Q&A: Is the soul eternal?

Is the soul eternal?

Question

As a Jehovah’s Witness, I believe the soul is not eternal and your doctrine of hell is wrong. Hell can't be forever. The soul is a human person and therefore will just turn into ashes, and ashes don't live or burn forever and so there is no such thing as eternal torment.

Answer

Let’s look first at the creation account where we are shown that we are made up of body and soul:

Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature (Gen. 2:7).

Adam's body was formed first. However, the body without the soul would remain lifeless. When God breathed the breath of life into Adam's body, the first man then became a living soul.

Also, in the creation account there is not even a hint of an eternal or preexistent human soul. Then, when looking at what the garden account, we see the soul and the body are both creations of God. The soul is as much a creation as is the body.

So, as a divinely created entity, the soul is mortal. However, it does survive the grave! This is not because of its indestructibility or any intrinsic immortality. It’s because it is ultimately preserved and sustained by the power of the eternal God who made the soul and to whom it returns at the death of the body (Eccl. 12:7). It is preserved for eternal life and joy for the redeemed and for eternal punishment for the damned (Rom. 9:21-23). In this way, it is eternal.

The soul of man can live without the body, but the body cannot live without the soul. In Matt. 10:28 Jesus warned his hearers: "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Imperishable bodies don't produce perishable ashes (cf. 1 Cor. 15:52-53). The destruction described in the Bible is an eternal one. Daniel told us some would be condemned to "shame and everlasting contempt" (Dan. 12:2), and Jesus confirmed that unrighteousness "will go away into eternal punishment" (Matt. 25:46). Hell is a very, very real place, and it is eternal.

While the doctrine of hell is very humbling, it is not as humbling as is the holiness of God. Anyone who sufficiently understands God's eternal nature and character understands the necessity of an eternal hell. Anyone who doesn't fear hell has believed the Father of Lies (John 8:44). They necessarily attempt to diminish the eternal nature of hell, hoping against all of Scripture that they can escape its everlasting torments.

There is one and only one way to escape hell, and that is through the Son of the living God, Jesus Christ. This is life assurance, not fire insurance (1 John 5:11, 13, 20; cf. John 17:3). In him and him alone is life (John 1:4; 11:25; 14:6; 1 John 1:1, 2).

Please see, "What is Jehovah's Witnesses?" below.

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An Eternal Hell is for Real - The Heresy of Annihilationism?
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What is Jehovah's Witnesses?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).