What happens to an unbeliever’s spirit when he physically dies? Will it return to God? Or as man is three-fold, will his spirit, body and soul suffer for eternity in Hell?
You are born again and you don’t really feel any different. Not physically and what is this part of me that is spirit. I look the same and I am still tempted by the same things as before. So why am I now different?
First, human beings consist of two parts: a material and immaterial part. Our body is the material and is the physical part of us that is made up of senses (taste, smell, touch, sight and hearing. The part that connects us to God and covers matters like faith, trust, hope is our spirit and is the immaterial part of us. There is no third part. Thus, man is not three-fold. At times Scripture uses poetic language to describe human existence in terms beyond the physical and spirit, yet these instances were not intended to serve as literal descriptions of our existence.
For example, consider these passages:
1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NKJV)
23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Luke 10:27 (NKJV)
27 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.’ ”
Mark 12:30 (NKJV)
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.
Hebrews 4:12 New King James Version (NKJV)
12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Notice in each case, that the writer describes human existence with a variety of terms yet each example uses different terms. If these descriptions were intended to be definitive descriptions of the human existence, then we would have to say Scripture conflicts in its descriptions. Obviously, Scripture doesn’t conflict with itself, and therefore we must understand these descriptions to be poetic ways of emphasizing the “all” of a person’s being. In the same way we might write, “I love you with every part of my being,” these writers were describing the “all” of a person by using a variety of terms in poetic fashion.
Therefore, we cannot use such passages to teach the makeup of a human being. When Scripture does teach on this point, it always emphasizes two parts: a physical body that returns to dust and an eternal spirit that will find its home either with God or away from God. The Bible never speaks about the eternal disposition of a third part.
Secondly, the Bible is utterly clear that when the physical part of a person dies, the spiritual part of that person must dwell forever either with God (i.e., a believer) or away from God (i.e., an unbeliever). The sin of a person is found in our spiritual being (called a “dead” spirit), and the spirit’s sin nature causes the body to be unclean as well. For this reason, God’s plan of salvation requires that the spirit be put to death and a new spirit be born inside us (Jesus calls this being “born again”), and likewise our body must be put to death and replaced with a new one.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
Romans 6:4 (NKJV)
4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
All believers have been given a new, perfect spirit from the moment of salvation, yet we continue to live in our old, sinful body. Paul explains that we continue to sin because our flesh leads our spiritual part into sin, yet we should not allow this to happen. We should resist the flesh and live in the spirit. For a better understanding of these important matters, please the studies in Romans.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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