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Rainbow Divider

Chapter 2

Two Kinds of Life

I believe that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is one that has clouded a true understanding of God’s word. It is rooted in a misunderstanding of the fundamental difference between divine and human life.

I Tim. 6:16 uses some interesting words concerning God: “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” According to this verse only God is immortal! His life is the only life that there is that is not capable of dying. All other forms of life, whether that of angels or devils, men or beasts, can be ended by death. This is not understood by many who profess belief in the Bible.

A clear distinction must be drawn between God’s life and created life. Gen. 2:7 says, “And 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.”

The word “soul” in this verse is a translation of the Hebrew word nephesh. The word expresses the kind of life man possesses as a result of his creation. The expression “breath of life” is more literally translated “breath of lives.” No doubt this expresses the fact that in creating Adam, God was creating a whole race, giving him a life capable of reproducing itself. Thus many lives were present in the one individual, Adam.

The Hebrew word nephesh and its Greek equivalent psuche are used in such a variety of ways in the scriptures as to make a single, precise definition virtually impossible. In many instances they appear to refer to “the life principle that animates all conscious beings.” When used this way nephesh is something we possess as in the expression “my soul.”

Yet that definition falls short of revealing the full picture because “soul” is not merely a thing or an abstract principle. This can readily be seen in the many references to people themselves as “souls.”

An example of this is Gen. 46:26: “All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, all the souls were threescore and six.” Here, then, nephesh IS a conscious being, not merely its underlying life principle.

When God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life, he became a living soul. A soul, in the strictest sense, is what Adam WAS and what we ARE.

We human beings are inclined to think of the soul as something uniquely human. This is not so. In the first place, several scriptures refer to God’s soul! Heb. 10:38 says, “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”

In Matt. 12:18, Christ is referred to by the Father as “My beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased.” Other examples include: Leviticus 26:11, 30; Isaiah 1:14; Jer. 5:9, 29; 6:8; 9:9; 12:7; Zech. 11:8.

Obviously God is a living conscious being and so fits that definition of a soul. Equally obvious is the fact we have already pointed out that He alone has immortality. This points up the fact that it is possible for a soul to be immortal, but that immortality depends entirely upon the kind of life involved. All other souls possess created life — a life which does not naturally possess immortality.

It is very enlightening to consider some of the other ways the divinely inspired writers of the scriptures used the word nephesh. Following are just a few examples. The words appearing with all capital letters are nephesh in the original.

Gen. 1:20-21: “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath LIFE, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living CREATURE that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly after their kind....”

Gen. 1:24: “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living CREATURE after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.”

Gen. 1:30: “And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is LIFE, I have given every green herb for meat; and it was so.”

Gen. 2:19: “And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every LIVING CREATURE, that was the name thereof.”

Gen. 9:10, 12, 15, 16: in this passage referring to God’s covenant with Noah and all the animals preserved with him in the ark, every occurrence of the phrase “LIVING CREATURE” is a translation of nephesh.

Leviticus 17:11: “For the LIFE of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your SOULS: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the SOUL.”

Leviticus 24:18: “And he that killeth a BEAST shall make it good; beast for beast.”

Leviticus 11:46: “This is the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every LIVING CREATURE that moveth in the waters, and of every LIVING CREATURE that creepeth upon the earth.”

Proverbs 12:10: “A righteous man regardeth the life of his BEAST....”

Isaiah 19:10 contains the phrase “ponds for FISH”! You fishermen remember that you are angling for “souls”!

Man a Beast

It is pretty obvious from these and other scriptures that with the exception of the few references to God’s soul, nephesh simply refers to natural created life, whether possessed by man, beast, fowl, fish, insect, or whatever. Man is by nature no more immortal than a mosquito he swats and kills. They both are made from the dust of the ground and possess the same created life.

Most men would be highly offended by the notion that they are essentially animals, yet that is the case. Man does possess a higher intelligence than other animals, an intelligence that makes communication with God possible. However, unless he does come into possession of eternal life through the gospel he remains simply an intelligent beast. In fact, due to his corruption through the fall, he is capable morally of descending lower than a beast.

Consider the thin line that separated Nebuchadnezzar the great king from Nebuchadnezzar the long-haired beast who ate grass like an ox. Daniel 4. For seven years God removed Nebuchadnezzar’s human intelligence from him and for that period he lived like a beast. When his understanding returned he finally realized how nothing he was and he gave glory to the one true God.

Jude 10 speaks thus of the apostate (one who has rejected God): “But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.”

Similar language is used in II Peter 2:12: “But these as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of things they understand not and shall utterly perish in their own corruption.” This verse not only portrays apostates as brute beasts but states pretty plainly their destiny, expressed in such phrases as “taken and destroyed” and “utterly perish.”

Solomon, considered the wisest man who ever lived (apart from Jesus Christ) pondered many questions about this earthly life. In Ecclesiastes 3:18-21 he makes the following observations: “I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?”

Verse 21 almost seems to undo the comparison Solomon had been making. However, other translations establish the fact that the thought is, “who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down to the earth?” Evidently he was saying that, contrary to popular belief, man and beast die alike and go to the same place.

Apart from the gospel, Solomon’s inspired observation is absolutely true. It is certainly confirmed by Psalm 49. The Psalmist begins by exhorting all the inhabitants of the world to hear the wisdom he is about to express. The Psalm essentially concerns man’s values in light of the reality of death.

In particular the focus is on wealth as that is one of man’s most prized achievements. In the first place wealth has no power against death and corruption. Regardless of whether a man is wealthy or poor, wise or foolish, he will die and leave whatever he has to others. No matter what a man may achieve in this life, whether of riches or honor, death is the end. None of his wealth or honor will follow him.

Although men try to preserve their memory by such means as naming their lands after themselves, verse 12 tells us: “Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish.”

Verse 14 makes it plain, especially in other translations, that their dwelling place after death is the grave. The Psalmist, however, expresses the hope of the righteous in verse 15: “for he shall redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me.” The grave, however, holds sway over all others.

Lest the lesson be forgotten, the Psalm closes with these words found in verse 20: “Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.”

These scriptures should be sufficient to make it clear that there is no difference between the death of a natural man and the death of a beast, hard as that may be for some to receive.

For a brief time, in the garden, eternal life was made available to Adam and Eve. They did not, however, partake and as soon as they had sinned, the way to the tree of life was closed off and the judgment God had pronounced — death — took effect.

The death that entered the world through Adam’s sin “passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” as Rom. 5:12 says. In addition, all creation, which had been placed under man’s dominion, was affected and is under God’s curse. Rom. 8:19-21 says, “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature” (creation) “itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

The Death Principle

Usually when we speak of someone dying, we are referring to the final moment when life leaves his body. This, however, is only the climax. In reality, death is a process of corruption and decay that accompanies us from birth. For awhile, the life force is sufficient to produce growth and maturity, but all too soon it gives way to the principle of death that leads certainly to the grave.

Far more serious is the fact that the same principle is at work in the soul. Eph. 2:1 speaks of the natural man as “dead in trespasses and sins.” See also verse 5. In John 5:24, Jesus speaks of those who believe as having “passed from death unto life.” The next verse speaks of “the dead” hearing the voice of the Son of God. Jesus is not here speaking of a physical resurrection but of a spiritual one through the gospel. He is speaking of eternal life being imparted to a human soul through the gospel.

Before the gospel comes man’s condition is as Paul describes it in Eph. 4:18: “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.”

When man fell, his soul became totally enslaved by the law of sin and death. He came under the total domination of desires and appetites relating to his fleshly existence in this world. Paul’s words in Rom. 7 express so clearly the impossibility of man serving God through his own resources.

The natural man lacks not only the ability but also any desire to serve God. Rom. 3:9-18, Col. 1:21, Eph. 2:1-3.

I John 2:15-17 says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

It is interesting to note that according to this passage, the lusts that pertain to this world will pass away. That would not be so if corrupted man were to be preserved somewhere in everlasting torment. If that were the case, lust would never cease.

Only the gospel of Jesus Christ, preached by the anointing of the Holy Spirit has the power to penetrate the darkness of a human soul enslaved by sin and resurrect that soul, dead in sin, to eternal life.

It may seem strange to speak of a lost sinner as “dead” while we observe him as a living, breathing human being. Nevertheless the expression is appropriate. Remember Paul’s words, “alienated from the life of God.” When Adam sinned, he cut himself off from God. Were it not for sin I believe he would have lived right on. It was not that he was immortal in himself but that he was sustained through his relationship with the One who is immortal. That relationship was severed and he became dead to God & righteousness.

Let’s say that someone you know — someone, particularly, who doesn’t know God — dies. Such a death instantly severs any relationship which may have existed. You can shout at him, hit him, do whatever you will and he will just lie there unresponsive. He has become dead to you.

Man has become dead to God. That is why anointed ministry is necessary. The anointing imparts a measure of God’s life. Without that measure of life, no one would be capable of seeking or calling upon God.

Anything short of anointed ministry, at best, makes a man merely religious, still totally alienated from God. He may sing “Amazing Grace,” pray, go to church, etc., but it is all vain. His heart remains shrouded in darkness and sin. He is still dead.

I Cor. 2:14 says, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” The word “natural” is “soulish” in the Greek. It refers to a man possessing only natural life.

Man, with only natural life, has little to look forward to. James 4:14 says, “For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

Apart from the judgment, man without God, at best, lives for a short time and perishes like a beast. I believe that scriptures we have already alluded to make it plain that when a sinner dies, the light of his soul is extinguished. In other words, his soul does not survive the death of the body. Sinners who appear at the judgment, do so as a result of God’s direct intervention: they are raised from the dead to answer for their sins.

Ecclesiastes 9:5 says, “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything.”

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