Death (Both Physical and Spiritual) is Separation and Not the Cessation of Existence

Death, both physical and spiritual, share this in common:  that they involve separation and DO NOT represent the cessation of existence.

In physical death, the soul separates from the body, the body decays and the dead person’s “dust returns to the ground it came from” (Ecclesiastes 12:7, NIV).

The soul, however, continues to exist either in hell (Luke 16:19-31) or in heaven (John 14:2-3).

Likewise, spiritual death involves separation, and in particular, separation between a person and God.

Isaiah 59:2 (NIV) reads: “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” (emphasis mine), and note how in Ephesians 2:1, this separation is translated as death: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins”. (emphasis mine)

This concept is again reflected in Colossians 2:13 (NLT; with emphasis mine):

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.

Bearing this in mind, have you ever wondered what the Lord Jesus Christ meant when he said to “let the dead bury their own dead”? (Luke 9:60). It is obvious that a physically-dead person cannot bury another physically-dead person, however, spiritually-dead people are capable of burying a physically-dead person. Thus, the New Living Translation (NLT) is accurate in its translation of Luke 9:60 as follows (with emphasis mine):

But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”

Finally, it is important for believers to note that there are things that can lead to spiritual death and that we are to avoid them (Romans 6:20-21; NIV; with emphasis mine), lest they cause us to die spiritually again:

20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!

The Triune Nature of the Soul (Mind, Heart and Will) and What Happens to a Person’s Soul When He/She Dies

In a previous post, we discuss humankind’s triune nature of spirit, soul, and body.

Now, just as a “whole” person comprises three parts, a person’s soul also comprises three parts:  mind (thoughts), heart (emotion) and the will.

With the mind, a person decides whether to live according to the flesh (the sinful nature) or according to the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:5-6; NIV):

5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

With regards to the heart, the bible tell us that it “is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9). In addition, it is out of the heart that comes “evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19, NIV).

The will is the superior part of a person’s soul, capable of overruling the intentions of his/her mind or heart. The Lord Jesus Christ, for instance, was anguished by the thought of His crucifixion (Luke 22:44), but overruled His anguish by setting His will according to His Father’s will (“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”; Luke 22:42).

However, just as a person’s mind (1 Timothy 6:5) and heart can be corrupted, so can a person’s will:

For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:26; KJV; emphasis mine)

For this they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old, and an earth compacted out of water and amidst water, by the word of God (2 Peter 3:5; ASV; emphasis mine)

It is therefore imperative for our souls (mind, heart and will) to be saved — indeed, this is the goal of our faith (1 Peter 1:9; ISV; emphasis mine):

because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Indeed, upon death, while a person’s body decays, and his/her spirit is returned to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7, NIV), the person’s soul remains conscious, and ends up in either one of two places depending on the choices that the person has made during his/her lifetime.

Specifically, upon death, a person’s soul either ends up in hell (Luke 16:19-31) or in heaven (John 14:2-3).

On the issue of how can a person secure eternal life, well, the bible instructs us to “abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 1:9; NIV), and abstaining from sinful desires is the choice that we need to make during our lifetime on a day-by-day basis if we wish to reap eterna life:

Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:8; NIV)

The Triune Nature of Humanity (Spirit, Soul and Body) and What Happens to a Person When He/She Dies

The bible teaches us that the “whole” person has three components:  spirit, soul and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23b; ISV)

And may your whole being—spirit, soul, and body—remain blameless when our Lord Jesus, the Messiah, appears.

It’s obvious that when a person dies, the body decays. The bible also talks about how the dead person’s “dust returns to the ground it came from” (Ecclesiastes 12:7, NIV).

Interestingly, that same verse also teaches us that the person’s “spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7, NIV).

Why does God give each person a spirit? This is so that he/she may “understand”, in particular, to the reality of God (Job 32:8, ESV):

But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.

Indeed, it is precisely because a person is equipped with this ability to understand (because of the spirit given to him/her), that he/she has no excuse for not believing in God (Romans 1:20; NIV; emphasis mine):

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

To reiterate, upon death a person’s body decays, and his/her spirit is returned to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7, NIV). However, the person’s soul remains conscious, and ends up in either one of two places depending on the choices that the person has made during his/her lifetime.

Specifically, upon death, a person’s soul either ends up in hell (Luke 16:19-31) or in heaven (John 14:2-3).