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The Wondrous Spirit of Man

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Aren’t you glad you’re a human being rather than an animal? But what is man? What makes a human human? That is the question addressed in this article.

The scientific name for humans is homo sapiens, which is Latin for “wise man.” People marvel at how smart some animals are, but nothing remotely compares with human intellect. Humans have free will, self-awareness and superb abilities to learn and reason. They can imagine and be creative, reflect on the past, contemplate the future, make plans, learn complex languages and math and science, learn to write and communicate in sophisticated ways—the list could go on and on.

Human brains are similar to the brains of many mammals. In fact, some mammals—whales, dolphins and elephants—have brains larger than ours. But humans have minds with phenomenal wisdom compared to animals, and no biological analysis of brains can explain why.

Rather Than Merely Having Brains, Humans Have Minds!

In Genesis 1:26 Genesis 1:26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
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, God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (emphasis added throughout.) In this verse, we think “likeness” refers to the design and shape of our bodies being like God’s body. So no wonder we humans have such an ideal design and functionality!

We think “image” refers to our minds being significantly like the mind of God! Our phenomenal mental and spiritual qualities are God-like qualities that dramatically distinguish us from animals (see Psalm 8!).

We think “image” refers to our minds being significantly like the mind of God! Our phenomenal mental and spiritual qualities are God-like qualities that dramatically distinguish us from animals (see Psalm 8!).

So what is the key ingredient that makes those minds amazing? It is the human spirit, also called the spirit of man!

That key component is absolutely not an immortal “soul” dwelling inside one’s mortal body. In the Bible, the word “soul” is basically a synonym for a person or a life. We don’t have souls inside us—we are souls! For a thorough understanding of that subject, please read our booklet What Happens After Death?

The Spirit of Man—the Human Spirit

The Bible mentions the human spirit in several places. 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.
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says, “Thus says the Lord, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.” Creating the heavens and the earth—wondrous beyond words! Forming the spirit of man within him—even more wondrous beyond words!

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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says: “But there is a spirit within people, the breath of the Almighty within them, that makes them intelligent” (New Living Translation). It makes him homo sapiens—“wise man!” In this verse, “breath” (Hebrew neshamah) is simply a poetic way of referring to the “spirit” (ruach) in man.

However, Isaiah 42:5 Isaiah 42:5Thus said God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which comes out of it; he that gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to them that walk therein:
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uses the same Hebrew words to refer to God’s gifts of literal breath and literal spirit. This verse helps us to better understand the apparent dual meaning of 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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, which says, “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.” God gave Adam physical life by starting his breathing and God gave him spiritual life in the “image of God” by giving him the spirit of man.

When a Person Dies, What Happens to the Spirit of Man?

Ecclesiastes 12 metaphorically describes aging and death. Then verse 7 says, “The dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” This is a key point. When a person dies, the only component that survives is his spirit—God takes his spirit to heaven. This wording cannot be speaking of a “soul.” People who believe in immortal souls believe that only good souls go to heaven. This verse tells us that everyone’s spirit goes to heaven upon death!

Why does God take each person’s spirit to heaven? Because it is the permanent part of the person that needs safekeeping until he is resurrected. It defines who he is—it is his full identity. It records and preserves his character, personality, memories and understanding. Then that spirit will be used as the code or “blueprint” for fully restoring all those features when the person is resurrected with a new body!

The spirit of man has no consciousness or functionality by itself. 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.
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says, “The dead know nothing.” Compare with verse 10 and Psalms 6:5 Psalms 6:5For in death there is no remembrance of you: in the grave who shall give you thanks?
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. Psalms 146:4 Psalms 146:4His breath goes forth, he returns to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
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says: “His breath goes forth; he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish” (Modern King James Version).

The dead have no consciousness, which is implied by the Bible’s most frequent metaphor for death, which is sleep (Psalms 13:3 Psalms 13:3Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
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; John 11:11-14 John 11:11-14 [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. [14] Then said Jesus to them plainly, Lazarus is dead.
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). The dead will be awakened from the sleep of death in a resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:18-23 1 Corinthians 15:18-23 [18] Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. [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. [21] For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. [22] For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. [23] But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
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, 50-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 [13] But I would not have you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. [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.
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; Job 14:13-15 Job 14:13-15 [13] O that you would hide me in the grave, that you would keep me secret, until your wrath be past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me! [14] If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. [15] You shall call, and I will answer you: you will have a desire to the work of your hands.
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; John 5:25-29 John 5:25-29 [25] Truly, truly, I say to you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. [26] For as the Father has life in himself; so has he given to the Son to have life in himself; [27] And has given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. [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.
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).

Let’s compare the spirit of man with a DVD recording. A DVD disc is rather worthless by itself, but it becomes useful and valuable when it is inserted into a DVD player. Likewise, a person’s spirit after his death has no “use,” function or activity until that spirit is put into his brain at the time of his resurrection.

What About the Gift of God’s Holy Spirit?

God’s desire is for everyone to eventually receive the gift of His Holy Spirit. A person receives that gift when he has understood and believed the gospel, has deeply repented of his sins, is baptized for the forgiveness of his sins, and the minister has prayed for that gift with the laying on of hands (Mark 1:15 Mark 1:15And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel.
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; Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
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; 3:19; 8:14-17; 9:17; 19:6; 2 Timothy 1:6-7 2 Timothy 1:6-7 [6] Why I put you in remembrance that you stir up the gift of God, which is in you by the putting on of my hands. [7] For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
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).

Then one of the great purposes of the human spirit is fulfilled—to receive and integrate with the Holy Spirit. It is at that moment when God begins to look upon the person as being spiritually “converted” (Acts 3:19 Acts 3:19Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
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), a “new man” (Ephesians 2:15 Ephesians 2:15Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of two one new man, so making peace;
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), “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17 2 Corinthians 5:17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
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), a “saint” (1 Corinthians 1:2 1 Corinthians 1:2To the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their's and our's:
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), and one of the “sons of God” (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.
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, 14, 19). As Romans 8:16 Romans 8:16The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
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says, “His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children” (New Living Translation).

Therefore a converted person’s spirit is a combination of the spirit of man and the Holy Spirit. Luke 23:46 Luke 23:46And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
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tells us that when Jesus was about to die, He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” His spirit was His human spirit and the Holy Spirit.

First Corinthians 2:11 is highly instructive. To better understand it, consider this paraphrase: “For what man can understand things on a human level except by the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one spiritually understands things on God’s level except by the Spirit of God.” Paul is comparing two great contrasts—the colossal contrast between animal brains and human minds, and the colossal contrast between the minds of people who lack the Holy Spirit and the minds of people who have the Holy Spirit. Reading the entire chapter gives added understanding.

Every Person Is Threatened With Great Spiritual Danger!

The Bible clearly reveals that human nature includes a continual downward pull and temptation toward evil (see Jeremiah 17:9 Jeremiah 17:9The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
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; Romans 7:14-19 Romans 7:14-19 [14] For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. [15] For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. [16] If then I do that which I would not, I consent to the law that it is good. [17] Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me. [18] For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. [19] For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
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; 8:7; Galatians 5:19-21 Galatians 5:19-21 [19] Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, [20] Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, jealousies, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, [21] Contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
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; Matthew 15:19 Matthew 15:19For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
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).

Why is that? A major reason is the continual influence of Satan the devil. Ephesians 2:2 Ephesians 2:2Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:
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speaks of Satan as “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in [disobedient people].” Satan “broadcasts” his influences all over the world. Because humans have a spiritual component, they automatically receive those broadcasts unless they are working to “submit to God” and “resist the devil” (James 4:7 James 4:7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
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). As long as they regularly “draw near to God” (verse 8), God will “jam” and block those transmissions.

All human beings are vulnerable to the dangers from evil spirits. Because of that, in Ephesians 6:11 Ephesians 6:11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
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, Paul wrote, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” And then verses 12 through 20 describe the essential pieces of armor.

Prayer is one part of that armor (verses 18-20). The “Lord’s prayer” is Jesus’ brief summary of what we need to pray about on a daily basis (Matthew 6:9-13 Matthew 6:9-13 [9] After this manner therefore pray you: Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. [10] Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. [11] Give us this day our daily bread. [12] And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. [13] And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For your is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
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). Verse 13 says, “Deliver us from the evil one.” Jesus might have meant all kinds of dangers, but He clearly was including the danger from Satan.

Rejoice! You Are Made in the Image of God!

Hopefully reviewing this fascinating subject in God’s Word has given you a greater appreciation for you—for what and who you are!

Let’s rejoice that we are human beings—made in the image of God! Let’s be glad that we have the spirit of man, which gives us marvelous minds and that gives us the opportunity to receive the indwelling gift of God’s Holy Spirit! Then those who have the Holy Spirit and who remain faithful to God will receive the most precious gift of all—everlasting life!