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Matthew 10:39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

Jesus has just warned His disciples of the hardships they will face if they choose to follow Him, that is, "take up their cross". And now He tells them that whoever finds their life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for His sake will find it. Here Jesus is clearly using the word "life" in its ordinary sense, i.e. "the condition or quality that distinguishes a functional, animate being from an inanimate, inert object[e.g. a dead body]". It is also quite clear that the loss of life Jesus talks about in the first half of this verse is one that happens in the next age, just as the preserving of life Jesus talks about in the second half of this verse is one that happens in the next age. Hence, the verse is as follows:

Whoever [temporarily] finds his life [in this age at the expense of being my follower] will [ultimately] lose it [in the next], and whoever [temporarily] loses his life [in this age] for my sake will [ultimately] find it [in the next].

If this is what Jesus means, then traditional eternal conscious torment/separation, which asserts that the wicked will forever have life in the next age in immortal bodies, is disproven. You cannot simultaneously have your life and lose it(which is what Jesus tells His disciples will happen to them if they "find their life" in this age).

Of course, you could say that Jesus is telling His disciples that if they find their life in this age, they will lose it in this age. But then, His words have no significance to them or anyone, since everyone will die in this age no matter what, regardless of whether you "find" your life, and regardless of whether you are a believer in Jesus! Half of the verse becomes insignificant and even redundant(again, we will all die in this life no matter what, as God has appointed all men to die[Hebrews 9:27], so there's absolutely no point in Jesus telling His disciples this).

However, if you recognize the symmetry between the two halves of this verse, i.e. how Jesus switches from this age to the next in both halves of the verse, Jesus' words are no longer trivial and redundant, but actually make a lot of sense. If you choose to save your life right now at the expense of being a follower of Jesus, you will ultimately lose your life when you are judged in the next age and condemned to the Second Death(making the Second Death the second death that the wicked undergo). However, if you choose to stand up for the Lord Jesus, even to the point of death, when you are resurrected in the next age you will forever have your life, i.e. you will have ultimately found your life, and hence will never die the Second Death, that is, die a second time(hey, that's exactly what Revelation 20:6 says!). Unfortunately, however, if you understand Jesus' words in this way, you cannot also believe in eternal conscious separation. Again, if you are alive in an immortal body, you have life, and you cannot simultaneously have life and lose it, which is what Jesus explicitly says will happen to those who choose to put their own life ahead of Him and the gospel(see Mark 8:35).

Hence my question:

  • How do believers in eternal conscious torment/separation reconcile their belief with Jesus' words in Matthew 10:39?

Addendum #1:

Let's examine Matthew 10:39 one last time.

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

What does Jesus mean by "finding your life" in the first part of verse 39? He means preserving your physical life, correct? He's not talking about preserving your spiritual life, agreed? Yes? Good. What does the "it" in the first part of v.39 refer to? What is the antecedent of "it"? Physical life, correct? Agreed? Yes? Good. So when Jesus says "will lose IT", He is talking about losing your physical life, correct? Agreed? Yes? Good. And so, there are only two options as to when we lose our physical life. Either Jesus is talking about losing it in this age, or about losing it in the next. Now, let's see which of these makes more sense.

(1) Jesus is telling His disciples that if they preserve their life in this age, they will lose it in this age. In this scenario, Jesus' words in the first half of v.39 are redundant, insignificant, trivial, and have no application to His disciples' lives whatsoever, as each and every one of them will die(and have died) regardless of anything they do. Does Jesus ever speak such insignificant words? And if He does, are they ever misleadingly recorded in scripture numerous times throughout all four gospels, as though they are significant when in reality they are not(in addition to Matthew 10:39, see Matthew 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, Luke 17:33, and John 12:25)? Verse 39 is perfectly fine without the words found in its first half as they can be easily ignored; since everyone will lose their lives in this age no matter what, Jesus' words in the first half of v.39 are trivial and have no application to our lives, nor to the lives of those who were listening to Him(and yet, once again, they are recorded in scripture multiple times as though they are not trivial and do have application in our lives!).

(2) Jesus is telling His disciples that if they preserve their life in this age, they will lose it in the next age. Now Jesus' words make sense, especially in their context. If we choose to preserve our lives temporarily in this age at the expense of being a follower of Christ(the context is about being a disciple of Christ and picking up your cross), we will ultimately lose our lives in the coming age and die. However, if we lose our lives temporarily in this age for the sake of Christ and the gospel, we will ultimately preserve our lives in the coming age and live forever.

So, which of these interpretations is most logical? Obviously the second. However, the second interpretation disproves ECT/ECS. How so?

Deductive Argument:

P1: The doctrine of eternal conscious torment/separation asserts that all of the unrighteous are resurrected in physical bodies and will have physical life1 forever in the age to come.

P2: Jesus says that those who preserve their physical lives in this age at the expense of Him and the gospel will lose them in the age to come.

P3: Those who preserve their physical lives in this age at the expense of Christ and the gospel are unrighteous.

P4: It is logically impossible to have something forever and also lose it simultaneously.

P5: Jesus cannot say something false, that is, speak a falsehood.

P6: When the truth value of two propositions being 1 creates a logical impossibility, the propositions contradict each other and are irreconcilable.

P7: If two propositions contradict each other and are irreconcilable, at least one of them must be false(they cannot both be true).

C1: According to ECT/ECS, those who preserve their physical lives in this age at the expense of Christ and the gospel will be resurrected in physical bodies and have physical life forever in the age to come(follows deductively from premises 1 and 3).

C2: According to both ECT/ECS and Jesus' words, those who preserve their physical lives in this age at the expense of Christ and the gospel will be resurrected in physical bodies and have physical life forever in the age to come and will also lose their physical life in the age to come(follows deductively from premise 2 and conclusion 1).

C3: It is logically impossible that those who preserve their physical lives in this age at the expense of Christ and the gospel will be resurrected in physical bodies and have physical life forever in the age to come and will also lose their physical life in the age to come(follows deductively from premise 4).

C4: The proposition that those who preserve their physical lives in this age at the expense of Christ and the gospel will be resurrected in physical bodies and have physical life forever in the age to come and the proposition that those who preserve their physical lives in this age at the expense of Christ and the gospel will lose their physical life in the age to come contradict each other and are irreconcilable and at least one of them must be false(follows deductively from premises 6 and 7, and conclusion 4).

C5: The proposition that those who preserve their physical lives in this age at the expense of Christ and the gospel will lose their physical life in the age to come is true(follows deductively from premises 2 and 5).

C6: The proposition that those who preserve their physical lives in this age at the expense of Christ and the gospel will be resurrected in physical bodies and have physical life forever in the age to come is false(follows deductively from conclusions 4 and 5).

C7: The doctrine of eternal conscious torment/separation is false(follows deductively from conclusions 1 and 6).

:-)

Addendum #2:

There's a lot of talk about the word ψυχή(psuché) in Matthew 10:39. I suppose that people have realized that if the word ψυχή is understood in the ordinary sense of "life", it's game over for ECT/ECS adherents. So, they try to make it mean "soul", which refers to the immaterial, conscious part of a person that lives on after death. Apart from the fact that such an interpretation of the word ψυχή goes against virtually every English Bible translation we have with us right now, such an interpretation also makes no sense. How exactly does one "find", that is, preserve/keep the the immaterial, conscious part of a person that lives on after death? Also, if "finding" is understood as "preserving/keeping alive", then "losing" necessarily refers to "not preserving/keeping alive", i.e. having your "soul"(the immaterial, conscious part of a person that lives on after death) die. Why is that presented as a possibility when, according to the same people that affirm ECT/ECS, the "soul" is immortal and incapable of dying? I suggest that instead of playing word games, we agree with every English Bible translation in the world and understand "ψυχή" as life, and not "soul". Now, what sort of life "ψυχή" refers to, whether physical or spiritual, is open for debate. I don't agree that the word ψυχή(psuché) ever refers to or can refer to "spiritual life" in the New Testament, but I'll grant that to whoever wants to understand the word in that manner here in Matt. 10:39. :)

Addendum #3:

This addendum is dedicated to figuring out if my interpretation of "life" in the first half of Matthew 10:39(the part in bold) is justifiable.

Matthew 10:39 Whoever finds his life[ψυχή] will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

So, what is my interpretation of "life" here? Some have suggested that my interpretation of life is "secular" and "based on consciousness". Well, those can't both be true, since no secular definition of life(as far as I'm aware) includes "consciousness" in their definition. And if you actually read my post, you will see that I don't include the word "consciousness" anywhere in any of my arguments. So, what are the secular definitions of "life"? Merriam-Webster defines "life" as the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body. Oxford Languages defines "life" as the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death. Dictionary.com defines "life" as the condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms, being manifested by growth through metabolism, reproduction, and the power of adaptation to environment through changes originating internally. And Cambridge Dictionary defines "life" as the quality that makes people, animals, and plants different from objects, substances, and things that are dead.

As you can see, no secular definition of "life" is based on consciousness. And, once again, I did not include consciousness anywhere in any of my arguments. However, it is correct that I have defined "life" in the same way as is defined in "secular sources", i.e. the condition or quality that distinguishes a functional, animate being from an inanimate, inert object[e.g. a dead body]. I don't exactly see the problem in this though. First of all, in doing this, I haven't excluded the possibility of another definition of life(such as "spiritual life" or "discipleship"). In fact, I explicitly say in addendum #2 that what sort of "life" being talked about in Matthew 10:39, "whether physical or spiritual, is open for debate". Second of all, NT authors use "secular definitions" constantly. In fact, we rely on their use of "secular definitions" to translate the original Koine Greek of the New Testament. If every time a New Testament author used a word they didn't use a "secular definition" but a definition made up by the Holy Spirit, then we wouldn't be able to understand 99% of everything found in the New Testament, since they wouldn't be speaking Koine Greek, but some made-up version of Koine Greek(obviously, this is preposterous, and no one would suggest this). One example of a New Testament author using the "secular definition" of life is Mark 3:4, where the same word ψυχή(psuché) is used.

Mark 3:4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life[ψυχή] or to kill?” But they were silent.

Jesus is not using some spiritual, out-of-this-world definition of ψυχή. He's using the ordinary, "secular definition" of life. Jesus is asking if it is lawful on the Sabbath to "save life", that is, help preserve the condition or quality that distinguishes a functional, animate being from an inanimate, inert object, or to "kill", that is, deprive/divest someone of the condition or quality that distinguishes a functional, animate being from an inanimate, inert object. It's that simple. Is Jesus committing a sin by using the "secular definition"(btw, people's use of "secular definition" here seems like loaded language to me) of life? No, of course not. So, I implore everyone to stop bringing up the fact that I'm using the "secular definition" of life in my interpretation of Matthew 10:39. It is a red herring. Jesus uses the "secular definition" of life on more the one occasion. And please, stop saying that I'm basing my definition of "life" on consciousness. I have not done so and am not doing so. That is a strawman. Simply stick to what is actually written in my post, and don't strawman me or make red herrings. Thanks! :)

Addendum #4:

This answer here critiques my second premise. He starts by breaking down Matthew 10:39 as follows:

Whoever finds his life [psuche reference A] will lose it [psuche reference B], and whoever loses his life [psuche reference C] for My sake will find it [psuche reference D].

Do you see the problem? He calls the word "it" psuche reference B. Of course, this is not true. The word "it" is a pronoun that is used to refer to a thing previously mentioned, namely, the antecedent. However, the writer does not present it as such. He presents it as a distinct reference to the psuche called psuche reference B, separate from psuche reference A. This is highly misleading and incorrect. The antecedent of "it" is psuche reference A, meaning "it" refers back to psuche reference A, and is not a separate reference to the psuche. However, the writer cannot present it as such, otherwise, it makes his following interpretation of this verse impossible. His interpretation is as follows:

Psuche references A-D are not all references to the life of the body. A&C focus narrowly on physical life within the confines of this world, and B&D focus on spiritual life freed from those bounds, in eternity. A&C are bound by time. B&D are not.

As you can see, his interpretation depends on psuche reference A and psuche reference B being two distinct references to the psuche, but that is obviously wrong. The "it" refers back to the psuche Jesus had previously mentioned, as that is the antecedent of "it". So, "it" can't refer to a psuche that is different from psuche reference A. It's just not possible. It's grammatically impossible. So, if psuche reference A is a reference to "physical life within the confines of this world", then the "it", which refers back to psuche reference A(which is the antecedent), also refers to "physical life within the confines of this world", and not to a separate type of "psuche"(e.g. "spiritual life freed from those bounds, in eternity"). Which makes interpretation #3 impossible(unless you would like to change the fundamental rules of the Greek and English language). This leads us straight back to the dichotomy I presented. Either option 1 or 2. I've shown why option 1 is unreasonable. The writer of this answer added even another reason why option 1 is unreasonable(it could be used to support reincarnation). Not to mention, option 1 is in total disharmony with the context. Please take a look at my analysis of Matthew 10:39 here to see why. Making option 2 the only possible option. And, once again, option 2 disproves ECT.

:-)

Addendum #5:

What does ψυχή mean in Matthew 10:39? I believe a good way to find out is by testing different interpretations of the meaning of ψυχή and taking them to their logical conclusion, and seeing which one of them is in accord with what is stated elsewhere in scripture. There are 5 different interpretations of ψυχή that have been suggested here.

  1. Physical life(by me)

  2. Spiritual life(by @SeanOConnor)

  3. Discipleship(by @MikeBorden)

  4. Soul(by @SpiritRealmInvestigator)

  5. Wordly life of pleasure(by @Andrew Shanks)

"Physical life" has been defined by me as "the condition or quality that distinguishes a functional, animate being from an inanimate, inert object". This definition does not include spiritual beings, only physical beings, and is thus compatible with the belief in post-mortal consciousness. "Spiritual life" has not been explicitly defined by @SeanOConnor, however "spiritual life" has been defined by others. A user named @HoldToTheRod defines "spiritual life" as "communion with God". @SpiritRealmInvestigator has also defined "spiritual life". See the answer here by @SpiritRealmInvestigator. He defines "spiritual eternal life" as "having a relationship with God for eternity". If that is what "spiritual eternal life" is, then simply "spiritual life" must mean "having a relationship with God". This is synonymous with @HoldToTheRod's definition of "spiritual life". So, we will use that definition of "spiritual life". "Discipleship" is simply the state of being a disciple/follower of Jesus Christ. Now, for "soul". @SpiritRealmInvestigator has refused to give his definition of "soul", so I will use the definition of soul that is found in dictionaries, which is also the one ordinary people are familiar with and think of when they hear the word "soul". "Soul" is defined as "the conscious, spiritual part of a person that lives on after death". And finally, "wordly life of pleasure". This simply means the life that (many) unbelievers live, i.e. a life of pleasure and satisfaction without God and Christ. Now, let's plug in each of these definitions of ψυχή into Matthew 10:39 and see which one is most reasonable(for the sake of consistency, we will not have Jesus switch between different meanings of this one word ψυχή within the span of this one sentence). Let's start with no.5 going all the way down.

Matthew 10:39 Whoever finds his ψυχή[wordly life of pleasure] will lose it[his worldly life of pleasure], and whoever loses his ψυχή[worldly life of pleasure] for My sake will find it[his worldly life of pleasure].

So, in the first half of v.39, Jesus tells us that if we find a worldly life of pleasure, we will eventually lose it. Fair enough. Under both ECT and annihilationism, the wicked will cease to have a worldly life of pleasure. And in the latter half of v.39, Jesus is telling us that if we lose our worldly life of pleasure for His sake, we will find our worldly life of pleasure. This position is untenable. There will be pleasure in Heaven, for sure. But it will not be a worldly pleasure. The pleasure we receive will be due to our communion with God and Christ, and with all our fellow believers. That is the opposite of a worldly life of pleasure. Hence, this interpretation of Matthew 10:39 can be ruled out as wrong. Now, onto definition no.4.

Matthew 10:39 Whoever finds his ψυχή[conscious, spiritual part of him that lives on after death] will lose it[his conscious, spiritual part of him that lives on after death], and whoever loses his ψυχή[conscious, spiritual part of him that lives on after death] for My sake will find it[his conscious, spiritual part of him that lives on after death].

Now, what exactly it means to find the immaterial, conscious part of you that lives on after death, I do not know. How does one go about doing that? Notwithstanding that the translation of ψυχή as "soul" in this verse goes against virtually every English Bible translation out there, which all translate ψυχή as "life" in this verse. And what does it mean to "lose" the immaterial, conscious part of you that lives on after death? The word "lose" means "be deprived of or cease to have or retain (something)." This means Jesus is telling His disciple that they will cease to have their soul. How can you lose the immaterial, conscious part of you? If that happens, well, then you'd have to be unconscious! And anyway, the doctrine of ECT/ECS asserts that the wicked will have their "soul"; their immortal "soul" will be inside their likewise immortal bodies(for ECT adherents, all this takes place in the fires of hell). This interpretation of Matthew 10:39 has too many unknown variables(what makes it even worse is that the person who suggested this interpretation has not even defined the term their interpretation is based upon!), goes against virtually every English Bible translation, and disproves the doctrine of ECT anyway. Hence, it can be ruled out as wrong. Now, onto definition no.3.

Matthew 10:39 Whoever finds his ψυχή[discipleship] will lose it[his discipleship], and whoever loses his ψυχή[discipleship] for My sake will find it[his discipleship].

Right off the bat, we see that this interpretation is completely untenable. Jesus says that if we preserve our discipleship with Him, that is, if we keep being His disciple, we will lose our discipleship with Him! And Jesus is also telling us that if we lose our discipleship for His sake, we will eventually find it! How can one stop being a disciple of Christ for Christ's own sake? This would also mean that if someone stops being a disciple of Christ, they will eventually find their discipleship. All of this is at complete odds with the rest of the Bible. Hence, this interpretation can be easily ruled out as wrong. Now, onto definition no.2.

Matthew 10:39 Whoever finds his ψυχή[spiritual life] will lose it[his spiritual life], and whoever loses his ψυχή[spiritual life] for My sake will find it[his spiritual life].

Like interpretation no.3, right of the bat we see that this interpretation is completely untenable. This interpretation would disprove eternal conscious torment/separation, annihilationism, and even universalism! Jesus would be telling His disciples that if they preserve their relationship/communion with God, they will eventually lose it! That is completely at odds with the Christian message and is an utterly impossible interpretation of this verse. This is more than enough to rule this interpretation out as wrong.

Matthew 10:39 Whoever finds his ψυχή[physical life] will lose it[his physical life], and whoever loses his ψυχή[physical life] for My sake will find it[his physical life].

Under this interpretation, Jesus would be telling us that if we preserve our lives now at the expense of being His disciple, we will ultimately lose them; this would be a warning. Jesus would also be giving His disciples an assurance; if they lose their lives for His sake, they will ultimately find them in the next age. This interpretation agrees with the immediate and larger context of v.39, and with what is said elsewhere. See my answer here for a more in-depth analysis. However, as shown by my deductive argument, this interpretation disproves the doctrine of eternal conscious torment/separation.

1. By the way, I've defined the term physical life as the condition or quality that distinguishes a functional, animate being from an inanimate, inert object[e.g. a dead body]. This definition does not include spiritual entities that may be functional and animate. It includes only physical entities that are functional and animate. The traditional doctrine of eternal conscious torment/separation explicitly contends that the wicked are resurrected in functional, animate, physical bodies; they are given embodied existence. If this is true, then, per the definition of physical life, they have physical life. There is no disputing this. ECT asserts that the wicked are given physical life. Simple as that.

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Your argument that writhing in the lake of fire constitutes life is your flawed premise. That's the second death.

That may not comport with your preconception of 'life'; that is, any conscious state, but it fits a natural reading of Rev 20, which has to be examined for any discussion of hell.

When you lose your life, you go to the lake of fire, the second death, which, in both the colloquial idiom and the biblical sense, is no life at all.

The second time you ask 'agreed?', I say, "no, that's not a biblical conception of what life is, that's your secular definition based on consciousness".

Revelation 20:10,14 CSB The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet are, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever....[14] Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.

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    Apr 28 at 0:09
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Addressing the deductive argument


P1: The doctrine of eternal conscious torment/separation asserts that all of the unrighteous are resurrected in immortal bodies and will have physical life forever in the age to come.

Premise 1 is already controversial for several reasons:

  • What is formally meant by "physical life"? Is there any official ECT/ECS source that uses this expression? If so, how do they define it?
  • What is meant by "immortal body"? Does any official ECT/ECS source use this expression? If so, how do they define it?

If I had to write my own (non-official) version of P1, it would be something like this:

P1: ECT/ECS asserts that all of the unrighteous are resurrected in bodies that can withstand eternal punishment/separation and will be conscious of their punishment forever in the age to come.


P2: Jesus says that those who preserve their physical lives in this age at the expense of Him and the gospel will lose them in the age to come.

Again, I don't buy this premise. I'm not convinced that Jesus is necessarily using the concept of "physical life" (whatever that means).

In the Greek the word of interest is ψυχή (psuché). What did Jesus mean to say when he used the word ψυχή? I don't know. We don't have Jesus here to interview him and know what exactly he meant.

So we are only left to guess (educated guesses) and at best make inferences to the best explanation (which are NOT formal proofs by the way).

A Greek Lexicon may be useful here, to get an idea of what Jesus might have wanted to say, but even then, this is prone to error and not an absolute proof.

For instance, https://biblehub.com/greek/5590.htm offers multiple candidate definitions. I'll quote Strong's Concordance as an example:

psuché: breath, the soul
Original Word: ψυχή, ῆς, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
Transliteration: psuché
Phonetic Spelling: (psoo-khay')
Definition: breath, the soul
Usage: (a) the vital breath, breath of life, (b) the human soul, (c) the soul as the seat of affections and will, (d) the self, (e) a human person, an individual.

Thus, an alternative plausible version of premise 2 could be:

P2: Jesus says that those who keep their human soul safe in this age at the expense of Him and the gospel will not keep their human soul safe in the age to come (because of the terrible eternal punishment/separation they will experience).


P3: Those who preserve their physical lives in this age at the expense of Christ and the gospel are unrighteous.

Again, I don't buy the "physical life" interpretation. Alternative wording:

P3: Those who keep their human soul safe in this age at the expense of Christ and the gospel are unrighteous.

Otherwise, I agree with this premise.


P4: It is logically impossible to have something forever and also lose it simultaneously.

I agree.


P5: Every declarative statement made by Jesus that is not symbolic or allegorical is literally true.

This premise sounds somewhat reasonable(?), but it also sounds like a blanket statement prone to be false because of unforeseen counterexamples (typical when one makes blanket, universal claims). It also faces the issue of identifying when a given verse is not symbolic nor allegorical. It also faces the issue of identifying the literal meaning of ambiguous words or expressions, such as psuche, which has a broad semantic range.

In short, this premise sounds too universal, risky, speculative, and hard to verify in practice. Since no conclusive evidence is provided in support of this premise, I see no compelling reason to concede it.


P6: When the truth value of two propositions being 1 creates a logical impossibility, the propositions contradict each other and are irreconcilable.

Agreed.


P7: If two propositions contradict each other and are irreconcilable, at least one of them must be false.

Agreed.


C1: According to ECT/ECS, those who preserve their physical lives in this age at the expense of Christ and the gospel will be resurrected immortal and have physical life forever in the age to come(follows deductively from premises 1 and 3).

Again, I don't buy the "physical life" interpretation (whatever that means). An alternative version of C1:

C1: According to ECT/ECS, those who keep their human soul safe in this age at the expense of Christ and the gospel are resurrected in bodies that can withstand eternal punishment/separation and will be conscious of their punishment forever in the age to come (from P1 & P3).


C2: According to both ECT/ECS and Jesus' words, those who preserve their physical lives in this age at the expense of Christ and the gospel will be resurrected immortal and have physical life forever in the age to come and will also lose their physical life in the age to come(follows deductively from premise 2 and conclusion 1).

Again, I don't buy the "physical life" interpretation (whatever that means). An alternative version of C2:

C2: According to ECT/ECS, those who keep their human soul safe in this age at the expense of Christ and the gospel are resurrected in bodies that can withstand eternal punishment/separation and will be conscious of their punishment forever in the age to come (from C1) AND will NOT keep their human soul safe in the age to come (from P2).

Notice there is no contradiction.


C3: It is logically impossible that those who preserve their physical lives in this age at the expense of Christ and the gospel will be resurrected immortal and have physical life forever in the age to come and will also lose their physical life in the age to come(follows deductively from premise 4).

I agree, but this is irrelevant when different versions of the disputable premises are considered.


C4: The proposition that those who preserve their physical lives in this age at the expense of Christ and the gospel will be resurrected immortal and have physical life forever in the age to come and the proposition that those who preserve their physical lives in this age at the expense of Christ and the gospel will lose their physical life in the age to come contradict each other and are irreconcilable and at least one of them must be false(follows deductively from premises 6 and 7, and conclusion 3).

I agree, but this is irrelevant when different versions of the disputable premises are considered.


C5: The proposition that those who preserve their physical lives in this age at the expense of Christ and the gospel will lose their physical life in the age to come is true(follows deductively from premises 2 and 5).

This deduction is incorrect. Premise 5 says "literally true", not just "true". Moreover, you need to prove first that Matthew 10:39 does not contain neither symbolic nor figurative language. And of course, this relies on premise 5 being true, which might not be the case (see feedback on premise 5 above).


C6: The proposition that those who preserve their physical lives in this age at the expense of Christ and the gospel will be resurrected immortal and have physical life forever in the age to come is false(follows deductively from conclusions 4 and 5).

I agree with the logical validity of this deduction, but the soundness relies on C5 being true, which is on shaky ground (see feedback above), and C4 being true, which is irrelevant when different versions of the disputable premises are considered.


C7: The doctrine of eternal conscious torment/separation is false(follows deductively from conclusions 1 and 6).

On shaky ground and irrelevant when different versions of the disputable premises are considered.


Alternative interpretations of Matthew 10:39


My personal attempt (consistent with ECT/ECS)

If you are willing to endanger the safety of your human soul (i.e. if you are willing to go through terrible experiences, even the destruction of your body) for Christ's sake in this age, you will keep your human soul eternally safe in the age to come.

On the other hand, if you keep your human soul safe in this age at the expense of Christ and the gospel, you will NOT keep your human soul safe in the age to come (because of the terrible eternal punishment/separation you will experience).

Meyer's NT Commentary (consistent with ECT/ECS)

Matthew 10:39. Ψυχήν and αὐτήν have no other meaning than that of soul (Matthew 2:20, Matthew 6:25, Matthew 9:28); but the point lies in the reference of the finding and losing not being the same in the first as in the second half of the verse. “Whoever will have found his soul (by a saving of his life in this world through denying me in those times when life is endangered), will lose it (namely, through the ἀπώλεια, Matthew 7:13, the eternal death at the second coming; comp. Luke 9:24 f.); and whoever will have lost his soul (through the loss of his life in this world in persecution, through an act of self-sacrifice), will find it” (at the resurrection to the eternal ζωή); σωθήσεται, Matthew 10:22. For ἀπόλλ. ψυχήν, comp. Eur. Hec. 21; Anth. Pal. vii. 272. 2. The finding in the first half, accordingly, denotes the saving of the ψυχή, when to all appearance hopelessly endangered from temporal death; while, in the second, it denotes the saving of the ψυχή after it has actually succumbed to death. The former is a finding that issues in eternal death; the latter, one that conducts to eternal life.

36
  • "If you find (i.e. preserve) your life here (in the sense of not being willing to lose your mortal life for Christ's sake), then you fill experience the second death" Except, that's not what the verse says. It says you will lose "IT". What is the IT in question? Your life. What is the "life" in question? Your physical life. If you lose your physical life, then you physically die, thus disproving ECT. Close, but no cigar.
    – Rajesh
    Apr 26 at 23:05
  • 1
    @Rajesh - let's wait for HoldToTheRod's answer then :-). In the meantime, I think an explicit deductive argument showing the logical contradiction would be quite helpful (I've asked questions like that in the past over on BHSE). Apr 26 at 23:12
  • 1
    "let's wait for HoldToTheRod's answer then" Oh I can't wait. Though don't get your hopes up too high. I've grilled him on Matthew 10:28, Luke 13:3; 5, and 2 Peter 2:6, and so far he hasn't been able to come up with any logical explanation of these verses that coheres with ECT/ECS. :>>
    – Rajesh
    Apr 26 at 23:15
  • 1
    @Rajesh (brief comment) you need to prove that the categories "allegorical", "symbolic" and "literally true" cover exhaustively the whole universe of Jesus's sentences, and that the union of the sets "allegorical" and "symbolic" is disjoint with the set "literally true". (Now, no further comments for a good while.) Apr 28 at 2:36
  • 2
    @SpiritRealmInvestigator great dissection of the argument! (I'd upvote but I already did yesterday). The phrase broad semantic range sounds familiar =). Apr 28 at 2:41
6

Whoever finds his life (in this life) shall, at the end of this life, lose his life. But he shall be raised from the dead to give an account.

Once judged, he shall be assigned to the lake of fire, where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.


Whosoever loses his life for Christ's sake, shall suffer persecution, affliction, scorn, temptation and some have even wandered in goatskins, dwelling in caves or even being torn asunder.

But, once raised from the dead, they shall live for ever, in new heavens and a new earth, in the presence of Christ and the angels.


I find no contradiction in these words in comparison to the text quoted above.

6
  • "Whosoever loses his life for Christ's sake, shall suffer persecution, affliction, scorn, temptation and some have even wandered in goatskins, dwelling in caves or even being torn asunder." That's not what the verse says.
    – Rajesh
    Apr 26 at 22:54
  • @Rajesh I am quoting freely from many scriptures.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 26 at 22:55
  • "Whoever finds his life (in this life) shall, at the end of this life, lose his life." Everyone, regardless of anything they do, will, at the end of this life, lose their life. Jesus' words are, under your interpretation, insignificant and redundant and have no application to His disciples' lives whatsoever.
    – Rajesh
    Apr 26 at 22:55
  • "I am quoting freely from many scriptures." That's wonderful, but I asked about Matthew 10:39 specifically.
    – Rajesh
    Apr 26 at 22:56
  • 1
    @Rajesh Please feel free to initiate a chat and we can discuss the finer points there. I prefer not to enter into detailed interchange in comment. Thank you.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 26 at 22:56
5

How do believers in eternal conscious separation/torment reconcile their belief with Jesus' words at Matthew 10:39:-

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

"Whoever finds his life will lose it" - means whoever finds a life of pleasure/satisfaction, etc without Christ being their Lord and Saviour will lose everything and worse when they die and at the Great Day of Judgement.

But "Whoever loses his life for my sake" does not only mean martyrs. It means whoever gives up his own earthly ambitions, whoever gives up the determination to be the king of his own life and submits to King Jesus, putting his trust in our Lord Jesus, giving his life to Him, and submitting to His authority to be ruled by His Word and will, will gain the blessing of true eternal life in Heaven.

It is not, then, about losing the existence of life per se that is being referred to but rather the quality of life that is being gained or lost.

If anyone finds "a good quality of life" without Christ they will soon enough lose that quality of life.

If anyone gives up trying to have - or even, in their own opinion, having - a Christ-less good quality of life for Christ they will gain the greatest quality of life both here and in eternity.

They will gain a real life here on earth.. a life worth living. So that outwardly it might be a life of persecution, but inwardly it has the smile of God, and is a life of rejoicing. As an example, some of the apostles, when they were persecuted by the Sanhedrin, they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for His name (Acts 5:41).

There are terms and conditions to following Christ for salvation:

I add a long quote from Matthew Henry's Commentary (you decide if it materially differs from what I have written!):

"The terms are, that we must prefer Christ:-

First, Above our nearest and dearest relations; father or mother, son or daughter. Between these relations, because there is little room left for envy, there is commonly more room for love, and, therefore, these are instanced, as relations which are most likely to affect us. Children must love their parents, and parents must love their children; but if they love them better than Christ, they are unworthy of him. As we must not be deterred from Christ by the hatred of our relations which he spoke of (v. 21, 35, 36), so we must not be drawn from him, by their love. Christians must be as Levi, who said to his father, I have not seen him, Deut. 33:9.

Secondly, above our ease and safety. We must take up our cross and follow him, else we are not worthy of him. Here observe, 1. They who would follow Christ, must expect their cross and take it up. 2. In taking up the cross, we must follow Christ's example, and bear it as he did. 3. It is a great encouragement to us, when we meet with crosses, that in bearing them we follow Christ, who has showed us the way; and that if we follow him faithfully, he will lead us through sufferings like him, to glory with him.

Thirdly, above life itself, v. 39. He that finds his life shall lose it; he that thinks he had found it when he has saved it, and kept it, by denying Christ, shall lose it in an eternal death; but he that loses his life for Christ's sake, that will part with it rather than deny Christ, shall find it, to his unspeakable advantage, an eternal life. They are best prepared for the life to come, that sit most loose to this present life.

On eternal punishment

If we want to know if the Bible teaches there is a conscious eternal punishment then we should look at other passages, not just ones which we can try to squeeze annihilation out of.

So Mark 9:44 speaks of hell

where their worm dies not and the fire is not quenched which phrase is taken from Isaiah 66:24.

or you can just read a bit further on from Matthew 10:39 to Matthew 13:41-42 :-

The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

And there is Luke 16:19-31, the parable of the Rich Fool who wanted Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and come to him to cool his tongue.

In the days of the New Testament the Pharisees and the people generally (except the Sadducees) believed in conscious, eternal punishment - our Lord would have been very clear to put them right if there is no conscious, eternal punishment.

7
  • Hmm, interesting. So "life"[ψυχή] in this context does not refer to either "spiritual life" or "physical life", but to a life of worldliness without Jesus. And "losing your life[ψυχή]" refers to losing your life of worldliness without Jesus. Interesting. That's different from all the other answers. However, it doesn't really make sense. If "finding life" refers to finding a life of pleasure without Jesus, then "losing it" refers to losing a life of pleasure without Jesus. This means Jesus is promising us that we will eventually have a life with Him if we find a life of pleasure without Him..
    – Rajesh
    Apr 27 at 17:51
  • ...That doesn't make much sense. Plus, the context of v.39 is about persecution and adversity. Losing a life of pleasure/satisfaction can be hard, but it's not really persecution and adversity. However, I appreciate the creativity and your thinking outside the box. +1 :))
    – Rajesh
    Apr 27 at 17:53
  • I don't disagree at all that if we put our trust in our Lord Jesus and give our life to Him we will gain real-life her on earth, a quality of life unlike any other. I 100% agree with that! :) But that's not what v.39 is talking about. "Finding your life" is not a reference to finding a worldly life, but to preserving your physical life (see Luke 17:33). And "losing your life" is not a reference to losing a worldly life, but to losing your physical life. Just before v.39, Jesus tells us that we must "pick up our cross"(an allusion to His death), meaning we need to be willing to die.
    – Rajesh
    Apr 27 at 18:05
  • 1
    If "finding life" refers to finding a life of pleasure without Jesus, then "losing it" refers to losing a life of pleasure without Jesus. This means Jesus is promising us that we will eventually have a life with Him if we find a life of pleasure without Him. "Finding life" means "finding a worldly life". "Losing life" means "losing a worldly life" (of self-will and selfish ambition). In "losing a worldly life" for Christ we gain real eternal life, a life that is not just blissful in eternity but a great blessing here and now because we have God in our lives to help us and bless us. Apr 27 at 18:05
  • Ok, if "life" refers to "worldly life of pleasure", as you say, then "finding life" refers to "finding a worldly life of pleasure", as you say. And "losing life" refers to "losing a worldly life of pleasure", as you say. So, when Jesus says in the latter half of v.39 that if we "lose our life we will find IT", He is telling us that we will gain a worldly life of pleasure! I'm sure you'd agree that in Heaven, we will not have a worldly life of pleasure. Surely, there will be pleasure, but it will not be worldly. Hence, your interpretation, while creative(again, +1), is untenable.
    – Rajesh
    Apr 27 at 18:08
4

Premise 2 surreptitiously slips in a false dichotomy.

Spirit Realm Investigator has offered critiques of the several of the other premises; I think good points are raised there. I'll focus my post principally on premise 2.



Premise 2

Jesus says that those who preserve their physical lives in this age at the expense of Him and the gospel will lose them in the age to come.

Jesus does not say this.

I'll break the verse down as follows:

Whoever finds his life [psuche reference A] will lose it [psuche reference B], and whoever loses his life [psuche reference C] for My sake will find it [psuche reference D].

The thought behind premise 2 is presented in paragraph form in the paragraphs "what", "1", and "2" under "Addendum 1". The minimum criteria needed to defeat a dichotomy is to show that at least 3 possibilities exist:

  1. As stated in the OP, psuche references A-D could all just be referring to the life of the body in mortality, which would make this statement either a) bland or b) an argument for reincarnation (I don't believe in reincarnation).

  2. As stated in the OP, psuche references A-D could all be referring to the life of the body, with A&C focused on here and B&D focused on hereafter.

  3. Psuche references A-D are not all references to the life of the body. A&C focus narrowly on physical life within the confines of this world, and B&D focus on spiritual life freed from those bounds, in eternity. A&C are bound by time. B&D are not.

  • This would in fact reinforce the message of the passage: this life is brief, the next life is not. So either have fun in this life and regret it forever, or endure brief negativity here and get positive results that never end. Because of the unending nature of the next life, it's worth the sacrifices here!
  • The underlying message here is ultimately about priorities. A&C refer to the life actions/priorities chosen in mortality, and B&D focus on their results in the life hereafter. There is no reason, save a priori assumption, to demand that a statement clearly focused on the next life must be strictly physical in nature.

This does not disprove annhilationism (nor am I seeking to do so in this post); this merely shows that there are more than 2 possibilities. Even if we can conceive of an annihilationist interpretation of option 3 above, option 3 leaves open a non-annihilationist interpretation as well.

Other possible interpretations exist; but with 3 possibilities provided, the dichotomy is defeated. If B&D do not refer strictly to the life of the body, premise 2 falls.


Other Critiques

You cannot simultaneously have your life and lose it

You can. Paul did. (See Romans 6:2-11)

--

What does Jesus mean by "finding your life" in the first part of verse 39? He means preserving your physical life, correct?

We do not have to guess; Matthew tells us when he repeats this idea in 16:25

Just prior he defines "losing your life" in the present:

24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Just after he defines "saving your life" in the present:

26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Losing our life in the present means "taking up our cross", whether that means sacrificing our very lives or sacrificing something else (as discussed by Paul in Romans 6), it entails making sacrifices for the cause of Christ.

Saving our life in the present means gaining/prioritizing the things of the world. A modern expression conveying a similar idea is "all the money in the world couldn't get me to do that..." - in other words, there's nothing the world is offering that is better, so Jesus counsels us not to prioritize what the world is offering over what He can give (see also Matt. 6:19-21).

This pericope is not a discourse on the nature of eternity; it is a warning/promise about priorities.

--

Psuche (ψυχή)

I have written more extensively about the different meanings of the word psuche here - it's a term with...to borrow SRI's phrase that he borrowed from me =)...broad semantic range.

Psuche can certainly mean life. But if we are appealing to the unanimity (or at least the very large super-majority) of English translators to tell us what "psuche" means in this pericope, it's worth returning to Matthew 16:

25 For whosoever will save his life (psuche) shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life (psuche) for my sake shall find it.

26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul (psuche)? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul (psuche)?

The same Greek word stands behind all 4--and the majority of English translators render two of the psuche's as "life" and two of the psuche's as "soul". The translators clearly realize there's more going on in this passage than a mere discussion of the life of the physical body.

--

Life/consciousness

I saw hints of a conflation between life & consciousness in the OP, but I will grant such an assumption was never explicitly stated. Along these lines I do, however, find this definition of "to kill" inadequate (because I'm not a mortalist):

to "kill", that is, deprive/divest someone of the condition or quality that distinguishes a functional, animate being from an inanimate, inert object

I believe when a person physically dies, part of their being remains functional & animate.

--

Defining Life

All the cited dictionary definitions explain life, at least in part, by contrasting it with what it's not: dead. Thus, if "dead" can carry multiple meanings, so can "life" or "alive".

My view that:

  • physical life is the union of body & spirit
  • physical death is the separation of body & spirit
  • spiritual life is communion with God
  • spiritual death is separation from God

...is described in more posts on this site & on BHSE than I care to list at the moment. I do not use the terms "immortality" and "eternal life" as synonyms. As used here (and elsewhere), by immortality I mean living forever, and by eternal life I mean a life that is both endless in duration AND godlike in quality.

--

Conclusion

The OP sought a direct response to this question:

How do believers in eternal conscious separation/torment reconcile their belief with Jesus' words at Matthew 10:39?

I believe Jesus is instructing His followers that they will need to make sacrifices for His name if they are to truly be His disciples. To show them why it is worth it, He contrasts the brevity of this life with the endless nature of eternity. My annotations:

Whoever finds his psuche [prioritizes/defines his life by the things of the world or that which is temporary]

will lose it (his psuche)[he will permanently lose both that by which he defined his life AND the opportunity for eternal life] ,

and whoever loses his life for My sake [sacrifices the things of this world, possibly including one's mortal life, but also time, energy, competing priorities, etc. Defines one's life by God's big picture, not the world's myopic picture]

will find it [will have a more fulfilling post-mortal life, including receipt of eternal life]

The standard this post needs to meet is not that an alternative interpretation is true, but that an alternative interpretation is possible. I believe that has been accomplished. My belief in the eternal nature of the soul is not based on this passage, but it is consistent with this passage.



Rebuttal

Addendum 4 in the OP is a response to this post; I will respond to it here.

Which makes interpretation #3 impossible(unless you would like to change the fundamental rules of the Greek and English language)

I readily acknowledge that the OP, who regularly edits & improves my prose, has a sharper eye for editing written English than I do. But if we're interested in the meaning of a Greek text, English grammar is irrelevant.

Greek discussion

Greek is a language capable of being concise and compressed (inflection gives a great deal of syntactic flexibility).

Some useful New Testament examples of compressed passages include: Luke 2:2, John 5:36, 1 Cor. 1:25, and the notoriously puzzling (for first year Greek students) passage found in Luke 6:45a:

English

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil...

Greek

ὁ ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ θησαυροῦ τῆς καρδίας προφέρει τὸ ἀγαθόν, καὶ ὁ πονηρὸς ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ προφέρει τὸ πονηρόν...

I've bolded in English the words that are not found in the Greek text; they are all implied by reference to antecedents. In the last 7 words quoted, "evil" is said three times--is this the same evil each time? No, it's 3 different kinds of evil (evil man, evil treasure of the heart, actions/choices which are evil).

What about the treasure of the heart? It's stated explicitly once and referenced as an antecedent once. Does that mean the same treasure is referred to both times? No, in fact they are opposites.

The word "evil" is used 3 times in one breath to mean 3 different things--in each case the antecedent is clear from the grammar, but the subsequent is not the "same thing" as its antecedent--it's the opposite. The genitive-masculine-singular πονηροῦ clearly refers to "treasure" mentioned earlier in the verse. But it's not the same treasure! It's referring to treasure, not that treasure.

See further discussion of compressed Greek phrases in Nigel Turner's Grammatical Insights into the New Testament pp. 23-24.

Matt. 10:39 is another such compressed passage; Jesus is characteristically concise in this passage, as in so many of His memorable sayings. There is no reason why αὐτός ("it", a reference to psuche) must refer to exactly the same sense or application of psuche previously mentioned--this would be to apply an overly literal word-for-word translation (frequently a bad idea in translation) that is neither required by grammar nor context. (the antecedent of αὐτός is undoubtedly ψυχή, but the Greek language does not behave strictly as described in Addendum 4).

An English idiom may help illustrate this point further: a stitch in time saves nine. Nine what? Even without the aid of Greek inflection, we know this means 9 stitches. But is it a repeated reference to the same stitch over and over again? No, the preventative stitch prevents a more serious tear that will require more & different stitches. The antecedent is "stitch", not that stitch.

In fact, both my proposed interpretation of this passage, and that given in option 2 by the OP, require that αὐτός does not refer to exactly the same sense or application of psuche as just previously mentioned. Otherwise, this passage would literally be promising that when those who follow Jesus die (the end of the physical body's mortal life , He will raise them from the dead to continue the very same life they had before--a life which was both physical & mortal. This is clearly contradicted by Paul in 1 Cor. 15--the resurrection offers a life that is distinct and more glorious than the life before (and while it is certainly physical, it is not mortal). Even on the OP's interpretation, this is not the same psuche.

Thus the OP & I do not disagree that there's a difference between psuche reference A & psuche reference B, rather, we disagree about what that difference is.

When the Bible conveys the message that the wicked will die and the righteous will live (as it does here and in many other places), there is usually more to "life" intended than just physical life...since faithful Christians do die all the time.

The essentials of the statement could also be rendered: "he who gains life will lose life...he who loses life will gain life." Or, to more further acknowledge the nuance of the Greek "he who gains psuche will lose psuche...he who loses psuche will gain psuche." (it isn't translated into English that way because 1) it sounds terrible & 2) it's quite intelligible in English without the redundancy of words. An honest translator will generally only add words to a compressed phrase if it's essential to understand it--it's a judgement call, and endless debates about the meaning of Luke 2:2 suggests we wouldn't all make the same judgement call)

The third "psuche" option I offered to defeat the false dichotomy remains viable.

--

Play on words

For those who contend that this sounds like a play on words, and surely Jesus would never use a play on words, George Howard's work here may be of value. Jesus is a master of word-play and His teachings employ it over & over & over again. A short, pithy saying like Matt. 10:39 is all the more effective & memorable because psuche carries multiple meanings, not in spite of it.

--

Hebrew discussion

To those who consider reliable the remnants of Matthew in Hebrew preserved by Shem Tob, George Howard's careful translation of the Hebrew of Matt. 16:25 may be interesting:

Everyone who wishes to save his soul will lose it for my sake, and he who loses his life in this world for my sake will save his soul for the life of the world to come

13
  • 1
    Great critique of premise 2 and related OP's claims. In short, since the whole argument relies on questionable premises, the final conclusion is questionable. +1 Apr 28 at 13:09
  • Good answer! However, can you clarify what you believe ψυχή refers to in Matt. 10:39? I mean, can you define it? I gave a definition, namely, the condition or quality that distinguishes a functional, animate being from an inanimate, inert object. But you didn't provide a definition for ψυχή. You provided a definition for "finding your ψυχή" and "losing your ψυχή", but you didn't provide a definition for ψυχή. Could you do that please? Again, good answer(although I think you made quite a few mistakes). But you put some thought into it, so good job. :) +1
    – Rajesh
    Apr 28 at 15:07
  • HTTR, just so you know, @Rajesh just added a rebuttal as addendum #4 in the OP. Apr 28 at 15:43
  • About Matthew 16:26 and this statement - "The translators clearly realize there's more going on in this passage than a mere discussion of the life of the physical body". Actually, a lot of translators are consistent and translate ψυχή as "life". If ψυχή means "life" in the previous verse, why would they translate it as something entirely different in the next verse? There were no verse divisions in the original Greek manuscripts. This is all just one continuous declaration by Jesus. Translations that are consistent include: CSB, HCSB, ASV, GNT, ISV, LSV, NAB, NET, NRSV, NHEB, WNT, WEB, YLT.
    – Rajesh
    Apr 28 at 15:58
  • About this: "You can. Paul did. (See Romans 6:2-11)". I'm not sure if this was supposed to be humorous, I really hope so. If you were being serious, well... You do know how the word "it" works, right? You cannot simultaneously have your life and lose IT(the antecedent of "it" is life, which means I'm referring back to "life" with it. I'm not speaking of two different types of life). Paul did lose his life; his life in sin. And he did retain his life; his physical life. Those are two separate types of life. Notice what he says: "How can we who died to sin still live in it?"
    – Rajesh
    Apr 28 at 16:12
3

I would answer that holding the OP's interpretation of what life means in a consistent fashion rules out the possibility of eternal life being received by anyone who has not been martyred. I would also answer that even OP does not maintain such consistency.

OP consistently defines life in this verse as physical life and only physical life and this is made abundantly clear in the Addendum 1 section in particular.

Here is the verse (Matthew 10:39) with parenthetical insertions consistent with OP's definition of life as well as complimentary information from parallel verses (Matthew 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, Luke 17:33, John 12:25):

Whoever finds (wants to save; tries to save; loves) his life (physical life) will lose it (his physical life), and whoever loses (hates) his life (physical life)(in this world) for my sake (and for the gospel) will find (save; preserve; keep) it (his physical life)(for eternal life).

Since OP's question insists that consistency of definition be maintained we have Jesus saying that in order to "find" physical life which lasts for eternity one must lose physical life in the here and now.

Addendum 1 part 1 is abundantly clear that everyone, regardless of what they do, will physically die and so something more must be meant for Jesus' words to be more than "redundant, insignificant, trivial, and have no application".

Addendum 1 part 2 is confusing when consistency is expected: 1) "Jesus is telling His disciples that if they preserve their life in this age" They cannot do so, everyone dies 2) "If we choose to preserve our lives temporarily in this age at the expense of being a follower of Christ(the context is about being a disciple of Christ and picking up your cross)" This context defines life as discipleship rather than physical life 3) "However, if we lose our lives temporarily in this age" Again "lose our lives" changes meaning from "die physically" to "maintain discipleship"

If "loses his life for my sake" merely means physical death then everyone ultimately "finds" eternal physical life.

If "loses his life for my sake" means physical death that is somewhat more than what everyone experiences whether righteous or unrighteous then one must physically die in a special way to ultimately "find" eternal physical life. Even the Apostle John is disqualified here since he apparently physically died normally at an old age.

If OP is correct in the Addendum that endurance in discipleship is contextually what is in view (I believe this to be correct) then "life" takes on a meaning which is significantly different from the "physical life" that is insisted upon in the earlier body of the question.

Matthew 16:24-25 brings clarity and definition:

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 

The emboldened are, contextually, synonyms and show us that life, true and eternal life, is much more than mere physicality; in fact, it transcends physicality. If we plug this biblical definition back into Matthew 10:39 we have:

He that findeth his life (refuses to deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me) shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake (denies himself, and takes up his cross, and follows me) shall find it.

Ah, but what is this it that is either found or lost at the ending of each half of this verse? Does not it reference back to life? Denying self, taking up the cross, and following does not plug in there easily, does it? - This is what I imagine the doubter saying :-)

Well, the contrast in the verse is between two "different" lives and this is critical. Denying self, taking up the cross, and following Christ is His life; it is given as for His sake. Refusing to do the same is my life; it is for my sake.

If you cling to your life you will lose it. If you release your life and cling to His life you will find it. Physicality is only in view here insofar as that is the sphere within which our lives/psuche currently manifest.

2
  • 1
    I know there is one school of thought that maintains that whenever people die physically, they then 'pay' God for their own, personal sins. They base this on misunderstanding Romans 6:23. They seem to think Jesus only 'paid' for Adamic sin in what I can only think must be a theoretical transaction. Anyway, whether this influences the OP's views or not, I do not know, but your answer certainly shows many flaws in the thinking that has been detailed by the OP.
    – Anne
    Apr 27 at 14:38
  • "the OP's interpretation of what life means in a consistent fashion rules out the possibility of eternal life being received by anyone who has not been martyred" This is absurd. Saying, "if you give up your life for me in this age, you will receive eternal life in the next" is not at al saying "unless you give up your life for me in this age, you cannot receive eternal life in the next". This is a strawman of my argument.
    – Rajesh
    Apr 27 at 15:11
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Two part answer, the first addresses the nature of this question and tone in which it is asked/defended. The second is the answer I have to the question, and then I have some comments.

About the Question: Your question asks how do such believers reconcile it. Not how do such believers prove beyond your doubts that they are right and you are wrong.

From your responses, you seem to be hostile to the other interpretations or evidence that counter your point. If you refuse to accept as admissible their premises by which they reach their logical conclusion, then you are not being honest in your debate.

Logical arguments are ones that, assuming the premises are true, would naturally follow to the conclusion. One can be perfectly logically sound, but have a general lack of understanding of which premises actually apply to the situation, and thus be logical but still wrong.

My Answer: No passage can be taken by itself. All scripture informs the rest of scripture. So cherry picking a passage and applying one set of definitions to critical words is how one twists the scripture to their own purposes.

You attempt to define life in this context as physical life, but through out scripture there are references to the physical and the spiritual, and from my Jewish friends, God is a fan of puns.

So let us first focus on Life and life. Life being the spiritual life, and life being the physical life. Physical life is the animation of the clay shell we are have that our soul/spirit resides in or interfaces with to experience the physical realm. Spiritual life is the soul/spirit being in communion with God. When Adam sinned, he instantly died spiritually, and eventually died physically. When we are born, we are born sinners, we are born spiritually dead. So if we seek to deny communion with Christ, deny our association with Him, or deny His Lordship, then we persist in our spiritual death. But while we still have physical life, before the first death (mortal death), we have the ability to, thru Him, bring life to our soul/spirit (its kind of like being on life support, but if life doesn't enter before life support is turned off, there is no recovery). Likewise, if we are willing to lay down our physical life, our temporary mortal treasures, etc. for Him, which we can only truly do if we are following Him and empowered by His Spirit, then His Spirit will preserve our spirit. And when all are reanimated for judgment, only those preserved will have the Spirit and Breath of God, while those who are damned will only have their own reanimated breath. They will have the second death, the eternal separation from God. they will no longer even receive the common blessings ( the rain falls on the just and the unjust - here on the mortal coil, but not in the immortal).

About My Answer This is how it is reconciled to me. I see no contradiction. I cannot prove to you in any way that will satisfy you. But I need not prove it. This is how I reconcile it. Akin to stating my favorite color is blue, until I change my own mind, that is a fact, and no argument from you would change that fact. This is how I and others reconcile it. there maybe be other ways to reconcile it, some may or may not suit your fancy. but this is like asking how does one put their socks on in the morning, left foot first, right foot first, roll them and unroll them or just rip and pull, or skip it entirely. There is no right answer to that.

Alternative I have no reason to argue with one who has a different interpretation of Scripture, so long as core still points to Christ as both necessary and sufficient. Or when someone's arguments tear at the validity of Scripture or the Unity of the Body. So, as long as an opinion is logically sound, and based on Scripture, either in plain reading or in culturally understood reading of the age in which it was written, then I find that acceptable and we can have polite discussion about our differences. If however, one has to create their own definitions or perform some convoluted and confusing presentation to obscure (or ignore other informative elements of Scripture) then I won't settle on it being viable unless and until that interpretation can be explained without confusion such that even the least could understand it as viable.

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It's just a symbolisation of the cycle of manifesting your own depression and joy. You also need to note that in the era this was written to live was existing not living. One person paid for the sins of the many, which Roman Legionnaires were bound by. They'd kill 1 of 10 whether they'd done right or wrong because they knew one would sin eventually and everyone suffers for that.

The philosophy behind it is that you can only ever truly experience joy when there is an impending doom bigger than any single person waiting to happen because it's sincere and real. So if you find your life, you'll inherently be in a position where you are out of a doom scenario (which is where you want to be) but to lose it is to still be in it (where you don't want to be).

So for any man who finds his life is in a position to cause suffering, it would seem Matthew believes every man does. And for any man that loses it is suffering from blindness and must find himself to become his reciprocal. Ultimately its turmoil between being oppressed and staying oppressed for sincere reasons, compared to being in a position of power where you can and do become corrupt. There's truth in that if you look at every historical event, ever.

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