The concept of the “soul” is very misunderstood. It is often used or confused with “spirit” and yet, the Bible defines these two concepts as distinctly different.
A good way to see how the Bible uses the term “soul” is by using tools that allow you to look up where a word is found (concordance) and to look up the original words in Hebrew and Greek and their translation into English (lexicon). There are free online resources that can be downloaded from the internet that make this very easy to use, such as E-Sword.
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic. The Hebrew word for “soul” is “nephesh” and it means, a breathing creature and is used in a wide variety of applications.
The first time the concept of “soul” is used in the Bible is in the context of the LORD God creating animals and birds and it was translated into English as the word, “life” in Genesis 1:20 and “creature” in Genesis 1:21 (King James Version/English Standard Version).
“And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.” (Genesis 1:20, KJV)
“And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:21, KJV)
When the LORD God created humans, it says,
“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7, KJV)
“…then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (Genesis 2:7, ESV).
Notice that when the LORD God created man, He breathed into his nostrils and man became a living soul. This implies that man was a dead soul until he was energized with the breath of life.
What we learn from creation and the first uses of the concept of “soul” are that:
The concept of “soul” has a wide variety of applications and a number of English words are used for it such as life, creature, soul, etc.
In creation, the soul/creature is prefaced by the word “living” meaning that the soul/creature could also be a dead creature/soul before it was a living soul.
The soul does not become alive until the LORD God energizes it with the breath of life, implying that a soul can be a dead soul.
The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel confirms that a soul dies,
“The soul who sins shall die…” (Ezekiel 18:20, ESV)
The concept of “soul” is used in the same way in the New Testament. The New Testament was written in Greek and the Greek word for “soul” is “psuche” meaning, breath, the animal, vitality.
The following verses demonstrate the “soul” can be living or dead:
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28, ESV)
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39, ESV)
“Then he [Jesus] said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”” (Matthew 26:39, ESV)
These verses state that the soul can be destroyed so it is not immortal, a person can “lose” his/her soul or his/her life and Jesus said that his soul was sorrowful unto death, showing that even Jesus’ soul/person could die.
Since the soul can and does die, the following verses show that, in fact, when a person dies, nothing of that soul/person/creature lives on. The soul/person/creature returns to the dust of the ground from which it was created:
“For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol (grave) who will give you praise?” Psalm 6:5, ESV)
“For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5)
Only God, Himself, has immortality,
“…who alone [speaking of the LORD God] has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:16, ESV)
This is what Christadelphians believe about the soul:
Christadelphians believe what the Bible says about the soul.
A number of English words are used to describe the soul such as soul, life, creature, person.
That the soul is the person or creature, consisting of its personality, characteristics and qualities, whether living or dead.
The soul/person/creature only becomes a living soul/person/creature when the LORD God breathes into it the breath of life.
The soul is not immortal.
All souls/persons/creatures die and return to the dust with no conscience, remembrance or knowledge.
Only GOD has immortality, which He granted to Jesus.
The LORD God has provided us with the hope of eternal life at the return of Jesus to the earth. At that time, Jesus will raise the dead and grant eternal life to those whom he finds faithful. Speaking of the resurrection of the dead at the return of Jesus to the earth, the apostle Paul says,
“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-54, ESV)
Our calling is to faithfully follow the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the assurance that, although we die and return to the dust of the ground, at the resurrection of the dead, the faithful will be granted eternal life and “put on” immortality.