In our recent series on the alleged Israelite identity of the Romans, we have been addressing many of the doctrines held by those who believe that only Israelites according to the flesh will be saved — and also that all Israelites according to the flesh will be saved.
Continuing along that vein, we’d like to address another crucial issue that arises from this doctrine — which contends that every single Israelite who ever lived and will ever live will be unconditionally resurrected unto eternal life — regardless of whether or not they had a personal faith in the Lord Jesus — and regardless of whether or not that faith produced a life in obedience to the Lord Jesus. To this end, they will always cite Daniel 12:2,
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
They will contend that all Israelites “that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake” — meaning all of them — will be resurrected. It’s just a question of whether they will be resurrected to “everlasting life” — an everlasting life of reward for living a good life — or to “shame and everlasting contempt” — an everlasting life of shame as a reward for living a life of sin. In other words, every Israelite will live eternally — but some will receive greater or lesser rewards depending on the discretion of the judgement of God.
Moreover, they will contend this verse from Daniel offers some kind of prima facie “proof” of the correctness of their own doctrine — without bothering for a second or third witness — or ignoring any Scripture that contradicts this conclusion.
THE SECOND DEATH
First, let’s break down the verse itself — and its context — and determine whether or not it actually conveys any kind of prima facie proof of this hypothesis. The verse says that “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake” — referring to large-scale resurrection. Furthermore, we can conclude that those who wake to “everlasting life” and those who wake to “shame and everlasting contempt” will both be resurrected. We definitely agree so far.
We should note that if the state preceding resurrection is “sleep in the dust,” then no one involved in that resurrection will be in heaven, purgatory, hell or any other mythical and supernatural location. The dead will merely be unconscious in death. Those who believe all Israelites are saved will probably agree with us on that point.
Yet despite both groups being resurrected, only one of the groups will be resurrected unto “everlasting life.” Therefore, whatever “shame and everlasting contempt” is, it certainly is not “everlasting life” — or even part of “everlasting life.” Thus those who claim all Israel will be saved will presume that “everlasting life” necessarily means a good eternal reward — and not actual eternal life per se.
Therefore, we can already conclude that Daniel 12:2 could never offer prima facie evidence of their doctrine — because they must presume that “everlasting life” means what they think it means — as opposed to what the plain words actually mean. If they merely presume the truth of their own premise — as opposed to proving why “everlasting life” means something other than the meaning of the words — then they have engaged in the informal fallacy begging the question — a common stumbling block for those who attempt to insist upon the “all Israel is saved” doctrine.
Now if “shame and everlasting contempt” is something other than eternal life, we may simply conclude that “shame and everlasting contempt” at the very least means eternal death. We have made the following assumptions:
- Everyone will be resurrected and some will die eternally soon thereafter
- Somehow their eternal death constitutes “shame and everlasting contempt”
These assumptions may logically uphold themselves within the context of Daniel 12:2 — as we have explained — however, we will provide additional witness for each assumption. Revelation 20:4-6 says,
4 Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their foreheads and on their hands; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 [The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed.] This is the first resurrection. 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.
Some among those who believe only Israelites will be saved may attempt to claim the event described here in Revelation 20 refers to some kind of Christian revival which already happened and lasted for a thousand years. Yet no such era exists in the last two millennia — and only the most cynical and pessimistic historian would consider that there has already been such an era of a thousand years where it might be said of some Christian institution, “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.”
They might also claim that “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed” (verse 5) is some sort of interpolation inserted into the verse by some translator long after John originally wrote the Revelation. For the sake of argument, we’ll work around that verse and show how it doesn’t actually matter either way.
This passage refers specifically to two groups:
- “those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God”
- “those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their foreheads and on their hands”
These two groups are not necessarily exclusive with one another, as we could see how one might by martyred for not worshiping the beast. However, of these two groups, only the first group is definitely dead. We could see how one might not have worshiped the beast or his image, yet died of old age or some natural causes. We could also see how one might not have worshiped the beast or his image, yet will still be alive at the time when the Lord returns — which will likely be the case.
The first group — the beheaded martyrs — must have lived sometime after the Lord Jesus’ time on earth, else they could not have died for His testimony. The second group must also have lived sometime after the Lord Jesus’ time on earth because the mark of the beast came into effect only after the Lord Jesus’ time on earth. Therefore, both of these groups would have known about the Lord Jesus as a man — they would have been born right before or sometime after the Lord Jesus’ birth.
Revelation 20:4-5 says that “they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. This is the first resurrection.” We have ascertained that one group was definitely dead because they had been beheaded. The passage says “they came to life” and that event was a “resurrection.” Now if they were beheaded and then lived, this could only be a literal, supernatural resurrection.
Paul says at the time of the Lord’s second coming — the same time as Revelation 19 and 20 — that “the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Again he says in 1 Corinthians 15:23 of the order of resurrection, “Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming.” This fits the same pattern we see in Revelation 20:4-6 — when the Lord Jesus returns, there is a “first resurrection” involving only those who have been alive since His time on earth.
Furthermore, the passage says, “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power” (verse 6) — witnessing again that the context is literal death. They are considered blessed because some event called “the second death” will have no power over them. If the second death has no power over them, then we can logically conclude that there would be a group over whom the second death would indeed have power. And if the second death would have power over them, then they must necessarily die twice.
Now if only “the dead in Christ will rise first” — constituting martyrs and those who did not take the mark of the beast according to Revelation 20 — then we can reasonably conclude that there is a group still left dead comprised of those who were not “dead in Christ.” Judging by this passage, we would expect a second resurrection in which the rest of the dead who had hitherto never been resurrected would then be resurrected — and they would be candidates to die once again — or they might be resurrected unto eternal life.
Revelation 20:12-15 says,
12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them; and they were judged, each one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Here we see a group which has been resurrected and subsequently judged according to their deeds. If any of their names are not found in the book of life, they will be thrown into the “lake of fire” — which is the “second death.” Furthermore, the timing between Revelation 20 and Daniel 12 agree with one another.
As a side-note, the very concept of the “book of life” disproves the idea that all Israelites will be saved. The Lord says,
Whoever has sinned against Me, I will wipe him out of My book. (Exodus 32:33)
David provides a second witness when he says,
May they be wiped out of the book of life, and may they not be recorded with the righteous. (Psalm 69:28)
We see clearly that one’s name can — and will — be removed from the book of life over sin — showing that one’s white skin does not guarantee eternal life.
The Lord says, “The one who overcomes will be clothed the same way, in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life” (Revelation 3:5) — showing that one’s name will remain in the book of life only if they overcome.
Revelation 21:27 tells us of the heavenly city, “and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” This description of the Kingdom prima facie precludes sinful, unrepentant Israelites who think they are somehow going to be allowed in for “lesser rewards.”
There’s simply no way the book of life could ever refer to “salvation by race” — and the concept of the book of life itself firmly dispels the doctrine of “salvation by race.”
Then in Revelation 20:14 we even see that even “Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire” — meaning that death itself has finally been destroyed — along with those whose names were not written in the book of life. Paul gives the same sequence of events in 1 Corinthians 15:22-26,
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to our God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death.
Again, Paul refers to the resurrection of the first fruits at Christ’s coming. Then comes a period where the Lord Jesus “must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.” Only after that reign — which is after the first resurrection of the first fruits at Christ’s coming — does it say “the last enemy that will be abolished is death.” Only when “Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire,” we can consider that death has been abolished.
Therefore, Paul refers to the exact same sequence of two distinct resurrections — one involving only those who have served the Lord Jesus since His time on earth — and another involving everyone who hasn’t been resurrected yet. With all of the above in mind, to argue that Revelation 20:5 contains an interpolation is a moot point — it doesn’t actually prove anything.
Furthermore, Revelation 20 agrees with Daniel 12:2 — that a group would be resurrected and die eternally straight after — providing witness to our first assumption on Daniel 12:2.
THEIR WORM SHALL NEVER DIE
Now we must flesh out the assumption that a second, eternal death could constitute “shame and everlasting contempt.” Does the passage state that they must feel that shame? In other words, must that shame necessarily be subjective for them — from their point of view? Or does the passage state that the shame would be directed towards them?
Nothing in Daniel 12:2 really seems specifies either way, though we can logically deduce it from the wording itself. If only one group will be resurrected unto eternal life — and the group subjected to “shame and everlasting contempt” will die eternally — then we must conclude that the “shame and everlasting contempt” will be a sentiment experienced only by those who would live eternally toward the ones who do not. Those who would die eternally might experience that shame and contempt for a short while — during the judgment, for example — but it certainly couldn’t be eternal.
Therefore, we flesh out our initial assumption a little more: somehow their eternal death constitutes “shame and everlasting contempt” — and that “shame and everlasting contempt” would exist in the minds of those who were resurrected unto eternal life.
Mark 9:47-48 says,
47 And if your eye is causing you to sin, throw it away; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not extinguished.
Now the word “hell” comes from the Norse pagan belief in an underworld they call “hel.” The original Greek word used was “geenna” (Strong’s G1067) — or “Gehenna” as we call it in the English language — which comes from the Hebrew words, “Valley of Ben-hinnom” — or “gay ben hinnom” (Strong’s H1516, H1121, H2011).
Certain evil kings of Judah would sacrifice their children to false gods in the valley of Ben-hinnom (2 Chronicles 28:3) — and so Jeremiah would prophecy to Judah in Jeremiah 19:5-6,
5 and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I did not command nor speak of, nor did it ever enter My mind; 6 therefore, behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when this place will no longer be called Topheth or the Valley of Ben-hinnom, but rather the Valley of Slaughter.
Therefore, Jeremiah prophesied that this very place would become a place of slaughter and death for Israel. Furthermore, extra-Biblical sources suggest that Gehenna became an ever-burning refuse dump for the people of Israel — although we consider the Biblical sources we’ve provided sufficient to connect Gehenna with both fire and death.
So the Lord Jesus offers two alternatives in Mark 9:46-47 — either we enter the kingdom of God, or we enter a place of fire and death. The kingdom of God is where the Lord Jesus will reign eternally with His people; therefore, the only alternative to the kingdom would be eternal death. Thus the kingdom of God is another way of saying eternal life. Essentially we find the same alternatives here in Mark 9 as we do in Revelation 20 and Daniel 12.
We conclude then, that Gehenna and the lake of fire are indeed one and the same — each involves burning as well as slaughter for the wicked. Moreover, in each case, the only alternative is eternal life. There is no “purgatory” or waiting room where sinful Israelites get into the Kingdom but are forced to sit in “the corner of shame” for eternity.
In Mark 9 the Lord adds some extra information to the fate of those who would go to Gehenna. He says that “their worm does not die, and their fire is not extinguished.” Here He was actually quoting Isaiah 66:22-24,
22 “For just as the new heavens and the new earth, Which I make, will endure before Me,” declares the Lord, “So will your descendants and your name endure. 23 And it shall be from new moon to new moon And from Sabbath to Sabbath, All mankind will come to bow down before Me,” says the Lord. 24 “Then they will go out and look At the corpses of the people Who have rebelled against Me. For their worm will not die And their fire will not be extinguished; And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.”
When attempting to explain away this obvious connection the Lord Jesus has made between Mark 9 and Isaiah 66, those who believe all Israel will be saved have no choice but to claim that those who rebelled according to Isaiah 66:24 were actually non-whites — and thus they were not Israelites. They will further claim that the true Israelites were those dispersed in Isaiah 66:18-21.
They fail to consider, however, that Isaiah 66:18-24 makes no such distinction — and that in Mark 9:47-48 the Lord Jesus was addressing Israelites. He admonishes them rather to enter life crippled or disfigured than to be cast into Gehenna — or the lake of fire. If He thusly admonishes them, then it stands to reason that there was the very real possibility of them ending up in the lake of fire.
If all Israelites would inherit eternal life unconditionally, what point would there be to cut one’s own hand off to inherit eternal life? This doctrine of unconditional salvation renders the Lord Jesus’ teaching here an utterly moot point. As such, their doctrine must necessarily explain away the Lord’s teaching — rather than explain how it might be applied in a sincere Christian’s life. In trying to “explain” Mark 9:47-48, they subtly disagree with the Lord Jesus Himself.
They also fail to consider that Isaiah 66:24 said, “the people who have rebelled against Me.” In other words, those who live in violation of the Lord Jesus’ commands. Now the Israelites who sacrificed their children in Hinnom in the first place were just such Israelites who violated the Lord’s commands. Verily, the Scripture is filled to the brim with examples of Israelites who violate the Lord’s commands.
Many of those who believe all Israel will be saved themselves live in violation of many of the Lord’s commands — for the simple reason that their entry into the Kingdom is guaranteed regardless of whether or not they follow Christi’s commands. This doctrine blinds them to the fact that all those who rebel against the Lord will end up in the lake of fire.
The Lord Jesus continues His teaching in Mark 9:49-50 — but we will touch on that slightly later. The point here is that those who will be cast into the lake of fire will be “an abhorrence to all mankind” because “their worm shall not die and their fire will not be extinguished” (Isaiah 66:24). Such is the perception of the righteous Israelites who will be gathered in from their dispersion, as Isaiah 66:24, “they [the regathered Israel] will go out and look at the corpses.”
We do not consider that their corpses will literally burn for eternity — or that literal worms would be eating them for eternity — or that worms could even eat a corpse while being burned in the first place. Rather, this is an allegory for the fact that those who witnessed the event would never forget it.
Furthermore, Revelation 21:1 refers directly to the “new heaven and the new earth” in Isaiah 66:22 — so we can be all the more sure that the Lord was teaching us about eternal life when quoting Isaiah 66:24. Revelation 22:14-15 — also referring to the heavenly city of Revelation 21 — tells us,
14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life, and may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral persons, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
We’ve already learned that those who enter the kingdom are those inherit eternal life — and therefore, only those who enter the heavenly city will inherit eternal life. Therefore, those outside of the city — according to Revelation 21:15 — must be dead. Revelation 21:14-15 gives us the same alternatives we have explained so far — the righteous and obedient will inherit the city, the kingdom and eternal life, whereas the sinners and the rebellious will suffer eternal death.
Revelation 21:27 also tells us that “only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” would ever be able to enter the city — and in Exodus 32:33 the Lord assures us that “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will wipe him out of My book.”
When we consider Mark 9:48, Isaiah 66:24, Revelation 21:15 and Revelation 21:27, we understand that in the minds of those who inherit eternal life, they will never forget those who died an eternal death because of their sins. Thus, according to Daniel 12:2, they will suffer “shame and everlasting contempt” — not in their own minds, but in the minds of those who witnessed their deaths.
Those inside the kingdom and the heavenly city — who have inherited eternal life — will understand that sin and rebellion necessarily results in being cast out of the city into eternal destruction. To this end, we should cast out this notion that when we inherit eternal life, we will suddenly just become obedient to the Lord Jesus after the fact. No, the condition for eternal life is to demonstrate obedience first — so that we are guaranteed to demonstrate continued obedience when we receive our glorified bodies.
Now one might consider, “Why would someone be resurrected only to be killed almost immediately after?” The truth of our argument could never be contingent on answering this question — however, we will offer the answer as some kind of closure.
At the end of the age, there must be a final judgment — and everyone must be recompensed according to their judgment. Revelation 20:13 says “they were judged, each one of them according to their deeds.” Note that they are not judged according to whether or not they have white skin, but rather in accordance with their deeds. Anyone who was not a pure descendant of the Genesis 10 nations will not be involved in the judgment in the first place.
Paul especially refers to the final judgment numerous times — and he says in 2 Corinthians 5:10,
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive compensation for his deeds done through the body, in accordance with what he has done, whether good or bad.
Very many evil people die without ever having received recompense for their deeds — so much so, in fact, that most of us rightfully have no faith that we can ever find real justice in this material world. Yet God promised us that everyone would be recompensed for their deeds. If they die without receiving that just recompense, then God has made His promise to recompense everyone in vain. Indeed, they must be resurrected in order that they may be recompensed — and that God’s promises may be fulfilled. As we have discussed, this recompense will forever remain in the minds and perceptions of those who inherit eternal life — and witness that punishment.
Furthermore, Paul says in Romans 14:10-12,
10 But as for you, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or you as well, why do you regard your brother or sister with contempt? For we will all appear before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, to Me every knee will bow, And every tongue will give praise to God.” 12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.
Everyone who stands before the judgment of the Lord Jesus will bow before Him and they will confess His Name and praise Him. This fact is not in any way contingent on whether or not they are resurrected unto eternal life or eternal death. If they have been resurrected unto eternal death, they will kneel before Him and praise His name before being cast into the lake of fire. Hebrews 12:17 uses Esau to admonish its audience against sin,
For you know that even afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
After sinners bow before the Lord Jesus, of course they will want to enter the kingdom — but just like with Esau, they will find no place for repentance, though they will seek it with tears. In the same way, the five foolish virgins sought to enter the wedding feast — but the Lord said to them, “Truly I say to you, I do not know you.” (Matthew 25:12) The Lord also says in Matthew 13:42-43,
42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The one who has ears, let him hear.
When they are cast into the fire, they will indeed weep over their fate. Most interestingly, verse 43 refers directly to Daniel 12:3 which says, “And those who have insight will shine like the glow of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” Thus we have connected the event of the lake of fire and Daniel 12:2 with one another yet again. Note that we find that same distinction in Matthew 13:42-43 — either one will be cast into the lake of fire — or be righteous and shine forth like the sun.
There’s no option where one may be resurrected into eternal life and “shame and everlasting contempt” — essentially having your cake and eating it too as it were.
ISRAEL WILL NOT BE ASHAMED
Let us now consider another reason why the view that one could be resurrected unto eternal life of shame and contempt could never be true. Isaiah 45:17 says,
Israel has been saved by the Lord With an everlasting salvation; You will not be put to shame or humiliated To all eternity.
Isaiah 54:4 says,
“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; But you will forget the shame of your youth, And no longer remember the disgrace of your widowhood.
These promises were made to Israel as a whole — or generally. Therefore, if one were an Israelite, that would mean they must necessarily not suffer any shame. These promises are — prima facie — irreconcilable with the notion that an Israelite could ever be resurrected to “shame and everlasting contempt.”
Some might attempt to argue that these promises apply only to corporate Israel — or Israel as a whole — and not necessarily every individual who makes up Israel. But we do not see how Israel as a whole might be unashamed while a very large portion of those who make up Israel are indeed subject to “shame and everlasting contempt.”
If one might consider themselves an Israelite — or if anyone from the nations would join Israel — they must necessarily demonstrate all of the promises made to Israel within their own lives. According to Paul, that’s what it means to be a “child of the promise.” He says that “they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel” (Romans 9:6), and “it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.” (Romans 9:8)
Now he did not say that “they are not all Israel who are living in the land of Judea.” “Israel” — unless explicitly qualified — can only ever refer to legitimate sons of Jacob. Therefore, the children of the flesh — the legitimate sons of Jacob — are not regarded as descendants if they do not demonstrate the promises of God in their lives.
Thus no one in Israel will be put to shame eternally because none of Israel will be sinners. They will all be children of the promise — meaning that they will definitely have sin removed from their lives, as Romans 11:26-27 says,
26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written: “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” 27 “This is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”
Being a part of “all Israel” necessarily means having ungodliness removed and having one’s sins actually taken away. If we live a life of ungodliness and sin, then we have absolutely no claim to being an Israelite — or even being a part of Israel.
Isaiah 60:20-22 says,
20 Your sun will no longer set, Nor will your moon wane; For you will have the Lord as an everlasting light, And the days of your mourning will be over. 21 Then all your people will be righteous; They will possess the land forever, The branch of My planting, The work of My hands, That I may be glorified. 22 The smallest one will become a thousand, And the least one a mighty nation. I, the Lord, will bring it about quickly in its time.”
Verse 20 should already call to mind Revelation 21:23 — so we know that verse 21 and 22 are another prophecy about eternal life. It says that all of them will be righteous — as we explained above — and that this will be for the Lord’s glory. Therefore, those who want to bring unrighteous sinners — who are subject to “shame and everlasting contempt” — into eternal life, tacitly — though unintentionally — want to detract from the Lord’s glory.
Moreover, the “smallest one will become a thousand, and the least one a mighty nation.” We cannot conceive how someone could be subject to “shame and everlasting contempt,” yet be considered “a thousand” and “a mighty nation.” Again, everyone who inherits eternal life must necessarily inherit righteousness and glory.
DO WE HAVE AN IMMORTAL SPIRIT?
Those who believe that all Israel will be saved may also argue — in lock-step with true universalist Christians — that every Adamic person who has ever been born has an immortal soul. They will quote certain passages which supposedly “support” this idea — and we will consider a few of them out of 1 Corinthians.
However, let us first consider the Lord’s words in Mark 9:49-50 — which comes directly after the verses we considered earlier,
49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
Peter — who likely had a hand in the gospel of Mark — says in 1 Peter 4:17,
For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
As we have explained at length before, absolutely everyone must suffer judgment and refinement — whether they suffer that judgment in this life or the next — and Peter and Paul were especially aware of this fact. As such, judgment must “begin with the household of God” — and “everyone will be salted with fire” of judgment. The question is, will we willingly subject ourselves to the fire of judgment in this life when we still have time to change — or will we be unwillingly subject to the fire of judgment in the next life when we find no recourse to change?
Those who believe all Israelites will be saved may be tempted to quote 1 Corinthians 3:15 which says, “If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet only so as through fire.” They may insist that everyone will definitely be saved through the fire, even if all their work as individuals has been burned up. This — according to them — proves that everyone has an immortal soul and must necessarily inherit eternal life.
However, Paul never states the argument which they propose — rather, they merely assume Paul’s words agree with their argument — despite none of Paul’s plain words coming anywhere close to their argument. In this way, they are begging the question — merely presuming the truth of their argument, rather than proving the truth of their argument.
Let us consider the broader scope in 1 Corinthians 3:9-15,
9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each person must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each one’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each one’s work. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet only so as through fire.
Here Paul compares an apostle’s work with building. He says that his work over a certain community — like the Corinthians — is like building on the foundation of Christ. Each person must build with “gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw” — constituting the actual quality of the members of that community. In other words, what kind of quality does the teaching of the builder produce?
If the builder teaches poorly — thus building with poor materials — then their work will be burned away. In other words, those members of the community whom they taught will not survive the fires of judgment because of their own poor quality of work. Paul confirms that the builder is actually building the temple of God — of which Christians are living stones — in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17,
16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.
Paul calls the people a “temple of God” (verse 16) — and explicitly says that they are “God’s building” (verse 9). Therefore, when Paul says that “if anyone’s work is burned up” — he could be talking only about the Corinthians themselves. Paul was addressing factionalism in the Corinthian community because they were dividing from one another over differences in teaching between Paul and Apollos (1 Corinthians 3:5).
Elsewhere, Paul tells us that factious people will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:20) — but in 1 Corinthians 11:19 he literally tells the Corinthians that “there also have to be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.” (1 Corinthians 11:19)
Therefore, Paul was warning the Corinthians that they should not exhibit factionalism over himself or Apollos because if they did so, they would show themselves to be building of poor workmanship — and thus they would be destroyed by the fire of judgment. Verily, the very purpose of their factiousness was to reveal who would survive the fire of judgement. Recall that Paul said “we [Paul and Apollos] are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:9) They are the workers and the Corinthians were the building. The Corinthians were Paul and Apollos’ work.
If the Corinthians were burned up in judgment over their factionalism, then Paul and Apollos would suffer the loss of their work. However, just because Paul and Apollos suffer the loss of their work being burned with fire — that does not necessarily mean that Paul and Apollos would themselves be burned up. Paul says that the builder “himself will be saved, yet only so as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:15)
Of course Paul and Apollos would also suffer the fire of judgement because everyone must suffer the fire of judgment. Yet Paul and Apollos would be saved through that fire because they themselves would not be condemned in judgment — even if the factiousness of the Corinthians would condemn them in judgment.
Therefore, 1 Corinthians 3:15 proves the exact opposite of what those who believe all Israelites will be saved believe. Paul was telling the Corinthians — who are Israelites according to those who believe all Israelites will be saved — that they could be consumed and destroyed by fire. In no way does this prove that any and every Adamic person has an immortal soul.
Now we must note the very real possibility that a worker themselves might be burned up in the fire of judgment. In other words, just because Paul and Apollos would withstand the fire of judgment — despite their own work being burned up — does not mean that every worker will survive the judgment if their work doesn’t. Paul says that that the worker “himself will be saved, yet only so as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15) — meaning that the worker themselves must survive the judgment.
James tells us that teachers “will incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1) — so we expect the fire to be all the hotter for so-called workers. If a teacher reclines among the praise his work gives him — settling for the approval of men — what will happen when the men from whom they get their approval are burned up in judgment? Who will praise them then? Proverbs 27:21 says,
The crucible is for silver and the furnace for gold, And each is tested by the praise accorded him.
Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15 also prove that no one is going to enter the kingdom on anyone else’s coat-tails — everyone must demonstrate the work of the Lord Jesus in their own lives. Just because the one who worked on us — like Paul worked on the Corinthians — may be saved in the fire of judgment, does not mean that we ourselves will be saved. Ezekiel 14:20 tells us the standard by which the remnant of Israel will be measured,
“even though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in its midst, as I live,” declares the Lord God, “they could not save either their son or their daughter. They would save only themselves by their righteousness.”
Another verse those who believe all Israelites will be saved may bring up to support the notion that Adamic people have immortal souls is 1 Corinthians 5:5,
I have decided to turn such a person over to Satan for the destruction of his body, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.
They will attempt to argue that if one’s body is destroyed — as in they die — then that person’s spirit will definitely be saved on the day of the Lord.
Even assuming their own view, why would Paul have to deliver them to destruction in order to be saved? According their argument, the Corinthians are going to be saved regardless — just because they are born Israelites. They have failed to realize that Paul specifically did something which might result in their spirit being saved. This places a conditionality on their spirit being saved — and as such, this verse alone proves that their spirits are, in fact, definitely not immortal.
They fail to realize just how many times and in so many diverse ways the Scripture places a condition on eternal life which could never be reconciled with “salvation by race” or “all Israelites will be saved.”
Moreover, the Greek work for “destruction” — which is “olethros” (Strong’s G3639) — does not necessarily mean the end state of death or annihilation in Paul’s writing. “Olethros” is a noun, not a verb — and as such, it represents a state of continued ruin. As with in the English language, being in a state of destruction does not mean that one has already been utterly destroyed — rather, they are in the process of being destroyed.
In 1 Timothy 6:9 Paul says, “those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge people into ruin and destruction [olethros].” Do we conclude that Paul taught that a desire for riches would plunge someone into an immediate end-state of annihilation? Or would it cause someone to enter a state of life which causes their own continual ruin and destruction — possibly resulting in annihilation?
In the same way, the context of 1 Corinthians 5:5 was that Paul had admonished the Corinthians to cast certain sinners out of the community. If they were cast out of the church, they would no longer be under its purview — and they would then be vulnerable to Satan. This would constitute the destruction of their flesh because being subject to Satan would place them in a state of destruction. We all know how Satan placed Job in a state of destruction — and He sought to do the same to Peter and the apostles in Luke 22:31.
Paul does the same in 1 Timothy 1:20 where he says, “Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme.” If he “handed them over to Satan” in order to teach them a lesson, then it stands to reason that they would not necessarily die. The same standard applies to 1 Corinthians 5:5.
Paul considered that they “may be saved” — conditional on whether or not they learned their lesson in this life or not. The word for “saved” in Greek was written in the conditional subjunctive mood — meaning that Paul did not consider their salvation as a given. Rather, he desired their salvation and considered that their salvation would be a possibility if they managed to learn from the destruction of their flesh under Satan. Most translators realize this — and so they write “may be saved” instead of “will be saved.”
The last verse we will consider for the moment is 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” They will claim that “in Christ all will be made alive” necessarily means that absolutely everyone will be made alive — everyone will enter the Kingdom.
Now The Lord says in John 3:14-15,
14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes will have eternal life in Him.
We have “eternal life in Him,” but only if we actually believe in Him — we must have a personal faith in the Lord Jesus. Therefore, we are “in Christ” only if we believe in Christ. To be “in Christ,” one must live a life of obedience and faith to Christ. One cannot be “in Christ” and also be an atheist or a willful and unrepentant sinner. Thus 1 Corinthians 15:22 actually disproves the idea of an immortal soul because only those who are “in Christ” will be resurrected unto eternal life.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
As we demonstrated in Daniel 12:2, 1 Corinthians 3:15, 1 Corinthians 5:5 and 1 Corinthians 15:22, the doctrine fails to consider its own logical inconsistencies with the verses themselves. At face value — without any exposition of our own on these verses — the verses themselves outright disprove the idea of an immortal soul. Yet through begging the question they will continue on as if the verses in fact prove their own view.
Moreover, note how severely the view continually begs the question, assuming the truth of its own premise. At no point does the Scripture actually state the doctrine in any plain words. They must continually offer a “special explanation” why the Scripture means something other than what the plain words say. Yet despite how their views differ from the plain words of the Scripture, they will contend their view somehow lines up with the plain words of Scripture — because they haven’t yet been able to see their own logical fallacies. We understand how that is possible — because at one point we, too, believed the same.
On the other hand, we can offer one, simple verse which — at face value — completely destroys the whole doctrine. Matthew 10:28 says,
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Here the word for “hell” is again “Gehenna” — or an allegory for the lake of fire. The Lord literally states that the soul will be destroyed in the lake of fire — which is the second death. He did not speak these words in vain — and so we should heed His words and fear the fate which He described for the disobedient and rebellious to His gospel.
The prophets of old would preach destruction to Israel — and Israel did not like to hear that message. Like Ahab who called Elijah “he that troubleth Israel” (1 Kings 18:17) — they consider this message to be a personal attack on themselves — or some kind of desire for their eternal death.
On the contrary, we speak the power of the Lord Jesus to cleanse us from all sin and unrighteousness. He has the power to deliver us into righteousness and eternal life with Him. We present this message to our kindred that they may be delivered from the judgment and be saved through the Lord’s refining power. If it were entirely up to us, they would stand before the Lord Jesus and He would say to them, “Well done, My good and faithful servants.”
Paul says of Israel in Romans 11:23,
And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again.
See that condition once again: “if they do not continue in their unbelief.” We must all demonstrate a personal faith in the Lord Jesus — else we continue in unbelief. However, if we repent, we bring joy and praise to the Lord Jesus — and to His angels in heaven. The Lord says in Luke 15:7,
I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.
And in verse 10,
In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
The father says to the prodigal son in verse 24,
for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.
Let us then be grafted back in — no longer continuing in unbelief — that we may bring joy to the Lord Jesus and to His angels. All it takes is for us to acknowledge our sinful state, to have a personal faith and desire for His righteousness — and to have the prayer and dedication to ask Him to help us. We will part with the words of Jude 1:24-25,
24 Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority before all time and now and forever. Amen.