Hell in the Bible

The word “hell” is used 54 times in the Bible. It is translated from several different words with various meanings, as indicated below:

In the Old Testament:

31 times from the Hebrew “Sheol,” which means
“the grave”

In the New Testament:

10 times from the Greek “Hades,” which means
“the grave”

12 times from the Greek “Gehenna,” which means
“a place of burning”

1 time from the Greek “Tartarus,” which means
“a place of darkness”

General Questions and Answers

QUESTION: Does Satan have an immortal nature, and thus burn in hellfire for eternity?ANSWER: The Bible describes angels as created beings (Psalm 148: 2, 5), powerful (Psalm 103: 20), and in form they are spirit (Hebrews 1:14). There is no known way to detect the presence or movement of angels. This does not make them any less real. Humans are limited to see them unless angels either open our eyes or they appear in human likeness. Before being battled out of heaven, Satan was known as Lucifer, the covering cherub (Isaiah 14:12). His position was in the very throne room of heaven. God gave him great responsibilities.Satan is ultimately responsible for sin. He is demonic and ultimately hardened in sin. At some stage he passed the point of no return in his rebellion against God. He knows what fate awaits him and is emblazoned in his goal of robbing everyone on earth of their inheritance in Christ. He wants millions upon millions to share the same fate that he knows is coming to him. The Bible reveals that "everlasting fire, [is] prepared for the devil and his angels." Matthew 25:41.There is one reference in Scripture that describes the execution of Satan. This text also is an example of what the Bible means by the term "everlasting fire." It is a fire with eternal results, not eternal in duration. You be the judge!(Ezekiel 28:16-19)
By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffic; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more. (emphasis added)
QUESTION: The Terms "everlasting fire" and "tormented day and night forever and ever" have led to a long history of belief that unrepentant sinners will be punished in hellfire with no end to it. Doesn't the fact that so many people believe this mean that it must be true?ANSWER: Popularity of belief is never a measure of truth! What is true is reality; and only God's Word assures us of that.If the Eternal Torment theory is true, then there are several Bible figures that owe the world an apology: 1) David said: "the wicked shall perish, ... they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away." (Psalm 37:20)2) Jesus said: "fear him [God] which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 20:18)3) Paul wrote: The disobedient "shall be punished with everlasting destruction." (2 Thessalonians 1:9, emphasis supplied)4) The Lord of hosts said by Malachi: "For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch." (Malachi 4:1, emphasis supplied)Whom do you choose to believe? Are these Bible spokesmen to give deference to the Plato-tainted teachings of Tertullian, Augustine, and the personalities of the medieval church era that most Christians still cling to today?The Bible says, "the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23) Isn't it "another gospel" that teaches the wages of sin is eternal conscious torment in hell? This does not meet the Bible formula, which is a choice between life or death. (John 3:16)Another dilemma for eternal torment advocates is the measure of what it cost the Son of God to ransom the sinner. Jesus forfeited His life to redeem man from the grave. Sin is a capital offense. The just penalty for the unrepentant sinner must match the penalty Christ paid for sin --- forfeiture of life --- not eternal life in hellfire.The crux of the problem in understanding "everlasting fire" is in the usage and meaning of the Greek word for "eternal," "everlasting," and "forever." These words are derivatives of the Greek word aion; the adjective form is aion-ios. Biblical scholars who study word meaning speak up about this with honesty.The meaning of aion depends on the context. It is used to refer to a brief measure or an indefinite measure of time. For example: The boy, Samuel, is given by his mother, Hannah, to serve the Lord "forever," (1 Samuel 1:22) But verse 28 qualifies this to mean, "as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord." Jonah stated he was at the bottom of the sea "forever" during his fish ride. (Jonah 2:6) In his case aion is at the most three days. When aion is used with reference to life (John 3:16) it refers to time without an end. In the Bible the determining factor of the length of aion is the time it takes for God's plan to be accomplished or fulfilled.God has given an example of what "everlasting" or "eternal" fire is: "Sodom and Gomorrha, ... are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." Again, aion means the time it takes to accomplish or fulfill God's purpose. In Sodom's case it was a few hours. The results of the fire may be considered "eternal" as well. Hence, the result of the fire is forever permanent. Is Sodom a foretaste of the lake of fire that will destroy the unsaved? You be the judge!When we consider what David, Jesus, Paul, and God through Malachi have said about the fate of the wicked, is there any doubt about the meaning of the second death with reference to "everlasting fire" and "shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever"? God's purpose to end the problem of sin surely will be accomplished and fulfilled. And Nahum's prediction will be a HOPE COME TRUE: "He will make an utter end: afflication [sin] shall not rise up the second time." (Nahum 1:9)Search for the immortal soul, Daniel KnauftDo you have a question about these things? Please click here to submit it online.

Undying, Immortal Soul?

Doesn't the Bible speak of the "undying," "immortal" soul?No, the undying, immortal soul is not mentioned in the Bible. The word "immortal" is found only once in the Bible, and it is in reference to God (1 Timothy 1:17).
Since man is made in the image of God and God is immortal isn't man then also immortal?

Why should only one of God's attributes, that of immortality, be singled out for comparison? God is all-powerful. Does it therefore follow that man, made in the image of God, is also all-powerful? God is all-wise. Is man therefore possessed of boundless wisdom, because made in God’s image?

The Bible uses the word “immortality” only five times, and the word “immortal” only once. In this lone instance the term is applied to God: “Eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God.” 1 Tim. 1:17. The five references that contain the word “immortality” are as follows:

Romans 2:7. In this text the Christian is exhorted to “seek” for immortality. Why should he seek for it if he already possesses it? In this same book of Romans, Paul quotes the prophet Elijah as saying of his enemies, “They seek my life.” We understand from this that the prophet’s enemies did not yet have his life in their hands. Therefore, when we are exhorted to seek for immortality, for a life that knows no end, we must conclude that we do not now possess such a life.

2 Timothy 1:10. Here we learn that Christ “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” The only deduction from this is that so far from immortality’s being a natural possession of all men, it is one of the good things made possible through the gospel. Paul wrote, “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.” Rom. 6:23. Why would we need this gift if we already had undying souls?

1 Corinthians 15:53. This passage tells when we shall receive immortality. The time is “at the last trump.” Then “this mortal must put on immortality.” Why should the apostle Paul speak of our putting on immortality at a future date if we already possess it?

1 Corinthians 15:54. This verse simply adds the thought that when “this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”

1 Timothy 6:16. Here we learn that God “only hath immortality.” This final text settles the matter as conclusively as words could possibly do, and explains fully why we are exhorted to “seek” immortality, and why we are told that immortality is something that is to be “put on” “at the last trump.”

Not only do we learn from these texts that we do not have immortality, but also we are told that God alone has it.

There are other texts which contain in the original Greek the same word that is translated “immortal” or “immortality” in the six texts we have just considered. But these additional texts do not require us to change our conclusion; on the contrary they strengthen it. Take, for example, Romans 1:23, where Paul, speaking of the idolatrous action of the heathen, says that they “changed the glory of the uncorruptible [immortal] God into an image made like to corruptible [mortal] man.” In the Greek, the word here translated “uncorruptible” is the same as that rendered “immortal” in 1 Timothy 1:17: “Eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God.” The Expositor’s Bible translates the passage thus: “Transmuted the glory of the immortal God in a semblance of the likeness of mortal man.” The uncorruptible, the immortal God is sharply contrasted with corruptible, mortal man.We read in John 5:26 that the “Father hath life in himself,”and that He hath “given to the Son to have life in Himself.” But nowhere do we read that God gave to human beings to have life in themselves. That is why the Bible never speaks of man as immortal.

- Answers To Objections, Francis D. Nichol, pp. 337-338

Spirits In Prison


Please explain 1 Peter 3:18-20 where it speaks of Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison."For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water."

- 1 Peter 3:18-20

There has been considerable misunderstanding of these verses of Scripture. It has been preached that Christ actually descended into the lower regions of the earth and preached to lost souls who were in prison in some type of purgatory or limbo. This is very far from what the text actually says. Let's look at it closely now and get the real message of these verses. It says, "Christ also hath once suffered for sins ... that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also He went and preached ..."First of all, notice how Christ preached to those spirits in prison. He did it by the Spirit, and that word is capitalized in your Bible. It actually refers to the Holy Spirit. So whatsoever Christ did in preaching during this period of time, He did it through or by the Holy Spirit.With that in view, let's ask this: "When was the preaching done?" The answer is plainly given in verse 20: "when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing." So the preaching was actually done while the ark was being built -- during the preaching of Noah to that antediluvian world. Now, one more question: "To whom was the preaching done?" The text says here "unto the spirits in prison." Throughout the Bible we find this terminology used in describing those who are bound in the prison house of sin. David prayed, "Bring my soul out of prison, ..." (Psalm 142:7). Paul spoke of his experience in these words, "bringing me into captivity to the law of sin." What Peter is telling us here is simply that Christ, through the Holy Spirit, was present while Noah preached; Christ was there through the Holy Spirit to speak conviction to their hearts and appeal to them to come into the ark. There is absolutely nothing in this text to indicate that Jesus left His body during the time He was dead to go to any subterranean place to minister to wicked spirits. The three questions are clearly answered in the text itself: (1) that He preached by the Holy Spirit, (2) He did it while the ark was preparing, and (3) He did it to the spirits in prison, or to those individuals whose sinful lives were bound in the prison house of sin.

Matthew 25:41 speaks of "everlasting fire" for the wicked. Does it go out?

Yes, according to the Bible, it does. We must let the Bible explain itself. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with everlasting, or eternal, fire (Jude 7), and that fire turned them "into ashes" as a warning to "those that after should live ungodly," 2 Peter 2:6. These cities are not burning today. The fire went out after everything was burned out. Likewise, everlasting fire will go out after it has turned the wicked to ashes (Malachi 4:3). The effects of the fire are everlasting, but not the burning itself.


Doesn't Matthew 25:46 say the wicked will receive "everlasting punishment"?
Notice the word is punishment, not punishing. Punishing would be continuous, while punishment is one act. The punishment of the wicked is death, and this death is everlasting.

The Rich Man & Lazarus

Doesn't the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 teach an eternal hell of torment?

No, Indeed! It is simply a parable used to emphasize a point. Many facts make it clear that this is a parable. A few are as follows:

Abraham's bosom is not heaven (Hebrews 11:8-10, 16)

People in hell can't talk to those in heaven (Isaiah 65: 17)

The dead are in their graves (Job 17:13; John 5:28, 29). The rich man was in bodily form with eyes, a tongue, etc., yet we know that the body does not go to hell at death. It is very obvious that the body remains in the grave, as the Bible says. If you'd like to know more about what happens after you die visit The Truth About Death website.

Men are rewarded at Christ's second coming, not at death (Revelation 22:11, 12)

The lost are punished in hell at the end of the world, not when they die (Matthew 13:40-42). The point of the story is found in verse 31 of Luke 16. Parables cannot be taken literally. If we took parables literally, then we must believe that trees talk! (See this parable in Judges 9:8-15).

By representing the beggar as being in heaven and the rich man as lost, Jesus taught His hearers that, contrary to the prevailing view, wealth was not necessarily an indicator of divine favor, just as poverty was not a sign of God's judgement upon a person.Jesus was also seeking to educate the Jews that salvation would not be theirs by birthright. The rich man in torments calls out to "father Abraham," just as the Jews of Jesus' day were mistakenly pointing to heritage as proof of their assurance of salvation.Furthermore, Jesus was seeking to lead His hearers to understand that only faithfulness to God's Word would prepare them to enter into eternal life. He told them, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:31).To use the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in order to promote the false doctrine of an eternally burning hell is to misuse God's Word and to misrepresent His character.

Everlasting Fire

Matthew 25:41 speaks of "everlasting fire" for the wicked. Does it go out?

Yes, according to the Bible, it does. We must let the Bible explain itself. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with everlasting, or eternal, fire (Jude 7), and that fire turned them "into ashes" as a warning to "those that after should live ungodly," 2 Peter 2:6. These cities are not burning today. The fire went out after everything was burned out. Likewise, everlasting fire will go out after it has turned the wicked to ashes (Malachi 4:3). The effects of the fire are everlasting, but not the burning itself.


Doesn't Matthew 25:46 say the wicked will receive "everlasting punishment"?
Notice the word is punishment, not punishing. Punishing would be continuous, while punishment is one act. The punishment of the wicked is death, and this death is everlasting.

Forever and Ever

But the Bible speaks of the wicked being tormented "forever," doesn't it?The term "for ever," as used in the Bible, means simply a period of time, limited or unlimited. It is used 56 times in the Bible in connection with things that have already ended. It is like the word "tall," which means something different in describing men, trees, or mountains. In Jonah 2:6, "for ever" means "three days and nights." (See also Jonah 1:17.)In Deuteronomy 23:3, this means "10 generations." In the case of man, this means "as long as he lives" or "until death." (See 1 Samuel 1:22, 28; Exodus 21:6; Psalm 48:14.) So the wicked will burn in the fire as long as they live, or until death. This fiery punishment for sin will vary according to the degree of sins for each individual, but after the punishment, the fire will go out. The teaching of eternal torment has done more to drive people to atheism and insanity than any other invention of the devil. It is slander upon the loving character of a tender, gracious heavenly Father and has done untold harm to the Christian cause.Death, Not Eternal Torment
The Bible tells us that "the wages of sin is" not eternal life in hellfire, but "death" (Romans 6:23), the same penalty God assured Adam and Eve would be theirs if they ate the forbidden fruit.Ezekiel states clearly that "the soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4), and a plethora of other Bible verses and passages endorse this position. The prophet Malachi wrote that sinners would burn up as "stubble" and would become "ashes under the soles" of the feet of the redeemed (Malachi 4:1, 3). Even the final fate of Satan is explicitly pronounced in Ezekiel 28:18, where the Bible says that the enemy of souls will be reduced to ashes upon the "earth."Compare that with Psalm 37:10 ("For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be"), Psalm 68:2 ("as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God"), and other similar verses. Soon you get a clear picture that the purpose of the fires of hell is to eradicate sin and to expunge the universe of its awful presence.Interestingly, it was the devil who was first to suggest that sinners would not die (Genesis 3: 4). A hell where sinners never perish would prove the devil right and would make God, who told Eve she would "surely die" as a result of transgression (Genesis 2:17), a liar.


No eternal fire but yes eternal life? How?

The Bible speaks of "everlasting punishment" (Matt. 25:46) for the wicked, and of "everlasting fire" (verse 41) in which they will burn and of their being "tormented day and night forever and ever" (Rev. 20:10). [Doesn't this prove the immortality of the soul?]The words translated "everlasting" and "forever" do not necessarily mean never ending. These terms, when found in the New Testament, come from the Greek noun aion, or from the adjective aionios derived from this noun. When we examine various Scripture texts containing aion, we discover at once how impossible it would be to attempt to make this Greek root always mean an endless period. We read in Matthew 13:39 and elsewhere of "the end of the world [aion]." How could there be an "end" to something if it where endless? (Here is an illustration of where aion might be translated "age," the "world" being viewed in its aspect of time. In Colossians 1:26 aion is thus translated.) We read of Christ that He has been exalted above "every name that is named, not only in this world [aion], but also in that which is to come: Eph. 1:21. We read of "this present world [aion]." 2 Tim. 4:10. Thus again we see that an aion can have an end, for this present aion is to be followed by another and a different one. The bible speaks of what "God ordained before the world [aion]." 1 Cor. 2:7. Of Christ we read also, "Thou art a priest for ever [aion]." Heb. 5:6. Here "forever," or aion, clearly means this present age, for all theologians agree that Christ's work as a priest comes to an end when sin has been blotted out. (The work of a priest is to deal with sin. See Heb. 2:17 and 5:1) Paul, writing to Philemon regarding the return of his servant Onesimus, said, "Thou shouldst receive [have, A.R.V.] him forever [aionios] ... both in the flesh, and in the Lord." Philemon 15, 16. (Here we have the adjective that is derived from aion.) H.C.G. Moule, in that scholarly commentary, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, remarks on this text:"The adjective tends to mark duration as long as the nature of the subject allows. And by usage it has a close connection with things spiritual. 'Forever' here thus imports both natural and spiritual permanence of restoration; 'forever' on earth, and then hereafter; a final return to Philemon's home, with a prospect of heaven in Philemon's company." We need not here raise the question as to whether Moule has altogether correctly measured Paul's words. We inquire simply: How could Philemon have Onesimus " 'forever' on earth, and then hereafter," unless the earthly "forever" had an end to it? We read of "Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them ... suffering the vengeance of eternal [aionios] fire." Jude 1:7. Are those cities, set ablaze long ago as a divine judgment, still burning? No; their ruins are quite submerged by the Dead Sea. The Bible itself specifically states that God turned "the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes." 2 Peter 2:6. Now the fate of these cities is declared to be a warning to all wicked men of the fate that impends for them. Therefore if the "aionios fire" of that long ago judgment turned into ashes those upon whom it preyed, and then died down of itself, we may properly conclude that the "aionios fire" of the last day will do likewise. When we turn to the Old Testament we discover that "everlasting" and "forever" sometimes signify a very limited time. We shall quote texts in which these two terms are translated from the Hebrew word olam, because olam is the equivalent of the Greek aion. The Passover was to be kept "forever [olam]." Ex. 12:24. But it ended with the cross. (See Heb. 9:24-26.) Aaron and his sons were to offer incense "forever [olam]" (1 Chron. 23:13), and to have an "everlasting [olam] priesthood." Ex. 40:15. But this priesthood, with its offerings of incense, ended at the cross. (See Heb. 7:11-14.) A servant who desired to stay with his master, was to serve him "forever [olam]." (See Ex. 21:1-6.) How could a servant serve a master to endless time? Will there be masters and servants in the world to come? Jonah, describing his watery experience, said, "The earth with her bars was about me forever [olam]." Jonah 2:6. Yet this "forever" was only "three days and three nights" long. Jonah 1:17. Rather a short "forever." Because Gehazi practiced deceit. Elisha declared, "The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee [Gehazi], and unto thy seed for ever [olam]." 2 Kings 5:27. Should we conclude, therefore, that Gehazi's family would never end, and that thus leprosy would be perpetuated for all time to come? Thus by the acid test of actual usage we discover that in a number of cases aion, aionios, and olam have a very limited time value.What Bible usage thus reveals, Greek scholars confirm. For example, Liddell and Scott's Greek Lexicon, a standard work, gives the following as the principal meanings of aion: "A space or period of time, especially a lifetime, life. ... Also one's time of life, age: the age of man. ... 2. A long space of time, eternity. ... 3. Later, a space of time clearly defined and marked out, an era, age ... this present life, this world." Alexander Cruden, in this concordance, which for many years was the one great concordance in the English language, remarks under the word "eternal":"The words eternal, everlasting, forever, are sometimes taken for a long time, and are not always to be understood strictly." The learned Archbishop Trench, in his authoritative work, Synonyms of the New Testament, remarks concerning the primary sense of aion: "In its primary, it signifies time, short or long, in its unbroken duration; oftentimes in classical Greek the duration of human life."
--- Pages 208, 209.During recent years many discoveries have been made of Greek writings of the first century A.D. These writings, called papyri, enable us to know just how the Greek was written and just what meanings belonged to words at the very time when the New Testament authors wrote. The Greek scholars J. H. Moulton and George Milligan, in their monumental work entitled The Vocabulary of The Greek Testament, cite various instances in the papyri where aion is equivalent simply to the "period of life" of a person. Under "aionios" they make the following statement in summing up the evidence as to its usage by the first century Greek-speaking people of the Roman empire: "In general, the word depicts that of which the horizon is not in view, whether the horizon be at an infinite distance, ... or whether it lies no farther than the span of Ceasar's life." Now, having proved from the Bible and from Greek scholars that aion and olam are elastic terms, and oftentimes mean only a very limited period, we have removed the very basis on which rests the objection before us. But our case is even stronger when we note the rule that commentators give for measuring the time involved in aion or olam in any text. Adam Clark, in commenting on Gehazi's leprosy (2 Kings 5:27), remarks:"The forever implies as long as any of his [Gehazi's] posterity should remain. This is the import of the word le-olam. It takes in the whole extent or duration of the thing to which it is applied. The forever of Gehazi was till his posterity became extinct." This agrees with the statement found in the quotation given earlier from Moule on Philemon 15:"the adjective [aionios] tends to mark duration as long as the nature of the subject allows."Therefore, we should first decide whether a "subject" is so constituted that he can live endlessly before we decide that hellfire will continue endlessly. Now note the statement made in the well-known commentary by J. P. Lange: "The bodies and souls of the wicked will suffer as long as they are capable of suffering, which, since they are immortal, will ... be forever." --- Comment on Jude 1:7.The scholarly theologians do not attempt, as does the objector, to prove that souls are immortal because the judgment fires burn for an aion. On the contrary, knowing that the time value of aion, aionios, and olam must be determined by the "nature of the subject" involved, these scholars conclude that the fire will burn endlessly because they believe that the souls of the wicked "are immortal." But the claim that the soul is immortal is the very point to be proved. The Bible nowhere declares that the soul is immortal. On the contrary, the bible uses words that clearly convey the thought that in the case of the wicked the "nature of the subject" demands the conclusion that complete and speedy annihilation will take place. The wicked are described as "chaff," "stubble," "wax," "fat," et cetera. (See Matt. 3:12; Mal. 4:1; Ps. 68:2; 37:20.) We are told explicitly that the fire "shall burn them up" and "shall leave them neither root nor branch," so that "they shall be ashes under the soles" of the feet of the righteous. Mal. 4:1-3. Now, while we can thus correctly conclude that the "everlasting" torment of the wicked is but a limited period, we can at the same time logically conclude that the "everlasting" reward of the righteous is an unending one, for we are explicitly told that the righteous "put on immortality" at the Advent of Christ. (See 1 Cor. 15:51-55.) Thus the "nature of the subject" being immortal, the "everlasting" is correctly understood as meaning endless. Answers to Objections, Francis D. Nichol, pp. 359 - 363

Undying, Immortal Soul?

Doesn't the Bible speak of the "undying," "immortal" soul?No, the undying, immortal soul is not mentioned in the Bible. The word "immortal" is found only once in the Bible, and it is in reference to God (1 Timothy 1:17).
Since man is made in the image of God and God is immortal isn't man then also immortal?

Why should only one of God's attributes, that of immortality, be singled out for comparison? God is all-powerful. Does it therefore follow that man, made in the image of God, is also all-powerful? God is all-wise. Is man therefore possessed of boundless wisdom, because made in God’s image?

The Bible uses the word “immortality” only five times, and the word “immortal” only once. In this lone instance the term is applied to God: “Eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God.” 1 Tim. 1:17. The five references that contain the word “immortality” are as follows:

Romans 2:7. In this text the Christian is exhorted to “seek” for immortality. Why should he seek for it if he already possesses it? In this same book of Romans, Paul quotes the prophet Elijah as saying of his enemies, “They seek my life.” We understand from this that the prophet’s enemies did not yet have his life in their hands. Therefore, when we are exhorted to seek for immortality, for a life that knows no end, we must conclude that we do not now possess such a life.

2 Timothy 1:10. Here we learn that Christ “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” The only deduction from this is that so far from immortality’s being a natural possession of all men, it is one of the good things made possible through the gospel. Paul wrote, “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.” Rom. 6:23. Why would we need this gift if we already had undying souls?

1 Corinthians 15:53. This passage tells when we shall receive immortality. The time is “at the last trump.” Then “this mortal must put on immortality.” Why should the apostle Paul speak of our putting on immortality at a future date if we already possess it?

1 Corinthians 15:54. This verse simply adds the thought that when “this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”

1 Timothy 6:16. Here we learn that God “only hath immortality.” This final text settles the matter as conclusively as words could possibly do, and explains fully why we are exhorted to “seek” immortality, and why we are told that immortality is something that is to be “put on” “at the last trump.”

Not only do we learn from these texts that we do not have immortality, but also we are told that God alone has it.

There are other texts which contain in the original Greek the same word that is translated “immortal” or “immortality” in the six texts we have just considered. But these additional texts do not require us to change our conclusion; on the contrary they strengthen it. Take, for example, Romans 1:23, where Paul, speaking of the idolatrous action of the heathen, says that they “changed the glory of the uncorruptible [immortal] God into an image made like to corruptible [mortal] man.” In the Greek, the word here translated “uncorruptible” is the same as that rendered “immortal” in 1 Timothy 1:17: “Eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God.” The Expositor’s Bible translates the passage thus: “Transmuted the glory of the immortal God in a semblance of the likeness of mortal man.” The uncorruptible, the immortal God is sharply contrasted with corruptible, mortal man.We read in John 5:26 that the “Father hath life in himself,”and that He hath “given to the Son to have life in Himself.” But nowhere do we read that God gave to human beings to have life in themselves. That is why the Bible never speaks of man as immortal.

- Answers To Objections, Francis D. Nichol, pp. 337-338

Their Worm Dieth Not ...

The Bible says that hell-fire will not be quenched and that “their worm dieth not.” (See Mark 9:43-48 and Isaiah 66:24). Doesn’t this prove the immortality of the soul?

Even if we should agree that unquenched means endlessly burning, we would not find it necessary to accept the doctrine that at death an immortal soul is freed from man and lives apart from the body. These texts do not speak of disembodied souls, or spirits, burning. The Bible paints a picture of literal, wicked men at the judgment day being “cast into the lake of fire.” (See Revelation 20.) Christ speaks of the “whole body” being “cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30.) If it be replied that the body would be destroyed by the flames, and therefore only the spirit would be left, we ask for the Bible proof that spirits, or souls, are impervious to fire. Christ declared we should “fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28. If “destroy” means consume as regards the “body”, we demand very clear proof if we are expected to believe that “destroy” means to leave unconsumed as regards the “soul.” A failure to produce such proof really takes the whole point out of the objection based on Mark 9 and Isaiah 66.In Mark 9:43-48 Christ quite evidently refers to the same judgment fires as those described in Isaiah 66:24, where we read: “They [the righteous] shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses [“dead bodies,” A.R.V.] of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched.” We are told in so many words that the agencies of “work” and “fire” are working, not upon disembodied spirits, but upon bodies, dead bodies.The word “hell” used in Mark 9:43-48 is from the Greek word Gehenna. This term, as we have learned, is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Hinnom, the name of a valley near Jerusalem, “used as a place to cast carcasses of animals and malefactors, which were consumed by fire constantly kept up.” (See Liddell and Scott’s Greek Lexicon.)Christ here uses this valley of Hinnom to teach His hearers the fate that awaits the wicked. Certainly the Jews who heard His words could not possibly have obtained any idea of wicked, disembodied souls endlessly suffering. They saw in Hinnom dead bodies being devoured by flames, or if the flames did not reach them, then by worms, those ever-present agents of destruction and disintegration. The fact that the fires of Gehenna were ever kept burning, were “not quenched,” was the surest proof that whatever was cast into them would be entirely consumed. To declare that if a fire keeps ever burning, then whatever is cast into it keeps ever living, is to go contrary both to the evidence of our senses and to the testimony of Scripture.The question may now be asked: If whatever is cast into this fire is completely consumed, why will the fire always be kept burning? The answer is, it will not. A city-wide conflagration once enveloped Chicago. If we should describe that fire by saying that the flames could not be quenched, would you conclude that Chicago was still burning? No, you would simply understand that the fire raged until it had devoured everything within reach. Common knowledge makes unnecessary the additional statement that the fire itself then died down.It is this natural sense of the word “quench” that we find used in the Bible. The Lord through Jeremiah declared to the ancient Jews, “If you will not hearken unto me, … then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof [of Jerusalem], and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.” Jeremiah 17:27. (In the Septuagint the very same Greek root is here used for “quenched” as in Mark 9.) In 2 Chronicles 36:19-21 we read of the literal fulfillment of this prophecy when the Babylonians put the torch to the city. Is that fire still burning? Are those Jewish “palaces” ever consuming, but never quite consumed? How preposterous, you say. Then why should anyone wish to take Christ’s statement in Mark 9 and force from it the conclusion that the judgment fire will never end; and then build upon this conclusion that the wicked will ever be consuming, but never quite consumed; and then finally rear upon this the conclusion that therefore the wicked have immortal souls?Each and every one of these conclusions is unwarranted by logic and contrary to Scripture. The Bible nowhere says that souls are immortal, but declares that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:4. The Bible nowhere says that the wicked will ever be consuming; instead it declares that they will become “ashes.” Malachi 4:3. The Bible does not say that the judgment fires will burn endlessly, for we read that these fires are due to God’s setting ablaze this wicked earth, and that following this conflagration He creates “a new earth.” (See 2 Peter 3:7-13 and Revelation 20 and 21.) There must therefore be an end to the fire, else this earth could not be re-created. In other words, the very promise of God to give us a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness is contingent upon there being an end to the judgment fires.

- Answers to Objections, Francis D. Nichol, pp. 369-371