Copr. 1999, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are
SPIRIT, SOUL, BODY
(REV 6:9-11; 2 COR 12:2-4; GEN 2&3; EZK 18:20-24)
Introduction: This week we look at a very interesting subject: do
we have a spirit or soul that is separate from our body? What
happens to it when we die? What does the Bible teach about this
subject? Let's dive in!
I. AN INDIVISIBLE WHOLE?
An increasing number of Christians believe that when we
die our soul lives on in either heaven or hell (or somewhere
in between). In light of this, our lesson (Sabbath
afternoon) says a very controversial thing: "Nowhere does
the Bible speak of the soul as an immortal entity capable of
living apart from our body."
1. Do you think this true?
2. Are most Christians convinced of a doctrine that
has no Biblical basis? Or is our lesson "off on a toot
of its own?"
3. Can you give me a text that refers to a soul as an
entity apart from the body and therefore contradicts
what the lesson says? Let's look at Revelation 6:9-11.
a. What is the timing here? Is this before or
after the Second Coming of Jesus? (It has to be
before if (v.11) the killing is still going on.)
b. If the answer is "before," then this text
refers to people who were killed (v.9), yet have
souls in heaven which are having conversations
(1) Are you beginning to hear the sounds of
a horn? (That the lesson is off on a toot of
4. Let's look at another text: 2 Corinthians 12:2-4.
While this text does not say that the man's spirit went
up to heaven, clearly Paul suggests it is possible that
some part of this man that was not his body made the
a. Does this text suggest that we have a soul
that can go to heaven without our body?
5. Let's look at yet another text: Matthew 10:28.
Does Jesus say that we have a soul independent from our
body that cannot be killed by men?
6. It seems a little unfair for the lesson to make
such sweeping statements, then expect you to be able to
defend your beliefs when someone who knows these texts
7. Can you defend your belief that when you die your
"soul" dies too? Or are you ready to admit you have
been wrong all these years?
II. MORTALITY OF THE SOUL
We must study the Bible as a whole. One or two texts
might mislead us about what the Bible really says. (Of
course, we are going to be even more misled if we just close
our eyes and say contrary texts simply do not exist.)
1. On what basis do you believe that we do not
possess an immortal soul? Are there any Bible verses
that tell us that?
2. Compare Genesis 2:15-17 with Genesis 3:1-4.
Compare God's word with the devil's word.
a. Is there a conflict? What is it?
b. If you remain a conscious being after your
body "dies," have you really died?
(1) If you knew that your soul lived on,
would you care about your body dying?
a. Would it be an advantage to live
without a body?
(2) If your soul lives on, who was telling
the truth to Adam and Eve, God or the devil?
(This is the first and most deadly problem
with the doctrine of the immortality of the
soul. It is a repetition of the devil's
first lie that we do not die. No matter
how evil you are, at least in hell you have
3. Read Ezekiel 18:20-24. Does this text equate sin
with the death of the soul?
a. Is it possible that this text just refers to
the death of the body and not the soul?
(1) Look at v.21. To which death does this
refer? (Obviously this is not talking about
the first death, for we all will die. This
is speaking about eternal life. Only those
who are righteous will have immortal souls.
Those who are wicked die, period.)
4. Let's read another text: 1 John 5:12-13. Is there
life apart from Jesus?
III. IMMORTAL SOULS OF THE RIGHTEOUS?
If you take all the texts that we have read so far
would you conclude that only the righteous have immortal
souls or spirits? Is that what the Bible teaches?
Our lesson goes into a detailed discussion of the
Hebrew and Greek words for spirit and then announces
(Sunday), "Neither in the Old Testament nor the New
Testament does ruach [the Hebrew] or pneuma [the Greek]
refer to an intelligent entity capable of existence apart
from the body." That sounds like the earlier grand
statement in the lesson. Is this statement true?
1. Let's examine the very first time the word "ruach"
("ruwach")appears in the Bible. We find it in Genesis
1:2 ("Spirit" in "Spirit of God"). Read.
a. Does this refer to an intelligent entity
capable of existence apart from the body? (If it
does -- and it is hard to conclude it does not --
you would think that the lesson authors might
notice that the very first appearance of this word
disproves their claim!)
b. Let's look next at "pneuma," the Greek word
for spirit. The very first occurance of it in the
New Testament is in Matthew 1:18 ("she was found
to be with child through the Holy "pneuma"). Does
this refer to "an intelligent entity capable of
existence apart from the body?
(1) Let's look at another example of
"pneuma." Read Matthew 8:16 (He drove out the
"pneuma"). Are these intelligent entities
apart from bodies?
2. If you have a part of your existence that is
analogous to the Holy Spirit, or analogous to an evil
spirit, would you conclude that you were one
Even if the grand statements in the lesson are wrong,
and pneuma and ruwach can refer to an intelligent entity
without a body, do they refer to a separate intelligence
when it comes to mankind? Let's look at Genesis 2:7 and
compare it with Ecclesiastes 12:6-7.
1. What kind of ruwach is being given and returned
here? Is it clear to you?
2. Vines Expository Dictionary makes clear there is
no dispute that ruwach can simply mean "breath."
(See for example Jeremiah 14:6 which refers to the
breath of animals.)
3. Is there any evidence that "spirit," when it comes
to man, means an independent intelligence? Let's
look at those texts next.
IV. THE END OF PLANS
A. Read Psalms 146:3-4. What does this suggest happens to
our thoughts when we die?
B. Read Matthew 27:50. This tells us that Jesus' spirit
left at His death. Did something intelligent go to
heaven at that point in time? (No. In John 20:16-18
Mary sees Jesus after His bodily resurrection and He
says that He has not yet gone to His Father!)
C. Read Acts 7:59-60. Stephen dies and asks that the Lord
receive his spirit. Does this text suggest that this
is an intelligent spirit that goes to God? (No. This
text is just one of many where death is likened to a
sleep. In sleep we are unconscious. Why would death
be referred to as a "sleep" if our minds are fully
D. Let's take turns and someone read each of these texts:
Read Psalms 115:16-18; Psalms 94:17; Psalms 6:4-5;
Psalms 88:10; Isaiah 38:18. What do these texts say
about the state of our consciousness in death? Our
ability to praise God in death?
E. So how do we explain those texts that I started with?
Let's look again at Revelation 6:9-11. Could a spirit
wear a "white robe?"
1. As you look at this entire chapter, do you think
that there are real horses in heaven that are
white, red, pale and black?
a. If the chapter has all of these illusions and
symbols, why should we believe that the
spirits with white robes under the alter are
not also an illusion or symbol?
F. What about 2 Corinthians 12:2-4? Look at v.7.
this "man" Paul? If he is talking about himself, how
does he suggest that he "visited" heaven? (Commentators
believe that Paul is speaking of himself and v.7 shows
he is talking about a revelation. Those who are given
revelations are not having an actual"out-of-body"
G. What about Matthew 10:28? How can God kill that man
cannot kill? (Eternally. Verse 39 strongly implies that
Jesus is speaking about the second death. If we lose
our life here we will gain an eternal life from God.)
1. Does that fact that God has the power of eternal
death a reason to believe in an eternal soul?
H. Friends, death is a sleep. We are not conscious in
death. But when Christ comes again, He will wake us
from our sleep and give us a new unified body and soul!
Be faithful! (See 1 Corinthians 15:50-57)
V. NEXT WEEK: THE ORIGIN OF SIN