Q. Do you believe that mankind has an immortal soul? Many churches teach as their doctrine that when a person dies they instantly go to heaven or hell, but the Bible does not support that. Doesn’t the Bible show that the “elect” will be resurrected at the Messiah’s Second Coming and the remainder of mankind at the second resurrection?
A. We do not believe that man has an immortal soul. This belief likely originated with the Egyptians, which was then adopted by the Greeks and eventually by Judaism and Christianity.
According to Herodotus, a Greek historian who lived during the fifth century BCE, immortal soul beliefs trace directly back to the mystery religion of the Egyptians: “The Egyptians were the first that asserted that the soul of man is immortal…This opinion some among the Greeks have at different periods of time adopted as their own” (Euterpe, chapter 123).
The Jewish Encyclopedia, in the article, “Immortality of the Soul,” says, “The belief that the soul continues its existence after the dissolution of the body is a matter of philosophical or theological speculation rather than of simple faith, and is accordingly nowhere taught in the Holy Scripture….The belief in the immortality of the soul came to the Jews from contact with Greek thought and chiefly through the philosophy of Plato, its principal exponent, who was led to it through Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries in which Babylonian and Egyptian views were strangely blended.”
The Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature corroborates, “Perhaps we may say that the idea of immortality assumed a more definite shape among the Egyptians, for they clearly recognized not only a dwelling-place of the dead, but also a future judgment. ‘Osiris, the beneficent god, judges the dead,’ and, ‘having weighed their heart in the scales of justice, he sends the wicked to regions of darkness, while the just are sent to dwell with the god of light.’ The latter, we read on an inscription, ‘found favor before the great God; they dwell in glory, where they live a heavenly life; the bodies they have quitted will forever repose in their tombs, while they rejoice in the life of the supreme God.’ Immortality was thus plainly taught, although bound up with it was the idea of the preservation of the body, to which they attached great importance, as a condition of the soul’s continued life; and hence they built vast tombs, and embalmed their bodies, as if to last forever,” Immorality, p. 514, Vol. IV. This same exhaustive source also explains the connection between immortality and the ancient eastern religions of Hinduism and Confucianism:
According to the Bible, The day that a person dies their thoughts perish, their spirit or breath returns to Yahweh, and they wait in an unconsciousness state in the grave for the resurrection, Psalm 146:4; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Daniel 12:2. If the person is found worthy of the first resurrection, they will be resurrected when Yahshua the Messiah returns at His Second Coming, 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. If not, they will be resurrected at the second resurrection, also known as the Great White Throne Judgment, Revelation 20:4, 11-15. At this time, they will be judged based on their works, Revelation 20:12.
For additional information, read our booklet: What Happens After This Life?