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What is Man?

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In the Hebrew Scriptures the question “What is man?” is asked twice. David's reflections in Psalm 8 are widely known and are quoted in the New Testament book of Hebrews. In contrast, the passage in Job 7 is rarely remembered. But both are worthy of careful consideration. (They are specifically addressed in the last section of this lesson, “God's Great Purpose for Man .”)

But how do we define humanity? What is a human being? These questions have exercised the minds of philosophers from time immemorial. But in this lesson we are concerned with what God's Word reveals about the nature of people.

What does God reveal about man?

“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 being [soul, KJV]” (Genesis 2:7 Genesis 2:7And 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.
American King James Version×
).

“Behold all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4 Ezekiel 18:4Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins, it shall die.
American King James Version×
; compare verse 20).

Genesis 1 tells us that man was made in the image of God (verses 26-27). Then chapter 2 reveals a little more detail about the specifics of that creation. God created man out of matter, “the dust of the ground.” The Bible nowhere reveals him to either be or to possess an “immortal soul.” All such ideas representing man as possessing immortality in his being are nonbiblical concepts originating from distinctly nonbiblical sources.

Scripture tells us plainly that the soul is something that can die or be destroyed. It is not immortal! Jesus said not to fear “those that kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him [God] who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28 Matthew 10:28And 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.
American King James Version×
). (For a more complete explanation of this crucial topic, please request our free booklet What Happens After Death ? )

Though man clearly does not possess an immortal soul, is there an important nonphysical component of man's being?

“But there is a spirit in man , and the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding” (Job 32:8 Job 32:8But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty gives them understanding.
American King James Version×
).

Apparently this “spirit in man” adds that essential nonphysical ingredient that gives humans their innate capacity to learn and understand on a level vastly superior to animals. Paul indicates it imparts the ability to know “the things of a man” (1 Corinthians 2:11 1 Corinthians 2:11For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God.
American King James Version×
).

What happens to the spirit in man when one dies?

“Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7 Ecclesiastes 12:7Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.
American King James Version×
).

Is this spirit in man conscious apart from the man's brain and body?

“For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5 Ecclesiastes 9:5For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
American King James Version×
).

“For in death there is no remembrance of You [God]” (Psalms 6:5 Psalms 6:5For in death there is no remembrance of you: in the grave who shall give you thanks?
American King James Version×
).

Many verses in the Bible show us that the state of death is compared to human sleep (Daniel 12:2 Daniel 12:2And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
American King James Version×
, Luke 8:52 Luke 8:52And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleeps.
American King James Version×
; John 11:11-13 John 11:11-13 11 These things said he: and after that he said to them, Our friend Lazarus sleeps; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. 12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.
American King James Version×
; 1 Corinthians 15:19-20 1 Corinthians 15:19-20 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.
American King James Version×
). The dead, however, will be awakened to consciousness by Jesus Christ at the time of the resurrection (John 5:28-29 John 5:28-29 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.
American King James Version×
; 6:39).

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