Eternal Spirit

Drew Berding

Is the human spirit eternal?
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Introduction:

Most Christians have been taught that the human spirit is eternal at the moment of birth. Is this teaching accurate? Is it Biblical? What does the Scripture say? Let us allow it to speak for itself. Unless I am greatly mistaken (and I am very willing to be corrected), the following scriptures clearly say that the human spirit is dead until a person believes in Jesus Christ—only then does the human spirit become eternal.

SCRIPTURECOMMENT
“And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”1This is very clear, you either have eternal life (in his Son) or you don’t.
In fact, the last phrase of the verse is emphatic: if you don’t have the Son, you don’t have eternal life.
He who believes in the Son has eternal life, but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”2He who does not obey Jesus will not have eternal life.
“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life…”3Receiving eternal life is conditional upon believing in the Son.
“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”4Eternal life is dependent upon knowing Jesus.
God said to Adam and Eve, “…from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”5This explains why my spirit was dead and therefore needed to be made alive. Adam did not die physically until age 940, but his spirit died when he ate of the forbidden fruit. Later he died physically.
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” — therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.6Why did God place the angel with the flaming sword at the entrance to the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned? It was so they would not eat of the Tree of Life and have eternal life in a sinful state.
So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.7They did not yet have eternal life because they had not yet eaten of the Tree of Life [Jesus].
For just as all who are in Adam die, even so all who are in Christ will be made alive.8Only those “in Christ” will have eternal life.
“…that whosoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life.9In this verse (the most famous verse in the Bible) having eternal life is contrasted with perishing. This, of course, raises the question of how could one perish if he already had eternal life? Wouldn’t it be impossible to perish if your spirit were eternal?
“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.10“Will have” is in the Greek Subjunctive Mood which means it is conditional. In this case, eternal life is conditional on believing in Jesus.
“…to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.11Jesus is the giver of eternal life. “may give” is in the Greek Subjunctive Mood which means eternal life is conditional and you didn’t have it to start with.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”12This verse shows that when you believe, you pass from death into eternal life. Therefore, if you previously had death, the human spirit could not have been eternal before believing in Jesus..
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world …”13Because of Adam’s sin, your spirit was dead. If you were dead, your spirit could not have been eternal.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life… and not die.14Again, eternal life is contrasted with death.
“I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish…”15Perishing would not be possible if the spirit were eternal.
“For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life16If you can be rewarded with eternal life, it means you did not already have it.

Conclusion:

According to the Scriptures we have examined, a person only inherits eternal life when he believes in Jesus. Otherwise his spirit remains dead.


Appendix 1

Additional Related Scriptures

John 10:27-28,
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”

John 17:1-3,
Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

John 6:27-28,
“Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”

John 6:40,
“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

John 6:47-48,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.”

John 6:50-51,
“This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”

John 6:58,
“This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.

John 6:63,
“It is the Spirit who gives life.”

Rom 8:13,
…for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

James 5:20,
“…let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

Rev 21:6,
“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

1 Cor 15:43,
“So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”

1 Pet 4:6,
“For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.” (Present, Active, Subjunctive—in other words, they have the opportunity to choose to live).

Rev 20:6,
“Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.”

Rev 2:11,
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.”

Rev 20:14-15,
“Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire [and he is consumed].”

John 5:39-40,
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” [Subjunctive]

John 6:68,
“Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.

1 John 2:17,
“The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.


Photo Attribution: 卡晨 – Unsplash.com


  1. 1 John 5:11-12
  2. John 3:36
  3. John 6:40
  4. John 17:3
  5. Gen 2:17
  6. Gen 3:22-23
  7. Gen 3:24
  8. 1 Cor 15:22
  9. John 3:16
  10. John 3:14-15
  11. John 17:2
  12. John 5:24
  13. Ephesians 2:1-2
  14. John 6:47-50
  15. John 10:28
  16. Gal 6:8

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NOTE: Bible references unless otherwise stated are from the NASU (New American Standard Updated) copyright the Lockman Foundation.

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