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What is the "spirit in man"?

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What is the difference between an animal brain and a human brain of similar size? Science hasn't been able to explain the vast difference in thinking ability between the animal brain and the human mind. But the Bible talks about a spiritual component God gives to every person (Zechariah 12:1 Zechariah 12:1The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, said the LORD, which stretches forth the heavens, and lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.
American King James Version×
). The Bible teaches that this spirit in man imparts aspects of the human mind, including self-awareness, intellect, creativity, personality and temperament—everything that enables human accomplishment and knowledge short of true spiritual understanding (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×
).

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.
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mentions this spirit, saying that the spirit of man returns to God upon death. Some erroneously interpret this as a reference to righteous souls going to heaven. However, the context shows this interpretation is wrong. For one thing, it says that the spirit of everyone who dies, not just the righteous, goes back to God who gave it. The preceding verses speak of aging and death taking their natural course in every person.

As our booklet What Happens After Death? explains, Paul wrote that the righteous dead wait in their graves until the resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Why comfort one another with these words.
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). And since Christ comes to the earth to reign, the resurrected saints will also be on the earth. Heaven isn't the reward of Christians. (See also our booklet Heaven and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach ? )

This verse of Ecclesiastes 12 is part of the chapter's conclusion. In its entirety, the verse reads, “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” Upon death, the human body decomposes into the dust from which it was created and the spirit in man goes back to God.

What is the spirit in man? Is it the man himself? If that were the case, 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×
would not make sense. It plainly says that the body decomposes. Is the spirit in man an immortal soul? Much of mainstream Christianity has adopted the idea of an immortal soul from ancient pagan religion; it is not taught in the Scriptures.

Why would the spirit of man return to God upon death? Consider how God will resurrect the dead. He will not simply put life back into dead bodies. For even if the body remains intact upon death, it will eventually decompose, just as 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.
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stated. That is, the bodies of most people will no longer exist by the time of the resurrections.

It is likely, therefore, that the spirit in man serves as the permanent record of every human being, by which God will resurrect him or her at the appointed time (1 Corinthians 15:23 1 Corinthians 15:23But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
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). By way of analogy, it's possible to recreate a destroyed building if one has the blueprints of the original. Similarly, God is able to recreate a person by the record preserved in the spirit in man.

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    Comments

  • Brother Mitch

    It has been said; that man is comprised of three components. 1. The Spirit of the Mind, 2.The Entity of the Soul, 3.and the Physical Body. I believe the Genesis of man was created in the image and likeness of God. Romans 12:1-2 teaches us how to present our bodies with an acceptable attribute of God which is Holiness, the Holy Scriptures also state we can be renewed in the Spirit of our minds. It is clear that Godliness can occur when our conduct lines up with God’s character, it is through this transformation we can receive Divine Miracles.

  • rwp_47
    Consider this to be an alternative presentation of “What is the spirit in man”. Based on the bible man is a soul that has a body and a spirit. 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×
    teaches that man has a “conditionally” immortal soul … not to be confused with what “traditional Christianity” teaches. Conditionally in that God can destroy it in Gehenna when the time comes if he finds it necessary. Otherwise one’s soul will never die since no one but God can kill (destroy) it says Matthew … and because it never ages and will continue forever unless destroyed by God in Gehenna. I propose that the spirit does not serve as the permanent record of a man … but instead the soul serves as the permanent storage facility since spirit can’t be destroyed but soul can … but only by God and in the lake of fire. This affords the ability to destroy the record of the wicked … which if it was stored in the spirit couldn’t be destroyed (which is totally unacceptable … because that would mean the wicked lived forever in a sleep and couldn’t be completely blotted out). I propose that our body, soul, and spirit can more clearly be understood by an analogy to a computer (rather than to a building). The computer consists of hardware, software, and power circuit … where these correspond to the body, soul, and spirit. Nothing is stored in the power circuit. Its function is to empower the body and soul acting together to live as a being. Its the software that has all the information … and it corresponds to the soul … and it is what God breathes into one’s body to resurrect. The body (the hardware) is self explanatory and is necessary if the software is to function (i.e., if the person is to be animated as we are in this life and to be conscious). So the spirit is the power to animate a person that is completely constructed … just like the power circuit animates the computer (hardware and software) when the “on” switch is switched “on.”
  • Malachi 3_16-18
    Hi rwp_47, Man doesn’t have immortality inherent within him. God has “put eternity in our hearts” (check Eccl 3:11 in the New International Version or New King James Version), but this means the need or desire to have an eternal relationship with Him. The Holy Spirit, given to us at conversion, is spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:13 1 Corinthians 2:13Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
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    ), and while a down payment of our salvation (2 Corinthians 5:5 2 Corinthians 5:5Now he that has worked us for the selfsame thing is God, who also has given to us the earnest of the Spirit.
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    ), it doesn’t guarantee immortality, since God can remove it from us (Psalms 51:11 Psalms 51:11Cast me not away from your presence; and take not your holy spirit from me.
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    ; 1 Samuel 16:14 1 Samuel 16:14But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.
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    ). Unlike the animals, mankind also has the human spirit (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×
    ), which imparts personality, intellect, reasoning ability, and the ability to join with God’s Spirit when He gives it (Job 32:8 Job 32:8But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty gives them understanding.
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    ). But this spirit isn’t the “soul”, and when a person dies, it goes back to God (Eccl 12:7). It contains a record of our thoughts, etc, so it is apparently put back into us when He resurrects us. In many places in the Bible, the word soul simply means “living being”, or “person”. (For instance, consider 2 Samuel 4:9 2 Samuel 4:9And David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said to them, As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my soul out of all adversity,
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    and Acts 2:43 Acts 2:43And fear came on every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
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    ). It does perish when we die, because “the soul that 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×
    ), and all have sinned (Romans 3:23 Romans 3:23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
    American King James Version×
    ). For a detailed explanation of how “soul” is used in Mt 10:28, I recommend this article from our website: http://www.ucg.org/bible-faq/what-did-jesus-christ-mean-do-not-fear-thos…
  • rwp_47
    Hi Malachi 3_16-18 Observe that no scripture quoted establishes that soul is not immortal (including 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×
    as we shall see). Consider what 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×
    actually says. “And 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 [gehenna].” Matthew informs us here that only God can destroy soul. And if he does destroy one’s soul Matthew also informs us where and when he will do this. It will be in the lake of fire [gehenna] over a thousand years from now. This is an execution you realize … its not death due to “natural causes” … soul doesn’t grow old and ware out as our bodies do. And Matthew infers that to date no soul has ever died (only bodies have died). So there is no contradiction here with 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.
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    (both say souls die). But unlike Matthew - that’s all Ezekiel tells us. Matthew additionally tells us that all else that kills us kills only our bodies - nothing else is “able” to kill our souls. And this he says is a reason God should be feared (and therefore worshipped). You realize that this means if the sun (for example) could kill our souls … then sun worship wouldn’t be wrong! Now if because the soul can be executed in gehenna means that it is not immortal - then one would have to conclude that the “Word” was not originally immortal either - right? I mean after all - he died! He was killed. So he wasn’t immortal either using that logic - was he? Think about it. So I submit that just because something can be killed doesn’t mean that its not immortal. For instance - is Abraham’s soul immortal? He won’t be executed in gehenna. So based on Matthew we can conclude that Abraham’s soul will never die (it exists now) … the only issue with Abraham is he hasn’t been awakened yet. I suspect you believe man is a soul? In 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.
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    there was a body formed of dirt. Not the man - right? But it says man became. So what was he before he became? The only other thing he could be - he was the breath (the life - the soul) that came out of his Creator. That’s what he “was”. Is God’s soul not immortal (Is. 1:14)? What came out of our Creator is what man was originally. Think about it. I can make this last part clearer in another post if you’d like (I’m just running out of room here)?
  • rwp_47
    Hi Malachi 3_16-18 I noticed that you began your comment with the statement - “Man doesn’t have immortality inherent within him.” Evidently you didn’t do as I suggested - you didn’t take a long, hard look at 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×
    - and I mean the scripture itself - not what someone else might say about it (or what you’ve always heard or been taught)- but look at what it actually and truly says - and think about it by comparing it against what I’m saying. I think if you do that you’ll conclude, as I have, that the article is fundamentally incorrect and needs to be updated. The church teaches that conversion is a begetting - does it not? So - does that mean Psalms 51:11 Psalms 51:11Cast me not away from your presence; and take not your holy spirit from me.
    American King James Version×
    means one can be “un-begotten”? I guess that’s a kind of abortion? We agree - the soul and spirit are two different things. However, animals do have spirit (Eccl3:21) as life is not possible without spirit - that would be like trying to use your computer without plugging it in first. Regarding the spirit returning to God - Paul says (Romans 8:9 Romans 8:9But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
    American King James Version×
    ) that we [our souls?] “are not in the flesh, but are in the spirit, if so be that the spirit of God dwell in you.” If I say that means upon conversion and receiving God’s Spirit that the location of one’s soul is also relocated from the physical body to the spirit fetus that is now forming in us … can you prove me wrong from the scriptures? Give it a try. One’s soul is destroyed in Gehenna - and not before. So what I’m saying is not contradicted by 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×
    at all … prove me wrong. “Malachi” - here’s a question for you: When you’re born again … Will you still be a “soul” that has a “body” and a “spirit” (except that your body will be composed of spirit)? Is that the way it will be? I don’t know but maybe I’m wrong … but I’m anticipating that you might agree with that description. And if you do then here’s another question: 1John 3:2 John 3:2The same came to Jesus by night, and said to him, Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that you do, except God be with him.
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    … Then why would God be any different? So, when we say one is a “spirit” (or “spirit being”) … what do we really mean? Explain your understanding of what is a “spirit being” … in terms of body, soul, and spirit. Give it a try.

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