Rightly Divide the Word of truth - 2 Timothy 2:15
The Adversary is a liar, and the father of it (John 8:44). He started in the Garden of Eden and continues to this very day, deceiving many with the words; “Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). It is understandable for unbelievers to cling to his lie, but God’s saints who study the scriptures should not have fallen prey to Satan’s trap, especially when God earlier said, “You shall die” (Genesis 2:17).
However, it is Satan’s lie that is being proclaimed and believed instead of God’s truth. Just as theology and pagan philosophy pulled the wool over our eyes about “hell,” the same is true of “death.” Around four hundred years before Christ, there was a pagan philosopher who learned from Socrates. His name was Plato and was the author of a book called Phaedo, where the theory of the immortality of the soul originated.
To understand the meaning of soul and its relationship to death, a look at what occurred in the creation of man will be helpful. In Genesis 2:7, God formed man from the soil of the ground. This first step in the creation of man is very important to grasp. Picture in your mind, God forming a human body with all its organs from the soil. Did you notice something? Man is nothing more than a lifeless body! He did not speak, nor could he hear, smell, taste, see or feel! He had no consciousness or sensation whatsoever. What did God do next? He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, which is what? The spirit! So we have a lifeless body plus the spirit. What is the result with the union of the body and the spirit? Man became a living soul! Now the man had all his senses and was aware. He heard God, he ate fruit, he named the living creatures and so forth. God gives life through the spirit. May we stress that He did not breathe the soul into man but the breath of life, the spirit. The chief characteristic of soul is consciousness or sensation and cannot exist without the body and spirit. Ezekiel gives a similar analogy of what occurred at the creation of man. “0 dry bones ... I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live” (Ezekiel 37:4-6).
Plants have life but they are not conscious. Living souls are associated with moving about from place to place being aware of their existence. This is true of animals in Genesis 1:21, referring to “every living moving soul.” When speaking of the term “living soul,” there is a similarity between man and animal as to him being able to move about sensing the things of the world. Paul gave the characteristics of man in his speech to the Athenians. In Acts 17:28 he says, “for in Him [God] we are living and moving and are.” The words “in Him we are living” relates to the spirit. “Moving” refers to the soul. “Are” is the usual word for body. The word “soul” occurs 488 times. 430 times in the Hebrew scriptures and 58 times in the Greek. It is not associated with deathlessness or immortality. It is found with some words that have negative meanings such as “fainting” (Hebrews 12:3), “slain” (Revelation 6:9), “destroy” (Matthew 10:39), and “laying down [dying]” (I John 3:16).
The soul is attached to the senses as the following passages denote, taken from the Authorized Version.
Since the body and food are from the same soil, there is a sensation of physical satisfaction when eating.
Preachers herald the message, “save your souls!” However, Jesus said that whoever may be wanting to save his soul shall be destroying it. Then Jesus said to His disciples: “If anyone is wanting to come after Me, let him renounce himself and pick up his cross and follow Me. For whosoever may be wanting to save his soul shall be destroying it. Yet whoever should be destroying his soul on My account shall be finding it” (Matthew 16:24-25).
Why would Jesus tell anyone to lose their soul? Remember that Jesus proclaimed the kingdom (government) of God on earth, and those who would suffer with Him (pick up his cross) would reign in the coming kingdom, enjoying physical blessings. Those who prefer physical sensations (soul) over following Jesus, will miss the kingdom glory. Paul seldom mentions the word “soul” in his epistles because he was acquainted with no one after soulish desires.
The blood is to the soul as the spirit is to the breath. This analogy has been lost through the English versions. Soul is often translated by the expression “life,” so that the difference between soul and life, as well as soul and spirit, is widely unknown. The activity of the spirit gives life. It gave life to a body at creation and will impart life at the resurrection. English words which have originated from “psuchë,” the Greek word for soul, mistakenly refer to the spirit. For example, psychology deals with the mind, instead of the soulish sensations.
Also, psychic, which really means soulish or sensual, mistakenly indicates “pneumatic,” or spiritual. If soul meant life, Genesis 2:7 would incorrectly read, “man became a living life.”
WHAT IS DEATH
Keeping in mind the order of man’s creation, we can now see what occurs at death. Death is simply a return. The spirit returns to God Who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7), the soul returns to the unseen [sheol or hades] (Psalm 9:17; Acts 2:27,31), the body is soil and returns to the soil (Genesis 3:19). Job says, “For I know that Thou wilt return me to death” (Job 30:23). “If He should take back His spirit to Himself, and gather to Himself His breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust [soil]” (Job 34:14-15). David says, “... when thou takest away their breath, they die and return to their dust [soil]” (Psalm 104:29).
Everything returns to its original condition. Paul speaks of his own death by saying, “the period of my dissolution [not departure] is imminent” (II Timothy 4:6). A return to death is a condition of complete unconsciousness. There was no awareness prior to our birth, and the same is true after we die. The scriptures refer to it as sleeping, where there is no awareness around us. Those who are asleep in death will be awakened at their appointed resurrection. For those of us who sleep straight through the night for eight hours, doesn’t it appear that just a short time has elapsed? Or what about going under anesthesia for an operation? There is no recollection until you wake. The following portions of scripture refer to death as sleeping and as having no consciousness or perception which is the true meaning for sheol or hades.
The following will further help us understand that only the soul is connected with the unseen, not the body or spirit. However, there were two phenomenal instances when the body went down into sheol. The sons of Korah, Dathan and Abiram went down into sheol alive and Jonah found his sheol in the belly of a fish.
Origin Dissolution Component Manifestation
Soil Man Body
God Breath Spirit
Unseen Breath and Body Soul or Sensation
DENYING THE RESURRECTION
Though innocently not realized, anyone who believes Satan’s lie, “you will not die,” or clings to Plato’s pagan theory and the orthodox teaching of the “immortality of the soul,” are denying the resurrection. Some Corinthians said there was no resurrection of the dead. Paul tells them that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ was not roused and vain is your faith for you are still in your sins (I Corinthians 15:12-18). These are pretty strong accusations, but very true to the point. There is no doubt in my mind that you, as a believer, do not deny the resurrection, and are caught in a whirlwind of human traditional teaching.
When a believer dies, and his soul supposedly enters a better life, what’s the purpose of the resurrection? If our spirit has consciousness and is enjoying ecstasy in His divine presence, what need is there for a body promised to us (Philippians 3:21)? Why would Jesus bring Lazarus back to earth from heavenly bliss, raise him up (John 11:43), just so Lazarus could walk the earth again, suffer again and then die again? Remember, there are two ingredients necessary for consciousness and sensation. That would be the body and spirit. At the resurrection, when believers in Christ are awakened out of the death sleep, our bodies will conform to Christ’s. We will be made alive by the spirit and thus we will have consciousness. It is the resurrection from the dead, not from another form of life! Death is the essential prerequisite to resurrection.
Death for the believer is made out to be a blessed happening. Though the loved ones of the departed are grieving, they are told that the deceased have gone home to be with the Lord, as if they are up there somewhere looking down — there is even a tendency to talk to the departed — but the word of God says that death is evil and life is good (Deuteronomy 30:15). God finds no pleasure in the death of anyone, so turn and live (Ezekiel 18:32).
The motion picture industry did not help matters by making movies with ghosts talking and the dead walking about. Some movie titles are so contradicting such as “Night of the Living Dead.” How can you be dead and alive? This may be a harmless thought in a movie, but it is sad when proclaimed from the pulpit. If the dead are consciously alive, then they are not dead at all which makes the resurrection unnecessary.
Then there are the near-death experiences (NDE), where many have testified to be floating about their bodies free of pain and full of energy, or soaring through time and space into a world of colors and music, or passing through a gray mist and cold winds and tunnels with a light at the end. This subject has considerable controversy as scientists argue that NDE can be explained by psychological or physiological processes. It may be a way for people near death to separate themselves from the pain or reality of what they are experiencing. Others believe it is a response from the brain and nervous system. Using various medications, or stimulating the brain, have actually induced NDE-like incidents. Also, if there is a lack of oxygen to the brain coupled with drugs, as is the case in these emergency conditions, the brain responds in unusual ways. Regardless of these findings, which tend to support that there is no death, they are unscriptural.
So...at death, no part of man or the man as a whole enters into any new, strange, or unknown condition. The man came from the soil, and he returns to it. The spirit (breath of life) came from God, and at death it will return to the One Who gave it. And there is nothing that can bring man back from this condition except the experience of resurrection, worked by the One Who is Himself the Resurrection and the Life.
If there were no resurrection of the dead, then death would be the end of man. It would mean the loss of all that he ever was: "For if the dead rise not, . . . . then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." (1 Cor. 15:16, 18).
If it were not for resurrection, death would be man's destruction. God would lose nothing, but man would lose everything. Nothing but resurrection can take man out of the state into which death working in him finally brings him. Our hope is in resurrection, not in death.
If we consider how our Lord ascended into heaven, we would better understand the death and resurrection process.
When our Lord was crucified, died and buried, He waited for His resurrection body. Matthew 28:6 says “He is risen”. After He rose, He then ascended into heaven (Acts 1:11).
By believing that when we die, we immediately enter heaven, is bypassing the process that our risen Savior took. All who die have to wait to hear the voice of the Son of God to be resurrected and judged. (John 5:25-29).