Watchman Willie Martin Archive

     Immortality? Not Yet: Tradition and philosophy often are more convincing and captivating than the plan and simple truth. This was forcefully demonstrated at a recent funeral where two pastors spoke eloquently concerning the dead man who lay in the casket before them. However, they refused to acknowledge his death, and sought to convince everyone present that he was more alive than ever and, in fact, was looking down on the funeral scene while he frolicked with the angels. Of course, not one word was said about the resurrection, the only hope the Bible gives for believers who have died! Their idea that one begins life in heaven or hell at the moment of death makes the resurrection superfluous. What is A Soul?

  In spite of frequent assertions from evangelists that you "have an immortal soul" and most choose where it will spend eternity. This doctrine is not found in Scripture. "A doctrine of the immortality of the soul is not stated in the Bible and is not clearly defined in early rabbinical literature." [1] The idea originated in paganism, was popularized by the Jewish Plato, and eventually permeated the entire Roman Empire by the time of Christ. "The Platonic and Neo-Plantonic assumption of a spiritual and pre-existent soul-substance also underlies the doctrine of the Transmigration of souls which was taken up by the medieval kabbalists." In other words it is a product of Jewish fables and false teachings which we were warned of by Christ.

  Consider the record of creation: "And Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." [2] There is nothing here, or elsewhere, about the Creator putting a "soul" in man. Rather, man - the entire persons: is a soul.

  The Hebrew word translated soul here and elsewhere in the Old Testament is nephesh. "And God said, Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures (nephesh)...And God created great whales and every living creature (nephesh) that moves...let the earth bring forth living creatures (nephesh) after their kind, cattle, and creeping things, and beasts of the earth." [3]

  The first four times this Hebrew word is used it has reference to fish, fowl or animal, and the fifth time, Genesis 2:7 (quoted above), it refers to man. Why wasn't it rendered "soul" in all cases? It appears that the translators, already committed to the nation that man has an immortal soul, were unwilling to reveal the fact that animals are also should.

  This word, nephesh, occurs 754 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, and is used for life, person, self, heart, mind, body, dead body, man, and in 24 other different ways, but never does it indicate something immortal.

  In the New Testament, originally written in Greek, the word, psuche, occurs 105 times. Usually it is translated as soul, but is also translated in six other words. Like nephesh, the word psuche is also used for lower animals, as in Revelation 8:9 which reads: "The third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life (psuche), died." [4]

  These two words occur 859 times in the original scriptures, but are never used in the sense of "immortal soul" or "ghost," as a conscious entity which leaves the body at death. it may seem so in some English versions, but that is not its meaning in the Hebrew or Greek texts.

  In fact, the Scriptures relates the following concerning the dead: "So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep...If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands." [5]; "If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness. I have said to corruption, Thou art my father: to the worm, Thou art my mother, and my sister. And where is now my hope? as for my hope, who shall see it? They shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust." [6]; "For in death there is no remembrance of thee..." [7]; "(For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:) That he should still live for ever, and not see corruption. For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person...he is like the beasts that perish...This their way is their folly: yet their posterity approve their sayings. Selah. Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling. But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me...For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away...He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light. Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish." [8]; "Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah." [9]; "The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence." [10]; "Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth." [11]; "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." [12]; "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten...for God now accepteth thy works...for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." [13]; "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes." [14]; "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." [15]; "For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand." [16]; "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" [17]; "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." [18]

  The point is that neither man nor animals are bipartite creatures consisting of a body plus a soul that can be separated and continue to live. Thus Leviticus 17:11 states that "the life (nephesh = soul) of the flesh is in the blood."The Biblical soul is the whole person, either a living or dead person.

    Souls Are Not Immortal! The first lie focused on this issue. God said that Adam and Eve would surely die if they ate of the forbidden tree. Satan said, "You will Not surely die" [19] Man was then excluded from the Garden, "lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever" [20] Clearly, there was nothing about Adam that was immortal.

  While scripture warns that "the soul that sinneth it shall die" [21], and that "the wages of sin is death" [22], some hold that this death is "spiritual separation" and not death of the person. But the penalty for sin which was met by Jesus was a blood-letting death. He "partook of flesh and blood" in order to defeat the power of death [23] If the penalty for sin were "spiritual separation" the death of Jesus would be meaningless.

  As the Lamb of God, Jesus was slain on the cross and for three days was in Hades, the grave. Peter cites this fact in declaring the resurrection of Jesus, by quoting the prophecy, "you will not leave my soul unto Hades, nor give your Holy One to see corruption" [24] "My soul" is the Hebraism for "myself." The Hebrew parallelism (saying the same thing twice in different words, for emphasis) confirms the equation of "my soul" with "Holy One." The message is that Jesus was not left in the grave. David, in the Psalms, had foretold the resurrection of Messiah, and stated that He (soul, Himself) was not abandoned to Hades, the place of the dead, but was resurrected to life [25]

  In the same sermon Peter stated that David died, and had Not ascended to heaven. It required a resurrection from death for Jesus to ascend to the Father.

    Immortality To Be Given: While the scripture states that Jesus has "passed into the heavens" to sit at the Father's right hand, this is never said of the dead saints. Rather the figure of "sleep" is used to portray their condition until their resurrection at the future return of Jesus.

  As already shown, there is nothing in Scripture about an immortal soul. Job looked for a resurrection, saying, "And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God" [26] Abraham believed in a resurrection, as did David. [27]

  Paul wrote that immortality is to be granted in the day of resurrection: "Behold, I show you a mystery: We all shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when...this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written. Death is swallowed up in victory" [28]

  While this passage says nothing of the "soul" it certainly indicates that we do not yet possess immortality. At death the body returns to dust and the spirit, or "breath of life," returns to the Creator, until Jesus returns at the "last day" to give life to the dead through a resurrection. Some reject this truth because it is espoused by so-called unorthodox groups. But it is the teaching of Scripture and was championed by first and second century Christians such as Clement of Rome, a companion of Paul; ignatius, a friend of Polycarp who was John's disciple; Theophilus; Justin Martyr; plus a host of Protestant scholars since the 16th century until today.

  John Wycliffe and William Tyndale, celebrated Bible translators, both strongly denied soul-immortality. Tyndale wrote, "And ye, in putting departed souls in heaven, hell, and purgatory, destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection, which we are warned to look for every hour...If the should be in heaven, tell me why they be not in as good case as the angels be? And then what cause is there of the resurrection?" [29]

  Martin Luther wrote: "All that is said concerning the immortality of the nothing else but an invention of anti-Christ to make his pot boil." He held that our hope is resurrection, and said, "I shall arise again and shall speak with you." [30]

  In 1513 Pope Leo X issued a decree which condemned "all those who assert that the soul is mortal..." It was aimed at Luther and his friends who preached that no part of man is immortal, but that immortality is God's gift through Christ, to be conferred upon believers in the day of resurrection. The Pope's decree turned many from hope in a resurrection to belief in an immortal soul.

  For religions without Christ an "immortal soul" is essential for any future life, but to the Christian eternal life is assured through Christ when He returns and raises the dead. [31]

  Recently, an Identity Pastor say long hours with an European acquaintance while he expounded a politico-economic doctrine which seemed sound as a nut and in which we could find no defect. At the end, he said with great earnestness: "I have a mission to the masses. I feel that I am called to get the ear of the people. I shall devote the rest of my life to spreading my doctrine far and wide among the populace. What do you think?"

  An embarrassing question, and doubly so under the circumstances, because his acquaintance is a very learned man, one of the three of four really first-class minds that Europe produced in his generation; and naturally, as one of the unlearned, was included to regarded his lightest word with reverence amounting to awe...

  The Identity Pastor referred him to the story of the prophet Isaiah. Which we shall paraphrase the story in our common speech since it has to be pieced out from various sources...

  The Prophet's career began at the end of King Uzziah's reign, say about 740 B.C. This reign was uncommonly long, almost half a century, and apparently prosperous. It was one of those prosperous reigns, however-like the reign of Marcus Aurelius at Rome, or the administration of Eubulus at Athens, or of Mr. Coolidge at Washington, where at the end of the prosperity suddenly peters out and things go by the board with a resounding crash.

  In the year of Uzziah's death, the Lord commissioned the prophet to go out and warn the people of the wrath to come. "Tell them what a worthless lot they are," He said. "Tell them what is wrong, and why, and what is going to happen unless they have a change of heart and straighten up. Don't mince matters. Make it clear that they are positively down to their last chance. Give it to them and strong and keep on giving it to them. I suppose perhaps I ought to tell you," He added, "that it won't do any good. The official class and their intelligentsia will turn up their noses at you, and the masses will not even listen. They will all keep on in their own ways until they carry everything down to destruction, and you will probably be lucky if you get out with your life."

  Isaiah had been very willing to take on the job; in fact, he had asked for it, but the prospect put a new face on the situation. It raised the obvious question: Why, if all that were so - if the enterprise were to be a failure from the start - was there any sense in starting it?

  "Ah," The Lord said, "you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it."

  What do we mean by the masses, and what by the Remnant? As the word masses is commonly used, it suggests agglomerations of poor and underprivileged people, laboring people, proletarians. But it means nothing like that' it means simply the majority. The mass-man is one who has neither the force of intellect to apprehend the principles issuing in what we know as the humane life, nor the force of character to adhere to those principles steadily and strictly as laws of conduct; and because such people make up the great, the overwhelming majority of mankind, they are called collectively the masses. The line of differentiation between the masses and the remnant is set invariably by quality, not by circumstance. The Remnant are those who by force of intellect are able to apprehend these principles, and by force of character are able, at least measurably, to cleave to them. The masses are those who are unable to do either.

  The picture which Isaiah presents of the Judean masses is most unfavorable. In his view, the mass-man; be high or be he lowly, rich or poor, prince or pauper, gets off very badly. He appears as not only weak-minded and very weak-willed, but as by consequence knavish, arrogant, grasping, dissipated, unprincipled, unscrupulous...

  As things now stand, Isaiah's job seems rather to go begging. Everyone with a message nowadays is, like the European, eager to take it to the masses. His first, last, and only thought is of mass-acceptance and mass-approval. His great care is to put his doctrine in such shape as will capture the masses' attention and interest...

  The main trouble with the (mass-man approach) is its reaction upon the mission itself. It necessitates an opportunist sophistication of one's doctrine, which profoundly alters its character and reduces it to a mere placebo. If say, you are a preacher, you wish to attract as large a congregation as you can, which means adapting the terms of your message to the order of intellect and character that the masses exhibit. If you are an educator, say with a college on your hands, you wish to get as many students as possible, and you whittle down your requirements accordingly. If a writer, you aim at getting many readers; if a publisher, many purchasers if a philosopher, many disciples; if a reformer, many converts; if a musician, many auditors; and so on. But as we see on all sides, in the realization of these several desires the prophetic message is so heavily adulterated with trivialities, in every instance, that its effect on the masses is merely to harden them in their sins. Meanwhile, the Remnant, aware of this adulteration and of the desires that prompt it, turn their backs on the prophet and will have nothing to do with him or his message.

  Isaiah, on the other hand, worked under no such disabilities. He preached to the masses only in the sense that he preached publicly. Anyone who like might listen; anyone who like might pass by. He knew that the Remnant would listen...The Remnant want only the best you have, whatever that may be. Give them that, and they are satisfied; you have nothing more to worry about...

  In a sense, nevertheless, it is not a rewarding job... A prophet of the Remnant will not grow purse-proud on the financial returns from his work, nor is it likely that he will get any great renown out of it. Isaiah's case was exceptional to this second rule, and there are others - but not many.

   It may be thought, then, that while taking care of the Remnant is no doubt a good job, it is not an especially interesting job because it is as a rule so poorly paid. At least in material goods, but rich in the rewards of Almighty God and the Lord Jesus Christ. There are other compensations to be got out of a job besides money and notoriety, and some of them seem substantial enough to be attractive. Many jobs which do not pay well are yet profoundly interesting, as, for instance, the job of a research student in the sciences is said to be; and the job of looking after the Remnant seems to me, as I have surveyed it for many years form my seat in the grandstand, to be as interesting as any that can be found in the world.

  What chiefly makes it so, is that in any given society the Remnant are always so largely an unknown quality. You do not know and will never know, more than two things about them. You can be sure of those; dead sure, as our phrase is, but you will never be able to make even a respectable guess at anything else. You do not know, and will never know, who the Remnant are, nor where they are, nor how many of them there are, nor what they are doing or will do. Two things you know, and no more: first, that they exist; second, that they will find you. Except for these two certainties, working for the Remnant means working in impenetrable darkness; and this, is just the condition calculated most effectively to pique the interest of any prophet who is properly gifted with the imagination, insight and intellectual curiosity necessary to a successful pursuit of his trade.

  The fascination; as well as the despair, of the historian, as he looks back upon Isaiah's "Jews," upon Plato's Athens, or upon Rome of the Antonines, is the hope of discovering and laying bare the "substratum of right-thinking and well-doing" which he knows must have existed somewhere in those societies because no kind of collective life can possibly go on without it. He finds tantalizing intimations of it here and there in many places, as the Greek Anthology, in the scrapbook of Aulus Gellius, in the poems of Ausonius, and in the brief and touching tribute, Bene Merenti, bestowed upon the unknown occupants of Roman tombs. But these are vague and fragmentary; they lead him nowhere in his search for some kind of measure of this substratum, but merely testify to what he already knew in priori - that the substratum did somewhere exist. Where it was, how substantial it was, of all this they tell him nothing.

  Similarly, when the historian of two thousand years hence, or two hundred years, looks over the available testimony to the quality of our civilization and tries to get any kind of clear, competent evidence concerning the substratum of right-thinking and well-dong which he knows must have been here, he will have a devil of a time finding it. When he has assembled all he can get and has made even a minimum allowance for speciousness, vagueness, and confusion of motive, he will sadly acknowledge that his net result is simply nothing. A Remnant were here, building a substratum like coral insects; so much he knows, but he will find nothing to put him on the track of who and where and how many they were and what their work was like.

  Concerning all this, too, the prophet of the present knows precisely as much and as a little as the historian of the future; and that, is what makes his job seem so profoundly interesting. One of the most suggestive episodes recounted in the Bible is that of a prophet's attempt, the only attempt of the kind on record, to count up the Remnant. Elijah had fled from persecution into the desert, where the Lord presently overhauled him and asked what he was doing so far away from his job. He said that he was running away, not because he was a coward, but because all the Remnant had been killed off except himself. He had got away only by the skin of his teeth, and, he being now all the Remnant there was, if he were killed the true Faith would go flat, disappear. The Lord replied that he need not worry about that, for even without him the True Faith could probably manage to squeeze along somehow if it had to; "and as for your figures on the Remnant," He said, "I don't mind telling you that there are seven thousand of them back there in Israel whom it seems you have not heard of, but you may take My word for it that there they are."

  At that time, probably the population of Israel could not have run to much more than a million or so; and a Remnant of seven thousand out a million is a highly encouraging percentage for any prophet. With seven thousand of the boys on his side, there was no great reason for Elijah to feel lonesome; and incidentally, that would be something for the modern prophet of the Remnant to think of when he has a touch of the blues. But the main point is that if Elijah the Prophet could not make a closer guess on the number of the Remnant than he made when he missed it by seven thousand, anyone else who tackled the problem would only waste his time.

  The other certainty which the prophet of the Remnant may always have is that the Remnant may always have is that the Remnant will find him. He may rely on that with absolute assurance. They will find him without his doing anything about it; in fact, if he tries to do anything about it, he is pretty sure to put them off. He does not need to advertise for them nor resort to any schemes of publicity to get their attention. If he is a preacher or a public speaker, for example, he may be quite indifferent to going on show at receptions, getting his picture printed in the newspapers, or furnishing autobiographical materials for publication on the side of "human interest." If a writer, he need not make a point of attending any pink teas, autographing books at wholesale, nor entering into any specious free masonry with reviewers.

  All this and much more of the same order lies in the regular and necessary routine laid down for the prophet of the masses. It is, and must be, part of the great general technique of getting the mass-man's ear, or as our vigorous and excellent publicist, Mr. H.I. Mencken, puts it, the technique of boob-bumping. The prophet of the Remnant is not bound to this technique. He may be quite sure that the Remnant will make their own way to him without any adventitious aids and not only so, but if they find him employing such aids, as I said, it is ten to one that they will smell a rat in them and will sheer off.

  The certainty that the Remnant will find him, however, leaves the prophet as much in the dark as ever, as helpless as ever in the matter of putting any estimate of any kind upon the Remnant; for, as appears in the case of Elijah, he remains ignorant of who they are that have found him or where they are or how many. They do not write in and tell him about it, after the manner of those who admire the vedettes of Hollywood, nor yet do they seek him out and attach themselves to his person. They are not that kind. They take his message much as drivers take the directions on a roadside signboard, that is, with very little thought about the signboard, beyond being gratefully glad that it happened to be there, but with very serious thought about the directions.

  This impersonal attitude of the Remnant wonderfully enhances the interest of the imaginative prophet's job. Once in a while, just about often enough to keep this intellectual curiosity in good working order, he will quite accidentally come upon some distinct reflection of his own message in an unsuspected quarter. This enables him to entertain himself in his leisure moments with agreeable speculations about the course his message may have taken in reaching that particular quarter, and about what came of it after it got there. Most interesting of all are those instances, if one could only run them down (but one may always speculate about them), where the recipient himself no longer knows where nor when nor from whom he got the message, or even where, as sometimes happens, he has forgotten that he got it anywhere and imagines that it is all a self-spring idea of his own.

  Such instances as these are probably not infrequent, for, without presuming to enroll ourselves among the Remnant, we can all no doubt remember having found ourselves suddenly under the influence of an idea, the source of which we cannot possible identify. "It came to us afterward," as we say; that is, we are aware of it only after it has shot up full-grown in our minds, leaving us quite ignorant of how and when and by what agency it was planted there and left to germinate. It seems highly probable that the prophet's message often takes some such cause with the Remnant.

  If, for example, you are a writer or a speaker or a preacher, you put forth an idea which lodges in the Unbewusstsein of a casual remember of the Remnant and sticks fast there. For some time it is inert; then it begins to fret and fester until presently it invades the man's conscious mind and, as one might say, corrupts it. Meanwhile, he has quite forgotten how he came by the idea in the first instance and even perhaps thinks he has invented it; and in those circumstances, the most interesting thing of all is that you never know what the pressure of that idea will make him do. [32]

[1] Encyclopedia of Jewish Religion, Holt, Rinehart & Winston 1966.

[2] Genesis 2:7.

[3] Genesis 1:20-21, 24).

[4] Revelation 16:3.

[5] Job 14:12-15.

[6] Job 17:13-16.

[7] Psalm 6:5.

[8] Psalm 49:8-20.

[9] Psalm 88:10.

[10] Psalm 115:17.

[11] Psalm 141:7.

[12] Psalm 146:4.

[13] Ecc. 9:5-10.

[14] Hosea 13:14.

[15] John 3:13.

[16] Acts 2:34.

[17] 1 Corinthians 15:55.

[18] Hebrews 11:13.

[19] Genesis 3:4.

[20] Genesis 3:22.

[21] Exodus 18:4, 20.

[22] Romans 6:23.

[23] Hebrews 2:14.

[24] Psalm 16:10.

[25] Acts 2.

[26] Job 19:26.

[27] Psalm 17:15; Hebrews 11:19; Acts 2:34.

[28] 1 Corinthians 15:51-54.

[29] In answer to Sir Thomas Moore's "Dialogue," Book 4, Ch. 2.

[30] "Positive Theology," by Miles Grant.

[31] John 5:21-29.

[32] The Author was Albert Jay Nock (1870-1945) was Editor of the "Freeman" (1920-1924) and author of "Jefferson, Our Enemy The State," and many other books and articles on the philosophy of government and human freedom. Isaiah's Job is extracted from Chapter 13 of his book, "Free Speech and Plain Language," copyright 1937 by Albert Jay Nock. This book, now out of print, was published by William Morrow and Company, New York. This was brought to you by: Scriptures For America Worldwide, P.O. Box 766, LaPorte, Colorado 80535. We at Scriptures for America pray Isaiah's Job by Albert J. Nock will be a blessing to you. We try to do that job and are grateful for the Heavenly Father's faithful remnant who help us to do so through their prayer, tithes, and offerings. Signed: Pastor Peter J. Peters.

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