The Nature of Man

Life after Death  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  54:10
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Life after death considering the body, soul and spirit of man.

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Many try to make it sound simpler that it is
By suggesting there is one definition for each word which applies every time that word is found "JW's" are notorious for doing this, but it is a mistake we all make at times
We might wish it was that simple, but we must bear in mind that one word often has many different meanings
E.g., consider the word "run"
1) As an intransitive verb, it has at least fifteen (15) different meanings!
2) As a transitive verb, fifteen (15) more!
3) As a noun, eleven (11) more
4) As an adjective, three (3) more
5) In all, "run" can have at least forty-four (44) different definitions!
Such varied use of a single word is quite common in all languages, including Hebrew and Greek
The words translated "soul" and "spirit" likewise have many different meanings


The HEBREW word is "nephesh", and at times it may refer to:
Animal life - Gen 1:20-21 ("living")
Genesis 1:20–21 ESV
And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
The person - Num 31:19 ("killed any person")
Numbers 31:19 ESV
Encamp outside the camp seven days. Whoever of you has killed any person and whoever has touched any slain, purify yourselves and your captives on the third day and on the seventh day.
The body - Num 6:6 ("a dead body")
Numbers 6:6 ESV
“All the days that he separates himself to the Lord he shall not go near a dead body.
Something distinguished from the body - Is 10:18 ("soul and body")
Isaiah 10:18 ESV
The glory of his forest and of his fruitful land the Lord will destroy, both soul and body, and it will be as when a sick man wastes away.
Breath - Job 41:21 (referring to Leviathan)
Job 41:21 ESV
His breath kindles coals, and a flame comes forth from his mouth.
The GREEK word is "psuche", and at times it may refer to:
The person - 1 Pe 3:20 ("eight souls saved by water")
1 Peter 3:20 ESV
because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.
Life itself - Jn 13:38 ("lay down your life")
John 13:38 ESV
Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.
Something distinguished from the spirit - He 4:12 ("soul and spirit")
Hebrews 4:12 ESV
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Something distinguished from the body - 1 Th 5:23 ("spirit and soul and body")
1 Thessalonians 5:23 ESV
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
That which exists after the body is dissolved - Mt 10:28 ("kill the body but not the soul")
Matthew 10:28 ESV
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.


The HEBREW word is "ruach", and at times it may refer to:

Storms and wind - Gen 8:1 ("wind")
The life principle - Gen 6:17 ("breath of life")
Breath itself - Job 9:18 ("catch my breath")
Something distinct from breath - Job 34:15 ("spirit and breath")
A disposition or attitude - Ecc 7:8-9 ("patient in spirit better than proud in spirit")
Non-fleshly beings with intelligence - 1 Kin 22:21-22 ("a spirit came forward...")
That which is interchangeable with "nephesh" - Isa 26:9
That which is distinct from the flesh
1) Num 16:22 ("spirits of all flesh")
2) Isa 31:3 ("are flesh, and not spirit")
The inner man
1) Isa 26:9 ("by my spirit within me I will seek You")
2) Zech 12:1 ("forms the spirit of man within him")

The GREEK word is "pneuma", and at times it may refer to:

The wind - Jn 3:8 ("the wind blows...")
Breath - 2 Th 2:8 ("will consume with the breath of His mouth")
The Holy Spirit - Jn 1:32 ("I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove") Unclean spirits or demons
1) Mt 8:16 ("He cast out the spirits with a word")
2) Lk 4:33 ("a spirit of an unclean demon")
Angels - He 1:13-14 ("ministering spirits sent forth") Character and moral qualities - 1 Pe 3:4 ("a gentle and quiet spirit") Purpose, or aim
1) 2 Co 12:18 ("Did we not walk in the same spirit?")
2) Ph 1:27 ("stand fast in one spirit")
Perception, desires, feelings, etc. - 1 Co 5:3 ("absent in body but present in spirit")
Part of man distinct from the flesh
1) 1 Co 5:5 ("for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved")
2) He 12:23 ("to the spirits of just men made perfect")


Simply that "soul" and "spirit" have many different meanings and applications
Therefore we cannot just take one definition which may be true in one context and apply it to all others!
Yet many do this very thing
We must be cautious, and humbly consider the context of each passage to determine how the words are being used
[With that thought in mind, we are ready to consider the "nature" of man: Does man possess a spirit or soul that continues to exist after death? Consider those...]



1. An interesting phrase is "gathered to thy people", implying existence after death, and is made in regards to the death of...

Abraham - Gen 25:8
Isaac - Gen 35:29
Jacob - Gen 49:29,33
Aaron - Num 20:24
Moses - Num 27:13; Deu 32:50
Josiah - 2 Kin 22:20; 2 Chr 34:28
There is the case of Samuel, who was brought back after his death - 1 Sam 28:7-19
David could look forward to one day joining his infant son - 2 Sam 12:22-23
2 Samuel 12:22–23 ESV
He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
The spirit will return to God at death - Ecc 12:6-7
Ecclesiastes 12:6–7 ESV
before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
The lament against the king of Babylon speaks of life after death - Isa 14:9-11
Isaiah 14:9–11 ESV
Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come; it rouses the shades to greet you, all who were leaders of the earth; it raises from their thrones all who were kings of the nations. All of them will answer and say to you: ‘You too have become as weak as we! You have become like us!’ Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, the sound of your harps; maggots are laid as a bed beneath you, and worms are your covers.
Likewise the lament against Egypt, Assyria, Elam, etc., who are all consigned to the "Pit" - Ezek 32:17-32


In the teaching of Jesus

Man is both body and soul, and the soul can survive murder by another - Mt 10:28
Matthew 10:28 ESV
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
The story of Lazarus and the rich man - cf. Lk 16:22-23
Luke 16:22–23 ESV
The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.
1) Some say this is only a parable
2) Even if it was (which is highly unlikely), parables were "true to life" stories, not fantasy!
His promise to the thief on the cross - Lk 23:42-43
Luke 23:42–43 ESV
And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

In the teaching of Paul

There is "the inner man" that can be ever renewed, even while "the outer man" decays - 2 Co 4:16-18
2 Corinthians 4:16–18 ESV
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
One can be with the Lord, while absent from the body - 2 Co 5:6-8
2 Corinthians 5:6–8 ESV
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
There is a part of man that can be "out of the body" -2 Co 12:3
2 Corinthians 12:3 ESV
And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—
One can be dead, yet still be with Christ - Php 1:23
Philippians 1:23 ESV
I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
Reference is made to the "spirits of just men" - He 12:22-23
Hebrews 12:22–23 ESV
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,

The teaching of Peter

He spoke of the "spirits in prison" - 1 Pe 3:18-20
1 Peter 3:18–20 ESV
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.
He wrote of those who are "dead, but live in the spirit" - 1 Pe 4:6
1 Peter 4:6 ESV
For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
He described the body as a tabernacle to be put off...if the body is a tabernacle
(dwelling place), what dwells in it? - 2 Pe 1:13-14
2 Peter 1:13–14 ESV
I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.
The unjust are under punishment, just like some angels - 2 Pe 2:4,9-10
2 Peter 2:4 ESV
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;
2 Peter 2:9–10 ESV
then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones,

John, in the Revelation given to him, saw "souls of those slain",

and they were capable of crying out with loud voices, and being comforted - Re 6:9-11
Revelation 6:9–11 ESV
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
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