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STUDY 3: WHAT IS THE SOUL?

 

Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.

 

“He spared not their soul from death” (Psalm 78: 50).

 

EVERYONE knows that the body dies, that it needs to be resupplied continually, and therefore it

cannot be immortal. But the Scriptures speak of souls. May it be that the soul is immortal, and

that God having made a soul cannot destroy it?

 

The Scriptures nowhere speak of the immortality of the soul, in fact, the expression immortal

soul cannot be found anywhere in the Scriptures. On the contrary, the Scriptures declare that

God is able to destroy both soul and body, and the soul that sinneth, it shall die

(Matthew 10: 28) (Ezekiel 18: 4, 20). That which can die, be destroyed, is not immortal,

therefore, the above Scriptures prove that neither souls nor bodies are immortal.

 

What, then, is the soul? It is generally thought of as an indefinite something in us, but what it is

or where it is located few attempt to explain. Some claim that this unknown something is the

real, intelligent being, while the body is merely its house or tool.

 

God Able to Destroy both Soul and Body

 

The body is not the soul, proven by Jesus’ statement that God “is able to destroy both soul and

body” (Matthew 10: 28).

 

Genesis 2: 7 reads: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed

[Hebrew blew] into his nostrils the breath [Hebrew wind, power] of life [Hebrew lives, plural –

such as was common to all living animals]; and man became a living soul [a sentient being].”

 

From this account it appears that the body was formed first, but it was not a man, soul or being,

until animated. It had eyes, but saw nothing; ears, but heard nothing; a mouth, but spoke nothing;

a tongue, but no taste; nostrils, but no sense of smell; a heart, but it pulsated not; blood, but it

was cold, lifeless; lungs, but they moved not. It was a corpse, an inanimate body, but not a man.

 

The second step of man’s creation was to give vitality to the properly “formed” and prepared

body, described by the words “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” When a healthy

person has been drowned, resuscitation has been achieved by working the arms and the lungs as

a bellows, and gradually establishing breath in the nostrils. In Adam’s case, though requiring no

labored effort, the Creator caused the perfect organism which He had made to breathe the life

giving oxygen of the atmosphere.

 

As the vitalizing breath entered, the lungs expanded, the blood corpuscles were oxygenized and

passed to the heart, which in turn propelled them to every part of the body, awakening all the

prepared, but previously dormant nerves to sensation and energy. The energy instantly reached

the brain, and thought, perception, reasoning, looking, touching, smelling, feeling and tasting

commenced. That which was a lifeless human organism had become a man, a sentient being, the

living soul” condition mentioned in the text. The term “living soul” means “sentient being,” a

being capable of sensation, perception, thought. Even though Adam was perfect in his organism,

it was still necessary for him to sustain life by partaking of the fruits of the trees of life. And

when he sinned, God drove him from the garden, “lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the

tree [plural, trees or grove] of life, and eat, and live for ever [by eating continuously]”

(Genesis 3: 22).

 

We now see why the Scriptures speak of the lower animals as “souls” also, for they are also

sentient beings, creatures of intelligence, only lower orders. As with man, they can see, hear,

feel, taste and smell, and each can reason up to the standard of its own organism, though none

can do so on as high a plane as man. The difference is not because man has a different kind of

life from that of the lower animals.

 

Man and beast also have soul-quality or a certain conscious intelligence. To illustrate: Suppose

the creation of a perfect dog; and suppose that creation had been described as was Adam’s, what

difference of detail could we imagine? The body of a dog created would not be a dog until the

breath of life would be caused to energize that body – then it would be a living creature with

sensibilities and powers all its own – a living soul of the lower order, called dog, as Adam, when

he received life, became a living creature with sensibilities and powers all his own – a living

soul of the highest order of flesh beings, called man.

 

Man’s Finer Organism

 

The difference then between man and beast is not in the life which animates both, nor from the

lack of soul-power, which both possess. The difference is physical, and the fact that God made

provision for man’s future, as expressed in His promises, while no such provision has been made

for beasts. Man has been given a much greater brain capacity and intelligence than the brute.

Whereas the brute’s brain-capacity is almost entirely selfish in nature, man’s intellect is vastly

superior, and he also has the capacity to appreciate the artistic, moral and religious spheres.

 

Because of his fall into sin and death, man’s condition is far from what it was in its original

perfection when pronounced “very good” by his Creator. Some, by cultivating the lower organs

of thought and failing to use the higher, intellectual faculties, have dwarfed the higher faculties;

yet the organs are still there and capable of development, something that is not true of the most

nearly perfect of the brute creation. The Creator endowed man with a higher and finer organism

which differentiates him from the brute. They have similar flesh and bones, breathe the same air,

drink the same water, and eat similar food and are all souls or creatures possessing intelligence;

but man, with a better body, possesses capacity for higher intelligence and is treated by his

Creator as on an entirely different plane. In proportion as sin degrades man from his original

likeness to his Creator, he is said to be “brutish” – more nearly resembling the brutes, and

lacking in the higher and finer sensibilities.

 

Life principle is no different in mankind from what it is in all other creatures whose breath is

taken in through the nostrils, as taught in the account of the destruction wrought by the Flood

(Genesis 6: 17) (Genesis 7: 15, 22). King Solomon also stated that man and beast all have “one

breath” [Hebrew ruach, spirit of life] – one kind of life; and that “as the one dieth, so dieth the

other” (Ecclesiastes 3: 19). When he asks (Ecclesiastes 3: 21), “Who knoweth the spirit of man

that [it] goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that [it] goeth downward to the earth?,” he is

controverting the heathen theory that man had some inherent quality which would prevent his

death, even though he seemed to die.

 

The distinction between man and beast is not in the kind of breath or life, but that man has a

higher organism than other animals, possessing moral and intellectual powers and qualities in

the image or likeness of those possessed by his Creator, who has a still higher organism, of spirit,

not of flesh. And man’s hope for a future life lies not in his inherent powers, but in his Creator’s

gracious provision which centers in the redemption of every soul from death by the great

Redeemer, and the consequent provision that whosoever will, may have eternal life by a

resurrection, subject to the terms of the New Covenant.

 

Souls, not Bodies, are Redeemed

 

Our Redeemer “poured out his soul [being] unto death,” He made “his soul [being] an offering

for sin” (Isaiah 53: 12, 10). He bought the soul of Adam (and his posterity) with His precious

blood, by making His soul (being) an offering for sin. It was souls that were redeemed, therefore

it will be souls that will be awakened, resurrected (Psalm 49: 15).

 

Many suppose that all the buried bodies are to be restored atom for atom, but the Apostle

declares, “Thou sowest [in death] not that body that shall be.” In the resurrection God gives to

each person (soul or sentient being) such a body as His infinite wisdom has been pleased to

provide – the Church, selected during the Gospel Age, receive spirit bodies; the restitution class

will receive human bodies, but not the same ones lost in death (1 Corinthians 15: 37, 38).

 

In Adam’s creation, the bringing together of an organism and the breath of life produced a

sentient being or soul, so the dissolution of these from any cause puts an end to sentient being –

stopping thoughts and feelings of every kind. The soul (sentient being) ceases; the body returns

to dust as it was; while the spirit or breath of life returns to God who imparted it to Adam, and to

his race through him (Ecclesiastes 12: 7). It returns to God and can never be recovered except by

Divine power. Recognizing this fact, the Lord’s people commit their hope of a future life by

resurrection to God and Christ (Luke 23: 46) (Acts 7: 59). Had God made no provision for man’s

future life by a Ransom and a promised resurrection, death would have been the end of all hope

for humanity (1 Corinthians 15: 14-18).

 

Man Will Live Again

 

But God has made provision for our living again, and the Scripture writers speak of the

unconscious interim between death and the resurrection morning in which sentient being is

suspended, as a “sleep.” The illustration is appropriate, for the dead are totally unconscious of

the lapse of time, and the moment of awakening will seem to them like the next moment after

their death. Speaking of Lazarus’ death, our Lord said, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go,

that I may awake him out of sleep.” Because the disciples did not comprehend, He said plainly,

“Lazarus is dead” (John 11: 11, 14). If the theory of consciousness in death is correct, it is

remarkable that Lazarus gave no account of his experience during those four days. But as our

Lord expressed it, Lazarus slept, and He awakened him to life, to consciousness. His sentient

being, or soul returned or revived.

 

We will give some examples:

 

  • Luke says of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, “He fell asleep” (Acts 7: 60).
  • In St. Paul’s speech at Antioch, speaking of David, he said, “David . . . fell on sleep”

(Acts 13: 36).

  • St. Peter says, “The fathers fell asleep” (2 Peter 3: 4).

 

St. Paul used this expression many times as the following quotations show:

 

  • “The greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep”

(1 Corinthians 15: 6).

  • “If there be no resurrection. . . . Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are

perished” (1 Corinthians 15: 13, 18).

  • “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept”

(1 Corinthians 15: 20).

  • “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep” (1 Corinthians 15: 51).
  • “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep”

(1 Thessalonians 4: 13).

  • “Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring [from the dead] with [by] him”

(1 Thessalonians 4: 14).

  • When the Kingdom, the resurrection time comes, “we which are alive and remain unto the coming [presence] of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep”

(1 Thessalonians 4: 15).

 

Turning to the Old Testament, Job says, “O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou

wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be [over] past.” The present dying time is the time of

God’s wrath – for the curse of death is upon all because of the original transgression. However,

we are promised that in due time the curse will be lifted and a blessing will come to all the

families of the earth through the Redeemer. Job continues, “All the days of my appointed time

will I wait, till my change come. [Then] Thou shalt call [John 5: 25], and I will answer thee: thou

wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands” (Job 14: 13-15).

 

And our Lord’s response is, “All that are in the graves shall hear his [the Son of God’s] voice

[calling them to awake and come to a full knowledge of God and to a full opportunity of eternal

life]” (John 5: 28, 29).

 

A Candle as an Illustration

 

  • Let us use a candle as an illustration of the human body, soul and spirit:
  • An unlighted candle would correspond to an inanimate human body.
  • The lighting of the candle would correspond to the spark of life originally implanted by the Creator.
  • The flame or light corresponds to sentient being.
  • The oxygenated atmosphere which unites with the carbon of the candle in supporting the flame corresponds to the breath, or spirit of life which unites with the physical organism in producing soul or intelligent existence.

 

If an accident should occur which would destroy the candle, the flame would cease; so if a

human body be destroyed, say, by an accident, the soul, the life, the intelligence, ceases.

 

Or, if the supply of air were cut off from the candle-flame, such as by an extinguisher or snuffer,

or by submerging the candle in water, the light would be extinguished even though the candle

remained unimpaired. So the soul, life, existence, of man or animal would cease if the breath of

life were cut off by drowning or asphyxiation, while the body might still be sound.

 

Also, as the lighted candle might be used under favorable conditions to light other candles, but

once the flame is extinguished the candle could neither relight itself nor other candles, so the

human or animal body while alive can propagate other souls; but as soon as the spark of life is

gone, soul or being has ceased, and all power to think, feel or propagate has ceased. For instance,

we read of Jacob’s children: “All the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy

souls” (Exodus 1: 5). Jacob received his spark of life and his physical organism, that is, his soul

or intelligent being from Isaac, and thence from Adam, to whom alone God ever directly

imparted life. And Jacob in turn passed on the life, organism and soul to his posterity, and so it is

with all humanity.

 

A candle might be relighted by anyone having the ability, but the human body deprived of the

spark of life “wasteth away,” “returneth to the dust from which it was taken,” and the spark of

life cannot be re-enkindled except by Divine power. The promise of a resurrection is therefore a

promise of a relighting of animal existence or soul; and since there can be no being or soul

without a body, it follows that a promised resurrection of soul implies new bodies. Thus the

Scriptures assure us that human bodies which return to dust will not be restored, but in the

resurrection God will give such new bodies as it may please Him to give

(1 Corinthians 15: 37-40).

 

The Apostle here declares that in the resurrection there will be a special class accounted worthy

of a new nature, spiritual instead of human; and he shows that this great change of nature will be

effected by giving these a different kind of body. The candle may again be used to illustrate:

Suppose the human nature to be illustrated by a wax candle, the new body might be illustrated

by an electric light.

 

With any power and wisdom less than that of our Creator guaranteeing the resurrection, we

might justly fear some slip by which the identity would be lost. But we can securely trust this

and all things to God. He who knows our very thoughts can reproduce them in new brains so that

not one valuable lesson or precious experience will be lost.

 

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