The Soul and Spirit
Many people often become confused with the concept of the soul and spirit. The Bible says, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). At death everything returns to where it came from; the dust returns to the earth from which it was taken and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
Death is merely the opposite of Creation. This concept is consistent with the creation account, “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). At creation God adds his breath of life or the divine spark of life to the dust and man becomes a living soul.
As to the nature of the spirit that goes back to God, James 2:26 clarifies that “the body without the spirit is dead.” In this verse, the word “spirit” has a marginal reference which reads, “or breath.” The actual root word in the Greek is “pneuma,” a word which means “breath” or “air.” This leads us to the conclusion that the words “breath” and “spirit” are the same in the Bible.
A clear example of this is found in Job 27:3, “All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils.” David also confirms that the spirit and the breath are the same in Psalms 104:29, 30, “Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.” The same term “the breath of life” is also used for animals as seen in Genesis 7:21,22.
Creation (Genesis 2:7): Body (dust) + Breath of God (spirit) = Life (soul)
Death (Ecclesiastes 12:7): Body (dust) – Breath of God (spirit) = Death (no soul)
It is important to point out that the “spirit of life” is not the same as the Holy Spirit, neither is the “breath of life” the same as the regular air we breathe.
The soul cannot exist without either the breath or the body. In the Bible, except in allegorical usage, the soul does not have an independent existence outside the body. The soul is not immortal or undying. According to God’s Word, souls do die! Man is mortal (Job 4:17). Only God is immortal (1 Timothy 6:15, 16).
And only at the resurrection, God will grant the saints immortality. Paul taught, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
In His service,