This question concerns the doctrine of the Spirit, Soul and Body. Many people don’t realize this but every living soul is made of three parts: a spirit, a soul and a body. In Gen. 2:7, God made man of the dust of the earth, which was his body. He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, which was his spirit. And then he became a living soul, which was obviously his soul. You can see all three of these in one verse in the New Testament (1 Thes. 5:23).
This shouldn’t be too hard for a person to comprehend. God is made up of three persons: God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost (1 Jn 5:7). Therefore, when he said, “let us make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness,” (Gen. 1:26), he created man with three parts, just like God has. The body of Adam matches the body of God, which is Jesus. The soul of Adam matches the soul of God, which is God the Father. The spirit of Adam matches the spirit of God, which is the Holy Spirit.
When Adam was created, all three of these parts of man were alive. But God warned Adam that he would die if he ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17). He said, “in the DAY that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Well Adam ate alright; but he didn’t die THAT DAY. He lived to be 930 years old (Gen. 5:5). So, what happened? Did God lie? No! Adam’s body didn’t die that day, but his spirit did. And all of his offspring from then until now are born spiritually dead, in Adam’s likeness and Adam’s image (Gen. 5:3; 1 Cor 15:22; Rom 5:12).
That’s why Jesus said to a would-be disciple, “Let the dead bury their dead,” (Lk. 9:60). Dead men who are physically dead can’t bury dead people. But men who are spiritually dead can. They do it all the time. In Eph. 2:1, before we were saved we “were dead in trespasses and sins.” So, we had a live body and a live soul but our spirit was spiritually dead. That’s why the Lord said, “Fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell,” (Matt 10:28). He didn’t say, “which is able to destroy the spirit” because the spirit is already dead!
If a person in this condition is not “born again” by the Spirit of God, when he dies he will go to hell. In Jn 3:6, when Jesus explained to Nicodemus how to get eternal life, he said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” So, you see that the spirit must be regenerated (Tit 3:5) and brought to life in order for a person to “enter into the kingdom of God,” (Jn 3:5).
At the moment that the Holy Spirit saves a man, not only does he bring his spirit to life, but he also does some very important things to the body and the soul. These things reveal why we are eternally secure after we get saved. They also reveal how we can live a life pleasing to God after we get saved.
- The Holy Spirit spiritually circumcises “the body of the sins of the flesh” away from the soul (Col 2:10-12). This keeps the sins in the body from being imputed to the soul.
- The Spirit then puts the body on the cross with Jesus, so that we are “crucified with Christ,” (Gal 2:20; Rom 6:6). Thus, we are dead to sin (Rom 6:2). This begins the process of the body’s slow death (1 Cor 15:31). As long as we reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin (Rom 6:11), we can keep from obeying sin. It’s when we don’t want to live a crucified life that we really struggle with yielding to sin (Rom 6:12-16). As Gal. 5:17 says, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”
- The Spirit then places the soul in the body of Christ, since the soul’s former body is “dead.” Look what happens to the soul. The soul:
- Becomes a literal part of the flesh and bones of Jesus (Eph 5:30)
- Is seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:6)
- Is free to marry Jesus. It is in the bride of Christ (Rom. 7:1-4; 2 Cor 11:2).
- Is sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13, 4:30).
- When we physically die, the soul is actually “present” with the Lord (2 Cor 5:8).
So, then what happens to the body after a saved man dies? Well, since God made man in his own image with a live spirit, soul and body, he intended for all three of these parts to live eternally. After physical death, however, only a Christian’s soul and spirit are still alive. Consequently, God has to raise the dead body and change it into a perfect body that will live forever. This he does at the rapture (1 Thes 4:16-17; 1 Cor 15:50-55). He takes the old body and fashions it “like unto his glorious body,” (Phil 3:21). That way “when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is,” (1 Jn 3:2).
The following table summarizes what happens to the spirit, soul and body.
|Adam’s Matches||Holy Spirit||God the Father||Jesus Christ|
|At Adam’s Creation||Alive||Alive||Alive|
|After Adam’s Fall||Dead||Alive||Alive|
|All of Adam’s Seed||Dead||Alive||Alive|
|At the New Birth||Alive||Alive||Dead|
|At the Rapture||Alive||Alive||Alive|
So you can see that after we get saved, we aren’t yet perfect like Adam was when he was created. We have to struggle with a “crucified” body that’s not one bit happy about the cross it has to bear. It fights us until it is completely, physically dead. After that, we are still not perfect like Adam was when he was created because we don’t have a perfect body like he did. However, after the Rapture, we will be perfect just like Adam was. And we will live forever without sin, Praise God!!
Hope this helps,
Pastor Bevans Welder
Note: For a little more information on this question, see the study Created in God’s Image, Gen. 1:26-27 in the Sunday School Archive.