Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Steve Myers] What happens to us after we die? What about our loved ones who have passed on? Will we ever see them again?
You may think that the Bible says we have an immortal soul destined at death for heaven or hell. Do you know the shocking truth? It does not!
The most common Christian belief about the afterlife is false. The idea that people possess souls and at their death their consciousness, the soul, departs from their body on the way to heaven or hell is just not true.
So what exactly does the Bible Say about the soul? You need to know the surprising answer. Stay tuned to this special edition of Beyond Today as we help you answer the question “Do I Have an Immortal Soul?”
Death is a reality of life. It’s devastating, separating us from family and friends. We’d like to believe that something better awaits a loved one who has died. Most believe that he or she has gone to a better place.
So, many think that what happens after death is not really the end of life. Do you believe that when a good person dies their soul immediately departs for heaven or some kind of eternal reward? Now on the other hand, most Christians believe that when an evil person dies they go to the burning fires of hell to be tormented for eternity.
That belief is based on the false idea that each of us has an immortal soul living in a physical body, and when the body dies the soul continues to live on. Most cannot accept that this physical life is all there is. Yet Jesus Himself told us, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven” (John 3:13). Those two ideas, they oppose each other. So what do you think?
Virtually every civilization since the beginning has held the belief that something of this life transcends death. A part of us goes on after death and this thought is expressed in the belief of the immortality of the soul. But is it true?
You might be surprised to find out that the common belief that man has or that he is an immortal soul is not a teaching that comes from your Bible. The truth is completely different. When you understand the difference of what life and death are really all about, you’ll find that something much better does await those who have died but it isn’t what you thought. We’ll have more on that just a little bit later.
The Bible clearly reveals that the soul is not immortal. So let’s dig into this concept.
The idea of an immortal soul was seen among the ancient Egyptians and the elaborate customs that they created to preserve the body and provide for the soul in its journey into the afterlife. We know the pyramids of Egypt are oldest surviving testament to this idea of the hereafter.
They had elaborate drawings in the tombs that depicted the way the soul would depart from this life and go to the life beyond. So they mummified the bodies to preserve the physical. Food was buried with them, along with clothing and weapons to assist the departed soul on its journey to the afterlife. It almost sounds silly to our modern minds.
Yet it wasn’t just the Egyptians who believed in these unbiblical ideas. Cultures from China to North America buried their dead in ways to show a belief that a soul departs the body at death and lives on in another world. It’s become an almost universal belief and it’s not just limited to Christians.
So you have to ask yourself, do you believe in the soul? This idea is so critical that it ranks as THE fundamental question for theologians and philosophers and it should be for you too. It centers on the question of what is a human being. Have you wondered about it? Is man simply an animal, the highest form of life that has evolved on this planet? Or is man a unique being fashioned for a special purpose by a Creator God?
From where did these ideas of a soul come? To be honest you have ask yourself if these views come from tradition or do they come from a divinely revealed source. Here on Beyond Today that source of understanding is the Bible. The Holy Bible is that source to answer the questions. We’re not afraid to tackle all the questions that surround this issue and we do it by looking to the Bible as the standard for our understanding. I believe that you should too.
Even though the belief that man has or that he is an immortal soul, even though it is a foundational doctrine in Christianity, most people accept it without ever questioning it. How about you?
It’s a fact that the Bible doesn’t teach it, yet you know that Scripture does explain where the belief originated? You probably know the story. Immediately after Adam and Eve were created God told them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and if they did, God said “in that day you shall die” (Genesis 2:17)
What did God mean when He warned Adam that he would die? He told them “for out of [the ground] you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). God didn’t say that only their bodies would die. There is absolutely no indication in the Bible that some kind of spiritual soul would continue to live on in some other form or in some other place.
So in verse 1 we read that the serpent, the devil, asked Eve, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’” Of course Eve replied, “God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.” (Genesis 3:1-4)
This contradiction is the first recorded lie in history. Have you ever wondered why Satan would tell this lie? Why wouldn’t he say something else? Here’s the significant reason why. This lie hides the truth about the nature of man, what man is and what God is doing with human life.
Satan tried to undermine God’s authority by encouraging Eve to defy God’s instruction. You see Satan said it would not result in death but instead, she’d be like God and have the ability to decide what’s right and wrong. That’s important. He said “you will be like God.” (Genesis 3:4-5) Being like God would not only include knowing good and evil but that she, like God, would not die.
Have you considered what Satan’s lie was really all about? He is known as the great deceiver and he’s known for that, for a reason. He introduced the erroneous concept of the immortal soul.
Hopefully you are beginning to see how this idea is completely opposite of what Scripture really says. In Genesis 2:7 we’re told, “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 being.”
It doesn’t say Adam was given a soul or that some form of spirit life called a soul was put in him. It says that he became a living being. People are living beings. They’re miraculously given the gift of life by God through creation. The Bible says that man is a soul, a living breathing mortal soul. We are temporary beings capable of death.
The Bible says we do not have a soul. We are living souls. That’s what the word for living being really means. It’s the Hebrew word “nephesh.” In some bible translations, it’s interpreted as soul. But nephesh simply means a living, breathing creature. It can mean even an animal or a human being because both live and breathe and the Bible shows that it applies to all animate life.
Notice what biblical scholars say about this term. It means “the essence of life, the act of breathing, taking a breath… the problem with the English term ‘soul’ is that no actual equivalent of the term or the idea behind it is represented in the Hebrew language.”
Notice this remarkable statement: “The Hebrew system of thought does not include the combination or opposition of the ‘body’ and ‘soul’ which are really Greek and Latin in origin” ( Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words 1985, p. 237-238).
You see, even biblical experts agree that the word nephesh cannot refer to an immortal soul.
So we must come to the conclusion of a shocking truth that most Christians don’t realize. What is almost universally believed and taught about the immortal soul is not biblical, it’s not godly. Instead it’s based on the reasoning of a pagan Greek philosopher who lived hundreds of years before Jesus Christ.
That man was Plato. He is widely considered the most pivotal figure in the development of philosophy and has been cited as one of the founders of Western religion and spirituality (The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).
Don’t make the mistake of minimizing this man’s influence on religion. Listen to Plato’s claims, “The soul, whose inseparable attribute is life, will never admit life’s opposite, death. Thus the soul is shown to be immortal, and since immortal, indestructible…Is this [death] anything but the separation of soul and body?… Being dead is the attainment of this separation when the soul exists in [it]self, and is parted from the body” (Plato the Teacher: Being Selections From the Apology, Euthydemus, Protagoras, Symposium, Phaedrus, Republic and Phaedo of Plato, 1897, p. 449; pp. 425-426).
Now thinking of that quote, what is the source for Plato’s belief? It’s nothing more than his own logic! It certainly doesn’t come from the Word of God. So, man’s ideas or God’s truth? Do you choose believe the ideas of an ancient Greek philosopher or the inspired Word of Almighty God?
Plato was undeniably wrong. Did you know that the Bible plainly states that a soul can and does die? You truly don’t have an immortal soul. Here’s proof from Ezekiel 18. God emphasizes that He will bless and preserve those who live His way. Then in verse 4 notice what He categorically states. “Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:4)
Four times in this verse the Hebrew word “nephesh” is translated “soul.” Now this is critical. This is the exact same word translated “living being” from Genesis 2:7.
That’s exactly the same thing that God had warned Adam about, “you will surely die.” When God withdraws life, the living being becomes dead. “The soul [the nephesh] who sins shall die.” To give it even more emphasis it is recorded again a few verses later. “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20).
I hope it is becoming clearer to you that philosophy and most religion has it wrong. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible makes this comment, “The word ‘soul’ in English…frequently carries with it overtones, ultimately coming from philosophical Greek…In the OT it never means the immortal soul, but it is essentially the life principle, or the living being, or the self…” (Vol. 4, 1962, “Soul”).
The Bible itself stresses that truth. Did you know that Scripture reveals the condition of a soul that is no longer living? “For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5). Again we are also told, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
In other words, we are to make the most of our lives because after we die there is no longer any consciousness, there’s no awareness, there’s no knowledge or productivity. There’s no soul that lives on. We are “nephesh,” living beings in need of immortality.
King David reminds us that death even extinguishes a relationship with God. “For in death there is no remembrance of You; in the grave who will give You thanks?” (Psalms 6:5).
So we see there is no room for doubt. The Old Testament describes death as an unconscious state with no part of us that continues to live on.
So what about the New Testament? The Bible is consistent. It may be shocking for you to hear that the term immortal soul is not found in the New Testament. For that matter you can’t find it anywhere in the Bible.
The New Testament DOES have a lot to say about immortality. But it may not be what you think.
Here’s an example. The apostle Paul told the believers in Rome to “seek” immortality (Romans 2:5-7). So he taught they didn’t have it already.
He also explained to Christians at Corinth that they must be changed. “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53). If this is true that we must be given immortality, how can man already have a soul that lives on? It clearly supports what God said in Genesis “you shall surely die.”
In fact, your Bible says that only God the Father and Jesus Christ possess immortality. “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called …keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing…the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality…”(1 Timothy 6:12-16).
If we are told to lay hold eternal life and that He alone has immortality, then we as humans can’t possess an immortal soul. In fact on the contrary we’re given this warning and an encouragement, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Eternal life is a gift of God. We don’t have a soul that goes to heaven or hell at death. We are souls, living beings, in need of the gift of God.
Does Scripture convince you of the truth of God? Should you believe the ideas of a philosopher, or our Lord and Savior? Here are shocking, powerful words that come right from Jesus Himself, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40).
Christ makes it very clear. “And as it is appointed for man to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Jesus showed that there is a sequence of events. After a person dies, they remain in the grave awaiting a resurrection. When the person is resurrected, there will be a time of judgment.
He taught of a future time to come when those who have died will be given life. He said, “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).
Jesus makes the point that we do not yet have immortality. A change must take place so that we can “put on” immortality.
So why would this be necessary if we are immortal souls? What’s the point of a resurrection if a person never really ceases to live or if some part of a human keeps on living? Why would there be a need for a future day of judgment if you go to heaven or go to hell at the moment of your death? Why must this mortal “put on immortality” if we’re already immortal?
The unmistakable truth is: the doctrine of the immortal soul is wrong. A person who dies is in the grave. They’re dead, they’re unconscious and not aware of the passing of time. They are awaiting the resurrection.
Some may think that it sounds morbid to die and just wait in the grave instead of moving on to a better place. But when you understand what life and death are really all about, you’ll see that the Bible teaches that something much better does await those who have died.
God promises to give faithful believers something that mankind does not yet have. It’s found in one of the most often quoted scriptures in the Bible. Jesus describes God’s ultimate purpose for mankind. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). His promise is to give us something that we don’t yet have. Immortality.
The apostle Paul wrote that he lived “in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began” (Titus 1:2).
The Holy Word of God teaches that life is mortal and temporary. None of us has eternal life yet, but it is the ultimate gift that God is preparing to give to us. So don’t be fooled. The false teaching of the immortality of the soul hides God’s awesome and incredible plan to grant the gift of eternal life. The truth of the Bible reveals the genuine hope we have in this life and what lies beyond.
You’ve heard a lot concerning God’s genuine teachings on the program today. The Bible does have the true answer to death and the truth certainly stands in stark contrast to the traditional religious concepts that we hear out in the world today.
Up next I’m going further discuss this surprising teaching with our Beyond Today panel, but first let’s recap what we’ve discovered today:
God told the first human beings that if they sinned they would die and return to dust.
Satan slyly introduced the notion that God was lying and that they wouldn’t die.
This began the anti-biblical teaching of the immortality of the soul.
Most Christians are also deceived by this and ancient philosophy that they have, or that they are, immortal souls and that they will go to a better place immediately after they die.
Yet the Bible plainly teaches that man is physical, subject to death and that the dead know nothing in the grave.
But there’s good news. God’s plan is a resurrection to eternal life to everyone who repents and accepts Jesus as Savior. So ultimately God promises to give us something that we do not possess. The real opportunity for immortality. So the true and final answer is not death but resurrection.
To discuss this further, fellow BT hosts Darris McNeely and Gary Petty join me.
[Steve Myers] Now listening to the program many might say well okay, it looks like the Bible says that but what is the big deal? Is it really that dangerous, this concept of the immortal soul?
[Darris McNeely] It is dangerous because if you have the idea that there is some type of eternal life resident within you without a relationship with God, or a part from that, then it actually does cut God out of the picture and the plan of salvation that the Bible does talk about.
[Gary Petty] I think the thing is that when we look at scripture and we truly want to follow God, then what we want to do is find out how He defines things. His reality, I mean He is the Creator of reality. So if we want to go to the scripture, we look at the scripture and we begin to find out there is a different viewpoint of who we are, what life is, what death is, what the resurrection is, as the way He describes it. Remove your own ideas and let’s find out what God wants.
[Steve Myers] It’s always an amazing thing when you consider this first lie from Satan zeroed right in on that and why did he choose that because in fact it undermines God’s plan totally. It gets us totally off track thinking that we already have something that’s eternal and yet that’s not what God’s teaching shows.
[Darris McNeely] Yes, the Apostle Paul talked about not wanting to retain God in their knowledge and that first lie already begins to remove God from the knowledge of mankind. Something is there that they think is of God to begin with, when it isn’t.
[Gary Petty] You know it is very interesting to think how it’s the first lie. If you were going to tell the first lie to someone, deceive them, what would it be? “Thou shalt not surely die” because it makes us sort of semi divine, it makes us almost like our own gods who’re going to live forever, we have this eternity in us. So you know, it’s an interesting lie to get it to take us away from God. It’s the first step.
[Steve Myers] Well we’ve had a lot to think about on today’s program, many things to consider about this false concept of the immortal soul. So I hope that you really see that the truth of your Bibles stands in stark contrast to what most religious teachings teach out there in this world.
I hope that what you’ll do is be challenged to look further into what you’ve learned, and we want to help you with a free study aid that’s called “Heaven and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach?” You need this eye-opening study aid to help you better separate biblical truth from humanly conceived, mistaken ideas on this very important subject.
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[Steve Myers] Hi! I’m Steve Myers. I’m the pastor of the United Church of God, Cincinnati East congregation. We have hundreds of congregations around the United States and across the world. I’d like to welcome you to come and join us on this great spiritual journey. We’re committed to growing in our relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ as well as fellowshipping with each other. If you’re looking for a home that encourages living what the Word of God really teaches, you’ve found the right place. We’re a family, a family of Bible believers committed to following Jesus Christ in everything we do. We’ve found God’s way is the best way to live. We’re happy that you are looking into what God is doing in our efforts to bring His message to the world. God is certainly pleased that you are looking in to knowing Him better and we’re here to help. We would love to have you come and visit and worship with us. We’re looking forward to meeting you soon. Come and join us!
[Steve Myers] So, do you believe you have an immortal soul? Now don’t believe me, believe what your Bible says. Let the Word of God speak to you. It clearly tells us that only God has immortality. But the good news is, He wants to share eternal life with you and with all humanity.
We are physical beings composed of flesh and we will all die. The only way to live forever is to follow Christ’s teaching to repent. Turn your life around, seek the truth and respond to God’s offer to live forever. He gives the choice to you. So choose to live God’s way now that He may give you the gift of eternal life.
Thanks for joining us, don’t forget our free offers and be sure to tell your family and friends about Beyond Today. Tune in again next week and join us in praying, “Thy Kingdom come.” For Beyond Today , I’m Steve Myers. Thanks for watching.
[Narrator] For the free literature offered on today’s program, go online to beyondtoday.tv.