“The Spirit, The Soul, & The Body” series: (post #2)
We’re in the middle of a series entitled “The Spirit, The Soul, & The Body.” In my last post, I talked about man’s spirit. With this post I want to say some things about his soul.
I probably should begin by pointing out that some people teach that the “spirit” and the “soul” are simply interchangeable terms. For you theological experts out there, this view of man is known as the dichotomist view. As I study the Bible, though, I find that scripture really does differentiate between the two. For example, 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12 both make a point of listing each one separately. Therefore, I find myself in agreement with those who hold to the trichotomist view of man.
Actually, the fact of the matter is that each person doesn’t have a soul so much as each person is a soul. Consider the following passages (all references from the N.K.J.V.):
1. Genesis 2:7 says: 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 nephesh (the Hebrew word for “soul”).
2. Genesis 12:5 describes the servants that Abram had acquired in Haran as “the souls (nephesh) whom they had acquired.” This is just one of numerous places in the Old Testament where groups of people are referred to as groups of “souls.”
3. 1 Peter 3:20 says that eight “souls” were saved by way of Noah’s ark.
4. James 5:20 talks about saving a “soul” from death.
5. Romans 13:1 commands that every “soul” be subject to the governing authorities. Obviously, this means that every “person” should be subject to the governing authorities.
6. In Revelation 6:9, John sees heaven’s altar and under it the “souls” of many martyrs. Then, in 6:10, he hears those souls actually speak.
7. In Revelation 20:4, John sees the “souls” of those who had been martyred for Jesus during the Tribulation period.
When you understand that each person is a soul, you’ll understand how the Hebrew behind Amos 6:8 can rightly employ the word nephash. That verse says: “The Lord God has sworn by Himself (nephash)…” (N.K.J.V.). The point is that God Himself is a soul. Furthermore, you’ll also understand why the Bible talks about the need for the human soul to get saved. You see, the term “soul saving” is just another way of saying “person saving.” Passages that speak of “the saving of the soul” are Hebrews 10:39; James 1:21; and 1 Peter 1:9.
For the record, I should also mention that creatures and animals are also “souls” in the strictest technical sense. Verses such as Genesis 1:21,24; 2:19; and 9:10,12,15,16 all use the Hebrew word nephesh and translate it as “creatures.” Unlike man, however, this doesn’t mean that creatures go to any kind of afterlife. Believe me, I like to think of my favorite dog, Tramp, as being out there in eternity waiting for me, but the Bible really doesn’t teach that he is.
But where does the soul of the individual go in the afterlife? I mean, since the soul is eternal it must go somewhere, right? Well, first let me say that, like the spirit, the soul immediately departs from the body at death. Genesis 35:18 describes Rachel’s death in this way:
And so it was, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-Oni; but his father called him Benjamin. (N.K.J.V.)
Likewise, 1 Kings 17:21-22 describes Elijah resurrecting the son of the widow of Zarephath as follows:
And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.” Then the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived. (N.K.J.V.)
There is, however, a serious difference concerning the spirit’s departure and the soul’s departure. As I said in my previous post, each person’s spirit returns to God at death (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The soul, on the other hand, passes on to one of two locations. It either goes to a place of eternal salvation with God or a place of eternal damnation apart from him. The proof texts here are: Luke 16:19-31; Acts 2:27,31; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Matthew 5:11-12; Romans 8:16-18; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Matthew 7:21-23; Matthew 25:41; and Romans 2:5-9.
And so, when everything is said and done, the main thing that you need to pull from all this is that you are a soul and you are going to spend eternity either with God in perfect bliss or separated from Him in indescribable torment. And the deciding factor on where you end up is your belief in or lack of belief in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. 1 Peter 2:24-25 says this to Christians:
who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (N.K.J.V., emphasis mine)
I’m happy to report that Jesus really is the Shepherd and Overseer of my soul. But I wonder, can the same be said of your soul? That’s a question you need to make sure you can answer in the right way because there is no more important one in all eternity. You see, your soul is the real “you,” and the real “you” is going to spend eternity either in perfect bliss with Jesus or in perfect torment without Him. That’s serious business, and you are the only person (soul) who can get it settled correctly.