Christian Cyclopedia

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(from Lat. immortalis, “undying; imperishable”). Exemption from death; in Christian thought such exemption is attained through Christ (Jn 11:25–26; 1 Ti 6:15–16; 2 Ti 1:10).

Belief in immortality is common in non-Christian thought. Plato assoc. the soul (psyche) with reason and on that basis urged the immortality of the soul, asserting that the soul exists before its embodiment. Some Gk. thinkers hinted at repeated incarnations of the same soul. Epicurus* and Lucretius* denied immortality. Many exponents of deism* taught the immortality of the soul as rationally implied in natural theol. In some Christian thought the body is considered an encumbrance or prison of the soul.

In the Bible, immortality pertains to the entire man, including the body, after the resurrection to eternal life. Some OT statements about the future world involve reference to a shadowy existence (e.g., Jb 10:20–22; Ps 88:10–12). The resurrection of the body is mentioned, e.g., Is 25:8; Dn 12:2. Acc. to Ec 12:7 the spirit of man returns to God at death, but this may simply mean for judgment; cf. Heb 9:27. Joy and pleasure are assoc. with eternal life Ps. 16:11.

In the NT immortality is assoc. with Jesus Christ (Jn 1:4; 3:36; 14:19; Ro 5:17; 1 Jn 5:12), esp. with His resurrection (Ro 6:4–23; 1 Co 15; Ph 3:8–21).

The early fathers continued to assoc. immortality and resurrection with Christ's redemptive work. Over against a one-sided emphasis on the soul, they often stressed the resurrection of the body in their creeds.

According to the NT, believers are with Christ after death (Lk 23:43; Ph 1:23; cp. 2 Co 5:1; 2 Ti 4:6–8). Unbelievers face judgment, damnation, and eternal death (Mt 25:41–46; 2 Ptr 2:9; Rv 20:14).

See also Hereafter; Immortality, Arguments for; Last Things, 4, 5. EL

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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Content Reproduced with Permission

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