Are all humans immortal?

This Shoebox Blog cartoon reminded me about how most people believe that all humans are immortal (i.e. live past death) when they are born. Some wonder if people become immortal when they are spiritually born after they are physically born. What are your thoughts? Are humans born immortal or do some become immortal after they are born? Or perhaps you feel that no one lives past death.


  1. I think that humans are pre-existent before birth. So, I would say they are immortal, before birth.

  2. @Brian - Do you think we are eternal?

  3. I don't know but this is interesting to me.

    It seems that if we all live on in some state after physical death, then we would be "eternal" and therefore pre-existent. If we die and not live on in some way then I don't think so.

    Jesus commended his spirit to the Father, but his body died. So do our spirits go to the Father when our bodies die?

    Meaty stuff.

  4. @Ma - Good thoughts! In my thinking only God is eternal (i.e. without a beginning and without and end). So it seems that the question is when does spiritual life begin and why we believe that all experience spiritual life.

  5. I agree with Bob, only God is eternal, i.e. without beginning or end. The question of human immortality depends on a few definitions. What does it mean to have spiritual life? If by life you mean existence, that is altogether different than if you mean entrance into the kingdom of God.

    I believe the context of John 3 would have us understand Jesus to be talking about entrance to the kingdom (v3). But in Matthew 25 and Revelation (14.11 and 20.10,15) those who suffer God's judgment in the end will endure everlasting torment.

    I think a case could be made then that the human spirit, made in the image of our creator, is immortal in the sense of everlasting. In fact, though our physical bodies experience death as a result of the fall, I think a case could be made from Revelation that all human bodies will be raised to everlasting existence, either everlasting life in the kingdom or everlasting torment in the lake of fire.

    To be sure, Jesus speaks of being born spiritually, and Paul talks about being spiritually dead before conversion, but Paul also speaks of being alive to God and dead to sin, or vice versa. In what way are we to consider ourselves dead to sin? Not in the sense of non-existence I would guess, since sin still wages war on us. So this language seems to be meant other than literal.

  6. Thanks Brance for weighing in. In my thinking the imagery in Rev 20 is not to be taken literal. It is interesting to note that it speaks of the Lake of Fire as the second death. My understanding of death is the ceasing of existence. Hence any who are there no longer exist.

    Being created in God's image does not necessarily mean being spiritually born. It may but I don't think one can say that categorically - yet that is one interpretation. We are not created in all ways like God as we are not eternal as He is. Yet it does seem that spirits are immortal in that they do not die. The issue is then at what time are spirits born. Jesus seems to delineate being born of flesh and being born of spirit when he speaks to Nicodemus. One perspective on that is that people are not immortal until they are born of the spirit.

    Not really advocating any of these positions. Just wanting to get input from folks like you.

  7. So you are suggesting, in this theory, that the unsaved person has no spirit at all?

    I would find this a difficult position to defend biblically I think.

    Eccl 8.8
    Eccl 11.5
    Is 31.3 (a man without a spirit is only an animal)
    James 2.26 (the body apart from the spirit is dead)
    Luke 16.19-31 (Jesus seems to be teaching the existence of a spirit after the death of an unbeliever)

    Further difficulty arrises in considering the death of an unsaved person with no spirit. At physical death he would cease to exist altogether in the absence of an immortal spirit, only to have God recreate his existence for the final judgment, only to annihilate him a second time? That seems altogether pointless.

    And you understand Rev 20, namely the lake of fire, to be teaching annihilation? the ceasing of existence after the final judgment?

    what then do you make of Rev 14.11?

    "forever and ever, and they have no rest"

    that doesn't sound like the cessation of existence to me...

    Or what of Matt 25.46?

    "these will go away into eternal punishment"

    If we take this to mean something other than everlasting conscious punishment, in other words, if eternal doesn't mean eternal but rather momentary punishment (ceasing to exist they would then cease to be punished), then how do we understand the second half of the verse?

    "but the righteous into eternal life."

    what does eternal mean in this half of the verse if not everlasting?

    Satan and demons are spirits, yes? And yet they have no entrance into the eternal kingdom of heaven. do they then have spiritual life? in one sense, yes, they exist as a reality. in another sense, no, they do not have the life of Christ in them and will not see Joy in the kingdom of heaven.

    When Jesus speaks of spiritual birth in John 3, it is clear he is speaking of spiritual birth into the kingdom of God, not simply the coming into existence of a spirit which may not see the kingdom. the evil spirits exist, yet will not see the kingdom. are they then not in existence?

  8. Thanks for the great reply Brance. Here are a few of my thoughts on the scripures that you cite:

    + ECC 8:8 - could be referencing life. either way it doesn't seem to speak to when a spirit comes into existence or if it is immortal.

    + ECC 11:5 - spirit could be translated life but could mean spirit.. either way immortality is not spoken of.

    + ISA 31:3 - certainly humans are different than animals in respect of sentience.. possibly that indicates that all humans have spirits.

    + JAM 2:26 - spirit in this verse could also mean breath.

    + LUK 16:19-31 - understandable if one interprets parables literally. yet the idea that hell is visible from heaven does not seem to make sense.

    + REV 14:11 - perhaps the metaphor is not to be taken literally.

    + MAT 25.46 - why is eternal life compared to eternal punishment and not eternal death? why not compare eternal joy with eternal punishment? perhaps eternal

    punishment is another way to say eternal death?

    I am not advocating for these views but suggesting that there are other ways to see some of these verses. Of course I am not an advocate of building a

    theology from various verses that one gleans from different parts of the scriptures.

    Regarding satan and demons it seems that they are different from humans as they appear to be created in a different ways (i.e.e demons do not have children).

    Yet it is possibly to posit that the have an end if one considers the second death.

    Regarding John 3 and the new birth. Are you saying a person's spirit dies and then is born again? If that is the case then it seems that it is possible for that person's spirit to cease to exist.

    But if you are saying that spiritual birth is a metaphor for entry into the kingdom of God then it seems that nothing is really actually born/created anew.

    It would be similar to saying that a person's spirit existed before they were born and simply moved into a different realm.

    The real issue is what is actually born when one is born again.

    Enjoy the dialogue. Hope I have not offended. You know that I am a rebel at heart. :)

  9. What I find (or am finding) interesting, is no mention of eternal conscious punishment mentioned (that I know of) in the OT.

    God threatens and then carries out earthly punishments, but he doesn't mention that if one is unsaved they will be tormented forever, that seems like kind of an important thing to leave out.

    This is interesting:

    And the dust returneth to the earth as it was, And the spirit returneth to God who gave it. (ecc 12:7)

    The body *dust* returns to the ground. The spirit, which is life, a gift of God alone goes back to God. What he chooses to do with it then I guess is the question.

  10. Bob, I don't know about us being eternal. Whether we have "always" existed or not is something I haven't really contemplated. I am not adamant about reincarnation. But, it does make sense to me. I do believe that we are here more than once. So, once we were "created" we are immortal and that would include before incarnation into a physical body.

  11. I feel I don't know. If God is God, if God's thoughts are greater than my thoughts, then I can't know. All I can do is trust in God. For me, that's enough.

  12. Bob,

    We should be careful in drawing too much from the idea that a particular greek or hebrew word "could" mean something else in one of these verses. The translators know far more than I do about the original languages and chose their words carefully. Would you be willing to apply the same "spirit in this verse could also mean breath" argument to John 3? It would render Jesus dialog incomprehensible if we did, for if it meant breath, as in life to the body, in this passage then everyone sucking wind would have this breath/life. so what would it mean to be born again? Nicodemus question about reentering the womb starts to make sense!

    The same goes with Matthew 25.46

    Bob said: "perhaps eternal punishment is another way to say eternal death?"

    Why wouldn't he have said death then? The word means punishment, as in "penal infliction, punishment, torment."

    As far as the parable in Luke 16, no we don't take it literally, yet it seems strange that Christ would even suggest an afterlife for someone without an immaterial soul.

    Bob said: "Regarding John 3 and the new birth. Are you saying a person's spirit dies and then is born again?"

    No, I'm not suggesting that the person's spirit ceases to exist, but rather that it is already dead. In the new birth death is changed to life as we are made alive to God and dead to sin, whereas before regeneration we were alive to sin and dead to God. This change happens when we are united to Christ, for he is our life. (J 14.6, 6.35, 20.31)

    Bob said: "The real issue is what is actually born when one is born again."

    Why should we take Jesus language of birth very literal in John 3, yet not take other passages where he speaks of eternal torment equally literal. Is it not possible that Jesus is using metaphorical language in John 3 when speaking of the new birth?

    If our immortal spirit did not exist prior to new birth, what would there be to wash clean in regeneration? only our flesh, but our flesh will die and be made whole again at the resurrection, so at the time of regeneration there would be no cleansing, only a creating.

    If our immortal spirit exists from the time of our creation as a person, in our mother's womb, then there is a spiritual cleansing that takes place at the new birth. Ezek 36.24-28

    "So in the new birth, God takes out the heart of stone and puts in a heart of flesh. The word flesh doesn't mean 'merely human' as it does in John 3.6. It means soft and living and responsive and feeling, instead of being a lifeless stone. In the new birth, our dead, stony boredom with Christ is replaced by a heart that senses the worth of Jesus." (John Piper, Finally Alive p.42)

    I would highly recommend Piper's book quoted above. I would also recommend Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology, here's an excerpt:

    "The human spirit is not something that is dead[as in non-existent] in an unbeliever but comes to life[existence] when someone trusts in Christ, because the Bible talks about unbelievers having a spirit that is obviously alive but is in rebellion against God –– whether Sihon, King of Heshbon (Deut 2.30), or Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 5.20), or the unfaithful people of Israel (Ps 78.8)."

    The chapter "The essential nature of man" addresses this topic. It is much too detailed to cover in blog comments!

    You can see where I land. I believe the Bible teaches the creation of an immortal human spirit at conception, and immortal existence for all humans after death, with both the just and unjust being resurrected physically, the just to everlasting life in the kingdom, the unjust to everlasting punishment.

    I see the issue not hinging so much on what Jesus meant by "birth", as much as what he meant by "life".

    Sorry for the length of my comments. I get into these kind of discussions. I think it's my dad coming out in me. :)

  13. I have to run back to the hospital but I thought that you might enjoy a post that I just found (honest I had not seen it before today). The post has many scripture references that speak to the nature of the human soul/spirit. Here is a bit from it and a link to it:

    "The concept of the innate "immortality of the human soul" that eventually entered the Christian Church was the result of a long process. Pagan ideas, filtered through Greek poets and philosophers, found expression in the work of one of the most famous thinkers of the ancient world, the Greek philosopher Plato. Under Plato the concept of the "immortal soul" was fully developed.

    The world that Jesus entered was dominated by Greek culture. Rome ruled the world politically, but the fountain of knowledge was still Greece. Greek thought dominated the civilized world, and it was from this source that the Christian Church borrowed ideas about the "immortal soul."

    Click here for more.

    Caveat: I may not agree with all of his views so please do not take this as my perspective. It is just another way to view things.

    And I will try to get back to your comments soon.

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Speaking of translators, you might want to do some research on the Greek work they translated as "eternal". In case you're interested, here's something to get you started.

    The Power of Death and Life in a Four Letter Word

  16. Brian, is your understanding then that when Jesus promises 'eternal life', what he really said was 'life for an age'?

    That article places some unwarranted semantic restrictions on the word aion, falsely assuming that the word always has the same meaning. This is a very common mistake made by those who don't know enough about a language, and/or are trying to prove a pre-concieved position.

    There is no exact, word-for-word way to translate from any one language to any other. Even in English we have words that mean different things in different contexts. The word 'age' for instance, can mean a specific number of years I have been alive, i.e. 'my age', or it can mean a distinct period of history, or taken as a verb it can mean to grow older. If I insist that every time the word 'age' is used it means 'my age', then the argument of that article becomes quite silly. He's doing the same thing with aion. This is the reason translation is best left to teams of men who have spent their lives understanding the languages.

    That article is full of other fallacies and illogical thinking that I simply don't have time to refute. The author accuses those who disagree with him of twisting scripture, in some sort of conspiratorial way no less, to suit their own notions and preferences, rather than submitting to what he views as a plain teaching of scripture. From my perspective, he is doing the twisting to suit his own desired outcome.

    We'll have to agree to disagree, he and I.

  17. Great dialogue here. A few brief thoughts while I have a few minutes:

    AION: Brian and I have had a discussion about this before and my concern is how one could construe a time-bounded post death existence from aion. In my thinking time only exists this side of death. If it exists after we die then we/heaven will not exist in the same dimension as God because He exists outside of time.

    JOHN 3: I think that we take the idea of being born of the spirit literally because Jesus is not speaking in a parable and he used the plain example of being physically born. He chastised Nicodemus for not understanding what it means to be born of the Spirit indicating that it was not a difficult or hidden concept.

    PIPER/GRUDEM: These men are heretics! Well maybe not really but I am not too impressed with some of their teachings. Grudem's perspective on women in ministry reveals that he leans to a pretty literal interpretation of things that are not so literal to some of us. I do wonder what heart means to Piper though in the context of the quote.

    Thanks again for the enlightening conversation. Much appreciated.

  18. Interesting conversation Bob. My thoughts are that man as a created being was not by nature immortal, but was given immortality by God at creation. However, I believe that this original immortality was lost in the fall. Mankind could only be restored to immortality through the recreation of man's nature (rebirth) made possible by Jesus's death and resurrection. It is my understanding that all of mankind was restored to immortality.

    I believe that references to eternal life speak more to the quality of life with God. Our ability to commune with God was also restored through Jesus, but obviously how we experience life with God is determined by our participation in relationship with Him.

  19. @kingdomgrace - thanks for weighing in. As you know I am not an advocate of Christian Universalism. That said I would be interested in your take on what it means to be born of the Spirit.

  20. Bob,
    My belief is that the phrase "born of the Spirit" refers to the restoration of the nature of man to the image of God, giving mankind, once again, the capacity to commune and have relationship with God. In my opinion, this is not something that we do, but something that Jesus accomplished and that we experience through our understanding of who we are and what is ours as a result of what He has done.

    A few verses concerning this:

    John 3:3 (Amp) unless a person is born again (anew, from above), he cannot ever see (know, be acquainted with, and experience) the kingdom of God.

    John 3:7 Marvel not [do not be surprised, astonished] at My telling you, You must all be born anew (from above).

    John 3:17 For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him.

    I Peter 1:23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

    Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

    Romans 6:8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

  21. @kingdomgrace - Interesting. My thinking is that your perspective is that those verses is generic rather than personal in that you believe that we are all born again and experience the kingdom of God. But I could be misunderstanding.

  22. kingdom grace,

    I see your point...

    Also this:

    The first man Adam was made into a living soul; the last Adam into a quickening spirit.

    The one to one comparison as in 1Corinthains 15, too. As in Adam ALL die, so in Christ shall ALL be made alive.

    Christ as the last Adam. I would agree with you that any spiritual birth would not at all be dependent on us just the same way as our natural birth.

    I'm still trying to find out where I am in this whole thing, but am finding, for the most part the "religion" has got a bunch of stuff wrong.

    Thanks for the discussion here Bob:)

  23. Ma, yes, I love the second Adam imagery.

    Bob, I believe that it was necessary for Jesus to restore the capacity of mankind to share in the life of God, kingdom life. Yes, I think this rebirth was generic, made effective for all of humanity, in Jesus's death and resurrection.

    Jesus is the only Way (no man comes to the Father but by Me) in which we could be recreated with a nature capable of participating in the life of God (ye must be born again).

    An individual's personal experience of life in the kingdom of God is determined by their choice to connect and share in life with God. We each experience kingdom life to the degree that we turn to the source of life.

  24. @knigdomgrace - a bit confused by your last comment:

    "restore the capacity of mankind to share in the life of God, kingdom life"

    It seems that having the capacity to share does not mean that all will share. That view would indicate that all may not share in the life of God. Seems to conflict with the CU view that all will be in heaven.

  25. Sorry Bob, I'm not trying to be confusing. :)

    Let me try again, perhaps capacity isn't the best word. The aspect of man's union with God, that was broken by the fall was restored to all mankind through Jesus. Our adoption was fulfilled in Jesus.

    I think there are many who will be in God's presence in the afterlife who did not experience sharing life with God while they lived on earth (this may include some folks who define themselves as Christians).

    In my opinion, sharing life with God will not ultimately determine the afterlife, but it will definitely impact the quality of kingdom life that one experiences today.

    I think it is tragic to trudge through this life apart from Him, when sharing His life is so freely available to us. We are continually in a state of being saved from living apart from God.

    Why do I have the feeling that more I say, the less I clarify?

  26. Kingdomgrace,

    I just wanted to let you know I'm tracking what you are saying. While I don't agree with it all and I think we'd use different terminology, I definitely understand what you are saying.

  27. @kingdomgrace - Thanks again for the dialog. I resonate with you that real eternal life can begin this side of life. My thinking is that kind of life begins with being spiritually reborn. How do you see that life beginning and how is it different?

  28. Brian and Bob,
    I just want to mention that I am okay with differences of opinion about all of this, and as I respond again, I understand that you may not share my conclusions.

    To answer your question Bob, I place spiritual rebirth in our inclusion in the finished work of Jesus on the cross and in His resurrection. For the individual, I believe that salvation is an ongoing process of growing in knowledge and understanding of God. In that process we experience the drawing and teaching of the Holy Spirit, and at times, life-altering encounters with the truth. I do not see this as a one-time event, not to diminish the fact that we can have dramatic encounters with the Spirit of God. I believe our hearts are transformed by sharing in life with God, immediately and over the course of time.

  29. I tend to agree with you, kingdomgrace. What we agree on is that every is already "included". But, some have not actualized that or realized that. Buddhists would say that we all have Buddha nature.

    To say that we are included doesn't mean there isn't work to be done. I prefer to call it sanctification rather than salvation.

    I don't see Yeshua's death on the cross as a transaction that saved us rather it's an illustration. It's an illustration of the injustice of man- our religious institutions and government conspired together to kill the representative of the Kingdom of G-d. The fact that He rose on the third day shows the triumph of G-d's Kingdom over our institutions. Also, man's feelings of guilt demand a sacrifice, a payment for sin. So, G-d provided that to show that there is no separation. That's another way of looking at it. I just don't see it as we were "out" before Yeshua was killed and "in" after He was killed.

  30. @Brian / @kingdomgrace - I do understand Christian Universalism to a degree. My past conversations with you both have been very educational and enlightening. You are both thoughtful and caring people that I respect.

    That said, I still do not have a clear understanding of why you believe that some people experience spiritual life and some do not if you believe that all have been spiritually born.

  31. Bob, I think that it's quite clear that there are people who are not living what we might refer to as "enlightened" or spiritual lives. No one can deny that. The idea that we all have "Buddha nature" or Christ-mind or an enlightened nature is a matter of faith. It's not evident from looking around. I look at people who are living less than enlightened lives as dirty mirrors that must be polished. It's not that they don't have that nature inherently, they just haven't realized it yet. Like a child that hasn't matured or a seed that hasn't grown.

  32. The change of mind or "repentance" comes totally from God, though, from what I understand.

    The reason that some are not living the spiritual life is that God has not given them the gift of repentance (change of mind)...yet.

    Their minds are not in line with what God has done (if one was to take a universal salvation approach), but this is all under His control, too.

    He has mercy on who He will, but also hardens whom He will.

  33. Not all universalists agree on the how, the why or then when of salvation. What universalists agree on is that none will be lost.

    If you want to term it that G-d hasn't called all to repentance yet and therefore they are not yet "saved", that is something that some universalists would agree with.

  34. Hi Brian-

    From my research on the universal salvation topic, I find that there are many variations indeed.

    Do you have some verses that would point to a none lost scenario? I would be interesting in studying them:)

  35. @Brian - Using your example one could deduce logically that a seed that has never matured was never really alive to begin with. Hence those seeds are really dead and will never have life in any dimension.. unless they are reborn of course. :)

    @Ma - I prefer that we stay somewhat on topic in this thread. Tentmaker and other sites are out there if you want to learn more about universalism.

  36. This conversation is getting deep, but in a good way. :)

    I don't call myself a universalist because, although I believe in universal reconciliation (restoration, re-creation, rebirth), I also believe that individuals choose their degree of participation in life with God. In that regard, I am a hopeful universalist. I have great faith in the work of the Holy Spirit and in God's relentless pursuit of each person, and ultimately, in the irresistible nature of His love and goodness.

    Brian, I understand and have considered the perspective you describe when I heard it from others. My belief at this time is that Jesus' death was more than illustrative. More than just triumph over institutions, I think "death" was defeated. I believe there was a cosmic, metaphysical change for humanity at the time of Jesus' death and resurrection.

    However, I agree that this was also a powerful demonstration of God's desire to commune with man. Back to Bob's original question, I believe that we were always "in" the Father's heart, but that the power of death, mortality, had to be defeated, and this was only possible through Jesus.

    Thanks to all for the stimulating conversation.


  37. Yeah, Bob. Perhaps I should have said "seedling" instead of seed.

  38. I appreciate your position about Jesus' death, Linda. For me, it raises more questions than it answers though.

  39. Bob,

    Sorry to drift off topic. Thanks for all the thoughts Linda and brain. I will continue in my search.

  40. @kingdomgrace - thanks for delineating your thinking. Your comment is more in line with what I think of as "Christian" Universalism.

    By saying that death was defeated for all you are speaking of spiritual death. Yet I do not see much reality in the world of that except for those who have been spiritually born.

    @Brian - A few thoughts on some of your ideas ...

    ENLIGHTENMENT: If enlightenment produces a radical change in a person's life then why not call it a spiritual birth - why say that it is basically a regurgitated version of something that was not a positive influence to begin with. And if the enlightenment (be it Christian or otherwise) does not produce new life then why not call it something good at all. In my thinking enlightenment is only helpful when there is something spiritual going on.

    REINCARNATION: What is the upside of that? Isn't suffering through life once enough? What kind of hope is there in that?

    Heading back to the hospital. See you all later.

  41. It seems to me that the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, answers this for us: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

    Either we have eternal life through God's Son or we perish. (Perish does not mean to live forever in hell)

    Or, how about Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

    Again, we get eternal life only through Jesus; or else we die. (Just like perish, death does not mean to live forever in hell)

    1. Thanks for stopping by Unknown. I agree with your views.

  42. As evidenced above I think that using scripture to back;s ones position is fairly a moot point as every camp has their own interpretation and people even disagree with those.

    So, personally, I really have no for sure thoughts of this but likely lean towards the fact that we are created at inception, both physically and spiritually.

    As for life after death--"immortality" as such: for the little it's worth I firmly believe that Jesus was honest when he was quoted as saying that he shall prepare a palce for you (us, as it were). So, yes, I believe in eternal life, at least for those in heaven.

    For those not in heaven, they face eternity too but is it eternal damnation? Most interpret the bible to mean yes, eternal punvishment, then again some like SDA's say it is eternal consequence, or suffering, in that one ceases to exist at some point. You either have eternal life as promised to the believer or you don't! so if the gift of salvation is eternal life than what is the opposite if not given that gift? Eternal death, right? Perhaps death is literally no life, no consciousness? I have no idea and don't even like to think on the after life in that none of us for sure know, we simply believe or hope or don't hope at all. I prefer to stay grounded in the this life and love the best I can here. good questions though! :)


I love to get comments and usually respond. So come back to see my reply. You can click here to see my comment policy.