What is the nature of man according to the Bible?

Hello C,

Thank you for contacting BibleAsk.

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 will die in the fires of hell. Therefore, man is mortal. The word “immortal” is found only once in the Bible, and it is in reference to God alone (1 Timothy 1:17).

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; The idea of immortal man first appeared in Genesis 3:1-4, “Now the serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.” The Creator had declared that sin would bring death, but Satan said the opposite, “You will not really die.”

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. Death is just the opposite of creation.

But what about the spirit which 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. “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). 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.

Then God added one more thing to the body He had made. He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). 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.

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.

A simple illustration 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. Now we press the button and turn the light off. What has happened? The current has left the bulb, just as the breath leaves the body at death. Now 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. Then let us ask, where is the soul when the breath separates from the body? There simply is no soul until, in the resurrection, God restores the breath of life to the body.

Before creation, man did not exist in some disembodied form. There was no personality, no conscious emotions before God added the breath to the body. At that moment man “became a living soul.” If the soul came to be as a result of that union, when does the soul cease to be? Surely as a result of the breaking of that union.

Nowhere in the Bible are we told that any soul survives the body, or continues to exist without a body. The soul, or the life, has no existence without the power of God residing in the body. At death that power is removed; it returns to God; and the state of that man is exactly what it was before the breath joined the body. That means no life, no consciousness, and no personality.

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, of course, that man and animals have the same ultimate end. There will be a resurrection and judgment for God’s moral creatures, but life comes only from God, whether it be human or animal. And that life is often referred to in the Bible as the soul.

Body (Dust) – Breath (Spirit) = Death (no soul)

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

Sign Up for Our Updates

Get notified of our latest updates. Don't worry, they're occasional :)

You May Also Like