A Living Soul

Posted in: 2007
By Tom L. Ballinger
Mar 2, 2008 - 3:39:49 PM

August 21, 2007


We have come to the conclusion, after much investigation of the Word of God, that unless the believer has an understanding of man’s soul, he is hopelessly entangled in error and is, ever, at the mercy of the doctrines of men.

Before the time of Christ, one of the early philosophers believed and taught that man had an immortal “soul.” He referred to it as that part of man which will live-on, forever, in some other place and in a different form. He taught that it was about the size of the human fist and at death, it being invisible, popped out of the bosom of man. It, then, went to its final reward. It, the human soul, lived on in another world. Other philosophers refined this and even added other dimensions to the teaching. Some began to teach that based upon your life, here, you earned the right to go to a place of eternal bliss, or you forfeited this right by your conduct. Two places were imagined. One was a place of bliss, based upon the goodness of the individual. Another was a place of torment, based upon the wickedness of the individual. But, whatever the philosophers imagined about man and his destiny turned out to be the imaginations of a darkened understanding.

Those who have studied the doctrines of the philosophers will recognize the influence they have had upon Christianity; chiefly, Plato. Those who have also looked at other religions will recognize that, in the main, they subscribe to the doctrine of the soul which fits in with the imaginations of the philosophers. Until we, as Bible believers, allow the Word of God to speak to our hearts, we are at the mercy of the unenlightened. The Bible is very emphatic about the “soul.” It is not a deep theological subject. It is very clear and plain. If the Bible would be opened and the first thirty-six verses were read, you would come to the Divine explanation of the “soul” which is:

”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” (Gen. 2:7).

I Corinthians 15:45 reaffirms Genesis 2:7, “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul…”

Even a casual look at Genesis 2:7 reveals that the Bible speaks of two things making a whole. “Formed man of the dust of the ground” - as a potter would form a vase with his hands, out of clay, so God formed man out of the dust of the earth. The word, "form,” implies the shape, that is, his bodily shape, or form. Isaiah 64:8 says, “But now, O Lord, Thou art our Father; we are the clay, and Thou our Potter: and we all are the work of Thy Hand.”

The form of man was, simply, his body. It was lifeless until God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.

“…as the body without the spirit (i.e. the breath of life) is dead…”(James 2:26).

The body of man was formed, and it was lifeless. We read in Ezekiel Chapter 37 that the dry bones of Israel will live again. We learn that the dry bones will have sinews and flesh put upon them, and then skin will cover these, and then God will put breath in them, “and (they) shall live.”

In another look at Genesis 2:7, it is noted, “And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” - notice that it was the breath of life that caused man to live. The body was formed, but it was lifeless. God caused breath to enter into the nostrils of Adam, and he lived. When the breath of life was to be withdrawn, God told Adam that he would return “unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3:19). There is no mention of immortality, here, at all. Before Adam was created, he did not exist. When God created him and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, Adam became a living soul. He was not one before that and when he died, he returned unto the ground from which he came. He did not continue being a living soul. The breath of life was not immortal; it was temporary. It simply sustained life for awhile. In Adam’s case, he lived nine-hundred-and-thirty years. The “tree of life” was placed in the Garden of God, and its purpose was to produce the fruit that Adam could eat in order for him to “live forever” (Gen. 3:22).

After Adam sinned, he was barred from the “tree of life.” All he had was the breath of life. When God would withdraw the breath of life from Adam, he would die. After sin entered in and death by sin, in order for Adam to live forever, he would now have to die and, then, live again later in resurrection.

The Bible speaks a great deal about the soul. This paper is only to set forth the basic premise of the “soul.” Space does not allow more than that. The interested student can develop a study with a good concordance as he checks out every reference in the Bible to the “soul.” Remembering, that God formed man from the ground and then breathed into his nostrils – thus, man became a living soul. This tells us, plainly and clearly, that man is not a three-part being, but rather, a two-part being. The body of man equals “dust of the ground,” and the spirit equals “the breath of life.” Thus, the equation; “the whole is equal to the sum of all its parts,” can be applied to man. He is a body with a spirit; hence, he is a living soul. Man is not a body, a spirit, and a soul, but rather, he is A LIVING SOUL and as such, is subject to death.

When the breath of life is withdrawn, man ceases to be a “living soul.” He dies and returns to the ground from whence he came. Man is not immortal. He does not live on in some other place in another form when he dies. First Timothy 6:16 says that Jesus Christ is the only one “Who hath immortality.” It is at resurrection that immortality will be put on by those that “sleep in Jesus” (1 Cor. 15:53). The question must be asked, “Do we believe God, or the traditions of men?”

Therefore, we conclude that man was formed out of the dust of the ground. The Lord told Adam what death was in Genesis 3:19 when He said, “In the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for OUT OF IT WAS THOU TAKEN: FOR DUST THOU ART, AND UNTO DUST SHALT THOU RETURN.” The reader should note, very carefully, the emphasis on “return.” This plainly states that Adam was taken from the dust and, unto it, will he RETURN when he dies.

David asserted the same when he said in Psalms 103:14, “For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are DUST.” The Lord remembers that we were born in the likeness of Adam, and he was formed out of the dust. Hence, having his likeness, we too, are but dust. The preacher in Ecclesiastes 12:7 spoke of the death of man and said, “Then shall the DUST return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God Who gave it.” Note that the word, “dust,” is a figure of speech. It is a Metonomy. The word, “dust,” is used in place of the word, “body,” because the body is made of dust.

The word, “soul,” in the Old Testament, is a translation of the Hebrew word, “nephesh.” “Nephesh” is used 754 times in the Old Testament. The first two times it is translated in
Genesis, it is translated as “creature.”

“And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature [nephesh] that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature [nephesh] 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” (Gen. 1:20:21).

Creatures that creep, crawl, fly, or swim cannot be said to have an immortal soul which will live forever in another form, in another place.

“Nephesh” is translated in the KJV as “soul,” “creature,” “life,” “persons,” “mortally,” “heart,” and ghost.” Notice several of the following verses:

“And levy a tribute unto the LORD of the men of war which went out to battle: one soul [nephesh] of five hundred, both of the persons, and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep:” (Num. 31:28).

This reference to “soul” refers to beeves, asses, sheep, as well as persons.

“In whose hand is the soul [nephesh] of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10).

A close look at the context shows that the “soul of every living thing” has reference to “beasts,” and “the fowls of the air” (v. 7), and “the fishes of the seas” (v. 8). Thus, it is noted in Job 12 that the “beasts,” and the “fowls,” and the “fishes” are referred to as “souls.” The word, “nephesh,” is translated as SOUL, and it speaks of every living creature other than man. Just as the Strong’s Concordance (# 5315) gives the meaning of nephesh as being, “a breathing creature, i.e. animal of (abstractly) vitality.” “Nephesh” applies to man and beast, each are “breathing creatures” and are subject to death. Neither man, nor beast has a “soul.” Each breathing creature is a living, breathing soul. When the breathing creature, man, or beast quits breathing, it becomes a dead creature, to wit, a dead soul (cf. Ezek. 18:4, 20). It should also be noted another likeness of beasts and men:

“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” (Eccl. 3:19-20).

There is not even a hint of a soul the size of a fist popping out of the breast of beasts, or man, and going on to another place where they live in another form as a “disembodied” spirit.

Psalms 49:12 agrees with this, also, for it says, “man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish.” The twentieth verse says, “Man that is in honour and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.”

Psalms 146:4 states, “His (i.e. man) breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” Therefore, man and beast both return to the dust when the breath of life is withdrawn. They were both breathing souls. They both perish. The big difference, though, is that man has the capability to live again, in resurrection; for he has a Redeemer. Those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ will live again. The “gates of hell” shall not be able to hold them.

The Bible word, “soul,” refers to the total living, breathing creature, whether it be man or beast, fowl or fish. The purpose of this study, however, is to point the student to the fact that the word, “soul,” refers to the total man. Man is equal to the sum of all of his parts. That is, man is a living, breathing soul. He possesses a body and the breath of life. These two parts make him a living [breathing] soul. Just as water is composed of two elements; two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, so is man composed of two parts. H2 plus O equals water. Take either part away, and you do not have water. It takes the two to make water. The same is true with man. Man is not composed of a body, a soul and a spirit. He is a living [breathing] soul. He does not have a soul: HE IS A SOUL!

The captain of a ship refers to all of the passengers and crew members on board when he writes in his log, “There are four-hundred-and-fifteen souls onboard.” The captain of an airline radios the Control Tower and reports, “This is Southwest Airlines, Flight 501, there are eighty-one souls onboard. We request …” If there were any dead corpses in the luggage compartment, he didn’t include them in his report. When each captain said there were so many souls onboard, he meant breathing people. He was not referring to the ridiculous idea that there were so many “immortal, invisible souls onboard.”

Lest we be misunderstood, it should be pointed out that we must not carry the likeness of man and beast too far. It is true, indeed, that man and beast are alike─ “living [breathing] souls,” they both have the “breath of life” (Gen. 7:22). There is, however, a big difference. Man, alone, was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). The other living creatures were not. Genesis 1 refers to the living creatures being brought forth from the earth (vs. 24 and 25). But, of man, the Bible says in Genesis 1: “Let us make man in our image after our likeness: and let them have dominion . . . so God created man in His own image, and in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them” (vs. 26, 27). The Genesis 1 account of creation mentioned the lower creatures being brought forth from the earth (vs.24, 25). In Genesis 2, the exact account of Adam's creation, we find that he, too, was made from the earth. But, Genesis 1 conditions us to realize that Adam was made in the likeness, or image of God.

This likeness, or image of God does not mean that Adam was created immortal. If we are to ascribe immortality to Adam, or mankind, we might as well ascribe to Adam the other qualities of God-hood, such as: omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence.

Tom L. Ballinger