Do We Have An Immortal Soul?

by Ian McPherson

One of the difficulties we have in grappling with death is that the body is all we see with our physical eyes. Since the dead body quickly decays and returns to the dust, men are often inclined to believe that there is no further existence for man. The Bible however reveals clearly that man is more than body. He possesses a spirit (or soul) which will continue to exist after death. Let us view the biblical proof of this.

Man is made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27) The part of man that is in the image of God is not the body. God does not have a body as we have with flesh and bones, God is a spirit (John 4:24). It is man's spirit therefore that is in God's image. Man's body was formed from the dust, but his spirit (or inner man) was breathed into him by God. 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 soul". From this verse we have the picture of Adam's lifeless body being formed from the dust, God breathing life into his nostrils, and the body then coming to life.

When we die our spirit leaves our body. James 2:26 says "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." The spirit does not go out of existence when it is separated from the body in death, but returns to God who gave it Ecclesiastes 12:7 says; "Then shall the dust (body) return to the earth as it was: and the spirit (life) shall return unto God who gave it." This verse not only defines death as the separation of the body from the spirit, but it also shows that man's spirit is eternal , it does not go out of existence at death, but returns to God.

Notice also the description of Rachel's death. "And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin." --- Genesis 35:18 Jehovah's Witnesses teach that there is no difference between the soul and body, They claim that both are mortal and go into the grave together. The description of Rachel's death however clearly shows that the soul and body are not the same thing. Rachel's body was lifeless, but at death her soul left her body.

The death the widow of Zarephath.'s son and his revival gives further insight into the soul of man. This young man was raised miraculously from the dead by Elijah. 1 Kings 17:21-22 describes this miracle. "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 come into him again. {22} And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived."
We notice here that it was the same soul that left him at death and returned to him at revival. His soul therefore did not go out of existence. The person that Elijah resurrected from the dead was the same person that was alive before death. It was not another soul that was given to the lifeless body, but the same one as was conceived in the widows womb through the union of her and her husband. If the soul became extinct at his death, this would be impossible.

This may seem like a contradiction in terms, yet the Lord Himself plainly explains that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were still alive even though they were dead. He said "And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? {27} He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err." --- Mark 12:26-27. This was the Lord's answer to the Saducees who did not believe in life after death. What plainer proof could be given for the immortality of the soul than these verses. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all dead (in their graves) when Jehovah declared Himself to be their God. Although they were departed from this world, their spirits continued to live. Jehovah could not be the God of extinct persons.

The Lord also taught the immortality of the human soul 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." Tertallion, an ancient writer rightly said of this verse "Here we have recognition of the natural immortality of the soul, which cannot be killed by men" Man is able to kill the body because it is mortal, but he is unable to kill the soul which is immortal. Thus, although man is mortal (subject to death) there is a part of man that is immortal.

David's dead son is still alive --- 2 Samuel 12:22-23 And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? 23 But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me. This incident referred to the death of the son born to David and Bathsheba's adulterous relationship. David knew that it was impossible for his dead child to return to earth, but declared under inspiration that he would go to him. This could not happen if the child was not still alive.
Moses and Elijah are still alive Matthew 17:1-3 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. 3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him"
They could not be "transfigured" (changed in fashion or appearance) if their spirit became extinct at death. It was obviously not their bodies that were transfigured, but their souls. Their bodies were still lifeless in the grave.
Both the saved and lost are still alive This is illustrated by the account the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) The rich man and the beggar both died and were buried. (in their tomb) (22) Verses 23-31 involved a discussion between Abraham and the rich man proving that the dead are conscious. Many dismiss this account by saying that it is a parable. The author of this article does not believe that it is a parable, however if it is, parables were stories based on familiar and factual occurrences, not on fairy tales.

Does not Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 teach that man is wholly mortal like the animals? "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; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. {20} All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. These verses do not teach that man is no different from the animals. The context is arguing about the futility of man seeking the purpose of life without a belief in God. Solomon's argument is "If man's fulfillment lies only in physical things of this life, then man is no better off that beasts. Those who use the above verses seldom consider the next verse which gives the context. It says } Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?" --- Ecclesiastes 3:21 Solomon is saying that those who view life without knowledge and fear of God do not consider the fact that the spirit of man ascends upward to answer to God, while the spirit of beasts goes into extinction in the grave.

"Only God has immortality" This is an argument often presented to try and show that man is wholly mortal. The verse used is 1 Timothy 6:16 --- "Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting." It is argued that since God alone possesses immortality, then man cannot possess it.

This verse however, is speaking about Jesus Christ, the King of kings (See V15). The immortality mentioned refers To the resurrected Christ, who broke the bonds of death by rising from the dead. Although Jesus existed in the form of God in eternity, he became a mortal man through being born of the virgin Mary (John 1:1-2.14; Matthew 1:23), His mortal body was put to death on the Cross, but was raised immortal. He alone therefore possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light. Because He rose from the dead, we humans will also be raised to immortality when Christ comes again. Our bodies will be resurrected from the grave and be judged by the Lord (John 5:28-29). It is significant that whenever man's immortality is mentioned in the Bible it refers to the resurrection of the body from the grave, and therefore does not refer to the spirit. (Romans 2:7; 1 Corinthians 15:53; 1 Corinthians 15:54, 1 Timothy 1:17). Man's spirit is naturally immortal.

Man is mortal in that he is subject to death, but he is not wholly mortal because he continues to exist in spirit form after he dies. Death does not mean extinction, but separation. Much of the confusion exists because of a misconception of the Biblical meaning of death. Physical death is separation of the body and spirit (James 2;26) and spiritual death is the separation of the Spirit from God through sin (Ezekiel 18:4; Ephesians 2:1; Isaiah 59::2).

When a soul dies through sin, it still exists, encased in the live human body until the person dies. It can be spiritually revived (brought to life again) in conversion to Christ at baptism (Romans 6:3-7). If conversion does not take place the departed soul goes to Hades (the unseen realm of departed spirits) to suffer pain and torment (Luke 16:23). Here he awaits the eventual resurrection of his body to be judged and cast into eternal hell (Matthew 10:28; John 5:28-29). Those who have been converted and have died faithfully however go into the section of Hades known as "paradise" (Luke 16: 22:23) or "Abraham's Bosom (Luke 16:22). There they await the resurrection of their bodies to be ushered into their eternal reward in heaven (John 5:28-29; Matt 25:34; 1 Corinthians 15:50-51).

Dear reader, where will you spend eternity? You cannot choose extinction. you have an eternal spirit that will continue to exist after death. Your spirit must be united with the Lord through the gospel. Please contact me at the link below for information on how to be saved in eternity.


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