Questions From Readers
▪ What is the difference between immortality and everlasting life?
Endless life will be enjoyed both by anointed ones receiving spirit life in heaven and by humans whom God declares righteous for life on the Paradise earth. So if you think about the outcome, immortality in heaven and everlasting life on earth result in basically the same thing—living forever. There are, though, some comments about immortality that can be made.
The Greek word translated “immortality” (athanasia) is formed from the negative a and from thanatos, meaning “death.” Immortality thus has the basic sense of ‘without death,’ or deathlessness. Understandably, Jehovah is the absolute source of all life and is immortal. (Psalm 36:9; 90:1, 2) This is confirmed by the fact that his glorified Son, who now “is the reflection of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of his very being,” is described as “the King of those [men] who rule as kings and Lord of those who rule as lords, the one alone having immortality.” (Hebrews 1:3; 1 Timothy 6:15, 16) No creature can take Jesus’ life as an immortal, which makes him different from humans or spirits that can die. Further, we read: “Now that [Christ] has been raised up from the dead, [he] dies no more; death is master over him no more.”—Romans 6:9.
Though immortality is, in a sense, everlasting life, immortality apparently implies more than that its possessor will live forever. It seems to indicate a particular quality of life, and it is linked with incorruption. The Bible says about spirit-anointed Christians who receive the heavenly reward: “This which is corruptible [in its human body] must put on incorruption, and this which is mortal must put on immortality. But when this which is corruptible puts on incorruption and this which is mortal puts on immortality, then the saying will take place that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up forever.’”—1 Corinthians 15:53, 54.
Still, the Bible does not provide much detail about the quality of life termed immortality. We do know that mortal humans—even perfect humans having the prospect of endless life on earth—must eat and drink to maintain life, or they die and their bodies experience corruption. (Genesis 2:9, 15, 16) No doubt immortality involves a quality of life that does not need to be sustained like that. Thus it could be said that all who become immortal are not subject to death or that ‘death is master over them no more.’ That would harmonize, too, with their receiving incorruptibility, indicating that their spirit body or organism is inherently beyond decay, ruin or corruption. (Compare 2 Corinthians 5:1; Revelation 20:6.) In these ways a difference might be seen between immortality and everlasting human life.
Jehovah God is the perfect Judge who rewards anointed ones with immortality. When he in his boundless wisdom and insight determines such ones to be completely tested and unquestionably qualified for immortality, we can trust that they will forever be faithful. All whom Jehovah judges worthy of endless life, whether as immortal spirits or as perfect humans, will be able to worship him forever. Thus, in the final analysis, both everlasting human life and immortality in heaven result in endless life.—John 17:3.
▪ Is it correct to conclude from John 20:25 that Jesus was impaled with a separate nail through each hand?
The Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, by M’Clintock and Strong, comments:
‘Much time and trouble have been wasted in disputing as to whether three or four nails were used in fastening the Lord. Nonnus affirms that three only were used, in which he is followed by Gregory Nazianzen. The more general belief gives four nails, an opinion which is supported at much length and by curious arguments by Curtius. Others have carried the number of nails as high as fourteen.’—Volume II, page 580.
Matthew 27:35 merely says: “When they had impaled him they distributed his outer garments by casting lots.” Little detail is given, as in Mark, Luke and John. After Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas said: “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails and stick my finger into the print of the nails and stick my hand into his side, I will certainly not believe.” (John 20:25) So even though criminals sometimes were bound to a stake with ropes, Jesus was nailed. Some have also concluded from John 20:25 that two nails were used, one through each hand. But does Thomas’ use of the plural (nails) have to be understood as a precise description indicating that each of Jesus’ hands was pierced by a separate nail?
In Luke 24:39 the resurrected Jesus said: “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.” This suggests that Christ’s feet also were nailed. Since Thomas made no mention of nailprints in Jesus’ feet, his use of the plural “nails” could have been a general reference to multiple nails used in impaling Jesus.
Thus, it just is not possible at this point to state with certainty how many nails were used. Any drawings of Jesus on the stake should be understood as artists’ productions that offer merely a representation based on the limited facts that we have. Debate over such an insignificant detail should not be permitted to becloud the all-important truth that “we became reconciled to God through the death of his Son.”—Romans 5:10.