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Why You Don’t Have an Immortal Soul

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Why You Don’t Have an Immortal Soul

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God told the first human beings, Adam and Eve, that if they sinned they would die and return to the dust from which they came (Genesis 2:17; Genesis 3:19). But Satan craftily influenced Eve to believe that God was lying and that she and Adam would not die (Genesis 3:4). It was from this point that the devil launched a nefarious campaign to deceive all future generations on this and many other subjects. His intent was to blind them from knowing their awesome destiny in God’s Kingdom (Revelation 12:9; Matthew 6:33). As a result, multiple millions of professing Christians and adherents to other religions have been convinced that they have immortal souls.

Belief in the immortality of the soul was a significant part in the ancient writings of famous Greek philosophers. For example, Plato (c.428-347 B.C.), in his book Phaedo, argued that the soul is inherently indestructible: “The soul is most like that which is divine, immortal . . . whereas the body is most like that which is human, mortal [and] dissoluble” (“Afterlife: The Historical Development of the Immortal Soul,” August 9, 2019 by David Tatum).

Such erroneous ideas had an impact on the early leaders of the Catholic Church. For instance, Augustine (A.D. 354–430) wrote, “But because the soul from its very nature, being created immortal, cannot be without some kind of life, its utmost death is alienation from the life of God in an eternity of punishment” (City of God, A.D. 427).

Hundreds of years later an influential Catholic theologian, Thomas Aquinas (A.D. 1225-1274), taught that the soul is a separate entity that cannot be destroyed (The Summa Theologica). And as the Protestant reformation took root in the early 1500s and began growing, its leaders continued to embrace the fraudulent concept of the soul’s immortality.

What does the Old Testament teach about the soul?

In Western philosophy, the notion that people have immortal souls has been commonly accepted since going to heaven or hell after death hinges on this belief. But, what does the Bible say? Does it contain the phrase “immortal soul” anywhere within it? The answer is no! Does the Bible teach that death is the separation of body and soul and that souls are immortal? Again, the answer is clearly no.

The Hebrew word translated “soul” in the Old Testament is “nephesh,” which simply means “a breathing creature.” The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible explains that nephesh “ . . . never means the immortal soul, but it is essentially the life principle or the living being” (Vol. 4, 1962, “soul,” emphasis added throughout). This can be seen in the manner by which the Old Testament employs the term nephesh. In fact, it is used in reference to animals, fish and insects before referencing human life.

For example, Genesis 1:20 states, “Then God said, ‘Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures [nephesh], and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.’” Also, in Genesis 1:25 we read, “And God made the beast [nephesh] of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”

So, nephesh is used in Scripture when referring to the physical life of flesh and blood creatures—including that of humankind. For example, we read, “And 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 soul (Genesis 2:7, King James Version). Here, nephesh is translated “soul” or “being” in regard to man.

The word “soul” is used four times in the following verse—all translated from the word nephesh. In addition, it speaks of something that can die. “Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4).

The word soul in the New Testament

Just as the Old Testament word nephesh refers only to physical, mortal life, which can perish, the New Testament Greek word “psuche” does the same. It is the only word translated “soul” in the New Testament. Found 105 times in the New Testament, it is translated “soul” 58 times and in other instances it is rendered life, heart, heartily, mind, you and us. For instance, Acts 3:23 says, “And it shall be that every soul [psuche] who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.” Also, as James 5:20 says, “Let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul [psuche] from death and cover a multitude of sins.” Therefore, as these and other passages plainly attest, souls are not immortal. They can and do die.

Furthermore, the apostle Paul told the members of the congregation in Rome to pursue immortality. In Romans 2:7 he wrote, “To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life” (KJV). Paul never taught Christians that they already had immortality but that it needed to be “put on” (1 Corinthians 15:53-55). He also said that only God possesses immortality and that eternal life is a gift from God (1 Timothy 6:16; Romans 6:23).

Since people are “living souls” (Genesis 2:7) what happens when they die? In using the Hebrew term “sheol,” the Bible explains that the dead go into the “pit” or “grave.” King David stated that through death, a person’s relationship with God ceases completely. “For in death there is no remembrance of You; in the grave [sheol] who will give You thanks” (Psalm 6:5)?

What’s more, those who die have no consciousness of anything. King Solomon wrote, “For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten” (Ecclesiastes 9:5). Likewise, Solomon wrote, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave [sheol] where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

The wonderful truth about the resurrection

Although what has been covered above may appear troubling, it is emphatically not the end of the story! While human beings are physical and subject to death, the good news is that God promises that there will be life after death. The author of Psalm 49:15 stated, “But God will redeem my soul [nephesh] from the power of the grave: for He shall receive me.” The Bible reveals that repentant, obedient individuals will be resurrected from the grave and be given perpetual spirit life (John 3:6). God inspired David to write, “Precious in the sight of the eternal is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15, KJV). He said this because of the glory that will be given to these faithful people upon their change to spirit composition (1 Corinthians 15:52).

Glory will be given to faithful people upon their change to spiritual composition after death.

Jesus Christ was the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5). The first resurrection to immortality will take place at His second coming when He establishes God’s Kingdom on earth. Later will come another resurrection—to physical life—for all the people who never had a relationship with the Father and Jesus Christ. Following that, they too will be given the opportunity to enjoy everlasting life (Revelation 20:5).

The Satan-generated fiction about the immortal soul enshrouds the crucial and wonderful truth about the amazing future God has in store for humanity. Indeed, people do not have immortal souls—but everyone who truly repents, obeys and worships God is promised a resurrection from death to eternal life. Let us therefore give tremendous honor to God for the magnificent truth He reveals in the Bible. And importantly, let’s make sure we are personally doers of God’s word, and not hearers only (James 1:22).