Question 5: What happens to the soul at death?

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Question 5:

What happens to the soul at death

Hi. I am Michael Pearl, and you are at The Door sponsored by No Greater Joy Ministries. I have a question here from a listener.


"As God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so man is three parts, body, soul, and spirit. When man dies, the body returns to the dust, the spirit to God, but what happens to the soul? I cannot find it in the Bible. What happens to the soul and what exactly is the soul?"Β  ~ Bob


I went to college and studied theology, didn't benefit a lot from it, but I do remember one thing they taught us there, and that was that there are trichotomists and dichotomists. You've probably never heard that.

What is a trichotomist and a dichotomists?

A trichotomist are those who believe that there's three parts to the human being, body, soul, and spirit.

A dichotomist believes they're just two parts, body and soul-spirit. In other words, that the soul and spirit are one and the same but obviously different from the body.

And so there's a lot of debate and argument for this on both sides. And actually it really doesn't matter. You'd be either one, it's not that significant. Except when you start breaking it down into body, soul, and spirit as if they're three distinct entities then questions like this arise because get your Bible and look up the word soul and read every time it appears in the Bible. Look up spirit every time it appears in the Bible. You'll be more confused than ever if you're a trichotomist, and I think I'm a trichotomist, but you'll be more confused than ever if you tried to draw a line and just make a distinction between those.

What is a Soul in the Bible?

Here's what Genesis 2:7 says, "And the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul."  Now, with the breath of God, that body of clay became a living soul. What about the spirit? Where did the spirit come from? The Bible says, "There's a spirit in man and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding." So the Spirit must have been part of the living soul otherwise, he didn't have one. It had to have been at the same time.

Genesis 46:15, "These be the sons of Leah, which bear unto him Jacob in Paddan-aram and his daughter Dinah, all the souls of the sons of his daughters were thirty and three."  There are scores of verses where it speaks of the souls, "All the souls of the sons and the daughters.”

Genesis 46:18 β€œThese are the sons of Zilpah whom Laban gave unto Leah, his daughter, and these bare unto Jacob, even sixteen souls."  So the Bible uses the word souls synonymous with persons. There was so many souls present, so many souls died, so many souls were killed.

Early English, some of you read some English literature, it uses souls synonymous with individuals or with persons. And so it's not separating the soul into a part distinct from the spirit, and the Bible is not here. Now, when you get to the New Testament, it starts making a little bit of a distinction. But at this point, there's not any.

Leviticus 4:2 "Speak unto the children of Israel saying, 'If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord..."  So a soul sinning is an individual sinning. It's the spirit sinning, it's the body sinning, it's the soul sinning.

1 Thessalonians 5:23, the New Testament, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and I pray God, your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved, blameless unto the coming of Lord Jesus Christ."

So this is the prime verse used for the trichotomy position, body, soul, and spirit. But there's another verse there in Thessalonians which says, "Pray God your whole body, soul, spirit, and mind..." Four parts as if the mind were a distinct part. So if this verse is breaking the personage down into three parts, then the other verse would be breaking it down into four parts.

Ecclesiastes 12:7"Then shall the dust return on the earth as it was, the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."  So God gave the spirit when... This is not a say person, this is the Old Testament. So the soul in the Bible is the seat of our humanity. It is represented in the many verses as your emotions, your mind, and your will, or your soul, which is a person. Your mind, your emotions, and your will constitute who you are. And so that's your person is your soul.

Can you have two Souls?

Now, you cannot have two souls. Nothing has two souls. You are who you are, but we have a human spirit and that human spirit can be infused by the Holy Spirit so we have two spirits. The two are joined together and become one like in a marriage, two people become, a man and a woman become one flesh yet they're still two distinct people. So the spirit and the soul cannot be separated. They are one unit. When your soul leaves your body, your spirit leaves your body. The soul and spirit will always be united. That's why you have dichotomists because they point out that there's no separation from soul and spirit.

The dividing asunder of soul and spirit

But then the Book of Hebrews said, Hebrews 4:12 "The word of God is quick, powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit," as if there was some distinction being made by the word of God between the soul and the spirit.

Now, what that is saying there clearly is that sometimes we think that the spirit of God is speaking to us and it's originating in our soul, our emotions. We think that God said something and it's coming from our own mind, which is part of the soul. And so the spirit of God, though it's integral to the soul is separate. The spirit is a separate reality from the soul. The Bible even speaks of animals having a spirit, the spirit of the animals. And so look up every time word soul and spirit is used and it'll be a revelation to you.

Leviticus 4:2 says, speaking of the children of Israel, "If a soul shall sin through ignorance..."  So it's the soul. It's not some part of the person, it's the person.

And so I think I'll let that rest. I think we've covered that question thoroughly enough, especially since you now are equipped with a Bible program with a concordance where you can search soul and read every one of them, and spirit and read every one of them and body and read every one of them. You'll be smarter than me then.

Bible teaching with Michael Pearl.
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