Hello everyone. What does the Bible actually say about the immortal soul? So many people, numbering into the hundreds, thousands, and even millions, believe that we have an immortal soul dwelling in our physical bodies. Is that what you believe? Is that what you have been taught?
Many people believe that because they have never challenged it or looked into it or questioned it or wondered about it. They’re simply taught that we have an immortal soul dwelling inside our physical bodies and therefore, since the teacher was standing up and we were sitting down; and they seem to know what they were talking about; we simply accepted it and believe it. But is that what the Bible actually says?
Go get your Bible and let’s see. Let’s look into it, let’s read it for ourselves. Do we actually have an immortal soul? First, let’s turn to Genesis 2:7. Notice what God’s word says here in Genesis 2:7.
7 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.
Have you ever noticed that before? It did not say that man now had a soul dwelling in his physical body. Rather the Bible says this:
7 — and man became a living soul.So that’s what that’s saying. That’s saying that we are a living soul. We don’t have a soul. We are a soul. Man became a living soul. That’s what we are. We are a soul.
Let’s stay right here in Genesis 2:19 and notice what it says about animal life.
19 And out of the ground the Eternal God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
You know, if you check the Hebrew word for that English word “creature” right there, you will see that it means soul. Whatsoever Adam called every living soul, that was the name thereof.
The Bible actually says that animal life is soul. The Hebrew word is “soul” for animal life. The same as the Hebrew word is for human life, where the word soul is mentioned.
Man became a living soul. All the animals became living souls. Check the word “creature” there and you will see it’s the same Hebrew word for creature that is mentioned in verse 7 for soul. The Hebrew word is called ”nephesh”.
So, if human beings have souls, then animals have souls. Compare verse 7 of Genesis 2 to verse 19 of Genesis 2. That’s what the Bible actually says. It says that we became a living soul. We don’t have one, and that animals became living souls. Obviously, they don’t have souls.
The thing that will help clear this question up is: Knowing what the actual Hebrew and Greek words mean regarding the word “soul”. Here is a study paper that was put together by Ambassador College a number of years ago. I will just read a couple of paragraphs from it.
“The English word ‘soul’ is translated from the Greek word, ‘suche’ and from the Hebrew word ‘nephesh’. Both words mean a living, breathing creature, referring to man or animal. Soul never means something immortal inside of man or animal. The words ‘immortal soul’ appear nowhere in the Bible. In fact, the Bible shows that a soul can perish… The soul that sins, it shall die, we read in Ezekiel 18:4. The word ‘soul’ pertains to the life of any physical being or creature. Soul simply means life.”
It refers to the physical life of human beings or animals. Now, you’ll find that is absolutely true if you do just a little simple research. You can look up the word “soul” in any concordance. A Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is a good one to look up the word “soul” in. And in the Old Testament you will find that the Hebrew word is “nephesh” and it simply means life.
In the Greek, you will find that the word is “psuche” and it too simply means life. You will find that it is used when referring to animal life or human life. It simply means physical life. It has no connection whatsoever with immortality. There is no such thing as an immortal soul. You will not find that phrase immortal soul mentioned anywhere in the Bible.
Now, are we willing to face the facts? Are we willing to agree with what the Bible actually says? Are we willing to cut through all of the misconceptions and all of the mis–teachings that we have been subjected to for centuries on this subject of the immortal soul? Can we actually take our Bible and open it up and read with our own eyes the truth on this matter and accept it and believe it? Or are we going to brush it aside, slam the Bible shut, close our minds to this subject and keep on believing this error? Or can we actually look and say, “You know what, I’ve been wrong on this. The Bible teaches the truth regarding soul, that’s what I’m going to believe because I can find it there”
Let’s turn to Ezekiel 18 to further understand this subject. Just keep your mind open and let’s keep reading. Open your Bible over here and take a look for yourself. Prove all things. Hold fast to that which is good. That’s what we are instructed to do in God’s word. Notice here in Ezekiel 18:4. Now, what does this mean? It says:
4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: —
Now, look at this.
4 — the soul that sins, it shall die.
How can an immortal soul die? It can’t. If it’s immortal, it can never die. But it says right here, the soul that sins, it shall die. So you see, soul cannot refer to immortality. Soul simply means physical life. And the human being that sins, if that human being does not repent, they are going to die. The soul that sins, it shall die.
Notice here in verse 20. Ezekiel 18:20
20 The soul that sins, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
So twice right here in Ezekiel 18, it says plainly the soul that sins, it shall die. It does not say that upon death, the soul is separated from the body and if we’ve been good, the soul flits off up to heaven, and if we’ve been bad, the soul descends into an ever burning lake of hell fire. You don’t find that anywhere in the Bible.
Rather, what the Bible says is: we are a soul; we don’t have one. Animals are a soul. They don’t have one. It says plainly here, we human beings, when we sin, if we don’t repent and change when we’ve been given the opportunity to overcome and grow and become more and more like Jesus Christ, the ultimate fate will be death. The soul that sins, the life that sins, the human being that sins, if those sins are not forgiven will die.
Now, it says that also in the New Testament. Let’s turn to Revelation 16:3. Let’s read the Bible and believe what it says. Let’s let the Bible sweep away error, heresy, false doctrines and teachings, and establish in our minds and lives and character the truth.
Notice here in Revelation 16:3. We’ll break into a thought here, but it’s talking about the example where the plagues were going to be poured out. John saw in vision that there would be 7 angels that would pour out 7 plagues to punish the earth and to bring them around to repentance and submission to God. But we’ll break into a thought and establish the point about the immortal soul that we are studying here today. It says here in Revelation 16:3.
3 And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.
The Greek word for the English word “soul” here is “psuche” and it means life.
3 — every living soul died in the sea.
Every form of life died in the sea. So there in the New Testament we read that the soul can die. And it does die, because it’s just referring to physical life. It’s not referring to immortality. What does it mean when we read in the Bible about death? What does the Bible say about death?
Well, a couple of scriptures will explain it. Let’s turn over here to Ecclesiastes 9:5. What happens at death? Is it a matter of when we die our body goes back to the earth and our soul goes to heaven? And so it’s not really death, it’s simply separation of the soul from the body, is that what it means? Is that what death is? No. Look what happens here at death.
Ecclesiastes 9:5 tells us, and we’ve read before that all scripture is inspired of God. These are His words in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament, and it says right here in Ecclesiastes 9:5.
5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
Did you catch that? The dead know not anything. They’re dead. Their life is finished. They go back to the dust from whence they were created. It’s not like, okay, their body goes back to the dust, but their immortal soul goes up to heaven to live on forever, and their thinking and their life continues on forever up in heaven as a soul, as an immortal soul. Well, that contradicts what the scriptures say
5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, —
If you are dead, you don’t know anything. It’s the old saying like, “when Rover died, he died all over.” When we’re dead, we’re dead. That’s it. We don’t keep on living somewhere else in some other form. We are dead and we return back to the dust.
David even goes into this subject and discusses it as well. Let’s turn over here to Psalms 146:4. Look what God inspired David to write right here in Psalms 146:4. We’re breaking into another thought about the son of man and princes, and you don’t put your trust in people and then it goes on to say in verse 4.
4 His breath goes forth, he returns to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
His thoughts perish. The dead knows not anything. When we die, we die. Our heart stops beating, our brain stops working, our breath goes from us. We begin to decay and we return back to the dust, just like God said we would. We no longer have any thought process. We know not anything. We’e not off in some other location up in heaven as an immortal soul still thinking and still living.
No, we don’t have a soul. We are a soul. There is no such thing as an immortal soul. When a human being dies, in that very day, his thoughts perish. That is what the Bible says.
But I have good news for you, and the Bible is full of good news. That isn’t the end of it. You see, one of the bad things about the false teaching of the immortal soul is: It doesn’t make sense and it confuses the glorious and beautiful and wonderful truth about the resurrection. I mean, if we have an immortal soul, we don’t need to be resurrected. Why would we have a resurrection?
You know, there are a lot of verses in the Bible that talk about the resurrection. Why do you need a resurrection if we have an immortal soul? So a person dies, their body goes back to the ground, their soul goes to heaven. Why have a resurrection? There’s no point. There’s no reason for it. That isn’t even logical. It isn’t even common sense to teach such things.
But there will be a resurrection. So even though when a person dies, he returns or she returns back to the dust and in that very day their thoughts perish, that’s not the end. Because, you see, God has a plan that involves resurrecting everyone who has ever lived and died back to life. That’s the beauty of it. That’s what the Bible teaches. That does add up. That does make sense. That is logical. He resurrects that soul.
What is that soul? Physical life. He resurrects that soul back to life. And if they have obeyed God because they knew the truth, they’ll be given spiritual life as spirit beings. If they do not know the truth, then they will be taught the truth to make the choices they need to make. And then the decision is made to give them eternal life, or if they made the wrong decisions and will not change, to destroy them in the lake of fire.
Now, let’s see if the Bible teaches that. Let’s turn right here to 1 Corinthians 15:52. It says:
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
So now, the teaching of the immortal soul says this: The body is in the ground, the soul is in heaven. At the resurrection, the soul comes back to the earth and the body is resurrected and then the soul is united with the body. And then, I guess, the body is shed again and then the soul goes back to heaven. Does that make sense to you? So at death, the soul goes to heaven and then at the resurrection, the soul comes back to the earth and then turns around and goes back to heaven.
Where in the scripture can you find such teachings? How can you prove and back up that kind of false doctrine? You can’t find that in the Bible that that takes place.
Rather, here’s what you find in the Bible. 1 Corinthians 15:52.
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
We don’t have immortality. We are mortal. We have immortality when we’re resurrected into spirit beings. Then we’re given immortality. We still don’t have an immortal soul. We are spirit beings. We become immortal, then we have immortal life. But we don’t have an immortal soul within our immortal life. We are physical life now. We will become immortal life at the resurrection.
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
So don’t misunderstand, when a person dies, that’s not the end. They are simply awaiting the resurrection. They are asleep as it were. They are dead. And then when they’re resurrected out of the ground, they’re then changed into immortality, changed into a spirit being—to live forever in the family of God; to carry out His plan for all eternity throughout the whole universe. But they are not an immortal soul and they do not have an immortal soul. We are mortal. We die. Then at the resurrection, if we’ve obeyed God, we will be resurrected to immortal life.
Now, surely we want the truth on this matter. Surely we want to believe the facts. Surely we do not want to accept error and false teachings and unprovable preaching that cannot be verified by the Bible. It doesn’t matter about tradition. It doesn’t matter about nostalgia. It doesn’t matter about what our relatives believed or what our parents taught us. If it’s wrong, we should not believe it. If it’s wrong, we should not do it. And what decides what’s right or wrong? God’s Holy Word.
When you look into God’s Holy Word, the truth about the immortal soul begins to come clear. And you will see that it does not exist—this immortal soul. Even though it’s taught, it isn’t true. You know what happens, if we really open our minds to what God’s Word says and if we really seek the facts and seek the truth on what God’s Word teaches us on everything, including this subject of the immortal soul, it sets us free.
The truth is a tremendous blessing. It’s something we ought to live by; we ought to obey. It’s something we ought to pursue zealously and we ought to be able to slice through all of this error and all of these false teachings and all of this heresy and grab hold of the truth and hold on it with tremendous tenacity. That’s where we have peace of mind. That’s when the Bible opens up and becomes interesting. That’s when life becomes thrilling. Now we know the truth. Now we’re following facts. Now we can prove what is right and what is wrong and choose right over wrong.
We no longer are deceived. We no longer are misled. We no longer believe false teachings. Now our mind is being opened to true teachings and that’s what we are following and that sets us free. That’s exactly what Jesus Christ said.
Let’s turn over here to John 8. Look what He said here; it’s very, very important. I’ve noticed some people though, they don’t want the truth. They don’t want to hear the truth. They’ll block it out. They just want to keep on believing what they’re believing because they’ve always believed it and because their friends believe it and because their relatives believe it. And so therefore they want to just keep on believing it—even though it is wrong, even though it is error, even though it is just completely and totally baseless teaching. It’s not founded on the truth at all. But it has been taught for so long and believed by so many millions of people. How could it be wrong if so many millions of people believe it?
Well, how could communism be so wrong if so many millions of people believe communism. And it is dead wrong, even though it’s believed by billions of people actually, certainly multiple millions and probably over the years even billions. That’s not what determines what is right or wrong or what is true or false. The Bible determines that.
Look at what the Bible says here in John 8:31. By the highest authority of all, this is spoken here, Jesus Christ Himself, and look what it says here in John 8:31.
31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed;
If you continue in my word. Now what is His Word regarding the immortal soul? His Word is: There is no such a thing. We are a soul. We will die. We will then be resurrected and given immortal life. Right now, we don’t have immortal life.
Look what it says here.
31 — If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed;
Not if you continue in fables, false teachings, and error.
Look at verse 32 now.
32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
What a tremendous blessing! The truth shall make you free. Free from sin, free from error, free from deception, free from bondage. If we know the truth, we make it a part of our being and then we obey it with God’s help. And we follow it. And we settle for nothing less than the truth. Not something that’s convenient, not something that’s comfortable, not something that’s popular. Not something that is what we have always believed so we don’t want to change it. Not something that is spoken with great personality and vitality and show and power and energy. All of those things, do not determine the truth.
What determines the truth is what you find in this book. And when we understand what’s in this book and when we follow what’s in this book and believe what’s in this book and seek to understand more deeply and fully what’s in this Holy Bible, we are learning the truth, the truth of God. And Jesus said:
32 — you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
You will have peace of mind, happiness, excitement. You will have interest. Life opens up because now you’re being taught the truth. Now you’re understanding the truth. Now you’re following the truth. Now you’re obeying the truth and God is blessing you for doing so. And He gives you more truth and more truth and more knowledge and more knowledge. And the more you seek it and the more you obey it and follow it, the more He will give to you on all kinds of subjects, including doctrines and including this false doctrine of the immortal soul.
Turn over here to one other scripture. Let’s turn to 1 Timothy 6:14.
Now, I know it’s tough to question something that you might have been taught by your loved ones. And they’re still your loved ones. It’s tough to question something that you might have been taught by a good man who meant well. It’s tough to lay aside something that you have believed, maybe just for a short time or a good number of years or all your life. But let’s get back to this one basic point: the truth is the truth. That’s what we want. And you may not be able to really sort through this and clearly understand it the very first time you hear it.
But if you will consider the scriptures we’ve gone through here today. And if you will begin to go back over them and study them and restudy them. And do a little research and look up the Hebrew word for soul and look up the Greek word for soul and take note of what the definitions are—and then put other scriptures with what we have studied here today. And study these scriptures carefully and put them together. God will begin to guide you into the truth on this subject of the immortal soul. And you will start to see: look, it has to do with the resurrection of the dead, not the immortal soul—this subject of life and death.
We do not have an immortal soul. We are a soul. When we die, we die, and that’s the end of it. Our thoughts perish until the resurrection. And then when Jesus Christ comes again, if we’ve been obedient to Him, we are resurrected from physical life to spiritual life. And then and only then are we given immortality. We don’t have it now. But we will have it then, if we are resurrected to eternal life.
Notice here in 1 Timothy 6:14. Once again, breaking into a thought.
14 That you keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:
15 Which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;
16 Who only has immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man has seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen.
At this point in time, Jesus Christ our Savior is the only one who has immortality. He came to this earth and was born to the virgin Mary as a human being. He was God and human in the flesh. He lived out His life on this earth for 33–1/2 years. He opened the way for us to have access to the Father. He opened the way for us to repent and have our sins forgiven. He opened the way for us to overcome and grow by Him living His life in us. And He did all that as a human being who was both God and man, who walked this earth, who established His church, and who established the way to know the Father and the way to one day be in His Kingdom.
But when He was on this earth, He was a human being. He was God in the flesh but He was a human being. He had blood vessels and muscles and skin and nerves. And He had definite form and shape like a young Jewish masculine man of His day, because he was a Jew. But then when He was crucified and put in the grave, and 3 days and 3 nights later was resurrected, He then ascended to the Father and He was glorified as a mighty powerful spirit being—the second one in charge of everything under the Father. And so now, He only has immortality. He only has immortality. Even when He was on this earth, He did not have an immortal soul. He was a physical human being. He was a soul, but He was God in the flesh.
Now, after His resurrection, He has become the great glorious all powerful God who dwells at the right hand of His Father on His throne in the third heaven and oversees everything under the authority of the Father. And He and He alone right now has immortality. Of course, the Father does. But when referring to human beings and referring to physical life, who only has immortality, that’s Jesus Christ. He was human and now He only has immortality.
We are human, we don’t have immortality. But when He comes again, if we’ve followed in His footsteps, He then will give us immortality and we will inherit all things along with Him. And we will be in the family of God and will worship Him and the Father, and carry out their will forever and ever as immortal spirit beings.
But right now, only He has immortality. No human being has it. No human being has ever had it. No human being will ever have it. We have to be changed at the resurrection in order to have immortality, like Jesus Christ has immortality.
If you really understand the truth about the immortal soul, it’s much more inspiring, it’s much more interesting, it’s much more comforting, and we can be much more thankful, because the truth sets us free. We’re not some soul dwelling in the physical body. We are a soul who one day will be resurrected into a spirit body and be given eternal life to serve God forever and ever.
You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. That happens only if we take our Bible, study it and see what it actually does say, believe it, and follow it in each and every one of our individual lives.
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Until next time, this is Charles Bryce with the Enduring Church of God.
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