WELCOME TO THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

 

 

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER DEATH?  PART ONE

 

       What happens after physical death is a concern of most humans.  Religion and philosophy provide dozens of perspectives as to this question.  In this series of essays, we will limit our discussion of this issue to the various view points extant within the Christian religious system.  Our discussion will examine the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and the various concepts of hell.  We will discuss what it means to be resurrected from the dead and how this defines our eternal destiny. We will address the critical and difficult issue of what happens to the “unsaved” dead.  Scriptural quotes will be from the NIV unless otherwise indicated.   

       A foundational Christian belief is that through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, we escape the consequences of sin which the scriptures define as death, perishing, and destruction. In writing to the Roman Christians, Apostle Paul shows the contrast between sin producing death on the one hand and eternal life being given as a gift of God through Christ Jesus on the other hand.

       Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in  Christ Jesus our Lord.

       It is interesting that many Christians believe that sin only produces death of the physical body and that within the body is a soul which continues to exist beyond physical death. Many believe the soul is immortal which means it cannot die. Physical death is viewed as cessation of physical life but not cessation of soul life.  The soul is believed to be the real you that lives on after physical death. The soul  is seen as continuing to live either in heavenly bless or suffer eternal conscious torment in a place called hell. 

       A common Christian belief is that faith in the sacrifice of Christ is the only pathway to escaping hell and such faith must be expressed before physical death takes place in order to gain entrance into heaven.  This belief consigns to hell billions of humans who have never had opportunity to express faith in Christ, or failed to respond to such opportunity when it was presented.  This position teaches the “saved” go to heaven when they die and the “unsaved” go to hell.  Interestingly, those who hold to this position often believe a future resurrection to life will take place at a yet future return of Christ.  This would appear to necessitate the immortal saved souls leaving their heavenly abode in order to be resurrected to an eternal life they already have.  

       A variation on this popular teaching is that there exists an intermediate location called purgatory.  It is believed that some souls are not sufficiently free from sin in order to enter heaven immediately but neither are they so sinful as to be destined for hell. Such souls must endure a period of purification in order to achieve the holiness necessary to enter heaven. This view is found in the doctrinal system of the Roman Catholic Church.

      Another belief is that Christians pass from death unto life at the time they accept Christ as savior and thus already have eternal life abiding in them.  Upon physical death these Christians are given a spiritual body and go directly to heaven to be with God. Under this perspective a future resurrection is seen as superfluous as the saved are already with God and there is no need to be resurrected to an eternal life you already possess.  Those who take this position have mixed beliefs as to the fate of the "unsaved" dead.  

       A third belief held by Christians is that when we die we “sleep” in the grave until resurrected to eternal life.  Under this perspective the soul is not seen as immortal but simply as the life component of the physical body which dies and goes to the grave. Hell {Greek Hades in the New Testament (NT) and the Hebrew Sheol in the Old Testament (OT)} is simply seen as the grave where the physical body/soul is buried.

       Some believe three resurrections are identified in the scriptures.  The first resurrection takes place at a yet to occur return of Christ when the “dead in Christ” will rise and be given eternal life along with those “in Christ” who are physically alive at the time.  The second resurrection is seen to occur at the end of an earthly thousand year (millennial) reign of Christ at which time the billions of humans who have died without Christ will be resurrected to physical life and given opportunity to accept Jesus and be saved.  After a period of time, a third resurrection is seen to occur where those who have refused to accept Christ will be resurrected to physical life and, along with presently living incorrigible's, will be thrown into a lake of  fire where they are burned up, never to exist again.  This lake of fire is identified with the Greek Gehenna in the NT which is translated as hell in most English renderings of this word.

      While most Christians believe salvation can only be gained while in the flesh, some believe God will provide salvation opportunity for the unsaved outside the flesh after physical death.  Some who take this position believe temporary remedial punishment may take place for the wicked before being allowed into heaven.  This view is very similar to the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory and this view assumes a person survives physical death as an immortal soul or lives on in some conscious manner after physical death.

       Some take the position that nearly all humans who have ever lived will be ultimately reconciled to God and be given eternal life in heaven.  Some Christians take this a step further and believe all humans, without exception, will be granted salvation.  This overall position is sometimes referred to as universal salvation, universal reconciliation or the doctrine of comprehensive grace.

       The various perspectives on life after death are often a mixture of scriptural concepts and concepts derived from philosophers and other thinkers down through the centuries. Some believe the concept of we having an immortal soul was incorporated into Christianity from the teachings of the philosopher Plato who taught this concept in his work called the Phaedo.  In this series, we will limit our investigation to what the Biblical Scriptures teach on this issue.  We will begin by seeing how the scriptures define soul.

What is the Soul? 

       What is the soul?  Some believe the soul is a non-physical preexisting conscious entity that is placed in the human body at birth and continues to exist after the body dies. Others believe the soul is a non-physical entity created at the birth of a human and continues to live after physical death. Those who take these positions see human souls as being created immortal which means they will live forever and cannot be destroyed.  Upon death of the physical body, the "non-physical" soul is seen as living forever either with God in heaven or with Satan and the demons in hell. 

       Others see the soul as a physical component of the physical body.  Those holding to this perspective see the scriptures teaching the soul is the mortal life of the mortal physical body. This union of mortal soul and mortal body is seen as experiencing cessation of life at physical death but able to be resurrected and/or transformed to immortal life by God because of the Christ event.

      In the Hebrew Scriptures the English word soul is translated from the Hebrew word nehphesh.  The Greek equivalent is pseucheNehphesh appears hundreds of times in the  OT and pseuche appears 105 times in the NT. It is clear from scripture that both animals and humans have soul and are referred to as souls.

        Genesis 1:20:  And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures (nehphesh), and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky." 

       Genesis 1:30: And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground--everything that has the breath of life (nehphesh) in it-I give every green plant for food." 

       Genesis 2:19: Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature (nehphesh), that was its name.

       Genesis 2:7: The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (nehphesh).

       Nehphesh is identified in scripture as the life of both man and beast. The nehphesh becomes alive when given breath and dies when that breath is removed. Both man and animals are seen as having the breath (Hebrew n'shuh-mah) of God and when the n'shuh-mah leaves the nehphesh the nehphesh dies.  We see in scripture that both animals and humans have the n'shuh-mah of God.

       Genesis 2:7 The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed  into his nostrils the breath (Hebrew: n'shuh-mah) of life (nehphesh), and the man became a living being” (nehphesh).

       Genesis 7:21-22: Every living thing that moved on the earth perished-birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath (n'shuh-mah) of life in its nostrils died.

       These passages make it clear that what gives life to the nehphesh is the breath (n'shuh-mah) of God. Once God's breath is removed, the nehphesh dies.  Many scriptures clearly show the human soul can die.  The prophet Ezekiel wrote “the soul (nehphesh) that sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4 and 20). As covered above, Paul wrote, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6;23). Ezekiel clearly says the soul can die.  While Paul doesn't speak of the soul dying, he does speak of death being the wages of sin. In essence he is saying the same thing Ezekiel said. Paul appears to be contrasting eternal death with eternal life. Paul is saying that sin leads to eternal death of the soul while through Christ the soul can live eternally. 

Dead Souls:

       That human souls can be dead or alive is seen in the book of Numbers.  We see in Numbers that the Israelite's were instructed to not go near a dead nehphesh when they had made a vow to the LORD. The context shows it is dead human souls (nehphesh's) being referred to. Some are seen as not being able to keep the Passover because they had been in contact with a dead nehphesh.  In Leviticus, the High Priest is instructed to steer clear of a dead nehphesh, even if it should be his father or mother.

       Numbers 6:6-7: Throughout the period of his separation to the LORD he must not go near a dead body (nehphesh). Even if his own father or mother or brother or sister dies, he must not make himself ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of his separation to God is on his head.    

       Numbers 9:6: But some of them could not celebrate the Passover on that day because they were ceremonially unclean on account of a dead body (nehphesh). So they came to Moses and Aaron that same day.

       Leviticus 21:11: He must not enter a place where there is a dead body (nehphesh). He must not make himself unclean, even for his father or mother.

       We see in the Revelation evidence that souls are not entities experiencing conscious existence after physical death. Here we see souls having been beheaded and later coming back to life.  If these souls came back to life they must have been dead souls. 

       Revelation 20:4: And I saw the souls (pseuche) of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God....They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

The Soul/life is in the Blood:

       The scriptures reveal that soul/life is in the blood of man and beast. When the blood is shed, the soul dies. Jesus died by shedding His blood in order to achieve atonement for mankind.  In a prophecy that appears to be about Christ, the prophet Isaiah records that He would pour out His life (nehphesh) unto death (Isaiah 53:12). In John chapter 10, Jesus speaks of laying down His life (pseuche) for His sheep. Let's look at what God told the Israelite's.

       Leviticus 17:11-14:: For the life (nehphesh) of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life (nehphesh).  Therefore I say to the Israelites, "None of you may eat blood, nor may an alien living among you eat blood."  "Any Israelite or any alien living among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth,  because the life (nehphesh) of every creature (Hebrew bazar which means flesh) is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, "You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life (nehphesh) of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off."  

       Deuteronomy 12:23: But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life (nehphesh) and you must not eat the life (nehphesh) with the meat.

       After the flood God instructed that He was now giving to man not only plants for food but living creatures as well.  However, He ruled that man could not eat the blood of creatures because the life (nehphesh) is the blood.

       Genesis 9:4: But flesh with the life (nehphesh) thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat (KJV).

       Since soul (nehphesh) is said to be in the blood and breath is required to make a soul alive, it would appear that once breath leaves the soul, the soul is dead and the physical body that contains the soul is dead.  The life of the body is dependent on the life of the soul and the life of the soul is dependent on the breath that God provides.  It is instructive that when we breathe, we inhale oxygen which is carried by blood cells to all parts of the body and this is what maintains the life of the body.  When the body stops breathing, life giving oxygen is no longer available and the life (soul) of the body dies.      

       In reviewing the hundreds of scriptures where the word nehphesh appears, it becomes evident that nehphesh is used to simply describe a physical organism, dead or alive. A nehphesh is alive when given the breath of life and is dead when the breath of life is removed. The scriptures make it clear a soul (nehphesh) can be killed and such killing is virtually associated with the death of the blood.  To speak of a dead nehphesh is to speak of dead blood as we see in a passage from Joshua.

       Joshua 20:2-3: "Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses, so that anyone who kills a person (nehphesh) accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood.

       This instruction to Israel clearly shows the association between soul and blood. The writer speaks of killing a nehphesh.  To kill a nehphesh (soul) is to kill the blood as it is the blood that is seen as being avenged.

Nehphesh and atonement:

       The scriptures teach the wages of sin is death.  Death is broadly understood to be cessation of life. Christ shed his blood to atone for our sin and in so doing made restoration of life possible.   Under Old Covenant Israel, the sacrificial system of shedding the blood of animals was established to provide a temporary atonement. It was a temporal atonement because, as the scriptures reveal, the blood of animals could not atone for human sin. There needed to be a human sacrifice. These animal blood shedding sacrifices prefigured the blood shedding sacrifice of Christ which brought about permanent atonement.

       The main point here is that the shedding of blood is the protocol established by God to facilitate atonement. The scriptures identify soul as the life of physical organisms and that life is in the blood and virtually is the blood as scripture reveals. Soul and life mean the same thing. The shedding of blood is the giving up of ones life. When blood is shed as atonement for sin, it is the giving up of one life for the life of another. This is what Christ did.  We can have our life restored because Jesus gave up His life on our behalf. How did Jesus do this?  He shed His blood. Scripture shows life/soul is the blood.  Isaiah, in a prophecy about Christ, shows that Christ poured out his nehphesh. Jesus said He came to give His pseuche as a ransom.  Jesus said He poured out His blood for the forgiveness of sin: 

       Isaiah 53:12: Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life (nehphesh) unto death...  

       Matthew 20:28: ...the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life (pseuche) as a ransom for many.

       Matthew 26:28:This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

      To shed blood is to shed nehphesh because nehphesh is in the blood and actually is the blood as the scriptures clearly show. To shed blood (nehphesh) is to shed ones life. This is why God instructed Israel not to eat blood. God had Israel use life (nehphesh) to facilitate atonement. God told Israel the life of an organism was the nehphesh and to facilitate atonement, life (nehphesh) had to be shed. It was the shedding of the nehphesh of sacrificial animals that prefigured the shedding of the nehphesh/pseuche of Christ that facilitated atonement for our sin. Scripture shows the nehphesh of man and animals are the same. When Christ shed His blood He was giving up his nehphesh just as was true of the lambs that where killed for Passover, which prefigured what Christ did.

       To say that only the body of Jesus died while His soul (pseuche) continued to live on in a disembodied state of being, flies in the face of the protocol God established for facilitating atonement. Atonement demands the death of the soul. It was the death of the soul of Jesus that paid the death penalty for our sin. His life for our life. His soul for our soul. If the soul of Jesus didn't die, atonement did not take place and our sins have not been paid for.

       Scripture defines and identifies soul as the life of the physical body. Christ gave up His life to atone for human sin. The Scriptures make it evident Christ's soul did not survive His physical death as a disembodied entity.  The soul of Christ died and wasn't alive again until Christ was resurrected.  In Acts the second chapter, Peter refers to David's prophetic pronouncement about Christ. 

       Acts 2:31: He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul (pseuche) was not left in hell (Hades), neither his flesh did see corruption (KJV).

       The Greek word translated "soul" in the KJV and NKJV) is pseuche. This word is the equivalent of the Hebrew nehphesh. In the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) pseuche is used to translate nehphesh. Peter is referencing Psalm 16:10 where David speaks of his nehphesh not being left in Sheol.  

       Psalm 16:10: For thou wilt not leave my soul (nehphesh) in hell (Sheol); neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

       As we have seen, nehphesh is defined in scripture as being in the blood or as actually being the blood of physical organisms, both man and animal. Translators use the Greek pseuche to render nehphesh into Greek.  Peter quotes David who sees his nehphesh as not seeing corruption. Therefore, it is the nehphesh/pseuche of Christ that is seen as not seeing corruption. If the pseuche of Jesus, after His death, continued to live on as a conscious disembodied entity, how can it be said His soul did not decay?  How would a disembodied soul be subject to decay?  This observation pretty much negates the idea that the soul survives physical death as a disembodied entity. The implication of Acts 2:31, as quoted from Psalm 16:10, is that if it were not for God resurrecting Jesus, His soul would have decayed. Peter also recites David's prophecy about Christ in Psalm 16:10 in more detail in Acts 2:26-27. 

        Acts 2:26-27: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh (sarx) shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul (pseuche) in hell (Hades), neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption (KJV).

       Here again we see it said of Christ that His soul (nehphesh/pseuche) would not see corruption. A disembodied soul would not have the potential to see corruption. Furthermore we see soul (pseuche) associated with the flesh. The Greek translated "flesh" is sarx and  has the basic meaning of the meaty part of the body. David is quoted as saying his flesh will rest in hope.. Flesh and soul are here closely related with both being seen as avoiding corruption due to not being left in Hades which, as we will see later in this discussion, is simply the grave. 

        In Acts 13, we find Paul saying that Jesus didn't decay because God raised Him from the dead (Verse 34: God raised him from the dead, never to decay."  (Verse 37:"But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay").  

Disembodiment of the soul:

       Some believe when reference is made to a living or dead soul in scripture it is a reference limited to the physical realm.  It is believed scripture is identifying a soul as alive or dead from a physical viewpoint of life and death.  As mentioned above, It is believed there is a spiritual component to soul that survives death of the physical soul and body.  It is this "spiritual" soul that continues to live in a state of disembodiment (a soul without a physical body). The soul is seen as a conscious disembodied entity that is the "real person" that continues to live on after death of the body.  Nowhere, however, does scripture speak of disembodied souls. The concept of disembodied souls is foreign to scripture. It is a construct of pagan pholosophy.

       In view of the scriptural identification of soul as being the blood or being in the blood of physical organisms, there is no scriptural reason to see the soul as a disembodied entity that survives the death of the physical body.  Scripture shows that both man and animals have soul. Upon death, the soul and body of both man and animals return to the dust from which they were made.  Soul simply appears to be the blood component of the physical body through which the breath of life operates to maintain the life of an organism. This being the case, soul is seen as being the life of the body.  When this life (soul) of the body is no longer supported by the breath of life, both body and soul are dead.

       In Scripture we see nehphesh and pseuche used hundreds of times to refer to mortal humans and sometimes animals. Humans are referred to as nehphesh and pseuche only in relation to the physical realm and the dynamics of physical life.  The fact these words are used at times to refer to dead humans shows these words pertain to the mortal, physical realm. Nowhere in scripture are these words used to refer to human immortality or activity in a non-physical realm.  Having said this, it should be noted that nehphesh is sometimes used in reference to God.  For example, God is seen as having nehphesh (Leviticus 26:30).  Does this mean God has blood?  Probably not. It is simply referring to the intrinsic immortal life of God.  For humans and animals, however, nehphesh is clearly associated in scripture with the life of the organism which is seen as being in the blood. Nothing in scripture gives evidence to a human soul surviving death as a disembodied entity.    

Saul, the medium and the prophet Samuel:  

       In 1 Samuel 28 is the account of Saul visiting a medium who appears to bring the dead prophet Samuel back to life. Some believe this account demonstrates that the soul survives the death of the physical body. 

       The Gesenius' Hebrew Lexicon defines the Hebrew word rendered into English as “medium” as someone who has a “familiar spirit”  This Lexicon defines a "familiar spirit" as referring to someone being demon possessed.  The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) translates the Hebrew for “medium” into a Greek word that pretty much means a ventriloquist.  A ventriloquist is someone who impersonates someone else.

       1 Samuel 28:5 indicates Saul was terrified when he saw the Philistine army.  Verse 6 shows Saul inquired of the Lord and the prophets as to what to do but got no answer.  Saul then decided to consult a medium who he asked to bring up the Prophet Samuel.   Verse 13 records the medium saw Samuel  but when asked by Saul what she saw she replied it was a spirit (Hebrew: elohim) coming out of the ground looking like an old man in a robe.  Elohim is a Hebrew plural which means “gods” or “plenitude of might.”  Scripture does not record that the medium identified the "spirit" she saw as being  Samuel.

       1 Samuel 28: 13-15a: The woman said, "I see a spirit coming up out of the ground."
"What does he look like?" he asked.   "An old man wearing a robe is coming up," she said.   Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.  Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?"

       Verse 15 indicates Samuel talked to Saul.  The medium says she saw an old man in a robe and Saul believes it was Samuel.  How can we know it actually was Samuel the medium saw and that Saul correctly identified the "spirit" the medium saw as being Samuel?  Scripture shows the medium saw “elohim” coming out of the ground.  Since mediums were believed to be possessed by demons and the Hebrew elohim is sometimes used to describe beings of power other than YHWH, how can we be sure it wasn’t a demon masquerading as Samuel?  

       The fact a medium is involved here (mediums were outlawed in Israel) should raise a huge red flag as to what was actually going on.  Use of this account as a “proof text” to show that the human nehphesh survives physical death as a disembodied entity is unwarranted.  Saul supposed communication with the deceased Samuel through a medium cannot be used as a proof text for the existence of disembodied nehphesh's for several reasons.

       The medium, being a medium, could have been deceiving Saul or was herself being deceived by a demon who was impersonating Samuel.  Remember, mediums were believed to have “familiar spirits.”  Mediums are known to be impersonators.  That’s what they do. Secondly, the Hebrew word nehphesh is not mentioned in this account. Therefore, it should not be assumed that even if Samuel was alive in some disembodied state of being that it was his nehphesh (soul) that survived the death of his physical body. 

       As already discussed, the soul is the life of the physical body and is seen to be in the blood and actually be the blood of physical organisms. The scriptures clearly reveal that souls die. Death is defined as cessation of life.  If a soul dies, it ceases to be alive. Therefore, to postulate that the soul survives death of the physical body as a disembodied entity is contrary to the whole of scripture which shows that souls die. 

Soul in the New Testament:

       There are New Testament scriptures that clearly show the human soul can be destroyed and immortality is something we humans seek after and not something we are born with.  Immortality is available to us only because of what Christ accomplished on the cross.    

      Matthew 10:28: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul (pseuche). Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul (pseuche) and body in hell (Gehenna).

       Matthew 16:25: For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul (pseuche)?" (KJV).

        1 Peter 1:9: for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls (pseuche).

        The indication in Matthew 10:28 is that a soul can be destroyed. The implication is that while a human body can be killed by man, man cannot kill the life of a man in any final sense.  Only God can do that. The soul (life) can only be permanently destroyed by God. If a soul can be destroyed, it is not intrinsically immortal.  Matthew 16:25 speaks of a soul being lost.  Paul speaks of those who had fallen asleep in Christ being lost if not for the resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:18). Peter speaks of our souls being saved. Saved from what?  Saved from death. These scriptural passages tell us the soul is not created immortal.  It can and does die. It was the death of the soul of Christ and the subsequent resurrection of Christ's soul that makes it possibly for our dead souls to be restored to life.

       Matthew 20:28: ...the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life (pseuche) as a ransom for many.

       1 John 3;16: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life (pseuche) for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

Summery:

      As covered above, it is apparent from the scriptures that soul is the life of the physical body for both animals and humans.  Soul, in association with the breath of life, is what gives life to the body. When the breath of life returns to God, the soul and body die. Soul is a component of the blood which is part of the physiology of both man and animals.  Genesis 9:4 and Deuteronomy 12:23 virtually define soul as being the blood. This being the case, soul does not continue upon physical death as an immortal, conscious and cognitive entity.  Soul is not an entity unto itself that continues to exist once the breath of life is removed. Soul, when activated by breath, gives life to the physical body of both man and animal. Soul does not function independent of its association with a body.  As already stated, soul, in association with the breath given by God, is what gives life to the body.  Death of the soul occurs when the breath of life leaves the body and returns to God who gave it.   

       The scriptures show human life is made up of body, soul and spirit.  This association of body, soul and spirit ceases to exist at death. The body and soul return to the dust from which they are made. The spirit returns to God who gave it. God can reestablish the union between the physical body, soul and the spirit.  This is seen in the various resurrections of humans recorded in scripture. God can reestablish union of body, soul and spirit to create a non-physical entity having immortality. Christ exhibited this new dimension of existence after His resurrection as it is apparent his physical soul and body had been transformed into a spiritual body that could appear and disappear at will.  While Christ was able to manifest Himself as a physical body, the behavior He displayed subsequent to His resurrection shows He had a new kind of life.

Spirit in Man:

       While I discuss the "spirit in man" in more detail in part two of this series, I need to touch on it here in conjunction with our discussion of the soul.  The soul appears to die when the breath that enlivens soul leaves the body. When the soul dies the body dies as it is the soul in conjunction with the breath from God that gives life to the body. Remember, soul is the combination of the breath of God and the blood of the body. When the breath leaves the body, the blood can no longer give life to the body.

       The spirit in man appears to be associated with the breath God gives to man and is seen as returning to God upon physical death.

       Ecclesiastes 12:7: And the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

      It is instructive that when Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead, it's recorded that her spirit returned and she got up (Luke 8:55). The indication is that the girls spirit was reunited with her soul and body.

       Nowhere do the scriptures say the soul returns to God. Scripture only speaks of the spirit returning to God.  Scripture indicates both humans and animals have spirit.  In Ecclesiastics 3:21,  Solomon asks the question, "Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal  goes down into the earth?"   Spirit appears to signify more than the breath that unites with the soul to give life to the physical body. The spirit appears to be associated with the physical brain and the cognitive function of a physical organism. Paul said this about the spirit in man.

       1 Corinthians 2:11: For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him?

       It is the spirit in man that appears to give man the ability to think and reason. In speaking about death, David said the following:      

       Psalm 146:4: When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.

       Could it be the spirit in man holds the permanent record of mans life and all he does while a physical Being and it is this information God uses in providing man with a transformed spiritual body. This brings up the question most Christians avoid talking about.  Since scriptures indicates only those who "accept Christ" are saved from eternal death and given a transformed spiritual body, where does that leave the vast majority of the human race who have not "accepted Christ" as savior? 

      A major issue we will deal with as we proceed with this series is whether God permanently destroys any of the humans He has created or does God facilitate reconciliation and eternal life for all humans. What do the scriptures mean when speaking of the souls death or destruction?  Is destruction of the soul a permanent or temporary event?  Does it involve conscious punishment for the "unsaved" dead in a place called hell or in some other location?  Does it mean annihilation of the "unsaved" dead? 

       Since scripture gives emphasis to the sacrifice of Christ being for the sins of the world, how does this coordinate with the fact that the vast majority of the world who have lived and died  appear to be "unsaved" by scriptural standards.  I believe this is an issue that must be addressed and we will address it in this series.  

Immortality is something we seek:

       Immortality is not something we intrinsically possess.  Nowhere do the scriptures teach us that humans have inherent immortality.  You will not find the phrase "immortal soul" anywhere in scripture. In Genesis 2:17, God instructed Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and if he did he would die.  This shows Adam was not created immortal. He could die. The scriptures show immortality is something we seek, which means we don’t have it inherently.  It is shown as something made available through Christ.

       Romans 2:7: To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.

       I Corinthians 15: 52-54:  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."

       I Timothy 1:10: It has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

       2 Corinthians 5:4: For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

       In these passages of scripture, immortality/life is contrasted with mortality and death.  Scripture shows that Christ destroyed death through His crucifixion and resurrection. As a result of Christ's sacrifice, immortality is seen as being brought to light.  What kind of death has been destroyed?   Physical death is not destroyed as it is obvious we all physically die. Physical death continues as it always has. Yet Christ indicated we can pass from death unto eternal life now while in our present physical bodies.

     John 5:24.  "I tell you the truth; whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 

    John 8:51.  I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death." 

    John 11:26: Whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" 

        Those to whom Christ was speaking all physically died. Yet Christ told them that if they believed on Him and kept his word they would never die.  It would appear Jesus is speaking of spiritual life and death in these passages and so is Paul in the 1 Timothy passage.  Spiritual death is generally viewed as separation from God. The death and resurrection of Jesus has facilitated reconciliation with God. Will such reconciliation first be realized at a yet future resurrection, or can it be realized now?   Is such reconciliation going to be available to all of humanity at some point or is it only available to those who make the right choices in this life (Arminianism) or those who are specially chosen by God for eternal life (Calvinism). {See my series of essays on predestination and freewill}

       What actually happens after we physically die?  It would appear we do not have inherent immortality.  Any immortality we have is given to us at some point after human birth. Immortality appears to be only associated with the granting of eternal life to live with God. There is no scriptural teaching that immortality is granted to the “unsaved" dead.   This being the case, there is no reason to believe the “unsaved” dead will be assigned to eternal (immortal) conscious punishment. 

       If granted immortality is the only kind of immortality available, are those granted such immortality immediately whisked off to be with God in heaven upon physical death or do we “sleep” in the grave until a future resurrection at which time immortality is granted.  Is immortality granted at the time we accept Christ as savior as Jesus appears to be saying in the scriptures quoted from John?  When is our eternal destiny determined?  Are the "unsaved dead" eternally punished in "hell" or annihilated in the "lake of fire" with no opportunity for salvation?  Will all humans ultimately be given opportunity to receive and spend eternal life with God?  If so, when, where and how does this happen?  We will continue this discussion in Part Two by considering the issue of hell.

PART TWO