I do not for a moment believe and would ever say that one cannot be saved without believing in conditional immortality. I do, however, know that what you believe about conditional immortality touches on many issues intimately related with our salvation. Conditional immortality affects how we understand Scripture, human nature, Sin and its penalty, death, the atonement, resurrection, immortality, the hope of the believer, judgment, hell, the character of God and God’s final victory.
- Scripture – Do words such as “life” and “death” have their plain ordinary meaning or do they have some special “theological” meaning such as “eternal bliss” and “eternal misery”?
- Human nature – Are we mortal creatures of dust or is there some immortal “spark of divinity” inside us?
- Sin and its penalty – Are the wages of sin “death” or “eternal torment”?
- Death – Is death really death or is it just life in another place?
- The atonement – Did Christ’s death pay the penalty for our sin or was he tormented in hell for our sins?
- Resurrection – Is resurrection God’s making whole persons alive from death or is it putting an immortal soul back into a new body (reincarnation)?
- Immortality – Is immortality the present possession of every human being by nature, or is it a gift given to the righteous when Jesus comes again?
- The Hope of the Believer – Is the hope of the believer to be raised from death at the second coming to live forever in the kingdom of God or is it to go to heaven at death?
- Judgment – Are we to be judged on judgment day, or have they already been condemned and are they undergoing punishment in hell at present? If the latter is the case what is the purpose of judgment day?
- Hell – Is hell a picture of everlasting destruction or of everlasting torment?
- God – Is God a God of love and justice and is it just to torment someone for eternity for sins committed over a finite period of time?
- God’s final victory – Will God ever be able to rid the universe of sin and evil or will there always be some corner of the universe (hell) where sin and evil exists in rebellion against God’s ultimate will?
I believe Scripture puts forth salvation as the offer of “life” or “death.” We mortal creatures of dust have sinned. The wages of sin is death. Death effects the whole person. We die body and soul, not just body. Christ by his death paid the penalty for our sin. Now even if we die before Jesus comes, God will make us alive as whole persons. We will be given the gift of life in immortality when Jesus comes again. Then we will live forever in the kingdom of God. The wicked will be judged only when Jesus comes again. Hell will be a place of everlasting destruction for the unrepentant wicked. God is a God of love and justice and will not torment someone for eternity for sins committed over a finite period of time. Ultimately God’s victory will be complete. There will not be some corner of the universe (hell) where sin and evil exists in rebellion against God’s ultimate will. Eventually God will be all in all.
By David Burge
David Burge was a pastor in New Zealand, and served as president of the Conditional Immortality Association of New Zealand. He was a contributing editor to Afterlife website, and From Death to Life magazine until his death in 2011.