Christian Monotheist

What is Your Life? by Dennis Gillett

What is Life?

The Apostle James has a very plain statement to make about the nature of man, in fact he asks and answers the very question – “What is your life?”. Is it an immortal force from God that can never be extinguished, come what may? Or what? Here’s the apostle’s answer:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that” (James 4:13-15).

How strange those words sound in relation to the permanence and indestructibility expressed in the popular conception of the nature of human life. But they are perfectly consistent with the teaching of the New Testament as a whole.

Jesus the Teacher

Here are some of the teachings of the Lord Jesus on the subject:

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36,37).

These words are not intended to describe the value of a man’s life in the whole scheme of things but, rather, the value of his own life to himself. They teach that it is foolish for men to sacrifice their lives to obtain something which, without life, they can neither possess nor enjoy. For, when Jesus spoke of the “soul”, he meant the “life” of an individual, and that life is our most precious commodity because it gives us the opportunity to get to know God and the Lord Jesus. Here’s another example from the lips of the Master:

“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul…”

Without a doubt this passage, as far as it goes, tells us that those who are able to kill the body are not able to kill the soul. We should, however, be led very far astray if we left it at that for, when we read on, we find that the sense of the passage is quite changed when it is completed.

“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

Once again the word “soul” here means ‘life’, as it is translated in many other passages in the New Testament. God is able, Jesus was teaching, to utterly destroy our existence in … “hell” (or Gehenna“, as in some other translations) has reference to a certain locality where the carcasses of criminals and animals were destroyed near Jerusalem. For the Jews of the First Century it was a place of destruction … If you are concerned that Jesus was talking about eternal torment in Hell, notice that the emphasis is on destruction, not on torment or torture.

If it be asked “Who is it that can kill the body and cannot destroy the soul, or the life?”, the answer must be that there have been many persecutors, over time, who have tried to eliminate the followers of Jesus. But they cannot destroy the life force from God, because He – and He alone – can do that, if He chooses. But if God wishes that life to continue, He has the power and the means of remaking that person, by resurrection, and granting them the gift of everlasting life.


The God of Abraham

Sometimes there are references back to the Old Testament that need some thinking about. For example, the Lord Jesus once referred his adversaries to what had been said to Moses at the burning bush:

“… about the resurrection of the dead – have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Matthew 22:31,32).

These words most definitely challenge the popular view concerning the afterlife. Jesus used them to the Sadducees to prove the resurrection of the dead; for this Biblical teaching was something they denied. He said “God is not a God of the dead – but of the living”. Now if Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were, in fact, not dead but alive in heaven, how would the fact that God called Himself their God have proved to the Sadducees that they were to be raised from the dead?

The whole point Jesus was making was that, in spite of the fact that they were dead and buried, God still called Himself their God – because he was going to raise them from the dead at the appointed time. Therefore, said Jesus, He is not a God of the dead – the eternally dead – but of the living, for they will live again in the resurrection of the just.

Apostles’ Doctrine

If we turn to the letters in the New Testament, we find there many enlightening passages in relation to the nature of man. In the popular conception of man’s nature, death is set forward as unpleasant, while it lasts, but something that ultimately confers great gain. For many, the grave is seen as the gateway to a new and fuller life in heaven, it is thought of as the way of escape from this ‘vale of tears, fears and sorrows’.

The Bible does not use such language. Instead, death is spoken of as something which is to befall all men as the result of sin, not a means of escape. It is the great enemy of man which threatens all his aspirations. Indeed, it is called “the last enemy”.

Reflect upon the tone of these passages and ask yourself how well they fit the popular conception of the nature and effect of death.

“(God) has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”
(2 Timothy 1:9,10)

“In accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honour, and immortality” (Romans 2:5-7)

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23)

“For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53)

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)

“For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (1 Corinthians 15:16-18)

This, then, is part of the testimony of the New Testament concerning the nature of man. What your conclusions will be as a result or reflection upon the passages to which your attention has been directed, I cannot tell. But it is a vitally important topic for each of us, if we are to understand the peril that faces us once this mortal existence is over.

The Lord Jesus Christ has brought “life and immortality” to light, through the gospel, and we need to know and find out about that. Immortality will not just happen; it is not something automatic, inherent or intrinsic.

It is something about which we really need to know. And we can only know about it – given that it is beyond our immediate experience – by reading God’s Word and believing what that teaches us.

When the serpent said to Eve “You shall not surely die”, he was lying. We surely will cease to exist for ever unless we find out about God’s offer of salvation, and make that our own.

Dennis Gillett

Christian Monotheist

Mortal or Immortal? by Dennis Gillett

Human & Animal Existence

In the Old Testament Scriptures, people and animals who perished in the worldwide flood at the time of Noah, are joined together in the phrase “All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life … died”.

This is a clear indication that the Word of God views the constitution of men and animals as fundamentally identical. The breath of life in every case appears to be the motive power of life, in both men and animals. It is as though there is no difference between the nature, or existence, of man or animals.

According to the Genesis account in the Bible, we are all alive in much the same way. This is so radically different a view from what is popularly conceived that we need to check up with other Scriptures, too. Here are a few statements about what death is like:

“Return, O Yahweh, deliver me! Oh, save me for your mercies’ sake! For in death there is no remembrance of you; In the grave who will give you thanks?” (Psalm 6:4,5);

For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun … Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going
(Ecclesiastes 9:5-10);

“Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in Yahweh his God” (Psalm 146:3-5);

Sheol cannot thank you, death cannot praise you; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your truth. The living, the living man, he shall praise you, as I do this day; the father shall make known your truth to the children” (Isaiah 38:18,19).

After Death – What?

Thus, both in the wisdom and prophetic sections of the Bible, we see the same understanding expressed. Life is the time to serve the Lord, and Death is described as a state of unconsciousness and utter inactivity. Yet, it is also clear that faithful men, who had cause to think profoundly about the purpose of life, realized that things are in a sorry state indeed if there is nothing else after death – they would have no hope of continuance. Consider Job, who spoke in the extremity of his sufferings:

“Are not my days few? Cease! Leave me alone, that I may take a little comfort, before I go to the place from which I shall not return, to the land of darkness and the shadow of death, a land as dark as darkness itself, as the shadow of death, without any order, where even the light is like darkness” (Job 10:20-22).

Or David:

“Hear my prayer, O Yahweh, And give ear to my cry; Do not be silent at my tears; For I am a stranger with you, a sojourner, as all my fathers were. Remove your gaze from me, that I may regain strength, before I go away and am no more” (Psalm 39:12,13).

Escape from Death

Both these faithful men came to realize that there is something that can happen after death, that the soul – the life force from God – need not be lost for ever. There were indications of that prospect. Both Job and David were inspired to utter words that looked forward to the prospect of resurrection. And, as God’s purpose unfolded, there were actual indications of people being brought back from the unconscious state of death, like the miracles done by the prophets Elijah and Elisha.

Events like that gave hope to people in the Old Testament who knew there was only one solution to the inescapable problem of death. But what other indications were there?

“Laid to Rest”

Some have seen the promise of continued life immediately after death in the expression concerning those in the Old Testament who were “gathered unto their fathers” when they died. But this is not a fair conclusion, for, as a little research will show, the expression means simply ‘to be buried’. For example, God said to faithful Abraham: “You shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age” (Genesis 15:15).

That could hardly mean that, after death, his soul would go to dwell in peace with his ancestors in heaven, for they were idolaters, who had worshipped strange gods. The true meaning of this is made clear in the New Testament where the apostle Paul, speaking in similar terms of King David, says:

“David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption” (Acts 13:36);

whilst the apostle Peter says:

“Let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day … David did not ascend into the heavens” (Acts 2:29,34).

Plainly, going to one’s fathers means being buried in the grave, and that agrees precisely with the comment of Solomon that: “All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust” (Ecclesiastes 3:20).

Wherever you look in the Old Testament the message is the same.

Dennis Gillett

Christian Monotheist

LIFE AFTER DEATH? by Nigel Patterson

I have been to more than one funeral where the Minister has given comfort to the bereaved family by ‘suggesting that their loved one is now in some state of happiness and peace – generally believed to be Heaven.

Yet at a later point in the Service the same man has read part of the apostle Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians – which focuses on the resurrection of the dead. It’s difficult to see how these two ideas go together.

Are We Immortal?

The assumption that Heaven is our natural destination is closely linked to the idea that we have some divine and indestructible spark within each of us that survives death – often called an “immortal soul”. Now, the Bible has nothing to say about such a thing because it has never heard of it. It was never part of the original Christian message. The first written statement of Christian belief in an immortal soul is dated about 150 years after Christ.

According to this teaching, anybody and everybody is heaven-bound. The gate to the entrance of a village church near where I live in Cornwall, England, has written over it: “Death is the gate to life”. That may be a clever thing to write above a gate but it just cannot be! For it would mean that eternal life, or immortal existence, comes about without any effort on our part.

This is where we need to bring Bible teaching to bear. And we find that every comment from Jesus of Nazareth emphasizes that eternal life is not automatic. We are expected to make some effort if we are to attain it. Nothing happens for nothing.

Of course God is a God of love; that’s certainly Bible teaching. His love is beyond our comprehension and I readily acknowledge my complete dependence on it. Yet the Bible makes it very plain that it is a love with a standard. “The Lord is… not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3: 9). Notice: all must come “to repentance”.

And the verse which is perhaps best known for its expression of God’s love makes a similar point: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life”. The word ‘perish’ is a desperate word – it means oblivion – so it really matters that this verse also makes eternal life conditional, not automatic. We have to “believe” or perish!


No Tree of Life

Without belief and we all perish – there is no afterlife! It was a death sentence handed down to all Mankind in the Garden of Eden. You may remember that God’s decision resulted from Adam and Eve’s flagrant breach of His command that they should not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When they both had eaten, God said:

“Behold, the man has become like one of us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”
(Genesis 3:22).

Have you ever asked yourself ‘What is the point of this prohibition if they were already inherently immortal?’ The only sensible solution is that they were mortal, not immortal; and so are we.


Writing to believers in Rome, the apostle Paul promises that God:

“will render to each one according to his deeds: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honour, and immortality” (Romans 2:6,7).

How shall we understand these words unless we are to be actively involved in our own quest for immortality? There is certainly no sense of inherent immortality here. It was the work of the Lord Jesus to undo the harm Adam had brought, thus it can be said of him that he:

“has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10).

No Jesus – no gospel; and there would be no hope of immortality. The inescapable truth is that whenever the apostles spoke of eternal or immortal life, they were always thinking of the resurrection of the body [or better still, the resurrection of the dead]. This was the truth at the heart of their message, and the false idea that we have an immortal soul which goes to heaven – or hell – at death destroys all that Christ has done through his resurrection.  

The physical resurrection of Jesus underpins the whole of the Christian message and hope; if the tomb was not empty all the claims of Christ become empty and his effectiveness to save men and women from permanent death is destroyed. But the tomb was empty for the Lord had risen!

Bodily Resurrection

In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, the passage that is often read at the graveside, Paul makes it abundantly clear that the bodily resurrection of Jesus is absolutely crucial to the Christian hope. It is the clear explanation contained in this chapter that makes any supposed survival of a conscious existence in Heaven such an obvious contradiction. For, Paul says:

“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain” (1 Corinthians 15:13,14).

And, he continues, with never-ceasing logic:

“If the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (15:16-19).

This is a remarkable passage. If there is no resurrection then Christ is still dead and if that’s the case the Christian faith is worthless – we are still in our sins! It is his resurrection that makes the difference and demonstrates the merit of his shed blood to save sinners who believe. Paul now expresses the true Christian hope, the one we all must make our own:

“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (15:20).

Don’t miss out on this genuine offer of salvation!


Nigel Patterson