The Scripture teaches that death is not the end of existence. The Bible says that the spirit/soul of humans can exist forever. This brings up the issue of immortality. If human beings are going to live forever, does this mean they are immortal and if so, were they born immortal? Is immortality the same as eternal life?
Immortality means not subject to death. The Bible says God alone has immortality. “He alone possesses immortality [absolute exemption from death] and lives in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal power and dominion! Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:16 AMP).
In this passage we see that immortality is something that is part and parcel with the nature of God. He alone has it. The Scripture teaches that only God has life in Himself. “For just as the Father has life in Himself [and is self-existent], even so He has given to the Son to have life in Himself [and be self-existent].” (John 5:26 AMP). Only God is deathless in His essence. He alone is immortal in this sense of the term.
Yet the Bible says that immortality is not genetic, it is something that God imparts to believers . In the garden of Eden, after Adam & Eve’s sinful fall, God kept them away from the Tree of Life because He didn’t want them to live forever in the state of sinfulness (“And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” Gen 3:22 AMP”).
The Old Testament teaches that immortality is the result of living righteously before God. “In the way of righteousness is life, And in its pathway there is no death [but immortality—eternal life].” (Proverbs 12:28 AMP). The New Testament teaches the same thing: “God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” (Romans 2:6-7 NIV). Note that the righteous cannot ‘seek’ for something they already have.
The New Testament also says that God grants immortality to humans who trust in Him. “For this perishable [part of us] must put on the imperishable [nature], and this mortal [part of us that is capable of dying] must put on immortality [which is freedom from death]. And when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the Scripture will be fulfilled that says, “Death is swallowed up in victory (vanquished forever).” (1 Corinthians 15:53 & 54/Hos 13:14 AMP).
From this passage we discover three things about immortality:
- Immortality is given only to believers, there is no mention of unbelievers receiving it. Therefore it is more than endless existence.
- It is a gift from God that believers will receive in the future at Christ’s coming.
- Immortality refers not only to the soul/spirit, but the body is also included. Believers become immortal when this mortal body puts on an immortal one.
God the Son, Jesus Christ, brought immortality to the believer. “but now [that extraordinary purpose and grace] has been fully disclosed and realized by us through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus who [through His incarnation and earthly ministry] abolished death [making it null and void] and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” (2 Timothy 1:10 AMP).
Therefore, according to the Bible, humanity is not immortal by nature. Immortality is achieved when the body of the believer is raised and transformed and then united with the soul.
Christians have an immortal inheritance awaiting them. “Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant and boundless mercy has caused us to be born again [that is, to be reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, and set apart for His purpose] to an ever-living hope and confident assurance through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [born anew] into an inheritance which is imperishable [beyond the reach of change] and undefiled and unfading, reserved in heaven for you, who are being protected and shielded by the power of God through your faith for salvation that is ready to be revealed [for you] in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5 & Rev 21:1-4 AMP).
Immortality occurs at the resurrection when the believer receives a new body from the Lord and is not the same as eternal life. Believers receive eternal life the moment they put all their trust in Jesus Christ. “Just as You have given Him power and authority over all mankind, [now glorify Him] so that He may give eternal life to all whom You have given Him [to be His—permanently and forever]. Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true [supreme and sovereign] God, and [in the same manner know] Jesus [as the] Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:2-3 AMP). Eternal life consists of a relationship with a person – Jesus Christ.
John puts it so simply: “And the testimony is this: God has given us eternal life [we already possess it], and this life is in His Son [resulting in our spiritual completeness, and eternal companionship with Him]. He who has the Son [by accepting Him as Lord and Savior] has the life [that is eternal]; he who does not have the Son of God [by personal faith] does not have the life.” (1 John 5:11-12 AMP).
We can sum up the difference between the immortality of God and of humans as follows:
Immortality is basic to the nature of God, not humanity. God is immortal, those humans who believe God’s promises will receive immortality. God is immortal in His essence, believers will obtain immortality. God had no beginning or end. Believers had a beginning but will have no end.