Question: What is the difference between soul and spirit? Do they both go to the Lord when we die? Please explain.
Response: Most Christians use the words interchangeably. Scripture makes a distinction. Paul writes, "I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless..." (1 Thes:5:23). The Word of God pierces "even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit" (Heb:4:12). Soul and spirit must therefore be two different parts of a human being made in God's image.
"Soul" in the Old Testament is always the Hebrew nephesh, a living, breathing creature. In numbering people in the Bible, reference is to so many souls-never to so many spirits. In the New Testament, "soul" is always psuche, the Greek equivalent of nephesh. "Spirit" is the Hebrew ruwach, meaning breath; and the Greek equivalent is pneuma. Soul and spirit are difficult to define. Yet every person knows what is meant by "evil spirit," "disembodied spirit," "spirit of man," " Spirit of God," etc.
The expression "my soul" is found 126 times and almost always is very personal, as though it is the center of man's self-consciousness. Through the soul, we recognize and indulge ourselves: "I will say to my soul...thou hast much goods laid up for many years...eat, drink, and be merry" (Lk 12:19).
That the soul goes to heaven is clear: "thou wilt not leave my soul in hell"
(Ps:16:10); "I saw under the altar the souls of them that were [beheaded] for the word of God..." (Rv 6:9; 20:4). The same is true of the spirit. As He died, Jesus said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (Lk 23:46). Luke writes, "They stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts:7:59).
In contrast to the soul's self-awareness
(1 Cor:2:11,12), the spirit has understanding and wisdom. This is where the Spirit of God indwells man and is the center of man's awareness of and communion with God. "Sensual" could be associated with soul but not with spirit. "Soulish" is neither in the Bible nor the dictionary, but if it were, it would have a carnal connotation and nothing to do with God. On the other hand, "spiritual," found 23 times in the Bible, always means heavenly minded, godly, holy-never self-centered.