Traditions in the Church work against the truth of God keeping us in blindness and error. We all have them. One such tradition is the teaching of the immortal soul. A Biblical understanding of the make up of man is essential to understand salvation and how it is accomplished and in what order it occurs.
Man must have an immortal soul if he is to experience the punishment of Hell as many suppose. Likewise man must have an immortal soul to experience the bliss of heaven when he dies. Yet scripture tells us that when we die the soul dies along with the body. It is the spirit of man that is immortal for it came from God. Immortality for our soul is the end goal of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ.
Paul prayed that our whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless.
1Th 5:23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1Th 5:24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.
Man is created in the image of God: Spirit, soul and body or in Greek Pneuma, psuchē and sōma.
Scripture tells us that
Gen_2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.(nephesh)
Man is made from the same elements as the earth. We are natural beings that inherit our soulish traits from our genetic parents. We might be a serious type like our grandfather or a lazy easy going type like our great grandfather. The soul is connected to the natural body. Animals have a soul as well, they have personality. It is not immortal in either man or animals but natural and is subject to death. Man became a living soul only after God breathed into us of His Spirit. Without the spirit man dies. In other words without the spirit the soul and body dies.
“Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.“ Eze_18:4
It is the soul that dies. When someone was guilty of breaking God’s law the ultimate punishment was to be put to death. The soul or life was given as payment for their debt of sin in the case of murder for instance.
And also speaking of physical death
“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” Ecc 12:7
“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Gen 3:19
We see here that upon dying a person’s body begins to return to it’s original composition. The body decomposes back to dust or is burned leaving only the dust of ashes. The soul being a part of, and intimately connected with the body dies and is buried with the body. But the spirit of a man returns to God who gave it. The human spirit is from God, and even is a part of God Himself.
When we look at Scripture we see that when someone died they were said to rest with their fathers.
1Ki_14:31 So Rehoboam rested with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the City of David. His mother’s name was Naamah, an Ammonitess. Then Abijam his son reigned in his place.
1Ki_15:24 So Asa rested with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the City of David his father. Then Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place.
1Ki_22:50 And Jehoshaphat rested with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the City of David his father. Then Jehoram his son reigned in his place.
2Ki_8:24 So Joram rested with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the City of David. Then Ahaziah his son reigned in his place.
2Ki_15:38 So Jotham rested with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the City of David his father. Then Ahaz his son reigned in his place.
2Ki_16:20 So Ahaz rested with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the City of David. Then Hezekiah his son reigned in his place.
2Ch_21:1 And Jehoshaphat rested with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the City of David. Then Jehoram his son reigned in his place.
It cannot be said that their spirit was in the ground resting. It is the soul that dies and is buried with the body. It is the person(or soul) that we all knew when they were alive, whether they were a good person(soul) or an evil person(soul) that is buried in the grave.
They(their soul and body) have been laid to rest in Sheol or the grave.
Num 16:32 and the earth openeth her mouth, and swalloweth them, and their houses, and all the men who are for Korah, and all the goods,
Num 16:33 and they go down, they, and all that they have, alive to Sheol, and the earth closeth over them, and they perish from the midst of the assembly;
Num 16:34 and all Israel who are round about them have fled at their voice, for they said, `Lest the earth swallow us;’
Here we see that Korah and those with him were swallowed up in a sinkhole, falling into it alive to their death. The earth opened up beneath them and they went into Sheol- the GRAVE. Their soul and body perished in the grave or pit or sheol…but not in any Hell.
1Sa_2:6 Jehovah putteth to death, and keepeth alive, He bringeth down to Sheol, and bringeth up.
Here we see that God puts the soul to death or he keeps a person (a soul) alive…He brings a person(a soul) down to the grave or to Sheol, and He is able to raise a soul from death or the grave as well as seen with Lazarus and Jesus Himself.
In the grave(or Sheol/Hades) the soul is not conscious but dead..or sleeping or resting in the grave.
Job_14:13 O that in Sheol Thou wouldest conceal me, Hide me till the turning of Thine anger, Set for me a limit, and remember me.
Job wants to be hidden from the dealings of God in Sheol. If Sheol were Hell then he would not want to go there. But Sheol is the Grave and nothing more. Death and the grave is the mercy of God for many to end their suffering. In the Grave or Sheol they (their souls) finally rest. You can see that Job knew and believed that Sheol was the grave where men are laid to rest.
Job 17:16 Will they go down to the gates of Sheol? Shall we have rest together in the dust?”
The wicked and the good went to the grave and were all said to be resting there. The soul of man dies—which Jesus said was sleep. The soul is not immortal, the spirit is.
Joh 11:11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”
Joh 11:12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.”
Joh 11:13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.
Joh 11:14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.
It is very obvious that Jesus thought in line with the Old Testament saints when it came to death, the soul and the grave. Lazarus died. That means his soul has been laid to rest in the grave. Jesus says, He “will wake him up” or rouse him out of sleep. Jesus calls Lazarus “our friend.” It is the mortal soul known to them all as Lazarus, the one Jesus loved, that had died or fallen asleep. The spirit of Lazarus was not known to them being invisible and untouchable.
The picture is of a body wrapped in linen cloths dead four days. Jesus says he is dead and he says he is asleep. He calls with a loud voice Lazarus come forth. Lazarus comes back to life. Once Lazarus was dead his spirit left his body and returned to the Father from whence it had come. His soul was dead or asleep with his body. Jesus calls His spirit to return to his lifeless body and what was dead now lives again.
The spirit is the life source for the soul and body. Even in the case of unregenerated people. When a body gets sick and dies the spirit leaves the body and returns to God. [ read my correction further down in red text] The soul dies with the body and is laid to rest in Sheol or Hades.
Act 2:27 FOR YOU WILL NOT LEAVE MY SOUL IN HADES, NOR WILL YOU ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO SEE CORRUPTION.
Act 2:28 YOU HAVE MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE; YOU WILL MAKE ME FULL OF JOY IN YOUR PRESENCE.’
Act 2:29 “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
David wrote those words quoted by Peter about Jesus in Psalm 16:9-11
But then Peter tells his listeners that David is both dead and buried and his tomb is with us to this day. Tradition tells us that David and all the believing saints are walking around on streets of gold in heaven. Peter disagrees and says that David IS DEAD AND BURIED. This was after the cross and after Pentecost. David is still considered to be dead and buried.
It is David’s soul, his person and his body that is in the grave(Sheol/Hades)awaiting the resurrection from the dead at the end of the Age. His spirit returned to God when he died.
1Ki 2:1 Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying:
1Ki 2:2 “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man.
What way is that? Death! His body and soul was going to return to the earth, but his spirit to God who gave it. (Ecc12:7) Before his death David wanted Solomon to dispense some justice to certain souls.
1Ki 2:9 Now therefore, do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man and know what you ought to do to him; but bring his gray hair down to the grave(Sheol) with blood.”
1Ki 2:10 So David rested with his fathers, and was buried in the City of David.
David “went the way of all the earth” which was to his resting place in Sheol as did his enemies as well. But the spirit of each type of man returned to God who gave it.
He had written about the Christ that God would “not leave his soul in Sheol”(Greek Equivalent Hades) Ps 16
Psa 16:10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
Jesus’ body and soul died and was laid to rest in Sheol (the grave) but God would not allow him to stay dead long enough for his body to return to dust-corruption. Just like Lazarus, Jesus’ S/pirit returned to his lifeless body and He was a living soul(nephesh/psuche) again.
But unlike Lazarus’ experience Jesus ascended to heaven after his sacrifice and returned changed forever in a glorified physical body. It is said of Jesus that he alone possesses immortality. But the church does not believe the word of God.
1Ti 6:16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.
The immortality Jesus possesses is pertaining to His soul. He(his soul) is alive forever more. But the souls of all those who have died since Adam are dead, ie, resting in the grave or in Sheol.
Their spirits have returned to God who gave them. At the resurrection their spirit will be reunited with their soul and body at the Great White Throne.
We have been saved in our spirit but our soul is being saved. It is no use to anyone else around us if the salvation in our spirit does not manifest through our soul and body. It would be like God only sending the Holy Spirit to earth to live amongst us on the outside. He can not be seen or touched and cannot touch us. But God came as a Man filled with the Spirit who tasted fully of our humanity and was subject to all our weaknesses.
The salvation of God was seen in Jesus by His life, His behaviour and His words. Jesus is love personified, Spirit, soul and body working in complete harmony demonstrating God to all around. That is what we are to be as well. The power of that perfect Life is in our spirit and our soul is transformed by obeying the leading of our S/spirit. We(our soul)begin to think like Him and talk like Him and be Him in this world so that all who meet us meet with Him.
If we die not having come to this completion, then we wait for the resurrection so that the process of transformation continues on in the Age to come. Eph 2:7
There are some who have come to completion this side of death, these ones shall rule with Jesus in the Age that is coming. They shall rule and reign with Him teaching and discipling the rest of us who are alive when the Lord returns.
Apostle Peter wrote about the salvation of our souls connected with this discipling process I am talking about.
1Pe 1:8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,
1Pe 1:9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.
1Pe 1:13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
1Pe 1:14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance;
1Pe 1:15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,
1Pe 1:16 because it is written, “BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”
The whole end game, the end result of this salvation that has begun in our spirit is the salvation of our soul and the redemption of our body. Peter urges us to “gird up our minds” and “not conform ourselves to the former lusts as in our ignorance.” The salvation of the soul is none other than complete conformity to Jesus Christ, so that if they see us they see Jesus. We are destined to be like Him in every way, except for His firstborn status as THE Son of God. That can never be bettered or taken from Him. He is eternally the preeminent One.
We are to conform ourselves to Jesus Christ through the obedience of faith. It is not about trying to be like Jesus, but about recognising and acknowledging that in our spirit we are ONE with Jesus already. “It is no longer I that live but Christ that lives in me, and the life I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave His life for me.” Gal 2:20
When we see the truth of who we are in the S/spirit already, we begin to speak by faith (2Cor 4:13) who we are to ourselves and back to the Father.
2Co 3:16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
2Co 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
2Co 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
I know it is hard to receive what I have shared here from Scripture because many preachers and teachers of the word for hundreds of years have said the opposite. The word of God is clear that the soul dies and is in the grave resting or sleeping. It is not in any imagined Hell burning or suffering in torment. Instead the souls of men shall all be raised to life again at the resurrection of all the dead. At that time they shall all bow the knee and confess and declare that Jesus Christ is their personal Lord and Saviour. (Phil 2:10)
There are no souls being tormented right now in any imagined Hell in the centre of the earth. There are instead billions of souls dead or resting in the graves awaiting the sound of the Trumpet of God. Equally true from Scripture as we saw in David’s case, there are millions of souls that believed in Jesus who are asleep or dead in the grave. This grave is Sheol or the nearest equivalent that they could find in Greek- Hades. Sheol is not the Hell that Dante wrote about or Jonathan Edwards preached about or Spurgeon…it is simply the grave.
The souls that are in the grave shall be emptied out of that condition when the Trump of God sounds. No one will be asleep on that day. Hades is the grave and Jesus has the key to unlock the grave and set the prisoners free.
Rev 1:18 I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.
Rev 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.
Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
Rev 20:13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.
Rev 20:14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Rev 20:15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
John sees all the DEAD SOULS …that is all those who have died and who have been in the grave (Hades) in a state of death–that is asleep. These billions of souls are delivered up from the grave to hear His voice just as He said they would.
Joh 5:28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice
Joh 5:29 and come forth— those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
Now this highlights another tradition of blindness in the Church since Augustine’s day – that of the eternal destiny of sinners and believers. I shall look at that next. Just remember God is The Story teller and His story has a happy ending for all mankind. That is why the angel declared
“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10,11
Jesus is indeed the Saviour of all !! Hallelujah!