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Do humans have a soul? What happens to human beings when they pass on? Can we confidently assert that the human soul is immortal? These are some of the fundamental questions that have attracted heated debate from time immemorial. This paper will address these questions from both the universal and the biblical perspectives.
The Biblical conception of Soul
The first book of the Bible, Genesis, clearly states that the first human couple (Adam and Eve) was created with an immortal soul. However, they threw away this precious gift when they sinned against God. As a result, God expelled them from the Garden of so that they could eat from the tree of life and regain their lost immortality. Since Adam and Eve were not allowed to regain their immortality from the tree of life, they eventually grew old and die.
This means that human beings do not have a soul that lives on after their demise. However, God has promised his obedient servants an immortal soul if they remain faithful to him. For example, the Bible contains several accounts of people who were brought back to life. These accounts demonstrate the unlimited powers that God has over death. According to the book of Romans, God condemned humans to death when Adam and Eve sinned against Him. Since we are discontents of the first couple, we must die in order to pay for their sins.
According to the Greeks soul is a transitory life of an individual. To them life is always transitory and never immortal or eternal. This is evident in the bible where most of the references are associated with the physical life and not an immortal soul. For instance, Acts 15:26 states that “Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
This clearly refers to the physical life and does not mention if humans could endanger their souls for standing up with Jesus Christ. Similarly, it is quoted in Revelation 12:11 that “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death”. This also refers to mortal lives that could perish.
Luke 12:18 confirms that human souls can pass on and that an individual soul is the same as the flesh. We have confirmed from the biblical verses that the human soul and the flesh are the same and they all die. However, one of the questions that linger in the mind of many is what happens to the soul at the time of death. Psalms 89:48 says “What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?” This clearly supports the idea that human souls are also buried like the flesh.
“Sheol” is a Hebrew word meaning grave. Job 33:22 states “thou hast brought up my soul from the grave thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit”. According to the Hebrews when a human soul goes into the pit hole, it is corrupted or decays. This is an additional evidence that the human soul is the same as the person. The new testament describes the death of Jesus Christ and his soul.
However, unlike other humans Christs did not stay in grave for long to decay instead he resurrected after three days. Acts 2:27 states, “Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption or decay.” This means that the soul of the Christ or the dead body was in the tomb (grave) which we are told no one had ever been previously buried. When the Christs resurrected his body was not found .
This clearly proves that the person and the soul are identical. When an individual is buried it is the person that goes to the grave (the body and the soul). Therefore, when we die our soul also dies.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 quotes “ You won’t do anything in the grave, whither thou goest”. This means that when a person is buried in their body (flesh and soul) have no other option but to decay. Psalms 94:17 say “Unless the lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence”. This verse explains that were it not for God’s help, even Christ s body could have decayed.
Universal Conception of Soul
In primordial times, many people believed that the human shadow represented immortal soul. To date, some primitive people still believe in the existence of an immortal soul. For example, the inhabitants of Greenland believed that the human shadow represented a soul that would appear during the day and disappear at night. What is more, some Native Americans claimed that the soul experienced dreams of a sleeping person.
As a result, the Natives forbade arousing a sleeping person suddenly because they believed that the soul of a sleeping person took more time to return to the body. On a similar note, it was forbidden to put a mask on the face of a sleeping person. The natives believed that the mask would prevent the soul from identifying the right body.
There are various perceptions of the soul. As noted above, some primitive societies believe that humans have several souls distributed in various parts of the body. For instance, illness is often described as soul-loss, which takes place when the evil spirits incarcerate it.
According to the teachings of Hinduism, the human soul (also known as Atman) undergoes re-embodiment until it attains sanitization and enters Nirvana. On the other hand, the Koran teaches that “God breathed the soul into the first human beings, and at death, the souls of the faithful are brought near to God.” On the contrary, Buddhism states that the human soul cannot live after death.
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Misconceptions of Immortal Soul
This section discusses reasons why some people deny the existence of an immortal soul. For instance, William Tyndale questioned the existence of an immortal soul by asserting that Jesus and Paul were able to bring back to life dead people. According to Tyndale, it defies logic to resurrect a dead person if his/her soul is already in heaven or hell. Martin Luther also opposed the idea of an immortal soul. According to him, the immortality of the soul is not part of the biblical teaching.
In a nutshell, God has unlimited powers to grant eternal life to humans. The misleading teachings regarding the intrinsic existence of an immortal soul have inflicted fear and confusion among many people since time immemorial. The fact is, when a person dies, the soul dies too.