Life: What a journey – CHARLES CHISALA
A COUPLE of weeks ago a heated debate erupted among work mates at a certain work place in Lusaka over what happens to human beings when they die.
Do they go to heaven or hell, or simply sleep in their graves?
The argument was between a large group of about 12 and a lone female employee who quoted the Bible to support her position that the dead remain dead in their graves until the day of resurrection, at the end of time.
This argument has been raging in Christendom for ages, and is actually a contest between popular theology and Bible doctrine (what the Bible says).
A preacher told hundreds of mourners during burial rites to stop grieving because the departed one they were about to bury was already in heaven rejoicing in the presence of God and holy angels.
This was the misleading statement that later sparked the protracted argument and prompted me to write about the true state of the dead.
What does God, our Creator, say about the dead through His Word, the Bible?
For the next few episodes I will share with you the findings of one great United States Bible scholar, author and preacher, Mark A Finley, in his classic book ‘What The Bible Says About’ published by the Pacific Press Publishing Association.
Finley presents the common questions people ask about the dead, then allows the Bible to answer.
In chapter 18 under the sub-title ‘What the Bible says about death’ he begins with the creation of the first human being, Adam.
“What does the Bible teach about how we were created?” is the opening question.
“The Lord God formed man (Adam) of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7.
This statement is not only biblically sound, but scientifically right.
Scientists now know the chemical composition of our bodies. Physically, we are made up of the very elements found in the earth; we contain carbon, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and so on.
The Bible was not written to be a scientific text book, but it always tells the truth!
In creating Adam, the first man, God also used a second ingredient – “breath,” or “spirit”.
Please, note the marvellous result of God’s combination of these two ingredients: DUST + BREATH = LIVING BEING (MAN)!
(The reverse of this equation is DUST – BREATH = DEATH)
Instead of a “living being” the King James Version of the Bible says “a living soul”.
Note carefully what the Bible says – and just as importantly, what it does not say.
It says, “Man became a living soul.” It does not say, “Man has a soul” as if man is one thing and a soul is something separate that he possesses.
Man does not have a soul. Man is a soul, a living being, a person.
In fact the most accurate definition of the word soul is “person”, “being”, “life” or “creature”.
Once again note that man doesn’t have a person or soul. Man is a person or a being or a soul (emphasis supplied).
So it is theologically correct to say, “That poor soul is struggling along on a fixed income,” meaning, “That unfortunate person.”
A person is a soul. You are a soul.
In the Bible the word soul may also mean “life”. For instance, in Matthew 16:25, 26 Jesus taught, “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”
In writing this passage, Matthew wrote the Greek word psuche four times, but the translators twice rendered it “life” and twice as “soul”.
You can see for yourself that the two words are interchangeable. And you can see further that “life” is not something naturally and irrevocably ours.
We can lose it, for we are not inherently immortal.
We don’t have enough space to look at all the numerous examples that could be given to clarify the meanings of the word soul as used in the King James Version of the Bible, so let us look at only two.
In the Old Testament, the following texts all say “souls” were “destroyed” by “the edge of the sword”- Joshua 10:28-39; Joshua 11:11 (KJV)!
This means “persons” were killed – not some invisible “essence”, which a sword could harm.
In the New Testament Peter says “eight souls” were saved in Noah’s ark (see 1 Peter 3:20).
He means that eight people (not spirits) were saved – and modern Bible translations render it that way.
Death is very democratic – king and commoner, beasts and humans – all share the same fate: “All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to the dust” (Ecclesiastes 3:19, 20).
If God breathed the “breath of life”- not a soul – into Adam at creation, is it possible for the soul to die?
“Behold, all souls are Mine, the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4).
“The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 10:20).
Why did the Holy Spirit inspire Ezekiel to write these words (twice in one chapter!) if the pagan Greeks were right in asserting that the soul of man is “imperishable”?
Of course, the verse is problematic for those who believe in the immortal [undying] soul.
But God simply uses the word soul in the way we have just learned: A soul is a person, and if a person (not a spirit) sins, he or she will die.
Source: What the Bible Says About, by Mark A Finley.
Don’t miss the next piece as we explore immortality.
Remember the question: Are the dead really conscious as popular theology teaches?