“Never tell your child, ‘you have a soul’. Teach him, you are a soul; you have a body” ~ George Macdonald
Man is not the Body
The Word of God time and time again shows us that Man is not the body. The body is mortal, which means it will die. God Himself tells Adam in the garden of Eden, “for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” Genesis 3:19. So, truly there is no getting around death, unless you are still alive at Christ second coming. If you are still alive at His second coming Paul tells us, “but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” 1 Corinthians 15:51-52. And even in that statement, Paul is showing us that Man is not the body. Paul tells us, “nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” 1 Corinthians 15:50. Why can’t the perishable inherit the imperishable? Simple, because it is perishable. The body will not inherit the kingdom of God, as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:50. The kingdom of God is imperishable, so nothing perishable can inherit it. So, we are left to ponder the question, what is Man? The body will soon be no more. It will return to dust or be changed. So, we can thoroughly conclude that Man is not the body.
Man is a Spirit and Soul in the Body
Now that we can understand that Man is not the body, we must ask what is? From David J. Stewart article on Understanding the Human Soul, he explains, “Man does not have a soul and spirit; but rather, man is a soul and spirit. Man has a body”. Our spirit and soul are two different things, but they are tightly joined together acting as 'one' while in the body. Paul describes this to us in Hebrews 4:12 when saying, “for the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow”. Just like joints and marrow, the soul and spirit can be seen as ‘one’, practically inseparable.
The Bible is trying to get its readers to understand that Man is a spirit and soul. Which is why Paul writes the first and last Adam. “‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit” 1 Corinthians 15:45. "The first Adam became a living soul". The first Adam was made a spiritual being in Genesis 1. "The last Adam became a life-giving spirit". In Genesis 2:7 when God formed man from the dust of the ground, He breathed into Man’s nostrils the breath of life. God’s breathe of life that He breathed into Adam became his spirit. God’s breath of life gave Adam's soul life in the body. With God’s breath of life, Adam could animate his natural body. "The first Adam became a living soul, the last Adam became a life-giving spirit". (For a deeper understanding of what Paul wrote in the Greek on the first and last Adam look at my past post, The Last Adam is Adam).
The Soul is still Alive After Physical Death
When we die the Bible describes our death as being asleep. When Jesus heard of Lazarus death He told the disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep” John 11:11. The body of Lazarus was dead, it was already decaying or “returning to dust” upon Jesus’ arrival. Martha, the sister of Lazarus, said in John 11:39, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days”. Again, the body of Lazarus was dead. It was doing what the Lord God in Genesis 3:19 said it would do. But the soul of Lazarus was still alive. This is why Jesus said, “Lazarus has fallen asleep”. Lazarus is not the body. Lazarus is the soul. The spiritual body, our soul, is imperishable and can inherit the kingdom of God. Our natural body is perishable and cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:44, “it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body”. We have a natural body and we have a spiritual body. At death the soul (the spiritual body) remains dormant (sleep) in the grave until Christ's second coming. The soul is still living. This is why Paul says, "the first man, Adam, became a living soul". The body is not life, but it contains (holds) life, which is the soul. Remember what Jesus told the twelve disciples when instructing them in Matthew 10:28, "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell". The soul is life, it is living, it is alive. Daniel 12:2 tell us, “many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt”.
The Spirit Returns to Heaven
As we are understanding, the soul stays in the grave until Christ return, and the body returns to dust. What then happens to our spirit, the "breath of life" God gave us in Genesis 2:7? Well, it returns to God because it’s His breath. Ecclesiastes 12:7, “then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it”. God gave us our spirit, His breath, Genesis 2:7. But He created our soul in His image and likeness, Genesis 1:27.
Spirit, Soul, and Body
Human beings are tripart. Paul shows us this in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Just like God is tripart. God has a spirit, “the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters” Genesis 1:3. God has a soul, “behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights” Isaiah 42:1. And God had a body, “and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” John 1:14. We are made in the likeness and image of God, so of course everything He is is superior to us because we are His children.
Back to the question, ‘what is Man?’. Man is a spirit and soul in the body. When the spirit returns to God and the body begins and does decay, the soul is left. Man is left. The soul is the “spiritual body” that will rise at the return of Christ. The soul was created by God in Genesis 1:27 on the 6th day (learn more here). The natural body and the spirit were formed and given by the Lord God in Genesis 2:7 (learn more here). Remember, Peter said, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” 2 Peter 3:10. All material things, the “perishable”, the natural, will be “burned up”. What then is left? The immaterial things, the “imperishable”, the spiritual, life.
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience” ~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin