I’m listening to some lectures about the Bible. Here’s something that was said about digital information and, ultimately, about human beings:
“Messages do not require embodiment. They can exist in their own right. Software has no mass. Now, what does that mean? If time is a physical property and software has no mass, it has no time dimension. What that really means is, the real ‘you’ is eternal, whether you are saved or not. The issue is, where are you going to spend it?”
If I may, I’ll make the analogy abundantly clear:
Human beings do not require embodiment. We can exist in our own right. We have no mass. Thus, we have no time dimension. The real ‘us’ is eternal, whether or not we’re saved. The issue is where we’re going to spend eternity.
Is this biblical? Let’s take a look.
Spirit and Soul
Genesis 2:7 says this about human life:
“The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath (nᵊšāmâ) of life, and man became a living being (nep̄eš).”
I included the Hebrew words to show how the Bible makes an important distinction that I think is missing in the analogy. The word nᵊšāmâ is sometimes translated as “spirit.” The word nep̄eš is sometimes translated as “soul.” So, the text basically says this: When you add the spirit of life to a body, you get a soul. BODY + SPIRIT = SOUL.
According to the Bible, a soul is simply a living person who is a blend of body and spirit. Indeed, a soul depends on both body and spirit to exist. Without that combination, you have just a lifeless body and some breath. There’s no evidence that God created human beings to be independent of a body at any point.
I believe that it’s that breath (spirit) that’s a better fit for what was said in the lecture. Let’s take the analogy again. It connected digital information with human beings (which the Bible sometimes calls “souls”). This time, let’s connect the analogy with the spirit (breath) instead of the soul:
Spirit does not require embodiment. It exists in its own right. It has no mass. Thus, it has no time dimension. The real spirit is eternal, whether or not we’re saved. The issue is whether or not our bodies are made alive by the spirit.
Now, that’s biblical (and more sensical). The Bible describes the spirit as everlasting, in the sense of “without beginning or end.” But, here’s the thing. God is spirit. He alone has immortality. God is the breath of life. Living human beings are not the breath of life, the spirit. We aren’t spirit; we have spirit. Anyone is alive only because God’s spirit has been breathed into a body. That’s what Genesis 2:7 and other passages say.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 explains death, which is the reverse process:
“The dust returns to the earth where it was,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”
The spirit — God’s breath — returns to Him when we die. The spirit — God’s breath — cannot die. It’s the life force itself.
When the concepts of spirit and soul are conflated, the issue is confused. When you put “soul” where “spirit” belongs, it makes human beings immortal — a quality that belongs to God alone. It also upends the concept of death.
Heaven and Hell?
That brings me to the final point I quoted above: “The issue is, where are you going to spend [eternity]?”
In an “immortal soul” paradigm, location is all-important. Everything is about heaven or hell. It’s a common refrain. But, this paradigm isn’t biblical. I’ve already covered one point about that — God alone has immortality. Here’s another one: The Bible uses a “location paradigm” only a handful of times, and it’s always to express extremes (the highest place versus the lowest place) in order to express totality. Here’s one example, Job 11:8, which is representative of every instance that the Bible uses the words heaven and hell together:
“God’s wisdom is higher than heaven.
What can you do?
It is deeper than the depths of hell.
What can you know?”
The Bible’s “heaven and hell” paradigm is not related to being saved or lost. When it comes to being saved or lost, the Bible has a different paradigm: life and death. Forget the paradigm of “heaven and hell.” Embrace the paradigm of “life and death.” Everything will come into focus. You’ll see the thread through every page of the Bible.
The devil conspires to confuse the issue. He seeks to scare us into false belief or turn us off to God. He hopes to hijack what belongs only to God. In the devil’s paradigm, the issue is where we’re going to spend eternity: hell or heaven. In God’s paradigm, the issue is how we’re going to spend eternity: dead or alive.