In the Bible, life and death are presented as extreme opposites. Death is the absence of life. If we were to say, as many do, that death is only another variation of life, then we might as well say that black is merely another shade of white. But if the issue is really so clear-cut, why is it that so many Christians see death as an instant transformation into one of two forms of life, a life of eternal joy in heaven, or a life of eternal pain and suffering in hell? Put simply, the Christian Church "borrowed" ideas from pagan philosophy over the course of several centuries after the death of the apostles. These concepts gradually overshadowed Bible teaching and the belief of the early Church.

The concept of the innate "immortality of the human soul" that eventually entered the Christian Church was the result of a long process. Pagan ideas, filtered through Greek poets and philosophers, found expression in the work of one of the most famous thinkers of the ancient world, the Greek philosopher Plato. Under Plato the concept of the "immortal soul" was fully developed.

The world that Jesus entered was dominated by Greek culture. Rome ruled the world politically, but the fountain of knowledge was still Greece. Greek thought dominated the civilized world, and it was from this source that the Christian Church borrowed ideas about the "immortal soul."

Plato said that the human being is composed of two parts, an immortal soul housed inside a mortal body. Plato built his theory on an old Persian idea called "dualism." This idea claims that two forces, good and evil, have always existed and always will exist side by side in the universe. The visible world of matter is evil. The invisible world of "spirit" is good. From this, Plato came eventually to believe in a good immortal soul trapped inside an evil mortal body. Death became a sort of liberation. The immortal soul, freed from the degraded body, can soar to the heights of bliss. Death became a "friend" in contrast to the Bible description of death as mankind's last "enemy." From this background, the Christian Church eventually came to view death as the immediate release of the immortal soul (spirit) from the deceased body, on its way to eternal reward or eternal damnation. Or, simply, when you die, your body returns to the earth and your soul goes immediately to heaven or to hell.

Is Plato's solution to the mystery of human life correct? Is it really in harmony with what the Bible itself teaches about the human "soul?" Is the human soul immortal in and of itself? Or does the Bible teach something entirely different? Let us examine the witness of God's word in the Bible.


What did God say about the human soul through the prophet Ezekiel? Ezekiel 18:4

Helps and hints: The most startling part of this text is the unqualified statement, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Surely the Bible could not be clearer. But notice also the phrase that says, "all souls are mine." The idea that the human "soul" is innately immortal places it outside of God's control. But nothing in the universe is outside of God's control. As with everything else, God has the power to deal with the human "soul" as He sees fit. After all, He created it!


Does Paul tell his friend Timothy that all men are immortal by nature? 1 Timothy 6:13-16

Helps and hints: The key phrase appears in verse 16, "who only hath immortality." Paul makes it clear that only God has immortality by nature. Paul tells Timothy in the verses that immediately follow to encourage the wealthy to live godly lives "that they may lay hold on eternal life." It is apparent that immortality is not something they already have if they must "lay hold" on it. It is, of course, the gift of God. They may lay hold on it through faith in Jesus Christ.


What command did God give Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden? Genesis 2:16,17


What was Satan's explanation of God's command? Genesis 3:4,5

Helps and hints: This is the first lie recorded in the Bible. It directly contradicted what God had said. Satan suggested that man could receive immortality by eating the forbidden fruit. The lure of immortality apart from God (and therefore apart from God's law) still motivates many philosophers and religions in the world today.


Why were Adam and Eve expelled from the garden of Eden? Genesis 3:22,23

Helps and hints: Adam and Eve did not gain immortality through disobedience, as Satan had claimed they would. Though they did not immediately die physically, the aging process began for them at the time of their disobedience. The forces that would lead to death in its fullest sense were already at work within them. The fact that their open relationship with God did indeed die at the very moment of disobedience was demonstrated when they ran from Him and hid.


What does the book of Job say about the nature of mankind? Job 14:1,2


How is a similar image used in the book of Psalms? Psalm 78:39


What does Paul say must happen for a human being to experience eternity? 1 Corinthians 15:53-54

Helps and hints: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language gives the following definition for the word "mortal." 1. Liable or subject to death. 2. Of or pertaining to man as a being who must die." Is we accept the normal definition of the word "mortal", then Paul is clearly saying that man is naturally subject to death and must be changed radically in order to be made immortal. This change he says will take place for many at the second coming of Christ.


What did Jesus say about man being naturally immortal? John 6:53

Helps and hints: Notice that Jesus did not deny that humans could become immortal. But He did say that unless they were in relationship with Him, they could not be immortal, for they did not have that in themselves.

Where did Jesus say men and women could receive immortality? John 5:21; John 10:27,28

It is clear that human beings are not immortal by nature. Nor do they have something inside them (a soul) that is innately immortal. The Bible says, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." So then what is a soul (according to the Bible)?

"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." Genesis 2:7, K.J.V
Notice that man BECAME a living soul. It does not say that he RECEIVED a soul, but rather he BECAME a living soul. A human being therefore does not HAVE a soul, they ARE a soul. Two ingredients went into the creation of this living soul, the dust of the earth, and the breath of life. Stated as an equation, we could say,



What penalty did Adam face after he had sinned? Genesis 3:19

Helps and hints: Notice that God makes no mention of Adam's soul going anywhere when he returns to the dust of the ground. That is because at death, when the breath of life was removed, Adam ceased to BE a soul. In order for a soul to exist, two things must be present; the dust of the ground, and the breath of life.


How does Solomon describe the process of death? Ecclesiastes 12:7

Helps and hints: Solomon also acknowledges that the body returns to the dust of the earth. But he also tells us that the spirit returns to God who gave it. Is not this evidence that something from within a man returns to coexist with God in heaven, even with the body lying in the earth? Is it not evidence that humans do have immortal souls? To answer this question, we must see how the Bible uses this term "spirit."


With what does Job equate the term "spirit?" Job 27:3

Helps and hints: The term "spirit" is clearly equated with the breath of life, or "spark of life" without which a human body is merely a corpse. God provides that spark, and if He removes it, a person ceases to be a living soul. Scientists have discovered that humans in fact run on electricity; low voltage to be sure, but electricity none the less. We are sustained by air. When the breath is gone, we are dead. The body may be preserved artificially, but the person (soul) is still dead.


What perishes with the body at the time of death? Psalm 146:4

Helps and hints: If humans had souls that continued to live after their bodies died, it could not be said that their thoughts would perish at the time of death. But according to the Scriptures, this is exactly what happens.


What happened to the Little girl when Jesus restored her to life? Luke 8:52-55

Helps and hints: When Jesus returned to her body the breath of life, she once again BECAME a living soul.

The Bible teaching on the condition of the human race is not difficult or mysterious. It has only been complicated by the sophistries of Satan, the arch deceiver. His deception has been carried along by philosophies and religions the world over, until it has become part of the fabric of tradition that affects the religious and non-religious alike.


Are we justified in fearing the experience of death? 2 Timothy 1:7-10

Helps and hints: Jesus Christ has promised that not one person who has believed in Him to salvation will lose their reward of everlasting life. Just as surely as He Himself arose from the grave, so surely will He raise all those who belong to Him. The resurrection is the blessed hope of every Christian.

"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." Hebrews 2:14,15.

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