This week I have been thinking a lot about immortality. One could argue it is the ultimate wish of humanity to become immortalised in some way. Alexander the Great went about this by conquering parts of the world and establishing a legacy for himself, one that to this day is still remembered.
Scientific progress in the last few years has weighed in on the potential to extend the human lifespan through medicine or Artificial Intelligence, but despite many efforts, we have not reached immortality, which by definition (according to Google) means:
‘The ability to live forever; eternal life.’
Eternal life, rings a bell, doesn’t it?
As Christians, we believe that through believing in Jesus as our Saviour, we can have eternal life, not on this plane of existence, but in Heaven. However, unlike by establishing a legacy or potentially through scientific advancement, this immortality is not by our own achievement, it is a gift through the sacrifice of Christ.
Is Jesus immortal?
In continuing to think about immortality from a Christian perspective, I also asked myself ‘Is God immortal?’, and I had trouble coming to a definite answer. Going off the Google dictionary definition, I’d say that He is, but then one can open up the discussion of whether God lives in the same way we do or if life is different where he exists, etc. Regardless, the start of 1 Timothy helps justify this with Paul’s description of God confirming his immortality:
“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever. Amen.” (1 Timothy chapter 1, verse 17)
So, got it, according to the Bible (probably the best source for understanding God’s nature) He is immortal. But… what about Jesus? Since he kind of died.
To answer this second question, I decided to go back to the root words that make up the term ‘Immortal’. The Latin root word ‘im’ can mean not or ‘un’, it’s a negation. So, the term immortal can also be thought of as ‘un-mortal’ or unable to die.
Now, this is where I really had my brain working, because God may be this omniscient being who is unable to die, but Jesus (who Christians believe is God) did die, quite brutally, I might add. If God is immortal and unable to die, but according to the Bible Jesus is God, then how was it that he could die? But what about Jesus rising from the dead after three days?
I think that the answer lies in the very nature of Jesus, being fully man and fully God. Fully man in that he was born, had a childhood, lived a life, and died – the fate of all humans. But he was also fully God; born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, performed miracles, and rose from the dead.
I think this is a suitable explanation, both ‘halves’ of Jesus means he can die like a human, while still being immortal like God. How can Jesus be both God and man? The fact of the matter is, some things are beyond our comprehension—short answer is, God can do anything.
What about the other beings?
Additionally, what about angels and demons, where do they fit into this immortality thing? Are they immortal in the same way that God is? I’m inclined to say yes seeing as they’re spiritual beings, similar to God.
And if the devil has been around before we were, then he’s existed a really long time. However, the book of Revelation suggests that God will destroy Satan permanently at some point, but whether this is referring to death is less clear, and up for debate.
One lead for the nature of Angels is in the book of Genesis, which depicts Angels as being able to procreate with humans bearing the hybrid Nephilim. Does this mean Angels (and subsequentially, demons) are biologically similar to humans? Here is what the Bible says:
“The sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said ‘My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” (Genesis chapter 6, verses 2-3)
Interestingly, this passage also demonstrates God’s decision to make humans mortal. What I’ve derived from these verses, is that just because Angelic beings can conceive with humans, God has not put a limitation on their lifespan, unlike ours, I’m assuming this means they are immortal in the same way that God is. Similarly, in the book of Job as well as the Gospels, God and Jesus have control over demonic entities, but they do not kill them.
Wherever my thoughts about the prevalence of immortality in Christianity drifted toward, they all came back to the same thing—Jesus. We can’t be immortal in the way we might prefer, but we can have eternal life.
Jackson Reid is a journalism student currently studying at University of Wollongong in Australia. He has been working casually at Pulse 94.1, a Christian radio station, for the last 5 years. He is particularly passionate about youth and kids ministry at church.