back in eternity the Creator God conceived a plan by which He would share the magnificence
of His unending existence. Because He was "outside time" He was able to look
down the ages and see the course He must pursue to achieve this end.
The result was mankind.
Just who is this creature called "man"?
Is he (and she) a mere cosmic accident? Will we live forever? What is our nature? Is all
this suffering necessary? Why, on earth, are we here? Did God make a mistake?
The mystery of who and why we exist has puzzled
man since we first appeared. Philosophers and ordinary mortals have wondered. We observe
that man is the pinnacle of the natural world. Our researches prove there's a quantum
difference between us and our nearest "relative". But why?
There are myriad notions about man and his
nature. To some we just happened - a chance evolutionary development not different in kind
from the millions of species that inhabit our planet. Other - billions - imagine they are
a reincarnation from a previous life. The established Christian religion teaches that
within us lies an "immortal soul" which will survive death in some form (or
place) or other.
This lesson seeks to present man's awesome
purpose as revealed in the Scriptures. We will see how we came to be. We will blow aside
the web of deceit that has clouded man's understanding since we first walked the earth.
Origin of Species?
The position taken by Jesus Christ and the New
Testament in general is that mankind had its origin as a direct creation by God. They
quote liberally from the first chapters of Genesis for their "worldview" of
origins. All their hearers had this same concept. In the last lesson we saw the evidence
that confirms the authority of Jesus Christ to make such statements!
- Jesus refers to mankind as having "a
beginning" ...Matthew 19:3
- and states that man and woman were
"made" in the beginning...Mark 10:6
- the apostle Paul refers to "the first
man", and names him Adam, as does the Old Testament ...I Corinthians 15:45,
Genesis 2:19 etc
- According to the Bible the structure of creation
presupposes a Designer. The testimony of creation encodes a message about the divine
The notion of divine creation
as opposed to the evolutionary development of the human race is more than mere biology or
dogma. It encompasses our approach to life itself.
- natural selection or the
survival of the fittest is a concept that runs contrary to the
divine law of love. This philosophy undergirds Hitler's justification for his master race
- the humanist philosophy of evolution leaves no
room for a divine Being nor for life after death - the hope of the Christian and indeed of
nearly all of mankind...I Corinthians 15:12-19
- leave God out of human existence and there is no
purpose in life beyond what we accomplish here and now. Leave God out, and do as we please
- until the inevitable Judgment...Ecclesiastes 8:15, Luke 12:14-21
The scientific arguments for evolution need to be
constantly revised as old hypotheses are regularly proved erroneous. Evolution has no sure
answer to the complexities of the living organism.
- God condemns those who are willingly ignorant of
the clear evidence in nature that He is Creator...Romans 1:18-25
- mankind is the pinnacle of God's direct creative
acts. All of creation is in support of and to benefit mankind...Genesis 1& 2
- we are created not only with the general form of
the divine Being but also to come into His spiritual image...Genesis
1:26, II Peter 1:4
The Living Soul
The idea that.man harbours within him an element
which will never die is deeply entrenched in all the world's "great religions".
It is usually called "the immortal soul". Views may vary about the origin of the
soul and its destiny - but the concept is burned into the subconscious of every human
- literally billions - including perhaps the
majority of New Age believers and increasingly large number of Christians - subscribe to
the idea that their soul was passed on from a prior existence; the concept re-incarnation.
It is the general belief of the Eastern religions.
- others (e.g. in Mormon teaching) believe they
receive a "fresh" pre-existing soul from God when they first draw breath. Some
mainstream theologians also held this view (e.g. Origen).
- Christians generally accept its presence with no
fixed view as to when it becomes part of them. However, it has been a topic of dispute
through the centuries. Creationism, for example, states God
creates a new soul for each at birth (Jerome, Calvin). Traducianism
teaches that the soul and body are created by propagation (Tertullian, Lee, Luther). The Lateran
Council (1513) condemned to be punished as heretics those who
"...assert that the intellectual soul is mortal". It was a life and death matter
to believe this!
In our search for the truth we clearly need to
examine the Scriptures to see if this concept of an immortal soul - or indeed of an
immortal human spirit - is there confirmed. It is clear that within a couple of centuries
of Jesus Christ, the idea that the soul is immortal had become
firmly embedded in Christianity. Was it so from the beginning?
Man was created from the natural elements, from
"the dust of the ground" - earth. Into this complex physical form God breathed
"the breath of life". As a result man became alive. As the KJV
puts it, he "became a living soul"
- man is formed from the material elements found in
the physical creation. Together with the "breath of life" he became "a
living soul"...Genesis 2:7
- ...just like the whole of the non-human
creation...Genesis 1:20, 24, 30; 7:21-22
- birds, fish, animals are often called "living
souls" [nephesh] in the Scriptures. Do they also live
beyond death? Eccles 3:19-21
- all return to dust...v.20, Genesis 3:19
- one of the clearest Bible texts emphatically
declares that immortality belongs only to God. Our doctrine of man must be set against
this backdrop...I Timothy 6:15-16
- other direct statements declare "the soul [nephesh]
that sins shall die"...Ezekiel 18:4, 20
- Jesus held the same view...John 3:16. Here he
contrasts eternal life and perishing -
the terms are opposites. Without Jesus Christ (the normal human condition) we will perish.
When we have true belief in him we are given a life that will never end...I John
- when we sin the pay-off is death.
It is not "eternal life in hell-fire". In contrast, through Jesus Christ we
receive the gift of eternal life...Romans 6:23
- since all of us have sinned we all reap the death
penalty. Unless we have repented and had our sin covered by the
shed blood of Jesus Christ.
- note that the soul of
Jesus was sacrificed - killed - and his life blood poured out
...Isaiah 53:10-12, John 19:34, Heb 9:22
- we learn from God's recorded Word that the 'life'
[soul, nephesh] is in the blood ...Leviticus
17:11, 14; Deut 12:23
- the apostle Peter gave the remedy for sin. On the
first Christian Pentecost he told his hearers: "Repent and be
baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of
sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit"...Acts 2:38
- it is through this gift of the Holy Spirit that
God shares with us His immortality. God is [Holy] Spirit, and His purpose is to make us
His dwelling-place ...John 4:24, Ephesians 2:22
- recall that this gift is available only to those
who obey God...Acts 5:32
Why A Resurrection?
A Christian funeral usually includes the words
"in sure and certain hope of the resurrection". Why? What need is there for a
resurrection if true believers are "with Christ" immediately they die? This, of
course, is the established view of mainstream Christianity. At death we either go to
'heaven' or to 'hell' (or, to the intermediate 'purgatory' of Roman theology).
The Biblical view that man does not naturally
have immortality (an immortal soul) dovetails with the clear teaching of Scripture that
the entrance to the Kingdom of God is by means of a resurrection.
There's no place in the Scriptures for disembodied spirits - apart from 'devils' - in any
location. The notion of such departed human spirits is foreign to the Bible.
- death ends everything
until God raises us from the dead: we have no memories, no knowledge of what those still
living are experiencing, no opportunity to praise God...Psalm 6:5, 146:4,
104:23-30, Eccles 9:5, Isaiah 63:16, Job 14:21
- but all mankind will be
raised from the dead, each in a particular order to face God ...Hebrews 9:27,
I Corinthians 15:22-26, John 5:21-29
- for those who have repented of sin and been
baptized this resurrection coincides with the return of Christ as King of kings...Colos
3:4, I Corinthians 15:51-52, Revelation 20:4-5
- the idea of resurrection is also implicit in the
Old Testament...Hebrews 11:17-19, Job 14:14-15, Psalm 16:9-10
- Daniel links the future "reward" for
God's people with a resurrection in a distant future - following a future time of
- the LXX Greek version (3rd cent BC) uses the word aeonion
for the Hebrew 'everlasting'. Jesus and the NT writers built on
Occult Origins of the "Immortal
Virtually all mankind believes in some form of
existence immediately following death. The idea trails many ugly concepts: returning to
life as an inferior being, concern about infants and harmless but unconverted adults
burning in eternal fire, Christians in heaven seeing the horrendous suffering of loved
ones on earth or in the 'hell' portrayed in Dante's Inferno,
prayer to disembodied spirits of those who have 'passed on', contact with the dead through
Given all this Scripture evidence that man is mortal
and has to be given immortality (with conditions attached!) -
how did the idea of an immortal soul become so widely accepted?
- tradition suggests that our first parents lived
perfectly for some seven years in Eden. Then, according to the Scriptures, their faith was
compromised by "the serpent"...Genesis ch. 3
- this 'serpent' [Heb: nachash,
Gk. ophis] is identified in the NT as
"the Devil and Satan"...Revelation 12:9, 20:2
- he, the 'father of lies', introduced the false
idea that man is of himself immortal...Genesis 3:4, John 8:44
- God had warned our first parents that if they ate
of a particular tree (the 'tree of life') they would that day
die. Did they?...Genesis 2:15-17, 5:3-5
- clearly, God was not speaking of physical death.
By their disobedience, their transgression of this divine torah
(= direction, teaching, law), they sinned and would thus be denied aeonian
life...Romans 6:23, I John 3:4, Hebrews 9:27
- only through repentance, through
ceasing to disobey God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and through the acceptance of
the shed blood of the Saviour Jesus Christ to cover our sin may any of us have that life
of the age to come
- Satan, man's adversary, sowed the subtle lie that
man would live for ever even when he disobeyed the Creator...Genesis 3:4
- mankind has swallowed this lie whole, and Satan,
the occult power that seeks to thwart God's grand design for
mankind, has successfully deceived virtually the whole human race in this as in so much
else...Revelation 12:9, I John 5:19, II Corinthians 4:4
What About the 'Spirit in Man'?
Perceptive Bible students may wonder about the
various references in Scripture to a "human spirit". We have demonstrated by
numerous clear passages that man's 'soul' is his physical life, and doesn't survive death
except by a resurrection. So what about this "spirit in man"?
Whatever it may be, the human spirit is not
immortal. Let's see what the Bible teaches about the word used for 'spirit'
(Hebrew/Aramaic ruach), translated by a dozen or so English
words in the KJV, and used some 380 times. The Greek equivalent pneuma)
appears in the NT a similar number of times.
- the words include both the physical and the
immaterial. 'Spirit' is invisible - the Spirit of God, angels, wind, breath, the human
spirit, mind attitude etc
- the human spirit is the aspect of man with which
God communicates and by which we understand the world around us...Romans 8:16,
I Corinthians 2:9-12
- it is the 'spark of life' which divides life from
death...James 2:26, Ecclesiastes 12:7, Acts 7:59, Luke 23:46
- the human spirit is an integral part of the whole
man...I Thessalonians 5:23
- animals, too, have a spirit. The original words
are the same (Heb=ruach)...Ecclesiastes 3: 18-22,
Numbers 16:22, 27:16
- we may speculate that the human and animal spirit
is a product of the marvelously intricate nervous systems with which each living creature
is endowed. We share a pattern, but with man as the pinnacle - alone capable of rational
thought, aesthetic appreciation, consciousness of a world beyond the material and the need
to worship. Man was created "in the image of God" with the capacity to manage
earth and all its resources ...Genesis 1:26-30, 2: 15
- the spirit is capable of being depressed, revived
etc. It is in process of being fashioned through our life experiences...Isaiah
57:15, Zechariah 12:1, Isaiah 64:8, Judges 15:19, I Kings 21:5
- no matter what our station in life every human
being who has lived, whether converted or unconverted, will be called to account for our
lives before God...Matthew 12:36, Heb 9:27
- the functioning of our nervous system produces the
totality of the human persona - the whole person. Our dominant traits, gifts, are special
configurations of our neurons determined by our genetic inheritance - musicians, physical
- God communicates with us through the human spirit.
His special gifts (Gk. pneumatikoi derived from pneuma=spirit)
to His sons and daughters may well act through the human spirit...Romans 8:16,
1:11, I Corinthians 12:1
The purpose of our existence is not the
gratification and cosseting of the self. God has put us here with purpose - to
develop into His spiritual image. This demands a lifetime of experience.
Every thought, every word we utter, every action contributes to the ultimate
"form" of our human spirit - our character.
Only by the yielding of our life to God, through
Jesus Christ who is the way to the Father, can that character be complete. Through him we
may receive the very Spirit of God - our essential missing ingredient. Through His Spirit
God can reside in us - but only in those who are willing to fully submit their life to
Him...Acts 5:32, Romans 12:1-2
Hope of the Resurrection
It's against the background of the proven utter mortality
of man that we must set those texts in Scripture which might otherwise on superficial
examination imply man's survival immediately after death to heaven, hell, purgatory. The
Bible writers don't spell out their full understanding every time they address a
particular topic. The underlying principles are assumed. This is especially so in the
matter discussed in this lesson. Not one Bible writer subscribed to the notion
of an immortal soul
- the apostle Paul is often cited as having the
belief of immediate transport to heaven upon death. But as a 'Hebrew of the Hebrew' he
knew man was mortal, that life beyond life depended on a resurrection...I
Corinthians 15:50-56, Col 3:1-4, I Thessalonians 4:13-18, II Corinthians 4:14
- Paul, filled with his love for God, longed for the
time he would go to be with Him and with Jesus Christ. This was his cherished hope. But he
knew his wish would only be fulfilled at the return of Christ...Philippians
1:23-24, II Timothy 4:6-8
- now read the passage in II Corinthians
5:1-10 with this background concept in mind. Paul expected to appear before
Christ's 'judgment seat' for the purpose of reward and correction (v.10). When would that
happen?... Revelation 11:15-18, 22:12
The Bible is clear - man is mortal.
We will, upon repentance, be given immortality through a resurrection, and at the return
of Jesus Christ "at the last trumpet". The Bible knows nothing of the perverted
Greek philosophical notion of an immortal soul!
The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin was first published in
1859. It reflected then current esoteric ideas, but is generally considered as the
beginning of the concept of the evolution of mankind
Adam derives from a word signifying rosy (cheek). It is often
used for man, mankind, and is related to earth. Eve
(Heb chavah) signifies life-giving
Wm Paley - the 18th C, philosopher - is regarded by today's scientists as a scientific
heretic. He maintained that the natural world could be explained only by presuming a Grand
"The whole respiratory system is utterly dependent on each of its parts: a defect in
just one and breathing becomes difficult or impossible. It is all or nothing, which is why
I find it difficult to believe that the lungs could ever have evolved by trial and error
through the chance mutation of the many genes that control their development. Surely
someone designed them to be the way they are?" He adds, "Increasingly I am
persuaded by Paley's arguments"
[Dr Le Fanu: Sunday Telegraph, 1996]
[Evolution is a system in which] "the message is always 'exploit your environment
including your friends and relatives so as to maximize our genes' success'"
[George C Williams, evolutionary biologist]
Rejection of self-evident truth (e.g. that design requires a Designer) undermines logical
thought processes. If unchecked, this perversion will destroy mankind
When studying what may at first appear complex in the Scriptures it is helpful to
first sketch out a doctrine using apparently clear and unambiguous texts
"Souls are immortal, as God Himself is immortal and eternal"
[Origen died c 254AD]
"I may use the opinion of Plato when he declares, 'every soul is immortal"
"Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils
the breath of life; and man became a living soul" [Gen 2:7]
The "breath of life" is simply air - a mix of vital gases - blown by God into
Adam's lungs through his nose. Without it we are dead flesh!
In the Old Testament soul is a translation of the Hebrew nephesh.
It is thus translated 428 times, and translated a further 180 or so times by other words
Nephesh is variously translated:
creature (e.g. Gen 1:21,24; 2:9)
dead body (e.g. Num 5:2, 21:11)
beast (Leviticus 24:18)
life (119 times)
fish (Isaiah 19:10)
"Biologists now recognize that the formation of life is altogether
harder than they originally thought...One of the most radical suggestions...[is] that life
began as a form of clay" [1997 clipping]
"The belief that the soul continues its existence after the dissolution of the
body...[is] nowhere expressly taught in the Holy Scriptures"
[Jewish Encyclopaedia Art: Immortality of the Soul]
"...the King of kings and Lord of lords who alone has immortality" [I
Timothy 6:15-16]. immortality here means
'deathlessness'. It is not our normal state but must be 'put on'
[I Corinthians 15:53, 54]
The term "immortal soul" does not appear at all in the Scriptures of the Old or
Note that Jesus said the soul [Gk. psuche=Heb nephesh] can be destroyed
in 'hell' [Matthew 10:28]
Eternal life: (Gk. aeonion = pertaining to the age)
"What appears in the English versions of the Bible as 'eternal life' or 'life
everlasting' really means 'the life of the age to come'... It is synonymous with the
Kingdom of God." He continues "The chief implication of 'aeonian life' is...life
pertaining to the age to come".
[Alan Richardson Intro to the Theology of the New Testament]
A future lesson will discuss the Kingdom of God and resurrection
in more detail
The notion of "praying to the saints" is an idea drawn from occult sources. The
Bible rejects the idea throughout. The idea was common among the Babylonians. They
believed their 5,000 or so 'gods' were once heroes on earth
"In putting departed souls in heaven, hell or purgatory you destroy the arguments
wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection...If the soul be in heaven what cause is
there for the resurrection? [Wm Tyndale]
"Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting
life and some to shame and everlasting contempt"
It's important to carefully study the texts quoted in your own Bible, and in
There is no suggestion in the OT of the transmigration of the soul as an immaterial,
immortal entity" [Marshall Pickering Encyclopaedia of the Bible v.2,
The 'king of Tyre' symbolizes Satan, once known as Lucifer (=light bearer). Ezekiel tells
us he was once a created 'anointed cherub' present at God's throne. There will be a lesson
later in the Course on the angelic world...see also Isaiah 14
'Soul Sleep': Technically known as psychopannychy (!), the term 'soul
sleep' does not correctly express the Bible teaching. The soul dies, but death itself is
frequently described as a 'sleep'. [Daniel 12:2, John 11:11-14, Matthew
It is a deadly mistake to assume that God will share His immortality with those
who refuse to obey Him. However, in no way does this imply that salvation is God's
unearned gift to us
How God deals with those who lived without having heard the true Gospel will be the
subject of another lesson
"...the whole world is in the power of the evil one"
[I John 5:19 RSV]
Angels are also 'spirit'. Yet they are created beings, and exist only as long as
God permits. Cherubs, too, are created angelic beings. Recall that we read Satan was once
'an anointed cherub'...Colossians 1:16-17, Ezekiel 28:12-17, Hebrews 1:7,14
A typical worm or slug brain has twenty nerve cells (neurons), a bee several
thousand, a frog four million. Mammals show a great leap - a cat has 100 million.
Human brains, however, have ten billion intricately interconnecting neurons - what has
been described as "the most complicated machine in the known universe". One
neurologist estimates the number of interconnections at 'one followed by a million
kilometers of noughts"!
The complex "artificial intelligence" of computers is based on the neurological
structure and function of the brain
Just when we are given the opportunity to perfect our character through Christ is
God's choice. But as a future lesson will reveal, every human who has lived will in the
end have been given that opportunity
In the Scriptures God has given us with perfect clarity all we need to know about
Him and His plan for our present life and for our eternal future. But we can't simply take
down our KJV - or any version - and hope to resolve every theological nuance
without some expert guidance.
Many factors can affect the meaning. Geography can be important for
understanding. The focus of the writer. The context. The underlying but not
always stated theology. Preconceived but unbiblical notions of the
student. The challenges of accurate translation from a strange language. And the
prevailing culture - so different to our own. For example, even the Biblical
perception of 'time' can affect our ability to understand a particular passage.
Failure to account for such factors leads to much misunderstanding of the Biblical text
Future lessons will examine in detail the Biblical view of 'heaven' and 'hell'