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Paul expressed his great longing to “attain unto the resurrection of the dead,” (Philippians 3:10-12). He encouraged other believers to “look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body,” (Philippians 3:20-21). Paul’s hope was that when he was resurrected, his mortal body would ‘put on immortality’ (1 Corinthians 15:50-55). 

Does the New Testament teach an “immortal soul” concept?

Based on the fact that many individuals in the Bible expressed their future hope for the resurrection, we considered in previous blogs whether or not the teaching of the ‘immortal soul’ is Scriptural. We looked at the word for ‘soul’ in the Old Testament – the Hebrew word ‘nephesh’ and saw that it could be used for ‘body, person, creature, himself, person,’ etc. as well as ‘soul’. From looking at all the places where ‘nephesh’ is used, we found that any breathing thing, man, bird, fish, or animal, is referred to as a ‘living soul’. The equation in Genesis 2:7 is, “BODY OF DUST + BREATH OF LIFE = LIVING SOUL”. 

What is a soul in the New Testament?

Does the New Testament word for ‘soul’ have the same meaning as in the Old Testament? 

In the Greek New Testament, the word used for ‘soul’ is ‘psuche’, meaning ‘breath’, and translated into KJV English as ‘heart, life, mind, soul, heart, heartily’. Since the concept of an ‘immortal soul’ was introduced into the early Christian church from Greek mythology (see online Encyclopedia Britannica – The Soul – Religion and Philosophy) many modern translators and Christians still hold fast to this belief. Dr. Strong, who put together Strong’s Concordance believed in the immortal soul teaching. Therefore,  in his personal definition of the meaning of ‘psuche’, he writes that the soul as an essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death (distinguished from other parts of the body)”

Is Dr. Strong correct? If we examine all the places where ‘psuche’ is used, will we discover that the ‘soul’ differs from the body, and is not dissolved by death? How is this ‘psuche’ used in the Bible? 

A New Testament search on ‘psuche’

If you have a Bible program, a thorough search of how ‘psuche’ is used will be very informative. Occasionally, the word ‘psuche’ has been translated in the KJV as ‘soul’, quite often as ‘life’. We have listed out a few of the most ‘telling’ passages. The Discovery Lesson on “What is a Soul” will have others. Try reading the passages below, using ‘soul’ for every occurrence of ‘psuche’, and then try with the word ‘life’.

“For whoever would save his life <psuche> will lose it, but whoever loses his life <psuche>for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul <psuche>? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul <psuche>?” (Matthew 10:25-26)

“Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life <psuche>for the sheep.” (John 10:15; see also John 13:37-38

“Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul <psuche> in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul <psuche> was not left in hell <hades> [hell or grave], neither his flesh did see corruption.” (Acts 2:26-27,31 KJV)

“It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives <psuche>for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 15:25-26 KJV)

“And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life <psuche> is in him.” (Acts 20:10)

“And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives <psuche>… And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life <psuche> among you, but of the ship.” (Acts 27:10,22)

“And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life <psuche>, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.” (Revelation 8:9)

From the passages above, you can see that the Old and New Testaments are in agreement. Both use the words for soul to refer to animals, and a life that can be given up or ended. Since it’s clear from the passages above that a soul can die, we cannot validate Dr. Strong’s personal definition for this word. 

Is the ‘spirit’ immortal?

However, some would say that the ‘spirit’ of man is immortal. If you like to do your own research, click here on the Discovery Lesson, Do we have an Eternal Spirit?

When we considered the word ‘spirit’ in the Old Testament we found that it refers to wind, breath, emotions, special spirit gifts from God, and a life-giving force for both man and animals. 

What about the New Testament?

Is the New Testament word for ‘spirit’ consistent with what we have discovered in the Old Testament?

Looking up the word ‘spirit’ in the KJV, we discover the Greek word is ‘pneuma’. Dr. Strong says it means ‘a current of air, i.e. breath or a breeze; by analogy or figuratively, a spirit, I.e. (human) the rational soul, (by implication) vital principle, mental disposition, etc., or (superhuman) an angel, demon or (divine) God, Christ’s spirit, the Holy Spirit’. The word ‘pneuma’ has been translated into KJV English Bible as ‘ghost, life, spirit, mind.’ It is from this Greek word that we get English words such as pneumonia and pneumatics, both which have to do with the movement of air!

The Holy ‘Spirit’ Power

The word ‘pneuma’ is used for the ‘spirit’ part of the Holy Spirit in Matthew 1:18, when Mary was, “found with child of the Holy Spirit <pneuema>”. The Holy Spirit is God’s miraculous power. 

Unclean ‘spirits’ = mental disease

‘Pneuma’ is used often of unclean ‘spirits <pneuema>’ in Matthew 12:43-45; Mark 5:13, etc.. The symptoms displayed by those with the unclean ‘spirits’ are mental disorders, which we are now able to treat with medicine and counselling.

Emotions

‘Pneuma’ is used of Jesus’ ‘spirit’ in Mark 8:12, “And he sighed deeply in his spirit <pneuema>.  We are told to restore sinners in the ‘spirit <pneuema> of meekness’ (Galatians 6:1). It is good to be ‘poor in spirit <pneuema> (Matthew 5:3), in other words, ‘humble’. Emotions are a precious gift from our Heavenly Father, as He also feels anger, love, joy, jealousy and sadness. Animals don’t enjoy this gift to the full extent that we do. Life without emotion, would be dreadfully dull! However, we are expected to rule our emotions, not allow the emotions to rule us.  (Proverbs 16:32).

Holy ‘Spirit’ Gifts

When Jesus was baptized, the ‘spirit <pneuema> came down on him like a dove (John 1:32-33). The Holy spirit <pneuema> gave the Apostles gifts of tongues and healing. (Acts 1:8,16) The ‘spirit <pneuema> gave the apostles direction on where and what to preach, and even caught them away to various places (Acts 8:29,39; 11:12, 28; 16:7).

This very same ‘spirit’ of God which gives us life and animates our beings, is also a power that transcends anything that we experience in our human existence now!

Imagine being able to to speak in languages which we’ve never learned, to be unaffected by snake venom, to read the minds of others, to heal those who are sick and to raise the dead! God has occasionally given mortal men these special gifts in the Bible. Imagine being filled with the ‘spirit’ ‘without measure’, like Jesus was (John 3:34). If mortal men experienced the ‘spirit’ power to this extent, will not immortality in a spiritual body be an incredible experience? (Joel 2:28-31; Isaiah 32:15; 1 Corinthians 14:35-49)

The ‘Spirit’ Goes Back to God

Jesus “gave up the ghost <pneuema> when he died. When he was being stoned to death, Stephen asked for God to receive his ‘spirit <pneuema>. (Acts 7:59-60)

We are given the encouragement, “But if the Spirit <pneuema> of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit <pneuema> that dwelleth in you.” (Romans 8:1)

Just like we saw in the Old Testament, when we die, the “spirit <ruwach>’ goes back to God who gave it’” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). BUT the Romans 8 passage tells us this ‘spirit’ will raise us up to life again!! Just like Jesus – the ‘first to rise from the dead’ – we have the hope of being reenergized by God’s ‘spirit’ in a new and much more powerful way that will last forever!

“Spiritually-Minded”

This higher calling of the ‘spirit’ mind is revealed to a greater extent in the New Testament than in the Old. In Romans 8, Paul discusses at length, the contrast to being ‘in the flesh’ – carnally-minded, or ‘in the spirit’spiritually-minded. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (See also Romans 8:6-9)

Jesus said that we have to be “born of water and of the spirit” to enter into the Kingdom of God (John 3:5-8). God is looking for a change of allegiance in our minds and thinking. The recorded words of God and Jesus in the Bible have power to cause this transformation, if we take them in. As Jesus said to his disciples, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63)

In our investigation into the soul and spirit in the Bible, we have seen that a body created out of dust, plus the breath of God equals a LIVING SOUL  – whether man, animal, bird, insect or fish! We don’t ‘have a soul’, we are souls – i.e. living creatures. The breath breathed into mankind and all other breathing creatures, is the spirit of God, an animating life-force that gives us the ability to live, to think, to feel, and to react. Most importantly, God hopes that human-beings will use this ability He has given, to think spiritually, and respond in a loving, thankful way to Him.

1 Corinthians 2:12 “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”

 

 

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?

‘Ruwach’

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.  

Wind

‘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).

Emotions

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:

BODY OF DUST + BREATH OF LIFE = A LIVING SOUL.

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:

A LIVING SOUL minus BREATH OF LIFE = DUST.

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?”

Since Jesus was the first to rise from the dead’ (Acts 26), and he will ‘transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body’ (Phil. 3) – it only makes sense to investigate what happened to Jesus’ earthly body? Was it left behind in the tomb to rot and decay? Was Jesus given immortality at his resurrection, or did he already possess an undying spirit before he was crucified? Does it matter? And is the promise of resurrection crucial to the hope of living forever?

Did Jesus’ Body Rot and Decay?

When Mary came to wrap Jesus’ body with spices – the tomb was empty! The body was gone! (John 20) The linen cloths that had bound his body were lying by themselves – Jesus’ body had been unwrapped. While the disciples were perplexed that they could not find his body, the angels explained, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. (Luke 24:5-6 ESV)

Later, the guards were bribed to say that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body away as they slept. (Matthew 28:11-15) However, Peter clearly lays out the truth of the matter in Acts 2.

Referring to an Old Testament prophecy given to David, Peter says, “… this Jesus… God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, ‘my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption...’ Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” (Acts 2:22-32 – Quote from Psalm 16:9-10)

“My Flesh Also will Dwell in Hope”

Psalm 16:9-10, the passage quoted above, is a ‘Messianic’ prophecy. After his resurrection, Jesus explained to his disciples that everything about him was clearly prophesied “in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.” (Luke 24:25-27, 44-46) God had clearly foretold in the Old Testament what would happen to Jesus’ body. As Peter points out, the Psalm says, “my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption...”

The only part of us that can decay is our mortal body – our ‘flesh’. Jesus’ ‘flesh’ was going to rest in hope – hope of what? Hope of being made alive again! He would not see ‘corruption’. This word ‘corruption’ in Strong’s Concordance has the meaning to ‘decay’. Strong’s personal definition is ‘to rot thoroughly’! Only a mortal body can rot. Jesus’ mortal body did not! If you want to investigate this topic more thoroughly – click here for our Discovery Lesson on Resurrection

“Did not see Corruption”

The Apostle Paul made a similar argument in Acts 13, saying, “And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm,“‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ Therefore he says also in another Psalm, “‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’ For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption.”

The Apostle Paul clearly points out that this Psalm couldn’t be talking about David; they all knew that David ‘fell asleep’ and ‘saw corruption’. But Jesus, did ‘not see corruption’. His mortal body was brought back to life! He is the ‘firstborn from the dead.’ (Colossians 1:18)

The Lineage of Jesus Christ

Why is it important that Jesus’ mortal body be raised? It is very important in order to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus. Truly Jesus was conceived miraculously by God’s Holy Spirit power causing an egg in Mary’s womb to become a child without a man’s involvement, (Luke 1:34-35) and was therefore God’s Son. Yet Jesus’ human lineage was also the subject of several Old Testament prophecies and New Testament commentary. For example, the promise to David, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.” (2 Samuel 7:12-14)

Gabriel’s Message

The promise made to David was reiterated in Gabriel’s message to Mary, “And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33)

The New Testament genealogy of Jesus Christ goes through David, Abraham and Adam and Eve – significant individuals who were promised a son that would redeem mankind and bring God’s blessings to the earth. (Luke 3; Genesis 3:15; 12:1-2; 22:15-18; 2 Samuel 7:12-14)

“Descended From David”

After Jesus Christ has gone to heaven, Paul still makes mention of Jesus’ earthly lineage:

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,” (2 Timothy 2:8) and, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Romans 1:1-3) The earthly lineage of Jesus Christ is very important as it fulfilled personal promises God made to the forefathers.

“This Mortal Body Must Put on Immortality”

From the passages in Acts we see very clearly that Jesus’ mortal body was raised from the dead before corruption set in (as it would on the 4th day) and that he was GIVEN immortality.  We find no promises in the Bible that our mortal bodies will avoid corruption! However, we are told by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:53, that “this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” Our bodies will be raised and then we are given immortality – if God is pleased to give us this incredible gift. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Perished??

In our investigation of the original Gospel hope, we found that resurrection was the consistent hope of Old and New Testament believers. So much so, that the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, that if Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead, then “Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” 

PERISHED? A true statement, if all the Old Testament believers are in their graves, ‘fast asleep’ awaiting the hope of resurrection. A very confusing statement if those Old Testament believers never really died and are happily enjoying paradise now.

A Greek Fable

Our next blog will consider a Greek fable that crept into early Christianity after Jesus ascended to heaven and is now such an established and cherished belief that few realize it can be easily shown to be false. Some would say, “A false hope is better than no hope at all” – but is it? And if we hold onto a false hope, what other aspects of the true Gospel message will become distorted? God Willing, we will look into this matter primarily from Scripture but also with reference to the historical development of this teaching.