For centuries, men have wondered what really happens at death.
The ancient philosophers taught that man is essentially an immortal spiritual “soul” housed in a temporary body of flesh—that the real man is not the body, but an invisible, immaterial “immortal soul” that thinks, hears, sees and will consciously live on forever.
At death, according to the speculation of the ancients, the soul leaves the body and journeys to a nebulous realm, possibly paradise or a place of punishment. The body, they observed, goes to the grave.
Sounds a lot like the teaching of many modern churches, doesn’t it?
You were probably taught that this doctrine was totally Christian. You undoubtedly assumed it came straight from the Bible. But as you will see in this eye-opening study, it did not!
Notice what the Jewish Encyclopedia explains: “The belief in the immortality of the soul came to the Jews from contact with Greek thought and chiefly through the philosophy of Plato, its principal exponent, who was led to it through Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries in which Babylonian and Egyptian views were strangely blended” (emphasis ours).
The doctrine of the immortality of the soul, according to this respected encyclopedia, came from pre-Christian Greek philosophers who acquired it from pagan Egypt and Babylon!
Surprising as it may seem, the Bible does not teach that men are immortal souls. Let’s look into the Bible and prove what it really says!
What Is Man?
1. Of what did Jesus Christ say man is composed? John 3:6, first part. And is that which is “born of spirit” of a totally different composition? Same verse, last part.
Comment: Man is composed of flesh. Jesus plainly says that if one is born of (and therefore composed of) flesh, he cannot also at the same time be born of (composed of) spirit. He must be one or the other! So this verse alone is strong evidence that man is not an immortal spiritual “soul” that lives in a body of mortal flesh and blood. But let’s continue.
2. Was the Apostle Paul an immortal soul clothed with a body of flesh—or did he speak of himself and his flesh as being synonymous? Romans 7:18.
Comment: Paul did not distinguish between himself and his flesh in this verse. He indicated they were one and the same.
In order to understand whether man has an immortal soul, let’s go back to the creation of the first man to see exactly what happened.
The Creation of Man
God created the first man, and He tells us from what He made him so there would be no doubt as to what we really are. Here is that account as revealed in the Bible:
1. Out of what did God form man? Genesis 2:7. Notice that it was the man—not just the body—that was formed.
2. Was it the whole man—“thou”—that was composed of dust? Genesis 3:19.
Comment: Adam was made from, and therefore composed of, earth!
3. What would eventually happen to the conscious man? Same verse, last part.
4. After God had formed the man and made every cell in his body, what did He do to give him life? Genesis 2:7.
Comment: God blew air—“the breath of life” containing oxygen—into the man’s lungs through his nostrils, and the man began to live! The verse does not say God breathed an immortal soul into the man.
5. Does the same “breath of life” also pass through the nostrils of animals? Genesis 7:21-22. Is it the breath of life that is cut off when a human being or an animal drowns? Verse 22. Then the source of life in man and animals is the same, isn’t it?
Comment: If the “breath of life” even remotely referred to an immortal soul, then animals, birds and even insects—gnats, fleas, mosquitoes, etc.—would all have immortal souls!
What Kind of “Soul”?
1. When God had breathed the breath of life into Adam’s nostrils, what did the man become? Genesis 2:7, last part.
Comment: Man does not have a soul—man IS a “soul”! The original Hebrew word for “soul” is nephesh. Bagster’s Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon defines it as “breath,” and “anything that breathes, an animal.” It can also refer to a “person,” or even “one dead, a dead body.” In Genesis 1:21, 24; 2:19; 9:10, 12, 15-16 and Leviticus 11:46, the same word nephesh is translated “creature” when referring to animals.
And so man is a soul. Notice that the word nephesh is translated as “dead body” or “the dead” in Leviticus 19:28; 21:1; 22:4; Numbers 5:2; 6:11 and 9:6-7, 10. The “soul,” then, is merely an air-breathing entity that is subject to death and decay. It is not immortal!
The soul is composed of the “dust of the ground.” It is material, not spiritual; it is matter. When man breathes, he is a “living soul.” When man ceases to breathe, he becomes a nonliving or dead soul. That’s what the Bible reveals.
2. Can the “soul” die? Ezekiel 18:4, 20. If the soul were immortal—eternal—could it die? Is man plainly said to be “mortal”? Job 4:17.
Comment: Since man is a soul, and the soul is mortal—then man is mortal, subject to death. That is why the Scriptures refer to human beings as “mortal man.”
Is There Life After Death?
1. After a person dies—becomes lifeless—does he still have a conscious existence because of an immortal soul? Ecclesiastes 9:5; Psalm 146:4.
Comment: Since the Bible states plainly that the dead are not conscious of anything, we can logically conclude that man does not have an immortal soul that is conscious and aware of things happening around it after death!
2. Are the dead able to praise God? Psalm 115:17.
Comment: If dead Christians had immortal souls, wouldn’t they be praising God after they died, thankful to be with Him in paradise? Here, then, is more concrete evidence that human beings do not have immortal souls.
The Spirit in Man
What we have studied so far proves that man is a soul, and that at death, conscious existence ends. Nevertheless, the Bible speaks of a resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:21-23). If there is no immortal soul, what will God use, after the death and complete dissolution of the physical body and brain, to reproduce each individual at the resurrection?
1. Since man has no immortal soul in him that enables him to live on apart from his body after death (remember, man is a mortal soul), does the Bible speak of a “spirit in man”? Job 32:8; Zechariah 12:1; 1 Corinthians 2:9-14—notice especially verse 11. Is this spirit “in” man clearly distinguished from the Holy Spirit of God? Same verses in 1 Corinthians 2.
Comment: This spirit is not the man—it is spirit essence from God that is IN the man. Joined with the physical brain of the man, it forms the human mind. It imparts to man’s brain his unique powers of intellect and personality—the ability to think rationally and to make free-will decisions. It imparts the ability to learn mathematics, languages or other types of physical knowledge, but that is all! The spirit that is IN man has no consciousness of itself. It is not an “immortal soul.” This spirit is not “the man.”
Because of this spiritual element, the Bible often uses spirit simply to mean man’s mind, intelligence, attitude. To distinguish this “spirit in man” from mere physical breath, the book of Job continues in context to use two separate Hebrew words—ruach for spirit, neshamah for breath (Job 33:4; 34:14).
2. When a person dies, does this totally nonconscious “spirit in man” return to God who gave it? Ecclesiastes 12:7.
Comment: This spirit in each individual, of necessity, does more than merely impart the power of intellect to the physical brain. It becomes a spiritual “recording” and “mold” of the entire person—even to preserving memory, knowledge, character and outward appearance. And so when a person dies, that spirit “recording” returns to God and is “filed away” until the time God will “replay” it to bring about the resurrection of the identical personality to life and consciousness. Yet while filed away, it has no consciousness of its own.
Why haven’t you heard this truth before? Simply because the whole world has been deceived!
The truth about the “spirit in man” is so important that Satan tried to twist, warp and pervert it long ago. He clouded the minds of men and deceived them into believing his “big lie” as far back as the time of Adam and Eve.
Notice what happened in the Garden of Eden:
3. What did Satan tell Eve? Genesis 3:4.
Comment: Here was the origin of the “immortality of the soul” doctrine believed by so many today! Satan told Eve she would “not surely die”—in other words, that she had an “immortal soul” that would live forever. Eve swallowed this lie completely!
The truth is, if man were an immortal soul in a material body—and if the death of the body released the soul—then there would be no need for a resurrection to immortal life. Man would merely continue living after death. The fact that the Bible teaches the resurrection from the dead is further proof that man does not have an immortal soul!
Man to Become Spirit
We have clearly seen that the Bible does not teach the immortality of the soul. What, then, does the Bible teach about immortality?
1. Job once asked the question, “If a man die, shall he live again?” What was Job’s answer to his own question? Job 14:14. What is the change Job spoke of, and when will it take place? 1 Corinthians 15:51-53.
2. Will Job, David and all those in the resurrection be like God? Psalm 17:15. Is God spirit? John 4:24. Are they, therefore, to be composed of spirit as well? 1 Corinthians 15:42-49. Compare this with 1 John 3:2.
Comment: How plain the Bible really is. Man is mortal, corruptible flesh—organic matter with a temporary life. He does not have eternal life inherent within himself. He does not have an “immortal soul”! He is a physical, fleshly creature destined to die, turn to dust and remain that way—except for the intervention of the Almighty—except for the resurrection from the dead! ▪