"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Natural Immortality or God's Gift of Immortality?

"Truth is like a young lion who fearlessly welcomes all challengers. Error is like an old lion who must loudly roar to scare away encroachers. The louder someone rants about 'your theological errors,' the less sure that old lion is of his truth." - Wade Burleson

Most people believe what they're taught and do what they're told without thinking for themselves.

I find that a tad disturbing.

The reason professing Christians will sometimes "renounce" their Christian faith is because they've only accepted what they've been taught and never agonized over what they've learned.

Let me give you an example.
"God alone is immortal" (I Timothy 6:16). 
What does that mean? God alone ("nobody else") is immortal

Mortal means "subject to death." God alone is not "subject to death."

Suppose you were in a room with several people, and someone said, "Of all the people in this room, there is one person alone who is a multi-millionaire."

What would that mean?

Obviously, only one person possesses multi-millions of dollars.

So, if God alone is immortal, how can anyone else become immortal?

The same way other people in the room of only one multi-millionaire become millionaires without leaving the room.

The one who has it must gift it to those who don't.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is immortal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). 
For reasons I cannot fathom, many Christians believe that the lives of the wicked are like the trick birthday candles your mom put on your 12th-year-birthday celebration cake.

You can't extinguish them no matter how hard you try.

Christians in these latter days believe that the wicked are naturally immortal. The notion among many evangelicals is that the wicked can't "die" because their souls naturally live forever.

But Jesus said:
"Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul (eg "men"); but rather fear Him (eg "God") who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28)
God alone is immortal.

The eternal torment of the wicked presupposes that God gifts the wicked with immortal life.

But the Scriptures seem to teach only those in Christ are gifted with immortal life.

The wicked will die a second time as their just sentence for the sins they've committed in this life (Revelation 20:14). The righteous alone - that is, those in Christ - are given God's gift of immortal life.
"It has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." (II Timothy 1:10)
I know of nothing better than the Hope that the God of all grace will gift His people with immortal life and totally destroy everything wicked.

It's Good News.

11 comments:

Tom Kelley said...

Let's see ...
-- The Archangel Michael is Jesus
-- People who die have no conscious existence until the resurrection
-- People who die apart from Christ will be resurrected for the last judgment and then be annihilated in the lake of fire and cease to exist

Have you been taking theology lessons from some JWs or SDAs, Wade? :)

Just messing with you -- these are all beliefs within the bounds of orthodoxy, although uncommon for today's evangelicals. But the common beliefs of today's evangelicals on these issues are far from novel or recent developments. They've been around since the church Fathers -- and some would say since Jesus and the apostles.

I personally would like to believe all of these things, but feel there are passages that have to be ignored or twisted to accept them. I wouldn't mind being wrong.

Bob Cleveland said...

I believe there will be many surprises in Heaven. Like people we expected to see and who aren't there, people we never expected to see there who are there And what Heaven is really like (since we cannot really comprehend that, with our brains made up of flesh)

I heard probably over 50 years ago that there comes a time in our lives when we must renounce the faith "we got with our mother's milk", and adopt what we believe for ourselves ... which God must reveal to us. I like that, among other things, because that's what happened to me.

Wade Burleson said...

Bob,

Amen.

Wade Burleson said...

Tom,

The archangel Michael is NOT Jesus, for Jesus is no angel. One of the titles of Jesus is "arch" (Greek: Ruler) of angels.

People who die have immediate consciousness in the resurrection, similar to one falling asleep under anesthesia and immediately awakening. Eternity is outside of time.

Finally, the Bible never uses the word annihilated and neither do I. The wicked perish.

Of course, it's within orthodoxy.

It's the Bible!

(Just messin with you).

Grainne said...

There is a good site called Rethinking Hell. It makes excellent arguments for conditional immortality. Edward Fudge wrote a superb book on the subject. In the end, the character of God is at stake.

Rebekah said...

I’m reading this through the lens of all of the recent well known Christians who are renouncing their faith, and I have a question regarding their theology. I would be curious to know what percent of them are Reformed. My totally unsubstantiated guess would be the majority. I wonder if so many are abandoning their faith altogether because Calvinism (especially this new hyper-Calvinism) leaves no room for questions or doubts and if you decide that Calvinist theology wasn’t 100% accurate then you weren’t really saved any way thus the departure from Christianity altogether.

Christiane said...

I was once reading that St. Monica, the mother of Augustine, told him 'you are already living an eternal life'

we are 'created' beings, but our life is 'sustained' by the Hand of Our Creator God from moment to moment, He Who created all in existence from 'nothing', He Who is 'being itself' holds us together Himself so that we do not live independent from His Hand, and yet we have been given 'choice' because we were created 'persons' made in His image and therefore have God-given consciences that guide us towards what is good and away from what is evil

I believe that when a dying person passes from this Earthly life into the life beyond this Earth, that this journey is made with the help of the One Who created us and gave us life, so that we are not alone on that journey and are kept safe from all evil by the Presence of the Holy Spirit

I believe that the phrase 'be not afraid' is true. Whatever befalls us in this life, we will not be abandoned by the Source of our existence. That phrase 'rest in Him' has meaning for me, as in the depths of unbearable grief, I felt 'cared for' and that experience was for me an affirmation that I was not left to suffer alone.

some thoughts

Wade Burleson said...

Rebekah,

You ask a good question.

I believe that the inability to ask questions, the refusal of teachers to give room for doubts, and the overall "fear" of theological disagreement (see the SBC for an example) is one of the reasons young people are driven away.

Young lions fear nothing. Old, toothless lions roar.

Tom Kelley said...

Wade, concerning Michael, I was referring to an old post in which you explained your view that "the archangel Michael in Daniel 12:1 is identified as the Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity."

https://www.wadeburleson.org/2011/08/michael-is-name-for-son-of-god-himself.html

JWs and SDAs teach that, and also that people do not have a conscious existence between their time of death and the time of their resurrection (regardless of how they experience it, there is still a time gap during which they do not consciously exist outside their bodies) and also that unbelievers "perish" at the last judgement. (Annihilation is just another word for that view.)

I realize that just because groups with some wrong views teach something it doesn't make everything they teach wrong. I'm just saying those views are common in those circles. And I'm also saying that the typical evangelical views on those issues have long-standing historical precedent (not that that makes them right, just that they aren't a novel, modern-day invention).

I appreciate your diligent study of scripture and your desire that people dig in and find the truth for themselves and not just accept what they've always been taught. I also appreciate that you are gracious toward others who have studied and come to different conclusions. I have shifted many of my own views over the years from doing my own research, and it's frustrating when I encounter people who think I don't believe the Bible just because I don't adhere to their interpretation of it.

Blessings!

Shawn said...

Had trouble believing you take the position of Michael as Jesus. I understand you putting more stock in evangelical thinkers than catholic thinkers but the conclusion is weak at best.

Quick note on this. For Michael to tie in to the ""Michael," (i.e. "who is like unto God"). In 2 Corinthians 4:4, he says, "the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." In Philippians 2:5- 7, he says, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; But made himself of no reputation.” In Colossians 1:15, he calls Christ-the Father's dear Son, “ the image of the invisible God."" requires the Hebrew to use, not Mî, which is an interrogative presenting a rhetorical question Who indeed is like God?, but rather the relative pronoun Asher, 'one who is like God.'

Wade Burleson said...

John Gill, the greatest Hebrew scholar Baptists have ever produced, wrote the following in his commentary on Jude 1:9:

Jude 1:9 - "Yet Michael the archangel"

By whom is meant, not a created angel, but an eternal one, the Lord Jesus Christ;as appears from His name Michael, which signifies, "who is as God": and who is as God, or like unto Him, but the Son of God, who is equal with God? and from his character as the archangel, or Prince of angels, for Christ is the head of all principality and power; and from what is elsewhere said of Michael, as that he is the great Prince, and on the side of the people of God, and to have angels under him, and at his command, ( Daniel 10:21 ) ( 12:1 ) ( Revelation 12:7 ).

Argue with Gill. :)