The author by use of the Scripture seeks to answer these questions: Is the soul of man eternal in nature, or does it perish at the death of the body? If the soul of man is eternal in nature, then what happens to it at death? Is there a difference between the outcome of the righteousness and the unrighteous? And what spirits are behind the promotion of the thought process that denies the eternal nature of the soul of man?
At The Death Of the Body Does The Soul Of Man Also Die, Or Is The Soul Of Man Eternal In Nature?
Nearly 20 centuries ago the Apostle Paul speaking to Timothy his son in the faith is quoted as saying, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils;..” (1 Timothy 4:1) There is a movement among religious ranks that teaches that the soul of man dies (perishes) at the death of the body. Perishes, in the sense that it ceases all knowledge or thought. But among the righteous their souls are later, at the voice of Messiah, to come back from this “realm of nothingness”, or “thoughtlessness” to share a place in Yehovah’s eternal paradise. Some of these same ones also teach that the souls of the unrighteous will after the final judgment cease to possess any knowledge or thought (Which to any thinking person is equal to nonexistence) for all eternity. The definition of a righteous soul being established by this author as any soul of man that is found hidden in Christ our Lord, and the definition of a unrighteous soul is, any soul of man who is not hidden in Christ our Lord. For it is a basic Bible communication that no soul of man is righteous on its own merit, (Romans 3:10 & 23) but can only be saved if that one by faith receives the gift of righteousness (Romans 5:17, Ephesians 2:8) that is offered by Christ, the Lamb of God.
The obvious conclusion of any doctrine that suggests that a person’s soul ceases to exist, or ceases all knowledge or thought, is that the souls of the unrighteous (unredeemed) will not therefore experience everlasting punishment as Yeshua said they would. (Matthew 25:46) (The lake of fire) Therefore, in this doctrine there is no sting in the judgment of God. Therefore, this manner of teaching is exactly what the devil wishes to be communicated, for if there is no punishment for the wicked and the unbelieving, then what do they stand to lose for rejecting God in this life? Nothing, nothing at all. Therefore, suggesting to people that it matters very little if one does or does not obey the Gospel of God, for the soul that does not obey God will (According to some) after the eternal judgment simply cease existence, and if one ceases existence, then that one has no knowledge or thought, and if one knows nothing, and has no thought, then that one has zero sense of loss. The summation of this line of thinking is that most men will therefore behave according to the ancient proverb: eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. This thought process promotes godlessness. Consider this, in a world that is filled with the devil’s influence, knowing that the motivation of the devil’s heart is summed up in these words, “kill, steal, and destroy”, would the devil not want to convince men that there is no eternal punishment for sin, that sin ultimately has no sting to it? I belief he would, and further I believe that he though false teaching deceives many to think after this very same manner.
In this article we will seek to by clear and certain Biblical statements and examples answer these questions:
- Does the soul of man, righteous or unrighteous cease to exist at the point of the death of the body?
- If the soul of man, righteous or unrighteous does not cease to exist at the point of mortal death, then where does it go at the point?
- Is there a both a resurrection of the righteous, and then a judgment of the same?
- Is there a resurrection of the unrighteous, and then a judgment of the same?
In Ecclesiastes 9:5 it is said, “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward …” “But the dead know not anything” is an old English way of saying that the dead have no knowledge. This verse is used by some to suggest that upon the death of the body the soul of that man also ceases to live. To anyone who has needed to handle a dead body or been in the company of a dead body it is perfectly obvious that this verse is true, for a dead body has ZERO knowledge in it. It is nothing but an empty shell of flesh that no longer possesses the life that was once in it. So Ecclesiastes 9:5 stands absolutely correct when it says that the dead body has no knowledge in it, but this Bible verse does not answer the question as to what becomes of the soul at the point of the death of the body. Does a soul cease existence, or does it depart the body to go elsewhere?
Another Bible verse used by some to promote the idea that sinners will cease all life and knowledge at the point of death is found in the writings of the ancient Jewish prophet, “…..the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:4) To establish what is meant by the prophet’s statement we need to observe the wisdom that the Apostle Paul gave to his son Timothy and that is to “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth**.” (2 Timothy 2:15) I would suggest to you that any person who takes any form of communication completely by first appearance is both childish and foolish. This person is what is referred to as a simpleton, for there are very few things (If any at all) in life that are not more than simply what they appear to be on the surface. For in the case of this verse, “the soul that sinneth, it shall die”** the words are simple to be understood, but what do they mean? To answer this question let’s begin by reading the testimony of the creation of the first man, Adam.
Having created Adam Yehovah placed him in a garden called Eden, and the commandment was given that he could eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he was commanded to not eat, nor even to touch it, lest he die. “But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die**”. (Genesis 3:3) But Adam did eat of this fruit as did his wife Eve. So we have it by the mouth of both Yehovah, and the prophet Ezekiel, that death is the result of sin. Yet, Adam did not die, but went on living for a very great number of years. In fact, it was not until he was 930 years old that he died. Is God really that slow in executing the judgment that he had pronounced upon Adam and Eve? No, not at all. For Adam and Eve, spiritually speaking died immediately upon choosing to sin, in that their spirits were right then at that time and place cut off from the life of God. This is evidences by the reality that at least these negative attitudes found residency in them immediately after they choose to sin: fear, shame, the pointing of the finger. (Genesis 3:1-19) They no longer had access to the intimate relationship with God that they once had, and in fact were soon afterward driven out from the garden that Yehovah had given them for a home, and as a result years later the natural life of their bodies ceased at the point of their physical death. At the moment of their sin spiritual death became a part of the human race, and that death continues to this day among all un-regenerated men. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:….Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.** (Romans 5:12&14)
So we see that the Scripture is proven to be completely true. For the spirit of that first man Adam died immediately upon his sinning (Transgressing God’s law) in that it was cut off from the life that is in God, and in due time Adam’s body died also, and this death has been passed on to all generations of people since that time. All men are born into this world being dead in their spirit, in that they are separated from the life that is in God, and cannot enter fellowship with God until such time as they are born again. Which means that their spirits by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit are again connected to the Living God. But the statement that the prophet Ezekiel made, “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” has not yet been answered. We will answer this question as we proceed, but first let’s address the Biblical proof that there is a separation of the soul and the body.
Human-kind, as it is said in Genesis 1:26 were created after the similitude of God. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”… Human-kind, being made after the similitude of God are triune beings, they (we) are a composition of spirit, soul, and body. This being testified to by the clear statement of the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonian 5:23 “…...and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Bible testifies that man was formed from the earth. “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.” (Genesis 2:7) In this verse we see that Yehovah created man in two steps. First from the dust of the ground He formed the body of Adam. Then, having formed Adam’s body He then enlivened that body by breathing into it life. Thus man became a living soul. So we have it that Adam was not alive until Yehovah breathed life into his body, in like manner when the soul of man departs the body, the body ceases to have life. The answer to what exactly a “living soul” is, is found in the words of the Apostle Paul, “and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless….” The nature of man is clearly taught to be a mixture of body (That part of us which is physical), the soul (That part of us that comprises emotion, intellect and will), and spirit. (That part of us that is God conscientious, that is a spirit like unto God) Adam became a living soul by the breath of God, I believe it is the combination of the soul and spirit of man that made him, and all other people since him a “living soul”. Consider, is it reasonable that the breath of the eternal omnipotent God will vanish away? I think not, thus establishing along with many other elements of Biblical proof that the “living soul” of man, that came forth from God is an eternal thing. Psalms 146:4 speaking of the death of men testifies, “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” But does this mean that the soul of man ceases thought, or only that there is no thought within his dead body?
In that by Yehovah’s commandment and by prudence of wisdom we understand that all things must be established by more than one witness, let us go on now to examples found in the Scripture that testify clearly to the soul of man having existence (Thought, knowledge and voice) after its departure from the body, how be it in a different realm than that of this mortal world. We will do this one after another, not intending any certain order.
- Moses and Elijah appeared with Yeshua to Peter, James and John. (Matthew 17:1-9) We know that Elijah has never undergone death in that he was taken from this world without having experienced death as is spoken of in 2 Kings 2:11. However, Moses had experienced death as is testified in Deuteronomy 34:1-8. So Moses’ appearing with both Yeshua and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration is our first example that the souls of men having departed from the body at death do not cease thought, knowledge, or voice. For Moses appeared with Yeshua speaking to Him. This takes thought, knowledge and voice.
- Luke chapter 16 tells the story that involves three men. The story is of a certain poor man named Lazarus who in his poverty sat at the gate of a certain rich man (Whose name is not given). This rich man showed no mercy to Lazarus, and in time Lazarus died, then the rich man also died. The story goes on to say that the rich man being in the torment of hell (Ha-des, the place of the unredeemed dead) could see Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham across a great gulf. From there he spoke to Abraham asking for Lazarus to be sent to him with water on his hand to touch him in that he was in torment caused by fire. Abraham answered the rich man saying this was not possible, in that a great gulf was set between them. Please take note that this story gives evidence that these men were spoken of as “certain” men, this signifying that this story is not a parable, but rather a factual account. Also that both Abraham, and the man referred to as the rich man, although each of them being in two different places both possessed intelligence and speech, and they both spoke of Lazarus as being alive. Thus adding another proof that men do not cease existence upon the point of death, but rather go to a place where they are kept awaiting the final judgment.
- Matthew 27:52 testifies that after the resurrection of Yeshua from the grave that many saints who had died previously were raised to life and seen about the city of Jerusalem. I ask you, if at the point of their previous death they had ceased to exist how could they be raised to life again before the great and general resurrection? (Which has not yet occurred)
- Yeshua raised to life a young man who lived in a village called Nain. (Luke 7: 11-18) If the souls of men cease existence than how could Yeshua have raised this man to life?
- Yeshua raised Lazarus to life. The story is told in John 11: 1-46. Peter raised Dorcas to life. This story is told in Acts 9:40 Paul raised to life a young man. This is spoken of in Acts 20: 9-10. Yeshua commissioned the disciples to raise the dead. (Matthew 10: 7-8) How can these who are spoken of as being dead, be raised if they had ceased to exist?
- The elders who are spoken of in Revelations chapter 5 as being in the very presence of God have speech, and it is said of them in verse 9 that they are among those that have been redeemed out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. In verse 10 these same elders testify that the redeemed shall in the future reign upon the earth. Thus testifying that the resurrection of the righteous has not at that point happened, but is to happen at a future time. All of these have both thought and voice, but have not yet been resurrected.
- Revelations chapter 7 tells the story of a multitude in heaven that is so large that a man cannot number them. They are described as coming out of great tribulation, and that they have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, and that they are before God night and day. The promise is given to them that the One that sits on the throne will shall dwell among them. Thus signifying of when Christ shall set up His kingdom on the earth. If the souls of men perish at death, how can these things be, for none of these have yet experienced being resurrected again to mortal life?
- Revelations chapter 14 speaks of a group of 144,000 who are in heaven who were redeemed from among men. These also had died, and had not yet been resurrected to mortal life.
- Revelations 15 speaks of a scene in heaven testifying of men that had gotten the victory over the beast, who occupied a place in heaven, but had not yet been resurrected to mortal life.
Revelations chapter 19: 1-8, tells of a scene in heaven and it is said that there is “much people”. Later they are commanded to offer praise to God. Again, if souls of righteous men cease to exist, held only in a state of memory in God’s mind, (As some purport) then how are these people here?
- Revelations 20:5 says “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” This verse speaking of the time when the righteous shall experience a bodily resurrection unto life, but the unsaved souls shall not at this time experience a resurrection. There is another resurrection. It is referred to as the second resurrection. It is the resurrection of the unjust unto eternal damnation. Earlier in this writing we had quoted the prophet Ezekiel, “the soul that sinneth, it shall die”. The second death is the fulfillment of that prophecy. The souls of all men whose names are found written in the Lamb’s book of life will be resurrected unto eternal life to be spent in the presence of God. The souls of all whose names are not found written in the Lamb’s book of life will be subject to eternal damnation, separated from the presence of God.
- Quoting 2 Timothy 4:6, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand”. If the souls of men perish at death, held only in Yehovah’s memory, why did Paul speak of his death as a “departure”, except that he knew he was going somewhere?
- In 2 Peter 1:14 the Apostle Peter speaks of his death as the “putting off this tabernacle”. If Peter’s soul was to perish he would not speak in such a manner.
2 Corinthians chapter 5 speaks of the reality that our bodies are but “tabernacles” that we live in until such time as we experience the death of our bodies, and then for the righteous it is pointed out in verse 8 that we will go into the presence of the Lord at their departure from the body.
So in direct answer to the questions that were asked at the beginning of this article:
- Does the soul of man, righteous or unrighteous cease to exist at the point of the death of the body? The answer is no, neither the righteous or unrighteous souls of men will ever cease to exist.
- If the soul of man, righteous or unrighteous does not cease to exist then where does it go at the point of the death of the body? The righteous before the time of Christ’s resurrection were sent to a place the Scripture refers to as Abraham’s bosom. (Luke 16:22) However, since the resurrection of Christ and His ascension to heaven, at which time He took with Him the soul’s that used to abide in Abraham’s bosom, (Matthew 27:52-53) all righteous souls upon the death of the body go directly into the presence of the Lord. This is proven by the very words of the apostle in 2 Corinthians 5:8 which reads, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” The unrighteous souls of men go to a place of torment where they await their final judgment. (Luke 16:23)
- Is there a both a resurrection of the righteous and then a judgment of the same? Yes, the righteous unto life eternal, this being spoken of in Revelations 20:6.
- The unrighteous experience a resurrection also, this is spoken of in Revelations 20:5-6. After which they undergo a judgment unto eternal damnation, this is spoken of in Revelations 20:11-15.
Why does Satan want the truth of the eternal nature of the soul of man to be perverted? The devil wants men to think that the wicked will vanish away at the point of death. Therefore, taking away the fear of punishment. Also it perverts the testimony of the character of God. For it works to suggest that Yehovah did not honor men by making them eternal beings, and that Yehovah’s attributes are not equal, that His hatred and henceforth His punishment for sin is less than His love to create a way for men to be redeemed. For men who suggest that the punishment of the wicked is that they eternally disappear upon their death, do so saying that a loving God would not allow the eternal punishment of the wicked. Yes it is true that God is love, but He is also a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:29) The benefits of His love are eternal, and the damnation of sin is eternal.
An American Watchman
Gregory A DeHart