Monthly Archives: April 2018

An oft-quoted passage from Ecclesiastes says, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” (Ecc.12:7) This verse tells us that when our body of dust returns to the earth, the spirit goes up to God. Is this ‘spirit’ an ‘eternal spirit’? Is it unique to human beings?


Looking up the word for ‘spirit’ used in Ecclesiastes 12:7, we find it is the Hebrew word ‘ruwach’, (#07307) meaning “wind; by resemblance, breath, i.e. a sensible (or even violent) exhalation”, translated into the English words, spirit, wind, breath, side, mind, blast, vain, air, anger, cool, tempest, courage” and used 378 times in the Old Testament. The root word of ‘ruwach’ (#07306) is often used of ‘smelling’ (Genesis 8:21, 27:27; Leviticus 26:31 etc.)

Animals and Humans

Scanning through the 378 passages in which the word ‘ruwach’ (07307) is used, we find it first in Genesis 1:2 when the Spirit of God is moving on the waters to initiate the Creation of the world. ‘Ruwach’ is the same word used for the ‘breath’ of life in man and animal in Genesis 7:15, 21-22:

And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the ‘breath’ of life… And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the ‘breath’ <neshamah ruwach> of life died.” 

Therefore, ‘ruwach’ is not unique to human beings.  


‘Ruwach’ is used many times for a ‘wind’, like the wind that brought the locust plague in Exodus 10:13, and a rain storm in 1 Kings 18:45 (cp. Psalm 107:25).


The word ‘ruwach’ is also used to denote the feelings of individuals, whether of a sorrowful ‘spirit’ (1 Samuel 1:15), or a ‘spirit’ of jealousy (Numbers 5:14), or an evil ‘spirit’ (Judges 9:23; 1 Samuel 16:14), or a broken ‘spirit’, or a desire for God to renew a right ‘spirit’ within a person (Psalm 51:10,17). We aren’t to be quick in our ‘spirit’ to be angry and those who are patient in ‘spirit’ are better than those who are proud in ‘spirit’ (Ecclesiastes 7:8,9).  Those who rule their ‘spirit’ are better than those who take a city (Proverbs 16:32). 

Special Gifts

This same word for ‘spirit’ is often used when special gifts or abilities were bestowed by God. For example, the super-natural power that Samson was given (Judges 14:5-6), or the ‘spirit’ of wisdom God gave to Bezaleel to create the furniture for the tabernacle in the wilderness (Exodus 31:3).

Breath – A Life-giving Force

As we read in Genesis 2, God’s breath <neshamah> of life’ was breathed into the body He had shaped out of dust, creating a living soul or being… Adam. Neshamah and ruwach have similar meanings and are used interchangeably (See Genesis 7:22 where both are used for ‘breath’) In Genesis 2 we find the equation:


The Hebrew word ‘ruwach’ is used numerous times of our ‘breath’. For example in Job 12:10, it says that in God’s hand is “the soul of every living thing and the ‘breath’ of all mankind.”

In Job 27:3 it says, “my ‘breath’ is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils.”

In Psalm 146:3-4 it says, “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His ‘breath’ goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” 

Psalm 104:25-29 also speaks of the sea creatures returning to dust if God takes away their ‘breath’. (cp. Job 34:14-15; 33:4)

These passages show that the creative equation of Genesis 2:7 can be reversed:


Death results in returning to dust, a cessation of life, often described in the Bible as “breathing our last breath”.

The ‘Spirit’ is Eternal

However, in the Psalms and Job passages above we see that the ‘spirit’ is eternal! It is the life-giving energy which belongs to God. This spirit – breath – wind is the sustaining life-force for man and animal. God created man and animal from dust and gave us the ‘breath’ of life…and we became living ‘souls’ <nephesh>. How incredible to appreciate that life, breathing and the emotions we feel are all the gift of God’s eternal spirit!

One Breath

One last helpful passage is Ecclesiastes 3:19-21:

“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’; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?”

We are clearly told here in Ecclesiastes 3, that this life-giving ‘spirit’ or breath is the same in humans as in animals. We are both creatures created from the dust of the earth and animated by God’s life-giving force. As it says in Ecclesiastes 3, when humans or animals breathe their last breath, their bodies return to the dust from which we all were created. Humans and animals all go to one place in death – the grave. As we read in Ecclesiastes 12:7, “the ‘spirit’ shall return unto God who gave it.” It was and is God’s spirit, it will always belong to Him.

Spiritual Thinking

However, Ecclesiastes 3:21 asks the question, “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” Even though both humans and animals are animated by God’s spirit, only humans have the ability to think ‘spiritually’. Animals cannot think on this higher level.

So what are you doing with the life-force that God has given you? Does your spirit reach up for Godly things?

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-11 ESV)

Next, we hope to consider the words ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ in the New Testament. If you would like to do our Discovery Lesson on the ‘soul’ in the Old and New Testaments, click on What is a Soul?



The phrase “immortal soul” is never found in the Bible. Is this belief actually based on Scripture, or Greek philosophy?

The online Encyclopedia Britannica, under the topic of “Soul – religion and philosophy” says, “The early Hebrews apparently had a concept of the soul but did not separate it from the body, although later Jewish writers developed the idea of the soul further. Biblical references to the soul are related to the concept of breath and establish no distinction between the ethereal soul and the corporeal body. Christian concepts of a body-soul dichotomy originated with the ancient Greeks and were introduced into Christian theology at an early date by St. Gregory of Nyssa and by St. Augustine.” (our emphasis)

Did Greek mythology creep into Christian theology?

A Soul Equation

How does the Bible describe a “soul”? When God creates Adam in Genesis 2:7, the Bible says, “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.” (KJV) See the equation? A body formed from dust + the breath of life = a living soul. Adam wasn’t given an immortal soul; he became a living soul! (See also 1 Corinthians 15:45)

Animals are Souls

If you look up the word for “soul” in Genesis 2:7, you will find it is the Hebrew word “nephesh” which means “a breathing creature”. In the KJV the word ‘nephesh’ is translated into the English words, ‘appetite, beast, body, breath, creature, dead, desire, fish, ghost, life, man, person, soul, thing…etc.’ Looking at all the occurrences of the Hebrew word “nephesh”, you’ll find it is used over 600 times! Not only is man a “living soul” (dust + breath of life) – so are the animals! In the first few chapters of Genesis, the same word “nephesh” is used of all living creatures, whether animal, fish or bird. (Animal – Genesis 1: 24; Fish – Genesis 1:20; Bird –  Genesis 1:30) So, everything that breathes – animals, fish, birds and people are all described as ‘living souls’.

The Bible Project has a very helpful 4 minute YouTube presentation on ‘nephesh’. To view, click here on NEPHESH.

Sometimes a Soul can be Dead!

While most of the time the word ‘nephesh’ refers to a living creature, person, or just ‘life’ – there are occasions when it refers to a dead ‘person or creature’. For instance:

Numbers 9:10 “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body <nephesh>, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the passover unto the LORD.”

Joshua 11:11 “And they smote all the souls <nephesh>, that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them: there was not any left to breathe: and he burnt Hazor with fire.”

Psalm 16:9-10 “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul <nephesh> in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. (This is speaking of Jesus! See Acts 2:31)

Psalm 22:29 “All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul <nephesh>.”

Ezekiel 18:4 “Behold, all souls <nephesh> are mine; as the soul <nephesh> of the father, so also the soul <nephesh> of the son is mine: the soul <nephesh> that sinneth, it shall die.”

So souls can be killed by the sword, they can be dead, they can be left in hell (Hebrew – ‘sheol’, translated ‘‘grave, pit, hell’), they can sin and die, and no one is able to keep their own soul alive. The KJV is one of the few versions that translates ‘nephesh’ as ‘soul’ in four of the passages above. In most modern versions of Joshua 11:11, Psalm 16:9-10 and 22:29, the words  me, person, himself, themselves,’ etc. have been used by the translators for ‘nephesh’, rather than ‘soul’. These are all legitimate translations, and do give the sense better in these passages, but may obscure the significance of the fact that a ‘soul’ <nephesh> is not immortal. 

As you can see, the Old Testament does not teach the concept of an immortal soul. As we discussed in a previous blog, the expressed hope in the Old Testament involved resurrection to eternal life (Job 14:14-15; 19:25-27; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:1-3; Acts 2:29,24) and paradise on Earth. The faithful of old did not expect to receive immortality until they were resurrected at the last day.

A Departing Soul?

In the Old Testament, however, there is a passage that seems to give credence to the idea of an ‘immortal soul’. In speaking of Rachel’s death, the KJV says, “And it came to pass, as her soul <nephesh> was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.” (Genesis 35:18) On the first read, this sounds like an immortal soul departing from a dying body. However, had the KJV translators chosen to use one of the other English words frequently translated for ‘nephesh’, the meaning would be clearer. For example, the NIV translates this passage, “As she breathed her last – for she was dying…”

God’s Spirit

We see the soul ‘equation’ reversed at death when a person or creature breathes their last, and the breath of life, that is, God’s ‘spirit’, leaves the body, the body returns to dust and the soul ceases to exist. In speaking of this fading time of life, Ecclesiastes 12:7, says, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”

You may ask, What is the spirit of God? Is this an immortal part of human existence? In our next blog we will briefly consider the word ‘spirit’ in both the Old and New Testament, and see if there is any link to immortality.

After looking at ‘spirit’, we will consider the word ‘soul’ in the New Testament? Is there any evidence of a belief in an immortal soul taught by Jesus or his disciples? Investigate for yourself now with our Discovery Lesson on What is a soul?

This mortal life doesn’t last long. Some are content with 70 plus years, but most of us want to live as long as possible. Billions are spent on vitamins and supplements to slow the ageing process. If someone came up with a proven way to extend youthful life for even 100 EXTRA YEARS everyone would want to buy the cure. Imagine! People would give up their life savings, sell their home, volunteer years of their time, whatever the price, if it meant extending life for 100 more years!

But consider what God has offered… and it’s MORE than just 100 extra years:

“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life …” (Daniel 12:2)

“…to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (Romans 2:7)

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

God is offering ETERNAL Life!!

Our Heavenly Father is offering Eternal Life. God has proven He has the power to give this gift as shown by His resurrection of Jesus Christ – the “FIRST to rise from the dead” (Acts 26:23). Paul says he lived “in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began,” (Titus 1:1-2). Shouldn’t everyone be lining up for this GIFT?

So WHEN Does God Plan to Give us Eternal Life?

After Lazarus died, Jesus comforted his sister Martha with the hope, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:21-26)

Jesus told the Jews:

“Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:21, 24-29. See also Matthew 25:31-32, 45-46; John 6:51,54)

Jesus promised to give us eternal life when he raises the dead, on the ‘last day’ (John 6:44). Jesus Christ was the FIRSTBORN from the dead (Revelation 1:5; 3:14; Colossians 1:18) – the first to rise and be given immortality. What God did for his Son, He promises to do for us. (Philippians 3:10, 20-21)

Will EVERYONE Receive Eternal life?

Immortality is a gift from God (Romans 6:23). When Adam and Eve sinned, God said, “Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden…  he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:22-24)

Barred From the Tree of Life

God barred access to ‘living forever’ after our first parents chose to disobey His clear and simple command. However, the true way and door to living forever has been given to us through the faithful obedience of Jesus Christ.

“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man [ADAM], much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:15-17; John 14:6; 10:1-9)

If we don’t choose to repent and seek forgiveness in Christ, we won’t have hope of receiving eternal life. “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.(1 John 3:15) And in Ephesians, Paul speaks about our lives before we find Christ, saying, “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

The same message is given in the Psalms, “Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever. For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.” (Psalm 37:1, 9-11, 22, 27-29, 34-38)

What is Immortality Like?

There is only one man who has been raised and given immortal life, so far. If we want to know what immortality is all about, Jesus Christ is our model. He was on earth in his immortal state for 40 days. Jesus ate (Luke 24:42-43), he talked, he walked, (Luke 24:15-19) he had a physical body that could be touched, but yet he was able to appear or disappear instantly (Luke 24:31), seemingly without the need for doors (John 20:26-28). He told his disciples that he wasn’t a spirit, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Luke 24:39; John 20:26-29)

Notice that Jesus doesn’t say ‘flesh and blood’, which is often a description of mortal humans (Hebrews 2:14; 1 Corinthians 15:50; see Leviticus 17:11) . In his crucifixion, Jesus gave his mortal body and his blood (his life) for us (Luke 22:19-20; John 6:48-58). Being made immortal his body is now energized by God’s Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:42-49); it is a ‘spiritual body’. Jesus ascended up to heaven to be with his Father, (Luke 24:51) where he was given all power sitting at God’s right hand (Matthew 28:18). Now, 2000 years later, he is still actively working in the lives of believers to make us ready for the day of his return! (Revelation 2&3)

No Pain, Sorrow, Crying or Death!

We are told that when we are made immortal, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) Immortality means no more pain, sorrow, crying or death!

Equal to Angels

Jesus told us clearly that when we are made immortal we will be like the angels. ““The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” (Luke 20:34-36) Angels were often mistaken for men (Genesis 18; 19:1-5; Joshua 5:13-15), can eat (Genesis 18), had tangible bodies that can be wrestled and touched (Genesis 32:24-32; Genesis 19; Daniel 10), can possibly fly (Daniel 9:20-21), can appear and disappear instantly, are not restrained by locked doors (Acts 12:6-11) and occasionally glow with light (Judges 13; Luke 24:4-5).

As we have considered in previous blogs, the Bible Hope in the Old and New Testament is for resurrection. Immortality is a gift to be granted when Jesus raises us from the dead, but not everyone receives this gift. Just as Jesus’ flesh ‘rested in hope’ and didn’t ‘see corruption’, so our mortal bodies must PUT ON immortality.

What is a “Soul”?

However, there is a very popular, dearly cherished, Christian belief which states that every human being possesses an ‘immortal soul’. When did this teaching become part of Christianity? What does the word ‘soul’ mean in the Bible and how is it used? Does the phrase ‘immortal soul’ ever occur in the Bible? These are the questions we will answer in our next blog. If you’d like to investigate on your own, try our new Discovery Lesson on “What is a Soul?”