What is Salvation?  Will the unsaved burn in hell?

   Just what does it mean to be saved? How do you know when you have been saved? And how do you know if you are born again? What are faith, grace, repentance, redemption and sanctification? How do they relate to each other and to salvation? And what about those who are not saved: will they suffer eternal torment in hell? Do we have immortal souls that continue our consciousness after we die?

   These are all good questions; the terms above are often misunderstood. The following paragraphs define each of the terms and show how they are related to salvation. We will see how faith leads us to repentance, redemption and receipt of God's spirit, which in turn leads us through sanctification to salvation. First of all, what is salvation?

Salvation

   Salvation is one of the promises of God to all believers: to be given the gift of eternal life. To be "saved" in the full sense of the word means to have received eternal life. The word salvation is also used to describe the process we go through before we can receive eternal life. (In a few scriptures "saved" refers to redemption, one of the steps in the process of salvation.) Here are two of many verses about eternal life:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

Before we go on, please take a moment to note that the consequences of not being saved are perishing and death. Absolutely nothing was said about being condemned to torment in some sort of eternal hellfire. Romans 6:23, for example, does not say "For the wages of sin is eternal torment in hell." 

   As explained on the previous page, about God's promises, those who receive eternal life at the time of Jesus' return will no longer be flesh and blood mortal beings as we are today. They will be spirit beings, like angels, as explained by Jesus:

For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven. (Mark 12:25)

   When Jesus was raised from the dead, He was a spirit being, but was apparently able to appear as a physical being at will (see Luke 24:13-53). The apostle Paul explained that those who are resurrected to eternal life at Jesus' return will be raised from the dead with an incorruptible - not flesh and blood - spiritual body:

So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown [the body goes to the grave] in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15:42-44)

 

Judgment, hell, the lake of fire and the fate of Satan

     Note that a different resurrection, to mortal life, is also possible. The resurrection of Lazarus by Jesus, as recorded in John chapter 11, is an example. A general resurrection to mortal life will occur sometime after the first thousand years of the Kingdom of God on Earth: "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished" (Revelation 20:5). For those in this general resurrection to mortal life, this will apparently be their time of judgment. Those judged to be good will be given eternal life, as spirit beings, like those resurrected at Jesus' return over a thousand years earlier (Rev. 20:6; see the previous page in this website, What Does God Promise Us, for details). Jesus spoke of this resurrection in John 5:28,29:

Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

This last general resurrection is also described in Revelation 20:12,13:

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [the grave] delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

    What about those who are judged to be evil? What happens to them? For help with this question let's go back to two verses quoted earlier:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

Here we see that the alternative to eternal life is to perish, to suffer permanent death. Note that nothing was said about being tormented forever in any kind of hellfire: the verses state that death and perishing await those who do not receive eternal life. Upon judgment, those who do not receive eternal life will perish: they will die again - after some "weeping and gnashing of teeth" - this time without further hope of resurrection. After their second death they will never again be alive or conscious in any sense; they will not be in physical torment in "hell," nor will they continue as "immortal souls." They will simply die with no more hope of life or resurrection: they will perish forever upon their second death. They will be permanently destroyed. Revelation 20:14,15 describes this by saying they will symbolically be "cast into the lake of fire" which is defined as "the second death."

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14,15)

The "lake of fire" symbolizes permanent destruction. Anyone cast or thrown into the "lake of fire" or the "everlasting fire" is permanently destroyed: they suffer a second death as mortals, a death from which there is no further hope of resurrection or life. They perish. Revelation 21:8 makes it very clear that being "cast" into the lake of fire is the second death:

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

     When this final judgment is finished, all those who rejected God will have been destroyed through death. Incidentally, verses such as Revelation 20:9 and Malachi 4:3 indicate their physical bodies will be consumed by physical fire: "And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts" (Malachi 4:3).

     From that time forward only those who have received eternal life will remain. There will be no more mortal human beings, so death itself will no longer happen.  And there will no longer be anyone in their grave awaiting their resurrection. So both death and "hell" (from the Greek word hades, meaning the grave, the resting place of those awaiting a resurrection) will effectively be ended or destroyed forever. Again quoting Revelation 20:14,15, we see both cast into the symbolic "lake of fire":

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Revelation 21:4 clearly shows the transition to a new era in which there will be no more death:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall their be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

In a letter to the Corinthians the apostle Paul confirmed the destruction of death: 

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:26)

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass that saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is they victory? (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

     Some preachers teach that those who reject God will be tormented forever in some kind of physical, burning hellfire. In addition to their error they are perpetrating a lie about God: to eternally torture someone would be both merciless and sadistic, and God is neither. If you have been taught this lie, consider the verses quoted above and note that death is an event, and that "hell" or being in the grave is a condition or situation. How could they, not being physical things, be thrown into a physical "lake of fire"? It is no more possible to do that than it is to put love into a bottle. The "lake of fire" is not physical, but is symbolic, and symbolizes permanent destruction or oblivion. Remember, "the wages of sin is death" - not eternal life in hell - and "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (from Romans 6:23 and John 3:16).

     Here is another way to look at it. Occasionally the Bible uses the word Gehenna instead of "lake of fire" or "eternal fire." Some Bible commentaries explain that Gehenna was a narrow valley just south of ancient Jerusalem. That valley was used as a dump: fires were kept burning there to destroy the city's trash and the corpses of animals and criminals.  Just as everything that was cast into Jerusalem's Gehenna was destroyed, all that is cast into the symbolic "lake of fire" or "everlasting fire" will be destroyed, including the wicked, and death, and the grave!

     Additionally, even Satan and Satan's angels will be destroyed. Jesus mentioned this while speaking of  judgment, showing that wicked men, Satan and Satan's angels will all go into the same "everlasting fire":

Then shall he [Jesus, while judging] say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels  (Matthew 25:41) 

Ezekiel 28:15-19 confirms that Satan will be destroyed, concluding an address to him with these words: "...thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more." Also see 1 John 3:8 and Hebrews 2:14.

     Note: many have wondered about the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, wanting to know if the parable shows the wicked will "burn in hell" and the good will "go to heaven." Actually, the parable is about an entirely different topic. An extra page has been added to this website to explain the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, even showing why the rich man had five brothers.

     Does the Bible clearly say, anywhere, that the wicked will be destroyed? Yes. Consider Revelation 11:18:

And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.

"Destroy" in this verse is from the Greek word diaphtheiro which Strong's Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries defines as "corrupt, destroy, perish."

 

Born Again

    Jesus spoke about spirit beings in John 3:6-8, showing that they are like the wind, invisible but real:

That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

Jesus used the expressions "born again" and "born of the Spirit" in the same sense that Paul did when he spoke of being "raised a spiritual body": Jesus and Paul were referring to receiving eternal life as spirit beings.

   Those who say they are "born again" Christians are not, of course, spirit beings yet. Their use of the term "born again" can be confusing in that it is different than Jesus' use as quoted above. When they say they are "born again" they are apparently referring to receiving God's spirit, or to baptism, or to redemption or perhaps some combination of these. But we are not truly "born again," as Jesus used the term, until we have received eternal life as spirit beings.

    Jesus was the first to receive salvation, to be "born again." The apostle Paul described Jesus as "the firstborn from the dead" in Colossians 1:18:

And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

 

Faith

    Jesus said "strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:14). Without faith we cannot begin the journey, the process, that will lead to salvation. Faith is believing and trusting God and Jesus. John 3:16, again, says:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Here we see that believing in Jesus is required to obtain eternal life. Believing in Jesus goes beyond believing He existed. It means believing He was raised from the dead and still lives, and will keep His promises. And an active, living faith leads beyond believing into trusting, and action: seeking Him and doing His will. The apostle Paul wrote about faith saying:

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

    Perhaps it is confusing that John 3:16 referred to believing in Jesus, but the verse above refers to believing in God. It helps to remember that Jesus said "I and my Father are one": we can think of them interchangeably. Jesus said "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." And He said "the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son" (John 10:30, Matthew 28:18 and John 5:22). The Father has given Jesus the power of God over us: we can relate to Jesus as we would to the Father.

   So if we have faith, if we believe and trust in Jesus and God's promises, what should we do?

 

Repentance

     If our faith is real, we will believe God and trust Him to keep His promises, including eternal life. If our faith is real, we will also act on God's expectations of us. Jesus said we should repent: we should turn away from sin and commit ourselves to obey God and seek His will.

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 4:17)

Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. (Jesus, from Luke 13:4)

    Repenting begins with recognizing and admitting we have sinned and also requires - and is - an attitude change. The new attitude is one of determination to obey God and to do His will. That new attitude must remain in place from that time forward. Repentance therefore is the beginning of, and the maintenance and growth of, a new attitude of obedience and love toward God.

    God wants an attitude like this:

...to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. (Isaiah 66:2)

 

Redemption

   If we have faith and repent - if we believe and trust God, admit our sins and adopt an obedient attitude toward Him - we meet the conditions for the forgiving of all our past sins. The apostle John wrote:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

This forgiving of sins, and cleansing from unrighteousness, is redemption. When you are redeemed you are justified or made right with God; you are reconciled to Him. You will recall from Romans 6:23 that "the wages of sin is death"; since we have all sinned, or transgressed the law (1 John 3:4), we are all under the penalty of the law, which is death. But God has provided redemption just as promised through several Old Testament prophets. Here, for example, is Hosea 13:14:

I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death

One of the reasons God sent Jesus was so that He, Jesus, could pay the death penalty on our behalf; Jesus ransomed us from the death penalty by paying the death penalty for us. Jesus said:

...the Son of man came not to be ministered unto [served], but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

Revelation 5:9 also speaks of Jesus from all believers' point of view, saying:

...thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.

    How or why was Jesus able to redeem us from the death penalty? According to the Bible, Jesus - also called the Word - was actually the Creator:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made... and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1:1-3, 14)

In Hebrews 1:1,2 we see the "the worlds" were created by, or through, Jesus:

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds

The apostle Paul wrote in about Jesus in Colossians 1:14-16, saying:

In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him

Being the Creator, Jesus was and is of greater worth and power than the creation. And having lived a sinless life in the flesh, through the power of God's spirit, He was not subject to the death penalty. Owing to His worth, and sinless life, He was qualified to pay the death penalty on behalf of all mankind. His sacrificial death to redeem us to God was apparently part of a plan established from the beginning of creation: Revelation 13:8 describes Jesus as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."

 

Baptism

    The Bible describes at least two different baptisms; one is with water, another is with God's spirit. Here is a description of them, recorded in Mark 1:4-8:

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camelís hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; And preached, saying, There cometh one [referring to Jesus] mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

    John the Baptist baptized mature, repenting adults. Their water baptism symbolized the washing away of their sins - their redemption - and their emergence into a new, repentant life. Water baptism was, and is, a demonstration or token of a repentant person's sincerity and their readiness to leave behind the old life of sin and to begin a new life of obedience and love toward God.  Water baptism of infants is meaningless ritual: infants are not mature enough to decide to repent or to even understand what repentance is. 

    Baptism with God's spirit is done by Jesus; Jesus has promised His spirit to those who have faith and have repented. Perhaps it would be better to describe it this way: God and Jesus are spirit, and Jesus promised that He and the Father will live in us:

If a man love[s] me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:23)

    Is water baptism required to receive God's spirit? Not necessarily: in some cases (see Acts 10:44-48) God's spirit was received before baptism. In other cases God's spirit was not received at the time of baptism, but was received later when some of the apostles "laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost" (see Acts 8:14-17). In some cases the receipt of God's spirit - in the direct presence of the apostles, accompanied by miracles  - apparently served to validate the apostles and their message.

 

Sanctification

    With the Father and Jesus dwelling in us, the process of sanctification - begun when we repented and turned our attitude toward God - can continue. Sanctification is a life-long process of change, of overcoming our human weaknesses, and of transformation according to God's will. Sanctification continues only as long as repentance remains. Again, repentance is much more than a one-time event: it is an attitude of humility, teachability and willingness to change that must be maintained in order for the sanctification process to continue. If we loose or reject our repentant attitude, God can no longer work with us through His spirit and our sanctification ceases.

    Having repented - having made a resolution to turn from sin and to seek God's will - we have begun the life-long process of  sanctification. And having been redeemed and reconciled to God, He will now work with us by dwelling in us, guiding us by His spirit.

    The apostle Paul wrote:

...God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:16-18)

    Paul instructed the believers in Rome to follow the Spirit:

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God (Romans 8:5-16)

    While our sanctification is in process we will sin from time to time: we are not yet perfect, not yet able to follow God's spirit perfectly as Jesus did. If we repent again, and return to a repentant attitude, redemption is still available to us. If we always return to repentance, and follow God's spirit for the rest of our lives, we are promised the gift of eternal life:

For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Galatians 6:8)

 

Once saved, always saved?

    Can we continue sanctification without faith? Of course not; we must continue to believe God's promises and act on them. Likewise, repentance must continue throughout our lifetime of sanctification. Redemption, as we repent, is still available throughout sanctification. Some Bible verses can be confusing in that they refer to having been redeemed or saved, while other verses say we are being redeemed or saved, and others say we will be redeemed or saved. Salvation is a process as well as an end or goal, so different tenses are used in different contexts. For example, consider 1 Corinthians 1:18:

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

In this instance we have been "saved" from the penalty of past sins if we have repented and been redeemed, accepting Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf... but we must continue to repent and follow God's spirit if we are to be saved in the full sense of the word, receiving eternal life.  

   Unfortunately many popular preachers teach that once you are "saved" by "making a decision for Christ," you are saved: you will without doubt "go to heaven." The truth is quite different: there is no promise that we will go to heaven (see the preceding page, about God's promises). Salvation is not automatic upon our initial repentance. We must be sanctified; we must continually do our part by remaining faithful, repenting, following the lead of God's spirit and overcoming evil. That is why the apostle Peter wrote:

...brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10)

The apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi reminding them and urging them to work on their salvation:

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12)

Paul did not consider himself to be saved, to have "apprehended" salvation; he told the Philippians that he continued to strive:

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13)

Salvation is the gift of God, but it is not unconditional. We must repent, receive His Spirit, abide in Him in living faith, grow spiritually and overcome sin and the self. Jesus said "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son." He did not say that we just have to believe in Him, or just "give our hearts" to Him or just "make a decision" for Him...

 

Redemption is not the same as salvation

     Many have been misled to believe that if they have been redeemed or justified to God for their past sins they are saved. This is not what the Bible says, however. The apostle Paul made a clear distinction between the two, showing that redemption or justification from our past sins comes first, and salvation follows later. Consider Romans 5:9:

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

Note "justified," past tense, and "shall be saved," future tense. We shall be saved when we are resurrected to eternal life. Before we get there we hear the word of God, we have faith and believe. We repent and are justified or redeemed to God for the sins of our past. We learn to obey and we follow God's spirit through a life-long process of sanctification, of continued overcoming, repentance and reconciliation. We are sanctified "through him": that is, through Him dwelling in us. To believe you are saved when you are first redeemed is a false comfort zone, bypassing the important creational work of sanctification. Remember, Paul urged the Philippians to "...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).

     The apostle Peter described how knowledge of God - walking with God - leads to growth in various virtues and good works, and to a final reward:

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that [pertain] unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make [you that ye shall] neither [be] barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:2-11)

 

Works

    Godly character, with good works (deeds, behavior and commandment keeping), are the fruits of His spirit working in us. As we let Him lead us by His spirit, we develop His character and we produce good works. The works are done naturally, automatically, much as we leave footprints automatically when we walk in sand or snow. If we are not leaving footprints - not producing good works - we are not walking with Him, and not abiding in Him. The apostle James appropriately stated that "...faith without works is dead" (James 2:26). To bear the fruit of the Spirit, to develop His character and produce good works, we must abide in Him: we must let Him work in us via His spirit. Here is Jesus' analogy:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:4-6)

    We are not saved by works. But if we abide in Him in living faith we will produce works, automatically. The two go together: where living faith is, works are, also. If we are not producing works, then we do not have a living faith: "...faith without works is dead." Without abiding in Him we "can do nothing" and "cannot bear fruit"; then we are in danger of destruction as Jesus warned. In the same regard James also wrote about the necessity of showing works, saying "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (James 2:24)... James said this simply because where living faith is, works are, also.

    The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians explaining that God's grace - not our works - saves us, but that God does expect works from us:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

    Salvation - eternal life - is a priceless gift from God. No amount of works could ever earn it. But without works, the fruit of living faith, we are in danger of destruction. Our redemption to God through Jesus' death - and the gift of eternal life - are both blessings that we can not earn: they are given to us by the goodness and grace of God. Again, Romans 6:23:

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Do we have an immortal soul?

   Many people have been taught that we each have a soul: an immortal part or component of us that lives on forever after our physical death. This belief is not found in the Bible: actually it is from Greek philosophy. Hundreds of years before the time of Christ the Greek philosopher Plato, in Phaedo, wrote:

Do we believe that there is such a thing as death?... is this anything but the separation of soul and body? And being dead is the attainment of this separation; when the soul exists in herself, and is parted from the body and the body is parted from the soul... the soul is in the very likeness of the divine, and immortal, and intelligible, and uniform, and indissoluble, and unchangeable; and the body is in the very likeness of the human, and mortal, and unintelligible, and multiform, and dissoluble, and changeable.

   The Bible does not teach that we have an immortal soul. In fact, the Bible does not teach that we have any kind of "soul" or separable spirit in the Greek sense: the Bible actually has a different definition for the word "soul." Regrettably many people are thinking of the Greek idea of an immortal soul when they read the word "soul" in the Bible. The result is confusion and seeming contradiction. For example Ezekiel 18:20 in the Bible says "The soul that sinneth, it shall die"... a complete contradiction to the Greek belief in an immortal soul. So, what exactly does the Bible mean by the word "soul" if the soul is not an immortal part of us that continues after death?

   In the Old Testament (KJV) "soul" was translated, in nearly every instance, from the original Hebrew word nephesh which means a breathing creature, a living thing, with the meaning often extending to the person, to the self, even to the mind or heart. In the New Testament "soul" was translated from the original Greek word psuche which has the same meaning as the Hebrew nephesh. The Bible shows that we are physical beings, and that when we die our consciousness ends:

...for dust you are and to dust you will return (Gen. 3:19)

 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing (Ecclesiastes 9:5)

   If we think of the person, or self, or mind or heart, or individual or life when we read "soul" in the Bible we get a better understanding of what was meant, depending somewhat on the context. Here are some examples:

The soul that sinneth, it shall die (Ezekiel 18:20; soul means person)

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (Matthew 22:37; soul referring to your self or your will)

Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. (Matthew 26:38; soul referring to mind, heart, self... "my soul is" is another way of saying "I am")

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mark 8:37,38; soul referring to life, especially eternal life)

He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. (Acts 2:31; soul refers to the body not being left in hell or Greek hades, the grave)

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28; soul referring to the person, to that person's life, even his opportunity for eternal life)

And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. (Acts 2:43; every soul referring to every person)

And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. (Acts 4:32; soul refers to mind or intent)

Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. (James 5:20; soul referring to person)

And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea. (Revelation 16:3; soul referring to creature)

    Do we have an immortal soul? That's a trick question, because we do not have any kind of soul per the common definition of the word. We do not have an immortal soul: there is no soul at all, such as the Greek philosophers taught and many people today still believe.

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Home
A Few Words About Prophecy
Daniel's Prophecy About World Powers
The Revelation: Signs of Our Times
Jesus' Prophecy: Signs and Warnings
Bible Prophecy Summary
An historian's view of the Kingdom of God
What Does God Want From Us?
What Does God Promise Us?

What is Salvation?

next: Where is God? What is God's Plan?


other pages, in random order:

Jesus

The Ten Commandments

Three days and three nights?

Jesus, paradise and the thief

The Garden of Eden

The parable of Lazarus and the rich man

Catholic prophecy

2 Thessalonians 2:1-10