Shelby G. Floyd
1 Thessalonians 5:23
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There is a class of people whom we call materialists that deny that man has an immortal soul. When the Bible says that God “created man out of the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,” they take that to mean that man is just body, bone, blood and breath, and that when man dies he ceases to exist. I do not believe that, but I do believe just the opposite, that man has an immoral soul or spirit that dwells in this house or tabernacle of clay. A hundred years from now when most of us will be dead in the body we will still be alive in another world.
So we are going to explore the Bible, the Old and New Testament, to see if there is an inward man as well as an outward man, an invisible man as well as a visible man.
THE BIBLICAL AFFIRMATION
I cannot see your soul or spirit and you cannot see mine, but does that mean that our soul doesn’t exist? By that logic, we would have to deny that we have minds because I cannot see your mind and you cannot see my mind. Our minds are invisible and yet who would affirm that we do not have such a thing that is called mind? Just because something is invisible doesn’t mean that it does not exist. The soul or the spirit is invisible, but nevertheless it does exist and the Bible affirms this to be the case. For instance, Daniel was an inspired man and God gave him a special power concerning visions and dreams.
Daniel had one of those dreams as recorded in the book of Daniel. He said, “I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me” (Daniel 7:15). Daniel had one of these visions, and the visions or the dreams that he had troubled him, so he said, “I was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body.” Where is man’s spirit? We can’t see it, but Daniel says it is in the midst of our body. Well, what part of our body? I don’t know, but the Bible says that Daniel had a spirit in the midst of his body. Now are we going to take the modernists and materialists or shall we take an inspired man like Daniel who said that he had a spirit in the midst of his body? He was grieved in his spirit and his spirit was in the midst of his body. Daniel couldn’t see his spirit, but he knew by God’s word that he had a spirit and that spirit was in the midst of his body.
Then we have a remarkable statement over in the book of Job. It is thought by some that Job is the oldest writer of the Bible. We do know that he was one of the ancient patriarchs. Job, of course had quite a debate with his friends. His friends charged him with sin because of what was happening to him. Job knew that he had not done anything against God so he maintained his integrity and his faith in God. In Job we have this statement, “But there is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding” (Job 32:8). So according to that statement there is a spirit in man, but the modernists and materialists say that we don’t have a spirit, but the Bible says that there is a spirit in man and Daniel says that the spirit in man is in the midst of the body.
ENOCH WAS TRANSLATED INTO THE WORLD OF SPIRITS
We know that Enoch was translated into the world of spirits so that he did not see death (Genesis 5:24). It was by his faith that Enoch was translated: “By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5). Now he must have had a spirit or he could not have been translated into the world of spirits. He didn’t die, but in some way God translated his body and spirit into the world of spirits.
ELIJAH WAS CAUGHT UP TO BE WITH GOD
Then we read of Elijah, the prophet, in 2 Kings 2:1-15, who was caught up with God that he did not see death. Now many years later, Elijah was one of the men that appeared with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration and he was still alive. God translated both Elijah and Enoch into the world of spirits, but Moses and Elijah appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration and talked with Christ. Now if man doesn’t have a spirit, then when Enoch and Elijah were translated, that would have been the end of them. But both Moses and Elijah spoke with Christ and reappeared on the Mount of Transfiguration. Therefore, they were spirit beings!
Moses died a natural death, and God buried his body back there on Mt. Nebo, and God is the only one that knows where his body is buried, but did Moses cease to exist when he died on the lonely peaks of Mount Nebo? No, he was still alive unto God and appeared with the prophet Elijah who had been translated into the world of spirits.
So when we die, we do not cease to exist. I have never believed the doctrine that when we die we don’t know anything. I believe that the Bible teaches that when we die we are still fully conscious and our mental faculties, memory and perception are all even sharpened more than they are in the body. I believe that the Bible teaches that Moses was able to converse with Christ. He was still conscious and they recalled things that happened back there on yonder earth. So when we die that is not going to be the end of us. We will still be conscious and alive because we have a living soul or spirit that will never die.
Jesus taught that we ought not to fear man who can kill our bodies, but we ought to fear God who can destroy both our soul and body in hell fire (Matthew 10:28). That is as plain a passage as I know that teaches that man can kill the body, but cannot harm the soul or spirit. But there is someone that can destroy both soul and body. The word destroy does not mean that God will annihilate the soul. God will destroy the soul and body in the sense that he will banish the wicked into everlasting torment. The word hell there is translated from the Greek term Gehenna which means eternal fire. So Jesus is saying men will kill your bodies but they cannot harm your souls. Therefore, do not fear man, but fear God who can destroy both your body and soul. And so the soul will live forever, but God can banish both soul and body into hell. Man can destroy the body, but he cannot destroy the soul. Now if that passage teaches anything, it teaches that there is a soul that dwells in the body and that soul is indestructible, except in the sense that God can banish that soul forever in hell. So this teaches that man does have an immortal spirit that cannot be destroyed by any human being. And that means that even if someone were to take your life, he could not destroy your soul or spirit. So, if we live for God we have a soul that will live in close relationship with God forever.
THE INWARD AND OUTWARD MAN
Then, the apostle Paul had much to say about the inward man and the outward man, and he was quite emphatic in his teaching about the soul or spirit of man. In 2 Corinthians 4:16, he said, “but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” Now according to Paul’s inspired philosophy, man has an outward nature and an inward nature. Now, what is the primary nature of man? Is it the outward man or the inward man? If our primary nature were the outward man, then when the outward man dies and goes back to the dust, then we would cease to exist. But, Paul says, “Though this outward man perishes day by day, there is an inward man that should be renewed day by day.” What does this mean? It simply means that man has a soul as well as a body. And we know by experience and observation, that as we grow older we become more subject to the degeneration of our outward physical powers. Since this is the case, as our body degenerates, as a faithful Christian we will be strengthening the inward man day by day. We can do this by taking the word of God into the inward man and by spiritual exercise. So, according to Paul there is an outward man and an inward man. And that inward man is what is called the soul or spirit that will live forever.
And, ideally we must have a strong inward man if we are going to face and overcome all the trials and tribulations of this life. Those who faint and fall by the wayside have a very weak inward man, even though they may have a very strong outward man. Therefore, your basic nature is your inward man called the spirit, which should be strengthened every day.
A MAN WAS CAUGHT UP INTO THE THIRD HEAVEN—PARADISE
Paul continues this theme in 2 Corinthians 5:1, stating that “if this earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” And so this outward tabernacle is going to decay and perish, but God is preparing us another tabernacle – it is a building not made with hands – it is a building that God is making for us. God is not going to leave that inward man a naked spirit. He is going to clothe us with an everlasting habitation or house. And, that will be our resurrection body. And of course those faithful souls resurrected will live in heaven, our eternal home.
Either in the body or out of the body, Paul himself was taken up into heaven. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, he says, “I knew a man fourteen years ago that was caught up into the third heaven, whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know, God knoweth. Such an one was caught up into paradise and heard words which is not lawful for man to utter.” Now notice the logic of this passage. Most commentators think that Paul is talking about himself. And fourteen years before he wrote the book of 2 Corinthians he said, “I knew a man.” No doubt, Paul was talking about himself.
What about the man that Paul knew? He was caught up into Paradise. What is Paradise? The word Paradise is a Persian word that means a beautiful garden. That is the reason the Garden of Eden is called Paradise. It was the beautiful garden in which the first man and woman were placed to live and serve God. In the book of Revelation we read about heaven as the Paradise of God. And some of the poets have written beautiful words about Paradise lost and Paradise regained. They are describing what man lost in Eden and what he is to regain in heaven.
So, Paradise as it is used in second Corinthians 12, is not talking about some kind of earthly garden, but about heaven itself. And this is the reason Paul said, “Such an one was caught up into the third heaven.”
The Jews had three heavens in their vocabulary. The first heaven is where the birds fly – the immediate atmosphere. The second heaven was where the sun, moon and stars are found – the cosmos. But, the third heaven was where God is – heaven itself. Now Paul knew one who was caught up to Paradise. But, he says that such a one was caught up to the third heaven. The obvious conclusion is that Paradise is equivalent to heaven itself.
And while being caught up to heaven this person heard words, which it is not lawful to utter. But, notice the argument further: he declares that whether he was taken up in the body or out of the body he does not know, that God knows. This statement would not make sense if man ceases to exist out of the body. If we do not know anything out of the body, then, Paul’s statement that one could be caught up to heaven out of the body wouldn’t make sense. Paul really didn’t know whether God caught him up in the body like he had done with Elijah and Enoch or whether his spirit had been caught up out of the body for a brief time. But it really didn’t make any difference. Whether he was taken up into heaven body and spirit, or whether he was taken up in just his spirit, Paul realized that he was fully conscious and retained his memory of what he heard and saw. But, if man ceases to exist out of the body, then Paul would have been making a senseless argument. So, obviously, Paul believed by inspiration that man can be conscious and he can know things as well out of the body as in the body. So this is very strong evidence for the immortality of the soul or spirit of man.
We learn in Luke chapter 24:36-40, that our Lord was resurrected from the dead. He had died and his spirit had gone to Hades for three days. But God had brought his spirit out of the Hadean world and resurrected his body that he did not see corruption. He had raised him up and Christ was alive again.
THE DISCIPLES THOUGHT THEY SAW A SPIRIT!
But, the disciples saw him and they thought they had seen a ghost (spirit). The origin of the term ghost is interesting. It is an Anglo-Saxon word which originally meant guest. So, it was a very good term to use to designate the Holy Spirit and our own spirits. Our spirit is not dwelling in this body permanently. The body is not the permanent home of the spirit, and so the spirit of man is just a guest (ghost) for a while. So, the word ghost means guest. Our spirit is a guest in this earthly tabernacle and when we “shuffle off the mortal coil,” the spirit will live independent of the body.
The disciples saw Christ and thought they saw a spirit. But, Jesus spoke to them and said, “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39). From this we learn something about the nature of man’s spirit. A spirit does not have flesh and bones; nevertheless it does exist even though it is invisible and cannot be seen by the human eye.
Jesus had a fleshly body even after his resurrection. On certain occasions Christ changed the form of his body, but he definitely had a fleshly body up and until his Ascension. Christ emphasized this fact to prove to his disciples that he was not just a spirit, but also the same person they had known for over three years. But Jesus had a spirit also, for his spirit went to Hades and then after three days was reunited with his body.
There is one further proof of the existence of the soul or spirit that dwells in our body. In Revelation chapter 6:9-11, we read about the souls under the altar crying out for vengeance concerning their shed blood. They had been martyred upon the earth for their testimony and for their faithfulness to God. They are now dead as far as the body is concerned, but they are alive unto God. Therefore, these souls under the altar are pictured as crying out for justice (Revelation 6:9-11; 20:4). Now, if man doesn’t have an eternal spirit or an immortal soul, then, what would be the meaning of these souls crying out for vengeance? They are dead concerning the body, but they are alive unto God.
THE RELATIONSHIP OF MAN’S SPIRIT TO GOD
Now, we ask, what is the relationship of man’s spirit to God? In this connection, the wise man Solomon had something to say about death and the immortality of the soul. In one of our hymns we sing about when “the silver cord is broken.” That is a reference to Ecclesiastes 12:1-7, where Solomon gave a symbolic picture of old age. He points out that the elderly man’s hair is like the almond tree, the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the grinders shall cease. He is talking about old age and how the outward man begins to degenerate and lose its powers.
And he says, “The silver cord is broken.” This refers to the brittle thread we call life. And life is a very delicate thing. It was David who said, “There is just a step between me and death.” Life is like a silver cord that breaks and is no more.
Solomon says that when the silver cord is broken, then the body goes back to the dust from which it was taken and the spirit will return to God who gave it. What is the relationship of man’s spirit to God? When we die our spirit will return to God who gave it to us. Where does our spirit come from? It comes from God who gave it. Where does our spirit go when we die? It goes back to God who gave it. These are the answers to those questions as given by Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:7.
Next, let us notice a statement in Zechariah 12:1, “The burden of the word of the Lord against Israel. Thus says the Lord, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.” Who forms the spirit of man within him? The God that formed the heavens and the earth is the same God that forms the spirit of man within him. Therefore, God is the creator of our spirits as well as our bodies. So we have both a body and spirit and while the body goes back to the dust at death, the spirit goes back to God who formed that spirit within man.
MAN IS MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD
In Genesis chapter 1:26, we read that after God deliberated within himself he said, “Let us make man in our image and after our likeness.” Now what part of our being is made in the image of God? The Bible talks about God having eyes and ears, hands and feet. But this is only a figure of speech. God is only accommodating himself to us so we can understand what he is saying to us. Sometimes God must speak of himself as a man in order for us to understand him. This is therefore an anthropomorphism – which is, God speaking of himself in the form of a man.
But, God does not have a corporeal body such as we have. The Bible says that God is a spirit (John 4:24). And Jesus affirmed that a spirit does not have flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). Therefore, the conclusion is that God does not have flesh and bones.
If then, man is made in God’s image, what part of man is made in God’s image? It could not be the body, because God doesn’t have a body of flesh and bones. So, it must be the spirit or soul of man that is made in the image of God. God is a spirit and the inward man made in the image of God in spirit. And that spirit is immortal and will live forever.
PAUL SPEAKS TO THE ATHENIAN PHILOSOPHERS ABOUT THE NATURE OF MAN
On one occasion, Paul was talking about the nature of man to the Athenian philosophers on Mars Hill. In that speech he declared that “we are the offspring of God.” “Think not that the Godhead is made like unto gold, silver or stone graven by man’s art and devise. For we are his offspring,” he said (Acts 17:28-29). Man’s spirit is the offspring of God, for God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.
In Hebrews chapter 12:6-11, Paul instructs how our fathers chastised us and we gave them respect. He then asked, “How much more should we respect the Father of spirits and live?” His logic is that God chastises us when we do wrong. He corrects us because he is a loving Father and all loving fathers correct their children when they do wrong.
But, notice that he says we ought to be subject unto the Father of spirits. Our earthly fathers are the fathers of our flesh and we respect them. What about the Father of our spirits? God is the Father of our spirit. So we have received our earthly body from our human fathers but our spirits have come from God. And so, when God chastises and corrects us as unruly children, we ought to receive it with the right attitude. We should thank him for loving us enough to keep us in the straight and narrow road. The relationship we bear to God is therefore that of a Father and son.
In summary we have noticed the relationship of man’s spirit to God in these particulars: 1. God gave the spirit to man, so it goes back to him at death. 2. God formed the spirit of man within him. 3. God created man’s spirit in his own image. 4. God made man’s spirit the offspring of his own spirit. 5 God is the Father of our spirit.
THE IMMORTALITY OF MAN’S SPIRIT
But, at this point someone will say, I believe God is a spirit and that his spirit is immortal, but I don’t believe man’s spirit is immortal.” Of course there is no debate about God being immortal for Paul stated to Timothy, “now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever, amen” (1 Timothy 1:17).
Note that the same word, which is translated immortal, is also applied to man. In second Timothy 1:10, Paul says “but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
Jesus Christ brought not only life and immortality for the spirit, but also for the body. And so by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our bodies are not going to be in the grave forever. They are to come to life at the last day. And also through the blood of Christ in the gospel of Christ, the soul or the spirit of man is saved from the guilt, the power and the consequences of sin. So Christ has brought life and immortality not only for the body, but also for the soul. And so the soul of man is immortal and will live forever.
A PROOF TEXT EXAMINED
But, let us notice a proof text that is sometimes used by some of our religious friends to teach the idea that when man dies, “he is like the dog Rover, he is dead all over.” Our friends do not believe that the soul of man is immortal. They teach that man is mortal and when he dies he ceases to exist. That is the end of man. And one of their favorite Scriptures is found in Ecclesiastes 3:18-21: “I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which be fall at the sons of men be fall of beasts: even one thing be fall if then: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath: so that a man hath no preeminence over 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 go of the upward, and the spirit of the beast that goes downward to the earth.”
The problem with this is that our friends do not read or consider verse twenty-one. They stop reading too soon. According to them there is no difference between a man and a beast. And in some respects that is true. We observe that when a horse or cow, a dog or cat, an ant or a mole die, their bodies go back to the dust. And when man dies, his body is buried back into the same elements as the beasts of the earth.
So, in this sense we ask, what advantage does man have over the beasts of the earth? As far as the body in death is concerned, we don’t seem to have much advantage. But, and many other respects we have advantage over the beast. Take the hand of man for example. Most of the beasts are more powerful than man concerning brute force. But, what beast can accomplish what man can do with his hands. So man is greater in body than beasts according to his activities and what he can accomplish. But when we die the beast has as much advantage as man, for the bodies of both go back to the dust.
Therefore, some say man has no advantage over the beasts and refer to Solomon’s statement that both go back to the dust. But, our friends greatly err because they do not read all of Solomon’s statement. But, let us consider again the last two verses: “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” (Ecclesiastes 3:20-21).
According to Solomon the spirit of the beast goes downward with his body. And that makes the difference. And we have already discovered where the spirit of man goes when it goes upward. According to the same writer, the spirit of man goes back to God who gave it to man (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
THE VALUE OF MAN’S SOUL
This soul or spirit that each one of us has within us is priceless. There is no value that can be attached to your soul. Several years ago someone said that the value of our body is $1.29. This was based on the value of our bodily components on the commodity market.
However, this is not correct. Recently, I noticed that if we had to purchase all the elements and chemicals that make up our body from a company like Eli Lilly, it would cost over a million dollars. Therefore we are all million dollar men even from the standpoint of what our body is worth, to say nothing about the value of the soul.
But, within that body we each have a soul or spirit that is worth more than the entire world. Jesus said, “for what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul – in Mark (Matthew 16:26). We would give the whole world for our soul. Queen Elizabeth on her deathbed said she would give a million dollars for another minute to live. If we could compute all the wealth of the entire world our soul is worth more than all of that, because if our soul were lost we would give the whole world to save it.
Our soul is worth so much that God sent his only begotten son to die and shed his blood. How much is the blood of Christ worth? When you tell me how much the blood of Christ is worth, then that is how much your soul is worth. For that is how much it cost to save your soul from sin. Jesus Christ died for our sins and our soul.
And kind friend your soul can only be saved if you will obey the gospel and be a Christian (Romans 6:16-18; 6:1-6). Will you not in loving faith and repentance be baptized into Christ and receive the remission of your sins and the salvation of your soul? *
*A sermon delivered by Shelby G. Floyd at the Garfield Heights church of Christ, 2842 Shelby St., Indianapolis, IN, Sunday evening, December 4, 1977. On this occasion I was 40 years old. Now I am 81 and still believe and preach the immortality of the spirit or soul of man!
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142