One of the puzzling things in scripture for many people are the references to the death of “souls”. We have this in Ezekiel 13 where the prophet writes, “The word of the LORD came to me” to speak against “those who prophesy from their own minds” (verses 1,2). They are challenged by the Lord: “Will you hunt down souls belonging to my people and keep your own souls alive. You have profaned me … putting to death souls who should not die and keeping alive souls who should not live, by your lying to people, who listen to lies” (verses 18,19).
Those with the idea that “soul” means some inner part of us that lives on somewhere after the body dies misunderstand God’s word. Long ago the pagan idea was adopted by some – it arose in Roman Catholic theology long after the time of Christ. When we come to Ezekiel 18 we will see God’s blunt statement, “the soul who sins shall die” (verses 4 and 18). A soul is not part of a person, it is the person, the phrase ‘immortal soul’ is not to be found anywhere in the Bible.
Luke 9 helps us to reach a true understanding if we have any doubts on this. Jesus “called the twelve …and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (verse 2). Later “the crowds … followed him and he spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing” (verse 11).
Jesus is “rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes” (verse 21) and eventually killed at their instigation. They had their minds set on their position and prestige in this life! But Jesus asked, “what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses of forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and the holy angels” (verses 25,26). That will be the time of reward or punishment, and then will be the resurrection. The true hope of life after death will become very clear when we come to chapter 20:35,36.
The chapter ends with Jesus responding to someone who said, “I will follow you wherever you go” (verse 57). But it is clear from Jesus’ answer that following him has to mean giving priority his work – the chapter ends by Jesus saying, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God”. Will you be fit for the kingdom of God?
Nowhere does it say anything about being fit for a place in heaven! In Matthew’s gospel the phrase “kingdom of heaven” occurs – that is, a heavenly kingdom – on earth. Remember the Lord’s prayer: “your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth” (Matthew 6:10). When you say the Lord’s Prayer be conscious for what you are praying.