"The hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth: they that have done good to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28-29).
THE PURPOSE OF THIS LESSON is to show what the Bible teaches about immortality relative to mankind. We already know from the subject matter of Lessons 7, 8 and 9 that nowhere does it indicate that we are now immortal; nor does it give us reason to believe that when we die, we are not really dead but simply pass on to another existence. This lesson will further reinforce these conclusions and additionally focus on what the Bible DOES say about immortality in relation to us; when we can expect it, what we have to do to get it.
Many people speculate that because man desires immortality that speculation is proof he has it. But it proves just the opposite: that he does not have it. Simply because a man is very hungry and craves desperately for food certainly does not prove he has food. Anyone can perceive that fact in this case. It is the same with immortality. Without food, man dies in short order. Without immortality man soon dies and returns to the dust of the ground.
Throughout the Scriptures mankind is constantly referred to as mortal, and of brief, perishing existence: never as immortal and imperishable, or any words with that idea. "Mortality" comes from the Latin word "mors" (death), and signifies "deathfulness." Anything that is "mortal", therefore, is subject to death, limited in power to continue in life, because of the inherent tendency to decay and dissolution.
The Spirit of God is the life-power that sustains man, and there is no doubt of the fact that the Spirit of God is indestructible. But that fact is no proof that man himself is immortal, or has any "immortal spark" in him. If it were, it would prove the immortality of animals, for they too are "living creatures". Just like man, animals are sustained by this same universal life-power. The Spirit life-power itself belongs to, and is controlled by, God, Who gives it, and takes it away.
Men and animals are both "living creatures". God has stated:
"That which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts. Even one thing befalleth them. As the one dieth, so dieth the other: yea, THEY HAVE ALL ONE BREATH (Heb: ruach which means wind or spirit); so that a man hath no pre-eminence (in this respect) above a beast" (Ecclesiastes 3:19).
Moses also stated the same fundamental truth, speaking of the Flood:
"All flesh died that moved upon the earth: both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: ALL in whose nostrils was the breath of life, died" (Genesis 7:21-22).
Here again, men and animals are all linked together in a common life-principle. They all breathe the same "breath of lives" (literally translated, this passage would read, "breath of the spirit of lives":heb. neshamah ruach chay). The righteous man Job said:
"The spirit (heb. ruach, wind, spirit or breath) of God is in my nostrils" (Job 27:3).
"Cease ye from man, whose breath (heb. neshamah) is in his nostrils" (Isaiah 2:22).
"If God set His heart upon man, if He gather to Himself His spirit (heb. ruach) and His breath (heb. neshamah), ALL flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust" (Job 34:14).
Note that it is God's spirit. Humans, like the animals, are dependent, receiving creatures. They are the possessors for a short time of this animating life-power from God. As is said here of man, exactly so the Psalmist says of animals (Psalms 104:29-30):
"Thou takest away their breath (Heb. ruach), they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit (Heb. ruach: same word), they are created."
It was sent forth at the creation of all creatures to give life to them; it remains the animals' spirit or breath while they possess it, but it returns to God when they die.
It is vital to understand this subject. It must be very clear in our minds about the true "origin of species", as recorded in Genesis BY GOD through Moses. We need not be frightened away from this Divine account by the impossible "evolution" speculation. That theory is an unprovable "scientific" guess: an ever changing theory. The more men delve into and discover the intricate detail and delicate balance of all Creation the more utterly absurd and inadequate the strange evolution theory appears. Creation required planning, purpose and has great complexity, not something than randomness could have produced.
The theory of evolution very conveniently provides mankind with a means to escape the authority of God and obedience to His holy, flesh-crucifying laws. Why else would intelligent, mature men and women believe that which under any other circumstances would be regarded as absolute impossibilities? Humans always have fantasies. They are always quick to believe anything that releases them from responsibility to a Divine Being greater than himself. An intelligent person can see countless faces of God everywhere he looks in this glorious Creation: from the infinitely large to the infinitely small. What a leap of faith to believe that all this beauty and wisdom and power came spontaneously from nothing without plan or purpose! How can such absurdity be called "science"?
If we accept Christ's teachings as the direct words of God (John 14:24), then we must accept Moses' writings, for Christ endorsed Moses, and accepted his statements as true and divinely inspired. Note the words of Jesus:
"Moses wrote of me: if ye believe not his writings how shall ye believe my words?" (John 5:46-47)
That statement concludes with the fact that the New Testament Scriptures tie Adam and Christ inseparably together as the two poles in the divine plan. They stand or fall together as historic realities.
We see Adam and Eve as keepers of the beautiful Garden of Eden; existing in a condition termed a "very good" state (Genesis 1:31).
They were placed under a law requiring their submission, obedience and affection to Divine requirements. That condition prevailed with the purpose of showing it alone would produce eternal happiness for mankind, and the pleasure and glory of God.
Adam was prohibited from eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil:
"But of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:17).
Here was the simplest and most convenient mode of teaching and training him in regard to his position before God. How long Adam continued obedient we are not told, but we are informed that in process of time he disobeyed (Genesis 3:6) -
"When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof and did eat; and gave also to her husband, and he did eat."
The result of this disobedience was exactly as God declared -
"Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake : in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground: for out of it wast thou taken. For dust THOU ART, and unto dust shalt THOU return" (Genesis 3:17-19).
Adam, who had had opportunity of attaining immortality, was now doomed to return to his original nothingness: a condition which through physical inheritance has been passed on to all his descendants. We all possess the same corrupt, dying natures, on the principle that:
"Clean cannot come of the unclean" (Job 14:4).
We are all mortal, dying creatures. Adam and Eve disobeyed God. They were given a death sentence by God. Then they were driven outside the Garden of Eden, and excluded from access to the Tree of Life, for this reason:
"Lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the Tree of Life, and eat, and live for ever: therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden to till the ground from whence he was taken" (Genesis 3:22-23).
Adam's descendants, innumerable, sin-stricken and wretched, are mercifully swept away, generation after generation, like grass before the mower.
The message of the Bible, remember, follows a logical pattern. At this point we need to question the logic and reason for restraining access to the Tree of Life. Suppose these people were already immortal. If they were "immortal souls", already destined to "live for ever", either in heaven or hell, what would happen? If such a theory were true, there should have been no question as to whether or not they would live for ever: rather it should have been a simple matter of where and under what conditions they would be living for ever. How could eating - or not eating - of the Tree of Life have anything to do with that?
The Bible provides us with the true and logical account of man's present mortal condition. Likewise it is from this source alone that his future destiny is revealed. Job asked:
"If a man die, shall he LIVE AGAIN?" (Job 14:14).
The Bible alone answers this question. A seed placed in the ground "dies", to spring to life again: that power being inherent in the seed. Or a tree cut down may sprout again, as Job says (vs. 7-9):
But not so with man, for he makes the contrast (v.10):
"But man dieth, and wasteth away. Yea, man giveth up the spirit (gava: expires), and where is he?"
He is nowhere. He has returned to the dust of the ground, to remingle with all other dust. If he is to live again, it will be by a new effort on the part of God.
The hope that people may live again under certain conditions is the good news of the Bible message (1 Corinthians 15:21):
"Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead".
Christ declared himself the Resurrection and the Life, adding:
"He that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." (John 11:25).
Paul said that Christ, at his return to earth, would:
"Change our vile (low, base. grk. - tapeinos) BODIES, and fashion them like unto his own glorious BODY" (Philippians 3:21).
And to Timothy he wrote:
"Jesus Christ ... hath abolished death (as the ultimate destiny of those who obey God), and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." (2 Timothy 1:10).
The following verses teach the same thing (note that such statements are logically unnecessary, if man already has immortality inherent within him):
"I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
"My sheep hear my voice . . I give them eternal life" (John 10:28).
"The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ" (Romans 6: 23).
"God gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
"Perishing" is the alternative to receiving the gift of eternal life. As to the meaning of "perishing", Paul used exactly the same word, saying that if Christ be not risen, those who have fallen asleep (died) in Christ have "perished" (1 Corinthians 15:18). Certainly they have not gone off to eternal torments. The word simply means: "perished". The dead are gone to nothing and ceased to exist. Look up "perish" (grk. appolumi) in Strong's Hebrew Dictionary. The idea of this word meaning "eternal torments" would be an obvious and utter absurdity in practically every occurrence.
If we were to accept the traditional "immortal soul" theory, it would mean we would make ourselves believe: "death" doesn't mean death, but an unpleasant form of existence. We would then think that "perish" doesn't mean perish and "destroy" doesn't mean destroy.
From the above passages the teaching of the Bible is clear: eternal life is not a present possession of every human being, but a restricted, future gift of God to a selected few who conform to His will and purpose. All these passages, and many more, show that immortality, or everlasting life, is a thing to be diligently sought after, a reward, something to be given to those who by...
"Patient welldoing, SEEK for . . immortality " (Romans 2:7).