Breath+Dust=Soul: The Truth about Death, Part 2
In the previous part of this continuing study on death, we discovered that there is no such thing as an immortal soul. Only God hath immortality, and we are only given eternal life when Jesus comes again to take us home. So if our souls aren’t immortal, then what are they, and what happens to us when we die? This study will answer those questions.
What is a soul?
I believe the whole initial misunderstanding with the concept of an immortal stems from the fact that the word Soul is found numerous times throughout the Bible, in all versions. Couple that with the popular preconceived notion of a bodiless spirit floating around as taught by the Greeks, it’s no wonder the majority of Christians today accept the teaching without fully questioning the veracity of the doctrine. However, as we’ll see, soul often times in the Bible can literally be interchanged with person/being/body, and not as a disembodied spirit. Let’s look at the earliest mention of Soul in the Bible, Genesis 2:7 in the KJV.
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. (KJV)
Let’s look at the other translations to get an broader picture:
7 the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (NIV)
7Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (NASB)
7 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. (NKJV)
7 Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person. (NLT)
7then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (ESV)
I want you to notice 2 things above: We can see that the word soul, is interchangeable with being/person/creature. In essense, soul=a person. When they say ‘there were 20 souls lost at sea’, it basically means 2o people died, not 20 spirits wandering around looking for land. This interchange is illustrated many times over the Bible. Soul in this case does not refer to the spirit that gets detached from a body when it dies.
The Hebrew expression translated “living soul” in Genesis 2:7 is nephesh; it is used in several other places in Genesis 1 and 2 as well as throughout the Old Testament and in many of these passages it refers to animals. The Englishmen who translated the King James Version of the Bible rendered nephesh as “living creature” in Genesis 1:21 where it refers to sea animals; they rendered it “living creature” in verse 24 where it refers to land animals. In verse 30, this same Hebrew expression is used to describe all living things on the earth. In Genesis 2:19, Adam was asked to name every “living creature”— again, the Hebrew expression is nephesh. Hence the English Standard Version also uses ‘Living Creature’ to define God’s creation. So the term ‘living soul’ in this verse gives no hint of immortality of any kind.
The 2nd thing to note is the formula that was used to create a human being.
Dust + Breath of life = Living Soul/Person/Being
That is the formula for creating humans, dust from the ground, and the breath of life from God. The exact opposite happens when we die, Genesis 3:19 says:
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”
The Bible doesn’t say either that our spirits/souls will roam the earth either.
7 Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God who gave it. (Ecclesiates 12:7 NKJV)
It’s the exact reverse of creating life.
Living Soul – Spirit = Dust
Or we can look at it this way too:
Soul = Spirit?
What is the spirit that Ecclesiates mentions, isn’t it like a soul or spirit that leaves the body upon death? Not at all. Let us use the Bible to be our translator. James 2:26 says that the Spirit=Breath.
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (NKJV)
26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works. (NLT)
Job 27 confirms this:
3as long as my breath is in me,
and the spirit of God is in my nostrils, (ESV)
3 As long as my breath is in me,
And the breath of God in my nostrils, (NKJV)
So basically, when you die, the spirit/breath goes back to God. Some Christians will use this text as proof that we go straight to heaven at death. That is misguided, as you can see, what returns to God is the breath he gave us. The Bible says that people are still buried in their graves, waiting for Christ’s return:
28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. 30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:28-30 NKJV)
Peter even confirms this, he talks about David, a man after God’s own heart still buried in his grave, and not yet ascended to heaven in Acts 2:29, 34:
29 “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
34 “For David did not ascend into the heavens…(NKJV)
I am pretty sure that when Jesus comes again, we will see David raised from the dead at the first resurrection. Like him, when we die, we will wait as well.
Souls Do Die…
Even the Bible dispels directly the idea of the immortal soul, as souls do die. Ezekiel 18:20 says:
20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. (NKJV)
20 The person who sins is the one who will die. (NLT)
20“The person who sins will die… (NASB)
Also notice how the above is another instance of soul being interchanged for person. The idea of a spirit that is separated from the body was borrowed from the Egyptians by the Greeks, Plato popularized that teaching and it crept into early Christianity. The Bible clearly shows that a soul is a person, a being, a creature, and not a disembodied ‘spirit’. No where in scriptures does it talk about souls being immortal.
So if we don’t go straight to heaven or hell, and our souls can die, what happens to us when we’re dead? Stay tuned for Part 3 as it’ll answer those questions and more. ~God bless.