John 12:24-25 (NASB):

24 Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 The one who loves his life (Lit soul) loses it, and the one who hates his life (Lit soul) in this world will keep it to (Or for) eternal life.

Matthew 16:26 (NASB):

26 For what good will it do a person if he gains the whole world, but forfeits (I.e., suffers the loss of) his soul? Or what will a person give in exchange for his soul?

In both passages Jesus seems to be talking about the same idea: that a person who lives selfishly, if they do not repent and change, will end up losing their life/soul. What does this mean? Does it mean that selfish people will cease to exist?

What happens when a person loses their "life"/"soul"?

Related: What is the difference between ζωὴ and ψυχὴ?

  • Nowhere does it say about religion or believer or unbeliever as far I remember or see. It simply talks about "anyone".
    – Michael16
    Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 7:04
  • @Michael16 - yes, you are right, edited accordingly.
    – user38524
    Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 7:08

2 Answers 2


You're trying to read too much into the verses.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:24–25, ESV)

  1. The farmer must give up a grain of wheat to be destroyed in the ground for it to sprout and grow many more grains of wheat.

  2. Life is passing by and not something we can hold on to. It will soon be gone, but when we spend it on Christ, we gain it back as eternal life.

What will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life? (Matt. 16:26, HCSV)

  1. The logic is simple. People would spend all that they have, even go into huge debt, in the hope it will pay for the cure of a fatal illness. Possessions are worthless if one dies.

There is no intent to describe what afterlife exists for the lost.

Look at these verses with ψυχή.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matt 6:25, ESV)

28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:28, ESV)

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11, ESV)

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. (John 10:17, ESV)

Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” (John 13:37, ESV)

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13, ESV)

Then I’ll say to myself [τῇ ψυχῇ μου], “You [ψυχή] have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.” ’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life [τὴν ψυχήν σου] is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared—whose will they be?’ (Luke 12:19–20, HCSV)

  • Are you saying that, when Jesus said: “Whoever loves his life loses it…” by such a statement we can’t discern any more clear exegetical details of the afterlife? Correct?
    – Cork88
    Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 0:49
  • @Cork88 Yes. The way terms are used for the afterlife requires putting the entire Bible together rather than depending on a single verse like this.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 2:34
  • I wholeheartedly agree. Thanks for the clarification.
    – Cork88
    Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 2:35

Note the somewhat interpretive translation of the NLT of John 12:25 -

Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing [lit: "hate"] for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.

Recall that we must allow for the Hebraism of "hate" meaning not love supremely here. This is a common Hebrew idiom of hyperbole. Note the very well-known example found in Luke 14:26 -

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be My disciple."

Jesus is NOT encouraging people to hate their immediate relatives, but simply to love God and Jesus more than these.

Back to John 12:25 - the idiom is now rather simple - Jesus is making a distinction between the earthly existence and the eternal life we have in Jesus - if we love the things of this world, we cannot enter heaven.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15

That is, loving one's life/soul above God is equivalent to loving this world and all its "pleasures" etc, which unfits the person for heaven. However, if a person loves God supremley (more than one's live/soul) then the person gains eternal life.

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