25/12/97 No. 4209

Body, Soul & Spirit


Many Christians have been led to believe that when their body dies their “soul” or “spirit” continues living and is immortal.  This is incorrect.  Humans do not have a dual nature, with one part surviving the death of the other.  When the human body dies we cease to exist as a living being, and our only hope is a resurrection to life again, when we will effectively be created again by God, and given a different body, some a spiritual body and some a human body.  The apostle Paul makes this clear when he says “if there is no resurrection of the dead, then ... [the dead] in Christ are perished” (1 Cor 15:13-18).

Jesus made it clear that “that which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6), confirming what God said to Adam “...till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust thou shall return” (Gen 3:19).

The Scriptures state that “God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Gen 2:7).  Adam was not given a soul, he BECAME a living soul after God caused his physical body to start functioning.  The word “soul” is translated from the Hebrew word “nephesh”, which means a breathing creature (man or animal), and it does not refer to a conscious entity that is separate from the human body.

This same Hebrew word that is translated as soul is applied to animals also, but this is not commonly known because it is often translated as “life” or “creature” rather than as “soul”, e.g. “And God created every living creature {nephesh} that moveth” (Gen 1:21), “And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life {nephesh}” (Gen 1:30).  The following verses also confirm that man is no different from the animals, and that just as animals do not have an immortal soul, neither do we :

Gen 7:21-22 “¶ And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: all in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.”

Ecc 3:18-20  “I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.  For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath {ruach}; so that a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast: for all is vanity.  All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.”

Many are taught that the human soul is immortal, but it becomes clear that this is not so when we read “What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul {nephesh} from the hand of the grave?” (Ps 89:48) and “The soul {nephesh} that sinneth, it shall die” (Eze 18:20).

It is also clear that the soul is not a conscious entity that can survive when separated from the body when we read “For the life {nephesh} of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls {nephesh}: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul {nephesh}” and “For it is the life {nephesh} of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life {nephesh} thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life {nephesh} of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off” (Lev 17:11,14).  Blood is certainly not an immortal substance, so neither can the soul be, neither can it survive the death of the body.

The soul is presumably equated to blood because the vitality of life resides in the blood.  The sacrificial system of killing an animal and sprinkling its blood upon the altar indicated that a soul needed to be sacrificed to atone for the sins of another soul, looking forward to the sacrifice of Jesus’ perfect soul to atone for the perfect soul of Adam.

The Bible refers to the human death as the death of the soul, about thirteen times, e.g. “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead {nephesh}” (Lev 19:29), “All the days that he separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body {nephesh}.” (Num 6:6), “Whosoever toucheth the dead body {nephesh} of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the LORD;” (Num 19:13).

Some quote Rev 6:9-11 as evidence that Christians continue to have a conscious existence in heaven after the death of their bodies - “I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God”.  However, like most of the book of Revelation, this is symbolic language.  The souls of martyrs are not living in heaven, squeezed together at the base of an altar!  In the Old Testament sacrificial system, the blood of animals was poured out at the base of the altar of burnt offerings, and as we have seen the soul is in the blood.  Therefore the souls of the martyrs are seen under the altar, signifying that symbolically they had been sacrificed upon the heavenly altar and their blood poured at its base.

This passage also says that “it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”  They are thus being told that they must remain resting (i.e. dead) for a while longer.  We are later told in Rev 20:4,5 (RSV) “I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. ... They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years”, “This is the first resurrection.”  This confirms that the souls who were symbolically at the base of the altar were dead, and that they will be brought to life in the first resurrection.

The word “spirit” is mostly a translation of the Hebrew word “ruach” in the Old Testament and the Greek word “pneuma” in the New Testament.  Ruach primarily means wind, and secondarily it is applied to any invisible power, such as breath, mind, will, etc..  In connection to God it signifies that he is powerful and invisible.  It is applied to angelic spirit beings because they too have power and are invisible.  It is applied to the human mind, thoughts and will, because these mental powers are invisible.  It is applied to words because they are invisible and can be powerful (e.g. Jesus said “It is the spirit that quickeneth [gives life]; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” - John 6:63).

This helps us to see the truth that God’s Holy Spirit refers to God’s invisible power in action, and does not refer to a separate person or being which is at the same time still part of God, as the confusing Trinity teachings would have us believe!  We can then also correctly interpret the many passages which refer to people being filled with the spirit of God, or having the Holy Spirit upon them, as people being under the influence or power of God.  We can also interpret Luke 1:35 and Matt 1:20 to correctly deduce that God is the father of Jesus, rather than the Trinitarian Holy Spirit being the father! :

“The Holy Ghost {pneuma} shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35), “fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” (Matt 1:20).

Article by Keith Robichaud, Bournemouth