WHAT IS DEATH AND WHY IS THERE THREE KINDS OF DEATH?
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE BODY, THE SOUL, AND THE SPIRIT?
The Bible clearly tells us that every human being is comprised of three parts: spirit, soul, and body. Paul in his writings said: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:23). The spirit and soul are the immaterial or invisible part of human beings and the body, of course, is the material or physical part of us.
Discerning the precise differences between the soul and the spirit can be confusing. However, in Scripture, only believers are said to be spiritually alive (1 Cor. 2:11; Hebrews 4:12; James 2:26) and unbelievers are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-5; Colossians 2:13). The spirit is the element in humanity that gives us the ability to have an intimate relationship with God, who Himself is spirit (John 4:24). Quite simply the soul and the spirit are connected, but separable (Hebrews 4:12). The soul is the essence of humanity’s being, it is who we are, and the Spirit is the immaterial part of humanity that connects with God. Let us take a closer look.
The spirit is the seat of our intelligence. It is through the spirit that we reason and understand (1 Cor. 2:11; John 11:33). With the spirit, man became God-conscious and that allows man to know, understand, and have communion with God. This is something the animals do not have. Animals cannot reason. They cannot participate in worship because they do not possess a spirit. The spirit lives eternally.
Note the words of Proverbs 20:27: “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord (Jehovah) ..…” This is the most important part of man, because it is through man’s spirit that he can know and worship God. We read in 2 Corinthians that not only is the gospel divine in its revelation and divine in its inspiration, but now we know that it can only be received by the power of “the Spirit of God. Unaided, the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God. They are foolishness to him. He cannot possibly understand them “because they can only be spiritually understood (3:10-14).”
The soul is the seat of our emotions and affections. The soul is capable of love or hate (1 Sam. 18:1; Job 14:22; Psalm 107:26; Luke 1:46). The soul is our life. It is the real us – our personality and who we really are. Christ said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul (Mark 8:36)”? Simply stated, even if a believer could gain all the world’s wealth during his lifetime, what good would it do him? He would have missed the opportunity of using his life for the glory of God and the salvation of the lost. It would be a bad bargain. Our lives are worth more than all the world has to offer. Shall we use them for Christ or for self? The soul lives eternally.
Finally, all human beings possess material characteristics – a physical body. The body is the seat of our five senses. Through our bodies, we taste, touch, smell, hear, and see. The body lives temporarily.
WHAT IS DEATH?
The Bible describes death as a separation. It is never cessation of existence or annihilation. There are three kinds of death referred to in the Word of God – physical death, spiritual death, and eternal death.
Physical death is separation of the Spirit and the body. Remember what we are told in James 2:26: “… the body without the spirit is dead….” Physical death is a one-time experience whereas eternal death, on the other hand, is everlasting. It continues through eternity and is never ending.
Spiritual death means separation from God. Paul told the Ephesians, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).” Meaning: If a man continues in this state, by continuing to reject Christ, spiritual death becomes the second death, eternal separation from God (see Rev. 20:14).
In Genesis 2:17, God tells Adam that in the day he eats of the forbidden fruit he will “surely die.” Adam does fall, but his physical death does not occur immediately but some 900 years later so God must have another type of death in mind – spiritual death. This separation from God is exactly what we see in Genesis 3:8 when Adam and Eve heard the voice of the Lord, they “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God.” The fellowship had been broken. They were spiritually dead to God.
A man without Christ is spiritually dead. Paul describes it as “being alienated from the life of God” in Ephesians 4:18” – (to be separated from life is the same as being dead). The natural man, like Adam hiding in the garden, is isolated from God. When we are born again, the spiritual death is reversed. Before salvation, we are dead (spiritually), but Jesus gives us life: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).” Then again, we read in Colossians 2:13, “When you were dead in your sins and in the un-circumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive in Christ. He forgave us all our sins.”
Eternal death is eternal separation from God and from all that is good and desirable – together with an everlasting punishment as a result of judgement. This is also called the “second death (see Rev. 21:8).”
The second death is mentioned on multiple occasions in the book of Revelation and is synonymous with the lake of fire. It is a “death” in that it is a separation from God, the Giver of life. It is called the “second” one because it follows physical death. The second death is a reference to the lake of fire where those who are separated from God by their sin will dwell for eternity – eternal death. Only those who have never experienced new life in Christ will partake of the second death (Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8).
WHERE ARE THE SAVED DEAD?
The saved dead are in heaven with the Lord. The Bible says that if we are God’s children we go to be with Christ when we die. Paul longed “…. to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better (Phil. 1:23).” Then again, he said, “…. to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8).” The moment the spirit leaves the body it is in the presence of our Lord. That is the plain, unmistakable teaching of God’s Word. If you are saved, you will go straight to heaven to be with Christ.
WHERE ARE THE UNSAVED DEAD?
The Word of God answers this question very clearly. According to Luke 16:19-26, we learn that when a lost man dies, he goes to Hades which we might call the present hell. There are two hells mentioned in the Bible: Hades, the present hell; and the final hell which is Gehenna or the lake of fire. At present, the unsaved are being reserved, and are waiting for, the Great White Throne Judgement (2 Peter 2:9). At the Final Judgement, Hades, with all the dead who have died without Christ, will be cast into eternal hell (Gehenna) – the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).
WHAT IS MEANT BY THE WORD “SHEOL”?
There are some who teach that the word “Sheol”, simply means the grave, but this is not true. “Shoel” is the Hebrew word for Hades. Psalm 16:10 states: “For You will not leave my soul in hell (Shoel)…” When Peter quotes the passage in his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:27), he translates the Hebrew “Sheol” with a Greek word “Hades.” Both words refer to the same place.
WHAT IS THE “BOTTOMLESS PIT” MENTIONED IN REVELATION 20:3?
The word which is translated “bottomless pit” in the Bible is the word “abyss” (Greek- abussos). It is translated “the deep” in Luke 8:31, and describes an immeasurable depth, the underworld, the lower regions, the abode of the lost dead. This is a place where the fallen angels are kept until the judgement of the Great Day (2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6). This is the dwelling place of demons. It is believed to be in the heart of the earth (Rev. 9:2, 14-15). Very little is said about this place, but we do know that the demons greatly fear going there (Luke 8:31), and that Satan will be bound there for a thousand years.
WHAT KIND OF BODIES WILL WE HAVE IN THE RESURRECTION?
The resurrection body will be a glorified flesh-and-bones body just like the Resurrection Body of our dear Lord (Luke 24:39; Phil. 3:21). The source of energy in our present earthly bodies is the blood. The source of energy in our glorified resurrection bodies will be the spirit (1 Cor. 15:42-44).
WHEN A PERSON DIES PHYSICALLY, SHALL THEY LIVE ETERNALLY?
Absolutely, the Bible tells us that there is life after death. This world is not all there is, and mankind was made for something more. At death, the body ceases to function and begins the process of decay and turns to dust, but the spiritual part of man lives on for all eternity: “Dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastics 12:7).”
To those who are redeemed and have their sin forgiven, God gives eternal life, and existence so glorious that, “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Cor. 2:9).” This eternal life is inexplicably linked to the Person of Jesus Christ: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent (John 17:3).” We also read in 1 John 5:12, “Whoever has the Son has life.”
Jesus Christ, God incarnate, came to the earth to pay for our sins and give us the gift of eternal life: “He was pierced for transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).” Three days after His crucifixion, Jesus proved Himself victorious over death by raising from the grave – He is life personified (John 11:25) and the ultimate proof that there is life after death.
IN CLOSING, God’s great desire was to have communion and fellowship with man, so He created man and placed him in a “material” world. For man to communicate and have a tangible relationship with the physical world, God created man with a “physical” body capable of such communication. However, because God is “Spirit” (John 4:24), man was capable to communicate with God in spirit because at creation God placed the spirit of man within his body. Man, a “living soul,” stood between two worlds and belongs to both. Through his body, man was linked to the visible, material, and earthly world around him and through his spirit he was linked to the spiritual, eternal, and heavenly world of God Himself.
At our physical death the physical body stays here and begins to decay and turn to dust while everyone’s soul/spirit goes back to God. Ezekiel 18:4 tells us exactly who “owns” your soul: “Behold, all souls are Mine.” Every person’s soul who was ever born throughout the history of mankind; believer or nonbeliever, belongs to God and will return to God upon man’s physical death. In the case of a believer, it will be with God for all eternity. In the case of an unbeliever, the soul/spirit goes to Hades; there to await the Great White Throne Judgement of God (Rev. 20:12-14) and then later to be sent to a place of everlasting conscious punishment (Matt. 24:46), a place originally prepared for Satan, where unbelievers are separated from God for all eternity.
The solemn truth is that every person who has ever lived or will ever live falls into one of these two classes: “Life” or “Condemnation” (John 5:29). The Bible tells us that, “It is appointed for us to die once and after that come judgement (Heb. 9:27).” So, while you’re still physically alive you have a choice to make, to either accept or reject Christ Jesus – a choice that will determine your eternal destination.