Salvation Series 2 Why?
Why do we need to be saved from death and which of the 2 types of death?
To answer this question, one needs to go back to the narrative in Genesis. To quote,
Gen. 2:16-17 “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
Gen. 3:1-5 “Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
From the preceding verses, we know that they sinned against God. Because of sin, God said that they would die. Notice though that Adam and Eve did not actually die right then and there. In fact, they were alive and God had to “cover” Adam and Eve up, as in, Gen. 3:21″Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them, signifying future “covering their sins“. Therefore, the “death” referred to as a consequence of this sin, specifically had to be the “irreversible death” not the “reversible death” that is “appointed” for all mortals (Heb. 9:27). Adam then lived 930 years (Gen. 5:5), died but to be resurrected in time because it was a “reversible death”.
And that sin, that has a consequence of “irreversible death“, first requires “sin covering” or clothing with “coats of skin” before the person can be saved. It had to be paid for and suffered with “someone else’s death“. Blood has to be spilled in Genesis to make “coats of skin” for clothing/covering of that sin. By extension to the future, this prefigured the Passover Lamb in Exodus 12 that came to fruition in Christ “our Passover” (I Cor. 5:7; John 1:29; Isa.53:7) whose death was a “sin-offering“, a “cover (of skin) for sins”, a substitutionary death for us, to satisfy the required “sin-covering“. His death was accounted or imputed for mankind’s death that was a consequence of Adam’s sin. The Father promised to acknowledge Jesus’ death as a substitute for Adam’s and, by extension, that of mankind’s “irreversible or eternal death“. Notice, though, that while the immediate effect of Jesus’ death “reconciles” us back to God (2 Cor. 5:15-21; Col. 1:19-20; Heb. 9:19-22), we still need “to be saved by his life”(Rom. 5:10), i.e., Jesus has to “go away” (die) but be resurrected to life and to claim the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father in heaven to be sent to us (John 16:7), for a purpose that leads to actual salvation. He has to be resurrected back to life, as by being alive he can then receive the Holy Spirit for us.
But, since this “irreversible second death” is a consequence of sin, and Jesus’ death is imputed to that particular death thus reconciling us back to God, restoring the standing of Adam to the Father before he sinned, then why do we still suffer “reversible death”? Many traditional Christians maintain that Adam would have lived forever had it not been for his sin. That, when Adam was created, he had an “immortal soul” and would not have died were it not for his sin. Is this teaching of “immortality of soul” true? The answer is alluded to in Genesis, the method of creation and our body-composition.
What is “soul“? This needs to be addressed before knowing whether it is “mortal or immortal“. Analysis is critical in understanding this concept of the word “soul” used to translate in English, the Hebrew word “nephesh” and the Greek word “psyche“. To do this, one has to go back to Genesis and take us through the step-by-step mechanism in the formation/creation of man.
“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath (nhshamah) of life (chay); and man became a living soul(nephesh).” (Gen. 2:7). Notice here that “nephesh” was translated “soul“.
As the preceding verse connotes, man was formed by the “hand” of God (Ps. 109:27)from “dust of the ground“, matter-composed. Whereas, the “breath of life” came directly and proximately from God, who did not use his hand nor “matter” like “dust of the ground“, and therefore spirit-composed. What was formed from “dust of the ground” was the “lifeless” physical body, viz., brain, heart and other parts of the body. This “lifeless body” became alive and got energized only when God directly “breathed into his nostrils” this “spirit-composed breath of life”. Then and only then did man become a”living soul“, a “nephesh” or breathing creature. Meaning, lifeless body+breath of life=”living soul”; nephesh/breathing creature.
This tells us that a living being(human) has 2 components, viz., matter-composed body and spirit-composed breath of life before being classified or called as a “living soul/nephesh”. In Biblical parlance, one can deduce to a certain extent that the English word “soul” in the O.T. refers to a “living being/human“. The “body” has to be alive to be called “soul“(nephesh/breathing creature), hence the emphasis on the descriptive phrase “living soul” in Gen. 2:7. Otherwise, the body without the “breath of life”(nshamah chay) is “lifeless“. Nephesh or living creature/soul is a composite of “body(soma) and breath of life(nshamah).
Proof of these two separate components can be derived from the fact that each one can be destroyed or killed, as in:
Matthew 10:28 “And fear not them which kill the body(soma), but are not able to kill the soul(psyche): but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul(psyche) and body(soma) in hell(Gehenna).” Notice that “breath of life“, Hebrew “nshamah chay” in Old Testament, is Greek “psyche” in New Testament and equivalent in English to “soul“.
Strictly speaking and to prevent misunderstanding, the English translation “soul” should have been limited by the “translator” and only be specifically applied to “living creature”(nephesh in Old Testament) composed of body/soma and “psyche“/ human spirit as the translated word “soul“(in New Testament) does not accurately convey the actual reference to the 2 separate components of man. Be that as it may, even if “soul” is meant to be “psyche or spirit-of-man“, it still can be killed and therefore not immortal. Both body and spirit-of-man/psyche-mind can cease or be killed and therefore not immortal. Furthermore, as the “psyche” (spirit-of-man; breath-of-life) can be killed or can cease, it is not synonymous with “soma“, nor a “spirit-composed immortal body“.
From the above statements, it is clear that this “breath of life/psyche/nshamah”, which is part or a component of a “living being/soul“, is not “immortal” and can be killed. Notice though that the “breath of life/psyche/nshamah” at death(reversible as it is temporary) goes back to the Creator although can be killed in Gehenna fire, an irreversible/permanent death. It is the “soma/body/dust” that goes to the grave/hades/hell. Nevertheless, when we die and “thoughts perish”, meaning no longer can the body has remembrance, as the “soma/body/dust” is buried in hell/hades/grave and subsequently rots, but the “breath of life/psyche/nshamah” at time of death (reversible) goes back to the Creator, as in:
Ps.146:4 “His breath (ruwach) goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” (No longer thinking when dead; no consciousness)
Ezekiel 18:4 “…the soul (living being) that sinneth, it shall die”. ( soul is not immortal)
Eccl.12:7 “Then shall the dust (aphar/clay/the body) return to the earth as it was: and the spirit (ruwach or breath in O.T and psyche in N.T) shall return unto God who gave it.”
Notice that, while the “soul“(spirit/breath of life/psyche) can be killed or destroyed, at “reversible death(sleep) , it goes back temporarily to the Creator to wait for a future body at time of “resurrection“; the spirit/breath of life/psyche has no body and has to receive a new body, spirit-composed or flesh-composed, depending upon whether they are “overcomers with the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit”. A “spirit-composed immortal body” will be given to those participating at the time of 1st resurrection who are “overcomers” and meet with Jesus “in the clouds” coming back at the start Millenium on earth. And we, who are alive in the “flesh” on this resurrection day will change “in a twinkling of an eye” (ICor. 15:52) from mortal to immortal (I Cor. 15:53-54), and meet Jesus and the rest of the “firstfruits” “in the air” (I Thes.4:17) to come down to earth and to the temple in Jerusalem. From here, Millenium starts and the “kingdom of God” ( the governing system) like a “stone” (Dan.2:35) will subsequently occupy the whole earth.
But the rest of the dead “live not again until after a thousand years” (Rev 20:5). And they are the ones who will participate in the “second resurrection” and will have a “flesh-composed mortal body“, (Ezekiel 37:1-14) not immortal, and will experience, after voluntarily becoming believers, the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit, bear “fruits of the Spirit” and be given subsequently an “immortal body. Those who still reject this promise of the Holy Spirit will be thrown in “Gehenna fire” to suffer “eternal and irreversible death”.
Conceptually, computer technology can be used as a parallel. The spirit (psyche) of man is much like a “thumb-drive” or USB flash-drive that has all the “memory” or information/data that one can download into, save a copy that goes back to the owner. The whole computer (like our body) can be destroyed or die/rot, but the “breath of life/spirit”, (the memory and history of our unique life) that goes to the Creator, can then be “inputted” into a “new computer/body“. This new computer maybe “spirit-composed body”, much like in the “first resurrection” and immortal or “flesh-composed” as in the “second resurrection” and mortal. As the thumb drive can be destroyed, so can the “spirit/ruwach/breath of life” in Gehenna fire at Judgement Day after the ”second resurrection“.
By the way, the “spirit of man” is different from the “Spirit of God” that Jesus died for and resurrected for us to receive (“to in-dwell in us“) by grace and out of love by the Father. In a computer analogy, the Spirit of God can be equivalent to the “operating system“(O.S.), without whose power nothing can be “energized” or empowered.
In summary, when Adam was created, he came from the “dust of the ground”, matter and “flesh“. Being sinless from the time of creation originally, does not confer in him eternal life as we were created “flesh-composed“. One can still die without sinning, just because we are mortal beings. In fact, and because of his sin, Adam was driven out of the garden of Eden and prevented from “eating the fruit from the tree of life”, signifying our natural composition is devoid of eternal life. As such, much like any “matter“, our body ages, deteriorates and has “expiration date”, being mortal. What is “born of flesh is flesh and that what is born of the spirit is spirit“(John 3:6). Also, in 1 Cor 15:44,46 “There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body…Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterwards that which is spiritual.” (the “natural” body is first – and the “spiritual” body is second.) The nature of our body-composition from creation is subject to decay and “first death/reversible“. At death, the spirit/psyche of man goes back to God, while the body is buried in the grave(hades).
Being “flesh“, the living body/soul, is “weak” (Matt. 26:41) and needs to be strengthened by the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit from God. History of man shows the weakness of man to succumb to temptation. From, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Saul, David, even chosen people were overcome by evil. We all need the power given by God through the Holy Spirit. Changing us from this weakness requires “renewal or re-creating” of our ” natural weak self”, to have the “mind of Christ”.
Moreover, our present body-composition is “temporary“, much like the “tabernacle” or the “temple” that got destroyed. The tabernacle has been moved from one place to another, and the 1st and 2nd temple in Jerusalem have been destroyed, all signifying “temporal” nature. So is our body-of-flesh which is a temporary “temple of God”(I Cor. 3:16) that needed “change” from within a “ destruction” of self, for God to dwell into.
Our temporary body needs “re-creating“. Remember Jeremiah 18:1-4,
“The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.” See also Isa. 45:9 and Rom. 9:21.
In short, humans die naturally even without sinning per se (although temporarily;sleep-death) because its body composition is flesh and mortal, but can also die eternally because Adam (and all humans by imputation) sinned. Human psyche/spirit has to be taught, guided and nurtured by the Holy Spirit of God, and thereby necessitating it’s in-dwelling.
What sequence of events that needs to occur to be saved from “second/irreversible” death? And, who then can take us away from it? Can we do it on our own? And how? To answer these questions, please access Salvation Series 3 & 4.
Original post: October 4, 2015
Revised and posted:February 20, 2017