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Is the human soul mortal or immortal?

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The human soul or spirit is that part of a man or woman that is not physical. The soul is central to the personhood of a human being. It is the “true self”—who a person really is. The soul is the center of life, feeling, thought, and action in a human being.

Without a doubt the human soul is immortal. That is, the soul is not subject to death. Once created, the soul never ceases to exist but is everlasting. The soul is spiritual and thus has the quality of immortality. In contrast, the body is physical; the earthly body we now possess is subject to death.

The immortality of the soul is clearly seen in many places in Scripture. For example, in Psalm 23:6 David says, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” In Ecclesiastes 12:7 the Preacher mentions two things that happen at death: “The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” In 2 Corinthians 5:8 Paul says that to be “absent from the body” is to be “present with the Lord” (NKJV). All these passages indicate that the soul is immortal.

What, then, are we to do with 1 Timothy 6:16, which says that God “alone is immortal”? We see this verse as teaching that God alone is immortal in and of Himself; that is, He alone possesses immortality as an essential part of His nature. Our soul’s immortality, on the other hand—and that of the angels—is derived from God. God is immortal in His being; our souls are immortal as a result of God’s creation. Commentator Albert Barnes put it this way: “God, in his own nature, enjoys a perfect and certain exemption from death. Creatures have immortality only as they derive it from him, and of course are dependent on him for it. He has it by his very nature, and it is in his case underived, and he cannot be deprived of it. It is one of the essential attributes of his being, that he will always exist, and that death cannot reach him” (Notes on the Bible, 1834).

In John 5:26 Jesus says, “The Father has life in himself.” This is another way of saying that God alone is immortal. The immortality of the human soul, that is, its quality of continuing forever, is a reflection of God’s nature in us. God alone is without a beginning or end. All of His creatures, animal, human, and angelic, had a beginning. Our souls came into being at a certain point in history, and there was a time when our souls did not exist. Only our Creator is eternal.

Other passages that indicate the immortality of the human soul include Luke 23:43, where Jesus promises one of the thieves who is dying beside Him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Obviously, Jesus believed the soul of the repentant thief was going to survive physical death.

Daniel 12:2–3 says, “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” This passage promises a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. When we die, our bodies return to “dust” (cf. Genesis 3:19). From that dust the body will return to either “everlasting life” or “everlasting contempt.” We must assume the soul will be reunited with the body at that time—otherwise, the resurrected bodies would be soulless and therefore inhuman.

In Matthew 25:46 Jesus said that the wicked “will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” The same Greek word, translated “eternal,” is used to describe both “punishment” and “life.” Jesus clearly taught that both the wicked and the righteous will exist forever in one of two conditions. Thus, every human being has an immortal, everlasting soul.

The unmistakable teaching of the Bible is that all people, whether saved or lost, will exist eternally. The spiritual part of us does not cease to exist when our fleshly bodies pass away in death. Our souls will live forever, either in the presence of God in heaven or in punishment in hell. The Bible also teaches that our souls will be reunited with our bodies at the resurrection. This hope of a bodily resurrection is at the very heart of the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 15:12–19).

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Is the human soul mortal or immortal?
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This page last updated: March 14, 2024