What is Conditional Immortality?
Updated: Dec 24, 2020
Those who hold to the doctrine of conditional immortality believe the Bible’s claims that “God alone has immortality”, and that he bestows this gift (eternal life) upon all those who submit to Jesus Christ as Lord. They also take seriously the biblical concept that death is the wages for sin. Not the first death, which all have experienced (including the Lord Jesus) or will experience, but the second death, which results in total everlasting destruction.
The following is a basic definition of Conditionalism, as described by Leroy E. Froom:
Conditionalism is the Christian doctrine that immortality, or everlasting life, is offered to man only upon God's terms and conditions. Immortal-Soulism, on the other hand, holds that man was created with a soul, which has a separate existence from the body, and that it is innately and indefensibly immortal. Conditionalists believe that the man who does not accept God's conditions for life will be ultimately deprived of life, totally destroyed. Immortal-Soulists, on the other hand, believe that the man who disobeys God and persists in his rebellion will be cast into an eternally burning hell-fire, where he will be tormented forever, since his soul cannot die. Conditionalists believe that at the death that meets all mankind, good and bad alike, man rests in the grave until the resurrection, when all men will be raised, some to life everlasting and some to receive their punishment. During the interim they believe man is unconscious of the passing of time and knows nothing of events occurring on earth. Immortal-Soulists believe that at death man goes to some place of conscious existence. Some believe that all men go at once to their eternal reward or punishment, the good to Heaven and the bad to Hell. Others believe that some at least go to Purgatory, because they are not yet good enough for Heaven or bad enough for Hell. Here they are allowed to suffer for a time to purge them of their remaining sins, and then they are admitted to Heaven. Still others believe that there is no Hell, and all men will eventually reach the abode of bliss.
Consistency and Obvious Soundness of Conditionalism
The key to the problem of life, death, and human destiny, as held by the conflicting schools of Conditionalism and Immortal-Soulism, is obviously to be found in the Biblical story of man's creation and fall, and his redemption provided in Christ. Adam and Eve went tragically astray. Yielding to the tempter's enticing promise, they stifled the voice of God. The allurement of superior wisdom, sensuous enjoyment, and the glamour of supposedly natural, inherent immortality to be enjoyed in disobedience, led them swiftly and inexorably into the way of death. As a result all seemed hopelessly lost. But unexpectedly, hope was proffered to distraught man. All might yet be recovered. Men might still find their way back to God and their lost estate, with Paradise and life regained through a Redeemer. Confession, faith, obedience, and resistance to temptation marked out the road back to the way of life. God would completely save contrite sinners who love, serve, and obey Him.
A. Adam's Potential For Immortality Was Conditional.
Here is God's good news: Although man was not created unconditionally immortal, and is not today born immortal, yet he may become so—if he follows the provisions of God. According to the unfailing promise of the Almighty, he may require an immortality beyond the reach of death and time and destruction. That is the high privilege to be granted to the righteous—a favor conferred on the penitent believer. But it is always conditional. The righteous will live again, forever; but the impenitent will finally be destroyed— likewise forever. Life is thereby conditional. These are the final endings of the two ways of life and death. That is the essence of Conditionalism, or Conditional Immortality. And such is the picture that grows increasingly clear and luminous in the dawning light of the Genesis introduction to the Old Testament. So long as Adam remained in the Garden he was allowed to eat of the fruit of the tree of life. But, as mentioned, his potential for immortality was conditional. When once he made a breach in God's protective and enabling conditions, he became subject to the death penalty. The primal pair was created "very good"—with a view to immortality: But they were not imperishable! They did not have an inherent, natural, and indefeasible immortality—that is, incapable of being annulled or made void. It was indeed possible for Adam not to die. The possibility of immortality was within his reach. But he forfeited it. And holiness still comes by an act of free choice or decision, with death as the sequel to willful transgression. So immortality for Adam was clearly relative, or conditional, and the sin of disobedience made him mortal—subject to death and destined to die.(1)
(1) Froom, The Conditionalist Faith of our Fathers, Volume 1, pg. 39-40