What is the Soul?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 (All day)

Do you have a soul or are you a soul? How can you be sure?

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[Steve Myers] One of our viewers sent a question in the other day when we were talking about death on the program . Bob wrote this question, he said, "I watched your show the other day and you explained when we die, we are basically asleep in the grave. Why does the Bible talk about the soul then?" Now that is a basic question when it comes to what God's plan is and what is man.

[Darris McNeely] Absolutely, one of the most important questions that we need to answer in life, one of those big questions is what is man, what is his nature? The Bible gives us that answer and it's the most important starting point to understand our purpose in life, what God is doing with human life, what we can become ultimately as part of the family of God. To understand the nature of man is very, very important and understanding what the word soul means in scripture probably is one of the most key things as it relates to the idea of death and sleep.

[Steve Myers] So we have to go to the beginning of the Bible to find out what is that word soul. Now we can't explain it all, it's a big subject. But we can touch on a couple of things that hopefully will generate some interest in your mind that you'll really dig out your Bible. Study what it has to say. So if you go all the way back to the beginning of creation Genesis:1:20 says something interesting. In the New King James it says this, "God said, 'Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures.'" Now that word for living creatures in Genesis:1:20 is the word nephesh . It's the Hebrew word that is often translated soul . If you look up the King James in many passages, that's what the word nephesh is recorded as - soul . But here it's referring to animals. It's referring to those that are in the waters and they are nephesh . Now if we skip down just a little bit further to Genesis:2:7, here's another point that it says the Lord God formed, not fish, not animals, but in 2:7, guess what God formed? Man. God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul is what the King James says. New King James says man became a living being.

[Darris McNeely] The same word, nephesh .

[Steve Myers] The same word - so the same word for animal, the same word that was used for those in the waters, the same for mankind himself. Man himself is a nephesh . So that begins to point something that it is very important. Is there a difference then when there's a soul, you know, when some people understand that we have some immortal soul. We don't find that in the scripture. We don't find - we find a living being. Man is a living being. So, we see a connection there between animals and man. They are living. And so, do we have a soul or are we a soul? I think that's the point.

[Darris McNeely] The real truth is we are a living creature, a living soul, and that soul, that being, that physical, flesh and blood existence can expire, can die. That's what the scripture says. The soul that sins, it shall die were told in the book of Ezekiel chapter 18. And that's exactly what it means, just as every other living creature will ultimately die. The difference is man is not an animal and there's another component to human life that goes beyond that and makes man what he is far higher than the animal realm - beyond what we want to cover today. But it's important to realize that this word soul is really just talking about a living, breathing flesh and blood being, which we are rather than have.

[Steve Myers] And I think that one in Ezekiel chapter 18's probably an important one to write down because in verse 4 in Ezekiel 18 it says, "Behold, all souls are Mine. The soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine" (Ezekiel:18:4). That's what God is saying. Then you know what He says? "The soul who sins shall die." Now if you were to take that as we have a soul, an immortal soul that goes to heaven when we die or goes to hell - the problem with that is God says that soul dies. And that doesn't make sense so we don't have an immortal soul. We are a living being. And so living beings shall die is what God says. And so it begins to show pretty clearly that we're not a soul, or we don't have a soul, but we are a soul - we are a living being.

[Darris McNeely] This is a most critical bit of information in understanding to have about human life because this is really where theologians have jumped the track in not understanding what man is. Because if you believe that man has a soul, an immortal, eternal, spiritual soul within him that lives beyond death, beyond the cessation of this living, fleshly nephesh existence, then when - if that's true, then you have to do something with that. You either have to put them into a heaven or into a hell and that leads to other false ideas that have to be fabricated in order to do something with that living, spiritual existence if that's what it is. But that's not what the scripture reveals. Heaven and hell are not the reward of the saved. Man is a living, breathing flesh and blood being who can die. And yet, there is more to the story as many, many other scriptures bring out in regard to man's purpose and life beyond what we can do here today.

[Steve Myers] And we'll talk more about those things as we go along. If you've got other questions, please send them in. Just remember that in the New Testament, it says that God gives us eternal life. We don't have it already. So, remember that concept and we'll talk about more of it later.

[Darris McNeely] That's BT Daily . Join us next time.


KARS's picture

Thank you. Nice to see the truth being taught in this world of confusion and woes. Have a good day.


dust_i_am's picture

While Ezekiel shows souls can die, doesn't Revelation 20:4 tell us they'll be resurrected someday? Especially the souls which remain faithful to Jesus?

anthony ciambriello

anthony ciambriello's picture

Some scriptures seem to indicate to me that the body sleeps but the spirits return to the lord. Lk 16:22-31 the Rich man and Lazarus and Lk 9:29-31 the Transfiguration . Eccl 12:7 says then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to god who gave it. Moses and Elijah both appeared in glorified state yet the resurrection hasn't yet occurred. This is Matthew 17 1:8. In Cor 5:8 Paul says that he would rather be absent from the body and be at home with the lord. If soul sleep is true then how can this be true. Can anyone please help me to understand this topic and explain my misinterpretations. I am trying to "prove all things" but need help from the experts. I very much appreciate all the help I can get. Thank you and God Bless.

D. Miller

D. Miller's picture

Absolutely Anthony.
First of all, I want to emphasize that some on here will attempt to point u to some web address or some booklet to "fully answer your questions and clarify". But Anthony, all you really need is your Bible, some common sense, and some practice. Pray & let God talk for Himself. I'll tell u about this but then it's up to you to put in the time with God.

You mention Lazarus & the rich man. This is obviously not literal. This is a message about how we need to behave in this life. Why is it not literal? Well the answer to that is also part of my comments on u'r paul verse & u'r Moses/Elijah verses...and that is John 3:13 which tells us that NO person as gone to heaven except Jesus. So the Lazarus scripture cannot be literal since God cannot lie & Scripture cannot be broken(which means no discrepancies)

You mention Moses/Elijah. Read further & u'll see that Jesus tells them to tell the "vision" to no one. So this scene is a vision and not really the real Moses or Elijah. Think about it Anthony, if they were really there, where did they disappear to since no man has ascended to heaven except Jesus?

On to u'r Paul verses. If u'r absent from the body, then u'r body is not controlled by u'r conscience thought. What Paul is saying is that he's tired. He wishes for death only because he knows that being unconscience and asleep in the grave, he'll feel no passage of time (just as when u sleep at night and awake in the morning without laying there feeling 8 hrs go by...it feels like an instant of time)and in his next second of conscience thought he'll be with the Lord.

We're born incomplete. We are born with what the Bible calls the spirit in man. This is God breathed into us. It gives us the ability to excersise will. To understand. To be more than an animal. There's a story in the Bible of a King who had this taken away by God for a time, and he lived as an animal because of it. Our bodies will turn to dust in the grave where we sleep. But our spirit returns to God who can then impart it back to a ressurected body later. But in all this, we still are incomplete because we need the spirit of God as well to be whole. Then we become complete when we're born again in a non perishable body. Everything u ever say, do , hear, see, or think is part of the spirit in man. And when God puts that back into you, u'll be able to retain that knowledge. cya then


Gary55's picture

The rich man and Lazarus is a parable, it is not a literal story. The Transferation was a vision of the future.

Sabrina Peabody

Sabrina Peabody's picture

In response to D. Miller: “First of all, I want to emphasize that some on here will attempt to point u to some web address or some booklet to "fully answer your questions and clarify".

I would like to reiterate that the UCG booklets should specifically be used as Bible study aids. They do not and will not ever take the place of the Bible, although they should be used as a tool, such as a concordance or other reference material to more easily access verses and commentary on a particular subject. These resources can be incredibly helpful since often times there is too much to say on a topic than what is intended for comments on our Web pages. Please consider using our Search tool for key word searches to find more information on a subject. I put “spirit in man” and received a Bible FAQ and other materials already written in detail on the spirit in man. Again, all these resources are free and are intended to point you to God’s Word as the ultimate source of truth.


KARS's picture

Alright Guys this is what I remember. Mr. Armstrong use to say,"There is a spirit in man" I know someone from the UCG staff can find the scripture reference.

Rich K

Rich K's picture

There is one point that most people pass over and fail to address, we know that anminals are nephesh, but humans are "living nephesh" that is to say we humans have the potential to be resurected, at some point in the future, while animals don't! Sorry the popular myth of Fluffy or Spot being in heaven with you is a lie that supports the first lie of the "immortal soul" spoken to Eve by the deciever in the garden

Sabrina Peabody

Sabrina Peabody's picture

I found this verse pertaining to animals: Ecclesiastes 3:19 states that “what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one (last) breath; man has no advantage over the animals”--at least when it comes to what happen immediately after death. Man however, has been given the opportunity for eternal life and to be part of God's family.

Zechariah 12:1 is a good verse to show there is a spirit in man: "The burden of the word of the Lord against Israel. Thus says the Lord, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him"

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