The Bible informs us as to the origin and nature of man. Paul teaches that man’s whole nature is body, soul, and spirit (1 Thess. 5:23). The body refers to the physical tabernacle of clay in which the immortal part of man resides. The spirit of man refers to the immortal part of man. Spirit is a specific term for that part of man given directly from God and not susceptible to death. God is the Father of spirits (Heb. 12:9). The prophet Daniel said, “I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me” (Dan. 7:15). Zechariah 12:1 says the Lord forms the spirit of man within us.
The soul is harder to define because it is a generic word which refers to different things in different contexts. It can be used to describe the whole person as in Exodus 1:15. It can be used to denote the life that animates the physical body as in Psalm 78:50. In other places, the word “soul” and the word “spirit” are used interchangeably and seem to refer to the same thing (cf. Lk. 1:46,47). In Acts 2:27, it is obvious that the word “soul” is used to refer to the spirit or immortal nature of the Lord,..that part which did not die. And so in most places, any distinction between soul and spirit is very hard to make. However, Hebrews 4:12 states, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Evidently, while such a distinction can be made, this verse also expresses the difficulty of doing it. It is compared to dividing the joints from the marrow.
Understanding some of these things about the nature of man is vital to understanding death. James 2:26 says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” James tells us that the body without or apart from the spirit is dead. The word death means “separation.” Death involves the separation of the spirit from the body. Life is their union, and death is their separation.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 says, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” The body is mortal (Rom. 8:11). It returns to the dust from whence it came (Gen. 3:19). But the inward man does not perish as does the body (2 Cor. 4:16). The inward part of man does not continue its union with the body at death. After our earthly existence, a separation takes place. The body returns to the earth, but the spirit returns to the Father of Spirits who gave it (Heb. 12:7). The Sadducees denied the spirit (Acts 23:8), but Jesus plainly demonstrated to them that those whose bodies had long since decayed were themselves still alive because, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mt. 22:29-32).
There is a soul that survives the death of the body, both of the righteous and the wicked.
Matthew 25:46 states, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Let us realize the value of our eternal souls. Jesus said they are worth more than the whole world (Mt. 16:16).
— Mike McDaniel