Exercise Faith for Everlasting Life
“Have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.”—HEBREWS 10:39.
1. What does a Catholic encyclopedia acknowledge about the Bible’s use of the word “soul”?
NOWHERE does the Bible say that humans have an immortal soul that survives the body at death and lives on forever in the spirit realm. Even the New Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges: “The notion of the soul surviving after death is not readily discernible in the Bible. . . . The soul in the O[ld] T[estament] means not a part of man, but the whole man—man as a living being. Similarly, in the N[ew] T[estament] it signifies human life: the life of an individual.” So humans do not have souls, they are souls.
2. (a) Where did the immortal-soul belief originate? (b) What is the truth about man’s condition after death?
2 As the previous article pointed out, the immortal-soul belief is a pagan concept that can be traced back to early historical times. Its author is the one who contradicted God’s clear declaration that man would “positively die” for disobedience. (Genesis 2:17) It was the opposer, Satan the Devil, who said: “You positively will not die.” (Genesis 3:4) And that was a lie. (John 8:44) Later, Satan promoted the doctrine of the immortality of the human soul. But the truth about man’s condition after death is as noted in God’s inspired Word at Ecclesiastes 9:5: “The dead . . . are conscious of nothing at all.”—See also Romans 5:12.
The Hope of Everlasting Life
3. Regarding what hope does the Bible have much to say?
3 While the Bible clearly shows that there is no such thing as an immortal soul, it does have much to say about everlasting life. The hope of endless life was a fundamental teaching of Jesus. He said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) Regarding those who exercise faith in God and Christ, Jesus stated: “I give them everlasting life.” (John 10:28) With absolute confidence, he said: “He that believes has everlasting life. . . . He will live forever.” (John 6:47, 51) And he also declared: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16.
4. What did Jesus say about the hope for the future?
4 Since there is no immortal soul that survives death, how will the Bible’s promise of everlasting life be realized? Jesus gave more information about this when he visited Martha and Mary after their brother Lazarus had died. He said to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.” He asked Martha: “Do you believe this?” She answered: “Yes, Lord; I have believed that you are the Christ the Son of God.”—John 11:25-27.
5, 6. What did Jesus’ raising of Lazarus back to life demonstrate?
5 To demonstrate that he, as the Son of God, was empowered to raise the dead back to life, Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus. Lazarus had been dead four days, and his body had started to decompose. Nevertheless, “[Jesus] cried out with a loud voice: ‘Lazarus, come on out!’ The man that had been dead came out with his feet and hands bound with wrappings, and his countenance was bound about with a cloth. Jesus said to them: ‘Loose him and let him go.’” (John 11:43, 44) The dead Lazarus had been brought back to life!
6 Lazarus was not brought back from heaven or anywhere else in the spirit realm. He had not gone to the spirit realm when he died but had been unconscious in the grave, where all the dead are. (Psalm 146:4; John 3:13; Acts 2:34) It would not make sense to think that the immortal soul of Lazarus was enjoying heavenly bliss and then that soul was snatched from heaven to be reunited with his imperfect body on earth to live once more in a world filled with suffering, sickness, and death. But since he was not in heaven, his restoration to life was welcomed, for it meant additional years of existence for him and a reuniting with his loved ones. Later, he would die again.
7, 8. (a) On what other occasions did Jesus raise the dead? (b) Why did Jesus perform those miracles of restoring people to life?
7 When Jesus raised a young girl who had been dead, her parents “were beside themselves with great ecstasy.” (Mark 5:42) Yet, that girl also eventually died again. When Jesus raised the dead son of the widow of Nain, “fear seized them all, and they began to glorify God.” (Luke 7:16) But that man also eventually died. Regarding these miracles, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology affirms: “Those who were raised by Christ in his earthly ministry had to die, as these raisings did not confer immortality.”
8 Why did Jesus raise these ones from the dead? Not to confer everlasting life at that time, but to demonstrate that he was the Messiah and to show what God had empowered him to do. It built faith in the hope of the resurrection and eternal life under the future rule of God’s heavenly Kingdom in the hands of Christ.—Matthew 6:9, 10; John 11:41, 42.
9. How did Martha and Paul correctly understand Jesus’ teaching about the resurrection hope?
9 Martha knew about that hope from her association with Jesus, for she had previously said to him regarding Lazarus: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.” (John 11:24) She knew that the resurrection would be, not on his (Lazarus’) last day, but in the future, “on the last day”—Judgment Day, when the dead would be raised under God’s Kingdom rule. The apostle Paul knew that too, for he said: “[God] has set a day in which he purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness.” (Acts 17:31) Paul also said: “There is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) He did not say that the resurrection was already taking place but that it was “going to be” in the future—under Kingdom rule.
10. What comment does a French professor make about Christendom’s beliefs about resurrection as compared to the Bible’s clear teaching?
10 In the book Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead? French Protestant professor Oscar Cullmann writes: “There is a radical difference between the Christian expectation of the resurrection of the dead and the Greek belief in the immortality of the soul. . . . Although Christianity later established a link between these two beliefs, and today the average Christian confuses them completely, I see no reason to hide what I and the majority of scholars consider to be the truth. . . . The life and thought of the New Testament are entirely dominated by faith in the resurrection. . . . The whole man, who is really dead, is brought back to life by a new creative act of God.”
11, 12. (a) What is God’s purpose for humans and this earth? (b) How did Jesus demonstrate that God’s purpose for the earth has not changed?
11 When God created humans, he gave them the earth as their eternal home and purposed to fill this planet with a righteous race of people. (Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 115:16) The Bible speaks of Jehovah as “the Former of the earth and the Maker of it, He the One who firmly established it, who did not create it simply for nothing, who formed it even to be inhabited.”—Isaiah 45:18.
12 In spite of thousands of years of imperfection and death since man’s rebellion, it is still God’s purpose that the earth be man’s eternal home: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” (Psalm 37:29) “Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) Thus, when Jesus brought dead ones back to life, he raised them right here on earth, and they were immediately recognized by others as the individuals that had been dead. This affirmed that under Kingdom rule the dead will be brought back to life on earth to have the opportunity to live forever on it. (Revelation 20:12, 13) That will fulfill God’s purpose for humans and for the earth.—Isaiah 46:9-11; 55:11; Titus 1:1, 2.
13. What dilemma confronts Christendom’s churches, and how do they attempt to solve it?
13 However, since Christendom’s churches believe in the soul’s immortality, this presents them with a dilemma: How can they reconcile the resurrection of “the whole man,” as demonstrated by Jesus, with their belief in an immortal soul already existing in heaven or in hell? The Catholic Encyclopedia asserts: “The Fourth Lateran Council teaches that all men, whether elect or reprobate, ‘will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear about with them.’” It adds: “As the body is the partner of the soul’s crimes, and the companion of her virtues, the justice of God seems to demand that the body be the sharer in the soul’s punishment and reward.” According to this belief, the body will be reunited with the soul in heaven or in hell. For how long? “The risen bodies of both saints and sinners shall be invested with immortality,” that source claims.
14. How does a Jesuit writer try to clarify Christendom’s view of the resurrection of the body?
14 In the book The Future Life, by Jesuit J. C. Sasia, we read: “The life of heaven therefore shall be one of pleasures also through the glorified senses [of the body reunited with the soul].” Regarding bodies reunited with their souls in hell, that source claims: “In hell, after the resurrection [of the body], every sense of the human body shall have its own peculiar punishment . . . The sense of feeling or touch will be especially tormented, because it is particularly by the sins of the flesh that the reprobates have offended God. . . . Their association with their bodies will be to them a cause of additional torments and miseries.”
15. Why is it blasphemous to teach that God tortures people in hell forever?
15 Thus, accepting the pagan concept of the immortality of the soul paved the way for Christendom to accept also the pagan concept of the excruciating torture of souls—and even bodies—in hell forever. Yet, regarding the ancient practice of burning children as sacrifices to false gods, Jehovah stated: “They . . . burn their sons in the fire as whole burnt offerings to the Baal, something that I had not commanded or spoken of, and that had not come up into my heart.” (Jeremiah 19:5) So it is blasphemous to teach that God tortures people for eternity, when his own Word clearly shows that unrepentant wrongdoers will be destroyed, put out of existence. “Any soul that does not listen to that Prophet [Jesus] will be completely destroyed.”—Acts 3:23; see also Matthew 10:28; Luke 17:27; John 3:16; 2 Peter 2:12; Jude 5.
16. What does the Bible teach about immortality?
16 However, does the Bible not teach that humans would be taken to heaven to live immortal lives there? Yes, it does. But this has nothing to do with immortal human souls. Immortality results from a person’s being resurrected as a spirit creation (as was Jesus) and not from his having an immortal soul that has survived death. The future reward of immortality was held out to some faithful, Christlike humans and was to be realized only when Christ came into Kingdom power in heaven, not immediately after Christ’s ascension to heaven in the first century.—Psalm 110:1; 1 Corinthians 15:53, 54.
17. How many will attain immortality, and what part do they play in God’s purpose for the earth?
17 Furthermore, that hope was held out to relatively few of the human family. Jesus called these a “little flock.” (Luke 12:32) This group, 144,000 in number, is resurrected to heavenly life as immortal spirit creatures to rule over the earth with Christ in his heavenly Kingdom. (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 7:4; 14:1, 4; 20:4) The earth they rule over will be inhabited, in time, by perfected humans, no doubt thousands of millions of them. Many of those humans will be the ones who come back to earth in the “resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) Yet, there will be others who gain life in the new world aside from those resurrected from the dead. Who are these others?
“Never Die at All”
18. In addition to the hope of the resurrection for dead people, what astounding thing did Jesus foretell?
18 While the sure hope for dead people is the resurrection, there is another marvelous hope in our time. It has to do with what Jesus went on to tell Martha. After saying: “He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life [in the resurrection],” Jesus added, “and everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all.” (John 11:25, 26) In this latter statement, Jesus foretold an astounding thing: A time would come when people living would no longer need to die! But when would that be?
19. (a) During what time period would the hope of never dying be realized? (b) How does the Bible describe those who have the hope of never dying?
19 Now—our day—is the time for that promise to be realized! All the evidence shows that we are very near the end of this evil world. (Matthew 24:3-14; 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13) Thus, people who today exercise faith in God and in his Son have the thrilling hope of surviving this system’s end and continuing alive into God’s new world—never dying at all! These are spoken of at Revelation 7:9, 14 as “a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues . . . [who] come out of the great tribulation,” preserved by God because of their exercising faith. Jesus spoke of the coming dissolution of this present evil system as a “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.”—Matthew 24:21; see also Proverbs 2:21, 22; Psalm 37:10, 11, 34.
20, 21. How are millions today exercising faith in God and Christ, and what will many of them not need?
20 Throughout the world, millions of the great crowd who want to live forever on earth are already exercising faith in God’s promises and in the one whom he has authorized to be “the resurrection and the life,” Jesus Christ. And they have dedicated themselves to God, symbolizing this by water baptism. (Matthew 28:19, 20) They acknowledge that they owe salvation entirely to “God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb,” Jesus Christ.—Revelation 7:10.
21 Those of the great crowd who survive this world’s end will not need a resurrection from the dead because they “will never die at all”! Are you taking steps to be one of this group? If so, what an amazing, unique privilege is open to you—that of surviving the end of Satan’s evil system and being ushered into a righteous new era that will bring you perfect health and everlasting life on a paradise earth! (Luke 23:43; Revelation 21:4, 5) By learning what is God’s will and persevering in doing it, you may demonstrate that you ‘are not of the sort that shrink back to destruction.’ You too may “have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.”—Hebrews 10:39; 1 John 2:15-17; Revelation 7:15.
Questions for Review
□ What is the true hope for the dead?
□ Why is Christendom’s belief in the resurrection of the body an insult to God?
□ What does the Bible teach about immortality?
□ What astounding hope can people have today?