then, is the result of evil works?
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie (Rev. 22:14-15).
And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 21:27).
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death (Rev. 21:7-8).
For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch . . . . And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts (Mal. 4:1, 3).
Jesus said the Resurrection of life comes through Him. He told Martha, “. . . I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live (John 11:25). To what kind of body was Jesus referring? Paul explained, “But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?. . . It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. . . . And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. . . . For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:35, 44, 49, 53).
This was why Paul wrote:
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not [precede] them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:13-17).
Where will Christ take the resurrected saints? “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives. . . . and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee” (Zech. 14:4-5).
What the Bible teaches is that the one hope of eternal life for mortal man is the resurrection of the dead-this, by means of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. There will be a bodily resurrection of the just as well as of the unjust-the just to eternal life as spirit beings ruling with Christ upon this earth (Rev. 5:10). The wicked will be assigned the second and final death in the lake of fire, in which they will receive eternal punishment, not punishing.