Does Man have an Immortal Soul?
The question of life after death is a common theme in many cultures today. It is a question that has been discussed by poets, artists, philosophers, and scientists. It is a question asked by each and every individual living upon the face of the earth. One of the first things that we are made aware of within life is the certainty of death. So what lies beyond death is naturally one of the most compelling questions a person can pose. Does the Bible teach that when a person dies that they are merely extinct? Lifeless? Soulless? Or does the Bible teach that after death our soul remains alive and exists independently of our bodies? Let’s examine these questions in light of Bible teaching.
Does man even have a soul? There are some who state that the soul of man is nothing more than the life of man. By this they mean to suggest that there is nothing different between a man and an animal insofar as the soul is concerned. One of their favorite passages is Proverbs 12:10 which uses the same word that is translated “soul” to describe the life of a beast. By this they mean to suggest that “soul” is merely one’s “life-force” and has nothing to do with anything other than the physical body. It is true that there are many passages within the Bible where “soul” means “life” and the two words can be used relatively interchangeably. However, the studious will do well to note that words often have more than one meaning and can be used in different senses. Such is the case for this word as well.
We find one such example in Leviticus 17:11. This passage says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” In this passage, the blood makes atonement for the soul. Was it merely for a person’s life that atonement was made? Since when does blood need to be shed to safeguard a person’s life-force? It should be clear to the conscientious that “soul” in this passage means more than just a life-force because it is something that is in need of atonement. We find another example in Leviticus 26:11. God says in this passage, “And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you.” Here the word has reference to God himself. Does the word merely describe God’s “life-force?” To the contrary, the context is in regard to the presence of God among the children of Israel. We know that God is a Spirit (John 4:24), so “soul” in this context is not merely referring to some “life-force” as defined above since the word is attributed to God himself.
Perhaps the greatest demonstration that the soul is more than just man’s “life-force” begins in the prophetic passage Psalm 16:10. This passage states, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” Peter quotes this passage in Acts 2:31 where he applies it to the soul of the resurrected Jesus. He says, “he (David) foreseeing this spake of the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he left unto Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.”ASV. Notice that Peter says that “he” was not left unto Hades and then he also says that his flesh did not see corruption. To Peter, the real Jesus was someone different from his flesh; Jesus had a soul. Now just exactly where was Jesus during this period of time that his body was in the tomb? Jesus’ own words to the thief on the cross tell us exactly where Jesus was, a place known as paradise (Luke 23:43). How do we know that Jesus was not really in heaven with the thief? Notice these two facts: First, Jesus said that he would be with the thief “today” in paradise. Second, when Mary saw Jesus after his resurrection, Jesus said that he had not yet ascended to the Father (John 20:17). Now if Jesus had seen the thief in the same day that he had died and if Jesus had gone to heaven to see him after his death, then Jesus would have already have ascended into heaven and would have had to come back down to ascend again. This is also confirmed for us in Ephesians 4:9 where it states, “Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?” This expression “lower parts of the earth” is a phrase that occurs in the Old Testament twice (Psalm 63:9; Isaiah 44:23) and refers to the place of the departed. Jesus descended to this place wherein is the realm of paradise and then Jesus ascended into heaven after having been resurrected from the dead. The inescapable conclusion is that the soul of Jesus was still alive and well while Jesus body was in the tomb.
Finally, we see that Jesus himself argued for the existence of the soul after death. He did so to the religious sect of the time known as the Sadducees. Acts 23:8 tells us what the Sadducees believed in this regard. “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit�.” It is significant that the Sadducees believed that there were no spirits. In their view of things there were no “souls.” Sadducee doctrine was that when a person was dead, he had no spirit-form to depart from his body, but that all that was left of him was the dust from whence he came. Hence, the dead no longer existed according to the Sadducees. We see these views addressed in Matthew 22:23-33, Mark 12:18-27, and Luke 20:27-38. It is significant that Jesus addressed the whole of the Sadducees doctrine about the resurrection. That is, in the view of the Sadducess, there was no resurrection because there were no souls to resurrect. Jesus also answers the question about angels as well. In these passages, Jesus first tells the Sadducees that they knew neither the scriptures nor the power of God. He then answers their question regarding marriage in the resurrection by telling them that men would be like angels in the resurrection, without gender. Finally he deals with the doctrine of whether the dead have souls that are still living. If they do, then the implication of that fact is that they will one day be raised. In Matthew, Jesus is recorded as saying, “But as touching the resurrection of the dead�..” Mark records, “As touching the dead, that they rise�.” Luke writes, “Now that the dead are raised�.” In the next few verses, Jesus makes it clear that he is not talking about the raising of dead bodies, but of dead souls. How do we know this? Jesus takes God’s statement to Moses from Exodus 3:6 where God says, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” and points out the tense of the verb, “I am.” It is present tense, meaning that God was, during the time of Moses, the God of the very much alive and well Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But their bodies were dead, so how could they be alive? They were alive because they had an immortal soul. And so Jesus concludes, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” The implication is that the souls of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were still alive after their death in the time of Moses and that, in fact, they were still alive in the time of Christ.
Yes, there is an immortal soul. Yes, the immortal souls of all of those who have gone before live right now in the place of the dead. Yes, one day those immortal souls will be resurrected to be rejoined with a new and immortal body (Acts 24:15). Those who do not believe in the existence of the immortal soul in the words of Jesus, “do greatly err” (Mark 12:27). The righteous will go into eternal life and the wicked unto eternal condemnation. Your immortal soul, dear friend, will be among those resurrected in that day. Make sure that your life is right with God today. Don’t “greatly err” from God’s word. Tomorrow may never come and your immortal soul may be eternally lost if you heed not his will.