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What Does the Bible Say About an Immortal Soul?

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Do we possess immortality? Do we have an immortal soul? What exactly is a soul?

At some point in life everyone will experience the death of a loved one. It can be a devastating experience leaving many wondering what happens when they die. A common belief is that people have “within” them an immortal soul that is released to heaven, hell, or purgatory upon death. What does the Bible say happens when life ends? We might start by asking, “What is a soul?” 

Genesis 2:7 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.

What is God describing here? Are we willing to look deeper at what the Bible teaches about the soul? Is immortality a real possibility for us?

swipe

We Go From Dust to Dust.

We all are familiar with the simple reality that death is a natural certainty of life. Death is the absence of life, the end of life — not the continuation of life under different circumstances. God has confirmed that time and again within His Word.

Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.

Ecclesiastes 9:5 For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun.
Psalm 104:29-30 You hide Your face, they are troubled; You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30 You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth.

These verses certainly don’t seem to indicate that mankind possesses immortality. We are made of the dust, and to dust we will return. Compare that to God, who alone is immortal.

1 Timothy 6:15-16 which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.

Only God is Eternal, the One who inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15). The words “immortal or “immortality” are used in only six places in the Bible. In those instances they describe that it must be obtained, that God only has it, that it is something we may seek, but never as something man already possesses.

So where does this idea come from, if not the Bible?

Pagan Teachings Have Been Embraced.

For nearly two centuries after the death of Jesus Christ, Christians understood the truth of a mortal soul. Even early Catholics such as Justin Martyr wrote:

"But our Jesus Christ, being crucified, and DEAD, and having ascended to heaven, reigned; and by those things which were published in His name among all nations by the apostles, there is joy offered to those who expect the IMMORTALITY PROMISED BY HIM"

This highlights the contradiction of traditional Christian teachings: we can’t be dead and immortal at the same time, and we’re not born with immortality.

Nevertheless, pagan teachings would once again creep into Christianity. The concept of an immortal soul originally comes from ancient Egyptian and Babylonian pagan religions. It eventually permeated Greek teachings and was popularized by two famous philosophers, Socrates and Plato.

Toward the close of the 2nd century, teachers like Origen and Tertullian would begin to combine Platonism with the Bible, and Christianity would gradually inherit the pagan philosophy. By the 16th century, any opposition to the teaching of an “immortal soul” by the Catholic Church was punished as heretics. Even throughout the Reformation, instead of faithfully returning to the truth (Jude 1:3), professing Christians would continue in the same pagan errors that had been forcefully maintained over the years.

How is “Soul” defined in the Old Testament?

Throughout the Old Testament, the word for “soul” is the Hebrew word “nephesh” meaning “a living, breathing creature” or simply “a creature.” Nephesh can also be translated as “person” or “life,” and was even used when God created the animals: 

Genesis 2:19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature [nephesh], that was its name.
Numbers 31:19 And as for you, remain outside the camp seven days; whoever has killed any person [nephesh], and whoever has touched any slain, purify yourselves and your captives on the third day and on the seventh day.
Genesis 1:30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life [nephesh], I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so.

In each instance, the word for “soul” was attributed to the life of a living being.  

How is “Soul” defined in the New Testament?

In the New Testament, the word translated soul comes from the Greek word “psuche,” which simply means, “breath,” and originates from the Greek word “psucho” meaning, “to breathe.” Not once does this word have anything to do with immortality or eternal life.

Like “nephesh,” “psuche” is used to reference animals, individuals, or even life itself, which can be lost, destroyed, saved, etc.

Revelation 16:3 Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature [psuche] in the sea died.
Acts 2:41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls [psuche] were added to them.
Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life [psuche], what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life [psuche] more than food and the body more than clothing?”

Whenever we read the word “soul,” the Bible is not describing something separate from the physical lives of man or animals. You and your soul are one and the same. YOU DO NOT HAVE A SOUL. Man IS a soul. The soul is merely the living, breathing creature, whether man or animal, and most importantly, none are immortal.

The Bible Reveals Our Mortality.

As we understand, our bodies are mortal and it has been appointed for all men to die once (Hebrews 9:27). Furthermore, God is sure to clarify that a “soul” is not exempt from that plain reality. In multiple accounts, “nephesh” can be found translated as “body,” and in some contexts it specifically references a “dead body,” or simply a “dead soul.”

Numbers 9:10 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body [nephesh], or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the Passover unto the LORD.
Ezekiel 18:4 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 18:20 The soul who sins shall die.

Another one of the most telling verses about the nature of the soul is found in Isaiah:

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.

Jesus Christ’s shed blood and broken body paid the death penalty for sin (Romans 6:23), and Isaiah clearly references His soul as that sacrifice. Then later, when Jesus Christ rose three days and three nights after His crucifixion, His tomb was empty. His soul was not separated from His body. At His resurrection, His mortal body was transformed, and His entire being was changed back to an immortal spirit body (1 Corinthians 15:44).

It’s clear, in God's Own Word, a soul can in fact die. It is not immortal, and you can’t be separated from it because you and your soul are a single, unified being. But that is not the end of the story!

The Gift of God is Eternal Life and Immortality. 

The gospel of the Kingdom of God is not a message of hopelessness or despair. Immortality can still be received! Just because our body goes to the grave when we die doesn’t mean there’s nothing after death. Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, immortality is a real possibility for those who commit themselves to God’s way of life.

2 Timothy 1:10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel
1 Timothy 6:18-19 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

God has promised a series of future resurrections for all mankind. His purpose for those who come to repentance and commit to a life of obedience to His Commandments, is to join His Family and inherit eternal life.

Romans 2:6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath

This is why truth is so important. Not what we might have heard or been taught, but the truth which is found in the pages of our Bibles. An “immortal soul” is just part of a web of errors that’s been used to justify a false message.

1 Corinthians 15:22-26 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.

The real God-given truth is so much bigger and so much better than a soul ascending to heaven to watch life playout for your loved ones without you. Instead, we each have the opportunity to be reunited through the most beautiful and amazing events in a time soon to come.

swipe

What Does the Bible Say About an Immortal Soul?

Printer + Reader Friendly
swipe

Do we possess immortality? Do we have an immortal soul? What exactly is a soul?

At some point in life everyone will experience the death of a loved one. It can be a devastating experience leaving many wondering what happens when they die. A common belief is that people have “within” them an immortal soul that is released to heaven, hell, or purgatory upon death. What does the Bible say happens when life ends? We might start by asking, “What is a soul?” 

Genesis 2:7 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.

What is God describing here? Are we willing to look deeper at what the Bible teaches about the soul? Is immortality a real possibility for us?

swipe

We Go From Dust to Dust.

We all are familiar with the simple reality that death is a natural certainty of life. Death is the absence of life, the end of life — not the continuation of life under different circumstances. God has confirmed that time and again within His Word.

Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.

Ecclesiastes 9:5 For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun.
Psalm 104:29-30 You hide Your face, they are troubled; You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30 You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth.

These verses certainly don’t seem to indicate that mankind possesses immortality. We are made of the dust, and to dust we will return. Compare that to God, who alone is immortal.

1 Timothy 6:15-16 which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.

Only God is Eternal, the One who inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15). The words “immortal or “immortality” are used in only six places in the Bible. In those instances they describe that it must be obtained, that God only has it, that it is something we may seek, but never as something man already possesses.

So where does this idea come from, if not the Bible?

Pagan Teachings Have Been Embraced.

For nearly two centuries after the death of Jesus Christ, Christians understood the truth of a mortal soul. Even early Catholics such as Justin Martyr wrote:

"But our Jesus Christ, being crucified, and DEAD, and having ascended to heaven, reigned; and by those things which were published in His name among all nations by the apostles, there is joy offered to those who expect the IMMORTALITY PROMISED BY HIM"

This highlights the contradiction of traditional Christian teachings: we can’t be dead and immortal at the same time, and we’re not born with immortality.

Nevertheless, pagan teachings would once again creep into Christianity. The concept of an immortal soul originally comes from ancient Egyptian and Babylonian pagan religions. It eventually permeated Greek teachings and was popularized by two famous philosophers, Socrates and Plato.

Toward the close of the 2nd century, teachers like Origen and Tertullian would begin to combine Platonism with the Bible, and Christianity would gradually inherit the pagan philosophy. By the 16th century, any opposition to the teaching of an “immortal soul” by the Catholic Church was punished as heretics. Even throughout the Reformation, instead of faithfully returning to the truth (Jude 1:3), professing Christians would continue in the same pagan errors that had been forcefully maintained over the years.

How is “Soul” defined in the Old Testament?

Throughout the Old Testament, the word for “soul” is the Hebrew word “nephesh” meaning “a living, breathing creature” or simply “a creature.” Nephesh can also be translated as “person” or “life,” and was even used when God created the animals: 

Genesis 2:19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature [nephesh], that was its name.
Numbers 31:19 And as for you, remain outside the camp seven days; whoever has killed any person [nephesh], and whoever has touched any slain, purify yourselves and your captives on the third day and on the seventh day.
Genesis 1:30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life [nephesh], I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so.

In each instance, the word for “soul” was attributed to the life of a living being.  

How is “Soul” defined in the New Testament?

In the New Testament, the word translated soul comes from the Greek word “psuche,” which simply means, “breath,” and originates from the Greek word “psucho” meaning, “to breathe.” Not once does this word have anything to do with immortality or eternal life.

Like “nephesh,” “psuche” is used to reference animals, individuals, or even life itself, which can be lost, destroyed, saved, etc.

Revelation 16:3 Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature [psuche] in the sea died.
Acts 2:41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls [psuche] were added to them.
Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life [psuche], what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life [psuche] more than food and the body more than clothing?”

Whenever we read the word “soul,” the Bible is not describing something separate from the physical lives of man or animals. You and your soul are one and the same. YOU DO NOT HAVE A SOUL. Man IS a soul. The soul is merely the living, breathing creature, whether man or animal, and most importantly, none are immortal.

The Bible Reveals Our Mortality.

As we understand, our bodies are mortal and it has been appointed for all men to die once (Hebrews 9:27). Furthermore, God is sure to clarify that a “soul” is not exempt from that plain reality. In multiple accounts, “nephesh” can be found translated as “body,” and in some contexts it specifically references a “dead body,” or simply a “dead soul.”

Numbers 9:10 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body [nephesh], or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the Passover unto the LORD.
Ezekiel 18:4 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 18:20 The soul who sins shall die.

Another one of the most telling verses about the nature of the soul is found in Isaiah:

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.

Jesus Christ’s shed blood and broken body paid the death penalty for sin (Romans 6:23), and Isaiah clearly references His soul as that sacrifice. Then later, when Jesus Christ rose three days and three nights after His crucifixion, His tomb was empty. His soul was not separated from His body. At His resurrection, His mortal body was transformed, and His entire being was changed back to an immortal spirit body (1 Corinthians 15:44).

It’s clear, in God's Own Word, a soul can in fact die. It is not immortal, and you can’t be separated from it because you and your soul are a single, unified being. But that is not the end of the story!

The Gift of God is Eternal Life and Immortality. 

The gospel of the Kingdom of God is not a message of hopelessness or despair. Immortality can still be received! Just because our body goes to the grave when we die doesn’t mean there’s nothing after death. Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, immortality is a real possibility for those who commit themselves to God’s way of life.

2 Timothy 1:10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel
1 Timothy 6:18-19 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

God has promised a series of future resurrections for all mankind. His purpose for those who come to repentance and commit to a life of obedience to His Commandments, is to join His Family and inherit eternal life.

Romans 2:6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath

This is why truth is so important. Not what we might have heard or been taught, but the truth which is found in the pages of our Bibles. An “immortal soul” is just part of a web of errors that’s been used to justify a false message.

1 Corinthians 15:22-26 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.

The real God-given truth is so much bigger and so much better than a soul ascending to heaven to watch life playout for your loved ones without you. Instead, we each have the opportunity to be reunited through the most beautiful and amazing events in a time soon to come.

swipe