Tag Archives: Image of God

A Soul

Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)

What comes to mind when you think of “a soul”? For most of my life, I imagined a soul as some ethereal, intangible, wispy inhabitant of our body that occupied our being that then departed when the physical body died. I suppose most people look at a soul in much the same way. Dictionary.com defines a soul as: (1) 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; (2) 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; (3) the disembodied spirit of a deceased person; (4) the emotional part of human nature; the seat of the feelings or sentiments; (5) a human being; person (emphasis mine).[1]

That last definition, I think, is the biblical understanding of “a soul.” In the Genesis account of the creation of man, I envision God (Jesus, in His pre-incarnate form) bending over a mass of reddish clay molding the human form. Scripture records, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “formed” is yâtsar, and it carries the idea of squeezing something into shape; to mold into the desired shape as a potter molds and forms a clay vessel. The idea goes well considering the construction material used – dust.

With the body plan complete, God, “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7, emphasis mine). The Hebrew words translated “breathed” and “breath” are related. From the English translation, we can see that the former is a verb and the latter is a noun. The Hebrew words are nâphach and neshâmâh respectively and both mean “a puff.” The word “soul” is also related: nephesh. It means “living creature” and it can refer to either a human being or an animal. Yes, as defined here, animals have “souls” (nephesh); however, they do not possess that special neshâmâh of life “puffed” into humans by God.

This puff of life from God caused God’s mud sculpture to rise and become a living soul with a physical body, mind, and neshâmâh (breath/spirit of life). A triune creature created in the image of God[2] hitherto known as “a living soul.” God is triune in nature: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Collectively we just say, “God.” Man, made in the image of God, is triune in nature: mind, body, and spirit. Collectively, the Bible refers to the unit as “a soul.”

There are many examples where this becomes obvious, but I will keep the list brief. The first example following the creation account comes when Abraham travels to Egypt and tries to pass off Sarah, his wife, as his sister. He tells Sarah, “Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee” (Genesis 12:13). “My soul” (nephesh) here does not refer to his “spirit.” Abraham feared for his life – his physical life.

Later, when God confirmed His covenant with Abraham, God required that he and all males within his household be circumcised.[3] Disobedience to this command carried a penalty. “And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant” (Genesis 17:14). “That soul” (nephesh) refers to the whole person not just his spirit. Interestingly, in the account of Abraham rescuing his nephew Lot and others, the word nephesh is translated “persons” (Genesis 14:21).

Genesis 27 records the account of Jacob “stealing” his brother’s blessing by deceiving his father, Isaac. In the passage, “my soul” appears twice and “thy soul” shows up two times.[4] The meaning in each case is somewhat ambiguous; however it seems clear that its use refers to the whole person. More examples could be cited in Genesis, but other examples will help solidify my point.

Exodus records that “all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls” (Exodus 1:5, emphasis mine). Obviously, this refers to people, not disembodied spirits. Then when God called Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt, God assured him that, “all the men are dead which sought thy life” (Exodus 4:19). The Hebrew word translated “thy life” is nephesh (soul). With regard to keeping the Sabbath, God said, “Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people” (Exodus 31:14, emphasis mine). Again we see that “a soul” is a person.

The book of Leviticus offers many examples where the word “soul” (nephesh) refers to an individual. Here is one example: “if a soul touch any unclean thing … he also shall be unclean, and guilty” (Leviticus 5:2). To touch requires a physical body. Regarding the prohibition against eating blood: “No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood” (Leviticus 17:12). Again, it requires a physical body to eat blood.

There are 420 occurrences of the word “soul” in the Old Testament and nearly twice as many occurrences of the Hebrew word nephesh translated in other forms, for example, life, creature, persons, man, mind, et al. In the majority of occurrences, the word refers to the whole person. There is at least one instance in which the word seems to refer to the spirit of one who has died. Of Rachel’s death in childbirth, Scripture records, “And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin” (Genesis 35:18). However, we may infer that when the spirit of a person departs from the body, that person is no longer whole, and therefore no longer “a soul.” The “person” is gone; only the shell remains. The soul has departed.

My conclusion is that “a soul” is the entire person: mind, body, and spirit. According to our beginning verse, “the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4). We all die sooner or later; however, death, in this case, is not merely the cessation of life. This death separates the soul from the Source of Life for eternity. This is the “second death” spoken of in Revelation 20:14-15, “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (emphasis mine). Jesus warned, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30, emphasis mine). The “soul” – the whole person, mind, body and spirit – that sins shall suffer the eternal consequences of “the second death.”

There is no loss of consciousness in the “second death.” That soul is very much alive and aware of his surroundings. Jesus spoke of such a one whose only sin was self-centeredness.[5] Of course, a self-centered person has no need for God, which is ultimately what landed him in hell. “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:23, emphasis mine). Because the soul is the whole person, he could feel the flames of hell, and he could see what he had missed. Later on, he has a sense of concern for his five brothers who are still alive, and he requests that Lazarus be sent back to earth to go warn his brothers about this awful place. Hell apparently does nothing to change his self-centered, selfish ways. His concern is only for his brothers and not for the millions of souls in the same condition.

“The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4) – mind, body and spirit. In what condition is your soul today? If you are breathing, and reading this blog, and you really don’t know, there is hope, and you can settle it right now. Read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “Soul” – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/soul#

[2]  Genesis 1:27

[3]  Genesis 17:1-14

[4]  Genesis 27: 4, 19, 25, 31

[5]  Luke 16:19-31

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Christmas Excitement

Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them. (Isaiah 42:9)

It’s that time of year once more. The places I work and worship sparkle with bright red, green, and gold decorations consistent with the colors of the Christmas season. Long before Thanksgiving Day, merchants displayed all their Christmas wares enticing shoppers to covet without first giving thanks. Television commercials attempt to instill a sense of privation so the viewer feels the need for what they are selling.

GMC™ produces two commercials that really stand out to me. They show a young couple, probably in their late twenties or early thirties, with no children, and a big fancy house. In one of the commercials, the husband buys GMC ™ vehicles for both of them. In the other, the husband gets the wife a puppy, and the wife gets him a big crew-cab pickup. Seriously, how many young people, on the average, have that kind of cash? Most young people that age, if they graduated from a college or university, are saddled with enormous school debt and are doing well to afford payments on a Honda Civic™ much less a $60,000 fully decked out pickup truck!

Regardless of how we feel about the materialism associated with the Christmas season, we cannot get away from the sense of expectation. At church, our choir and orchestra are working hard a polishing up the music for our Christmas concert. It will be wonderful, and we are excited about presenting it. Our church looks forward to our Christmas Eve services and our sharing of the Lord’s Supper, aka communion.

We celebrate the birth of our Savior. Think about what that means. The same God that created heaven and earth and all things, the same God that created human beings in His very image, is the same God that implanted Himself in the womb of a virgin girl to be born like any other human baby, live a sinless life among His creation, and give Himself as a sacrifice for humanity’s sin. That is awesome! That boggles the mind!

We anticipate with excitement the celebration of Christmas, the First Advent, but our celebration should look forward to the Second Advent yet to come. The prophets of old foretold of Jesus’ first coming. Beginning in Genesis, the Bible promises that the “seed of the woman” would crush the head of the serpent, i.e., Satan.[1] Isaiah tells us that the woman would be a virgin.[2] In Genesis, we also learn that He would come from the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah.[3] Isaiah foretold that Jesus would be in the line of King David[4] and the psalmist concurred.[5] The conniving Balaam unwittingly predicted that a star would announce His coming.[6] Micah pointed to Bethlehem as the place of His birth,[7] and Hosea said He would come up from Egypt.[8] These are just some of the prophecies of His First Advent. Many more prophecies foretold of His life, ministry, death, burial, and resurrection – all with 100% accuracy.

Christmastime should cause excitement as we anticipate His Second Advent. There are more prophecies concerning His second coming than there are for His first coming. Since all prophecies of His first coming came true as predicted, should we not expect the same accuracy of the prophecies predicting His second coming? Celebrating Christmas should excite us knowing that the Baby Jesus is the soon-coming King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

One of the carols we sing at Christmastime is not really a Christmas carol. In fact, “Joy to the World”[9] reminds us that Christ will return to rule the world as king.

Joy to the world the Savior reigns; let men their songs employ; while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains repeat their sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love.

We know historically that did not happen at His first coming. We might spiritualize those sentiments. Certainly, the Savior reigns within the hearts of all believers, albeit not perfectly. Sin and sorrow continue as always and “the curse” goes on unabated. He does not rule the world, and “the nations” care nothing about His glories or righteousness. All of these are attributes of His yet-to-come millennial reign.[10] The prophet Isaiah provides some insight into Jesus’ millennial reign on earth. That will be a time when even the animal kingdom will be at peace.[11] Knowing what is coming should make Christmas even more exciting than all the GMC™ pickups the world can afford!

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 3:15

[2]  Isaiah 7:14

[3]  Genesis 12:3; 26:4; 28:14; 49:10-11

[4]  Isaiah 11:1

[5]  Psalm 132:11

[6]  Numbers 24:17

[7]  Micah 5:2

[8]  Hosea 11:1

[9]  Carol by Isaac Watts, 1718

[10]  Revelation 20:1-7

[11]  Isaiah 11

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Neither Good Nor Bad

And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. (Genesis 1:7-8)

Greg[1] pointed out to me last week something I had not stopped to consider. At the end of every day of creation, God assessed His work, “And God saw … that it was good.”[2] Genesis 1:4 is God’s assessment of the first day, specifically the light. In Genesis 1:10, 12, God gives approval of the third day’s work in separating the water from the land and bringing forth plant life. In Genesis 1:18, God is satisfied with His creation of the heavenly bodies on Day Four. On the fifth day, God gave His approval of the ocean creatures and the creatures that fly. He certified the “beasts of the field” created on the sixth day, and after He crowned His creation by creating man “in Our Image and after Our Likeness” on the sixth day, He declared His entire creation “very good” (Genesis 1:31). However, the second day, received no such assessment. Greg asked, “Why is that? Why did God have nothing to say about the second day?”

That is a very good question. I had to think about that. I consulted several commentaries on Genesis 1:6-8 and none made note of the absence of God’s evaluation of the second day. Not even The Henry Morris Study Bible had anything to say in this regard. Therefore I am left to puzzle this out on my own.

The best place to start, in context, is at the beginning. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “the earth” is ha’erets, and it can refer to earth as the planet, earth as land (either a parcel of land or as a country), or earth as ground (soil). Within the context of the first verse, the last option, ground (soil), probably fits best. In the first verse, God creates all the elements that comprise the universe: time, space, and matter/energy (the earth). Matter/energy occupies time and space. We call this the time-space continuum. So “earth” is the “stuff” from which all else is made.

Genesis 1:2 informs us that all this “stuff” was “without form and void” (not that it “became without form and void” as Gap Theorists speculate).[3], [4], [5] It also says that “darkness was upon the face of the deep.” Then, “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” The Hebrew word translated “moved” is râchaph and it means to “flutter, move or shake.” I interpret this to mean that the Spirit of God hovered over the entire glob of the mass of matter to energize all the ‘erets God had created. Part of that energy existed as light. “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day” (Genesis 1:3-5, emphasis mine).

We arrive at the second day, and what we have is a massive blob of matter and energy within the time-space continuum. It is void and without form; it has yet to be “shaped” into anything. On the second day, God gets to work at molding all the stuff of creation. “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters” (Genesis 1:6). The Hebrew word for “firmament” is râqı̂ya‛ meaning an “expanse” or the “visible arch of the sky.” Another dictionary[6] defines it as an “extended surface (solid).” The term seems to describe some sort of solid shell around this massive “earth” blob that fills the space of the universe – thus, the “firm” in firmament.[7] God installed this firmament “shell” between the waters to cause a separation from the waters from which He will form “Planet Earth” from the waters that will occupy the rest of space. I see this as the beginning of God “[stretching] out the heavens as a curtain, and [spreading] them out as a tent to dwell in” (Isaiah 40:22). “And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so” (Genesis 1:7, emphasis mine). From the waters “which are above the firmament” God will create “the stars also.”[8]

“And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day” (Genesis 1:8, emphasis mine). What God has at this point is a watery blob in the midst of a greater watery blob separated by the “firmament.” He still has more work to do to form Planet Earth. Perhaps this is why God made no assessment of His work at this point. He was not done with this part yet. It was neither good nor bad; it was incomplete. The finished product comes on Day Three where God brings the landmasses out of the water and causes the ground to bring forth vegetation.[9] At the end of that day, God declares it “good.”

Notes:


[1]  Greg is a volunteer at the ICR Discovery Center for Science and Earth History, and he is a very careful student of the Bible, hence the question. I did not use his full name because I did not request permission to do so, If he reads this blog article, he will know.

[2]  Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25

[3]  “The Gap – Not the Store” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2019/08/04/the-gap-not-the-store/

[4]  “No Gap” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/10/18/no-gap/

[5]  “The Age of the Earth” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/10/14/age-of-the-earth-2/

[6]  Brown-Driver-Briggs’  Hebrew Definitions

[7]  “רקיע  rāqı̂ya‛, “expanse;” στερέωμα  stereōma, רקע  rāqa‛, “spread out by beating, as leaf gold.” This expanse was not understood to be solid, as the fowl is said to fly on the face of it Gen_1:21. It is also described as luminous Dan_12:3, and as a monument of divine power Psa_150:1,” Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible.

[8]  Genesis 1:16

[9]  Genesis 1:9-13

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The Immorality of a Wall

And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall. (Nehemiah 4:10)

The partial government shutdown continues beyond the third week. Some say that this is the longest shutdown in government history, yet, outside of a small percentage of government employees, the shutdown fails to have the chaotic effect that the main-stream media (MSM) purport. Many conscientious government employees remain at their posts even though they have not received a paycheck. (That is what I call dedication, and they ought to be commended for it.) While their pay may be temporarily delayed, they will receive their full back-pay eventually when this government impasse is breached.

The cause of the impasse is absurd. The House of Representatives wants to submit a spending plan for President Trump sign. President Trump will not sign the spending plan because it does not include the $5.6 billion he has requested to build a wall on our southern border. Democrats and Republicans both agree that a wall is needed; however, Democrats, because it is Donald Trump making the request, refuse to allocate the money for wall construction to deny Trump from keeping a campaign promise. It has nothing to do with the right or wrong of the matter. It has everything to with who wins the argument, and the Democrats (I call them Demoncrats for a reason) want to win, regardless of whether the border wall is good for the nation or whether thousands of government employees get paid or not. (Note: Congressmen have not missed a paycheck. If any wall is immoral, it is this one erected by the Demoncrats.)

Democrats stoke up the media to incite sympathy for unpaid government employees while they take off on vacations to exotic places, and meet with lobbyists in Puerto Rico rather than sit with the President to hammer out this impasse. They accuse President Trump of inflexibility, yet they have refused any offer of compromise by the President. In his last meeting with Democrat leadership, President Trump asked Speaker Pelosi, “Okay, Nancy, if I open up the government in 30 days, could we have border security?” She said, “Not at all.”[1]

President Trump will not budge on his demand for border security that includes a solid barrier of some kind. He has offered concessions such as legalizing so-called “dreamers,” whom Democrats claim to champion. However, because yielding on the wall gives President Trump an optical victory, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, refuses to give sway on the matter regardless of the shutdown, regardless of the unpaid government employees, regardless that she has favored the wall in the past, regardless that it is a matter of national security and sovereignty, and regardless that it is the right thing to do. She defends her obstinate stance by claiming that “the wall is an immorality.”

The wall is an immorality! How so? On what, other than the imaginations of a deluded mind, does she base that claim? In a world of relativism, morality amounts to individual preference. It becomes subjective so that “your truth is not my truth” and in a nation of over 300 million people that makes for mass confusion and anarchy. I prefer the objective truth of God’s Word.

Since morality comes from God, and because God created humans in His image,[2] humans are naturally moral creatures. However, that morality has been corrupted,[3] and what is true for Nancy Pelosi may not be true at all. We need an objective standard for morality. God, as our Creator, provided us with His operating manual as the standard of morality – the Bible. Does the Bible address the question of the morality or immorality of a wall? Indeed it does.

Before getting into the Word, what is the purpose of a wall, barrier or fence? One of the definitions for a wall is a “rampart” or a “bulwark,” which is any protection against external danger, injury or annoyance. A wall or bulwark protects those within from danger from without. Walls prevent invasion from outside forces that would harm those behind the wall.

I have a seven-foot fence in my back yard. It may not prevent an intruder climbing over, but it will certainly cost him (I assume intruders will be male) great effort and hopefully alert the dogs before he can break into my house. Otherwise, I hope the fence will discourage the attempt in the first place. The front of my house is open to the street. Without a fence to protect my front door, I feel vulnerable to attack from that side. (I speak from a human perspective; however, I place my trust in God for our protection. I do my part and let Him take care of those things which are out of my control.)

I heard someone say, “I have a fence not because I hate the people outside, but because I love the people inside.” Fences, and walls, while not perfect, give us a measure of protection. Nancy Pelosi’s estate has a wall around it. Barack Obama, the Clintons, Bernie Sanders as well as most other Democrats live behind tall barriers to keep out the riffraff. Are their walls an “immorality”? No sane person would make such a claim; therefore, Nancy Pelosi’s claim is either delusional or hypocritical.

The Bible talks about walls. In Bible times, walls presented the first line of defense for the city (they do today also). Entry into a walled city was through the city gates. Anyone having business within the city walls entered through the massive, heavy gates (the “ports of entry”). When the gates were closed, no one entered or left the city. When invading armies came against the city, they would have either to scale the heavily defended walls, break down the gates, or lay siege to the city. Conquering a walled city often took several years to accomplish. Those living in the unwalled villages were easy prey. If they could not escape to the protection of a nearby, fortified city, they fell victim to the enemy. Walls, for those protected by them, were moral, not immoral.

The Bible has 247 occurrences in 223 verses of “wall” or “walls.” When Israel entered the Promised Land, “All these cities were fenced with high walls, gates, and bars; beside unwalled towns a great many” (Deuteronomy 3:5). The first walled city they faced was Jericho, and it took an act of God to breach that wall.[4] David conquered the walled city of Jebus (Jerusalem)[5] by entering the city through a water conduit (“gutter”).[6], [7] Later, his son Solomon reinforced and expanded the walls of Jerusalem.[8] During his reign, Solomon fortified other cities throughout Israel.[9]

We have already seen that walls are not 100% effective; they can be penetrated,[10] and when a wall is broken down, it must be repaired.[11] Broken walls are distressing for those depending on them for protection,[12] and their restoration is cause for celebration.[13] For those inside, walls provide security.[14] For those outside, walls present an obstacle to overcome, and they are not appreciated.[15]

God approves of walls.[16] The idea of borders and nations was His in the first place.[17] God created the nations[18] and established their boundaries.[19] Borders are not offensive to God; neither is the defense of those borders; therefore walls are not “an immorality” as Speaker Pelosi proclaims. If anything, breaching a wall is immoral and cause for war – a war initiated by the invader. In the world in which we live, we need walls, and those walls must be respected.

One day soon, the need for walls will cease,[20] except for the wall around the New Jerusalem whose walls will exclude no one. That wall will serve to set that city apart as a very special place.[21] However, for the present, for everyone who names the name of Christ, no matter what national or ethnic origin, “… he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Ephesians 2:14). Outside of that, “Build the Wall!”

Notes:


[1]  “House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy reacts to President Trump’s latest comments on fixing the border crisis

[2]  Genesis 1:26-27

[3]  Genesis 3

[4]  Joshua 6

[5]  1 Chronicles 11:4

[6]  2 Samuel 5:8

[7]Did King David Conquer Jerusalem Using This Tunnel?

[8]  1 Kings 3:1

[9] 1 Kings 9:15; 2 Chronicles 8:5; 14:7

[10]  2 Chronicles 25:23; 26:6; 36:19

[11]  2 Chronicles 32:5; Jeremiah 52:14

[12]  Nehemiah 1:3; 2:17

[13]  Nehemiah 12:27, 30

[14] Psalm 122:7; Proverbs 18:11; 25:28; Ezekiel 38:11

[15]  Ezra 4:12-16; Nehemiah 4:3

[16]  Ezra 9:9; Psalm 51:18

[17]  Genesis 11:8-9

[18]  Genesis 10

[19]  Deuteronomy 32:8; Acts 17:26

[20]  Isaiah 26:1; 60:18; Zechariah 2:4-5

[21]  Revelation 21

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The Soul

Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)

My twice-brother and I engaged in a discussion a few nights ago concerning the meaning of “the soul.” What is the soul? Most people think of the soul as the spiritual essence of a person. The English dictionary seems to support that view:

noun

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. the disembodied spirit of a deceased personHe feared the soul of the deceased would haunt him.[1] et al. (emphasis mine)

Our English language (especially American English) has “evolved” considerably since the founding of the United States, so I thought it might be interesting to see how the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary defined “soul.” I found the following definition:

SOUL, n.

  1. The spiritual, rational and immortal substance in man, which distinguishes him from brutes; that part of man which enables him to think and reason, and which renders him a subject of moral government. The immortality of the soul is a fundamental article of the christian [sic] system. Such is the nature of the human soul that it must have a God, an object of supreme affection.
  2. The understanding; the intellectual principle. The eyes of our soul then only begin to see, when our bodily eye are closing.
  3. Vital principle. Thou son, of this great world both eye and soul.
  4. Spirit; essence; chief part; as charity, the soul of all the virtues. Emotion is the soul of eloquence.
  5. Life; animation principle or part; as, an able commander is the soul of an army.
  6. Internal power. There is some soul of goodness in things evil.
  7. A human being; a person. There was no a soul present. In Paris there are more than seven hundred thousand souls. London, Westminster, Southwark and the suburbs, are said to contain twelve hundred thousand souls.[2] et al. (emphasis mine)

The idea that the soul is the immaterial “substance” or “essence” that animates us enjoys a long history of support, but I think there is more to the soul than that. Normally, the first and second definition listed in a dictionary provides the general understanding of the word. However, in this case, I prefer the seventh definition provided by the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary. It basically says that “the soul” is a human being or a person, and I believe I can show scriptural support for that idea.

The best place to start is at the beginning. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). “God,” ‘ĕlôhı̂ym, is a plural noun. We understand God as Triune being – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – three persons (we say) in one “Godhead.” We simply say “God,” but we understand His Triune nature.

God created humans according to His image. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26-27, emphasis mine). All humans bear the “image of God” and share many of His attributes albeit without the “Omni” prefix. It follows that we too possess a triune nature (more on that later).

As we examine the creation account, we see that God created all living creatures by divine fiat, i.e., He spoke them into being. However, He took special care in creating man. “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” (Genesis 2:7, emphasis mine).

Humans and air-breathing animals possess the “breath of life.” The Hebrew word neshâmâh is defined as: “a puff, that is, wind, angry or vital breath, divine inspiration, intellect or (concretely) an animal: – blast, (that) breath (-eth), inspiration, soul, spirit.”[3] We see in Genesis 7:22 that animals possess the “breath of life.” That phrase is also found in Genesis 6:13 and 7:15, but the Hebrew word for “breath” there is rûach, which means: “wind; by resemblance breath, that is, a sensible (or even violent) exhalation; figuratively life, anger, unsubstantiality; by extension a region of the sky; by resemblance spirit, but only of a rational being (including its expression and functions): – air, anger, blast, breath, X cool, courage, mind, X quarter, X side, spirit ([-ual]), tempest, X vain, ([whirl-]) wind (-y).”[4] Both neshâmâh and rûach are similar in meaning, but the latter includes the idea of a “spirit.”

To further confuse matters, Genesis 2:7 says that “man became a living soul.” The word “soul” is the Hebrew nephesh, which is defined as: “a breathing creature, that is, animal or (abstractly) vitality; used very widely in a literal, accommodated or figurative sense (bodily or mental): – any, appetite, beast, body, breath, creature, X dead (-ly), desire, X [dis-] contented, X fish, ghost, + greedy, he, heart (-y), (hath, X jeopardy of) life (X in jeopardy), lust, man, me, mind, mortality, one, own, person, pleasure, (her-, him-, my-, thy-) self, them (your) -selves, + slay, soul, + tablet, they, thing, (X she) will, X would have it.”  It is not difficult to see that nephesh is related to neshâmâh in that both carry the aspect of “breathing.” However, nephesh includes the physical aspect of the creature.

Both man and animals possess a nephesh. The Hebrew word first appears in Genesis 1:20. “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” (emphasis mine). The Hebrew words translated “hath life” are nephesh chay (life), or “soul life.” Also, the following verse reads, “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:21, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “creature” is nephesh. I could give more examples, but I want you to stay with me on this.

We see that both man (humans) and animals have souls – nephesh. What differentiates a human soul from that of an animal is the way in which it was given. Recall earlier that God created animals by divine fiat. He also created them en masse. Man was unique. He created one human couple. He did not speak them into being as he did with the animals. He “formed” man – the Hebrew word yâtsar meaning to mold as a potter forms and shapes a clay vessel. Then God breathed into man His own breath “and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).

Looking back at the 1828 Webster’s definition of “soul,” the seventh definition becomes clear here. The clay figure on the ground came to life when God breathed into it, and he became a human being, a person, a living soul – made in the image of God, with a triune nature like his Maker.

So, what is the triune nature of man? As I see it, just as God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, man is mind, body, and spirit. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the God, or the Godhead if you prefer. The mind, body, and spirit is the soul. God has a physical body. That body is the Son, Jesus Christ. The other two “persons” of God are immaterial and invisible – the Father and the Holy Spirit. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18, emphasis mine). Likewise, the mind and spirit of the soul are immaterial and invisible, but the body reveals the soul. We have all heard the expression, “The eyes are the windows to the soul;” the eyes are physical, but they often reveal what is “inside.” In summary, the soul is the entire being or person, mind, body, and spirit.

We can know that the soul is more than some nebulous ethereal, intangible animator of our being by the consideration given “the soul” in Scripture. For example, when God called Abraham (Abram) out of his homeland, we read, “And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came” (Genesis 12:5, emphasis mine). Those “souls” (nephesh) were not disembodied spirits; they were people. When Abraham went down to Egypt he told Sarah (Sarai), “Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee” (Genesis 12:13, emphasis mine). Abram was not thinking of his “spirit being;” he wanted to save his own skin! That nephesh refers to the whole person is clearly demonstrated when Abraham went to rescue his nephew Lot from the marauding kings of the north. “And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself” (Genesis 14:21, emphasis mine). The word translated “persons” is the Hebrew word nephesh.

Another part of the nephesh is the “mind.” We find that example when Sarah died, and Abraham negotiated for a plot of land in which to bury her. “And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and intreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar” (Genesis 23:8, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “mind” is nephesh.

I could cite many more examples, but these should suffice. The point is that we do not have souls; we are souls. Each soul made in the image of God is a triune being with mind, body, and spirit. For a soul to exist, all three must be present. Take away any one of the three, and the soul (at least in this present life) ceases to exist. A soul is immortal; it exists forever. However, because of Adam’s sin in the Garden, the physical part dies even though the mind and spirit continue; the soul is incomplete. At the end of time, the mind, body, and spirit will reunite for eternity, but not all souls will enjoy the same destiny. Some souls will live eternally in the presence of God; other souls will exist eternally separated from God in hell. Soul, where will you spend eternity? If you have doubts, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Dictionary.com – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/soul

[2]  1828.mshaffer.com – https://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/soul

[3]   Strong’s Definitions: H5395

[4]   Strong’s Definitions: H7307

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Angels

There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. (Psalm 91:10-11)

I often get asked, “When did God create angels?” That is an understandable question since the Bible often speaks of angels. The word “angel” in Hebrew is mal’âk and aggelos in the Greek. In either language, the word means “messenger.” The English word “angel” appears 203 times in the Bible, and that does not account for the plural form or other terms that describe them.

The Bible names only three angels, Lucifer, Michael, and Gabriel. In the Old Testament, we read of “the angel of the Lord,” who is God Himself, the pre-incarnate Jesus. We know this because, in context, the “angel” speaks “as God,” not “for God.” Regular angels always deliver a message “from” God and give credit to God for the message – “thus saith the Lord.” The “angel of the Lord” always speaks as God. For example, the first appearance of the “angel of the Lord” is in Genesis 16, when Sarah cast out Hagar, and the “angel of the Lord” appears to her in the wilderness. “And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude” (Genesis 16:10, emphasis mine). A regular angel might have said, “The Lord will multiply thy seed,” but this angel assumes the responsibility. A regular angel cannot do that, but God can.

With all the mention of angels in the Bible – and if we believe the Bible is true – angels are real creatures. Since they are real, God created them, and if God created them, He must have created them some time during the creation week. The question is, when did He do that?

The Bible does not say when the angels were created. The Bible is “a love letter from God to man,” therefore it deals mostly with the relationship between God and His prized creation –mankind. While the Bible is accurate when it describes scientific facts (the water cycle, bird migration, cosmological phenomena, etc.) or records history, that is not its main purpose. Therefore not everything that God does is revealed to us. “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Angels were created to serve God’s purpose for man, and they mostly fight for us in “the unseen realm.” Only occasionally do they enter our dimension which is why the writer to the Hebrews encourages hospitality. “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).

However, the Bible does not focus on them too much probably to discourage the worship of them. “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind” (Colossians 2:18). In addition, man was created superior to the angels. “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?” (1 Corinthians 6:2-3, emphasis mine).

Therefore, we can understand why God did not include the creation of angels in the creation account. The Bible says, “For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:18). The earth was created for man, not for angels, and that is the focus of the creation account.

However, we can know that angels were created (they are immortal, not “eternal” in the same way as God is eternal) very early on in the creation. In God’s response to Job, He says, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7, emphasis mine). The “morning stars” and the “sons of God” is speaking of the angels. They were there to witness God’s creation. Therefore we can surmise that they were probably created on Day One or no later than Day Two, but the Bible does not say for certain. We can also surmise that Satan[1] (Lucifer) was among those angels when we read Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:11-19. I believe that the reason Satan hates humanity[2] so much is that he, having been created the greatest of the angels, observed God create man in His own image and give man dominion over all of His creation. In Texas, we would say, “That really chapped his hide.”

Man lost his former estate in the Garden of Eden, but the fact remains that God created man to be superior to the angels. His will is to redeem mankind from that fallen state, and He gave us His Word both in written form – the Bible – and in physical form – Jesus, the Word – to accomplish that end. Angels are not the main focus of the Bible.

Notes:


[1]  “Why Satan?” https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/11/02/why-satan/

[2]  “Marring the Image”  https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/05/24/marring-the-image/

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Merit-Based Salvation

For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:14)

There exists a common misconception among non-Christians and, sadly, even among some Christians, that when it comes time to meet our Maker that we can gain entrance into the celestial realm based on our merits. As our lead verse suggests, “God shall bring every work into judgment … whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” If challenged, those who hold that view almost always see themselves as better than most. They may admit to “small” sins like telling a “white lie” now and then, stealing a pack of gum, failing to correct a cashier when given too much change, or something equally innocuous. By their estimation, their “good” works will outweigh their “evil” works on the cosmic scales, and God will say, “Good enough!”

To some extent, it seems that the Bible teaches merit-based salvation. Our lead verse teaches that God looks at every work, both good and evil. Superficially, one may get the impression that He weighs the two – good on one side, evil on the other. First Peter 1:17 says that “the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work…” (emphasis mine). Indeed, at the end of time when Christ’s millennial reign on earth has ended, a scene unfolds where all who ever lived appear before the judgment seat of Christ. “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works” (Revelation 20:13).

It indeed appears that people will be judged according to their works. Should this be cause for hope for those counting on their own goodness? Taking a closer look at our leading verse, note that God scrutinizes “every work” and determines whether it is good or evil based on His standard of goodness. God made man in His image (Genesis 1:27), and for that reason, God deemed man “very good” (Genesis 1:31), but man messed that up in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Beginning with fig leaves (Genesis 3:7), man’s attempt at covering up his sin always falls short of the perfection he possessed before the Fall. Only perfection qualifies for entry into the presence of God. “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27, emphasis mine). Interestingly, I cannot find the word “sin” in the book of Revelation, but there are several synonyms: anything that defiles, whatever works abomination or makes a lie. All of that is sin, so whether one has a little sin or a lot of sin, one is disqualified from entering heaven.

The Great White Throne Judgment scene in Revelation sees “books” opened, and the “dead” judged by the content of the books “according to their works” (Revelation 20:12). Evidently, there are “ledger books” recording both the good and evil deeds of every person that has ever lived. Since NOTHING that defiles “shall in no wise enter,” no one qualifies. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one … For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23). However, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). There the guilty sinner stands before the Righteous Judge, “and another book was opened, which is the book of life … And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).

Reader, is your name written in the Book of Life? Do not think you are good enough – that your sins are minor compared to someone else. Only perfection gains entry into heaven and no one qualifies. However, there is a way. Please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

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