Tuesday, January 9, 2018

What Is The Soul?

"Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." Genesis 2:7

This Sunday as I continue my series on Heaven I will be talking about the soul. I have a soul and you have a soul and all God's children have a soul.

So, what is the "soul"?

It is God's life breathed into us. It is essential life force that animates us and serves as the seat of our intellect, emotion, conscience, self-awareness and will. It is the "image of God" within us.

I found these references in my studies online:

Over and over again in Scripture, people are referred to as "souls" (Exodus 31:14Proverbs 11:30). The human soul is that part of a person that is eternal—the part that lives on after the body dies and decays. Jesus said we were not to fear men, who can only kill the body, but not the soul (Matthew 10:28). 

There is some confusion as to whether the human spirit and the human soul are the same thing, or different in some way. The Bible is not entirely clear on this point, but there is evidence of at least some subtle differences. The spirit is described more in terms of force (Numbers 14:24), while the soul seems to be a static entity. Again, there is very little in the Bible to tell us what differences exist between the two. However, there is indication that they are separate entities (1 Thessalonians 5:23Hebrews 4:12)."

The threefold nature of man might be illustrated in several ways. Dr. Clarence Larkin uses three circles (Rightly Dividing The Word, page 86). The outer circle stands for the body of man, the middle circle for the soul, and the inner for the spirit. At this point it will be well to quote a portion from Dr. Larkin’s book:

In the outer circle the ‘Body’ is shown as touching the Material world through the five senses of ‘Sight,’ ‘Smell,’ ‘Hearing,’ ‘Taste’ and ‘Touch.’
The Gates to the ‘Soul’ are ‘Imagination,’ ‘Conscience,’ ‘Memory,’ ‘Reason’ and the ‘Affections.’
The “Spirit” receives impressions of outward and material things through the soul. The spiritual faculties of the ‘Spirit’ are ‘Faith,’ ‘Hope,’ ‘Reverence,’ ‘Prayer’ and ‘Worship.
In gotquestions.com I found this thought:
Jesus Christ, because he was fully man as well as being fully God, also had a human soul. His soul experienced anguish at Gethsemane while He prayed before going to the cross. He said "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death" (Matthew 26:36-46). The Messianic psalm also speaks of the soul of the Messiah, saying that his soul will not be abandoned to Sheol, nor his body to corruption, or decay (Psalm 16:9-10Acts 13:35-37). 

The human soul can be strong or weak (2 Peter 2:14), saved or lost (James 1:21Ezekiel 18:4). It was created by God (Jeremiah 38:16). The human soul needs the protection, purification, and atonement of God (Leviticus 17:111 Peter 1:22). The human soul is eternal and imperishable, and every human soul will be somewhere for eternity. This is a sobering thought—every person you have ever met is a soul, living in a body, and that soul will last forever. Some will reject the love of God and as a result they will have to pay for their own sins with death (Romans 6:23), and since the soul is eternal, it will be an eternal death. Those who accept the free gift of forgiveness and Christ's atoning sacrifice will experience the opposite—eternal life and peace, in heaven (Psalm 23:2). 

The supreme Creator of heaven and earth did two things in creating man. First, He formed him from the very dust of the ground, and, second, He breathed His own breath into the nostrils of Adam. This distinguished man from all of God’s other creatures.

This one passage contains three significant facts about man’s creation. The first is that God and God alone created man. Man did not evolve from other creatures. Impersonal forces did not form man. All the cells, DNA, atoms, molecules, hydrogen, protons, neutrons, or electrons did not create man. These are only the substances that make up man’s physical body. The Lord God formed man. The Lord God created the substances, and then He used those substances to create man.

The word formed is a translation of the Hebrew yatsar, which means “to mold, shape, or form.” It conjures an image of a potter who has the intelligence and the power to form his creation. God is the Master Potter who had the image of man within His mind and who possesses the power and the intelligence to bring that image to life. God had both the omniscience (all-knowledge) and the omnipotence (all-power) to do exactly what He wanted.

Second, God breathed His own breath of life into man. Man is more than “dust” or physical substance. Man has a spirit. We can picture it this way: Adam’s body had just been formed by God from the dust of the earth—a lifeless human body lying on the ground. Then God leaned over and “breathed” His own “breath of life” into the man’s nostrils; God is the Source of life, and He directly placed life within man. This breath of life is seen again in John 20:22, as Jesus imparts new life to His disciples.

Third, Genesis 2:7 tells us that man became a living soul (KJV). The word soul in Hebrew is nephesh, meaning “an animated, breathing, conscious, and living being.” Man did not become a living soul until God breathed life into him. As a physical, animate, rational, and spiritual being, man is unique among all living things upon the earth."

So, how is your soul today?

January 9, 2018

"And when he broke open the fifth seal, I saw an altar, and underneath it all the souls of those who had been martyred for preaching the Word of God and for being faithful in their witnessing. They called loudly to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge the people of the earth for what they’ve done to us? When will you avenge our blood against those living on the earth?” White robes were given to each of them, and they were told to rest a little longer until their other brothers, fellow servants of Jesus, had been martyred on the earth and joined them." Revelation 6:9-11

There are a number of ways I could go with this sobering glance into eternity but as I continue my series of messages entitled "For Heaven's Sake" I want to focus on the observation that the souls of these courageous martyrs were indeed very much alive!

In my research I have found as many as 20 theories on what happens to the soul upon death but there are six predominate ideas considered credible by a significant number of people. You may be interested in a thorough study of each of these beliefs but in this post I will only give a brief mention.

Secular Humanism

Humanists have a variety of ideas about the soul but generally discount the existence of a soul. It simply does not exist or is somehow tied into a universal consciousness.


This theory holds that the soul is immortal and that upon physical death it reincarnates into another life form. The soul transmigrates either upward to a better life for or downward into a lesser life form depending on how well the life was lived.


Annihilation is adhered to by Seventh-Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses with minor variations. It holds that the human soul is not immortal and therefore, it ceases to exist upon death. They teach that the soul only becomes immortal upon the initiation of a relationship with the Holy Spirit of God.


In Roman Catholic theology, purgatory  is an intermediate state after physical death in which some of those ultimately destined for heaven must first "undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven".

There is a system of ways by which a soul in purgatory can reach the purification required to be admitted to heaven.

Soul Sleep

Seventh-Day Adventists believe that the soul is not mortal will cease to exist upon physical death until regenerated by God at the resurrection.

Eternal Soul

Mainline Protestant Christians believe (including Wesleyans and me) that the soul is immortal and upon physical death it will slip immediately into a fixed eternal existence in Heaven or in Hell. That eternal destination is fixed by an individual spiritual decision of the will during the lifetime of the person.

Randy Alcorn is a pastor who has written some fifty books, many of which deal with this topic of the eternal soul and eternity. I share an article from him based on our text as I close out this post:

1. When these people died on Earth, they relocated to Heaven (v. 9).

2. These people in Heaven were the same ones killed for Christ while on Earth (v. 9). This demonstrates direct continuity between our identity on Earth and our identity in Heaven. The martyrs' personal history extends directly back to their lives on Earth. Those in the intermediate Heaven are not different people; they are the same people relocated—"righteous men made perfect" (Hebrews 12:23).
3. People in Heaven will be remembered for their lives on Earth. These were known and identified as ones slain "because of…the testimony they had maintained" (v. 9).
4. "They called out" (v. 10) means they are able to express themselves audibly. This could suggest they exist in physical form, with vocal cords or other tangible means to express themselves.
5. People in the intermediate Heaven can raise their voices (v. 10). This indicates that they are rational, communicative, and emotional—even passionate—beings, like people on Earth.
6. They called out in "a loud voice," not "loud voices." Individuals speaking with one voice indicate that Heaven is a place of unity and shared perspective.
7. The martyrs are fully conscious, rational, and aware of each other, God, and the situation on Earth.
8. They ask God to intervene on Earth and to act on their behalf: "How long…until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?"(v. 10).
9. Those in Heaven are free to ask God questions, which means they have an audience with God. It also means they need to learn. In Heaven, people desire understanding and pursue it.
10. People in the intermediate Heaven know what's happening on Earth (v. 10). The martyrs know enough to realize that those who killed them have not yet been judged.
11. Heaven dwellers have a deep concern for justice and retribution (v. 10). When we go to Heaven, we won't adopt a passive disinterest in what happens on the earth. On the contrary, our concerns will be more passionate and our thirst for justice greater. Neither God nor we will be satisfied until his enemies are judged, our bodies raised, sin and Satan defeated, Earth restored, and Christ exalted over all.
12. The martyrs clearly remember their lives on Earth (v. 10). They remember at least some of the bad things from earth, since they even remember that they were murdered. (Heaven's joys are not rooted in ignorance, but perspective.)
13. The martyrs in Heaven pray for judgment on their persecutors who are still at work hurting others. They are acting in solidarity with, and in effect interceding for, the suffering saints on Earth. This suggests that saints in Heaven are both seeing and praying for saints on Earth.
14. Those in Heaven see God's attributes ("Sovereign…holy and true") in a way that makes his judgment of sin more understandable.
15. Those in Heaven are distinct individuals: "Then each of them was given a white robe" (v. 11). There isn't one merged identity (ala Nirvana) that obliterates uniqueness, but a distinct "each of them."
16. The martyrs' wearing white robes suggests the possibility of actual physical forms, because disembodied spirits presumably don't wear robes. The robes may well have symbolic meaning, but it doesn't mean they couldn't also be physical. The martyrs appear to have physical forms that John could actually see.
17. God answers their question (v. 11), indicating communication and process in Heaven. It also demonstrates that we won't know everything in Heaven—if we did, we would have no questions. The martyrs knew more after God answered their question than before they asked it. There is learning in the present Heaven.
18. God promises to fulfill the martyrs' requests, but says they will have to "wait a little longer" (v. 11). Those in the intermediate Heaven live in anticipation of the future fulfillment of God's promises. Unlike the eternal Heaven—where there will be no more sin, Curse, or suffering on the New Earth (Revelation 21:4)—the present Heaven coexists with and watches over an Earth under sin, the Curse, and suffering.
19. There is time in the intermediate Heaven (vv. 10-11). The white-robed martyrs ask God a time-dependent question: "How long, Sovereign Lord…until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" (v. 10). They are aware of time's passing and are eager for the coming day of the Lord's judgment. God answers that they must "wait a little longer" until certain events transpire on Earth. Waiting requires the passing of time. (This seems to refute the "no time in Heaven/ instantaneous resurrection" theory, as well as soul sleep.)
20. The people of God in Heaven have a strong familial connection with those on Earth, who are called their "fellow servants and brothers" (v. 11). We share the same Father, "from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named" (Ephesians 3:15, ESV). There is not a wall of separation within the bride of Christ. We are one family with those who've gone to Heaven ahead of us. After we go to Heaven, we'll still be one family with those yet on Earth. These verses demonstrate a vital connection between the events and people in Heaven and the events and people on Earth.
21. Our sovereign God knows down to the last detail all that is happening and will happen on Earth (v. 11), including every drop of blood shed and every bit of suffering undergone by his children. Voice of the Martyrs estimates that more than 150,000 people die for Christ each year, an average of more than four hundred per day. God knows the name and story of each one. He knows exactly how many martyrs there will be, and he is prepared to return and set up his Kingdom when the final martyr dies.
How is your soul today?