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Biblical Anthropology III:

Soul versus Spirit, "Soul Sleep", and the Interim Body

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Question #1:

To Whom it may concern,

(No response is necessary).

Just wanted to drop a note and tell you how much I am enjoying reading articles from your ministry. I know that this has to be a difficult service to the LORD, but thank you for your dedication and sacrifice to doing GOD's work.

I teach a study school class of men who are 70 years and older. Your article on "soul sleeping" is helping me to refute one gentleman's stance on the matter, which is indeed hurting others in the class, who's wives have passed away over the last several months. There is a lot of tearful sorrow for those loved ones who are now with the LORD. Ever more so, since this particular gentleman has been promoting sleeping in the grave based primarily on 1 Thess. 4:13-17. Again, your comments and scriptural foundation have and will continue to assist me in the coming weeks as we discuss this matter in more detail.

To Him be the glory for ever and ever, Amen.

Your brother in Christ

Response #1:

Thanks for the encouragement, brother!

Since you mention "article", I'm pasting in here all the major "soul sleep" refutation links (in case you might have missed some):

Biblical Anthropology II: 'Soul sleep', & dichotomy vs. trichotomy

Sleep as a Euphemism for Death

"Soul Sleep" versus our true Heavenly State.

Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State.

The False Doctrine of Soul Sleep II

The false doctrine of "soul sleep".

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior, with whom we long to be,

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:

Good morning!

I've been in the CARM forums and searching for scripture. I was directed to you as a source of information about Sheol/Hades and The lake of fire. If you could please assist me with gathering information, I would greatly appreciate it.

My dilemma is I am studying with a neighbor of mine who is Jehovah witness I am Christian raised Baptist. Our views are extremely different I am discovering as we delve further into our bible study. She is a sweet person and as my close neighbor, I would like to see her understand God's words. At this point in time, we are researching the soul. As I believe we go to be with the Father when we die and she believes in soul sleep. But this week, we are going to research hell. Sheol, hades and the lake of fire.

Thank you for your time with this inquiry and I look forward to any information I can receive.

Response #2:

Good to make your acquaintance, and I want to commend you for your positive witness for the truth.

On "soul sleep", you might direct your neighbor's attention to the following verse:

"I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me."
2nd Peter 1:13-14 NIV

The fact that Peter sees his true "self" as distinct from this present body shows that while his body will "sleep", he "himself" will not (that is, his spirit went to be with the Lord and now abides in an interim "tent" awaiting the resurrection along with all other departed believers). The "soul sleep" doctrine finds the body as essentially bound to the "soul". That's another problem inasmuch as the "soul" is the whole person not a "ghost" nor an independent physical presence; rather, it is "us" (see the link: "The dichotomy of Man"). So the verse above is problematic in the extreme for that false view. We can clearly see Peter's living hope here: he will "put aside" this tent . . . and will soon tent with Lord instead.

I have quite a bit of material at Ichthys regarding this and the other subjects you ask about. Please consult the links below to get started:

The Lake of Fire

Literal Hell

The keys to death and Hades

Sleep as a Euphemism for Death

"Soul Sleep" versus our true Heavenly State.

Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State.

The False Doctrine of Soul Sleep II

The false doctrine of "soul sleep"

Also, do feel free to write me back if you have any specific questions or if you have any trouble finding anything.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior.

Question #3:

One more question regarding the interim body. You translated:

For we know that if our earthly tent-dwelling (i.e., our physical body) be struck, we have an abode [that comes] from God, a dwelling made without human agency, eternal in the heavens (i.e., the resurrection body). For indeed we do groan in this one, desiring to put on our habitation which comes from heaven. And [even] if we do put off this present one, at any rate, we (i.e., our spirits) will not be found naked (i.e., "body-less"; for we will enjoy an interim body in the meantime: cf. Lk.16:19-31; Rev.6:9-10; Rev.7:9-17).
2nd Corinthians 5:1-3

Could it not be that in the part of the verse you highlighted Paul is referring to the eternal body? He is referring to eternal body at the beginning of the chapter and even immediately before the emphasized portion, so I would like to understand why would such interpretation be incorrect.

Response #3:

Paul's statement here is absolute. He died a few decades after writing this verse. If there were no interim body, what he says here would not be true, for, in that case, he would have "put off" his first body but would have been at that time "naked" without an interim body – and would still be so to this very day since the resurrection has not yet occurred. Indeed, the only way this verse could be true and not be referring to an interim body would be if the resurrection had taken place shortly after writing and before any Christian died. One proof of the absolute nature of the statement is that Bible versions universally translate this verse so as to take this truth out – translating as if the Greek text were completely different from what it actually is; but if the statement could be easily taken as referring to the resurrection generally, no one would have had any problem with it and there would have been no reason to "monkey with the translation" to make it fit (false) presuppositions. Paul is promising us all here that after death we will "not be naked"; but if we did have to endure in a bodiless state for, in his case, thousands of years, this hope-inspiring promise would be invalid. For beyond all argument, Paul's use of the word "naked" here means "having no body". This is all quite apart from the fact that, theoretically speaking, God could care for our spirits in disembodied form and cause it to "make no difference" that there was no interim body. Paul doesn't say that. He says just the opposite, and quite clearly too in the Greek. He says what he says, moreover, because it is true, and because he knows that this will be a comfort to us all – at all times it seems there are people for whom the prospect of being a disembodied "spirit" or "ghost" is terrifying. As it is, God created human beings to be dichotomous, that is, to have a body and a spirit. And from the point of our creation to our eternal state we will ever be such, even if it falls to our lot to die before the resurrection. And the same is even true of unbelievers: "In Hades [the unbelieving rich man] lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom" (Lk.16:23 NASB). Spirits don't have eyes to lift up; spirits cannot experience torment. Bodies (of some sort) are necessary for both things (just for example).

Question #4:

Regarding the interim body, I think I got it. When reading this passage I overlooked the fact that resurrection body is given at resurrection only, and resurrection proceeds in a sequence that I asked you about (1 Corinthians 15:23, etc.). So if Paul refers to periods other than those when resurrection takes place, and on the other hand "we will not be found naked", interim body becomes the only explanation.

Response #4:

Yes. Paul is speaking of the possibility of those who die "now", i.e., before the resurrection. All such (including Paul himself) "will not be found naked", meaning, become disembodied spirits. God made us to be of two parts, body and spirit, from the beginning to the end, and there is no point at which any human being ever has been or ever will be anything else than a spirit in a body.

Question #5:

Dear Robert

I am sitting here listening to my mothers last breaths. It is such a horrible thing to watch and wait as a loved one is dying. I have been distracting myself by reading some of your latest emails. Thank you. I do so enjoy the knowledge you share with us.

I am as sure as one can be of another person, that my mom is saved. I feel like she will soon be in the presence of our Lord. I am just shocked that such a good Christian woman would be allowed to suffer so much. I was praying about that earlier and realized that many good saints of the bible must have also had painful deaths. Tops of course would be Jesus himself but also many of the disciples. I feel bad that my thought are of questioning God for allowing this. I am the clay questioning the potter.

I am wondering about ghost. I am sure "ghost" would be separated into 2 categories, the saved and the damned. The saved are with the Lord. I'm not positive where the damned are, either in a temporary sleep or in hades. Can either of them visit us? Do the evil dead haunt houses? Do our saved loved ones "watch" over us. I am remembering in Revelation the part where the martyrs of the saints and the questions to the Lord of how much longer. Was that from the angels of the dead saints? Please shed some light on this for me when you can.

Thank you

Response #5:

I am sorry to hear about your mother, and pray that her last times may be eased in the mercy of Jesus Christ. I also pray for your comfort and encouragement in these difficult times. I myself draw great encouragement from you steadfastness in this trial. Indeed, the whole point of advanced testing is to put us in positions where what we thought would happen, and what "ought" to happen goes differently than our expectations: this is a very good way the Lord has of showing who really has faith and who does not, who needs to work on his/her faith, and whose faith really is of superior mettle. Abraham would have been forgiven by us for questioning the Lord's command to sacrifice his one and only son, especially since the Lord had told him in no uncertain terms that Isaac would carry the seed of promise. But even though things must have seemed to be going terribly and unexplainably wrong, Abraham trusted that the Lord knew what He was doing and would work it out in the end. That is faith! And what faith! Job, one of the greatest believers of all time, did not quite "get" that there were things going on "above his pay-grade" to which he was not privy. Great faith understands that, accepts that, and trusts the Lord, His character and His promises, no matter what is happening. Great faith, faith like that of Abraham, needs only know the answer to the question, "Lord, what would you have me do?"

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, "In Isaac your seed shall be called," concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.
Hebrews 11:17-19 NKJV

On your question, the word "ghost" is an English word of Germanic extraction. The only reason it occurs at all in the context of biblical discussions is as an anachronism from the KJV translation of the Bible. Some of the scholars who did the work preferred the more earthy and common word "ghost" (harkening back to even earlier English translation) to the Latin derived word "spirit" (which is why in the KJV the third person of the Trinity is sometimes referred to as the "Holy Spirit", sometimes as the "Holy Ghost"). This is a long way to say that a "ghost", in biblical terms, is a "spirit" – these are just different ways of translating the Greek word pneuma (and the Hebrew word, ruach). Of course in contemporary American English, the word "ghost" has all sorts of connotations based upon popular mythology, none of which have anything to do with the Bible.

In truth, there are only two kinds of spirits: 1) all angels are spirits; 2) all human beings have spirits. That is the essential difference between us: we human beings have physical bodies in addition to our "human spirit".

Angels, elect and fallen, move about this world unseen all the time; what we may know about them and their activities from investigating scripture is written up at Ichthys in a variety of places, but here are two of the main links: "BB 2A: Angelology" and "The Nature of Angels". Angels, while not insubstantial, are not corporeal. Human beings, on the other hand, were specifically designed by God to have both a spirit and a body – and thus we ever will have. The human spirit is placed into each of us at the point of birth, created then and there by the Lord (that is when "we" are created and begin to exist as persons made in the image of God). From that point forward, our spirit will never be "naked".

After death, all human beings receive an interim body (see the link: "Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State"). Unbelievers, spirit and new temporary body, are placed in torments below the earth; believers go to be with the Lord in the third heaven, and enjoy a temporary body as the "house" or "clothing" for their spirit. At the resurrection, believers receive a new, perfect, eternal body, like in every way unto that of our Lord's resurrection body; at the last judgment, unbelievers are given a permanent body too, but will be cast into the lake of fire. As a believer, when she departs, your mother will find herself face to face with the Lord in all His glory and amid all the wonders of the third heaven, waiting in peace and happiness, as we all wait, for the Lord's return and the resurrection of the Church. Please see the links:

The Resurrection

The Resurrection of the Lamb's Bride

The Last Judgment

The Interim Body

There are no such thing as "ghosts" such as the popular culture imagines; there are no hauntings, nor any apparitions nor any such thing. Anything along these lines which actually does happen or is seen to happen would have to be the activity of demonic agents playing upon the superstitions of the unbelieving world. Even here, however, given the propensity of the human mind for self-delusion, run-away imagining, and mendacity, I would not give credence to any such thing I had not seen with my own eyes – and even then I would discount it as merely the disgusting work of the evil one to which any prudent believer will always give a very wide berth. Please see the links:

Demon Influences

Demon activity in the world

Angelic Issues III: Demons, Satan, Elders, Female Angels and Guardians

"Satan's World System: Tactical Methodology" (in SR 4)

May the Lord work things out for your for the absolute good in His mercy and grace.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Thank you for explaining Hebrews 10:26 to me Bob, and I'm sorry I haven't responded in a while. I've been very busy with work and school. I see what your saying here. So basically what's impossible is for the author preacher or congregation to restore those who are participating in animal sacrifice to a godly attitude which makes repentance possible because they were not trusting in Christ's sacrifice and in actuality were denying him. And if they persistently bear thorns and thistles they to will be burned right? I really think I understand it now that I've been seeking God and have been seeing fruit in my life. A guy who I used to work with who did not believe in God just showed up today and told me he started going to church and said that I had a big influence on him, which has brought some joy into my heart. I'm starting to struggle less and less with this issue but the devil loves to twist scripture. I love how you said God forgives which really brings me comfort.

I hope I don't sound crazy but one of the things bothering is the idea that past bad decisions mean a person has "sold his soul". Although I can't find any biblical evidence for this, I always hear artist and musicians say that they sold their soul and this worries me. What are your thoughts on this?

Response #6:

You're very welcome.

Yes, on Hebrews 10:26, I think you have this about right. If a person is committing any sort of sin, there can't be any forgiveness or true restoration while the person is in the act of sinning and has no intention of giving up whatever the offensive practice may be. If a Christian perseveres in sinfulness without repentance, without confession, and without a change of behavior, no good will come of his/her rebellion. Whether the result is apostasy or the sin unto death or "just" loss of potential reward, in any case the person will have wasted his/her life (and in extreme cases where faith is lost, loss of life eternal as well).

As to "selling one's soul", I can only say that the evil one is always happy to embrace cultural mis-perceptions and mis-representations of the truth and to spread them around for his own benefit. Whenever we as Christians allow ourselves to give into guilt instead of sticking with what we know and believe from scripture, we can be manipulated into all sorts of wrong thoughts and mis-applications.

The "soul" is a biblical term (really a problematic English translation of several biblical terms; see the link) which stands for person and, even more frequently, for the inner person, or the heart – the "person inside". In its true biblical sense, the "soul" is you or I, not a "piece" or a "part" of you or I. Human beings have a body and a spirit. That is how we are created when God gives the body life at birth, and from that moment forward that is how we shall always be. And that is true even for unbelievers who reject God and embrace this world and its ruler. They too will be resurrected, but to a resurrection of death rather than of life. They too will always have a body with a spirit, but in the case of the lost, their portion will be in the lake of fire, not in the New Jerusalem with us who believe. A long way of saying that, no, you cannot "sell your soul". Jesus Christ paid the entire price for us by dying for our sins, and through faith in Him we fully possess that "redemption" (see the link). The only thing a believer can do to change his/her eternal status is to abandon faith in Jesus Christ, stop being a believer in Him and a follower of Him. Short of that, it is fair to say that most Christians today are "selling their birthright for a mess of pottage" as Esau did by preferring this world and charlatanism to the truth of the Word of God and genuine spiritual growth through attention to the truth honestly taught. Only in the case of the latter is there hope for a good reward and a good report before our dear Lord on that blessed day to come (see the link).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:


Thank you for your response to my last email. Is it a fair question to consider the following? God knows how many angels fell with Satan and Satan knows how many angels fell with him. So, the only ones who don't know are Adam & Even and their descendants (human beings) on this earth? This conclusion leads me to your statement - Man created to replace Satan and his angels. If this is true, it gives cause for me to believe why the devil wants to destroy mankind and quickly (he hath but a short time - god of this age).

1) To gather souls for his army? (Satan gathered a big amount at the flood) since Adam - humans born 100,000,000 died to now.

2) What is the value of the (human) soul & its (unknown) power? Adam knew, but angels were created 'higher' maybe they knew more?

3) The evil dark cloud over man's intelligence keeps him dependent & ignorant of the power 'to be 'known' - oida ?

4) The Day of The Lord - 2/1 for Christ; The War in heaven - loss 2/1 only a third with Satan. (God does not create in vain Isa 45:18 ; but the descendants of Adam were born Psalm 127:1)

5) If the devil gives his power to the beast and the beast gives that power to the human race, possible? (Who can stand against him? - this is the faith question for those in the valley of the shadow of death)

Your thoughts?

Response #7:

I don't see any biblical evidence for any desire on the devil's part to "gather souls" or "buy souls". He doesn't have the capability of affecting the human spirit (which is the immaterial part of man – the "soul" is the inner person and not a "thing" in and of itself; please see the link: "The Dichotomy of Mankind"). The devil is interested in destroying us, and he certainly has the ability to do so; what he does not have is God's permission, and God is fully capable of restraining Satan (as He has done from the beginning to the present moment and will to the end). Being unable to accomplish what he desires through brute force, the devil uses other means (covered in part 4 of the Satanic Rebellion series: "Satan's World System"). These alternative measures revolve around his system of lies through which he entices and deceives most of the human race. The Tribulation and the rise of antichrist to worldwide power will the closest Satan comes to achieving his object of eliminating faith from the earth, but even so there will be a remnant of the faithful who survive to see the Lord return.

I hope this is a start to your series of questions here; they seem to be progressive, but my quibbles have to do with the start of the progression and thus affect the whole. Please do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hello Dr Luginbill, hope all is going well. I was doing some bible studying and have been wondering if there is any difference between soul and spirit. I took notice of Hebrews 4:12 and 1 Thess.5:23 and I'd like to know your thoughts on the matter, and how we could know which is which if they are not one in the same?

Response #8:

Hello Friend,

There is a large difference. The spirit is an actual entity; the soul is not a "something" with an independent existence. Theologically speaking, human beings are "dichotomous"; that is to say, since the moment of birth when the Lord gives us life we are composed of a physical body and a human spirit. As long as the spirit resides in our body the body lives; when it departs, we "die" – although there is never any actual death as the human eye perceives it. The physical body can be described as "sleeping" after death and will remain in that posture until it is resurrected. But that is not the case for our human spirit which is taken to heaven to be with the Lord immediately after physical death. So even after the death of the physical body there is an interim existence (of our spirit in an interim body; see the link) in heaven with the Lord for believers (and in torments for unbelievers), and an eventual resurrection where spirit and eternal body are united forever.

The word "soul" is the standard English translation for the Hebrew word nephesh and its Greek counterpart psyche. These words represent the whole "living person" formed by the combination of our two discrete parts, body and spirit. Sometimes this "person" is viewed from the standpoint of stand-alone individuality, as in "nary a soul was stirring" – and it is not uncommon to find that the word "person" in many versions represents one of the two words above, nephesh or psyche. More often, however, the words often translated "soul" represent the living person from the standpoint of our inner life. When such is the case, the word "heart" or "mind" is often a good alternative translation to help us see what is meant. As human beings on this earth, we cannot think or feel or decide or consider or even believe without both a body and a spirit; the psyche or nephesh is where these two essential parts interface inside us in the emotional/mental "heart" or "mind" or "soul". There are many faulty theologies out there which wish to make the soul a tertium quid or third part, some sort of separate "organ" or intangible entity, but this will not stand the test of scripture (and is most often generated by the ambiguous nature of the English word "soul", a questionable if traditional translation for the Greek and Hebrew words in question).

As to the two passages you ask about, these are two of the main ones "Trichotomists" proffer as proof of the independent existence of the soul. The fact that out of literally hundreds of occurrences in both testaments there are only a couple of passages which even suggest on first glance that the soul might anything more than a word which is a synonym for the heart or representation of the "whole person" is revealing. Here is the first occurrence in scripture:

And the Lord God formed the man (i.e., Adam's body) from the dust of the ground, then blew into his nostrils the life-giving breath (i.e., his spirit), and [thus] the man became a living person (nephesh chayah).
Genesis 2:7

The man became a "nephesh" – i.e., he did not acquire a "soul", but rather he became a "living soul", that is, a "living person".

May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1st Thessalonians 5:23b NIV

This passage does not say nor does it teach that the three are separate and discrete entities; rather it is a way of expressing the person in his/her totality for emphasis. Consider:

So he answered and said, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.' "
Luke 10:27 NKJV

The heart and the soul are clearly synonyms here, as is the mind, and "strength" overlaps them all in expressing the determination of our will emanating from our inner person (clearly including our body as well). Just as we should not imagine from the second passage that "strength" is a separate entity which hovers independently within us, so it is with the "soul" in the previous verse. The fact of listing three things together in the sort of exhortation we find in 1st Thessalonians 5:23 is not meant to be taken to mean that everything on the list is identical in terms of its rank or level of independence. All of the items on both of these two lists do speak about "us", who we "are", and both verses express the totality of the "us" we are to devote to the Lord. But while we might be able to posit based on either verses that the "soul" has something to do with the inner us, one certainly cannot conclude on this evidence alone that the "soul" is independent of the spirit or the body – it is not. "Soul" is the whole person in an individuating context (the combination of spirit and body); in an anthropological context such as the above it refers to the inner person, the heart, where the spirit and body come together to produce the inner life and thought of each person.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12 NIV

The above passage is actually a good demonstration of what we have been discussing, rightly considered. The "joints and the marrow" are two things that, while closely associated (i.e., bones contain marrow and are connected by joints), are really not seen as easily split or separated (especially in first century when this was written), but rather as closely related and virtually part one of another. That is the point. The Word of God is so sharp that it can even split things which in human experience are not "split-able". That is true of bones and marrow; that is also true of spirit and soul. Since the spirit resides in the body and forms the "soul/heart/mind" in combination with the body, splitting these two apart to see the difference is something no person could ever do. But the Word of God can. Through the Word we understand that there is a pure incorruptible spirit within us but that our inner persons, our "hearts/souls", are ever under pressure from the other side of the union of the two parts of which we consist, namely, the flesh, and for this reason, namely, being partly flesh, are neither pure nor incorruptible (sadly, quite the opposite). That is why "souls" cannot be saved . . . but "lives" (the real meaning of the word nephesh/psyche/soul in such contexts as 1Pet.1:9) can be:

Hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.
1st Corinthians 5:5 NIV

The spirit is the eternal "us" inside; this is what is saved, namely, the true, essential inner us, untainted by this present flesh which will soon pass away to be replaced by that which is truly incorruptible.

Here are a few links if you wish to pursue this further:

The Creation of Man

Is the Soul a tertium quid?

Dichotomy versus Trichotomy

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #9:

First question: If the Spirit that was given to us from birth and while living on earth is returned to heaven at physical death, then what happens to our soul (heart and mind)?

Second question: what is the difference between our spirit and soul? Or in another way, what constitutes our spirit, that is different from our soul?

Third question: In heaven at the return of Christ, does our soul, or spirit or both possess a new body?


Response #9:

Good to make your acquaintance. Inasmuch as I have written about these matters extensively, I will give you only the "nutshell" answers here, and will at the end of this email direct you to the links where you will be able to find the details:

1) In spite of contemporary English usage, in the Bible the word "soul" (aka heart/mind/inner man) is "us", that is, our "person"; so on the one hand it is not a "thing" separate of our body and spirit, and on the other hand it cannot truly cease to exist because we will never cease to exist; it has no independent existence outside of "us" (body and spirit) because it is "us" (that is to say, another word for "us", at least in scripture). Human beings were created "body and spirit" and thus they/we shall ever be. At death, we receive an interim body, and that situation endures until the resurrection when we will receive the eternal "home" for our spirit.

2) The spirit is the immaterial part of each human being which, together with the material part, constitutes "us". But while the body undergoes (in most cases) three iterations (the corrupt earthly body, followed by the interim body, and finally the resurrection body), the spirit remains the same from the point of creation unto all eternity, regardless of where we choose to spend that eternity. The "soul" is not truly a "thing", at least not in the Bible; in translations of the scripture the words psyche (Greek NT) and nephesh (Hebrew OT) are, unfortunately (because of misconceptions about this word in our language) often translated "soul" – but not nearly always so in any version. Moreover, wherever the word "soul" is found in scripture, the words "life", "person", "heart" or "inner person" can often be substituted to better effect – because that is what the "soul" is in terms of what the words in the Bible mean which are translated as "soul" in many versions. You see, the problem of potential confusion is with the English language not with the Greek or the Hebrew texts of the Bible. I am aware that people use the word "soul" to mean (among other things) the "ghost" or immaterial part of a person; that is fine – it is just that this is not what the words psyche/nephesh mean in the Bible. We would not have the problem if biblical translators resisted the temptation to use the word "soul" when it clearly does not mean in scripture what contemporary English speakers often use it to mean.

3) In heaven before Christ's return, departed believers exist in "interim" bodies (see the link); at His return, the Church is resurrected into eternal "resurrection" bodies. Unbelievers are not resurrected until the end of human history in order to face the "last judgment"; until then they are in "interim" state, albeit in Torments rather than in heaven.

Here are the links where these questions and all related aspects are discussed in great detail (after reading, do feel free to write me back about any of the above):

Biblical Anthropology I: The Nature of Human Beings and Human Life according to the Bible.

Biblical Anthropology II: 'Soul sleep', & dichotomy vs. trichotomy

Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State

BB3A: Biblical Anthropology:  The Biblical Study of Man

The Last Judgment (in CT 6)

The Resurrection of the Lamb's Bride (in CT5

Peter #20:  The Resurrection

Is the Soul a tertium quid?

Life Begins at Birth

The Nature of Life after Death.

Is the Nature of Man Trichotomous?

Is the Nature of Man Trichotomous II?

Spiritual Rebirth (in BB 4B)

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #10:

First of all, thank you for your quick response. Even though I'm a follower of Christ and a Truth-seeker I think in terms of engineering and scientific terms; i.e. I can model 'things.' I seem to completely understand the first part of your point #1 concerning the soul. In looking at scripture I did derive that our soul is essentially the heart (inner part) along with memory, and the the mind as the outer-part and exposed to the brain and physical body. The last part threw me a bit as you just spoke about the soul and then suddenly speak of us being made of spirit and body, without continuing where the soul is in relationship to the spirit and body. Then you speak of an interim body, again without the soul relationship and even the spirit relationship with this interim body.

Your point #2 is confusing as well. The spirit is the immaterial part of each human being ... so, is the soul and the interim body also immaterial parts? I guess they cannot be material parts? and the material parts are what then? The spirit remains the 'same' ... and then what happens to the soul then? Does it somehow disappear or get replaced by the spirit (and who owns this spirit) in a new body?

As you can see I still have questions.

My questions still are these:

1. Is this spirit of life given by God the same spirit of God that is given to all living creatures and returned to God upon physical death?

2. Is there another spirit of God given to mankind only that stays with the soul upon physical death? and if true, then what parts of 'us' stays intact..our soul only and this spirit returns? ... with a body ... without any spirit?

Up to this point in my research, I can conclude and say that 'we' our soul, becomes dormant in 'storage' upon death with no power of the spirit to energize it. Once the resurrection event occurs, the soul is connect again to the spirit of God in a 'new' body. Since no sense of time occurs while in suspension, our soul, spirt of God and new body, intertwine as part of the the resurrection event that seems to occur instantaneously. As Paul wrote, once we die we will be with the Lord, even though during the earth time clock hundreds or even thousands of years could have elapsed.

Thank you

Response #10:

You are very welcome. Apologies if I have not made myself clear. To address your issues:

a) In biblical usage (as opposed to contemporary English usage), the "soul" is not a separate "thing" but is merely a word used to express the totality of the person and/or often specifically the inner life of the person. The "soul" is thus "me", as a whole, either a "living person" (Gen.2:7), or my inner thinking/emoting as an expression of my whole person. God made us to be a spiritual part (the spirit) ever housed in a physical part (the body, whether original, interim, or eternal). Thus we will ever be "a person" individually, and in that sense there will always be a "soul" – simply because in Bible-terms the "soul" is merely a word used to summarize the whole person who has the ability to think, choose and emote.

b) The body is material (whether earthly or interim or eternal). The spirit is immaterial. "Soul" is what results from the fusion of the two – i.e., the coming into being of a "living person" who has an "inner thought life". We are each a "person" (or "soul"); we each have a body and a spirit.

1) Yes, it is essentially the same. The main difference between us and the animals is that we have "the image of God" (see the link), while they do not. We have the ability (and necessity) of choosing in a moral sense; they do not.

2) The human spirit is indestructible. Once God creates it, it exists for all eternity. This present body is temporary as is the interim body; the body with which we shall be resurrected, however, is eternal, just like the spirit. Human beings are designed and created by God to be "dichotomous", that is, possessing both a spirit and a body, and will always be so. That is to say, we will never be "bodiless" or "disembodied" but our spirit will always be "housed" in a body of one type of these three types. Therefore we will always be "us"; the only difference is that for believers the interim state is "better" while the eternal state is "best"; however for unbelievers the interim state is "worse" and the eternal state is "worst". But in each and every case, every "soul", that is, every person, whom God has ever created will always consist of two parts, body and spirit, and yet will be an absolutely perfect unity, a "living person", or, I hesitate to say because of the confusion, a "soul/individual", who has life, existence, identity, an inner life, and the ability to choose.

As to your last paragraph, as you can (I hope) tell from the above I would have to disagree with pretty much everything here: the main two points are that 1) there is no "dormancy" ever of the "person" or "soul" once God creates a spirit and places it into a body to produce a "living being / living soul / living person"; and 2) the "soul" is not a separate "thing"; it is not an entity with a separate existence; it is not a tertium quid; it is not a "something" capable of independent functioning – this is all to completely misunderstand what the word "soul" (i.e., nephesh and psyche) means in the Bible. You are certainly to be forgiven for thinking along these lines inasmuch as that is precisely how contemporary society envisions that word, and also because even most Christians are confused on this issue. However, it is wrong to think of "the soul" as some sort of ghost or shade or shadow or any sort of tangible thing; rather "soul" is the word the Bible uses to express the whole living person, often with reference to the person's inner life since, in biblical terms, that is where the "fight" is really going on as we all make choices day by day and step by step which determine our eternal future and, once we have believed, our eternal rewards.

I really do think that the links provided will be helpful in sorting these things out for you, and as I mentioned before I am only giving a very brief overview in these emails with the expectation that the more detailed studies will be accessed for further illumination.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:

I like this response much better sir. I appreciate your time you have spent to expand and break this subject out more clearly for me.

I have tried to make the soul as a separate 'thing' because many believe the mind is in the brain. I believe it is beyond the physical and is part of the soul as invisible energy.

In essence then, the 'us' =soul = expression of the spirit (heart +mind) + the vessel -body.

One more question sir, and you may have this answer in your links. It is this: What does it mean then that we 'sleep' when we meet death and our soul is changed into an interim spiritual body?


Response #11:

Glad to hear it. I agree with your synopsis in most respects.

On your additional question, there is no such thing as "death sleep" or "soul sleep". When the Bible speaks in those terms it is using a metaphor to express things from our earthly point of view. That is to say, when a person dies, the Bible and people in the Bible sometimes do use "sleep" to describe death – and for obvious reasons – but that description applies only to the mortal body. Everyone can see that a dead body resembles a person being asleep, and without divine revelation, human beings would have no idea what happens to the "person" him/herself after this first body dies (e.g., Eccl.3:21). Blessedly, we have plenty of scripture to assure us that far from being "dead" in the sense of going out of existence, permanently or even temporarily, all believers who pass from this world are alive to God, for He is "God of the living" and "all live to Him" (Lk.20:38). So a person is "dead" only from the worldly point of view. After death, every human being is conscious and in an interim body (at present; our Lord Jesus being the only exception as the first to be resurrected in His humanity); no one is "asleep". In terms of the particulars we have been discussing, the situation for all the departed is precisely the same as it is for us. They can think and speak and act; they have emotions and thoughts, and they express them verbally and in actions. Only the environment has changed – dramatically: the spirit and the interim state which the body is in (in heaven) is much better for believers than anything on this earth; unbelievers are in Torments, by contrast, awaiting the last judgment, but the continuation of their essential "humanness" is clear from our Lord's description of the rich man in Hades (Lk.16:19-31).

Finally, I would not like to phrase it this way: "when our soul is changed into an interim spiritual body", because 1) we are changed (the word "soul" just means "we / our persons"); 2) the body changes but the spirit, the real essential "us" on the inside, always remains exactly the same – we will always be who we are; 3) the interim body is not "spiritual"; Paul does use that word in reference to the resurrection body when he discusses it at length in 1st Corinthians chapter 15, but what he means by this is not "something somehow immaterial" or "something less material than what we have now" (as I point out at the following link, these terms are somewhat misleading and not precisely representative of what scripture means in any case: "The Nature of Angels"). What Paul means in that context by "spiritual body" is "a body perfectly in tune with the spirit" as opposed to "the present corrupt body which is more in tune with the mortal world we now see than the perfect one to come".

Here are some additional links which address the question of the false doctrine of "soul sleep":

The False Doctrine of 'Soul Sleep'

Sleep as a Euphemism for Death

Biblical Anthropology II: 'Soul sleep', & dichotomy vs. trichotomy

Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State.

The False Doctrine of Soul Sleep II

'Soul Sleep' versus our true Heavenly State

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

I hope all is well with you and that your school year is going well! I have certainly come a long way since we last talked thanks to God's hand over my overactive mind. I still manage to have questions though and hope you could help me with this one. My question is about Matthew 16:26 and was wondering if this refers to unsaved man or if it applies to all? If a Christian tries to gain the world though they are saved, will they lose their soul? I recently read a bible study on this and it said if a Christian decides to gain the world that they forfeit their salvation which didn't sound right to me. I feel we should set our priorities differently obviously but for those who try to do both I wouldn't say lose their salvation. I dunno, can you clarify this? I need to add this to my repertoire of tricky verses to interpret correctly. It's hard to understand if some verses are referring to Christians, unsaved man, or both. Are there certain key words to look for when interpreting the target audience? I recently dialogued with a lordship salvationist recently and this was brought up ... man, was that a bad experience! It saddens me sometimes how divided the church is and how some verses can be interpreted to a certain agenda. It's just crazy! Any info would be great!


Response #12:

Good to hear from you. I am very pleased to learn that your first year goes well – I'm keeping you in my prayers.

As to your question, here is one rendering of the verse to consider:

For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?
Matthew 16:26 RSV

This verse is a good example of why substantive Bible teaching is important. Most versions do have, as you report, the word "soul" where the RSV (also the ASV) have the word "life". I much prefer "life", because that is really what the Hebrew and Greek words nephesh and psyche respectively mean here. Few English translations have caused as much trouble for biblical interpretation and for the understanding of the truths of scripture than the use of the word "soul", and I have had occasion to have to write about this issue very often (please see the links: "What is the 'soul'?", "Is the Soul a tertium quid?", and "The Creation of Man"). For while it is true that in contemporary English usage the "soul" is the "ghost" or immaterial part of the human being, in the Bible that is the spirit (or as I usually term it the "human spirit"). Wherever one finds the word "soul" in the Bible, what is being referred to is actually not a discrete immaterial thing with independent existence; in the Bible, a "soul" is a "person" or an "inner person" or "the heart", namely, the "us" that is formed by God's placing of the spirit in the body.

And the Lord God formed the man (i.e., Adam's body) from the dust of the ground, then blew into his nostrils the life-giving breath (i.e., his spirit), and [thus] the man became a living person (nephesh "soul" = individual composed of spirit and body).
Genesis 2:7

That is why "life" is often a good translation for "soul", as in the case of Matthew 16:26. No one can lose their spirit. Once God creates a spirit, that spirit will exist forever. For human beings the key question is "where?", and the answer depends upon a person's attitude toward Jesus Christ. All believers are saved. All unbelievers are lost. If a believer does not persist in faith but apostatizes and becomes an unbeliever, that person is lost because all unbelievers are lost. If an unbeliever does not persist in disbelief but comes instead to saving faith, that person is saved because all believers are saved (see the links: "False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security I", "False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security II", and "False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security III").

So even if some of the branches have been broken off, and you, wild olive branch that you are, have been grafted into their place and have become a partaker of the rich root of the natural olive tree, don't boast over those branches. For if you boast, [remember] that you don't support the root, but the root supports you. Now someone may say "Branches have been broken off for me to be grafted in." True enough. They were broken off because of their unbelief, and you stand secure because of your faith. But don't think arrogant thoughts. Rather, have a care. For if God didn't spare the natural branches, He will not spare you either. So consider God's mercy and severity. For He is severe towards those who have fallen away, but merciful towards you – if, that is, you continue in that mercy. But if you don't, you too will be cut off. And if they don't continue in their unbelief, they will be grafted back in.
Romans 11:17-23a

Seen in its proper context and with a proper interpretation of the word psyche, therefore, Matthew 16:26 fits perfectly with all the other truths of scripture. There is nothing in this life which will compensate a person for dying unsaved as that will result in condemnation, the "second death", the loss of life eternal. And there is nothing a person can "give God" as a ransom to make up for their status of spiritual death at present – only Christ's sacrifice will do; but if a person has rejected Jesus, "there is no other sacrifice for sin" to be had or to be made (Heb.10:26). Our Lord is paraphrasing here a similar point made by the Psalmist:

No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—so that they should live on forever and not see decay. For all can see that the wise die, that the foolish and the senseless also perish, leaving their wealth to others.
Psalm 49:7-10 NIV

Loss of life means loss of everything and God accepts no human ransom so that even possessing the entire world would not suffice for "bargaining with God" – but He has provided the redemption price for us, the blood of Christ (if we are only willing to accept that greatest Gift through faith).

Please do feel free to write back about any of the above.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

Thanks for your fast response! Also, thank you for keeping me in your prayers, everything has been much better but I can see how people get sucked into legalism now which is what I've determined I've been fighting with. I used to look at my "works" everyday to see if I was "in the faith" and would get frightened because I'd realize that I shouldn't be doing this or that and it just turned into a laundry list. I never struggled with that before but now I just tell myself, Christ did it all, don't get stuck into legalism because no matter what you do to make yourself "more Christian", won't work because Christ did it all and there's nothing we can add to it. It's like mental slavery, I can't really explain it and just can't believe I got sucked into this. It has been so much better though, I'm not constantly thinking about it plus it helps to actually talk to people (like you) who understand the scriptures in the correct context rather than driving people into manic legalistic fears. So the verse I am still a little confused about. "Life" is what I thought was the correct way to translate here because soul in this context contradicts other teachings of security for the believer. What I'm curious about are Christians who seem like they have "gained the world", like Christian celebrities, politicians, etc. The guy I was arguing with says because of their "works" or their professions, that they couldn't possibly be Christians because they have "gained the world" by being rich and famous and have power plus they act contradictory to their faith (which all of us do at certain times to some degree). I said basically that's not true. A Christian is saved regardless of what they do even if they are rich and "gain the world". They probably could use their wealth and status to further God's kingdom but on the outside they don't, who knows their inward struggles? Then he brought up the whole faith without works is dead thing and I tried to explain that it has nothing to do with salvation but I guess there is no rationalizing with them ... I dunno. Some of these verses are just hard to understand in their context and the way some of them are traditionally taught I now realize aren't correct (like lukewarm "Christians" for example) but I guess when you've been indoctrinated with a certain way of reading them, then you just stick with what you know. If you can explain this further, I would appreciate it!


Response #13:

You're very welcome, and it is absolutely no bother to talk about this further.

It always very important to distinguish between interpretation and application. The former is involved with figuring out precisely what a verse or passage "means"; the latter is making use of some of the truth in a verse, passage, or the scriptures generally so as to apply it to life and circumstances. We cannot really do the latter to any profit unless and until we have done the former correctly. The former is the stuff of Bible teaching (with a little of the latter); the latter is the stuff of sermonizing (with woefully little of the former all too often).

What your correspondent has been doing with Matthew 16:26 is applying it to life and circumstances (application), but doing so in a way that he/she wishes to make this the absolute interpretation of the verse – that not only gets things completely backwards, but is also an approach which introduces a cancerous process into anyone's understanding of truth and inevitably results in a person's opinions dominating what "scripture has to mean".

One could certainly use Matthew 16:26 loosely to say that "in a similar way" many Christians are over-focused on the world and as a result are making a poor bargain, because even if they achieve great worldly success, that means nothing in God's eyes, and will not result in any reward at the judgment seat of Christ – and can even compromise their faith, if they go to far down that worldly road. That would be a correct application of the verse.

What the verse means, however, is that even if a person could dominate the entire world in every way – something no one has ever done and something that will not even be done in a military/political sense by anyone but antichrist (and that is a fact that ought to have been in the minds of those hearing these words if they had been spiritually mature and well-versed in scripture and its truths) – even so it would be a pointless exercise. Why? Because this world is temporary. We are all mortal. No gain or success, not even this hypothetical ultimate success for which many famous personalities and lesser lights have striven since the fall, can change the fact that human history itself is a mere blink of the eye – and how much shorter an individual life. If the "reward" of total victory is being plunged into the lake of fire for all eternity, then such total victory is not much "profit", at least for anyone considering the issue rationally. Indeed, anyone who is not "mad" ought to understand this at a very young age just by examining the world (natural revelation; see the link). Simply put, the proper "solution" when anyone of even minimal intelligence has "done the math" is that only God can help, and that only God's help and favor are worth anything in the end – because death will wipe away all human endeavor, and very quickly too. And God has the only answer to death: salvation by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. That is the interpretation (with a bit of "close application"); that is what our Lord is trying to get across – in a perfect way. Why don't more respond? It's a question of free will. Most people choose their own will over the Will of God and would rather go to hell than yield up their will to the Lord – that attitude is "mad" and results in "madness" (the "hardening of the heart"), but is unfortunately by far the most common human decision in all of history.

Trying to derive from this passage the automatic loss of salvation by those who pursue and achieve success is not authorized by the actual words of Matthew 16:26. It also is a mis-application because it mis-states what Jesus says and what He means (and what the Bible teaches throughout). It is also deceptive because it seems to equate, logically, failure with salvation. There are some successful people who are Christians and who will be saved – though in many cases it may indeed be by the "skin of their teeth" if they have indeed put worldly things first in their lives to achieve that success ("not many mighty are called"); but that is not necessarily so: David was a rich and powerful king (e.g.). On the other hand, there are droves of Christians who are spiritually lazy, and many of them are lazy in worldly terms as well. I don't think we need anyone incentivizing Christians to be unsuccessful as a means to greater spirituality. Clearly, we who believe in Christ ought to put Him and His Word and our living by that Word and ministering that Word to others our top priority in this life – that is the way to "the three crowns" (see the link). However, this does not mean that we ought therefore to be negligent or sloppy in our approach to the other necessary areas of our lives. We all live in "the world", and that means by definition that we will have family and work responsibilities. As Christians, we ought to do our best to be above reproach in all that we do. And if we do put Jesus first, and if we are upstanding in the way we conduct ourselves in all things, it will not be surprising if – along with testing, trials and tribulations – we are rewarded in our home and professional lives as well, both as a natural consequence of "doing a good job", but also as a result of the Lord's blessing:

"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation."
Psalm 91:14-16 NIV

This is not the prosperity gospel (and we may find that the more we put Him first the more we are tested by deprivation or bounty – or both – in order prune us for greater production for Him). It's just a recognition of the truth of the way the Lord deals with them "who love Him", "working all things out together for good" (Rom.8:28).

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #14:

I don't know if I sent this to you before. Could you help me on this? A family member gave this to me. Can you go over it and give us some input as you can see for some reason she cut scripture by that she only used some not all why do you think she cut out the parts in Ezk. 18:4, Isa. 53:12,Psalm 22:29 well all of them it seems I know Isa.53 is talking about Jesus and the last hell fire. Thank you for your input.

Condition of the Dead

A dead person is unconscious, Inactive

Eccl. 9:5-10 The living are conscious that they will die, but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, neither do they anymore have wages, because the remembrance of them has been forgotten , all that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor divising nor knowledge nor wisdom in sheol, the place to which you are going.

Psalm 146:4 His spirit goes out he goes out back to his ground in that day his thoughts do perish.

Psalm 6:5 In death there is no mention of you,in sheol who will laud you.

Isaiah 38:18 It is not sheol that can laud you, death itself cannot praise you. Those going down into the pit cannot look hopefully to your trueness.

Eccl. 3:19-20 There is an eventuality as respects the sons of mankind and an eventuality as respects the beasts and they have the same eventuality. As the one dies so the other dies, and they all have but one spirit,so that there is no superiority of the man over the beast, for everything is vanity, all are going to one place.They have all come to be from the dust and they are all returning to the dust.

Psalm 115:17 The dead themselves do not praise Jah."

Acts 13:36 David, on the one hand, served the express will of God in his own generation and fell asleep in death and was laid with his forefathers and did see corruption.

The Soul itself is Dead

Ezek. 18:4 The soul that is sinning-it itself will die.

Isa.53:12 He poured out his soul to the very death.

Lev.23:30 As for any soul that will do any sort of work on this very day, I must destroy that soul from among his people.

Psalm 22:29 No one will ever preserve his own soul alive.

Acts 3:23 Indeed any soul that does not listen to that Prophet will be completely destroyed from among the people.

Josh. 10:28,Judges 16:30,Ezek.22:27

Hell Fire

True meaning of "hell" confused by failure of translators to distinguish between original language words. Much confusion and misunderstanding has been caused through the early translators of the bible persistently rendering the Hewbrew sheol and the greek hades and gehenna by the word hell.

The simple transliteration of these words by the translators of the revised editions of the bible has not sufficed to appreciably clear up this confusion and misconception.

Tartaus used only with reference to abasement of spirit angels that sinned. 2 Peter 2:4 God did not hold back from punishing the angels that sinned, but by throwing them into tartarus (hell) lower hell delivered them to pits of dense darkness to be reserved for judgement. The verb tartaroo translated cast down to hell in 2 Peter 2:4 signifies to consign to tartarus, which is neither sheol,hades nor hell.

Gehenna alludes to a city dump and incinerator outside Jerusalem, symbolizes second death. Rev.20:14-15 talks about death,hades hurled into the lake of fire and that's not written in the book of life, means eternal destruction.

Response #14:

This document is mostly promoting the false notion of "soul sleep", a horrible false doctrine that goes a long way back (John Calvin's first entrance into theology was in refutation of this erroneous view). This is the standard way that those who want to disprove the existence of hell or to teach universal salvation attack the truth.

Moses and Elijah met with our Lord on the mount of Transfiguration – but they had been "dead" for many hundreds of years and the resurrection had not yet taken place. How was that possible? It could not be if this notion of "soul sleep" were true. Instead what we see are two believers of the past clearly conscious and embodied – in the interim state at this point (see the link).

For another thing, there is no such thing as a "soul" in the sense it is used in this document. Human beings are dichotomous, possessing a body and a spirit. The "soul" is the "heart" or the inner person, the "us" inside which cannot be assigned to the spirit or the body alone but is the expression of the person we are (that is why "self" or "person" or "heart" can be substituted anywhere in an English translation where the confusing word "soul" occurs). When people in this country say "soul" in a theological context they often really mean "spirit". In any case, you can find out plenty about "soul sleep" and the means to refute it at the following links:

Soul sleep', & dichotomy vs. trichotomy

Sleep as a Euphemism for Death

"Soul Sleep" versus our true Heavenly State.

Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State.

The False Doctrine of Soul Sleep II

The false doctrine of "soul sleep".

Have a look, and please do feel free to write back about any of these points.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #15:


I just like to ask some questions and get some clarity. With Soul Sleep:

In Genesis God told Adam and Eve that they would surely die. What did that mean? Can you give me your answer from the Bible please?

Are they are in heaven; did they die? Are they are in heaven then what penalty did they suffer for their sin?

If they did not die, did God lie?

Can all your answer please have a Biblical text and answer?

Just needing some clarity.


Response #15:

Dear Friend,

At the end of their natural lives, Adam and Eve died physically, just as every other human being has ever since:

So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.
Genesis 5:5 NKJV

God's prohibition from eating of the tree of knowing good and evil was thus carried out for them in a very literal manner, and we may conclude that if they had not sinned by disobeying Him and had not eaten what they were prohibited from eating then they would not have died physically. Consider:

Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"—therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
Genesis 3:22-24 NKJV

In Bible terms, however, death is more complicated than this. That is, there is more than one type of death. For example, Revelation tells us that being cast into the lake of fire is "the second death" (Rev.2:11; 20:6; 20:14; 21:8). And there is also the sense in which being alienated from God is being "dead" (cf. Eph.5:14), whereas being reconciled to Him is being "reborn" (Jn.3:3; 3:7; 1Pet.1:23), transferred "from death to life" (Jn.5:24). This is the "threefold" death that the entire human race must face: We are all born in sin and therefore alienated from or "dead to" God at birth (as Adam and Eve became after the fall); as such, we all face physical death (as happened even to Adam and Eve); and, barring reconciliation with God through faith in Jesus Christ, the destiny of mankind is the second death, the lake of fire (please see the link in BB 3B: "The Three Aspects of Death"). Blessedly, we, like Adam and Eve, have put our faith in Jesus Christ and have been made alive in Him. As a result, when we die, we will not be subject to the second death, but we shall find ourselves face to face with the Lord Jesus in the third heaven (albeit in interim rather than permanent "resurrection" bodies – the resurrection will only occur at Christ's second advent return).

I will give you links on the false doctrine of "soul sleep" below, but give you one verse to consider here:

"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."
John 8:56

Abraham would not have been able to "rejoice" upon seeing Christ come in the flesh if he were somehow "asleep" and not instead fully awake in heaven and observing those blessed events.

Here are those links:

Soul sleep', & dichotomy vs. trichotomy

Sleep as a Euphemism for Death

"Soul Sleep" versus our true Heavenly State.

Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State.

The False Doctrine of Soul Sleep II

The false doctrine of "soul sleep".

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior, with whom we "wish to be" having departed this life (Phil.1:23),

Bob Luginbill

Question #16:

Hello Robert:

I am just seeking to get an understanding. Please be patient with me.

If Adam and Eve just died physically and then went be with God upon death, then what was their real "punishment" for their sin? Then the devil was correct when he said : "You shall not surely die."

Can you comment please and help me understand this?


Response #16:

Dear Friend,

For two people who would otherwise have lived forever, dying physically seems to be a serious penalty to me. Also, they were thrown out of the garden of Eden, a place of physical blessing and, more importantly, of unparalleled spiritual blessing, fellowshiping with the Lord Himself "in the cool of the evening". Also, instead of a blissful existence, they now had to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow. Also, there was now pain in childbirth, and pain thereafter as most parents know at one point or another for one reason or another (Cain killed Abel, after all). Also, they were now spiritually alienated from God, and it was only His provision of the gospel (the coats of skin being the protoevangelium as it is usually called – symbols of the death of Christ for our sins; see the link) and their acceptance of it that this relationship was restored and their spiritual death removed: if God had not made the offer of the gift of His Son in their place, the second death, the lake of fire, would have been their lot (as it will be for all who reject Jesus Christ). In my estimate of the above, our first parents suffered mightily and paid a large price for their disobedience. And, absent the grace of God and their acceptance of that grace through faith, they would have paid the price of damnation.

When they sinned, they did indeed die (spiritually); and as a result of their sin and spiritual death, Adam and Eve would not live forever on earth as they were but would (and did) die physically. Finally, absent salvation, they would have faced the second death as well. The Hebrew actually says, "dying, you shall die" (Gen.2:17), the infinitive absolute in Hebrew being coupled with the imperfect to express emphasis (KJV: "thou shalt surely die"). Thus, disobeying resulted in a death of threefold nature and intensity, and that death commenced immediately at the point that they ate (spiritual death), ensured that they would not live forever in their bodies as they were (physical death) and also threatened an eternal damnation (the second death) absent the gracious intervention of God. Everything God told them was, therefore, absolutely true. Satan very often mixes into his appeals things which appear to have a grain of truth – the better to deceive (see the link). And it was true (in this case a "half-truth") that Adam and Eve did not die physically the moment they partook of the fruit. However, that was small comfort in the face of the whole truth, perceived and understood completely after having sinned: not just physical death awaited disobedience, but a three-fold death with eternal consequences. Blessedly, Christ died for them (and for us all) to open the door of salvation out of the second death for all who believe.

I have this all written up at the following link, and I would ask you to have a look if any of the above is still unclear:

The Fall of Man

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.


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