I received a request to write about the soul and what happens to it when we die. The request inquires about our spirit, stating that the reader believes the spirit leaves our body at death, but what happens to the soul? I decided to contemplate on this in some detail and researched it a little bit, along with attempting to come to my own conclusions about the matter.
I should state that we’ll look at this matter within the context of the bible or within a purely Christian context, with a firm foundation based within Jesus Christ our Lord.
To begin this study, we should define the soul versus the spirit and we’ll do so through definitions shared with us at Dictionary.com.
the principle of life, feeling, thought, and action in humans, regarded as a distinct entity separate from the body, and commonly held to be separable in existence from the body; the spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part.
the spiritual part of humans regarded in its moral aspect, or as believed to survive death and be subject to happiness or misery in a life to come: arguing the immortality of the soul.
the disembodied spirit of a deceased person: He feared the soul of the deceased would haunt him.
the emotional part of human nature; the seat of the feelings or sentiments.
a human being; person.
– versus –
the principle of conscious life; the vital principle in humans, animating the body or mediating between body and soul.
the incorporeal part of humans: present in spirit though absent in body.
the soul regarded as separating from the body at death.
conscious, incorporeal being, as opposed to matter: the world of spirit.
a supernatural, incorporeal being, especially one inhabiting a place, object, etc., or having a particular character: evil spirits.
Based upon my research and the reading I’ve looked over in regard to the soul versus the spirit and what each refers to, I can see why this could be confusing, as both are very similar to one another.
I think the best, most succinct way to put this would be to say that the soul is who we are as individual people, while the spirit signifies something that connects us to God Himself, and is not of this human world.
Interestingly enough, the research & opinion I’ve looked at thus far commented that according to the bible, the spirit is not living within the unbeliever in Jesus Christ. I found this to be surprising and it could be rather off-putting for those who do not have faith.
Obviously, this notion itself demands a lot more research and could branch out to innumerable blogs; thus we are barely touching the surface of this topic with this particular blog and there is much more study to be done and many directions we could turn. This demands a part two, a part three, and perhaps more, as well. This is a very intriguing aspect of the soul and spirit to study and I thank the curious mind of Hpy Lady for her request. I hope this helps as an introduction to this very involved, complex topic:
Here is our first source, and the well-worded request that I received regarding it:
Could you sometime write about so that I can try and understand the “soul” I understand the body and the spirit but I don’t understand the soul .. and what happens to it when we die .. I feel when we die our body decays but our spirit leaves our body at death .. what happens to our soul..
Question: “What is the difference between the soul and spirit of man?”
Answer: The soul and the spirit are the two primary immaterial aspects that Scripture ascribes to humanity. It can be confusing to attempt to discern the precise differences between the two. The word “spirit” refers only to the immaterial facet of humanity. Human beings have a spirit, but are we not spirits. However, in Scripture, only believers are said to be spiritually alive (1 Corinthians 2:11; Hebrews 4:12; James 2:26), while unbelievers are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-5; Colossians 2:13). In Paul’s writing, the spiritual was pivotal to the life of the believer (1 Corinthians 2:14; 3:1; Ephesians 1:3; 5:19; Colossians 1:9; 3:16). The spirit is the element in humanity which gives us the ability to have an intimate relationship with God. Whenever the word “spirit” is used, it refers to the immaterial part of humanity that “connects” with God, who Himself is spirit (John 4:24).
The word “soul” can refer to both the immaterial and material aspects of humanity. Unlike human beings having a spirit, human beings are souls. In its most basic sense, the word “soul” means “life.” However, beyond this essential meaning, the Bible speaks of the soul in many contexts. One of these is humanity’s eagerness to sin (Luke 12:26). Humanity is naturally evil, and our souls are tainted as a result. The life principle of the soul is removed at the time of physical death (Genesis 35:18; Jeremiah 15:2). The soul, as with the spirit, is the center of many spiritual and emotional experiences (Job 30:25; Psalm 43:5; Jeremiah 13:17). Whenever the word “soul” is used, it can refer to the whole person, whether alive or in the afterlife.
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. The spirit is the aspect of humanity that connects with God.
Upcoming posts on the Soul & Spirit:
Do animals have a soul & spirit?
Differences between soul and spirit
Do those without faith have a spirit?
What happens to the spirit after we die?