Immortality is conditional (1) by Edward Fudge

From today’s GraceEmail

A sister from an independent Christian church in Idaho writes: “You mentioned a book you co-authored on the subject of final punishment, your part being to present the biblical case for conditional immortality. What exactly do you mean by ‘conditional immortality?’ ”

* * *

“Immortality” means deathlessness, and anyone who is “immortal” is incapable of dying. According to the Bible, God “alone possesses immortality” inherently or in his own nature (1 Tim. 6:16). Human beings are not naturally “deathless” or “immortal.” We are mortal human creatures who owe our existence every moment to God who made us (Gen. 2:7; Acts 17:25, 28). We cannot survive death by ourselves. Nothing about us is death-proof. Our immortality is conditional on God who gives it.

Despite this grim and humbling reality, humankind has from earliest history tried to discover a means of immortality apart from God. The Egyptians embalmed their dead. Hindus taught reincarnation. Greek philosophers theorized that every human possesses a mortal body that houses an immortal or deathless “soul.” This notion did not come from Scripture or from God. It originated with the devil, and it was first foisted on humankind by the serpent that told them, “You shall not surely die,” directly contradicting the Creator’s warning that disobedience would lead to death.

During the second and third centuries after Jesus, certain converted Greek philosophers brought a form of this pagan notion into the church. Tertullian and others assumed that the soul cannot die, reasoned that it must therefore live forever somewhere, and concluded that the wicked will suffer everlasting conscious torment. When he encountered Jesus’ statement that God is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna (Matt. 10:28), Terullian followed his logic instead of his Lord and said that the lost will live forever in unending conscious torment.

Copyright 2010 by Edward Fudge. Permission hereby given to reproduce, reprint or forward this gracEmail, but only in its entirety, without change and without financial profit.

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