One of the most comforting promises made by ministers and preachers — the immortality of the soul — is the same lie told by the serpent in the Garden of Eden. God told our ancestors that if they partook of the fruit of one particular tree, they would “surely die” (Gen 3:3). However, the serpent, when told of God’s firm instruction, rejected that instruction and confidently told the woman, “You shall NOT surely die” (Gen 3:4). The serpent was wrong and God was right. But millions of people believe the lie, because it is preached by respected preachers and philosophers.
The first lie
The first lie was introduced into the world and, because the woman believed the lie instead of the word of the One who had created her, sin entered the world. And this sin would have consequences: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground… for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen 3:19). That the further promise of God regarding the certain death of Adam, was fulfilled, we are left in no doubt, for the chronology of Gen 5 reveals to us that Adam lived for 930 years then died (vv 3-5). Before Adam and Eve sinned there had NOT been any certainty of death other than by reason of disobedience, but now that very disobedience became the cause of their death AND the death of all humans, who are descended from them. The Apostle Paul assures us this was so, for he wrote, “Death reigned from Adam to Moses” (Rom 5:14).
What is the form of the lie?
Each day, throughout the world, many people die and are buried or cremated. At the interment, many officiating ministers or priests solemnly declare that the ‘immortal soul’ of the deceased has gone to heaven to ‘ever be with the Lord’. That such language is not to be found in the Bible does not seem to deter people from using it. The phrase ‘immortal soul’ does NOT appear in the Bible, but rather the Scripture tells us in no uncertain language that ‘souls’ are NOT IMMORTAL, ie, that they can die. The prophet Ezekiel writes by inspiration of God, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Eze 18:4). The word used for ‘soul’ in this passage is the Hebrew word “nephesh”, which means beast, body, creature, or man. Nowhere in the Bible is the word used in a sense of immortality.
How did the idea enter Christianity?
History tells us that the ancient Assyrians and the Egyptians were among the first to claim that at death there was a part of man that left the body and journeyed to another realm. Food and drink and slaves were all buried with the rich dead in Egypt. Thousands of years later, when the tombs were excavated, the food was still there, uneaten. Greek philosophers such as Socrates continued to teach the lie of the serpent, claiming there was a part of man that never died. This lie spread through all nations and people of the world. The new Church of Rome soon put aside the simple teachings of the Lord Jesus and the disciples, and embraced the apostate teachings of the pagan people of the world. The Lateran Council, under Pope Leo X, asserted the immortality of the soul, on the authority of Pope Clement V. Again the truth of Bible teaching was giving way to the ‘first lie’.
Has there been any protest?
There certainly has! Whilst many leading teachers and preachers continued and still continue to teach the ‘first lie’, down through the ages there has always been the voice of protest against the change of a simple Bible truth.
In 1525 William Tyndale wrote of his understanding of salvation, claiming that such salvation from eternal death depends on resurrection from the dead when the Lord Jesus returns to the earth. His reward for standing up for truth was to be strangled and burnt at the instigation of ‘the church’.
In 1901 a prominent Methodist, JA Beet, wrote a spirited protest against the pagan doctrine of the ‘immortality of the soul’, tracing its origins to Greek and Egyptian philosophy and superstition’. He showed quite plainly that the Bible contradicts the pagan concepts of the ‘immortality of the soul’.
In 1943 the Church of England formed a commission to investigate the beliefs of the Church. This commission published the following statement: “The idea of the inherent indestructibility of the human soul (or consciousness) owes its origin to Greek, not Bible sources. The central theme of the New Testament is eternal life, NOT for everybody and anybody, but for believers in Christ as risen from the dead” (From “Towards the Conversion of England”). Notwithstanding such a declaration at the top level, the same Church continues to teach the pagan idea which the commission condemned.
What does the Bible say?
All those who teach the pagan doctrine of the ‘immortality of the soul’ claim that the teaching comes from the Bible. But is this true? The following passages of Scripture prove otherwise:
- Gen 3:19: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till return to the ground; for out of it was thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
- Ecc 3:19-20: “For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts: even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man has no preeminence over the beast: for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are of the dust and all turn to dust again.
- Ecc 9:4-6,10: “For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope; for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die; but the dead know not anything; also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished… Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”
- John 11:11-14: “These things said he (Jesus): and after that he said unto them (the disciples), Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I might awaken him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spoke of his death; but they thought he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. The said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.
- Job 3:17: “There (the grave) the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.”
- Psa 6:5: “For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?”
- All of these passages of Scripture show that death results in man going to the grave and NOT to heaven. Nor are there any references of any part of the person going to heaven except the breath of life (Heb “ruach” = breath, air, life), which is given to man at birth. It ‘goes back to God who gave it’ (Ecc 12:7).
Can man gain immortality?
The simple answer comes from the Bible:
- Rom 6:23: “The gift of God is eternal life though Jesus Christ our Lord.”
- 1Co 15:52-54. “The dead shall be raised… this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality.”
Surely any reasonable Bible student must accept from this last definite and positive passage that no man or woman has immortality now, and cannot gain it until the resurrection, at Christ’s return.
The Apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, in 2Ti 1:10, shows clearly that the Lord Jesus made immortality available to all mankind, through the Gospel.
- “…our Saviour Jesus Christ… hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Immortality is a promise for the future… the Bible does NOT teach present immortality.