Spirit, Soul and Body: Part 3, In the Light of the N.T.

 •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 9
TH 5:23{EB 4:12{Having thus seen that death is the dissolving of the tie that has kept together the man, "spirit and soul and body," and having noticed that he is variously spoken of as seen sometimes connected with the one part of his being and sometimes with the other,1 we may now ask, What light has the Lord been pleased to give us as to the place of the spirit and soul (or the man) when they have left the body? To this we will now turn, first remarking that, in seeking an answer, we shall have brought before us of necessity the wondrous way whereby Christianity triumphs over all the misery that sin and its consequence (death) have introduced into this world.
First, then, what is death to the believer? The Lord says to the poor thief, dying by His side, "To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:4343And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)) These words, addressed directly to the man, did not refer to his body; for that neither remained with the Lord, nor entered paradise with Him that day. The Lord's body was borne to Joseph's tomb, while the mangled remains (John 19:3232Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. (John 19:32)) of the poor malefactor were " taken away " by other hands (v. 31) to find some other, and apparently in man's esteem, a more suited and fitting resting-place for such as he than the rich man's sepulcher. The Lord's body, resting there three days, saw " no corruption," while the other returned to its kindred dust. But it mattered little. The veil had been lifted from that dark future that lay beyond the grave, by His own hand who came to bring " life and incorruptibility to light," and to remove the sting from death. And what the Lord said to the thief He meant and fulfilled. The rejected and dying Savior thus leaving the world, and the first believer who, dying, left it when the way had been opened by Him through death-these two can never more be separated. The words, " To-day-thou -with me," eternally linked together thus, declare the extent and the value of the blessed work He accomplished that day for EVERY weary child of Adam's fallen race who will trust in Him. And this paradise was not a place that only existed for that moment (i.e. for the Lord ere He ascended) as some have taught. It was the place called also by the apostle Paul " the third heaven " (2 Cor. 12)-an existing place then long after the death of the thief; for he says he was " caught up into paradise." When there he had lost all consciousness of the existence of the body; for he says, " Whether in the body I cannot tell, or whether out of the body I cannot tell." Yet he retained the consciousness of a man; he heard words which it was not possible for him to utter. Inexpressibly blessed was it to be in such a place, and freed from every hindrance, as one quietly reading the chapter must admit. And the blessedness of the place is also shown in the only other passage where this word " paradise " is used. The promise made to him that overcometh in the message to the Church at Ephesus (Rev. 2:77He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)) is, that " He shall eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." Paradise then, only named in these three places, is shown to us as a place of unspeakable, yet conscious pleasure, and rest, and delight. It is with the Lord, which in itself is enough, but it is also to be there to " hear " and to " feed," which, though it may be figurative language, conveys to us clearly enough the conscious enjoyment of the place.
With this instant happiness of the believer after death all the Scriptures of the New Testament agree. Thus " to depart " is to be with Christ, which, he adds, is "far better" (Phil. 1:2323For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: (Philippians 1:23)); and he (Paul) who says that it is " far better " knew more of communion and fellowship with Him when on earth (v. 8) than many. He knew perhaps more of it than any saint has since known. Yet it is "far better," for he says to be " absent from the body " is to be " present with the Lord." (2 Cor. 5:88We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8)) Peter also speaks of the putting off of the body (" my tabernacle "-2 Peter 1:1414Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me. (2 Peter 1:14)), yet looks onward to the day when he, together with those who have fed the flock, shall receive at the appearing of the Chief Shepherd " a crown of glory that fadeth not away." (1 Peter 5:44And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. (1 Peter 5:4)) But as to the meantime, Jesus had said to him, " Whither I go thou canst not follow me now, but thou shalt follow me afterward." (John 13) And where He went, and whither Peter followed Him, we have already seen. Similar, if figurative, is the testimony of Luke 16:2222And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; (Luke 16:22).
Having spoken of Heb. 9:2727And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Hebrews 9:27), it remains to say a word as to the future (that which is after death) for the unbeliever. The veil is lifted here also, and we read, "After death the judgment." This is the awful and dark shadow that falls from the future upon the death-bed of the unbeliever, that renders it terrible. Into the world's judgment, my Christian reader, you can never come. " He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but is passed from death unto life." (John 5:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)) This is the record concerning such, though all shall appear (be made manifest) " at the judgment-seat of Christ." (2 Cor. 5:1010For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)) But though the believer cannot come into judgment, there Is a resurrection of " judgment." (John 5:2929And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. (John 5:29)) How solemn is the declaration, " He hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained." (Acts 17:3131Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:31)) These judged are men" spirit, soul, and body;" for we read again, "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God... and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." (Rev. 20:1212And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Revelation 20:12)) For as the death of the body was the severance for a time of the tie that bound " spirit and soul and body " together, so the destruction of death is the re-formation of that tie, now no more to be severed, but to pass, one complete man, into all the horrors of the judgment and the second death-a death NOT marked by the separation of the parts, " spirit and soul and body," but by their eternal union; for we are bidden to " fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt. 10:2828And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)) My reader, " Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years." (Rev. 20:66Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)) To this first resurrection, and to one special class in it, "those who are alive and remain," we will now turn ere we close this subject.
We have already seen that death is the fruit of sin, and that man in Heb. 9:2727And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Hebrews 9:27) is said to be both capable of, and liable to, death, because there he is speaking of the fruit of sin, and of those who, not having faith in Him who has once come, are not looking for Him to come the second time. But he immediately speaks of another class who are thus looking for His second coining. These may die or fall asleep, but, though capable, they are not liable to death. " We shall not all sleep," he says. There are some who " are alive and remain" when the Lord comes (1 Thess. 4), and who do not die, but are immediately changed. But what is changed? Spirit and soul? No; Phil. 3:2121Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:21) says it is the body. " There is a natural body (which we have), and there is a spiritual body," for which spirit and soul are waiting, and which Paul calls " our house which is from heaven." This we shall have "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump." (1 Cor. 15) When He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. " We look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body " (or body of humiliation), " that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto Himself." (Phil. 3:2121Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:21)) Death then has no claim upon or power over such, and there is no separation of " spirit and soul and body." Death as to them He has met, and him who had the power of death and all its claims He has satisfied-all, and all that the holiness and righteousness of God demanded on account of sin. God was glorified too in it by Him, and it is proved by His own place now, so that " in a moment " they are to be caught away in the power of life. " That where I am there ye may be also." They do not die, but " mortality is swallowed up of life." (2 Cor. 5:44For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. (2 Corinthians 5:4)) Such is our hope: to see and to be with Him who says, " Fear not... I am He that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death."
As Christians we have ever to remember that the soul is the seat of the affections and desires, which must be, if we desire to grow in divine things, kept under control, so that the word of God may at all times be allowed to come in "quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul (psukee) and spirit (pneuma), and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Heb. 4) The word " sensual " in Jude 1919These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. (Jude 19) is "psukeekoi," and may be translated " soulish;" i.e. they were controlled by it., Similar was the desire of the man of Luke 12:1919And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. (Luke 12:19): " Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years, take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." This has been the language of very many since. The natural affections, also, though formed of God, are strikingly referred to in many places as possible hinderers in the path of faithful discipleship if allowed to govern us. How many have made shipwreck on this rock! Among others thus-" If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:2626If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26))
Fitting in the midst of all the snares that surround us, the varied attractions for the mind and understanding, the varied desires and affections of the soul-the " what shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and " (not least, the fashions of the day) "the wherewithal shall we be clothed, of the body-fitting, amidst all this, is the prayer of the apostle. And may it be increasingly our prayer for each other-" And I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thess. 5:2323And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)) (Continued from page 196)
H. C. A.