Heaven, Hell or Somewhere Else?

25 Apr 2011

If you want to know what your prospects are for surviving death and ending up in a better place, this is an article you need to read.  But be prepared to be surprised!

Are you immortal?

Does the Bible teach of the soul?  It may surprise you to know that it certainly doesn't and that this has been frankly admitted by numerous theologians.  It's not just the opinion of the Christadelphians, although we have been completely unable to find that teaching in the Bible.

Here are a few quotes from religious writers and thinkers, none of them Christadelphian, before we see what the Bible teaches about what happens to us when we die and what the true hope of life after death really is.

Dr F S M Bennett former Dean of Chester wrote:

'It was (Augustine) who took Plato's doctrine of the inherent immortality of the soul, disengaged it from ideas of reincarnation and gained for it the general credence which it has held to his day..... No doctrine of the natural or unconditional immortality of a part or nucleus of the human organism, called 'soul', has any right of place within the precinct of revealed Christian truth.'

The late Bishop Gore in his work, The Epistle to the Romans, wrote:

'...the doctrine of the necessary immortality or indestructibility of each human soul, as stated for instance by Augustine or Aquinas....was no part the original Christian message... It was rather a speculation of Platonism taking possession of the Church.'

A report commissioned by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York was published in 1945 entitled 'Towards the Conversion of England' concluded:

'The idea of the inherent indestructibility of the human soul (or consciousness) owes its origin to Greek, not to Bible sources.  The central theme of the New Testament is eternal life, not for anybody and everybody, but for believers in Christ as risen from the dead.'

And a more recent admission reported by The Times newspaper, in Oct 2003, in a book review of 'Far All the Saints', by Dr Tom Wright, currently the Bishop of Durham, reads;

'Dr Wright says the Anglicans have drifted into a 'muddle and a mess' over what happens to people after they die.  They have put together 'bits and pieces' of traditions, ideas and practises and created a 'fudge' around the eschatological concepts of death, judgement, heaven and hell....The concept of the soul as a pre-existent and immortal entity has little basis in the New Testament and is instead derived from the teachings of Plato.  Dr Wright argues that, in the modern age, a loss of confidence in Biblical promises along with the development of liberal theologies has led to a belief on a sort of universal salvation for all, with everyone ending up at a final destination, although few seem to be clear what that destination is.'

What startling admissions these are!  The Bible, they admit, does not teach the immortality of the human soul or universal salvation.  Nor does it allow for a class of people who are born wicked or immortal.  So, what does the Bible teach about the state of Death?

What is Death?

The Bible teaches that death is a state of unconscious oblivion.  In Genesis we read that the sentence of death passed upon Adam and Eve meant returning to the dust of the ground.

Gen 3:19; 'In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.'

This was a punishment because of wrong doing in the Garden of Eden.  It was not a reward which would enable them to start a new life in Heaven, as some people think death to be.  The 'breath of life' from God, which had energized their bodies, was to be withdrawn.

Let's be clear about this. The 'breath of life' belongs to God, not to man.  With it, mankind lives.  When God withdraws it we die.  Without that life-force, a living soul or being becomes a dead soul or being.  The Bible account of Creation does not say that God breathed into man a living soul, let alone an ever-living soul.  Man became a soul or being.  Equally clearly, the 'breath of life' without the body is certainly not a 'soul'.  Man was not created an ever-living being nor did he have an immortal element implanted within him.
So, death was not to be the gateway to further life, but a punishment for disobedience.

What about us?

Where do we stand in relation to this law of God by which death follows as a consequence of sin?  Paul's letter to the Romans shows that we inherit Adam and Eve's mortality and their tendency to sin, though not their guilt (Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12 and Romans 6:23).  We all die, not only because we are all mortal, but because we all sin. Sin, like an employer, pays it's wages.  As Paul puts it : 'The wages of Sin is death.'  Romans 6:23.