What is the nature of man in the Bible?


By BibleAsk Team

The Nature of Man

While “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24), man is a soul and souls do die “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). A soul is not immortal by nature, or it could not experience death. Jesus, declared, in Matthew 10:28, “And fear not them which kill the body … but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” The soul of a wicked person will die in the fires of hell.

In all the 1700 biblical occurrences of the words “soul” and “spirit” not once are they referred to as being immortal or undying. There is not one text that supports such a teaching in the Bible. Man is mortal (Psalm 146:3; Ezekiel 2:1). The word “immortal” is found only once in the Bible, and it is in reference to God alone (1 Timothy 1:17). The idea of immortal man was given by Satan when he lied to Eve to deceive her (Genesis 3:1-4).

What Is a Soul?

The clearest and most concise inspired definition of death was written by Solomon, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). After death the dust returns to the earth from which it was taken, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that any soul survives the body, or continues to exist without a body.

Body (Dust) – Breath (Spirit) = Death (No Soul)

Death is just the opposite of creation. In Genesis 2:7 we read, “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 did not put a soul into the body. He added only one thing—breath or spirit. Then, as a result of the body and breath uniting, man BECAME a soul.

Body (Dust) + Breath (Spirit) = Life (Soul)

Even animals are referred to as souls in the Bible, because they have the same breath from God to make them live (Revelation 16:3). The wise man wrote, “For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other, yea, they have all one breath; … All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again” (Ecclesiastes 3:19, 20).

This does not mean that man and animals have the same ultimate end. There will be a resurrection and judgment for God’s moral creatures (Humans). But it simply means that life comes only from God, whether it be human or animal. And that life is often referred to in the Bible as the soul.

What Is the Spirit that Goes Back to God?

James wrote, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). 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.” But that same Greek word “pneuma” also has another meaning. It means “spirit.” For example, the Greek term for “Holy Spirit” is “Hagios pneumatos,” “Holy Breath” or “Holy Spirit.”

You will notice that the words “breath” and “spirit” are often used interchangeably in the Bible. Job said, “All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils” (Job 27:3). Job was describing the same thing by the words “breath” and “spirit.” Man has only breath in his nostrils. In fact, that is what God breathed into man’s nostrils at the time of creation. The marginal note for Genesis 7:22 refers to the breath of life as “the breath of the spirit of life.”

The psalmist describes death in these words, “Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created” (Psalm 104:29, 30). Here the order is reversed, and their breath returns to God at death. Solomon said the spirit returns. Here God gives the spirit to create, but Genesis says He gave the breath to create. It only makes sense when we understand that the two words are used interchangeably and mean the same thing.

An Illustration

Here is an illustration that will help us see this truth more clearly. Let us liken the body to a light bulb. The electric current flowing into that bulb represents the breath of life which God put into the body, and the light itself will represent the soul which man became after the breath joined the body. As we look at the shining light we see a perfect representation of the completed creation.

If turn the light off, what happens? The current left the bulb, just as the breath leaves the body at death. Where is the light? Did it go up into the electric socket? No, it simply ceased to exist when the current separated from the bulb. So, where is the soul when the breath separates from the body? There is no soul until the resurrection, when God will give the breath of life to the body.

Un-Biblical Teaching

Millions have accepted the false, traditional view that God put a soul into the body to create man. This is based entirely upon the common, erroneous doctrine of all non-Christian religions. In the Bible, except in poetical or allegorical usage, the soul does not go in and out of the body; neither does it have an independent existence outside of the body. The fact is, the soul is the conscious life which resulted when God added the breath or spirit to the body.

For a Bible study on the State of the Dead, check: The Intermediate State

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

We'd love your feedback, so leave a comment!

If you feel an answer is not 100% Bible based, then leave a comment, and we'll be sure to review it.
Our aim is to share the Word and be true to it.