Friday, November 22, 2019

Paul’s Gospel and the Death-Denying Doctrines that Contradict It

Introduction

Truth matters to God. In fact, truth is so important to God that he has made faith in certain truths the criteria by which people are justified, become members of the body of Christ and are given an expectation of eonian life (not to be confused with so-called “eternal life”; see footnote 1).[1] But what are the truths which must be believed in order to qualify for membership in the body of Christ (and the spiritual blessings associated with it)? The answer is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. There, the apostle Paul summarized his gospel (or “evangel”) with the following truths concerning Christ:

(1) Christ died for our sins;
(2) Christ was roused from among the dead on the third day.

So important are these two facts that Paul made sure to provide supporting evidence for them by first appealing to Scripture (“according to the scriptures”) and then by referring to empirically verifiable events that were connected with them (i.e., that Christ was entombed, and that – following his resurrection – he was seen by a number of witnesses).

Now, elsewhere on my blog, I’ve gone into more depth concerning what, exactly, it means for Christ to have died “for our sins.” For those interested in learning more about this important subject, the following links will take you to articles in which I express my thoughts on it:





In this article, however, I want to focus on the simple fact that Christ died. It is my belief that most professing Christians – sincere as they may be – hold to doctrinal positions they’ve been taught in the “institutional church” which complicate, distort and outright contradict this essential, fundamental fact of Paul’s evangel. Although long-established in Christian tradition and deeply entrenched in the hearts and minds of many who hold to them, such “death-denying doctrines” ultimately prevent people from being able to truly understand and intelligently embrace the simple truth that Christ died. 

Death-Denying Doctrine #1: The Immortality of the Soul

To die is to become lifeless, and to be dead is to be lifelessSince death is simply the absence of life, the fact that Christ died can be grasped by anyone who has even a basic understanding of life, and what it means to be alive. With this understanding in place, one can easily deduce the meaning of death by negation (“Death is the opposite of life, and since this is what it means to be alive, the opposite is what it means to be dead.”). Fortunately, it doesn't take any special insight or exceptional degree of intelligence to understand what it means to be alive, for this knowledge is immediately and intuitively available to every living, self-aware being. Every human being who knows himself or herself to be alive intuitively understands that consciousness and life always occur together. No one has ever experienced a single moment in which this has not proven to be the case. Thus, when we understand death to be the absence of life, it requires no special intellect or insight to arrive at the conclusion that those who are dead are not conscious or involved in any kind of conscious activity.

The Concordant Literal New Testament Keyword Concordance defines the term translated “life” (zoe) as “the activity of spirit, especially as manifested in the organic creation.” I think this is a pretty good definition of life. To be alive is to be that in which spirit is active and manifesting itself (hence we read in James 2:26 that “the body apart from spirit is dead”). Moreover, God is frequently referred to as “the living God.” Since God “is spirit” (John 4:24) and the only necessarily existent being, God is essentially alive (hence we’re told by Christ in John 5:26 that “the Father has life in Himself”). When we consider God as the absolute standard by which we can know what it means to be alive, we can conclude that consciousness – something which the living God necessarily has – is inseparable from being alive, and that anything with consciousness has it by virtue of having spirit and thus being alive. Thus, to die – i.e., to become lifeless – necessarily involves a loss of consciousness.

For beings whose existence is at least partly “organic” (i.e., mortal humans and other animals), having spirit means being able to move, grow and self-regulate internal conditions. For humans, having spirit means we have a capacity for self-awareness, rational thought, and volitional activity. In contrast, something that is dead – i.e., something that is without spirit – has completely ceased to be functionally active. It has lost the capacity for all functional activity, including consciousness. We know that syncope (a temporary loss of consciousness) results from a shortage of oxygen to the brain because of a temporary reduction of blood flow. But what happens when there is a permanent reduction of blood flow to the brain and all neurological activity ceases? Is there any observable indication that a person whose brain has stopped functioning completely is more functionally active or more conscious than a person who has simply experienced a temporary reduction of blood flow to their brain? Do not our own God-given senses indicate otherwise? Since, for beings such as ourselves, being alive entails having a capacity for consciousness and other functional activities, death necessarily entails a loss of this capacity. And Scripture confirms this view of what appears, from our perspective, to take place when death occurs: those who are dead are said to be unable to engage in the sort of conscious activities that the living are able to do – activities such as thinking, remembering and worshiping God (Eccl. 9:5-6, 10; Psalm 6:5; 30:9; 88:10-12; 115:17).  

In contrast to this common-sense and Scriptural understanding of what it means to be dead, the popular Christian doctrine of the “immortality of the soul” denies that human beings are the sort of things that actually die and lose their capacity for conscious activity. According to this belief, man is actually an immortal (i.e., undying) being that survives the death of his body and continues to consciously exist somewhere in a “disembodied state.” Since it denies that any human being truly dies (only the body is thought to die, according to this view), it consequently denies the reality of Christ’s death. And yet, Paul wrote that it was Christ himself – not merely some part of Christ (e.g., his body) – who “died for our sins.” While undergoing the torture of Roman crucifixion, it was “the man, Christ Jesus” – not merely his body – who committed his spirit to God and expired on the cross (Luke 23:46; John 19:30).

Like all mortal human beings (beginning with Adam), Christ’s existence as a living being with a capacity for sentience/consciousness (i.e., his being a “living soul”) was dependent on the union of (1) a body consisting of earthly elements (referred to in Genesis 2:7 as “soil” or “dust”) and (2) a spirit given by God (which is referred to in Genesis 2:7 as the “breath of life”). When Christ died, the union of body and spirit that made Christ a “living soul” was broken, and our Lord was introduced into a lifeless state – i.e., a state of complete functional inactivity and (thus) utter oblivion. As is the case for all human beings who die (i.e., become lifeless), Christ lost the capacity to sense, think, speak, breathe or do anything at all. 

Included in Paul’s summary of his evangel are the words, “He was entombed.” Just as the post-resurrection appearances of Christ mentioned by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:5-8 are included as proof that Christ was roused from among the dead by God, so Paul mentioned Christ’s entombment as evidence that Christ actually died. This part of Paul’s evangel summary is consistent with the fact that, throughout scripture, those who have died are consistently spoken of as being wherever their body is, or wherever the remains of their body may be (see, for example, Gen. 3:19; 23:19; 25:10; 1 Kings 2:10; 2 Chron. 9:31; Job 14:10-12; Ps. 146:3-4; Dan. 12:2; Isaiah 26:19; John 5:28; 11:17, 43; Acts 2:29; 8:2). Our bodies are where we are last present when we die and cease to be “living souls,” and they are where we will be present again when we are restored to a living, conscious existence. Being essentially bodily beings – i.e., beings dependent on a living body to be alive – we cannot be said to be somewhere that our body is not. Scripturally speaking, it cannot be said that a human being whose body is lying dead in a grave is, at the same time, experiencing the joys of heaven (see Acts 2:29, 34). The very idea is completely contrary to what scripture teaches about the nature of man and of death. 

But what about the spirit of man, which we’re told departs from him at death? Does this support the traditional Christian position that human beings survive their death as “immortal souls?” Let’s consider the request of the faithful Jewish believer, Stephen, shortly before he was martyred: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). Did the Lord receive Stephen when he died, or did he receive Stephen’s spirit? We’re told by Luke that it was Stephen – the human being - who was “put to repose” (i.e., fell asleep) as he was being stoned to death. If “Stephen” is to be identified with Stephen’s spirit, then it would mean that it was Stephen’s spirit that cried out in a loud voice while kneeling, and Stephen’s spirit that fell asleep as it was being stoned to death. But that, of course, is absurd. It was not Stephen’s spirit that did these things, but Stephen himself – the human being. And it was not Stephen whom Christ received when Stephen died, but rather something which essentially belonged to Stephen, and which will have to be restored to him in order for him to enjoy any kind of “life after death.” But Stephen, by faith, knew his spirit would one day be returned to him; it was for this reason that he entrusted his spirit to Christ (for Stephen knew that it was Christ to whom God had given the authority to raise the dead on the “last day,” when all believing, faithful Israelites will be resurrected).

In Luke 23:46, we read, “And shouting with a loud voice, Jesus said, ‘Father, into Thy hands am I committing My spirit.’ Now, saying this, He expires.” The spirit that Christ committed into the hands of his God and Father is that which, we are told in Ecclesiastes 12:7, “returns to God who gave it.” But was this spirit which Christ committed into God’s hands Christ himself? Or was it something that rather essentially belonged to Christ? Obviously, the spirit that Christ committed into his Father’s hands was something that belonged to Christ – hence, Christ's words, “…am I committing my spirit.” It was not, of course, Christ’s spirit that was speaking here, and referring to itself as “I.” Consequently, Christ’s spirit cannot, by itself, be identified with Christ himself.

From this fact it follows that Christ’s spirit – as essential to Christ’s personal identity and conscious existence as I believe it was (and is) – cannot, by itself, be the conscious, human person we know as the Lord Jesus Christ. It is “the Man, Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5), who was (and is) the conscious person to whom this spirit belongs, and who committed it to his Father for safe keeping just before he died. Notice that Christ entrusted to his God and Father what Stephen entrusted to Christ. Why the difference? Answer: Because Christ knew he was about to enter into a state in which he would be utterly helpless to restore himself to a living, conscious existence. When Christ died, his God and Father was the only One who had the power and authority to save him “out of death” (Heb 5:7). And – thanks to God (and God alone) – Christ was saved out of death.

The doctrine of the immortality of the soul denies that Christ was in any need of being saved by God out of death, since it denies that human beings really die; according to this view, it is only a person’s body (and not the person himself) which actually dies. As such, this doctrine – as popular as it is – contradicts Paul’s evangel.

Objections

Did Christ “rouse himself?”

We’re repeatedly told throughout the Greek Scriptures that God roused Christ from among the dead (see, for example, Acts 3:15; 4:10; 13:30, 34; 17:31; Rom. 4:24; 6:4, 9; 8:11; 10:9; 1 Cor. 15:15; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:20; Col. 2:12; 1 Thess. 1:10; Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 1:21). That is, it was God who restored Christ to a living, conscious existence after he died. Christ did not rouse himself from the lifeless condition into which he entered when he died on the cross. But given this fact, how are we to understand Christ’s words in John 2:18-22? In this passage we read the following:

The Jews, then, answered and said to Him, “What sign are you showing us, seeing that you are doing these things?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Raze this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews, then, said, “In forty and six years was this temple built, and you will be raising it up in three days!” Yet He said it concerning the temple of His body. When, then, He was roused from among the dead, His disciples are reminded that He said this, and they believe the scripture and the word which Jesus said.

I believe that a correct understanding of what Christ meant in v. 19 hinges on the difference between Christ’s body being “raised up” (after being dead) and Christ himself being “roused.” Notice what Christ didn’t say here. He didn’t say he would rouse himself; this was something which God alone accomplished (see v. 22 and compare with all of the verses referenced above). Rather, what Christ had in view as being raised by himself was his body. After Christ himself was roused by God – i.e., after he was restored to a living, conscious existence by God – our Lord then raised up his body from the stone slab on which it rested when he was entombed. This, I believe, is what Christ had in mind in John 2:19. Christ raised up his own body from where it lay, but only after he himself was roused by God.

Did Christ “leave his body” after he died?

In Matthew 12:40 we read that Christ predicted the following concerning himself: “For even as Jonah was in the bowel of the sea monster three days and three nights, thus will the Son of Mankind be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” Some see Christ’s words here as supporting the view that Christ “left his body” when he died and, while dead, went somewhere (which, based on the words “heart of the earth,” is thought to be located somewhere in or near the center of the earth). However, this view is based on a misunderstanding of the figure of speech Christ used. When used figuratively in Scripture, the “heart” refers to the center of a person’s volitional, reasoning and moral activity. The hiddenness and inaccessibility of the heart gave rise to its secondary figurative meaning of anything that is hidden or inaccessible. The “heart of the sea” thus refers to any relatively distant or remote part of the sea to which only a ship could travel (Prov. 30:19), or to its inaccessible depths (Ex. 15:8; Ps. 46:2; Jonah 2:3). Similarly, the “heart of the heavens” (Deut. 4:11) refers to their inaccessible, unreachable heights.

With this figure in mind, it is evident that the expression “the heart of the earth” need not be understood as denoting the “center of the earth” (or anywhere that’s near the center). It simply refers to any place within the earth that is hidden or in some sense inaccessible. And given that Christ was not only entombed (and thus hidden from sight) but that a “tremendously great” stone is said to have been placed over the entrance to the tomb (Matt. 27:60; Mark 16:4), the figure that Christ used in Matt. 12:40 is highly appropriate. Christ’s prediction in this verse is also consistent with those verses in which Christ is represented as having been where his dead body was during the three days and nights he was dead.

Another passage thought to reveal that Christ “left his body” after he died (and travelled somewhere in a “disembodied state”) is 1 Peter 3:18-20. In these verses we read that Christ was “put to death, indeed, in flesh, yet vivified in spirit, in which, being gone to the spirits in jail also, He heralds to those once stubborn, when the patience of God awaited in the days of Noah while the ark was being constructed…” Notice, however, that we’re not told that Christ heralded to the “spirits in jail” while he was dead and entombed. Rather, it was after he was “vivified in spirit” – i.e., after he was made alive – that he went to these “spirits in jail” and heralded to them. Moreover, the imprisoned “spirits” to whom we’re told Christ heralded are not to be understood as deceased humans. Rather, these spirits are non-human, angelic beings. Peter referred to these imprisoned spirits again in his second letter (2 Pet. 2:4-5). See also Jude 6, where a similar reference to these “sinning messengers” who “left their own habitation” can be found.

Death-Denying Doctrine #2: The Deity of Christ  

Like the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, the doctrine of the “deity of Christ” is also inconsistent with the truth that Christ actually died, and thus contradicts an essential element of Paul’s evangel. Ironically, this doctrine is considered an essential doctrine of orthodox, mainstream Christianity. In its most popular (and so-called “orthodox”) form, the doctrine of Christ’s deity affirms that Christ is one of three distinct members of a “tri-personal” (or “triune”) “Godhead.” It should be noted, however, that one doesn’t have to hold to the doctrine of the Trinity in order to affirm the doctrine of the deity of Christ; for example, this view is shared by those who hold to the so-called “modalist” (or “oneness”) as well as “binitarian” (or “two-person”) views of God. Regardless of their differences, however, what each of these positions have in common is their shared commitment to the idea that Jesus Christ possesses the same divine status and nature as the Father, and is thus to be understood as “God” in the same sense that the Father is God (without any qualification).

In a separate study (see the end of this article for links), I defend a number of scriptural arguments that demonstrate the fact that the Father – and the Father alone – is the uncreated divine being whom Christ referred to as “the only true God” (i.e., the God whose oneness is affirmed in the “Shema,” and before whom Israel was commanded to have no other gods). That is, I argued for the view that the “Most High God” – i.e., Yahweh – is a single divine person or self (rather than two or more persons/selves).

 Here are a few arguments for this view that I defended in this study:

1. The God whom Christ referred to as “my God and your God” when speaking to Mary Magdalene (John 20:17) is the God before whom Israel was commanded to have no other gods, and is the only true God.
2. The God whom Christ referred to as “my God and your God” in John 20:17 is the Father alone.
3. The Father alone (and not his Son, Jesus Christ) is the God before whom Israel was commanded to have no other gods, and is the only true God.

1. The “Lord our God” whose oneness Christ affirmed in Mark 12:30 is the God of both Christ and the scribe to whom Christ spoke, and is the God whom every Israelite (Christ included) was obligated to love with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength.
2. The Father alone is the God of both Christ and the scribe to whom Christ spoke, and the God whom every Israelite (Christ included) was obligated to love with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength.
3. The Father alone (and not his Son, Jesus Christ) is the “Lord our God” whose oneness Christ affirmed in Mark 12:30.

1. If the Father alone isn’t “the only true God” referred to by Christ in John 17:3, then the only true God is a different god than Jesus’ God.
2. But Jesus’ God is the only true God.
3. Therefore, the Father alone (and not his Son, Jesus Christ) is the only true God.

1. No one can be the “Most High” and the only true God without being greater than all and thus worthy of the worship of all.
2. The Father alone is greater than all and thus worthy of the worship of all (John 10:29; 14:28; cf. John 4:21-24).
3. The Father alone (and not his Son, Jesus Christ) is the “Most High” and the only true God.

1. According to 1 Cor. 8:6, the one God besides whom there is no other God is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. If the one God besides whom there is no other God is the God and Father of Jesus Christ, then the one God is not Jesus Christ.
3. Jesus Christ is not the one God besides whom there is no other God.

Rather than being the only true God, Scripture teaches that Christ is a created being who was uniquely and supernaturally begotten by God himself. Being made fully human, Christ lived a perfectly obedient (and thus sinless) life, died for the sins of all, was roused from among the dead by God, and now sits exalted at God’s right hand as Lord over all. Christ is the “image of the invisible God,” and perfectly revealed to the world the heart and character of God through his life and death. He is also the first human to have ever been vivified (i.e., made immortal), and was given power and authority from God that no other created being – whether terrestrial or celestial – has ever possessed.   

In contrast with the simple doctrinal position summarized above, the doctrine of the “deity of Christ” results in a perplexing (and, I believe, insurmountable) problem for those who affirm it. For if Christ died – and if Christ is also God – then it would mean that God died. But anyone who has even the slightest understanding of who and what God is knows that this can’t be right. God – the uncreated Creator whose years have no end (Psalm 102:27) – cannot, by virtue of his divine nature, die. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the “living God.” He is (and always has been) immortal and incorruptible. Paul explicitly affirmed the immortal and incorruptible nature of God elsewhere (Rom. 1:22-23; 1 Tim 1:17; 6:13, 16). Since God has always been (and always will be) inherently and necessarily immortal, this can mean only one of two things concerning Christ: either (1) Christ did not really die, or (2) Christ is not actually God (at least, not in the same absolute, unqualified sense that Jesus’ God and Father is God)Since Christ did die, the second option is clearly the correct one. Christ is not the same uncreated, eternally-existent being as his God and Father. Rather, Christ is the Son of this uncreated, eternally-existent being.

Many Christian apologists think they have a way out of this dilemma. Consider the following excerpt from the website of Christian philosopher William Lane Craig, in which he tackles the question of how Christ could die while at the same time being God (emphasis mine):

“It is helpful to speak of what Christ does or how he is relative to one of his two natures. For example, Christ is omnipotent relative to his divine nature but he is limited in power relative to his human nature. He is omniscient with respect to his divine nature but ignorant of various facts with respect to his human nature. He is immortal with regard to his divine nature, but mortal with regard to his human nature…Christ could not die with respect to his divine nature but he could die with respect to his human nature.[2] 

In Craig’s response, he relies on the orthodox Christian view that Christ has two distinct “natures” – one that is fully human, and another that is fully divine. This philosophical position is thought by Craig to solve the dilemma of how it can be said that Jesus, while being “fully God,” was yet able to die. But this response is entirely inadequate. To see why, all we need to do is understand what, exactly, a “nature” is, and what it means to say that Christ has two of them. Once we clarify this issue, Craig’s argument crumbles. 

So, what exactly does Craig mean he says that Christ has “two natures?” What is a “nature?” Well, a “nature” is simply the essential properties, attributes or qualities that belong to something, and without which it would be something other than what it is. Christian apologist Matt Slick (of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry) explains the meaning of the term as follows:

“In philosophy, [nature] can refer to the essence of something. Likewise, theologically, the nature of something is that which makes something what it is. It is the most basic essence of something. We would say that the nature of God is good, holy, just, immutable, etc. If we were to take any one of these properties away from God in describing his nature, he would cease to be what he is. The nature of something deals with the essential properties that make something what it is.” [3]

So according to Slick, the “nature” of something refers to its “essence” - i.e., the essential properties (or “qualities”) that it has, and which make it what it is.[4] According to this understanding of what a “nature” is, what makes a dog a dog (rather than, say, a cat) are the distinctively canine properties, attributes or qualities that it has. A dog’s distinctively canine properties, attributes or qualities make up its canine “nature” or “essence.” So if a dog’s distinctively canine properties were changed to those of a cat, it would cease to be a dog. It would be a cat. Regardless of what one may want to call it, an animal that possesses all the essential properties of a cat simply cannot be a dog. It would be impossible for any animal to possess all of the essential properties of both a cat and a dog, and if there existed an animal that shared an equal percent of some (but not all) of the properties or qualities of both a cat and a dog, the animal would be neither a cat nor a dog, but a different animal entirely. 

Now, to say (as Craig does) that Christ “is immortal with regard to his divine nature” is simply to say that Christ is immortal with regard to his divine properties, attributes or qualities. In other words, it is to say that Christ has the divine property, attribute or quality of immortality (meaning that Christ is immortal rather than mortal). And to say that Christ is “mortal with regard to his human nature” is simply to say that Christ is mortal with regard to his human properties, attributes or qualities. In other words, it is to say that Christ has the human property, attribute or quality of mortality (meaning that Christ is mortal rather than immortal). Thus, after clarifying what is meant by the term “nature,” we discover that what Christian philosophers such as Craig are actually saying (that is, once their words are stripped of all ambiguity) is that Christ was both mortal and immortal - that he both died and didn’t die. But this is nothing more than contradictory nonsense. 

Thus, it turns out that the entire argument is a subterfuge. It’s a contradiction cloaked in the robe of mystery and ambiguous language. While some Christians may believe there to be something “paradoxical” or “mysterious” about the position that Christ was both immortal and mortal at the same time, that he was both omniscient and “ignorant of various facts,” and that he both died and didn’t die, the fact is that these are just contradictions. Claiming that Christ was, before his death, “immortal with regard to his divine nature and mortal with regard to his human nature” is no different than asserting that a single shape is both circular in regard to its circular nature and triangular in regard to its triangular nature. In neither case is one really making a meaningful claim. Upon closer analysis, both claims will be found to involve a contradiction.

Moreover, not only is this contradictory position regarding Christ mistaken, but holding to it makes it difficult – if not impossible  to affirm the essential truths of Paul’s evangel. For if Christ is God  and thus has the divine property or attribute of immortality – then Christ didn't really die. He just appeared to die. In the same way, if Christ is God, then he was not really roused from among the dead, since God (being immortal) has never had any need of being restored to life. But if (as Paul heralded) Christ actually died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused from among the dead by his God and Father, then it follows that Christ wasn’t – and isn’t – God.

Conclusion

Most Christians profess to believe  and may sincerely think they believe  that Christ died on the cross and was raised from the dead three days later. But if you ask them whether they think Jesus Christ was, during the time of his death, just as lifeless as the dead body which lay in the tomb for three days, it will quickly become clear that, contrary to what they think they believe or profess to believe, they do not, in fact, actually believe that Christ truly died. Instead, they believe that it was only Christbody that died and laid in a tomb for three days, while Christ himself – the conscious, self-aware person – was actually introduced into a different form of life. Contrary to the truth of Scripture, most Christians believe (and would likely brand as heretics those who deny) that Christ survived the death of his body, and continued to consciously exist somewhere other than where his body was. But if this is the case, then Christ didnt really die. Only his mortal body died. And what happened three days after the death of his body wasnt the resurrection of the man, Christ Jesus, himself. No, it was merely the restoration of an immortal being to an embodied existence.

Note: For those interested in reading more on this important subject, the following are some articles on my blog in which the doctrine of the “immortality of the soul” is refuted:




And here is a study refuting the doctrine of the Trinity/Deity of Christ: 

One God and Father of All: How the scriptural revelation of the one true God contradicts the doctrine of the Trinity 









[1] ”Eonian life” (which is a more accurate translation of the expression rendered “eternal life” in less literal Bible translations) refers to the gift of life that believers will enjoy during the coming eons, or ages, of Christ’s future reign (a reign which we’re told will be, literally, “for the eons of the eons”). Although eonian life will be an amazing blessing for those chosen by God to enjoy it, it does not refer to anyone’s final, eternal destiny. Those who do not receive eonian life – and who thus remain unsaved for the eons of Christ’s reign – will not be “lost” for “all eternity.” Rather, they’ll simply remain unsaved until they’re saved and reconciled to God at the end of Christ’s reign (when, according to Paul in 1 Cor. 15:22-28, Christ abolishes death, subjects all to himself, and God becomes “All in all”). For more on this subject, see my blog series “Eternal or Eonian?” See also my articles on the use of the expression “forever and ever” (LINK) and the meaning of the Greek term “aion” (LINK).

[4] Consider the following definitions from Merriam-Webster:

“Nature: the inherent character or basic constitution of a person or thing : ESSENCE.”
“Character: a set of qualities that make a place or thing different from other places or things.”
“Essence: the basic nature of a thing : the quality or qualities that make a thing what it is.”

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