Does the Bible really say humans have souls that are released from the body at death? Learn the surprising answer!
[Steve Myers] It might certainly be comforting to think, well, you die and you go to paradise. There is an example of someone who experienced death and actually speaks to us from beyond the grave. In fact only one, Jesus Christ, and in the example of Jesus Christ, we can know the truth.
[Narrator] Join our presenters from the United Church of God as we bring you help for today and hope for tomorrow directly from your Bible here on Beyond Today.
[Steve Myers] What happens to you after death? You probably thought about it. Are you destined to go somewhere for a reward or a punishment? Are you even conscious after death? Now, religion offers a variety of answers and explanations. Are you bound for death or after death to go to heaven or hell? I mean, after all, doesn't the Bible say you have an immortal soul?
Now, the shocking truth for most is, the Bible doesn't say that. But how could most Christians have come up with an idea that isn't even biblical? The idea that people possess souls and at death, the soul departs from their body on the way to heaven or hell, it's just not true. But what does the Bible say about the soul? You need to know the surprising answer. Death after all, certainly reality of life and it is devastating. It separates us from our family of friends. As a minister, I've been at many funerals and conducted them and it's a sobering, sad, and often difficult occasion. Those who have died at death, you know, their family comes together, their friends begin to remember and recount the life of their dear departed family member. It's a time to mourn. People are sad. And yet at the same time, many ask questions. They wonder, well what is life all about? Why is death such a tragic part of life? And the question on people's minds at that time, what happens? What happens at death? And that is a question on so many people's minds.
Most believe or they want to believe there's some part of us that goes on living after we die. That seems comforting, seems reassuring and it can be difficult to think about the fact that physical life might be all there is. We want to believe that there's more, something more, especially for our loved one who died. There must be more, right? Many believe they've gone to a better place. So many that think those ways, they don't really understand what is the end of life or is there even an end of life? So, what do you believe? Now when a good person dies, does their soul immediately depart for heaven? Or when an evil person dies, do they go to the burning fires of hell to be tormented forever? You see, that belief, it's based on a false idea that each of us have an immortal soul, a soul that's living in our physical body and then when the body dies, that soul continues to live on.
But did you know that common belief that man has or man is an immortal soul is definitely not something you’ll find in the Bible? The truth is completely different. It's a whole different scenario. And when you understand what life and death are really all about, now you can begin to understand there is something much better that does await those who have died. But it's not what you may think and we'll talk more about that in just a bit.
You see this idea of the immortal soul is one that's very common and it was found even among the ancient Egyptians. It's been throughout man's history. The Egyptians created customs to preserve the body and provide for the soul in its journey in the afterlife. And of course the pyramids are some of the oldest surviving testaments to this idea of the hereafter. They made elaborate drawings in the tombs and they depicted the way the soul would depart from this life and go to the life beyond. They even buried food with them, clothing, weapons that were all supposed to assist the departed soul on its journey to the next life. Of course, the Egyptians were not the only ones with these unbiblical ideas, cultures from America to China buried their dead in ways that showed they believed that the soul departs the body at death and somehow lives on.
Now it's an interesting idea and we see it's one that's not just limited to Christians. So, why do you believe in an immortal soul? It's something you've got to truly understand because it's the fundamental question that theologians, philosophers try to answer. And you know what it centers around? It centers around the fact that man, what is man? Is man just an animal or is man a unique being fashioned for a special purpose by a creator God? Now to find the answer, where do you look for truth? Well, God is the Creator. He's a sustainer of life. He created human life. And only the Creator of life can reveal what the state of the dead is. You got to look to the word of God. You've got to look to Holy scripture, the Bible, for answers to the questions about life and the soul. And that idea that man has or is an immortal soul it's a foundational doctrine in Christianity and most, they just accept it. They don't necessarily question it. But you should. You see, the Bible doesn't teach this concept. Scripture does explain where that belief originated. It's very interesting. In fact, you probably know the story. Go back to the garden, go back to Adam and Eve. You're familiar with that story, I'm sure.
Immediately after Adam and Eve were created, God told them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And if they did, remember what He said? He said, “In that day, you shall die.” Now, what did God mean when He warned Adam that he would die? Well, when you look in Genesis chapter 3 verse 19, it tells the story of what God said to Adam. He said, "Out of the ground you were taken for dust you are and to dust you shall return." So where's the indication that the Bible somehow says there's a spiritual soul that would continue to live on in some other form or in some other place? In fact, we look back to verse 1. We read the serpent, the devil asks Eve a question and he says, "Has God indeed said you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" And Eve replied rightly, "She said, God has said, you shall not eat it nor shall you touch it, lest you die." Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die."
So, here's Eve facing the risk of eternal life by disobeying God's instructions. She bought the lie. And in fact, this is the very first recorded lie in history. And have you ever wondered why would Satan tell that lie? Why not something else? Well, here's the key. That idea, you shall not surely die, hides the truth about the make up of man, what he is and what God is doing with human beings. So, Satan undermined God's authority and encouraged Eve to defy God's instruction. He said, it's not going to result in death. But instead, here's what the serpent said, verse 5, "For God knows in that day your eyes will be opened and you will be like God." And so, Satan deceived her and implied, be like God you're not going to die. Or in other words, he introduced the untrue concept of the immortal soul.
Well, Eve you'll live on, your spirit continues, you won't die. And that's exactly opposite of what scripture really says. In chapter 2 verse 7, it says, "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being." Now, it doesn't say Adam was given a soul or that some spirit life called a soul was put in him. What does it say? He became a living being. People are living beings. They're miraculously given the gift of God, this physical life by God. And so, the Bible tells us, man is a soul, a living being, a mortal soul, a temporary being, one who is capable of death. And so God is clear, man is a living being. In fact, that's what the word for living being actually means. It's the Hebrew word that we read living being, "nephesh." The Hebrew word "nephesh" is translated, in fact, in some Bible versions it's translated soul. But nephesh simply means a living, breathing creature. Most don't realize it can refer to a man, woman, and even an animal because animals live and breathe. And so that term applies to all animate life. Even biblical scholars realize it. They tell us the term means the essence of life, the act of breathing or even taking a breath. And so, nephesh cannot, does not refer to an immortal soul. And that may sound shocking. Because most Christians don't realize this, they overlooked this very fact. And so, this almost universally believed idea that's taught about the immortal soul, not here in the Bible, it is just not true. And so, if you began to look into it, you'd also discover that this very idea not only is misunderstood by the Egyptians and other cultures, but it was propagated by the Greeks as well.
There was a pagan Greek philosopher who lived hundreds of years before Jesus Christ, the philosopher Plato. He inspired so many to believe in that very idea of an immortal soul. He wrote, "The soul is shown to be immortal." That's what he taught, that's what he believed. He said, since the immortal is indestructible, is this death anything but the separation of soul and body? He wrote, "Being dead is the attainment of this separation when the soul parted from the body." So, what was the source of Plato's belief? His own logic. It's under Satan's influence. Certainly not the word of God, it's not biblical. Now, we do find in the Bible, it describes human life and we can see such a difference between human philosophy and Satan's influence and the word of God.
In the book of Ezekiel chapter 18, powerful scripture here in verse 4. God says, "Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the Father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul,” He goes on and says, “the soul who sins shall die." In fact, He wants us to get it so much that He repeats it again just a little later in verse 20, "The soul who sins shall die."
Now don't get the wrong idea, that's that nephesh word. And in other translations like the new English translation, it says, “all lives are mine, all breathing life, the life of the father, the life of the son, the one who sins shall die.” And so here we see very plainly that it reminds us as human beings, you don't have a soul, you are a soul. You are a living, breathing being that is one who has a temporary existence. Because the Bible points out very clearly, life is temporary, it's brief and when it ends, well that's it. At death, there's no consciousness, there's no awareness. So, God tells us that very fact in Ecclesiastes chapter 3 verse 19. He says, "For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals." Remember, they're both breathing creatures. It says, "One thing befalls them: as one dies so dies the other. Surely they all have one breath; man has no advantage over the animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust." And so, we see living things die. Man dies, animals die. And where do they go? To the grave They go to the grave. In fact, just over a bit in Ecclesiastes is 9:5, we're reminded, "The living know they will die; but the dead know nothing."
So, God's word is clear and it teaches the dead have no awareness. They're not in some other state of consciousness. There's not a separation as so many believe. Now it may seem harsh, might seem odd. It might certainly be comforting to think, well, you die and you go to paradise. Or maybe you think, well, how can you even know what the truth is? Well, that's the interesting part. There is an example of someone who experienced death and actually speaks to us from beyond the grave. In fact, only one, Jesus Christ. And in the example of Jesus Christ, we can know the truth.
There's an example in Acts chapter 2 verse 31 in God's word, it says that, "David,” talking about King David, “knew that the Messiah would come back to life, and he spoke about it before it ever happened. He said the Messiah wouldn't be left in the grave and that His body wouldn't decay." And so, what we begin to see is, Jesus was the ultimate example in life and in death. The perfect example. So did Jesus immediately go to heaven? I mean, if anybody's gone to heaven it would be the perfect one. It would be the savior, right? No, He didn't. He didn't go to heaven. The Bible tells us He was in the grave three days and three nights. You do not go to heaven or hell at death. Christ is the ultimate example. In fact, after the resurrection, immediately almost after the resurrection in John chapter 20, verse 17, Christ says something very interesting. He's talking to Mary and Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father."
So you almost have to step back and say, well wait a minute. He didn't go to heaven right away. No, He just told Mary, I haven't ascended to my Father. It hasn't happened yet. Christ was dead, buried, resurrected, and was about to ascend to the Father but hadn't been there yet. And so, it makes it very clear, Christ did not go to heaven at death. And in fact, just before that, John chapter 3 verse 13 says, "No one's ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is the Son of man who is in heaven." And so He did go to the Father's throne after talking to Mary and then came back and the disciples touched Him and the whole story you may be familiar with. But boy does it place an exclamation point on the fact that you do not go to heaven or to hell at death. Jesus waited for the resurrection.
We're also told that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Is the Bible clear? You see, it's pointing out the fact we're not immortal souls. We don't have some part of us that continues to live on. We must be given eternal life. We don't have it already, we don't possess it. And of course, there's this appeal to think that yeah, you don't actually die, that something keeps on living. But don't fall for it. That's believing the lie. That's believing the serpent Satan. Because the fact is, like Christ you will die and cease to exist. And have you ever thought of it this way? It's an expression of the ultimate trust in God, knowing God wakes you up. I mean, think of that, Jesus trusted the Father to resurrect Him. He didn't immediately go anywhere at death. And so, He trusted in God to resurrect Him. And He prayed about that just before the crucifixion that the Father would do just that. And so, we follow Christ's example. He taught us the truth. And most don't realize Christ Himself also taught against this idea of the immortal soul.
In Matthew chapter 19, it tells us a story of a young man who came to Jesus. And in chapter 19 verse 16, this young man asked Jesus a question. He asked, "What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" All right, so what does that tell us? Well, this young man knew he didn't have eternal life. He knew he didn't have an immortal soul. He asked how he might receive eternal life. And of course, it's also interesting he recognized the fact that just believing wasn't enough. Because Christ answered and said, "If you want to enter life, you must keep the commandments." And Christ didn't say, well, no, no, no, you already have eternal life. It's just a matter of whether you'll spend it in heaven or in hell. Now, He didn't say that. He pointed out the fact that commandment keeping is a requirement for Christians. Christ agreed with the young man. We have to do something in order to enter into life and that is obey, obey, keep the commandments. And so, when we repent, when we're baptized, when we receive the Holy Spirit, we need to live obediently to God's commands because He's preparing us so that we'll be ready to receive the gift of eternal life. And it tells us how. Through a resurrection. It's through a resurrection from the dead. There is a resurrection to eternal life and that's when we become immortal. That's when we're given eternal life. And so, it points out very clearly how there is hope beyond the grave.
Even though the dead know nothing, they wait in their graves for the resurrection. In fact, there's a chapter in the Bible, sometimes they even call it the resurrection chapter of the Bible. It's over in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, and here the apostle Paul describes exactly the same thing that Jesus Christ Himself taught. Notice what he says in verse 54 of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul describes this change. He says, "When this corruptible," and that's what we are. We're breathing human beings, we are capable of death. He says, "when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal, this physical has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that's written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’” And so, we die, we await the resurrection and then we are given eternal life, something that we don't already have. And when does it happen? Well, after the end of our lives, we die, after that, the resurrection. And those who are in Christ, those who have been called, those who are repentant, those who have been baptized and now receive the spirit and are led by that spirit, they'll ultimately be transformed at the resurrection and been given eternal life, spirit life, glorified like Jesus Christ.
There is hope after death. There's hope beyond the grave. And in fact there's few things that could be more important than to understand exactly what the Bible teaches. Do you know? Well, I'd like to help you understand this interesting subject. We have a Bible study aid called Heaven and Hell, what does the Bible really teach? Now you can receive this booklet by calling us at the number on your screen, or you can go to beyondtoday.tv. Because these are questions you need to know the answers and you need to understand exactly what the word of God says. You can replace the wishful thinking, maybe those ideas that seem comforting, you can replace those concepts with biblical truth. And so, this booklet will help you to go through your Bible to understand the truth when it comes to the idea of the immortal soul and what happens after death. It's encouraging. It's amazing. I think you'll be surprised what the pages of your Bible really say and this booklet, Heaven and Hell What Does the Bible Really Teach? will help you to really grasp those concepts. So, go to our website beyondtoday.tv or you can call us at the number on your screen.
You want to know the truth because the truth ultimately is found in the Word of God. Christ Himself said, "Your word is truth and the truth is really the most comforting thing that you can have." Now, when you think about what the Bible says, right now, only God the Father and Jesus Christ have that kind of immortality. And yet the good news is, He wants to share that life with us, with you and me and all humanity. When we see the immortal soul is not a biblical idea, when we recognize the fact that originated with the serpent and the fact that we are living beings, that we are souls, that we are capable of death,. We don't have a soul that continues to live on, we recognize the fact that we have to be given it and God wants to give us that eternal life. He is looking forward to that time, and in the meantime, discover God's commandments. Understand commandment keeping is a requirement for Christians. And we can look forward then to the time of the resurrection when ultimately God will reach that part of His plan and grant us eternal life. So right now we're just physical. We're composed of flesh, we will die. But the only way to live forever is to follow Christ's teachings. To repent, change, turn your life to obedience, keep the commandments, and make the choice. The choice is yours and it will be a decision that impacts forever. So, choose God's way. Because ultimately you can be given eternal life.
[Narrator] Please call for the booklet, Heaven and Hell What Does the Bible Really Teach? Discover exactly what God has to say about heaven and hell. Is heaven really God's reward for righteousness? Will a loving God punish people forever in hell? Order now. Call toll free 1-888-886-8632 or write to the address shown on your screen. You need to base your beliefs on the solid rock of the Bible. When you order this free study aid, we'll also send you a complimentary one year subscription to our Beyond Today magazine. The Beyond Today Magazine brings you understanding of today's world and hope for the future. Six times a year you'll read about current world events in light of Bible prophecy. Call today to receive your free booklet, Heaven and Hell, What does the Bible Really Teach? and your free one year subscription to Beyond Today Magazine. 1-888-886-8632 or go online to beyondtoday.tv.
[Gary Petty] Hi, I'm Gary Petty, a pastor with the United Church of God. If you're looking for a church that encourages living what the word of God really teaches, you found the right place. We're a community of believers dedicated to seeking the truth and preaching the good news of the coming kingdom of God. We'd like to welcome you to come and join us on this spiritual journey. We have hundreds of congregations around the United States and across the world. Visit ucg.org to find a church near you. We're looking forward to meeting you soon.