- Berean Bible Society - https://www.bereanbiblesociety.org -

Part 63: Are the Dead Conscious? — Between Death and Resurrection

The Soul of Man

All Bible Christians believe that the Bible is the living Word of the living God; that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” II Timothy 3:16.

All Christians are agreed as to the virgin birth and the eternal Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are agreed that the unsaved man is “in Adam”; in sin; dead in trespasses and sins; impotent, helpless, and irrevocably lost apart from the grace of God and faith in the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ. This redemptive work of Christ means His once-for-all sacrifice on the cross of Calvary. His death, burial and resurrection, His appearing in the presence of God for believers, and His coming again to redeem the bodies of those who are saved by grace through faith.

It is to be deplored that even spiritual Christians are disagreed as to some other Bible doctrines such as the eternal security of those who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, the millennium. Holy Spirit and water baptism, concerning the sign-gift’s of I Corinthians 12:8 to 11, spiritual healing for the body, and other truths.

Christians greatly err when they magnify some personal religious experiences and interpret the Bible to agree with those experiences, or when they substitute human reasoning influenced by personal desire or preference for God’s principle of diligent and spiritual Bible study, comparing spiritual with spiritual, and “rightly dividing the Word of truth.” II Timothy 2:15. Moreover, any Christian is very foolish to follow the Scriptural interpretation of some human leader without submitting his teachings to the critical but intelligent test employed by the Bereans to whom Paul preached. “‘they searched the Scriptures daily to see whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11. And let us ever remember I John 2:26 and 27: “These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you. and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things. and is truth, and is no lie. and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him.”

Of course all Bible Christians believe the truth stated in Acts 24:15, “there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” They know that this resurrection has reference to the bodies of the just and unjust. Any intelligent student of I Corinthians 15 knows that the subject of that great chapter is the resurrection of the body: and when the Holy Spirit. declares that those who are Christ’s will be made alive at His coming, the reference is to the bodily resurrection of believers. I Corinthians 15:22 and 27. This is clearly taught in the fortyfourth verse: “It is sown a natural body: it is raised a spiritual body.”

In John 5:24 we learn that believing sinners pass out of death into life before they reach the grave. This same truth is expressed in Ephesians 2:1 and 5. “You hath He made alive; who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Christ said, “He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life.” John 6:47. “The end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” I Peter 1:9.

Note Hebrews 10:39—“We are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to THE SAVING OF THE SOUL.”

Note again James 5:20:—“Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall SAVE A SOUL FROM DEATH, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” Here we learn of saving faith, the saving of the soul. We learn of a soul saved from death.Now let us note I Thessalonians 5:23:

“I PRAY GOD YOUR WHOLE SPIRIT AND SOUL AND BODY BE PRESERVED BLAMELESS UNTO THE COMING OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.”

By this verse and many other Scriptures we know that the soul of man differs from the spirit.

“THE DIVIDING ASUNDER OF SOUL AND SPIRIT.” Hebrews 4:12.

It is interesting to note several statements concerning the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on the cross. “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief; when thou shalt MAKE HIS SOUL AN OFFERING FOR SIN.” “He shall SEE OF THE TRAVAIL OF HIS SOUL, and shall be satisfied.” “Because He hath POURED OUT HIS SOUL unto death.” Isaiah 53:10 to 12.

Then note Acts 2:27 and 31:

“BECAUSE THOU WILT NOT LEAVE MY SOUL IN HELL, NEITHER WILT THOU SUFFER THINE HOLY ONE TO SEE CORRUPTION.” “HE SEEING THIS BEFORE SPAKE OF THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST, THAT HIS SOUL WAS NOT LEFT IN HELL, NEITHER HIS FLESH DID SEE CORRUPTION.”

Christ bare our sins in His own body on the tree. I Peter 2:24. “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:10. Christ poured out His soul unto death. His soul was made an offering for sin. Knowing that He was going to the cross Christ said, “MY SOUL IS EXCEEDING SORROWFUL UNTO DEATH.” Mark 14:34.

Then note the words of Christ in the hour of death, “FATHER, INTO THY HANDS I COMMEND MY SPIRIT.”

We have learned that there is a difference between the soul and spirit; that man is body, soul and spirit. At death where did Christ’s body go? It went to the sepulchre. That sepulchre was not the sheol or hades to which Christ’s soul went. No intelligent person would even suggest that the Bible teaches that. Christ’s body and soul were one and went to the same place at death. Christ’s spirit was committed into the hands of His Father.

Note the words of martyred Stephen as he died, “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:59 and 60.

The Lord received the spirit of Stephen. He fell asleep. Here we have the truth of Ecclesiastes 12:7.

“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God Who gave it.”

However, there is not the slightest suggestion that Stephen’s soul fell asleep.

ASLEEP IN JESUS

Note I Thessalonians 4:13 to 18:

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the Word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

Here we read of them which sleep in Jesus. God will bring them with Him when the Lord Jesus descends. They are called “the dead in Christ.” They shall rise first. Are believers dead in Christ? They are alive in Christ. They have been made alive. Ephesians 2:1 and 5. They have received eternal life, the salvation of their souls. They have passed out of death into life. They have already been raised to walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4 and 5. They are risen with Christ. Christ is their life. Colossians 3:1 and 3. Christ is in them. The Holy Spirit is in them. They are under the control of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:2. They have been recreated. They are not dead. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not dead, except in the sense that David is dead according to Acts 13:36—“he fell asleep and saw corruption.” David’s body saw corruption, but not David’s soul. Therefore it was David’s body that fell asleep, not his soul. “David is not ascended into the heavens.” Those who are Christ’s at His coming will be made alive. This refers to the body. I Corinthians 15:21 to 24.

PUTTING OFF THE TABERNACLE

Note the words of Peter in II Peter l:14:

“Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.”

Something within Peter was going to put off his body, in fulfillment of John 21 18 and 19. Peter had received the salvation of his soul, God’s free gift. eternal life. His body saw corruption. Like Stephen, Peter fell asleep. But it, was his tabernacle that he put off; that fell asleep. It is only concerning the corruptible body in the grave, and not the soul and spirit of man, that Ecclesiastes 9:5 and 10 are true, “the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.” “For there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave (sheol), whither thou goest.” This tenth verse is the principle verse used by some Christians, and more religious people, to support: their teaching that the soul of man is unconscious, or asleep, between the moment of death and resurrection. Some Christians, who are uncompromisingly opposed to those who teach soul-sleeping, admit that generally the “sheol” of the Old Testament Scriptures referred to the temporary abode of the soul; but they say that in Ecclesiastes the Holy Spirit recorded the words of the natural man even when his human theories were contrary to Divine truth.

THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS

Note the story of the rich man and Lazarus, in Luke 16:19 to 31—“There was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores.” “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom; the rich man also died, and was buried.” “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” Luke 16:20, 22 and 23.

The soul-sleepers reject the generally accepted interpretation of Luke 16:19 to 31, which shows the consciousness of both the saved and unsaved, by declaring the story to be a parable with an entirely different meaning, but they are by no means agreed in their fantastic interpretation.

When asked concerning Christ’s statement to the dying thief, “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43), the soul-sleepers say the comma is in the wrong place. It should read. “I say unto you today, thou shalt (some day) be with Me in paradise.” But when they are referred to II Corinthians 5:8 and Philippians 1:23, they do some very queer juggling and twisting of the Word of God. Note these two verses:

“WE ARE CONFIDENT, I SAY, AND WILLING RATHER TO BE ABSENT FROM THE BODY, AND TO BE PRESENT WITH THE LORD.” “FOR I AM IN A STRAIT BETWIXT TWO, HAVING A DESIRE TO DEPART, AND TO BE WITH CHRIST; WHICH IS FAR BETTER.”

The words “present with the Lord” literally mean “at home with the Lord.” This is very plain language. “Absent from the body”, “at home with the Lord.” In other words, when the saint puts off his tabernacle, he departs to be with the Lord, which is far better. This does not. mean that his soul goes into a coffin beneath the sod, where worms destroy his body. He departs to be with the Lord. He sets out to sea to be with Christ. “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

THE SOUL NOT UNCONSCIOUS

In Acts 15:24 we learn that false teaching subverted souls. The bodies of these deceived people were not subverted. .Something within was subverted. When a sinner believes the gospel, he receives the end of his faith. the salvation of his soul, Hear God’s Word in Isaiah 55:3, “hear, and your soul shall live.” The soul of the believer lives. But note the condition of his body in Romans 8:23 and II Corinthians 4:16.

But this question is asked, “Is not man alive when he is asleep?” “Is not the person asleep in bed alive but unconscious?” “Cannot, the soul be both alive and unconsciously asleep between physical death and resurrection?”

We certainly cannot answer this question Scripturally until we learn from the Scriptures that, the soul of man is more than the breath which keeps him alive physically. When the believer receives the end of his faith, the salvation of his soul, his body may be at the point of physical death, and something more than breath is saved.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SOUL AND SPIRIT

It is a most difficult task, if not an impossible one, for the human experts in philosophy and psychology to draw a very fine line of distinction between the soul and the spirit. Moreover theologians have tried and failed, for there are many statements in the Bible where the two words seem to be used synonymously and interchangeably. The Word of God, however, is sharp enough to divide asunder the soul and spirit, thus affirming that there is a difference. Hebrews 4:12. All who have given much time to this study know that it is a most intricate study.

The Hebrew word translated “soul” is “nephesh”. The verb is “naphash” and means “to breathe”. Therefore, it is generally taught that any breathing creature has a soul, or is a soul. The Greek word is “psuehe”. The verb is “psucho” and means “to breathe”, The Hebrew and the Greek have the same identical meaning.

It is interesting to note that the Greek, “psuchikos”, is translated “natural”. It is twice translated, “sensual”. Jude 19 and James 3:15.

The word “psuehe” is translated “soul”, in the New Testament Scriptures, more than 50 times. In Ephesians 6:6, “psuehe” is translated “heart” In the Old Testament the word “nephesh” is translated “soul” more than 400 times. It is translated “life” more than 80 times, Note very carefully this statement: the word “psuehe”, in the New Testament Scriptures, is translated “life” more than 30 times.

In Revelation 8:9 we read, “the creatures which were in the sea, and had life (psuche), died.” In I John 3:16, “He (Christ) laid down His life (psuche) for us.” In Matthew 20:28, Christ said, “He came to give His “life” (psuehe) a ransom for many.” When Christ died He “gave up the “ghost” (pneuma),” John 19:30. Note Christ’s words, in Mark 3:4,” Is it lawful on the sabbath day to save “life” (psuehe), or to kill?”

In Acts 20:24 Paul said, “I count not my “life” (psuehe) dear unto myself.” In Philippians 2:30 it is stated that Epaphroditus did not regard his “life” (psuehe). Of course this had no reference to his concern about the salvation of his soul, but to physical death. But some say “soul death” and “physical death” are identical; for soul is breath, and the cessation of breathing means physical death.

The Hebrew word translated “spirit” is “ruwach”. The Greek word is “pneuma” Again these two words are identical in meaning and come from verbs meaning “to breathe”.

We referred to I Corinthians 15:44, “the natural body” and the “spiritual body”. The Greek “natural” is “psuchikos”. The Greek “spiritual” is “pneumatikos”. Here we have the dividing asunder of “soul” and “spirit”. Hebrews 4:12. Note also I Corinthians 2:14 and 15, concerning “the natural man” and “the spiritual man.”

The earthly house, the corruptible body of humiliation, is called “a natural body”. The incorruptible house from heaven, the glorified body is called “the spiritual body”,

ADAM BECAME A LIVING SOUL

Let us carefully read Genesis 2:7:

“AND THE LORD GOD FORMED MAN OF THE DUST OF THE GROUND, AND BREATHED (NAPHASH) INTO HIS NOSTRILS THE BREATH (NESHAMAH) OF LIFE (KHAHEE); AND MAN BECAME A LIVING (KHAHEE) SOUL NEPHESH).”

It was God’s breath into man that made man a soul. In speaking of every creature, animals, birds, and men, Genesis 7:22 reads: “All in whose nostrils was the breath (neshamah) of life, died.” In Job 41:21 we read, “His breath (nephesh) kindleth coals.” So we learn in the Bible that man became a living soul: and that man has a soul.

ELIJAH AND THE DEAD CHILD

Now let us read the very interesting story of Elijah’s ministry in the home of the widow of Zarephath, recorded in I Kings 17:17.

“And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath (neshamah) in him.” I Kings 17:17. “And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul (nephesh) COME INTO HIM AGAIN. And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and THE SOUL (NEPHESH) OF THE CHILD CAME INTO HIM AGAIN, and he revived.” I Kings 17:21 and 22.

“Let this child’s soul come into him again.” For a short time the child was minus his soul. But his soul came back. It is folly to say that this simply meant that the breath returned to the child, that is, to try to make “breath” synonymous with “soul” with no deeper meaning.

It is not man’s breath that is healed or saved from death when man believes with his heart, according to Romans 10:9 and 10.

In the Hebrew and the Greek a different word is used for “heart”. Heart and soul are not synonymous in the Bible. The Hebrew for “soul” is incorrectly translated “mind” eleven times. The Hebrew for “spirit” is translated “mind” eight times. But the soul, the spirit, the mind, and the heart of men are all different; and in man’s physical and spiritual life they are all indefinable and indescribable.

MAN IS A LIVING SOUL – MAN HAS A SOUL

In the first Book of the Bible we read that Adam became a living soul. In the last Book of the Bible we read, “and every living soul died in the sea.” Revelation 16:3. The creatures of God, human and otherwise, are called “souls”. In the seventh chapter of Leviticus we read several times, “the soul that eateth”, and “the soul that toucheth.” The soul, as generally understood, could not eat or touch that which we call physical or material. The human being is called “a soul”. Note Acts 2:41: “And the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”

From these statements some Christians say that man is a soul, but that he has a spirit. The rich man, of Luke 12:19 said, “I will say to my soul.” He was talking to himself. But what about such statements as Deuteronomy 11:18, Genesis 34:3, Psalm 23:3, Isaiah 55:3, I Peter 1:9, Job 14:22, Habakkuk 2:10, Psalm 41:4?

“Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul.” “ And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob.” “He restoreth my soul.” “Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live.” “Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” “But his flesh upon him shall have pain, and his soul within him shall mourn.” “And hast sinned against thy soul.” “Lord, be merciful unto me; heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee.”

“His soul within him shall mourn.” Here we learn that man has, a soul as be has a body and a spirit, and that man’s soul can be healed though he may be diseased or afflicted in his body. Note the words of Christ, in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Man’s body can be killed by men, but not his soul. In the Bible we learn that the soul loves and hates and rejoices and mourns.

THE NATURAL MAN—THE SPIRITUAL MAN

Let us carefully read I Corinthians 2:14 and 15 and I Corinthians 15:44.

“But THE NATURAL MAN receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But HE THAT IS SPIRITUAL judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.”

“It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”

Here we read of the “natural man” and the “spiritual man”; of the “natural body” and the “spiritual body”.

In these statements we have a definite example of that difference of soul and spirit, mentioned in Hebrews 4:12.

The Greek word “natural” is “psuchikos “, from “psuche” soul. The Greek word “spiritual” is “pneumatikos” from “pneuma” spirit.

What a contrast; what a difference between the “psuchikos” man and the “pneumatikos” man! And surely there is a difference between the corruptible body, the “natural body”, and the spiritual body”.

Note again James 3:15—“This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.” “Sensual” (psuchikos). “Earthly”, “sensual” and “devilish” The word “sensual” is the same Greek word translated “natural”. Some have translated this word “soulish”.

We have seen that the definition, function, and destiny of the soul is no superficial study. We read in Ezekiel 18:4, “THE SOUL THAT SINNETH IT SHALL DIE.” We read in Hebrews 10:39 of those who believe “unto the saving of the soul”. The soul of the sinful person is saved when that person believes; but his body will not be saved until the day of redemption. There are those who claim to be Bible Christians and teach that the soul and body go to the same place and are unconsciously dead between physical death and the resurrection of the body.