The Immortal Soul
For the many people who believe in the possession of an immortal soul, it will come as a great surprise to learn that the phrase "immortal soul" occurs nowhere in the Bible; that immortality is an attribute ascribed to God alone; and that the word soul is also translated appetite, beast, breath, creature, heart, life, man, mind, pleasure, self and will.
The Bible teaches quite explicitly that man is a mortal creature destined, from birth, to die. At the moment of death
"...his breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." (Psalm 146:4)
There is no indication here that man has an inherent immortality; there is no part of him that lives on after death. Indeed,
"The living know that they shall die; but the dead know not anything ... for the memory of them is forgotten... Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more portion for ever in anything that is done under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6)
The words "immortal" and "immortality", however, do occur in the Bible but only six times. Of these six occurrences, four have been translated from the Greek word for "incorruptible" or "incorruption", leaving but two that stem from the Greek word that may be said to be a more accurate definition of immortality. In 1 Corinthians 15:53-54 and 1 Timothy 6:16 the literal translation of the root Greek word, here translated as immortality, is "deathlessness" - the state of being "deathless" or "never dying".
1 Corinthians 15:53-54 describes the state of true believers who have been raised from the dead to inherit the Kingdom of God. It is futuristic. With the exception of the Lord Jesus Christ, no man yet has immortality.
1 Timothy 6:16 is self-explanatory:
"I give thee charge in the sight of God ... the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; who no man hath seen, nor can see..."
God only is immortal. Man is mortal. So what of the "soul"?
The word "soul" occurs many times in Scripture, the first occurrence of which is in Genesis 2:7 where we read that
"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."
In Genesis 1:20-21, however, where the animals which God created are called "moving creatures ... every living creature" the Hebrew word translated "creature" is "nephesh" which is the same word translated as "soul" in Genesis 2:7.
Thus man is a "soul" just as the animals are "souls". The fundamental nature of man and animals is the same; we live, we die; there is no difference.
Yes, man is more superior mentally and man was created in the image of God, but
"That which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other ... so that a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast ...all go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again." (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20)
All living creatures eventually die and the "soul" is no exception. In fact, several references speak specifically of a soul dying, for example Joshua 11:11, Psalm 89:48, and Ezekiel 18:4.
The original word for "soul", as stated already, has been translated in some verses as man, mind, heart, life, and creature. As with all Bible study, it is important to take both the context of a verse and the overall message of Scripture into consideration. In so doing we learn that a soul can:
It is a sad fact that the idea of man possessing an immortal soul has been widely accepted by very many people because they do not want to accept the finality of death. The idea of something living on after death serves to soften the final blow but unfortunately it only serves to create further confusion.
The Bible is very clear on the subject. The only type of immortality given to man by God is that of eternal life in His Kingdom and the only way to gain that immortality is through obedience to His commands.
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