ETERNAL AND IMMORTAL LIFE POPULAR CONCEPTS VERSUS BIBLICAL REALITY
Many people believe there is life after physical death. It seems that no one really wants to believe that when a person dies, they are truly dead. During many funerals, people refer to the deceased as having 'passed away' or 'passed on'. Not many people want to believe that a person ceases to exist as a conscious living being at death.
Almost all religions of the world teach that humans and spirit-beings have eternal life and immortal consciousness or life in one form or another. But is this true? Do humans or spirit-beings have an eternal and immortal existence?
Because the subject of eternal life and immortality and how to obtain them is the most important topic in the Bible, it is vital for everyone who seeks these qualities of life to understand what God's word has to say on the subject. It is obvious by the fact of physical death that humans are not immortal, but mortal in the flesh and subject to death and decay.
This study examines the scriptures to determine what eternal life and immortality are, who has them, and how they can be obtained.
THE SOVEREIGN GOD
Before one can begin to understand the subject of eternal life and immortality, one must understand who controls eternity and immortality and what constitutes being eternal and immortal.
"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen" (1.Tim.1:17 KJV).
In Paul's acknowledgment of the majesty of God, he reveals that the God he refers to is the king. Here, the English word 'king' is translated from the Greek word 'baslou', which conveys the sense of one who is the foundation of power ( i.e., the sovereign authority).
Paul also says that this sovereign God is eternal, immortal, invisible, and must be given honor and glory forever. In this verse, the English word 'eternal' is a translation of the Greek word 'aion', which means 'ages' (i.e., perpetuity or eternal). And the English word 'immortal' is a translation of the Greek word 'aphthartos', which means 'will not decay', 'continuance of life', or 'ever-living'.
The God Paul refers to in this verse is God the Father, the Sovereign God, who has authority and control over all that exists and over all that is eternal or immortal.
As Paul continues to instruct Timothy he says,
"I charge you before God [God the Father] who makes all things alive, and before Christ Jesus, who gave a good witness for God to Pontius Pilate, that, you keep the commandment, spotless and blameless, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; Who in his own time will reveal the blessed and only potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords; the only One who has immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach to; whom no man has seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen" (1.Tim.6:13-16 Para.).
Verses 13 through 16 also show that God the Father is sovereign over all things including Jesus Christ and the qualities of life defined as eternal and immortal.
Verse 13 reveals that there is a God who has the power to give life to all things and that this God is someone other than Jesus Christ.
Verses 14 and 15 show that it is Jesus Christ who reveals the Sovereign God who is "the only potentate, King of kings and Lord of lords." Although Jesus Christ is also called the King of kings and Lord of lords, he is never called the only potentate. In these verses, the English word, 'potentate' is a translation from the Greek word 'dunastes' and means 'one of great authority'.
Jesus was to reveal the one with great authority. And the only being who is greater than Jesus is God the Father. Jesus refers to God the Father as the sovereign over all things in heaven and earth:
"You have heard how I said to you, I go away, and come again to you. If you loved me, you would rejoice, because I said I go to the Father: for my Father is greater than I" (Jn.14:28 KJV).
"And the Father himself, which has sent me, has borne witness of me. You have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape" (Jn.5:37 KJV).
In verse 16 Paul also reveals that the Sovereign God (God the Father) who is the only potentate, and King of kings and Lord of lords, has all authority and control over immortality. The English word, 'has' in verse 16 is a translation of the Greek word 'eho', which means 'to hold', 'to posses' or 'to own'. Moreover, the English word 'immortality' in verse 16 is a translation of the Greek word 'athanasia'; which means 'deathlessness', 'never dying', 'a continuance of life.'
No Man has Seen the Sovereign God
"No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him" (Jn.1:18 KJV).
Here, John cannot be referring to the Mighty One of the ancient Israel, because men did see, hear, and speak to him face to face; John is speaking of the Sovereign God—God the Father. See our study paper about the identity of God and the God family.
It is clear from what Paul says in 1.Timothy 1:17 and 6:13-16 that God the Father is not only eternal and immortal, but also he has sovereign authority and control over the conditions of existence defined as eternal life and immortality. The following are qualities of the Sovereign God to whom Paul refers:
What are Eternal Life and Immortality?
Eternal life is a continuance of life that is sustained by God the Father and is conditional based on obedience to God and his law. Immortal life is life that springs forth from itself; it is not dependent on any other source to sustain it because it is self-sustaining.
Who Controls Life and Death?
This study will show that God the Father has reserved to himself the power to destroy spirits-beings as well as humans who violate his principles, precepts, and laws. The following scriptures show beyond a doubt that God the Father has absolute control over life and death:
"See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever" (Deut.32:39-40 KJV).
"The Lord kills, and makes alive: he brings down to the grave, and brings up" (1.Sam.2:6 KJV).
"And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he tore his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man does send to me to recover a man of his leprosy?" (2.Kg.5:7 KJV).
"And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt.10:28 KJV). All power over life and death belongs to God.
Although the Creator God who became Jesus Christ had authority and control over all life, God the Father has absolute control over all life:
"For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it" (Jn.5:21 NIV).
The God Who Cast Off Immortality
The apostle John reveals that Jesus as the Creator God cast off his immortality in order to become human and experience life and death as a human:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shined in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. . .He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. . . And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth" (Jn.1:1-14 KJV). See also Matt. chps.1-4.
Despite the many scriptures that speak of Jesus being a member of the God family, many people still feel that he was only a human being who did not pre-exist. John records Jesus telling the Jews of his pre-existence:
"Jesus said to them, (AMEN AMEN LEGO HUMON PRIM ABRAHAM GINO-MAI EGO EIMI [I am]) Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I AM" (Jn.8:58 KJV).
Jesus told these Jews that he had pre-dated and existed before Abraham, which meant that he was the Creator God of Abraham. This angered the Jews so much that they immediately tried to kill him for speaking what they considered to be blasphemy.
"I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father" (Jn.16:28; 3:13 KJV).
Here, Jesus says that he came from the Father into the world AGAIN. What did Jesus mean by 'again'? If we understand that Jesus was the Creator God (Jn.1:1-12; Heb.1:1-3), this statement will not be a mystery. The word 'again' is translated from the Greek word 'palin', which means 'once more', 'repetition', or 'again.' As the Creator and the God of ancient Israel, he came to earth many times. Remember, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and many others talked, ate, and fellow-shipped face to face with the Creator.
"And now, O Father, glorify you me with your own self with the glory which I had with you before the world was" (Jn.17:5 KJV). See Jn.8:38-59; 17:24.
Clearly as the Creator God, Jesus had existed before his creation of humanity. Moreover, he set aside his position as second in authority in the God family to become a human.
Jesus, The God Who Died
In the first chapter of Revelation, the apostle John records his encounter with Jesus Christ who says he is the God Alpha and Omega (Rev.1:8).
"And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying to me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death" (Rev.1:17-18 KJV). See also Rom.6:8-10, Acts 2:24-32; 3:15,26.
The Greek interlinear Bible translates the phrase 'was dead', in verse 18, as 'I became dead'. The Greek word used for 'dead' here is 'corpse'. The 'Alpha and Omega' says he was a dead body, but is now alive forever. Despite the fact that this statement says that Jesus was totally dead, some still believe the totality of Jesus did not really die.
"And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These things says the first and the last: who became dead [was a corpse], and lived" (Rev.2:8 Para.). Notice again that the Alpha and Omega (the Savior) says that he was totally dead at one time.
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (Heb.2:9 KJV).
"Your attitude should be the kind that was shown to us by Jesus Christ, who, though he was God, did not think it was wrong to be as the Sovereign God. Jesus did not cling to his rights as God, but laid aside his power and glory, taking on the form of a man: And humbled himself even further, by allowing himself to unjustly be put to death as a criminal on the cross" (Phil.2:5-8 Para.).
Jesus Christ, the Creator of all things (Jn.1:1-3), was an immortal spirit-being that inherently possessed the highest form of existence: life that springs forth from itself, never dying or decaying. A being who was not subject to death emptied himself of his glory, power, and immortality to become a mortal man. Then, he, allowed his creation to murder him. Not only did this immortal being voluntarily give up his life but also he died an agonizing physical death and completely ceased to exist as a living entity for a short time. See Lk.24:1-7.
"Paul an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead" (Gal.1:1 KJV). See also Acts 4:10, 5:30, 10:40; 13:30.
Jesus was completely dead; he ceased to exist. All that remained of him was the spirit and physical records of his existence. Even these could have been completely destroyed and erased, if the Father had willed it (Matt.10:28; Lk.12:4-5). It is important to understand that Jesus would have remained dead forever—never to live again—if his Father had not resurrected him from the dead.
It is also important to understand the enormity of what had taken place during Jesus' life and at his death. During this time, God the Father was the only eternal and immortal being in existence.
CAN SPIRIT-BEINGS DIE?
The Bible says that God the Father and Jesus Christ are immortal and the Father controls who is given eternal life and immortality. Presently the only immortal spirit-beings are God the Father and Jesus Christ. Although many people believe that all spirit-beings are immortal because they are composed of spirit, this is not true. As Jesus explained the rewards of a righteous life to his disciples, he also explained the punishment that will be given those who refuse to live righteously after they are called to salvation:
"Then shall he say also to them on the left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt.25:41 KJV).
Why is a fire prepared for Satan and the evil spirits under his control? It makes no sense to prepare a fire to cast evil spirits into unless they can be harmed by this fire.
Angelic Beings are Eternal, not Immortal
Many assume that angels have immortal life and cannot die because of the following statement Jesus made about those accounted worthy of eternal life not being subject to death and being equal to the angels:
"And Jesus answering them said, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, do not marry, nor are given in marriage: Nor can they die any more: for they are equal to the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection" (Lk.20:34-36 Para.).
In verses 34 and 35, Jesus is only answering the Sadducees' question of marital status in the Kingdom of God; he is not addressing the question of eternal life or immortality. He explains that marriage is only for humans and is not necessary in the spirit world. Angels are created beings, which do not procreate as humans do. Likewise, when the children of God are transformed into spirit-beings, they will neither marry or procreate.
Verse 36 does not say angelic beings are immortal. It just says that the resurrected saints will be in a condition similar to the angels. However, unlike the angels who have eternal life which can be destroyed, people who participate in the first resurrection are given immortal life as sons of God. Because these children of God are immortal they have life that springs forth from itself, which never dies or decays and is not dependent on any other source to sustain it; therefore, they cannot die (1.Tim.1:17, 6:12-16, Heb.2:9:10; 1.Cor.15:50-56).
Angels are not immortal spirit-beings, they are eternal beings, which have their life sustained by the power of God. Eternal life can be terminated, which is documented by the many scriptures that show the destruction of evil spirits.
Notice how Mark relates this account:
"For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven" (Mk.12:25 KJV).
The angels Jesus refers to in answering the Sadducees, are the righteous angels in heaven. These spirit-beings do not die because they have not committed anything worthy of death. However, the rebellious angels have disobeyed God and will be punished for their disobedience.
Spirit-beings Can Die
Can spiritual beings die? Yes, spirit-beings are subject to death under certain conditions. God the Father has ultimate power and authority over all that he has caused to be created, including evil spirits. However, evil spirits want us to believe that they are immortal beings that will live forever. Nevertheless, they are not immortal; they are only eternal.
While explaining the necessity for a child of God to have faith with works, the apostle James makes an interesting statement about evil spirits and their fear of God:
"What does it profit, my brethren, though a man says he has faith, and has not works? Can faith save him? [Obviously not!] If a brother or sister is naked and destitute not having daily food, and one of you says to them, depart in peace, be warmed and filled, and does not give them the things which are needful to the body. What does it profit? Therefore, faith, without works, is dead, being alone. Yes, man may say, You have faith, and I have works: show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble" (Jms.2:14-19 KJV Para.).
What is it that evil spirits know about God that would make them tremble in fear? This question is answered in Mark's account of Jesus meeting a man in a synagogue who was possessed with a demon:
"And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with you, you Jesus of Nazareth? are you come to destroy us? I know you, you are the Holy One of God" (Mk.1:23-24 KJV; Lk.4:33-35).
In verse 24, the English word 'destroy' is a translation of the Greek word 'appolumi', which means 'to destroy fully', 'complete destruction', 'to perish', or 'to die'. This same word is used many times to describe the utter destruction of individuals and places (Matt.10:28, 12:14, 21:41; Lk.17:29). All of these examples of the word 'apollumi' are used to convey utter or complete destruction. Both the Hebrew and the Greek words for 'destroy' mean 'the destruction and cessation of existence'.
The question the demon asks is important because it tells us three essential facts about evil spirits:
"And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season" (Rev.20:1-3 KJV). See also Isa.24:21-22.
At the beginning of the millennium, this powerful evil being will be bound and held in a prison for a thousand years, after which he will be released for a short time. But what will happen to him after his release? Will he be allowed to continue his existence or will he be destroyed?
"When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Rev.20:7-10 NIV).
If this translation of verse 10 is taken at face value, it seems to say that Satan will be cast into a lake of fire to be tortured for eternity. But, does the phrase 'for ever and ever' mean an eternity in the original Greek language?
For Ever and Ever
The English phrase 'for ever and ever' in verse 10 is a gross mis-translation of the original Greek phrase 'eis tous aeonas ton aionon', which means, 'to the ages of the ages'.
A more correct translation of verse 10 is as follows:
"And the devil who deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and false prophet were. And shall be tormented day and night until the age of ages."
Satan will not endure everlasting punishing; he will have his existence terminated; he will cease to exist forever. The age spoken of in verse 10 is the termination of an age. It is the time when the existence of physical humans on earth will end. Moreover, it is a time when a new age will begin and the mystery of what God is doing here on earth will be revealed. See our study about the Festival of the Eighth Day.
Satan Will Die
After Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit, the Creator God gave a prophecy about the termination of Satan's existence:
"And I will put enmity [separation] between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (Gen.3:15 KJV). Note, the woman's seed is a reference to Christ.
The Hebrew word for 'bruise' is 'shoof', which means 'to crush' or 'strike at'. Because Satan is referred to as a serpent, it makes sense that Satan is the serpent that would try to destroy the Savior.
Almost all Bible scholars agree that this verse is speaking about the Savior who would come and triumph over Satan. Satan would strike at the heel and damage it a little bit. But, Christ will crush the head of Satan; thereby, he will destroy him.
"And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen" (Rom.16:20 KJV).
The Greek word 'suntribo' translated as 'bruise' in verse 20 means 'to crush' or 'to completely shatter.' In other words, it means 'to destroy'.
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;" (Heb.2:14 KJV). See also 2.Thes.2:8.
In verse 14, the English word 'destroy' is a translation of the Greek word 'katargeo', which comes from the root 'argeo', which means 'to render entirely useless.' It can also mean' to abolish', 'to cease', 'to vanish away', or 'to utterly destroy'. Christ will utterly destroy Satan.
There is nothing in the Greek word 'katargeo' that indicates anything other than destruction; it does not show that Satan will continue to live. Indeed, it indicates he will be utterly destroyed. Verse 14 also shows that Jesus has the power to destroy Satan.
Satan the Lawbreaker
"You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it" (Jn.8:44 KJV).
Satan and other evil spirits were cast out of the Kingdom of God because of their rebellion (Rev.12:1-9). They are against the law of God and will not conform to it willingly. Moreover, they willfully break the laws of God and obey only what God imposes upon them by force.
A Covering Cherub Will Die
Ezekiel chapter 28 contains the prophecy about the physical king of Tyrus and the destruction of the evil cherub who possessed the king.
"Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say to him, Thus says the Lord God; You seal up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. You have been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of your tabrets and of your pipes was prepared in you in the day that you were created. You are the anointed cherub that covers; . . ." (Ezk.28:12-14 KJV).
Verses 13-14 do not describe the physical King of Tyrus; they describe someone completely different. The only kind of being that could fit this description has to be from the spirit realm of existence. These verses show the magnificence and beauty of a powerful spirit-being who was created to hold a powerful position within the Kingdom of God.
"And I have set you so: you were upon the holy mountain of God; you have walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created, till iniquity [lawlessness] was found in you. By the multitude of your merchandise they have filled the midst of you with violence, and you have sinned: therefore I will cast you as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire" (Ezk.28:14-16 KJV).
The English word 'destroy' in verse 16 is a translation from the Greek word 'abad', which is translated 57 times in the Old Testament as 'destroyed', 79 times as 'perished', and 36 times as 'to destroy' or 'to perish.' The word 'abad', as used in Ezekiel 28, cannot mean anything other than total destruction. These scriptures prove beyond doubt that this powerful spirit-being will have his life terminated and will cease to exist.
"Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty, you have corrupted your wisdom by reason of your brightness: I will cast you to the ground, I will lay you before kings, that they may behold you. You have defiled your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities, by the iniquity of your traffic; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of you, it shall devour you, and I will bring you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold you. All they that know you among the people shall be astonished at you: you shall be a terror, and never shall you be any more" (Ezk.28:17-19 KJV). (A more correct translation is, "You shall never be a terror anymore").
The fire that will come from within this powerful spirit-being will consume him; he will be destroyed and turned to ashes. The judgment and punishment for this spirit-being has already been made - his fate is sealed. He will be destroyed by fire for his rebellion. Remember, the penalty for committing willful sin is death (Rom.6:23).
It is important to understand that the Lake of Fire in which evil spirits and humans will be cast is a physical place that burns with physical fire. Because both evil spirits and people will be destroyed by the same physical fire (Matt.25:40-41; Rev.20:7-10) and turned to physical ashes that will be trodden under the feet of the righteous (Mal.4:1-3), it seems likely that God will change both evil spirits and people into physical beings before they are destroyed by this fire.
ARE HUMANS IMMORTAL?
The realty of death is one of the most terrifying thoughts that can come to the human mind. It is so frightening and distasteful that most people try to avoid talking or thinking about it. Life is our most precious possession, but no matter what we do or how hard we try to preserve it, the inevitable will happen—we will eventually die.
At the Beginning
At the very beginning of human history, God warned the first man that if he disobeyed his instructions he would die:
"And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it, for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die" (Gen.2:15-17 KJV).
Satan Enters the Garden
"And the serpent [Satan] was cunning above every animal of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, Is it true that God has said, You shall not eat from any tree of the garden? And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the trees of the garden, but the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it nor touch it, lest you die" (Gen.3:2-3 Para.).
Satan who is a master of deception questioned Eve to see if she understood what God had said regarding the trees of the garden and he discovered that she did understand that disobedience would cause her death.
The Big Lie
"And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not really die" (Gen.3:4 Para.).
The first humans believed this lie; they believed that they were immortal and could not die. However, they were not immortal; they did die. Throughout human history the vast majority of their descendants have believed this same lie, and many will face the final death because they preferred to believe a lie instead of the truth.
The scriptures show beyond a shadow of a doubt that, when wicked individuals are punished with death, they cease to exist from all dimensions of God's creation. Death is the absence of life; it is not existence in another form.
The Spirit Returns to God
"Then shall the dust [the human body] return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return to God who gave it" (Ecc.12:7 KJV).
"For that which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts; even one thing befalls them: as the one dies, so dies the other; yes, they have all one breath; so that a man has no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are of the dust, and will turn to dust again. Who knows the spirit of man that goes upward, and the spirit of the beast that goes downward to the earth?" (Ecc.3:29-21 Para.).
Many have concluded from these scriptures that the human spirit is immortal because it returns to God. However, just because the human spirit returns to God does not mean that humans are immortal. The scriptures clearly show that only the righteous will possess immortality in the Kingdom of God (Matt.25:31-34, Jn.3:16,36; 1.Jn.5:11-12) and the unrighteous will be destroyed because of their wickedness (Matt.25:41-46; Mal.4:1-3).
God Can Destroy the Spirit in Man
The apostle Paul was inspired to speak of the temporary condition of the flesh and the hope of the continuance of life as a spirit-being:
"Therefore we do not faint, but if indeed our outward man is being decayed, yet our inward man is being renewed day by day—for the lightness of our present affliction works out for us a far more excellent eternal weight of glory; we are not considering the things seen, but the things not being seen; for the things seen are not lasting, but the things not seen are everlasting" (2.Cor.4:16-18 Para.).
Although there is hope of eternal and immortal life in the spiritual realm, the reality is that the spirit can be destroyed if a person is incorrigibly wicked and does not repent of their sin.
Jesus says, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt.10:28 KJV). See Gen.6:1-7; Lk.12:4-5.
The Greek word for 'body' here is 'soma', which means 'a physical human/animal 'body' or 'corpse'. The word for 'soul' is 'psuche', which means 'breath', 'life', or 'mind'. Here, there are two distinct elements of physical and non-physical human life and both elements can be completely destroyed by God. There is nothing in either of these two words that indicates anything immortal.
The Greek word for 'destroy' is 'apollumi' which means 'destroy fully', 'to kill, 'to perish', 'to completely do away with', or 'to die'. The word 'appolumi' is used many times to describe the utter destruction of individuals and places (see Matt.12:14, 21:41; Lk. 17:29). In every context where 'appolumi' is found in the New Testament, it means to completely destroy and it is used to convey utter and complete destruction.
There is no doubt as to the meaning of the words used in Matthew 10:28. The point is clear that men only have the power to kill the body, but God has the power to completely destroy all aspects of his human creation.
Unrepentant Sinners Die
"Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins, it shall die" (Ezk.18:4 KJV) See also verse 20.
The English word, 'soul' in verse 4 is a translation from the Hebrew word 'nephesh', which means 'a breathing creature or animal', 'vitality', 'beast', 'body', or 'breath'. There is absolutely nothing in the word 'nephesh' that indicates anything other than physical life, whether human or animal. And there is nothing throughout the entire Bible that indicates humans are immortal. 'Nephesh' literally means 'a state of being alive.'
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom.6:23 KJV).
"Brothers, if anyone among you goes astray from the truth, and anyone turns him back, know that the one turning a sinner from the error of his way will save the soul from death" (Jms.5:19-20 Para.).
"Whosoever hates his brother is a murderer: and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (1.Jn.3:15 KJV).
Sin is defined as the violation of the physical and spiritual law of God; sin is lawlessness (Rom.14:23; 1.Jn.3:4; 5:17; Jms.4:17). The violation of God's law requires the death penalty (Rom.6:23) for the incorrigible, unrepentant lawbreaker.
The Finality of Death
"For, behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yes, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch." . . . "And you shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, says the Lord of hosts" (Mal.4:1;3 KJV).
Malachi does not say whether these wicked individuals are evil spirits or humans. What is clear from many other scriptures is that there is a time in the future when both evil spirits and humans who oppose God will be destroyed in a lake of fire, and that those who are destroyed by fire will never live again. See our study paper about the resurrection to the second death.
"But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Rev.21:8 KJV). See also Rev.20:12-15; Heb.9:27).
The destruction of wicked humans will be accomplished in the same manner as the destruction of evil spirits; they will be consumed by fire.
Humans are Mortal
Regardless of what people believe or want to believe about the spirit in man, the evidence from the Bible shows that humans are mortal; they do not possess immortality in any way, shape, or form. Notice what the apostle Paul says about the endeavor to obtain eternal life and immortality:
"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereto you were also called, and have professed a good profession before many witnesses" (1.Tim.6:12 KJV). See also verse 19.
"To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life:" (Rom.2:7 KJV). See also Matt.19:16-17; Lk.10:25-27;18:18-20.
"Behold I show 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory" (1.Cor.15:51-54 KJV). See also 1.Cor.15:26, 2.Tim.1:9-10, 2.Pet.1:4; Rev.20:6; 21:1-4.
If humans already possess immortality, these scriptures would make no sense. Why must a person continue to strive for eternal life and immortality if they already have it? It is apparent from what Paul says that eternal life and immortality is only guaranteed if a person lives a righteous lifestyle. It is also obvious from what Paul says that those who are called to the first resurrection must be changed into immortal beings in order to continue life in the spiritual dimension:
"And if the spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his spirit, who [which] lives in you" (Rom.8:11 NIV). See also Job 4:17; Rom.6:12.
There is nothing throughout the entire Bible that shows humans have an eternal or immortal spirit. In fact, the scriptures show just the opposite; they clearly show human life as a temporary condition. See 2.Cor.4:17-18.
Although many would like to believe that they will gain immortality by virtue of being human or by belonging to one religious organization or another, this is not what the word of God says.
God says that he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked:
"Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn you, turn you from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?" (Ezk.33:11 KJV). Please read the entire 33rd chapter of Ezekiel to see the concern God has for Israel, and the finality of the of the punishment for being wicked. See also Ezk. 18:20-32; 18:27; 2.Pet.2:1-22; 1.Cor.6:9.
All wicked individuals, whether humans or evil spirits, will be punished for their wickedness and will eventually be eliminated from the Father's realm of existence. The scriptures clearly show that when a human or an evil spirit is punished with death in the Lake of Fire, their life will be terminated, and all traces of their existence will be erased; they will totally cease to exist (Mal.4:1).
Eternal and immortal life represent the highest form of existence. This is the kind of life that God the Father offers to those he calls to participate in the first resurrection. He is offering people eternal life and immortality as sons of his in his kingdom and family.
Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life , and that they might have it more abundantly" (Jn.10:10 KJV).
No form of existence can be more abundant and filled with joy than eternal and immortal life on the divine spiritual plane of existence in the Family and Kingdom of God (see 1.Cor.2:9). What gift could be greater than to have immortal life, which springs forth from itself and does not depend on any other source to sustain it because it is self sustaining?
"Who has saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death, and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:" (2.Tim.1:9-10 KJV). See also 1.Jn.2:25.
Concerning eternal and immortal life, the choices for anyone called to salvation today are the same as those called before and during the Old Covenant with ancient Israel. Anyone who is called to salvation today and chooses to live a righteous life will be rewarded with eternal and immortal life. However, those who refuse to keep their agreement with God will be punished with a death from which there is no return. The Creator God who became Jesus Christ had these choices summarized and recorded so that there would be no doubt as to what he was offering for righteousness:
Deuteronomy 30:15-19 KJV
"See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command you this day to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that you may live and multiply: and the Lord your God shall bless you in the land where you go to possess it" (vs.15-16).
"But if your heart turn away, so that you will not hear, but shall be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce to you this day, that you shall surely perish, and that you shall not prolong your days upon the land, where you pass over Jordan to go to possess it" (vs.17-18).
"I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live:" (v19).
It is God the Father and Jesus Christ's earnest desire that his chosen people choose life.