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The most prevalent belief of traditional Christianity is that people have immortal souls which, upon death, leave the body and go to heaven or hell. But the Bible teaches no such concept.
Most churches believe that we have an immortal soul that either goes to heaven or hell straight after we die or, in some cases, possibly a third place called purgatory where sinners after death still have an opportunity for their sins to be purged and then go to heaven.
If you believe you have an immortal soul, could you prove it from the Bible if you were challenged to do so?
What really happens to us after we die? Do we have an immortal soul that separates from the body at death? Is there a spirit part of us that continues to have a conscious existence as soon as we die?
What is a soul and is it immortal? In Genesis 2:7 we read the following: "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man BECAME a living soul" (KJV).
When life entered Adam he became a soul. The Hebrew word that is translated soul everywhere it is found in the Old Testament is "nephesh". This Hebrew word is defined as "a breathing creature" in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.
In Genesis 1:21, 24, 2:19, 9:10, 12, 15 and 16 the same Hebrew word is used for animals but is translated as creature. It is translated as "dead body" or "the dead" in Leviticus 19:28, 21:1 and 22:4. If the soul leaves the body at death how could the dead body be called a soul? The Hebrew word translated as our English word soul is not separate from the body. It is the body!
In Ezekiel 18:4 we read, "Behold, all souls are Mine. The soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins shall die." The last sentence is repeated in Ezekiel 18:20 - "The soul who sins shall die."
So we have looked at the Old Testament word translated as soul. What about the New Testament? What does it have to say about the soul? The Greek word translated as soul in the New Testament is "psuche". It's meaning is identical to the Hebrew word "nephesh". It also means a breathing creature. It is used for animals in Revelation 8:9 and 16:3 where it is translated as creature.
In Matthew 10:28 Jesus said, "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (the grave)."
When Jesus uses the word soul here He is referring to our life. Men can kill our body but God can renew our life by resurrecting us. He says to fear God who can terminate our life for the rest of eternity by wiping out any chance we have of a future resurrection. According to Jesus the soul can be destroyed! It is not immortal.
Let's look at a few more verses in the New Testament. In Romans 6:23 we read: "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Eternal life is a gift from God -- NOT something that we automatically have.
In 1 Timothy 6:15-16 Paul says the following about Christ: "He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who ALONE has immortality." Of all who have been human only Christ has immortality.
In 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 Paul wrote: "Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed - in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." At the resurrection we will PUT ON IMMORTALITY! What is the point of the resurrection if we already have an immortal soul?