Immortal Soul Doctrine Condemned

History of Early Christianity


While it is commonly taught these days, did you know that the idea of humans possessing an immortal soul that goes to heaven upon death was not taught by early professors of Christ?

Catholic and Orthodox saint Ignatius of Antioch, who was probably part of the Church of God, c. 110 taught:

Be sober, as God’s athlete, the prize is incorruptibility and eternal life…[i]

For neither shall I ever have such [another] opportunity of attaining to God… It is good to set from the world unto God, that I may rise again to Him…Suffer me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to attain to God…[ii]

Thus Ignatius taught that eternal life and some type of deification were not yet possessed, hence that humans did not have an “immortal soul”.

The 2nd century heretic “Marcion denied the resurrection of the body”.[iii]

More specifically Catholic and Orthodox saint Justin c. 135 taught,

For I choose to follow not men or men’s doctrines, but God and the doctrines [delivered] by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians.[iv]

Catholic and Orthodox saint Polycarp of Smyrna, who was most likely part of the Church of God, c. 155 taught,

I bless you for because you have considered me worthy of this day and hour, that I might receive a place among the number of martyrs in the cup of your Christ, to the resurrection to eternal life, both of soul and of body, in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit.[v]

Catholic and Orthodox saint Theophilus of Antioch, who was most likely part of the Church of God, c. 180 taught,

For if He had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him God…so that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality, and should become God…[vi]

And while Theophilus clearly ties deification in with becoming immortal, this concept has been lost to what passes for mainstream Christianity.  While Protestants generally teach that humans have an immortal soul, the Living Church of God does not (a prominent Church of England bishop also teaches that humans do not go to heaven when they die[vii]).  Furthermore, while the Eastern Orthodox (and to a degree the Romans) teach deification, as does the Living Church of God, the Protestants generally seem to consider this to be a cultic or otherwise heretical doctrine.

We believe that since God is a God of love that He wanted to reproduce Himself and share His joy to all that He could and that His plan of salvation accomplishes this.  This concept of God “reproducing Himself” for us to be truly part of His family is basically what Theophilus taught.

It is also not totally foreign to some of what passes for mainstream “Christianity” as even the Catholic and Orthodox “Saint” Athanansius (fourth century) taught of Jesus,

“For He was made man that we might be made God”.[viii]

The famous Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas into the 13th century taught:

It would seem that no souls are conveyed to heaven…immediately after death…On the contrary, It is written: “If our earthly house of this habitation be dissolved, that we have . . . a house not made with hands, but reserved in heaven”.[ix]

Yet, the Catholic and Orthodox now, however, teach that upon death non-condemned “immortal soul” does go to heaven (though they will agree with Athanansius’ comment.

The Living Church of God retains the original and biblical view that when people die they are in their graves awaiting the resurrection and that deification occurs when this mortal puts on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53).

Several articles of possibly related interest may include:

Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality? What does John 3:16, and other writings, tell us?
Deification: Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God? What does the Bible teach? Is deification only a weird or cultic idea?
What Did Early Christians Understand About the Resurrection? Is there more than one future resurrection?
Hope of Salvation: How the Living Church of God differ from most Protestants How the Living Church of God differs from mainstream/traditional Protestants, is perhaps the question I am asked most by those without a Church of God background.
The Similarities and Dissimilarities between Martin Luther and Herbert W. ArmstrongThis article clearly shows some of the doctrinal differences between in the two. At this time of doctrinal variety and a tendency by many to accept certain aspects of Protestantism, the article should help clarify why the Living Church of God is NOT Protestant. Do you really know what the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther taught and should you follow his doctrinal example?
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Living Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions.
Some Similarities and Differences Between the Orthodox Church and the Living Church of God Both groups claim to be the original church, but both groups have differing ways to claim it. Both groups have some amazing similarities and some major differences. Do you know what they are?
There are Many COGs: Why Support the Living Church of God? This is an article for those who wish to easily sort out the different COGs. It really should be a MUST READ for current and former WCG members or any interested in supporting the faithful church. It also explains a lot of what the COGs are all about.

[i] Ignatius.  Letter to Polycarp, 2.  In Holmes, p. 197.  In this passage, Holmes’ translation in more faithful to the Greek than Roberts & Donaldon.

[ii] Ignatius.  Letter to the Magnesians, 2 & 4, Roberts & Donaldson. In this passage, Roberts & Donaldson’s translation seems more faithful to the original Greek than Holmes.

[iii] Waite CB. History of the Christian Religion to the Year Two-Hundred. Chicago, C.V.Waite &Co., 1900, pp.272-286, viewed 5/30/08

[iv] Justin. Dialogue with Trypho. Chapter 80

[v] The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 14:2. In Holmes, p.239

[vi] Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XXVII.

[vii] Van Biema D. Christians Wrong About Heaven, Says Bishop (N.T. Wright). Time, February 7, 2008.,8599,1710844,00.html viewed 02/08/08

[viii] Athanasius. On the Incarnation of the Word

[ix] Aquinas Thomas. Summa Theologica. Question 69. Matters concerning the resurrection, and first of the place where souls are after death

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