ACST Appendix B: Human Mortality (part 2)

SDC11016

These writings were published previously in Afterlife website and/or From Death To Life magazine and/or Henceforth Theological Journal. They appear here as further evidence for the Advent Christian teaching that human beings and other creatures do not presently possess immortality.

 
Let My Soul Live

Let my soul live, and it shall praise You;

And let Your judgments help me. (Psalm

119:175 NKJV).

In a long acrostic poem which mostly praises the word of God, an unknown psalmist asks the LORD to keep him alive, so that he can continue praising him, and continue learning from him. It seems a simple request, and most commentators ignore it. Yet, it has a surprise for the modern Christian. When it is translated literally (as the NKJV does above), it suggests a possibility that popular evangelical Christianity has rejected: the possibility of a soul dying.

What? Did I hear you correctly? Is it possible for a soul to die? Many believe that souls are immortal. Yet this biblical poet does not seem to have gotten the memo. He does not simply say “Let me live” as several modern versions translate it.[1] Nor does he say “May I live” as another version puts it.[2] He is in danger of literal death, from who knows what, and describes that threat as the death of his soul.

Some are quick to say that the author could not possibly mean that he thought his soul could die. Figart, for example, states “…this is not saying that those who have died and are in heaven do not praise the Lord; rather, it simply means that, here on earth when a person dies, his soul leaves his body; thus there is no life in the dead body from which to praise the Lord. So David realized this and wanted to remain alive so he could praise Jehovah before men. ”[3] Likewise, Manton affirms “A man may praise God in Heaven; but from their bodies no service is performed for a long while in the other world; there is no such service there as here; as reducing the stray, instructing the ignorant, propagating godliness to others who want it, by our counsels and example.”[4] Both men suggest that what the psalmist really wanted was for his body to stay alive, because (as everybody knows) the soul of a believer can never die.

But the actual text has the psalmist stubbornly refusing to accept what everybody knows — that his soul’s immortality is a given. Long before the apostle Paul affirmed that God alone has immortality,[5] this Old Testament believer simply prays that his soul continue to live, so that he can continue to worship and learn. Unlike the later Greek philosophers who would suggest that death is an illusion, this Hebrew poet seems to think that death is quite real, and that it would entail that his praising and learning would stop, because his soul (his whole being, including his body) would cease to function. For this Hebrew poet, death is not the gateway to praise, but the interruption of praise. Death is not going to God, where he can get closer to God, but the absence of a relationship with God. He does not want to die and go to heaven, he wants to continue to live so that he can keep his link to heaven.

This psalmist is not alone in his view of the nature of death. Solomon said: “The living at least know they will die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward, nor are they remembered. Whatever they did in their lifetime — loving, hating, envying — is all long gone.”[6] He encouraged people to take advantage of their conscious lives, because “when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.”[7] And this psalmist would add “no praise, and no learning from the word.” Death is not continuing to live; it is an interruption in life.

dying souls

This is not the only place in the Old Testament where souls are said to die. Samson’s last words were not “Let me die with the Philistines” as every major English version translates it. What he actually said was tamut nafshi im-plistim (let my soul die with the Philistines).[8] Samson, like the psalmist, seemed to think that his death would be total.

When Moses commanded “anyone who kills a person” to remain outside the Israelite camp for seven days, his actual words were kol horeg nefesh (anyone who kills a soul).[9] Was Moses deluded? Is it that he merely did not have access to the right theological word-book? Hebrew has several words for body, and flesh. But Moses chose a word that indicated the whole person, the soul (nefesh). He had used that word when he described the creation of Adam. He said “The LORD God formed the man from the soil of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”[10] The words translated “living being” are nefesh xayyah – alive soul. Moses defined living people as alive souls, and so dead people would be dead souls. His theology is consistent. It just does not agree with the theology that many have been taught.

silent souls

The reason the psalmist did not want his soul to die was that “The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any who go down into silence.”[11] Indeed, in death there is no remembering or thanking God.[12] Souls are silenced, so that they cannot praise. They are not experiencing joy and life beyond the grave; they are in a kind-of holding pattern, a time of waiting. They are not floating around on the clouds, but unconscious in their tombs, awaiting the voice of Jesus, who will raise them to life again – either for permanent life, or permanent judgment:

“Do not marvel at this, for an hour is

coming when all who are in the tombs

will hear his voice and come out, those

who have done good to the resurrection

of life, and those who have done evil to

the resurrection of judgment”[13]

Paul described this intermediate state (between death and resurrection) as a sleep. He said that Jesus is the only one who has been raised from that sleep, but that believers await his return, so that we, too may be raised:

“But in fact Christ has been raised from

the dead, the firstfruits of those who

have fallen asleep. For as by a man came

death, by a man has come also the

resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam

all die, so also in Christ shall all be made

alive. But each in his own order: Christ

the firstfruits, then at his coming those

who belong to Christ”[14]

Popular theology has no place for that sleep. God’s word does. It places all dead souls in the grave, where they sleep until raised. Jesus told his disciples that a dead girl was sleeping.[15] Then he woke her soul up. He said that dead Lazarus was sleeping, and that he was going to go wake him up.[16] He did wake up Lazarus’ dead soul, just as he intends to wake all souls now dead. That is why the blessed hope is not floating away to heaven when we die. The blessed hope is the glorious appearing of or Saviour,[17] who has the keys of death and Hades, and can rescue our souls from death’s prison.[18] He can make our dead souls live again. The good news of the gospel is not that we have souls that will live forever. It is that we have a Saviour who will not let our souls die forever.

The Tree of Life

The tree of life appears first in scripture in the creation account. In addition to all other kinds of trees that are nice to look at, and nourishing, God makes two other trees: the tree of knowing good and evil (which God prohibits man from eating), and the tree of life (which God does not prohibit).[19] After Adam and Eve transgressed and ate of the tree of knowledge, God was true to his threat and made them mortal,[20] and also banished them from the Garden so that they would not have the opportunity to eat of the tree of life, and thus gain immortality in their unredeemed sinful state.[21]

The record in Genesis leaves some unanswered questions. Were Adam and Eve created immortal, only losing their immortality after they sinned? No, God’s warning was that if they ate of the tree they would “surely die.” This seems to indicate that they had the potential to become either mortal or immortal, depending upon their obedience or disobedience to God’s expressed prohibition. They also had the potential to become immortal in their innocent sate of creation had they merely chosen to eat of the tree of life instead of the prohibited tree. They were immortable: capable of becoming immortal. This means that human beings had actually two opportunities for immortality: escape becoming mortal by obeying God’s prohibition, or simply taking of the tree of life itself. This was not superfluous. It was merely our gracious God in action, giving his creatures more grace than they deserve.

But why mention the tree of life at all? After all, apparently no one ate from it in the Garden, and we are now banished from going back to Eden. Part of the answer is that, from then on, the tree of life becomes a metaphor for the rewards of righteous, faithful living.[22] Wise and righteous living yields a relationship with God and our neighbor that is as rewarding as returning to Eden.

The tree of life is also a promise of a literal return to Eden. The Prophet Ezekiel speaks of future trees in restored Israel that are watered by a river of life, and are both good for food and healing.[23] And in his Revelation, John holds forth the tree of life as a future reality for those who overcome.[24] These prophetic images speak of a future immortality for all the redeemed. They remind us that God has a plan for returning humanity to the garden paradise from which he has banished us.

There also seems to be a hint in Genesis of another tree of life that God will offer freely to all his creatures. Through the serpent’s deception, the woman took of the wrong tree and brought death to all who are in Adam.[25] But this same woman will give birth to a son who will do battle against the serpent, and will be bruised in the process.[26] The Apostles refer to Christ’s crucifixion by saying that he was hanged on a tree.[27] Paul says that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us- for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’”[28] It is as if God is offering us a second chance at the tree of life if we put our faith in the Redeemer who died on a tree.

So, Moses was not wasting words by telling his readers of a tree in the garden from which no one ate, and to which no one now has access. That tree of life is both the tragedy of humanity’s past and the glory of our future. It told of a potential for immortality that God offered from the very beginning of creation. It is a sad commentary on human nature that – like our ancestors – so many humans are so busy acquiring other things, they do not find time for the most important acquisition of all – eternal life.

That first opportunity was lost. It was restored through Christ, “who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”[29] The gospel is good news because it says that now immortality is available again. We have a second chance at the tree of life.

Defining Conditionalism

Some recent online discussions have centered around what is meant by the term “conditional immortality” or its synonym “conditionalism.” These are essentially anthropological terms. They describe the nature of humanity as the Bible represents it. They affirm that human beings have the potential to become immortal, but that immortality is not innate: it is not something we are born with.

Conditionalism in Genesis

The early chapters of Genesis prove to be very helpful as a guide to understanding human nature. They show that human beings are creatures, like the animals, but that human beings were intended to be more than that. They were created in God’s image and likeness, which implies a special authority from God and responsibility to him. God tested this responsibility in the Garden of Eden by planting two special trees in Eden: the tree of life (which, if eaten would have granted Adam and Eve immediate immortality), and the tree of knowing good and evil.

Of these two trees, only the latter was prohibited. The first humans were allowed to eat of all the other trees, including the tree of life. If our ancestors had simply made the correct decision, they would have remained alive forever, along with all their descendants.

Instead, they were deceived to believe that it was the other tree that actually held promise. Satan had told them “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). That statement was the truth, but it implied a lie: that the tree offered immunity from death. Instead “being like God” merely meant having experienced both good and evil. God had known both the good of his original creation and the evil of Satan’s rebellion. Taking of the tree of knowing good and evil would cause humans to experience evil personally – thus wreck the purity of Eden, and human intimacy with their creator.

God’s response to that sin led to a further consequence: human mortality. The persons of the Triune One speak among themselves and say …

“Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good

and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of

the tree of life and eat, and live forever-” therefore the

LORD God sent him out from the Garden of Eden to work

the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man,

and at the east of the Garden of Eden he placed the cherubim

and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way

to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:22-24)

Before the fall, human beings had the potential to become immortal. They had the potential to become something more than what they were. As a consequence of the rebellion in Eden, this opportunity was taken away.

God wanted human beings to be immortal. He still does. He wants to establish a relationship with us that will bring glory and joy to both parties forever. Yet God cannot endure unrighteousness forever. Until a solution can be found that will undo the Eden rebellion, God cannot grant immortality to human beings. He was thus forced by his own nature to banish us from paradise.

So, although intended for immortality, human beings are now reduced to the same nature as the animals God has placed us over. The ancient scientist Solomon recognized this:

“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”

(Ecclesiastes 3:18-20).

This is the bad news the Bible gives us, which serves as the backdrop for the good news of eternal life available through Christ.

Conditional Immortality

Conditionalists proclaim Christ, and his second coming as the time when God is going to grant immortality to the saved and undo the Edenic curse. But Advent Christians have also championed the truth of this bad news: that all humanity is mortal and subject to real death. We feel that it is dishonoring God’s word to say that humans are both mortal and immortal at the same time.[30] We also feel that it is inconsistent evangelism to claim that Jesus offers eternal life and then teach people that they already have eternal life.

So, instead of teaching people that immortality is innate (that is, that all human beings are born with it), we teach that it is conditional. God offers eternal life to those who put their faith in Christ: those are the conditions. One of the first post-apostolic writers to express conditionalism was Theophilus of Antioch:

“God did not create humanity as either mortal or immortal, but, …

with the capacity for them both. If humanity inclined towards

those things which relate to immortality by keeping the command-

ments of God, then it would receive immortality as a reward from

God… On the other hand, if humanity should incline towards those

things which relate to death by disobeying God, then humanity

would be the cause of its own death.” [31]

When a certain man came to Jesus once, asking “what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”[32] – Jesus did not challenge his theological inference that eternal life is something that must be obtained. If immortality were innate, then Jesus should have stopped the man and pointed that out. Instead, Jesus agreed with the man that he needed eternal life, and then challenged the man to follow him – that he might get what he was asking for.[33]

The Gospel is all about how God offers us what we do not have on the basis of his grace, through the atoning death of Christ. Christ’s death has met the conditions. Following Christ is the solution to the curse of Eden. A conditionalist is someone who does not trust in her own innate ability to live forever, but trusts in Christ’s completed work on the cross, and looks forward to the day when Christ will make her immortal.

Conferred Immortality

Conditionalists also take death seriously, and that leads to our special appreciation of the gift of immortality. We understand the awful consequences that are the result of sin entering God’s creation, and that makes us appreciate Christ all the more. When we read Romans 6:23, it makes perfect sense as it is: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” But if a person believes that immortality is not conferred as a gift, but is an innate possession, they have to supply some interpretation for Romans 6:23 to fit their view. It then reads “For the wages of sin is death (but only death of the body, because the real person is the soul and it cannot die), but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (except that eternal life is actually a right we have by birth, so Christ does not give it).”

William Newton Clarke complained that conditionalists “argue from the silence of scripture regarding the natural immortality of man, and from the uniform association of ‘eternal life’ with Christ.”[34] He was exactly right – although it is hardly reason for complaint. Scripture is silent on the natural immortality of humans because it rejects the notion. Eternal life is either conferred upon the faithful or it is innate by reason of creation. There is no logic that allows for both, or any scripture that proves both.

Future Immortality

Conditionalists have never argued against the concept of human immortality. We simply insist that that great gift will be given to humans at the appropriate time. It has not been the possession of all humans from birth. Instead, it will be given to some humans at the return of Christ. Speaking of that return, Paul says that it will happen “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:52-53 NIV).

That glorious day will be the beginning of “the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.”[35] The fact that raising the dead is first on Christ’s list when he returns should be an encouragement to us. It should enable us to face the death of our loved ones (or even our own eventual death) with courage, knowing that although death is real, it is only temporary.

Life Only In Christ

The doctrine of human mortality is Christocentric, not anthropocentric.[36] It reveals Christ as the giver of life, not just the one who can “get you to heaven.” John states the options bluntly: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”[37] The Bible is about Jesus Christ. The Old Testament pointed forward to him, the New Testament points back to him. Human mortality is the need which only Christ could meet. Paul says that God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”[38]

Over against this clear teaching from the Bible on human mortality is the persistent mistaken notion that humans are born with immortal souls or spirits that consciously survive the death of their bodies. This view sees the references to death in the scripture as usually referring to this physical death, and therefore irrelevant on the subject of the soul’s survival. The view thus confirms both mortality and immortality at the same time. Any scriptural evidence in favor of human mortality can immediately be dismissed as not pertinent, since it (in the innate immortality view) always refers to the material aspect of human existence, and not the spiritual.

Scriptures that Clash with the Innate Immortality Tradition

The innate immortality tradition reflects Greek dualism. It is a worldview that is read into scripture, rather than being a part of it. It has become embedded in Christianity the way many other non-biblical traditions have. By taking a closer look at doctrines taught in scripture, the clashes between those doctrines and the innate immortality tradition become more evident.

1 Timothy 6:16

In chapter 15 we noted that scripture teaches that God “alone has immortality” (1 Timothy 6:16). The innate immortality view denies this, although its proponents do exercise a great deal of verbal gymnastics to try to affirm it.[39] At issue, then, is not simply the doctrine of human nature, but the doctrine of God’s nature as well. To claim immortality for sinful humanity is to deny it as an exclusive attribute of God. But when the first humans sinned, God said that they “must not be allowed to … live forever.”[40] Their sin had not only affected their relationship with God (resulting in banishment from his presence in Eden), but it changed them. They had been immortable (capable of becoming immortal by eating of the tree of life). Now they were simply mortal.

Some argue that the term “immortality,” when it refers to God, has a different meaning than when it refers to all other beings. They argue that “the meaning of ‘immortality’ in the Bible largely depends on its context.”[41] They see this as adequate justification for ignoring the contradiction found in the traditional doctrine of the immortal soul, and affirming both the exclusive immortality of God and the universal immortality of humanity as dependent upon him. Conditionalists see this as double-speak. While it is true that all words depend on their context for meaning, there is nowhere in the context of 1 Timothy 6:16 that redefines the term or assumes a distinction between how it is used by Paul there, compared to how he or other biblical authors use it elsewhere.

Genesis 2:17

This is precisely what God (with tears in his eyes) warned Adam and Eve would happen if they disobey his Edenic prohibition. He said “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”[42] That phrase “you shall surely die” is a combination of two forms of the same verb. The word mot (tAm) is the infinitive absolute of the verb “to die” and refers to the state of mortality that was humanity’s fate after the rebellion in Eden. From the moment they ate of the tree, humanity became a dying race. The second word is the imperfect tense of the same verb. The word tamut (tWmT’) refers to the eventual and inevitable death that would come to each member of the race as a result of the fall. Together these two forms of a verb reflect a Hebrew idiom that accentuates the certainty of an action. Thus the translations render the phrase “you will surely die.” The innate immortality doctrine turns this into an empty threat since it claims that the real essence of a human person never dies.

Romans 5:12

Paul tells us that “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.”[43] Sin and death have been a matched set in human experience ever since that initial sin in Eden. It is not merely the body which sins, but the whole person. That is why we need a Savior, not just someone who can raise us from the dead. Christ is both. He can restore our inner beings as well as raise our bodies. Both have been affected by sin; the wages of that sin is death to both, and the gift of God is eternal life for both.[44]

John 3:16

The Bible speaks of a coming day of judgment when all those who are not redeemed by Christ’s blood will totally perish in the fires of Gehenna hell.[45] When the Bible speaks of believers being saved, it usually refers to this event. In other words, to perish is not simply to die. To perish is to utterly die. It refers to the ultimate, permanent death in Gehenna, not to the temporary death at the end of this life. So when Jesus told Nicodemus that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” he was speaking of the two ultimate fates of mankind. To perish is to be ultimately destroyed. To have eternal life is to escape that destruction. Many texts point out the same distinction.[46] The innate immortality doctrine blurs that distinction because it insists that no human being ultimately perishes. Thus all human beings ultimately have eternal life.

The innate immortality view distorts a crucial and essential doctrine of the Christian faith: the purpose of Christ’s death on the cross. According to the Bible, Christ’s death was to protect us from ultimate destruction, not to get our souls to heaven when our bodies die.

1 Corinthians 15:22-23

The Bible is also explicit on the issue of just when believers will gain the gift of immortality. It did not happen at our birth, and it will not happen at our death. Believers will be made alive at the return of Christ. Paul says “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” Paul compares two events in history. The first event was the fall of humanity in the garden of Eden. As a result of that event, human nature became a fatal condition. The second event is the return of Christ to this earth.

The analogy Paul uses to describe the resurrection is a crop harvest. Each resurrection is a stage in the harvest. Since Christ is the Firstfruits, he was resurrected first. This took place three days after his death. The second stage of the harvest includes “those who belong to Christ” when he comes. This is the believers’ resurrection. Paul does not speak of Christ restoring souls with their risen bodies. Instead he speaks of the whole person being “made alive.” This is when the promise of eternal life will be fulfilled for us.

The doctrine of innate immortality also subverts this plain teaching of scripture. According to that view, no human being ever dies, so none will ever need to be made alive. The concept of the resurrection takes a back seat to the more immediate idea of conscious survival of death. It makes the return of Christ less crucial, and rather anticlimactic.

Summary

The consequences of original sin in the Garden of Eden include the mortality of all human beings, which makes homo sapiens no different from the animals in terms of mortality and eventual death. This dark reality is the backdrop upon which the

brilliant light of eternal life offered by Christ emerges in scripture. In contrast, the tradition of innate immortality dilutes the teachings of scripture. Believing that one is already immortal by nature can make one less appreciative of the nature of God, the influence of sin, the purpose of Christ’s death on the cross, and the reason for his second coming.

Confusion in defining the term

Often in theological discourse, the same terms are used for different concepts, and sadly, this is the case for conditional immortality as well. John Stott, for example, defended the view described above, but did not call it conditional immortality. He defined conditional immortality as the view that “nobody survives death except those to whom God gives life.”[47] While that is technically accurate, it does not represent the teaching of conditionalism. In conditional immortality as described above, everyone will be resurrected and face judgment. No one will survive death apart from that resurrection.

Wayne Grudem asserts that “some versions of conditional immortality deny conscious punishment altogether, even for a brief time.”[48] The doctrine of conditional immortality as described in this article assumes both conscious punishment of the lost, and ultimate destruction of the lost.

The whole question of the final fate of the lost is not subsumed under the term conditionalism. The issue with conditionalism is whether there is anything immortal in human nature to suffer punishment for eternity. Conditionalists answer, no. We teach that death is real. The first death is real in that life ceases until the resurrection. The second death is real in that life ceases, and there is no longer any hope of resurrection.

While the second death will be preceded by a period of torment, it is the death which follows which is permanent. It is not the process of punishing which is perpetual (as if the word aionios was an adverb), but the event of punishment which is permanent (since aionios is an adjective). The Bible describes the fate of the lost as eternal punishment, not perpetual punishing.[49]

Millard Erickson uses the term “conditional immortality” to describe the state of Adam (and Eve) before the fall. Adam “was not inherently able to live forever; but he need not have died.”[50] Thus, he adds another use of the term which does not quite fit our definition. Erickson defines death as “the termination of human existence in the bodily or materialized state.”[51] He is free, then, to speak of Adam’s death as becoming certain at the fall, their “potential mortality” becoming actual.[52] Yet he still keeps the door open to Platonic dualism by drawing a sharp distinction between physical death and spiritual death. The second death is spiritual death made permanent. He does not explain why there must be a physical resurrection for that to happen.

Should we jettison the term?

Seeing that there is confusion on how the term is used, is this a case for jettisoning the term “conditional immortality” for a more precise one? Probably not. In most cases, those who disagree with us at least grant us audience so that we can explain exactly what we mean, in order to lessen any confusion. It is in the act of clarifying terms and defining meaning that we confront the text of Scripture, and that is precisely what theological debate was intended to accomplish. If, in the end, my opponent in religious dialog confronts the texts of scripture and yet still disagrees with my interpretation of them, we can still walk arm in arm as brothers.

If, for the sake of argument, we entertained the idea that the term “conditional immortality” is no longer useful as a theological instrument, what would take its place? Some prefer the term annihilationism. The church tradition that this author comes from has not chosen to adopt that term. Although we feel it accurately describes the fate of the lost, we are not comfortable with its emphasis. Conditional immortality reflects the “good news” side of the Biblical message. It speaks of the gift of eternal life which is available to all who meet the conditions of faith in Christ and repentance from sin.

It also points to the fact that Christ has met the conditions that make eternal life possible for his church. It is “our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light.”[53] Thus, the term is Christocentric. The ultimate question regarding one’s eternal destiny is not whether one has a “soul” but whether one has a Savior. It is not what you have done your eternal spirit but whether you have obeyed the Holy Spirit. As John put it, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”[54] Ultimately, eternal life is not going to depend on having a part of you that survives death. Eternal life is going to depend upon your relationship with God through Jesus Christ, his Son. There are eternal haves, and eternal have-nots. That difference is what conditionalism is all about.


[1] “Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me” (New International Version). “Let me live so I can praise you, and may your regulations help me” (New Living Translation). “Let me live that I may praise you, and let your ordinances help me.” (New Revised Standard Version).

[2] “May I live and praise you! May your regulations help me!” (New English Translation).

[3] Thomas O. Figart, Meaningful Meditations. (n.c.: XulonPress, 2004), 399.

[4] Thomas Manton, One Hundred and Ninety Sermons on the Hundred and Nineteenth Psalm, vol.3. (London: William Brown, 1845), 485.

[5] 1 Timothy 6:16-17.

[6] Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 NLT.

[7] Ecclesiastes 9:10 NLT.

[8] Judges 16:30.

[9] Numbers 31:19.

[10] Genesis 2:7 NET.

[11] Psalm 115:17 ESV.

[12] Psalm 6:5.

[13] John 5:28-29 ESV.

[14] 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 ESV.

[15] Mark 9:24.

[16] John 11:11.

[17] Titus 2:13.

[18] Revelation 1:18.

[19] Genesis 2:9.

[20] Genesis 2:17; 5:5.

[21] Genesis 3:22-24.

[22] Proverbs 3:13-18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4.

[23] Ezekiel 47:12.

[24] Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14, 19.

[25] Genesis 3:6, 19; Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:22.

[26] Genesis 3:15.

[27] Acts 5:30; 10:39.

[28] Galatians 3:13.

[29] 2 Timothy 1:10.

[30] William West explores this contradiction in Resurrection And Immortality (Xulon Press, 2006), 77.

[31] Theophilus of Antioch ad Autolycum (shortly after 180 AD) quoted in Alister E. McGrath, ed. The Christian Theology Reader (Malden Mass: Blackwell Publishing, 2007), 646.

[32] Matthew 19:16.

[33] Matthew 19:21.

[34] William Newton Clarke, An Outline of Christian Theology (BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2009), 452.

[35] Acts 3:21 NKJV.

[36] Viewing mortality as an anthropocentric issue places too much emphasis on humans as created rather than humans as redeemed. Conditionalists argue that viewing mortality as an anthropocentric issue distracts believers from seeing the connection between human need for resurrection life and the solution for that problem offered in the atonement.

[37] 1 John 5:12.

[38] 2 Timothy 1:9-10.

[39] Page 104.

[40] Genesis 3:22 NIV.

[41] Christopher W. Morgan, Robert A. Peterson, Hell Under Fire (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 206. These authors discredit the conditionalist argument for exclusive immortality of God because they are seeking to defend the traditional concept of hell as the perpetual torture of immortal human souls.

[42] Genesis 2:17.

[43] Romans 5:12 NLT.

[44] Romans 6:23.

[45] Malachi 4:1; Matthew 5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:33; Mark 9:43,45,47; Luke 12:5.

[46] See also John 4:14; 5:21; 10:28; 17:2.

[47] David L. Edwards with a Response from John Stott, Evangelical Essentials (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity, 1988), 316.

[48] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 1150 (footnote 12).

[49] Matthew 25:46.

[50] Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1985), 613.

[51] Erickson, 613.

[52] Erickson, 614.

[53] 2 Timothy 1:10 ESV.

[54] 1 John 5:12 ESV.

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