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I was recently interviewed on the Rethinking Hell podcast who talked with me on how I got saved and what my thoughts on life after death look like. As I was born again, I quickly realized that Jesus is the only way to eternal life and that we cannot live without him. Eternal life is a gift, not something we already possess:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)
“Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“Jesus… has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Tim 1:10)
Thus, from Day One of my Christian journey I’ve believed that immortality is conditional, not universal: it is something imparted to us through the grace of God in Jesus Christ. This means that those who reject the grace of God will not inherit eternal life but will instead die, and be dead forever:
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mt 10:28)
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Mt 25:46)
“He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction, reducing them to ashes as an example of what is coming on the ungodly.” (2 Pet 2:6)
This of course goes against the Platonic idea that the soul is innately immortal and that hell therefore would be some alternative form of eternal life, but in torment rather than in bliss. This idea, known as traditionalism or tormentalism, I’ve never found any strong support for in the Bible.
More on this in the podcast episode, which you can listen to here!
When I was younger, I thought that the role of the church was just to remember Jesus, to be His fan club. When the church celebrated Jesus’ resurrection during easter, I thought that the point was simply “how good for Him! He didn’t remain dead. I’m so happy for Him!” What I didn’t get was that the Bible actually says that those who follow Him will rise from the dead just as He rose from the dead. He is “the firstborn from among the dead” (Col 1:18). Or as Paul puts it in his famous passage about the resurrection in First Corinthians:
Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Cor 15:20-22)
I seriously didn’t know this when I grew up. Even though I said that I believed in God somehow, I believed that I would disappear into emptiness when I dropped the ground, that I would simply become nonexistent. And I realized that this didn’t mean that everything would become black and silent, because I wouldn’t have eyes or ears to see or hear with. It was quite frightening to try to imagine what death would be like.