Conditional Immortality? — A Brief Summary
1. ONLY GOD IS IMMORTAL BY NATURE. IMMORTALITY IS A GIFT OF GOD TO CREATURES.
The Bible affirms that God alone has immortality as a present possession:
To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Tim. 1:17)
…who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. (1 Tim. 6:16).
The "glory of the immortal God" is contrasted with that of "mortal man:"
... and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Rom. 1:23).
For humanity, immortality is still a prize to be sought after:
... to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; (Rom. 2:7).
It will be granted only to "those who are considered worthy:"
And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. (Luke 20:34-36),
To the believer in Christ alone, and then only when Jesus returns:
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; 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. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:42-54).
2. A "SOUL" IS SOMETHING WE ARE, NOT SOMETHING WE HAVE.
Meanwhile, human beings are creatures of dust:
… then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Gen. 2:7)
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19).
Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes(Gen. 18:27)
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. ( Ps. 103:14).
We do not have souls, we are "living souls" (nephesh) (Gen. 2:7), as are the animals:
"And God created great whales, and every living creature (nephesh, psuche) that moves, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good" (Gen. 1:21). [According to the first occurrences of the word for "soul" in the entire Bible, animals are "souls." The same Hebrew phrase for "living soul" is also found in vs. 20.]
"And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature (nephesh, psuche) after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so" (Gen. 1:24). [According to this second occurrence of the word for "soul" in the Bible, animals are "souls."]
"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 (nephesh, psuche)" (Gen. 2:7). [He became a "soul" rather than received a "soul."]
"Whatsoever Adam called every living creature (nephesh, psuche), that was the name thereof" (Gen. 2:19). [Animals are "souls."]
"But flesh with the life (nephesh, psuche) thereof, which is the blood thereof, you shall not eat. And surely your blood of your lives (nephesh, psuche) will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life (nephesh, psuche) of man" (Gen. 9:4, 5). [Either the "soul" is in the blood, or the blood is the "soul."]
"And with every living creature (nephesh, psuche) that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth" (Gen. 9:10). [Animals are "souls."]
"And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature (nephesh, psuche) that is with you, for perpetual generations" (Gen. 9:12). [Animals are "souls."]
"And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature (nephesh, psuche) of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature (nephesh, psuche) of all flesh that is upon the earth" (Gen. 9:15, 16). [Animals are "souls."]
3. SPIRIT IS THE PRINCIPLE OF LIFE GIVEN TO BOTH HUMANS AND ANIMALS BY GOD.
The spirit of God inbreathed is what gives life; the outgoing of the spirit returning to God who gave it, is death for human and animal alike:
And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so (Genesis 1:30)
For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die (Genesis 6:17)
They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life (Genesis 7:15)
Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died (Genesis 7:22).
If he should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust (Job 34:14-15) .
When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground (Psa. 104:29-30).
I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? (Eccl. 3:18-21)
…and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Eccl. 12:7).
4. IN DEATH ALL OF US DIES, NOT JUST PART OF US.
People are buried, not bodies. Abraham was buried:
Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people (Gen. 25:8).
…the field that Abraham purchased from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried, with Sarah his wife (Gen. 25:10) .
As were David,
Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David (1 Kgs. 2:10).
Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him (Acts 8:2).
So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there (John 19:42).
The risen Christ told Mary, "I have not yet returned to the Father" (John 20:17). The committal of his spirit (Luke 23:46) was not his return to the Father. The spirit apart from the body is not the "real" you! At death the real you returns to the dust (Reread Gen. 3:19!).
5. IN DEATH THERE IS NO CONSCIOUSNESS.
In the state of death there is no remembering,
For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? (Ps. 6:5)
The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence (Psalm 115:17).
For Sheol does not thank you;death does not praise you; those who go down to the pit do not hope for your faithfulness (Is. 38:18);
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish(Ps. 146:4)
But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion (Eccl. 9:4);
No hoping (Eccl. 9:4, Is. 38:18 see above);
The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence (Ps. 115:17).
The dead, good and bad alike, are said to "sleep";
At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Dan. 12:1-2);
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
Wicked Jeroboam slept with his father's,
And the time that Jeroboam reigned was twenty-two years. And he slept with his fathers, and Nadab his son reigned in his place (1 Kgs 14:20).
As did evil Ahab
So Ahab slept with his fathers, and Ahaziah his son reigned in his place (1 Kgs 22:40).
Faithful Job expected to "sleep in the dust,"
Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? For now I shall lie in the earth (sleep in the dust); you will seek me, but I shall not be. (Job 7:21).
Jesus’ friend Lazarus fell asleep
After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” (John 11:11)
As did the martyr, Stephen,
And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:60).
6. THE ONLY HOPE OF THE DEAD IS PERSONAL RESURRECTION TO LIFE.
The Bible puts forward no hope other than that of resurrection. Isaiah says,
"Your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust; wake up and shout for joy." (Is. 26:19).
Daniel too makes this point:
"Many who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake" (Dan. 12:2).
Paul too, puts forth the resurrection to eternal life as the only hope for the believer, (1 Cor. 15; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; see above).
7. THE RESURRECTION OF THE UNSAVED WILL BE TO JUDGEMENT AND DESTRUCTION.
The wicked will be raised, judged and condemned;
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt (Dan. 12:2).
…and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment (John 5:29).
…having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust (Acts 24:15).
To die a "second death,"
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death’ (Rev. 2:11).
Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14).
They will "consume away"; they will "be cut off"; they will "perish"; "be burned up" and "be no more". They "will be ashes under the soles of your feet" (Mal. 4:1, 3). The "undying worm" and "unquenchable fire" consume their corpses (Is. 66:24 c.f. Mark 9:48).
8. THE NEW ORDER OF CREATION WILL CONTAIN NO REMNANT OF SIN OR WICKEDNESS.
Ultimately, heaven and earth will be made new;
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind (Isa. 65:17).
For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain (Isa. 66:22).
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God ( Rom. 8:19-21).
But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Pet. 3:13).
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel's measurement. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass. And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life (Rev. 21).
"The earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord"
But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord (Num. 14:21).
They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Isa. 11:9).
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Hab. 2:14).
And "God will be all in all."
When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28).
There will be no corner of this universe where sinners exist forever in rebellion against him!
Conditional Immortality takes Scripture at face value: life means life; death means death. This affects how we understand the atonement, sin and its penalty, human nature, death, resurrection, and life in immortality. It puts the hope of the Second Coming and the Kingdom of God into proper perspective: at centre stage. It makes Judgment Day, the climax of history. It affirms the reality of "hell" without impugning God’s character. It affirms God’s final victory over sin and evil. "Life Only In Christ" gives full honour to Christ as "the resurrection and the life"
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live (John 11:25). Amen!