The soul of every human being will live forever. The question is where will it live? The answer, of course, is found in God’s Word.
The Bible declares that the soul that sins will surely die and that we all die in Adam. (Ezekiel 18:20; I Corinthians 15:22) So there is a seeming contradiction - since the soul of man lives forever - unless you understand that there is more than one kind of death in the Bible. There are actually seven different kinds of deaths. It is, therefore, important that we identify to which death these passages are referring. The seven deaths are physical death, spiritual death, temporal death, second death, positional death, operational death and sexual death.
If “the soul that sins will surely die” and “we all die in Adam” refers to physical death, we would all be dead. So this is not referring to physical death. This death is not the second death since that occurs in eternity, it’s not sexual death and it’s not positional death since we are not identifying with Christ. So it must be either spiritual death, temporal death or operational death. Which one? Since these passages refer to ALL mankind, it cannot be operational or temporal death. Those refer only to believers. It is, therefore, spiritual death (separation from God). And as stated, spiritual death is parlayed into the second death in eternity for those who fail to take the salvation solution of faith in Christ. So the seeming contradiction is solved and we see that those who reject Jesus Christ as Savior will exist forever separated from God.
The person that chooses God’s salvation solution of faith in Christ will live forever with God. We will discover in our study that eternal life is much more than just living forever, however. This should be obvious, since every person lives forever. So what exactly is eternal life and what all does it entail?
Eternal life is God’s life (one of His attributes) imputed to the human spirit (its home) at the moment of salvation. This imputation of eternal life occurs simultaneously with the imputation of the human spirit. Though we possess eternal life the very moment we trust Christ as Savior, we do not use it until we enter the eternal state. Eternal life has more to do with eternity than life on earth and it is the life of God that creates the capacity to receive and appreciate eternal rewards. Since it is God that imputes eternal life to the believer, it is a matter of grace. Therefore, eternal life is not deserved nor can it be earned. This means that anyone that has believed in Christ for salvation (regardless of their current spiritual status) possesses eternal life. It also means that the believer is secure in Christ forever. (John 5:25-26; 11:25-26; 14:6; I John 5:11-13)
Another result of the imputation of eternal life to the believer is the guarantee of a resurrection body. Theologically we call this Ultimate Sanctification and it will occur at the Rapture of the Church. This resurrection body is said to be like that of Christ’s resurrection body. This means the believer will no longer possess a sin nature, and therefore he is no longer able to produce human good. In our resurrection bodies we will be able to produce only divine good. The imputation of eternal life assures the believer of an eternal relationship with God. (Philippians 3:21; I Thessalonians 4:13-17; I Corinthians 15:51-57; I John 3:2)
Even though we have eternal life, God did not give it to us so that we could simply admire it from afar. He gave us eternal life so that His life could be reproduced in us as the character of Jesus Christ on a daily basis. When the believer is producing the character of Jesus Christ he is being set apart (the meaning of sanctification) to God. Producing the character of Christ in the believer is the ministry of God the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit controls your soul, He is able to produce Christ’s character, but this control is in direct proportion to the amount of Bible doctrine a person has stored in his soul. As the Holy Spirit controls the soul over a prolonged period of time, the believer begins to advance to spiritual maturity. The advance to spiritual maturity can be accomplished only by proper application of the Bible doctrine that has been stored in the soul. It is the proper application that changes the believer’s thinking from human viewpoint to divine viewpoint. (Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 4:12-16)
All believers are part of the Royal Family of God, regardless of their spiritual health. Sin of any kind does not remove a believer from God’s family. As spiritual royalty, God expects believers to uphold the high standards of royalty by exhibiting the character of Christ. Since this is only potential, some believers will comply with God’s command and some will not comply. Those that use their volition to obey the mandates of God to learn and apply God’s Word will enjoy the blessings that are afforded to royalty. Those that ignore the mandates of God will live as peasants, though they are still royalty by birth (the new birth from above). (I Peter 2:9)
The new birth guarantees equal privilege and equal opportunity for every member of the Royal Family. However, not all believers will choose to advance spiritually, which creates inequality in the Royal Family. Using equal privilege and equal opportunity to learn, believe and apply Bible doctrine increases your capacity to receive blessings in both time and eternity, but it is your eternal life (the life of God) that provides the capacity to enjoy those blessings. Eternal blessings are a direct result of the amount of time the believer spends in the study and application of God’s Word in this life, because this is God’s only method for increasing our capacity. (II Peter 3:18)
Because the believer possesses the righteousness of God and eternal life, God is both willing and able to pour out overflowing grace blessings to him. These blessings are passed down to the believer through God’s “grace pipeline”. God’s blessings are ALWAYS a matter of His grace and are NEVER based on human good of any kind. God blesses us because of Who He is, not because of who we are or what we do. If God blessed us on the basis of what we do for Him, then we would receive the glory. On the other hand, if
God blesses us on the basis of His sovereign will, and He does, then He receives the glory. Overflowing grace blessings to the believer come only as a result of spiritual growth. Increased spiritual growth means increased capacity to receive God’s blessings without becoming arrogant and forgetting the source of those blessings.
In eternity all believers will have eternal life, but there will be certain inequalities among believers with regard to eternal rewards and blessings. Since God blesses the believer on the basis of capacity, it is easy to understand how there will be inequality in Heaven. Not all believers develop capacity for blessing at the same rate nor do they share the same degree of capacity. The more a believer learns and applies from the Word of God, the greater his capacity to receive rewards both now and in eternity. This does not, of course, mean that anyone will be unhappy or remorseful in Heaven. God in His matchless grace sees to it that no believer spends eternity in any condition other than perfect happiness. Remember that the sin nature no longer exists in eternity, so jealousy, envy, bitterness, etc. will not be characteristics possessed by the believer.
The giving of rewards by God is much easier in the eternal state since the sin nature of the believer has been left behind in the human body (at either death or the Rapture). In the believer’s glorified state, God is able to pour out blessings that will be so far above our thinking that no analogy we can think of would adequately describe them. Not only is our sin nature gone, so is our negative volition, both of which hinder our receiving blessings on earth. And satanic influence will be gone in eternity, with its former negative impact on the believer’s life through Satan’s World System.
Eternal life means living in a state of eternal peace and happiness for every believer regardless of his eternal blessings. Some believers will reign over cities and some will not, but we all will live in magnificent mansions. Though our motivation for the execution of the Christian Way of Life is always our personal love for God, knowing that there are degrees of reward should also motivate our advance to spiritual maturity. In God’s system of reward and blessing, the believer must never forget that proper motivation and proper protocol are the keys to successfully appropriating them. A right thing must always be done in a right way in order to be right.