Contrary to popular teaching, the doctrine of the immortal soul did not originate from biblical doctrine taught or written by the prophets or apostles. Rather, it traces its roots to ancient pagan Egyptian and Greek philosophers. The “church fathers” of mainstream Christianity adopted the immortal soul doctrine from Greek philosophy—not from the Bible.
This is what the apostle Paul warned the Colossians: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8 – NKJV).
Even a cursory glance into God’s Word reveals that the doctrine of the immortal soul is false.
What the Bible Teaches
You will not find the term “immortal soul” anywhere in the Bible. However, you will find the word soul. The Hebrew word for soul is nephesh, and the Greek word is psuche. Both terms mean a living, breathing creature, either man or animal. The word “soul” in the Bible never refers to something immortal.
The first use of the word in the Bible is found in Genesis 2:7, which states, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
This verse makes clear that men are souls—they do not have souls. Adam became a soul—a living, breathing creature. Then, almost immediately, God warned him, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die” (vs. 16-17).
Placing these verses together, and considering the meaning of the Hebrew word die, which means “destroy,” we plainly see that men are souls, and that souls can die!
In Leviticus 17:11, the word “life” is also nephesh. If one were to interchange these two words, the verse would read as follows: “For the soul of the flesh is in the blood.”
By pouring out His soul (His life’s blood) as payment for our sins (Isa. 53:12), Christ gave His life (psuche) as a ransom for mankind (Mark 10:45).
The prophet Ezekiel twice wrote, in verse 4 and verse 20 of chapter 18, “The soul that sins, it shall die.” Death is not leaving “this life” for the “next life.” It is the absence of life!
Clearly, the Bible teaches that the soul is mortal.
Who Can Destroy Souls?
What about the warning that Jesus gave in Matthew 10:28? “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him [God] which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
No one doubts that all bodies eventually die, decompose and return to dust. But this verse reveals that God can destroy souls!
The prophet Malachi wrote about the final state of the wicked: “For, behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yes, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts…And you shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this” (Mal. 4:1-3).
Obadiah 16 amplifies this: “…and they shall be as though they had not been.”
Man cannot destroy both the physical body and the soul (life)—only God can. On another occasion, Jesus stated the same admonition: “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you of whom you shall fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell [the lake of fire]” (Luke 12:4-5 – NKJV).
Christ is stating that we are not to fear men, who can only take our physical life. If one dies at the hands of men, it will be a temporary death. If God kills a man, because he refuses to repent of his sins—making him unworthy to be in His kingdom—he will be destroyed for eternity. He will have no further chance to receive eternal life. This is the second death, from which will be no resurrection (Rev. 20:14-15; Mal. 4:1).
God’s Word is clear. We do not have immortal souls. The mainstream teaching is simply not biblical. It is an invention of man.
By God’s infinite wisdom and mercy, those who will not submit to His Law and government will be no more—as if they never existed. They will not roast forever in an ever-burning hell.
However, those who submit to God and His Way will be given eternal life (Rom. 6:23).