Immortality of the Soul
The Truth about
1 Sam. 28:8-15
1 Kings 17:21
1 Thess. 5:23
1 Peter 3:19
The Truth About the Nature of Man
The best starting place for any questions about the nature of man is from the record of the first man's creation. In Genesis 2:7 we read,
"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."
From this we learn that man's basic element is dust and this is what compromises his body. This body is lifeless without the "breath of life" which is given from God. It is this which animates the body and makes it into a "living soul". Genesis puts forth the simple equation:
Dust + Breath of Life = A Living Soul
Let us examine each of these terms as they apply to the nature of man.
That man is dust and that he returns to dust at his death is obvious from what God tells Adam later on in Genesis 3:19,
"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."
There have been many men in the Bible who have recognized this fact such as Abraham in Genesis 18:27,
"And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes:"
and Job in Job 10:9,
"Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as the clay; and wilt thou bring me into dust again?"
It is important to keep in mind that our bodies are made of dust and that they return to dust when we die. It should change our whole attitude before God because he is our maker. He has formed us and given us life, and he can take it away. God is the only source we can look to for life and immortality (1 Timothy 6:16).
Breath of Life
The Hebrew words for breath of life are "neshema chay" which is also termed the spirit or "ruach" of God (see Genesis 7:15,22). The breath or spirit of life is what gives life and therefore we find that when the scriptures speak of death it is when the breath or spirit of God is taken away.
Job 34:14-15 "If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit (RUACH) and his breath (NESHEMA); All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust."
The Hebrew word for living soul is "nephesh chay" and interestingly enough the first usage of the word is applied to animals in Genesis 1:20-21,
"And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life (CHAY), and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature (NEPHESH CHAY) that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good."
It is also used that way in Genesis 1:27 and 2:19. These verses tell us that both man and beast have something in common which is the breath or spirit (see Gen. 7:21-22) which makes them a living soul. Once we know this then the verse in Ecclesiates 3:18-20 becomes quite clear,
"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 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 (RUACH); 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."
This is very plain. Physically man is not above the beast. They are both made of the dust, they have the same type of breath or spirit which is given by God, and they are all living souls, but when God withdraws his breath they both return to the dust.
One thing is different though between man and beast. Man is the only one to have been made in the "image and likeness" of the Elohim (Gen. 1:27). This gives him the ability to be a partaker in the promises of God and to attain unto eternal life which is the gift of God. For proof of this compare Psalm 49:20 and 2 Peter 1:3-4 and it is seen that the knowledge of God and his ways is what distinguishes us from the beasts.
In summary, we have seen that the word "living soul" is used both of man and of beasts and could be described in the following way,
NEPHESH - A body made of dust that is animated by the breath or spirit of God. This breath makes it alive and thus it is "nephesh chay" or a living soul. Without this breath the soul, body or life is dead (Ezekiel 18:4) and the body returns back to dust.