From an old 1973/74 Ambassador College study reprint (that
College was once owned by the Worldwide Church of God) - old but
still true to the Word of God - Keith Hunt.
THE HOPE OF THE RESURRECTION
by Raymond F. McNair
TODAY, Christianity is divided into literally hundreds of
sects and denominations - with many interpretations about life,
death, and the hereafter.
But why should there be so many different ideas regarding
man's afterlife? Why should there be such a state of confusion
regarding what the reward of the Christian really is?
Why do so many believe they are (or have) an immortal soul
which survives death in heaven, limbo, paradise or hell?
The biblical leaching on this subject of man - what he is,
his purpose in this life, his destiny and how to reach that
destiny - is crystal clear.
Isn't it high time that we cleared away the cobwebs of
denominational and sectarian confusion and looked into the Word
of God to see what it says about man's ultimate destinyand how he
is to attain that goal?
A Common Assumption.
As a young boy I was taught by my parents, by churchmen,
teachers and others, that we were born with immortality, and that
every believer in Jesus Christ was destined for heaven - way up
beyond the clouds. I fully believed this. I thought, like all
others who accepted Christ, I would some day go to heaven and
live there forever.
Concurrent with this idea that I was immortal, or that I had
an immortal soul somewhere in me, I also heard a great deal about
a resurrection of the dead. These two concepts seemed, even to my
young mind, to be contradictory. If I were immortal, then why
would I need to be resurrected?
I found that men had various ideas to attempt to reconcile
this paradox. Some taught that at death the righteous go off
immediately to their reward in limbo, paradise or heaven, but the
wicked go instantly to hell, where these immortal souls would
burn forever and ever.
Notice how firmly this same idea of an "immortal soul" was
fixed in the mind of Benjamin Franklin. In his autobiography,
Franklin tells that he once considered starting his own "sect,"
to be called "The Society of the Free and Easy." He said his
"intended creed" for this new religion was to contain what he
believed to be "the essentials of every known religion." Notice
how his list of "essentials" included a belief in the immortality
of the soul.
"That there is one God, who made all things. That he governs the
world by his providence.... That the soul is immortal. And that
God will certainly reward virtue and punish vice, either here or
To the best of my memory, I was taught as a child that at
death you go immediately to your reward (usually in heaven) or
punishment (usually to hell fire) and remain there until the
final Judgment Day. On this day the souls of the righteous in
heaven and those in hell were supposed to be reunited with their
resurrected bodies - where they would then share the joys (or
pains) of eternity - depending upon whether they were saved or
Let's face it. A lot of contradictory ideas regarding what
happens after death have been promulgated. There is much
confusion on this important question - and "God is not the author
of confusion" (I Cor.14:33).
Where did these unscriptural, confused ideas about what man
is and his ultimate destiny really originate? When I began
studying the Bible diligently, I found it did not contradict
itself. Rather, I found the same consistent teaching regarding
what man is - and what is his destiny - in both the Old and New
Egyptian Belief In a Resurrection.
Before we go to the Bible, let us briefly see what some of
the ancients taught on this subject.
A few years ago, I visited the empty tombs of some of the ancient
Egyptian Pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings, near Luxor, Egypt.
I was surprised to see that Egyptian hieroglyphics on the walls
of the Pharaohs' tombs depicted a rising up (or resurrection) to
life after death.
But how could those ancient Egyptians, steeped in paganism
and cut off from the truth of Almighty God, have known the truth
about the resurrection? This puzzled me.
King Tut (Tutankhamen) was buried in a most elaborate tomb.
His remains were later removed and placed in the Cairo Museum,
along with many articles and artifacts (chairs, table, bed,
etc.), where they have since been viewed by millions.
But why did these Pharaohs make such elaborate burial
preparations, including having their dead bodies mummified? The
simple answer is that they believed in an afterlife, when they
would open their eyes in a "resurrection." Then they would be
able to enjoy all of these material objects (including, in some
instances, food) at the very instant of their "resurrection."
But where did the ancient, pagan Egyptians learn this truth?
The Bible or history does not reveal this clearly. Noah knew
about the resurrection. So did his sons Shem, Japheth and Ham -
and the Egyptians descended from Mizraim, the son of Ham. So you
can see why the Egyptians were not ignorant of this truth.
But we also must remember that the patriarchs Abraham (who
believed in the resurrection - see Heb.11:19,35), Jacob, and
Joseph (Pharaoh's Prime Minister), had spent many years in Egypt.
Since the patriarchs understood that God would resurrect the
dead, it is possible that even they may have communicated this
truth to the Egyptians.
Immortality and the Greeks.
Notice what the famous historian Edward Gibbon, in his The
"Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," has to say about the
development of the idea of man's immortal soul:
"The writings of Cicero represent in the most lively colours the
ignorance, the errors, and the uncertainty of the ancient
philosophers with regard to the immortality of the soul .... the
philosophers who trod in the footsteps of Plato deduced a very
unjustifiable conclusion, since they asserted, not only the
future immortality, but the past eternity of the human soul..."
(The Modern Library Series, New York, Random House, 1,15, 2, pp.
Then Gibbon shows how the belief in an immortal soul came to
be looked upon as "truth." "The important truth of the
immortality of the soul was inculcated with more diligence as
well as success in India, in Assyria, in Egypt, and in Gaul ....
It is incumbent on us to adore the mysterious dispensations of
Providence, when we discover that the doctrine of the immortality
of the soul is omitted in the law of Moses..." (ibid., pp.
How did this belief affect the Jewish people? Gibbon says
that the Sadducees "rejected the immortality of the soul as an
opinion that received no countenance from the divine book"
(ibid., p.402). He then adds that "the immortality of the soul
became the prevailing sentiment of the synagogue under the reign
of the Asmonaean princes and pontiffs. "Their [the Jews'] zeal,
however, added nothing to its evidence, or even probability; and
it was still necessary that the doctrine of life and immortality,
which had been dictated by nature, approved by reason, and re-
ceived by superstition, should obtain the sanction of divine
truth from the [so-called] authority and example of Christ"
But Christ, by teaching and example, never gave credence to
the spurious doctrine of the immortality of the soul.
But what about the Greeks? They and other ancient peoples
did not believe in a resurrection. They believed man had an
immortal soul within him, and when he died this soul went off to
some place of afterlife. It was this Hellenistic idea of an
immortal soul which later influenced the beliefs of some of the
Jewish people, and many professing Christians. But, remember,
this idea of man being immortal, or having an immortal soul, did
not come from God or His Word. It came directly from the pagans.
For proof of this, look up this subject in any good
For example, check the article "Eschatology" in any of the
later editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Do souls Die? What does the Bible teach about man? What
happens to him at death? Is man an immortal soul? We are told,
"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
Man was created a "living sour, (Hebrew, nephesh), but it
does not say that man was created an immortal soul. Rather, it
goes on to show that man was mortal - that he would "die" (Gen.
This word nephesh (translated as "soul") is also used
throughout the Hebrew Scriptures to refer to the lower creatures
God had created.
Can the soul die? "The soul that sinneth, it shall die"
In many instances the Bible speaks of souls being killed, of
them dying and perishing.
When the New Testament writers quoted the Old Testament
passages where the word nephesh ("soul") was used, they used the
Greek equivalent, psuche, meaning "a living being," identical in
meaning to the Hebrew word nephesh.
Notice what Jesus said regarding the soul (psuche): "Fear
him [God] which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell
[Gehenna, the lake of fire]" (Matt.10:28).
Job, quoting Eliphaz, wrote: "Shall mortal man be more just
than God?" (Job 4:17.) And in Deuteronomy we are told that it was
possible for a man to "smite him [his neighbor] mortally that he
die" (Deut.19:11). "Mortal" means that which can die.
In the New Testament Paul taught that a Christian should not
let sin rule in his "mortal body" (Rom.6:12). He also spoke of a
Christian's "mortal body" being quickened or made alive (Rom.
At the resurrection "this mortal must put on immortality" (I
Cor.15:53,54). Paul spoke of Christians' bodies as "our mortal
flesh" (2 Cor.4:11). But he added that the time is coming (in the
future) when our "mortality" will be "swallowed up of [eternal]
life" (2 Cor.5:4).
Paul was also inspired to pen a promise of immortality: "To
them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and
bonour and immortality, [they will be granted] eternal life"
Did you notice that man must seek, as a gift from God,
immortality? Why? Only God has immortality to give: "Who only
[referring to the King of kings - verse 15] hath immortality" (I
Tim.6:16). "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the
only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever" (I Tim.
1:19). Eternal life or future immortality was nowhere offered to
ancient Israel or to the Gentile nations during the Old Testament
period. But God's grace, His free gift of eternal life, "is now
made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who
hath abolished death, and bath brought life and immortality to
light through the gospel" (2 Tim.1:10).
Is Man Conscious In Death?
If man is mortal, not immortal, then what happens to him at
death? Does his soul immediately waft off to heaven, hell or
someplace where he is conscious; or does man go to the grave to
"sleep" until the time of the resurrection?
David was inspired to write: "His [man's] breath goeth
forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts
perish" (Ps.146:4). This scripture reveals that man ceases to
think al the time of his death.
Solomon revealed that "there is no work, nor device, nor
knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave [sheoll, whither thou goest"
This is the clear teaching of your Bible from Genesis to
Revelation. Man is mortal. He will die. In death he is as one who
is "asleep," awaiting the resurrection. There is absolutely
no mental or physical activity in the grave! (Ps.6:5; 115:17.)
Numerous resurrections (back to a physical life) are
recorded in the Bible, but there is not one word about the dead
having had any knowledge of what occurred during the interval
when they were dead.
Lazarus had been dead "four days" (John 11:17), but was
raised from the dead by Jesus Christ. And he had no knowledge of
consciousness during that period of time - rather he was as one
in a deep sleep - in a state of unconsciousness. Christ said:
"Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out
of sleep" (verse 11).
Does science have the answers to explain what man is, what
happens at death, what man's ultimate destiny is to be, or how
man can reach that destiny? No, for only God can reveal the
answers to these vital questions: and He has made known this
truth only in the Bible.
What is man's hope?
According to the Bible, the resurrection is man's only
For an in-depth study of LIFE and DEATH, see the studies called
"Death - then What?
To be continued with "The Resurrection in the Old Testament."
Entered on this Website January 2008