Bible Gems #99
Question: Does the soul ever die?
In the Bible, the term “soul” (Heb. nephesh; Gk. psyche) typically refers to a “living being.” In Genesis 1:20-21 God created the creatures of the sea, which are called “living souls” (ie., “living beings”). Then, in Genesis 2:7, God breathed into the inanimate shell of a man, and the man became a “living soul.” From a biblical point of view, people do not have souls; they are souls.
In its most common sense, “soul” is another word for “person:”
Ezek. 18:4 For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son—both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.
Therefore, when Jesus said that He came to give His “life,” He used the word “soul” (Gk. Psyche), because He meant that He as a person would die:
Matt. 20:28 …just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Death does not mean that the person ceases to exist. Rather, death means that the person as a “being” enters into a different state of existence. A person who dies apart from Christ goes to the “pit,” to Sheol (Heb.), or Hades (Gk.), the realm of the dead, to await Judgment at the end of history (Rev. 20:11-15).
This is why Jesus warned His followers about not giving in to fear over what their enemies might do to them:
Matt. 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
The word translated “destroy” (aÓpole÷sai) means to wreck something beyond recognition, or to lose something beyond recovery.
A person’s soul exists forever. The question for each “soul” is “in what condition will I exist forever?” The answer depends upon what that soul is invested in during this earthly life. As strange as it may seem, a person who spends his or her life trying to fulfill, maintain and satisfy the soul will end up losing it. That soul will end up in sheol awaiting Judgment and an eternity in hell. Why? Because investing your soul in your soul is like stuffing your paycheck in your wallet. Where’s the benefit in that?
However, if a person invests his life, his soul, in Jesus he is investing in eternal life:
Mark 8:35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
And the only way we invest the soul in anything is through love:
Matt. 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
So in answer to the question “does the soul ever die,” the answer is “yes.” But for those who truly belong to Jesus, that “soul” is kept, protected and made pure for eternal life by God Himself—because that’s what He does for those He loves and who love Him in return. He Himself is what our soul was made for.1 Th. 5:23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.