By Pastor Hollis Partlowe
Printed in the Restitution Herald
February 28, 1962
The twin truths of the Bible are conditional immortality and the second coming of Christ. They go together. The doctrine of the sleep of the dead is the missing link in modern theology. That the Bible regards death as a sleep is an undeniable fact. The words, “die,” “died,” and “death” occur about eight hundred times in Scripture.
Solomon wrote, “The living know that they shall die; but the dead know not anything,” (Eccl. 9:5). David, Solomon’s father, said that when a man dies, “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish,” (Psa. 146:4). Yes, all of man dies. There is nothing that continues to live on after death.
This truth makes the resurrection absolutely essential for judgment. It magnifies the Second Advent as the time of reward for the church. It carries the idea of conditional immortality to its logical conclusion. It points, moreover, to the final realization of the Kingdom of God on earth. It glorifies Jesus Christ as the only Life-giver.
We must remember three important things concerning man and salvation which the Bible makes very clear: 1) Man is a dying creature; 2) Eternal life can be had only in Christ; 3) Apart from Christ, there is eternal death. No one with an open Bible will deny these statements. “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life; and he that hath not the Son hath not life,” (1 John 5:11-12).
There is a difference between the person who has Christ and the one who does not have him. It is the difference between life and death. Observe, the ones who do not have Christ do not have life. Since they do not have life they must have death. Hence, the idea that the wicked will have eternal life in torment is a myth. The teachings of immortality of the soul and eternal suffering for the unsaved are based on paganism and superstitution. These ideas are contrary to God’s Word which says, “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Rom. 6:23).
In the preceding article, Pastor Partlowe spoke of “conditional immortality.” Immortality, of course, means the ability to live forever. There are three basic views on immortality: No immortality, natural immortality, and conditional immortality.
Atheism, which denies the existence of God, salvation through Christ, and the hope of eternal life, teaches there is no immortality. Atheists assert that when a person dies, that’s the end. There is no life after death.
Paganism, on the other hand, goes in the opposite direction. It declares that something in a mortal being never dies but continues to live on in another state of existence. It is called a “soul” or “spirit” and thought of as immaterial as opposed to physical like the body. The Greek philosopher, Plato, taught this view. Also, reincarnation is another form of natural immortality.
The third view is conditional immortality. It is based on the Biblical teaching that one does not naturally have immortality now but may receive it at a future time after certain conditions are met in this life. In other words, immortality can only be received on the condition that one is converted to Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and Savior. Only those who’ve accepted Christ have the hope of “putting on” immortality when Jesus returns to resurrect the dead in Christ: 1 Corinthians 15:51-52.
Therefore, instead of possessing a soul that lives on forever like paganism asserts, one IS a soul that is mortal and dies. The Biblical meaning of “soul” is different than the pagan meaning. The Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) renderings show that “soul” primarily means “life” and secondarily, “a creature that possesses life.” For example, Genesis 2:7 says, “And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground (physical body) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (“spirit” = “breath”) and man became a living soul (“creature” or “being”). Ezekiel 18:4 and 20 say that souls sin and they are mortal, rather than immortal: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” (see also Lev. 23:30; Joshua 10:35; Psalm 22:29; Ezek. 22:27; Rev. 16:3).
This brings us back to the twin truths to which Pastor Partlowe referred. Just as the truth is that we all die, it is equally true that eternal life can only be received at the resurrection of all the faithful when Jesus returns from heaven. This is the first resurrection as it says in Revelation 20:4-6: “Then I saw thrones, and the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They all came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years This is the first resurrection. (The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years had ended.) Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years,” (New Living Translation, NLT).
Speaking of resurrection, the Bible says the rest of the dead will also be resurrected at the second resurrection. But they will not be raised immortal. Rather, they will be judged from the books of God according to their works. And if their name is not found written in the Book of Life, they will be sentenced to eternal death in the lake of fire: Rev. 20:11-15.
The twin truths of Scripture form the foundation of our faith through Jesus Christ. Our faith is fortified in the fact that Jesus died to provide us the ultimate escape from God`s future fiery judgment. And just as the Son of God was raised to immortality, so do we also look eagerly forward to the day believers will be raised to receive it, as well (Romans 8:10-11).
Good News to you!