“Conditional Immortality” is an unfortunately cumbersome piece of jargon that refers to a fairly simple belief: That human beings are mortal, and can only receive immortality on the condition that God gives it to them as a gift through faith in Jesus Christ.
It begins with an understanding of the nature of humanity as revealed in Scripture. According to the Genesis account the first man was formed out of the dust of the ground, then God breathed life into him and he became a living soul (Gen 2:7).
dust + breath of life = living soul
The Hebrew word for soul is nephesh, which has been variously translated as being, life, soul, creature, etc. but is never equivalent to the Greek/Platonic concept of the soul as an immaterial invisible immortal being, and instead refers to us as whole beings, and to the various aspects of our being such as heart, strength etc. (In fact the KJV translates nephesh in 44 different ways!) The same word is used for the animals (e.g. Gen 1:21,24 “living creatures” = living “Souls”). Thus conditional immortality regards each human as a unit, a soul, comprised of the dust of the earth and the life-giving breath of God, and not as a combination of two or three separate entities (body, soul and spirit).
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Matthew 10:28 is a statement on God’s sovereignty over life and death, and a reassurance: What men can do to you is temporary. They can kill you and that is fearful, granted, but it is God, the one in whom we hope, who can end you forever, not just killing the body temporarily as men can, but ultimately ending your life. Don’t fear them. Fear him.
God alone is immortal, your soul is not by its own nature immortal. Immortality is only granted as gift by God through faith in Jesus Christ.
Did Jesus say that when people kill our bodies, our souls go marching on?
Matthew 10:28 is a problem for the traditional doctrine of hell. It’s one of the verses of Scripture that conditionalists won’t let traditionalists forget, and for good reason. It affirms in the clearest language possible that the worst that men can do is to kill us, but God can destroy us, “soul and body” in hell. This is the fate that awaits those who in the end reject God. Regardless of what you think the soul is, it too will be destroyed along with the body.
And yet, this passage is sometimes thought to present a problem for many of us. Most conditionalists believe that the idea of an immaterial soul that lives on when the body dies is not biblical. We weren’t created to die, so we don’t have a built-in death survival mechanism. When we die, we’re well and truly dead until the resurrection. And yet, here’s Jesus saying that human beings can kill our bodies but not our souls. What’s going on?
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