Your word is a lamp
for my feet and a light
for my path.
Psalms 119:105

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Q2. Do we really live after we die?
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A Human Soul
Many in reading the account of creation in Genesis have noted the fact stated that when God had formed man of the dust of the ground, and had communicated to him the breath (spirit) of life, the record is, "Man became a living soul." This statement to the average reader taken in connection with his general misconception of the meaning of the word "soul," as misrepresented to him by those who should have instructed him properly, and should have understood the subject themselves, is sufficient to bewilder him and leads him to think that somehow there is some basis for the prevalent error which he does not comprehend, but which he supposes his chosen theological teachers have investigated and proven beyond peradventure.

Not comprehending the meaning of the word soul, many feel at liberty to use it in a reckless manner, and hence they reverse the Scriptural statement and instead of speaking of man as being a soul, they speak of man as having a soul, which is a very different thought. It is necessary, therefore, that each truth-seeker should, so far as possible, divest his mind of prejudice on the subject, and especially with respect to things and features which he admits he does not understand; because it is the natural tendency to give attributes and powers to that which is mysterious and not comprehended. Thus the general idea of a soul is that it is wonderfully intelligent, possessed of wonderful powers, that it is indestructible, intangible, and incomprehensible.

A Methodist bishop is credited with having given the following definition of a soul, which certainly accords well with so-called "orthodox" theories, even if it is absurd when closely analyzed--"It is without interior or exterior, without body, shape, or parts, and you could put a million of them in a nutshell." These various things are predicated of a soul, to help fill out a theory which is wholly erroneous. The theory is that the soul is the real being, a spark of divinity, possessed of divine quality and intelligent life, etc., separate and apart from the body; and that it inhabits the human body for a time, and uses it for a house, and when the body is worn out or disabled abandons it. Inasmuch as no one ever saw a soul enter a body, and inasmuch as a soul cannot be found while it is in the body, by the most critical examination, and with all the improved appliances of the microscope, photograph and "X" rays, therefore it is supposed that it is "without a body, without shape, and without parts"; and since it is supposed to be so small that it cannot be distinguished by a microscope, it might as well be said that you could put fifty millions of them in a nutshell. Really, the bishop gave an excellent definition of nothing; and all will agree that a hundred millions of nothings could be put into the smallest kind of a nutshell and have room to spare.

But what foundation is there for such wild speculation? We answer, It is wholly unwarranted. It is the result of man's taking his own theory of a future life, and rejecting the divine theory and plan. Human theory says, There must be something which never dies, else there can be no future life. The divine theory says, The same God who created in the beginning is able to resurrect the dead. This is the conflict between the Word of God and all the human theories of earth amongst the civilized as well as amongst the barbarians: all human theories teach that man does not die, and hence has no need of a Life-giver and a resurrection. The Bible theory is that man does die, and that without the Life-giver, and without a resurrection, death would indeed end all, and there would be no future life.

It is to support its theory that the world, and all its religious books (including, we are sorry to say, the majority of works on eschatology written by professed Christians), teach the doctrine of the immortality of the soul--that there is a soul in man, possessed of a separate life from his body, and that it is immortal, indestructible, and therefore destined to an eternity of pain or pleasure. We come then to the inquiry:

What Is a Soul?
Examining this question from the Bible standpoint we will find that man has a body and has a spirit, but is a soul. Science concurs with the Scriptures in this. Indeed, one of the sciences, Phrenology, undertakes to treat the skulls of men and the lower animals as indexes and to read therefrom the natural traits and characteristics of the owners: and do not all men find themselves possessed of some ability in judging character physiologically? All can discern between the intellectual and the idiotic, between the kindly benevolent and the viciously brutal. Those who have not learned that organism (bodily form) is indissolubly connected with nature, character and disposition have made poor use of life's lessons and are unprepared to pass judgment on our topic or any other.

The word "soul," as found in the Scriptures, signifies sentient being; that is, a being possessed of powers of sense, sense-perception. With minds freed from prejudice, let us go with this definition to the Genesis account of man's creation, and note that (1) the organism or body was formed; (2) the spirit of life, called "breath of life," was communicated; (3) living soul, or sentient being, resulted. This is very simple, and easily understood. It shows that the body is not the soul, nor is the spirit or breath of life the soul; but that when these two were united by the Lord, the resultant quality or condition was living man, living being--a living soul, possessed of perceptive powers. There is nothing mysterious about this--no intimation that a spark of divinity was infused into humanity, any more than into the lower animals. Indeed, while the creation of the lower animals is passed over and not particularly described, we may know that with them, as well, the process must have been somewhat similar. We know that there could be no dog without a dog organism or body, nor without spirit or breath of life in that body. The body of the dog that had never been animated would not be a dog; it requires first the infusion of the spark of life, the breath of life, then doghood begins. The same would apply to all animals.

In full accord with this, we now call attention to a fact which will surprise many; viz., that according to the Scriptural account every dog is a soul, every horse is a soul, every cow is a soul, every bird and every fish are souls. That is to say, these are all sentient creatures, possessed of powers of sense-perception. True, some of them are on a higher and some on a lower plane than others; but the word soul properly and Scripturally applies to creatures on the lower planes as well as to man, the highest and noblest--to fish, reptiles, birds, beasts, man. They are all souls. Mark, we do not say that they have souls, in the ordinary and mistaken sense of that term, yet they all do have souls, in the sense of having life, being, existence--they are living souls. Let us prove this:

In the first, second and ninth chapters of Genesis the words "living soul" are applied in the Hebrew language to the lower animals nine times, but the translators (as though careful to protect the false but common vagary respecting a soul, derived from Platonic philosophy) sedulously guarded their work, so that, so far as possible, the English reader is kept in ignorance of this fact--that the word soul is common to the lower creatures, and as applicable to them as to man in inspired Scripture usage. How else could it happen that in all of these cases, and in many other instances throughout the Scriptures, they have carefully covered the thought, by using another English word to translate the Hebrew word, which, in the case of man, is rendered "soul"? So carefully have they guarded this point that only in one place in the Bible is this word translated "soul," in connection with the lower creatures, viz., in Num. 31:28, and there, very evidently, they were compelled to show the matter, by reason of the peculiar construction of the sentence--no other translation being reasonably possible. The passage reads:

"Levy a tribute unto the Lord of the men of war which went out to battle: one soul of five hundred, both of the persons and of the beeves and of the asses and of the sheep." Here it will be noticed that the word "soul" is used respecting the lower creatures as well as in reference to man; and so it would appear elsewhere in the Scriptures, had the translators been free from the warp and twist of their false theories on this subject.

Let us now notice the nine texts in Genesis in which the Hebrew original of the word soul (neh-phesh) occurs in connection with the lower animals:

"God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving [creeping] creature that hath life [Heb., neh-phesh-- soul]." (Gen. 1:20) Note that the marginal reading is soul; and that this was on the fifth creative day or period, long before man's creation.
"God created great whales, and every living creature [Heb., neh-phesh--living soul] that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly." (Gen. 1:21) This also was in the fifth "day," before man's creation. These were fish-souls.

"God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature [Heb., neh-phesh--living soul] after his kind--cattle and creeping thing and beast." (Gen. 1:24) These were dry-land souls, higher than the fishes--but man, human soul or being, had not yet been created.
"And God said...To every beast of the earth and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life [living soul--neh-phesh] I have given every green herb for meat." (Gen. 1:30) Here the lower animals are specified, and it is distinctly declared that they are all living souls--in exactly the same terms that refer to man.

"Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air;...and whatever Adam called every living creature [Heb., living soul--neh-phesh], that was the name thereof." (Gen. 2:19) Comment here is unnecessary: there can be no question that soul is not exclusively a human part or quality, but rightly understood is applicable to all sentient creatures from the lowest to the highest-- all creatures possessed of sensibilities.

"Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you... but flesh with the life thereof [Heb., flesh, soul--neh-phesh] which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat." (Gen. 9:3,4) Here the animals which man may eat are not only declared to possess soul or being, but their blood is said to represent their existence, being or soul, and hence man is forbidden to use blood as food--forbidden to cultivate blood-thirstiness.

"Behold I establish my covenant with you [Noah] and with your seed after you; and with every living creature [Heb., living soul--neh-phesh] that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth." (Gen. 9:9,10) A very plain statement that all living creatures are souls as well as man--though inferior to him in nature, organism, etc.

"This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature [Heb., living soul--neh-phesh]." (Gen. 9:12) What could be more explicit than this?

"I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature [Heb., every living soul--neh-phesh] of all flesh." Gen. 9:15

The same expression exactly is repeated in verse 16. And there is no room for cavil as to the meaning when the veil of mistranslation is lifted and we catch the thought God wished us to receive from his Word.

We might similarly proceed through other books of the Bible, but we have quoted sufficient to establish our contention before any reasonable mind--that soul in Scriptural usage as properly applies to the lower animals as to man; and hence that all claims or theories built upon the idea that man's hopes of a future life and his present superiority over lower animals result from his being a soul and they not, is a false theory and needs radical reconstruction if we would see matters from the true standpoint of divine revelation.

But let no one misunderstand us to teach that because all living, moving creatures, from a mite to an elephant and from a tadpole to a whale are living souls, therefore all these must have a future life, either by a transfer to spirit conditions or by a resurrection future. Such a thought would be arrant nonsense--insanity--without a shadow of reason. Billions of living souls on these lowest planes of animal nature are born every minute, while other billions die every minute.

Our argument is that man is a soul or being of the highest order--the king and lord over the lower orders of souls or sentient beings, yet one of them--an earthly, human animal soul; and yet so grandly constituted originally (Adam) that he was properly described as in the likeness of God--the image of him that created him.

Man as a soul is differentiated from the lower animals or souls by reason of his higher organism: not merely is his superiority indicated by his upright form; it is witnessed to by his superior mental endowments, which are Godlike and are reflected in his countenance. It is in his mental and moral endowments rather than in physical form that man was created in divine likeness. While many of the lower orders of animal soul or being possess reasoning powers and demonstrate them in thousands of ways, yet each has a level beyond which no progress can be made; but man's reasoning powers are almost unlimited, because he was created an "image of God," "the likeness of him that created him." And notwithstanding man's fall into sin and his thousands of years of gross darkness and degradation we can still see Godlikeness--especially in those who have accepted Christ's ministry of reconciliation to God, and have again become "sons of God," and who are seeking to be conformed to the image of God's dear Son.

To illustrate: horses, dogs and birds may be taught the meaning of many words so as to be able to understand many things pertaining to life's affairs. They often demonstrate their reasoning powers, and some are able to count-- as high as twenty: but who would attempt to teach a horse or a dog or a bird algebra or geometry or astronomy? The highest of the lower animals can be taught a certain degree of moral honesty and obligation to their masters--not to kill sheep, not to bite, kick, etc., but who would attempt to teach his dumb brutes the Decalogue? They may be taught a certain kind of love for their master and his friends, but who would think of teaching them to love or worship God, or more than mere endurance of enemies who had despitefully used them.

The point to be noticed is that all these differences are not by reason of the lower animals having a different kind of breath or spirit of life, for as we have seen, "they have all one breath" (Eccl. 3:19); nor because man is a soul and the brute beast is not, for as we have seen they are all souls. But as we have found, and as all men are witnesses, each has a different bodily organism which gives to each his different characteristics, and which alone constitutes one higher and the other lower in the scale of intelligence. Notice, too, that not size and weight give excellence and superiority, else the elephant and whale would be the lords of earth; the excellence is in the "organic quality" represented chiefly in brain-structure and functions.

Man, therefore, is the highest type of earthly creature-- "of the earth, earthy"--and his excellence consists in the superiority of his mental endowment--not a development, but a gift from his Creator.

"The Soul That Sinneth, It Shall Die"
It is quite in harmony with the foregoing, but quite out of harmony with the usual thought on the subject, that we find the Scriptures declaring repeatedly the death of the soul, which human philosophy and hymn-book theology most emphatically declare to be indestructible. We read, for instance, that our Lord, when he became our ransom-price, "poured out his soul [being] unto death." "He made his soul an offering for sin." (Isa. 53:10,12) This was necessary, because it was Adam's soul that was sentenced to death, and the promise to mankind is a redemption of soul or being from the power of death. "God will redeem my soul from the grave [sheol--the condition of death]." (Psa. 49:15) And, as we have seen, it is because all souls are thus redeemed in the one redemption that all our friends--all mankind--are said to "sleep in Jesus." 1 Thess. 4:14

We remark here that the Apostle could not, in this expression, refer merely to the saints, as when he speaks of those who are "in Christ"; for those referred to as "new creatures" are those only who are begotten of God through the Spirit, to joint-heirship with Christ, as his Church, the members of his body. But "those who sleep in Jesus" include the entire race, for our Lord Jesus was a propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world, and he is by virtue of that sacrifice our Life-giver, and not only ours, but also the Life-giver for the whole world--the testimony and the opportunity for acceptance being, with the majority, still future. 1 John 2:2; 1 Tim. 2:4-6

That the Apostle has this thought in mind is manifest from this context: he is here exhorting believers to sorrow not as others who have no hope; and gives as the reason of the hope this fact, that Jesus died for man's sin, and rose again to be man's justifier, and hence that all "sleep in Jesus," or are legally freed from the death sentence, and amenable to Jesus, to be brought from the dead by the divine power. Had the Apostle said or been understood to mean that merely the saints would be thus blessed through Jesus, we can readily see that believers then and since would have very little consolation in his words, because the vast majority of the friends of believers, then and since, cannot be termed saints: and if the awakening from the sleep of death is a blessing intended only for the saints, the thought, instead of being a consolation, would be the reverse, an anguish, a distress. But the Apostle refers to the whole world as being thus asleep in Jesus, although none knows it from this standpoint except the heavenly Father and his consecrated people, whom he has instructed respecting his future gracious plans, through the Word of truth, that they may rejoice in the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of divine goodness, and "sorrow not, even as others that have no [such substantial] hope."

As the natural sleep, if sound, implies total unconsciousness, so with death, the figurative sleep--it is a period of absolute unconsciousness--more than that, it is a period of absolute non-existence, except as preserved in the Father's purpose and power. Hence the awakening from death, to those restored, will mean a revival of consciousness from the exact moment and standpoint where consciousness was lost in death. There will be no appreciation of time, as respects the interim. The moment of awakening will be the next moment after the moment of death, so far as conscious appreciation is concerned.

This same condition has been noted in connection with persons who have sustained injuries which have caused pressure upon the brain, and thus temporarily suspended consciousness, without extinguishing life. In cases of this kind, when the pressure upon the brain has been removed by trepanning, the subject suddenly coming to consciousness has in numerous instances been known to complete a sentence which had been interrupted by the concussion which interrupted thought: for divine power will thoroughly duplicate every convolution of every brain and vivify them. Thus in the awakening-time the world of mankind in general will revive with the same words and thoughts with which they expired. But let it not be forgotten that we here refer to the world in general, not to the elect and special class selected out of the world, namely, the Church, the body of Christ, which will have part in the first resurrection, and in many respects know a different experience.

But while, as the Adamic death has been turned, by reason of the divine plan and the ransom, from being a destruction to a suspension of existence, called sleep, nevertheless we find that the Scriptures very distinctly assert that after the revival or awakening from the death-sleep, it will depend upon each individual whether he shall go on unto perfection and life, under the guidance, government and tutelage of the glorious Christ, or whether he will wilfully, deliberately and stubbornly choose the way of sin. If he choose the latter he will get the punishment originally designated for father Adam, viz., death, but no longer Adamic death, the penalty of Adam's sin: this is styled Second Death. This Second Death is nowhere spoken of as a sleep, nor is there the slightest intimation anywhere given that there will be any awakening from it. On the contrary, it is designated "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord." 2 Thess. 1:9

Of this redeemed and awakened class, which in general shall have its trial during the Millennial age, the Scriptures declare, "The soul that sinneth it shall die." (Ezek. 18:20) That this scripture is not generally applicable at the present time is evident from three considerations:

(1) It would be meaningless, at the present time, when all die--saints and sinners.
(2) It is expressed in the form of a second sentence, and based upon the individual action, and this could not be applicable in the present time, because now we all die because of "one man's disobedience," and the sentence of death which came upon him, and indirectly affects all his race. Rom. 5:12
(3) The context shows that this passage refers particularly to those who have gotten free from Adamic sin which prevails in general today. Its special applicability, therefore, must belong to the next age, the Millennial age. Note the connections, not forgetting that the law covenant of the Jewish age was analogous to the covenant of the Millennial age, except that the latter will have a better Mediator, able and willing to succor and to help all who shall seek to walk righteously, not imputing unintentional short-comings.

The context declares: This shall no more be a proverb in Israel, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge. But, on the contrary, each soul shall be responsible to God for itself, and "the soul that sinneth it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him." (Ezek. 18:2,4,20) It is evident that this time has not yet come. The children still have their "teeth set on edge," by reason of the sour grapes of sin which their fathers have eaten; we are still under the law of heredity; all still die for Adam's sin, and not for individual sin. In proof of this note the indisputable fact that nearly one-half of the human family die in infancy, without having reached years of discretion or responsibility on their own account. Who cannot see that the agonizing and dying infant of a few days or a few months old is not dying for its own sins, but that it is dying because it is a member of the Adamic race, which is still under the curse pronounced against our father Adam, "Dying thou shalt die"? It has inherited a share of the curse, and will also inherit a share of God's blessing through Christ in the coming awakening, secured through the merit of the great Atonement finished at Calvary.

If we turn to Jeremiah 31:29-34, we find another reference to exactly the same conditions mentioned by Ezekiel, only that in Jeremiah we are furnished with more explicit details, which show that this condition belongs not to the present age, but to a future age. Jeremiah declares:

"In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge. But every one [who dies] shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape his teeth shall be set on edge."

The words "In those days" clearly refer to the future times of restitution, under the reign of Christ, and not to the present time of the reign of sin and death. Notice that the Prophet proceeds to describe other features of the Millennial age, telling about the New Covenant which is to be confirmed to Israel and Judah, the everlasting covenant, under which they shall obtain their long-looked-for portion of the Abrahamic blessings and promises. Compare Rom. 11:26-31

This same thought, that death will again be the penalty for sin, to all redeemed from the Adamic death, if after they come to a knowledge of the grace of God, they receive that grace in vain, is shown by our Lord's own words, "Fear not them which kill the body but are not able to kill the soul [fear not them which take away the present life, which is already under sentence of death, anyway; but remember that you have been redeemed, and that a future life is a possibility to you, and that no man can rob you of that which God has provided for you through the redemption in Christ Jesus], but fear him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna." (Matt. 10:28) Here the power of God to destroy the soul is positively asserted, and that by an unquestionable authority. We are aware that a crooked theology has sought to wrest the Scriptures, and therefore asserts that this signifies that God is able to destroy the happiness of the soul in Gehenna, but that he is unable to destroy the soul itself. We reply, that this is a wresting of the Scriptures, and their perversion in a manner which cannot fail to bring evil consequences upon those who "handle the word of God deceitfully." We elsewhere show20 that the word "Gehenna" here used signifies "the Second Death"--utter destruction-- to all souls which will not hear God's great Prophet, when, in due time, he shall speak plainly unto all the people, as he now is speaking under parables and dark sayings, expounded only to the Church. Acts 3:23; Matt. 13:11

We claim, therefore, that the Scriptures unquestionably declare that man is a soul or being; that his right to existence under divine arrangement was forfeited by sin, and that he is now under the curse or penalty of the divine sentence, death; that man's privileges and rights were all purchased by the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all; that as a consequence death is not to be accounted as death, utter destruction, but merely as a temporary "sleep," from which the world of mankind will be awakened by their Redeemer in the resurrection morning of the Millennial age.

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