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Scripture Reading:  1 Kings 17:17-24

The Soul, the Spirit and Death



1. Question Box: Request for a lesson on “the difference between soul and spirit” and “where does the soul go after death?”

2. 1 Ths 5:23: We possess spirit, soul and body. The identification, similarities and distinctions of these form the basis of abiding hope for the Christian, and yet have been the source of dispute and error.

3. Basic truth: Humans are immortal, possessing soul, spirit and body. Death is the separation of the human spirit from the body, and we continue to exist.



  A.  “Soul” (nephesh / psuche) is a Broad Concept in the Bible, Covering a Wide Range of Usages.

    1.  nephesh: “Soul refers to any and all of the manifestations of life, both human and animal, material, mental or emotional, both in the body and out of the body”.

    2.  nephesh used 754 times in OT; translated 35 diff. ways in KJV.

      a.   The person himself, Gen 12:5; Deut 10:22. (215 times)

      b.  Life (animal, human) in the blood, Gen 9:4; Lev 17:11. (195xs)

      c.   Man’s deep, innermost nature, Psa 103:1; Deut 11:13. (115 times)

      d.  Life-principle or essence, basis, nature (almost synonymous with spirit), Gen 2:7; 35:18; 1 Kgs 17:21-22.

    3.  psuche: “the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions (our heart, soul etc.)”, Thayer.

  B.  Soul is Life that Lives after Death, Matt 10:28 (Rev 6:9-10).

    1.  NT (psuche)Soul is life – As in Acts 2:41 (people); Lk 12:20 (life is required…going to die); Matt 16:26 (his own soul is his life).

    2.  Soul in Acts 2:27, 31 is almost synonymous with spirit, cf. Lk 23:46.

 C.  Materialists Deny the Immortal Nature of the Soul.

    1.  JW’s: Say man is a soul (combination of flesh and breath), but man does not have a soul.[i]

    2.  Materialists limit meaning of “soul” to only the breath of the flesh, so that when we die we cease to exist.[ii]

    3.  Man both is a soul and has a soul:
      a.  Man became a living soul (nephesh), Gen 2:7 (life force, Gen 1:20, 30).

      b.  Eli’s heart (nephesh) would be grieved, 1 Sam 2:33 (not his breathing that was grieved, but his very being).


II. THE SPIRIT OF MAN: GIVEN BY GOD, Zech 12:1; Eccl 12:7.

  A.  “Spirit” (ruach / pneuma) is also Applied to Different Things:

    1.  OT (ruach): wind, breath, mind, spirit (wind, Gen 8:1); also Jno 3:8.

    2.  NT (pneuma): Nature of deity (contrasted with flesh), Jno 3:6, 8.

    3.  God’s nature is spirit (lit., “spirit, the God”), Jno 4:24.

    4.  Spirit is identified with life, individuality and nature (essence).

  B.  Man is not Spirit, but Man has a Spirit, Zech 12:1; Num 16:22; Jas 2:26.

  C.  The Spirit of Man Will Exist Apart from the Body, Acts 7:59; Eccl 12:7; Heb 12:23.

    1.  The spirit possesses personal identity, knowledge and is unique, cf. 1 Cor 2:11.

    2.  The spirit of man includes the mind – Mental and moral qualities – the rational, cogent and conscious part of man.

    3.  Man is not spirit (as God is, Jno 4:24), but man has a spirit.



  A.  Death ends Bodily Existence, but not the Soul and Spirit, Matt 10:28.

  B.  The Spirit Returns to God, who Gave it, Eccl 12:7. (Hades: Realm of departed spirits).

    1.  Righteous: Comfort, rest (Abraham’s bosom), Paradise, Lk 16:22; 23:43.

    2.  Sinners: Torments, anguish in flames, Lk 16:23-24.

  C.  Resurrection: Hades will give up the Dead, 1 Cor 15:50-55.



1.  Our soul will be required of us: we will all die (Heb 9:27).

2.  Our spirit will go to Hades (Paradise or torment), awaiting resurrection of the body and judgment.

3.  God can carefully guard us unto that day; we must be faithful, 1 Ths 5:23-24.


[i] “How, then, did the human soul come into existence?  By God’s creating the human body from the dust of the ground and combining it with ‘the breath of life.’  This means that the human soul is maintained by breathing the needed air through the nostrils.  It does not mean that the human creature, man, is maintained alive by having inside himself an invisible, spiritual, intelligent something called ‘soul’ that can separate from the body at death and that can continue its intelligent, conscious existence in an invisible, spiritual realm, either with angels or with demons.”  (Things in Which it is Impossible for God to Lie, 142; cited by Barnett, II:4)


[ii]  “Whereas the human soul is the living person himself, the spirit is simply the life force that enables that person to be alive.  The spirit has no personality, nor can it do the things a person can do.  It cannot think, speak, hear, see or feel.

   “This spirit or life force is found in all living creatures, being passed on from parents to offspring at the time of conception.

   “Because they all have this same life force or spirit, man and the animals die in a similar manner.”  (The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life, 39)