What happens to the soul after death?

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In order to answer this question, let us define what a soul is according to Scripture.

“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 soul” (Genesis 2:7).

To put it in simple terms:     body (dust) + breath (or spirit) = life (soul)

The soul is simply the conscious life which resulted when God added the breath of life to the body.

To understand death, it is like creation in reverse,

“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

Thus, the equation:     body (dust) – breath (or spirit) = death (not a soul)

A soul has to have both parts, dust and breath of life, in order to be a soul, otherwise it ceases to exist. A simple concept to think about is bread and peanut butter. On their own, they are two items, but together they are a sandwich. Or, to be more scientific, hydrogen and oxygen on their own are just elements,  but combined as H2O, they become water. They are not water unless combined, so a soul is only a soul when breath and dust are combined.

Notice that the words “breath”and “spirit”are used interchangeably (Job 27:3; Psalm 104:29, 30; James 2:26). Therefore, when  the spirit is said to return to God, it is referring to the breath, because that was what God gave in the beginning, and therefore, it was the only thing that could now “return” to the One who gave it. The spirit that returns to God at death is the breath of life. Nowhere in the Scriptures does the “spirit” have any life, wisdom, or feeling after a person dies. It is the “breath of life” and nothing more. This same term “breath of life” is also used for animals in Genesis 7:21,22, thus the breath of life or spirit is not a soul.

When a person dies, it is described as sleep (John 11:11-14; Daniel 12:2; Psalm 13:3). They remain “sleeping” in their graves until the great day of the Lord at the end of the world (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). In death, humans are totally unconscious with no activity or knowledge of any kind. Millions believe the soul possesses a natural immortality but not even one time in the Bible is the soul referred to as being immortal or undying. According to God’s Word, man is mortal (Job 4:17). Only God is immortal (1 Timothy 6:15, 16). Those who are saved will change from mortal to immortal at the end of the world (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).

In summary, after death a person: returns to dust (Psalms 104:29), knows nothing (Ecclesiastes 9:5), possesses no mental powers (Psalms 146:4), has nothing to do with anything on earth (Ecclesiastes 9:6), does not live (2 Kings 20:1), waits in the grave (Job 17:13), and continues not (Job 14:1, 2) until the Resurrection when he will be given his reward or punishment (Daniel 12:2, Revelation 22:12).

 

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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