Bible Study

Gospel and Life

One of the greatest doctrinal tragedies in the history of Christianity

Ángel Manuel Rodríguez
Gospel and Life
Photo by Jasmin Ne on Unsplash

Is the doctrine of the immortality of the soul compatible with the eternal gospel?

Adventists believe that the Bible does not teach the inherent immortality of the soul and affirm that humans are an indivisible unity of life in bodily form. Hence, immortality is a divine eschatological gift inseparable from the resurrection of the body (1 Cor. 15:50-55). Although at the beginning of the Christian era there were different interpretations of the human soul, the Christian church accepted the view that the soul is inherently immortal, dwelling in a material body from which it is liberated when the body dies.


The inherent immortality of the soul claims that the soul is indestructible and consequently there is not an external power, not even God’s power, that can bring it to an end (at least, God seems to be unwilling to do so). The obvious conclusion is that sin has not threatened the existence of the soul. Something in us has escaped the deadly wound of sin. The Bible, however, teaches that sin has permanently damaged the totality of the person—the inner life as well as the spiritual, physical, and social life—leaving the whole person in need of salvation (Gen. 3:8-13; Rom. 8:6, 7; 6:23). Scripture teaches that the soul that sins will die (Eze. 18:4; cf. Rom. 1:32). The only option is to become a new creation through the saving sacrifice of Christ (John 3:7; 2 Cor. 5:17).


The belief that human existence has never been at risk diminishes the depth of Christ’s loving sacrifice. He did not give His life to save the soul, because the soul does not need to be saved—that is, to be granted eternal life! Those who believe in the immortality of the soul would probably argue that it is the sphere within which the immortal soul will continue to exist that was at risk, but not the soul itself. The soul, they would argue, needs to go back to the sphere of God through Christ’s work of reconciliation in order to escape the second hellish place of existence. They have redefined the damage that sin and rebellion caused to human nature, thus diminishing, at the same time, the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice—He died, not to give us life, but to make our inherent life enjoyable. The truth is that His sacrifice consisted in descending to the realm of death in order to give us back the eternal life we lost (Mark 10:45; John 3:16; 10:28; Rom. 6:23). We must affirm that nothing has escaped the deadly power of sin and that in order to redeem us an infinite sacrifice was needed (2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:7; Matt. 27:43). The idea of an immortal soul clouds the glory of God’s sacrificial love.


The teaching of the inherent immortality of the soul distorts God’s loving character as revealed on the cross by redefining eternal death as the eternal burning of the soul of the wicked in hell. It is even painful to imagine that Christ would intentionally burn people forever as a penalty for living a short sinful life on this planet. This is one of the greatest doctrinal tragedies in the history of Christianity, and it is obviously the result of accepting the belief in the inherent immortality of the soul. God is not such a merciless Lord, for He is love (1 John 4:8; Rev. 21:3, 4). According to the Bible, the wicked will perish forever (cf. Mal. 4:1; Ps. 37:10; 145:20).

Ángel Manuel Rodríguez