What Is The "Spirit in Man"?

You are here

What Is The "Spirit in Man"?

Login or Create an Account

With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up


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). 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).

Ecclesiastes 12:7 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). 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 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 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). 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.


  • Blue0007

    Got a question. When is the "spirit of man" given to the body? At first breath of life, or? What verses in the Bible supports your understandings. Note: old posts here is this a dead posting?, but this issue is still relevant today.

  • 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 - 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 Ps.51:11 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 (Rom 8:9) 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 Ezek. 18:4 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 ... 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.
  • rwp_47
    Hi Malachi 3_16-18 Observe that no scripture quoted establishes that soul is not immortal (including Ezek 18:4 as we shall see). Consider what Matthew 10:28 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 Ezek 18:4 (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 Gen 2:7 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)?
  • 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 Cor 2:13), and while a down payment of our salvation (2 Cor 5:5), it doesn’t guarantee immortality, since God can remove it from us (Ps 51:11; 1 Sam 16:14). Unlike the animals, mankind also has the human spirit (1 Cor 2:11), which imparts personality, intellect, reasoning ability, and the ability to join with God’s Spirit when He gives it (Job 32:8). 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 Sam 4:9 and Acts 2:43). It does perish when we die, because “the soul that sins shall die” (Ezek 18:4), and all have sinned (Rom 3:23). 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-those-who-kill-body-cannot-kill-soul
  • 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 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."
  • ManORight

    I like your analogy. I have always thought that those who teach the immortality of the soul were echoing the serpent's statement in the Garden, "you will not surely die". Matt 10:28 and your comment adds a clarity I had not considered. It helps one understand the current age and the state of those who have died prior to the GWT judgment and final disposition.

  • 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.

  • Join the conversation!

    Log in or register to post comments