The Search for Immortality
from the May 18, 2015 eNews issue
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The lure of immortality has been with Man since the time in the Garden, where stood the Tree of Life (Genesis 2:9). Immortality has been a popular theme in popular culture, with the television series “Forever”, a story of a man who cannot die being a current popular show. “The Age of Adeline”, a movie about woman who has 29 years old for nearly eight decades, has recently opened in theaters in the theaters in the United States and set for worldwide distribution.
Much has been written about Man’s quest for immortality, whether it be through gene therapy, transhumanism or uploading one’s consciousness up to “the cloud”.
The desire for immortality is so deeply implanted in the human soul that even those who accept the dicta of a materialistic science, seek some sort of substitute for the discarded notion of the personal immortality of the soul. Their hope for the future assumes one of the following forms:
There are those who comfort themselves with the idea that the individual will continue to live on this earth in his posterity, in his children and grandchildren, to endless generations. The individual seeks compensation for his lack of hope in a personal immortality in the notion that he contributes his share to the life of the race and will continue to live on in that. But the idea that a man lives on in his progeny, whatever modicum of truth it may contain, can hardly serve as a substitute for the doctrine of personal immortality. It certainly does not do justice to the data of Scripture, and does not satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart.
Immortality of Commemoration
According to Positivism this is the only immortality we should desire and look for. Everyone should aim at doing something to establish a name for himself, which will go down in the annals of history. If he does this, he will continue to live in the hearts and minds of a grateful posterity. This also falls far short of the personal immortality which Scripture leads us to expect. The names of most men are not recorded on the pages of history, and many of those who are so recorded are soon forgotten. And to a great extent it may be said that the best and the worst share it alike.
Immortality of influence
This is very closely related to commemoration. If a man makes his mark in life, and accomplishes something that is of enduring value, his influence will continue long after he is gone. Jesus and Paul, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, Luther and Calvin,—they are all very much alive in the influence which they exercise up to the present time. While this is perfectly true, this immortality of influence is but a poor substitute for personal immortality. All the objections that were raised against the immortality of commemoration, also apply in this case.
The only true way to immortality is found in the Scriptures.
Paul speaks here of “seeking” immortality. He also refers to acquiring it at the resurrection
For what is decaying must be clothed with what cannot decay, and what is dying must be clothed with what cannot die.
— 1 Corinthians 15:53, ISV
However, Jesus taught that the soul is immortal, that is, it cannot be destroyed by death:
I’ll show you the one you should be afraid of. Be afraid of the one who has the authority to throw you into hell after killing you. Yes, I tell you, be afraid of him!
— Luke 12:5, ISV
The Bible reserves the term “immortality” for humans in their resurrected state. It is something acquired, not possessed before the Resurrection, since Christ, who was the first one to attain an immortal resurrection body (1 Cor. 15:20), “through the gospel has brought life and release from death into full view” (2 Tim. 1:10) for the rest of the race.
Nevertheless, the fact of immortality includes the human soul as well. For the soul is not destroyed by physical death, just as Jesus said:
“I’ll show you the one you should be afraid of. Be afraid of the one who has the authority to throw you into hell after killing you. Yes, I tell you, be afraid of him!”
— Luke 12:5, ISV
It survives death and goes into either God’s presence (2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23), if it is saved, or into conscious hell (Luke 16:22–26; Rev. 19:20–20:15), if it is lost. Since the soul (and/or spirit) is not mortal, as the body is, in this sense it is proper to say the soul is immortal. However, the whole person—soul and body—is resurrected to immortality. So in this sense, the soul gains immortality at the resurrection of the body.
However, in the biblical sense of living forever in an immortal body, human beings do not possess immortality before the resurrection. Even so, only God is intrinsically immortal; whatever immortality humans have, they derive from God.
Rather than chase after poor attempts to achieve bodily immortality, we should be concentrating on the immortality we have all been promised in a new life in Christ.