Possessing Our Souls
What Is a Soul?
Everyone has a soul. According to the Bible, "soul" is synonymous with "spirit" and "breath". When God created the first man, Adam, He breathed life into his nostrils.
Genesis 2:7 reads: "The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living being." Interestingly enough, no mention of this was made for animals.
A soul also refers to God's presence in mankind and a conscience, which goes beyond just a matter of the body's ability to sustain life.
Understanding about Souls, Life, and God
There are many biblical descriptions of what it means to be filled with life by God, and how that equates to a soul. Used by God, humans, and even Jesus, each sheds light on new perspectives on the concept of what we think of the soul as being today:
- Genesis 1:1 "Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters" - God was the lifeblood for all the universe, watching over everything.
- Genesis 6:3 "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years" - God clearly points out that His spirit would depart from those who are no longer alive.
- Genesis 41:38 "...Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the Spirit of God?" - This was Pharoah's comment after being amazed at Joseph's correct interpretation of his dreams. He acknowledged that God's spirit dwelt in those who believed in Him.
- Genesis 49:6 "Let not my soul enter their council..." - Jacob in speaking about the wicked acts of his sons. He did not want to have knowledge of what their intents were for doing evil.
- Exodus 35:21 "...And everyone whose spirit was willing..." - This described the Israelites' obedience to working on the original tabernacle as God's dwelling place.
- Numbers 11:17 "I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them" - God telling Moses that He would impart some of Himself to the elders who would be helping serve the spiritual needs of the Israelites. And in verse 26 it mentions two bystanders who were present during that time when God was imparting His Spirit: "Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp." Because of Joshua complaining about this accident, Moses rebuked him by saying: "...I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit on them!"
- Numbers 14:24 "But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly..." - God's answer to Moses and the Israelites when they were filled with grief over who was worthy to inherit the promised land.
- Numbers 16:22 "'...O God, God of the spirits of all mankind, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?'" - Moses and Aaron's plea to God to spare the people after Korah's idolatry.
- Numbers 27:18 "So the Lord said to Moses, 'Take Joshua, son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand on him'" - God directed Moses on annointing Joshua as the next leader.
- Deuteronomy 6:5 "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength" - A command to serve God with all parts of our being.
- 1 Samuel 16:14 "Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him" - Saul was plagued with distressing thoughts instead of the peace he knew by being a believer in God and walking according to God's ways.
- I Samuel 18:1 "After David finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as he loved himself" - This describes the concept of "kindred spirits" whose thoughts and ideals are so similar they could be said to be the same person.
- 2 Samuel 22:16 "...At the rebuke of the Lord, at the blast of breath from His nostrils" - David's praise to God for rescuing him from Saul's plot to kill him. The entire chapter describes God's wrath and way of protecting David.
- 2 Kings 2:9 "'Let me inherit a double portion of your Spirit', Elisha replied" - This was asked to Elijah when he was about to be carried away into heaven by flaming chariot. Along with Enoch and Jesus, Elijah was the only other person who was taken alive up to heaven.
- 1 Chronicles 22:19 "Now devote your heart and soul into seeking the Lord your God..." - David's command to the leaders of Israel, his son Solomon, and the people in order to build a sanctuary for God.
- 2 Chronicles 18:20-21 "...Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said 'I will entice him'...'I will go and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets'..." - Micaiah describes what he saw as a dialogue between God and presumably Satan and his angels. God allows a lying spirit to enter all the so-called prophets so that Ahab King of Israel would attack Ramoth Gilead and meet his death. (See also verses 22 and 23)
- Nehemiah 9:20 "You gave your good Spirit to instruct them..." and verse 30: "...By Your Spirit You admonished them through Your prophets..." - Nehemiah's praise to God during the time of the Israelites' confessing their sins.
- Job 4:9 "At the breath of God, they are destroyed..." - Job's friend Eliphaz talking about what happens to the wicked.
- Job 4:15 "A spirit glided past my face, and the hair on my body stood on end" - Eliphaz starting to describe a vision from God.
- Job 14:10 "But man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more" - Job's discussion of what happens when one dies.
- 1 Corinthians 15:6 "After that, he (Jesus) appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep" - An account of Jesus visiting with the living believers before His ascention. There is a distinction between those alive and those who are dead (asleep).
- 1 Corinthians 15:50-51 "...Flesh and blood cannot enter the Kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inhert the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed - in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet" - Some will succumb to death, while others will not face death, but both groups at the world's end will be changed to immortals when Jesus returns.
There are many more passages throughout the Bible that will illuminate the idea of life and spirit and soul coming together as one, and a thorough perusal through scripture can prove very useful in your spiritual walk. Use your concordance (as did I) and read for yourself the many discussions on breath(es), breathing, spirit(s), and soul(s). While you're at it, read about angels, sleep(ing), and life.
Celebrating the Departed
While Halloween is a time rooted in pagan worship, trickery, and witchcraft, the church found a way to incorporate something spiritual with the addition of All Saints (or Souls) Day. November 1st is a holy day for many people; it is a time when those who have passed on are remembered. Some believe that by lighting a candle for a (recently) deceased loved one, his or her spirit/soul can be guided to heaven. This practice puts a lot of things into question, because there are many arguments for and against the soul being alive without a body. There is certainly no scriptural basis for conclusive evidence on either side to know 100% what happens when we die, but we do know that God says "every living soul belongs to Me, the Father, as well as the Son - both alike belong to Me. The soul who sins is the one who will die." (Ezekiel 18:4) People who are alive have the choice to believe in God or not, and accordingly will reap eternal life at Jesus' second coming or instead be reserved for hellfire, as He says "by standing firm, you will win your souls." (Luke 21:19) Mankind's ability to reason and have understanding are linked closely with having a soul; yet soul is the breath that keeps a mortal body alive. Several scriptures describe death as a sleep, nothing more. But there are so many instances of people being "visited" in some way by departed loved ones that it makes it difficult to hold on to what is the real truth of the matter.
All living souls are God's, but sinners who hold to their sins without repentance will die without a chance at eternal life. And by being faithful followers of Jesus, we can have eternal life - complete with the souls we had in this lifetime, but made perfect through the blood of the Lamb.
Ultimately, only God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can solve this mystery, and will impart that knowledge at the end of the world. And if you are a Christian, that is worth waiting for.