Looking back now I can see Gods fingerprints over all the events of my journey. But my journey was far from over, it had only just begun. The advice from my sister Marie (I think of her as my spiritual mother) was “read your Bible”. I did and I couldn’t put it down, God was opening my mind as I read His word, words that once seemed empty and meaningless now teamed with life and meaning. God was leading me on a new journey, on His path to peace.
While staying at my sister Marie’s home, my brother-in-law Con found me a job with the courier company he worked for. He told me there was this lovely Christian girl there who would be nice for me to meet. I imagined that I would probably be introduced to someone’s grandmother (No offence to all those grandmothers out there) and wasn’t very interested, having decided to pursue Christ rather than a relationship. However, needless to say that lovely Christian girl is now my beautiful wife of almost 19 years. God’s plans for me have been amazing and I thank Him for giving me Glenyss. For Glenyss and her family have been the means by which God has brought the truth of Conditional Immortality to my mind.
As my relationship grew with Glenyss, I began attending midweek studies and Sunday services at the Church of Christ Life and Advent. For the first time I was confronted with the teachings of Conditional Immortality. Interestingly at the time of meeting Glenyss I was very much a Catholic boy in my thinking, but that was all going to change as Glenyss’ family, and friends confronted my beliefs about death and hell and immortality. I was given a copy of Sidney Hatch’s book “Why I believe in Conditional Immortality” Writings about Hell, the Soul, life etc. When I examined God’s word and contemplated the implications of the Conditional Immortality teachings I couldn’t deny its truth. Below is a list of 10 bible teachings that convince me that Conditional Immortality is an important biblical truth:
“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for Dust You Are and to dust you will return”- Genesis 3:19. I had heard these words many times during my years of Catholic services; however, subconsciously I always added the words and my soul will go to heaven. I was adding to God’s word something that wasn’t there. God made us from the dust of the earth and back to it we are going.
“You will not surely die” – Genesis 3:4; “Satan is a liar and the Father of Lies” – John 8:44. Believing that you won’t die and return to the dust, as God has said is believing God to be a liar and Satan to be the truth teller.
“The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and he became a living being.” – Genesis 2:7. Good on you NIV translators, unfortunately the KJV translates those words “living being” as “living soul” and in the context of the mainstream church including the Catholics it is easy to read that verse to be saying that God breathed a soul into a man. However, it seems quite clear, that Adam’s lifeless body required God to breath air into the nostrils of Adam in order to make Adam a ‘living being’ instead of a ‘dead being’. This is just what one would hope to achieve when CPR is performed on a person who has stopped breathing. That breath contained Oxygen which we know is carried in the blood. In fact Deuteronomy 12:23 tells us that “the life is the blood”.
John 3:16 tells us the “Whoever believes” in Gods only begotten Son “shall not perish” but “Shall have eternal life in Christ Jesus”. Clearly the choice here is not life in one place or life in another. No, in fact, the options are eternal life or complete destruction. The Greek word for perish is analusis which pretty much means to break down to its basic parts (dust no less).
Matthew 10:28 tells us that we should be “afraid of the One who can destroy soul and body in hell. This is talking about complete destruction of the whole person, there is no immortal part to our beings, if there were it could not be destroyed.
“God, … alone is Immortal” – 1 Tim 6:15-16. How can man have an immortal part if we are told that God alone is immortal?
Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the Life” – John 11:25. The life we receive is not held in our own being but is with Christ Jesus our Lord in God. He is the Life and our life “is hidden with him” – Col 3:3. It will be by the word of God that we are restored as living beings.
1 Corinthians 15:50-54 speaks of a transformation of our perishable, mortal bodies into imperishable immortal bodies. Note these verses speak of a complete transformation of the body not a reunification of a soul and body forever. In fact in reality the term “body and soul” together, as mentioned, is a living human being.
Ecclesiastes 9:4,5 and 9:10 tell us that in the grave where we are going there is no thinking, or knowledge, nor working or planning. The dead know nothing in the grave. So if this is the case then how could a dead person’s soul be looking down from heaven or even suffering in Hell? No I believe God’s word when it states that we return to the dust.
In scripture, death is described poetically as “sleep”. Death is a state of rest for every human though the dead Christian’s next waking moment will be in the presence of their Saviour.
So why is conditional immortality such an important teaching to hold onto? I hear many people these days say that it isn’t that important to them. This is my response.
Firstly, this teaching puts the work of Christ into correct perspective. We need Christ completely for life. My Catholic upbringing tells me that the risk of allowing yourself to hold or entertain the opposing viewpoint is that you may be tempted to think that you have a chance at some other life without Christ. There is no other life beyond this one unless it is in Christ.
Secondly, these days we hear a lot about mediums and the like communicating with our dead loved ones. Clearly our dead loved ones cannot speak, remember, know or think anything. They are dead disintegrating down to the dust from which they were made. The evidence is clear. We only need to exhume a few bodies to discover this truth. So what of Mediums etc? The teaching of Conditional Immortality teaches me that these Mediums, if they are not fakes and are communicating with the spiritual realm, are communicating with evil spirits. Remember “our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark age and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12.
It is no wonder that we are warned in scripture to avoid mediums and witchcraft and the like. By knowing the truth of conditional immortality we immediately understand the truth with respect to Mediums.
Thirdly, what of after death experiences? Conditional Immortality teachings tell me there must be another explanation to reports of after life experiences. For God’s word tells me there is no memory in the grave. Therefore if I die, it is not possible for me to remember what I did or saw. In fact, it is obvious that dead people don’t see anything at all. There are quite obvious explanations to afterlife experiences. Perhaps the subject of a future discussion, but certainly not afterlife meetings with Jesus or our Creator or Mohamed or whoever else the person having the experience have in their mind’s eye as their icon of faith.
Fourthly, it is plain and simple, God’s Truth. God’s absolute truth is intended to lead us on God’s path of peace.
Tom Bennett, his wife Glenyss and four children: Maddison, Sam, Georgia and Holly live in Hamilton New Zealand. Tom and Glenyss are members of the Hamilton Church of Christ (Life and Advent) where they supervise the Sunday School program. Tom is a pharmacist and runs two pharmacies in Hamilton.