Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature of our program Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and subscribers. Here’s this week’s question: What scripture do you use to support the idea that the soul is a separate entity from the body? Ecclesiastes:9:5 very clearly tells us that the dead know not anything. First Thessalonians 4:13-18 says that the dead in Christ are asleep.
Tom: Dave we don’t know whether this individual who wrote to us about this, whether this is something he believes, or is wrestling with somebody perhaps in a cult that believe in annihilation after death and so on. But it’s a question that we can come to grips with.
First of all, Ecclesiastes:9:5. Does that mean that the dead know nothing? Are we talking about someone who dies and ceases to exist?
Dave: Well let me deal first with difference between soul and spirit.
Dave: Since that was what they asked first. The Bible does clearly distinguish. Hebrews:4:12 says, “The Word of God is living and powerful, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit.” Sounds like they’re different. First Thessalonians 5:23, you know I don’t remember these—the references, but I remember what it says. Paul says, “I pray God that your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless until the day of Jesus Christ.” So he’s distinguishing between the spirit, soul and body. We are a tri-part being like the triune God who created us. So there’s no question that the Bible distinguishes between the body, soul, and spirit. Now as far as the dead knowing nothing, the dead bodies don’t know anything. Actually Solomon is talking about “under the sun”. That’s the key phrase.
Tom: Right, Ecclesiastes:9:5.
Dave: In Ecclesiastes, under the sun, under the sun, under the sun. Well you’re not under the sun anymore. You have no more part on this earth. You have left. That’s a good argument against reincarnation, because you don’t come back again. You’re finished with this earth. But as far the soul and the spirit sleeping and being unconscious, it doesn’t sound like that when Jesus talks about the rich man in hell. “He lifted up his eyes being in torment,” it says. And he’s communing with Abraham. Abraham is there and Lazarus the beggar. Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Now it doesn’t sound like they’re sleeping. It says that Jesus preached to the spirits that were in prison, who before were—this is 1 Peter 3. He preached to the spirits who were in prison who before in the days of Noah had been disobedient. It doesn’t sound to me like they’re sleeping. Paul in Philippians 1, he said, “I’m in a straight betwixt two.” That means he’s on the horns of a dilemma here, having desired to depart and to be with Christ which is far better. He’s got a desire to depart, be with Christ? I mean what’s the point of sleeping next to Christ? Is Christ asleep up there? Is Paul going to be asleep?
Tom: Second Corinthians 5:8—you’ve got the same problem.
Tom: “We are confident I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” Well we weren’t talking about an extended presence, or an extended time of thoughtlessness, or ceasing to exist.
Dave: So surely, Paul didn’t want to just go to sleep. He wants to be with Christ. Absent from the body, present with the Lord. I mean present with the Lord! It doesn’t mean anything if you’re all unconscious. So this is not a biblical teaching at all.
Tom: You know and to me it really flies against, it’s worse than that, it denies the very love relationship that began when we were born again in Christ. How can I look forward to a time in which I’ll cease to know Christ, cease to know anything? He said, “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you.” He’s our love. This just does great damage to that, plus you know it’s wrong.
Dave: Yes, well then it would give courage to the unsaved to believe that they would be annihilated. So if I don’t accept Christ, I can live any kind of life I want. Hitler is no worse off now than somebody who lived like a saint because he’s been annihilated, there’s no consciousness anymore. And what are we going to do with the fact that Revelation 20 says, “I saw a great white throne and him that sat upon it from whose face the earth and the heavens fled away. And the books were opened, the dead are standing before, and the dead are judged out of those things written in the book.”
Well it sounds to me like dead people can stand before God in judgment. So everything that I read in the Word of God—Jesus warned people about being cast into hell. He warned them to flee from this at all cost. What does it mean? I wouldn’t flee from it if it just means annihilation. I can’t think, I can’t feel, I’m just finished. The Bible simply does not teach that and everything the Bible says is to the contrary.