555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

527. Did There Exist a Belief in Immortality before the Christian Era?

Although before the dawn of Christianity there were nations who undoubtedly had glimpses of immortality, it was not until Christ came, "bringing life and immortality to life" (II Tim. 1:10), that the world began to realize the glorious future which was assured to those that love God and follow obediently the teachings of his Son. The Hindus, Egyptians, Chinese, Persians, and even the American Indians, Polynesians, Australian aborigines and Greenlanders believed in a future life, but all more or less dimly. The ancient Greeks had a clearer conception of immortality, which was well defined by Socrates in his last speech. There are hints of the same belief in the Jewish teachings also, although they are indefinite (see Gen. 5:22, 24, 37:35 and other passages). Jesus lifted the veil. Some, today, deny the inherent immortality of the soul, while admitting that it is conferred as the "gift of God" upon those who are accepted. The Church of Christ today, however, teaches immortality—a future life of bliss or of woe, to be decided at the judgment. The duty of Christians is, as Paul urges, to strive to "win the prize" and so to begin to live eternally, here and now, in the realization of God's pardon and acceptance promised through his Son.