Monday, September 13, 2010

On the Soul, Spirit, and Body, death and resurrection

EDIT (9/15/2010 4:08 p.m.): This is a work in progress, and generally paints with a very broad brush.

However, please understand that my modus operandi with this article is to purposely narrow the semantic range of the words "spirit" and "soul" to their (apparent) usage in Gen. 2:7, and to try to understand and/or translate those exact words as used in the rest of Scripture from their meanings to be consistent with this new narrower range.
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My current understanding of the nature of death and the Scriptural (or more accurately, Traditional, of which Scriptural is a part) definitions of the spirit, soul, and body, is as follows:
  1. That the "living soul" is the union of spirit (from God) and body (from dust). (Gen. 2:7)

  2. That death is the separation of that spirit from the that body, resulting in the corruption of said body, and the return of the spirit to God. (Eccl. 12:7)

    (This spirit is what is commonly referred to today as "the soul", which leads to some confusion...thus this essay.)

  3. That the spirit does NOT lose it's individuality — that is, it's identity — upon its return to God. It remains a Person (in the trinitarian sense — a hypostasis), but it is not a "living soul" (a "person" in the sense used in the class on the go CD's — the union of spirit and body), and is unable to perform any acts, because it does not have the body to act through.

  4. That the terms translated as these terms in the Scriptures, particularly "spirit" and "soul" do not always carry the exact meanings given here, so the semantic range shifts (in English for sure, and maybe even in the originals). Therefore "proof texting" is pretty much useless on this topic. Context is key to understanding.

  5. That, for the purposes of this discourse, and limiting the terms to their understandings as described above, "death" is always the separation of the spirit from the body, resulting in the non-being of the "soul" (once again, not the modern "soul" which is more akin to the "spirit" as used here).

    (Side note: Therefore, to speak of the "immortality of the soul", in which "the soul" is taken in it's modern meaning more akin to "spirit" as used in this essay, is a non sequiter. To speak of mortality and immortality at all of necessity involves all parts of man in the discussion: body, soul, and spirit. In other words, to speak of death in reference to only one of these is impossible, since they are interconnected in mysterious and inseparable ways.)

  6. That in the original creation, as in the resurrection, the body created from the dust was maintained incorruptible by the perfect union of the spirit with itself, which spirit was in constant communication with God's own life-giving Spirit (inferred from Gen. 3:8) and was in the state we now refer to as "glorified" (inferred from Gen. 2:25), and was not subject to nature, but rather master of it (Gen. 1:26).

  7. That the fall of man was precisely this: when man cut himself off from God by disobedience to His command, his spirit, being from God, lost it's source of sustenance (that is, God, Who alone "has life in Himself"), and the perfect union of the spirit with the body was disrupted, and "the soul that sinned" died "in that day", as had been warned.

    So then the body is no longer maintained incorruptible, and is now subject to the laws of nature, rather than nature being subject to it, as at the first. (And as a result, all nature itself lost it's direct connection to the life-giving spirit, and was "made subject to corruption" also.)

    Therefore, "death" occurred at the very instant of the fall, but by the mercy and power of God the body was allowed to hold onto the spirit it was given, so that death was not fully manifested in the first Adam for almost 1,000 years after (and a much shorter period now), when the body of the first Adam returned to the dust. (That is to say, naturally -- although death was manifested unnaturally in his offspring through murder. But I digress...)

    I say "by the mercy of God", because this delay allowed man to propagate, and obtain a sort of holding pattern, "under bondage to the elements of the world" (Gal. 4:3), until the coming of the Promised One, even though the individual members of the race each returns to the dust in his own time (and still do so).

    (Basically, this mercy of God denied Death a final victory, so that He Himself could destroy it "in due time" when He "died for the ungodly.")

    However, in all the time that this corrupt body holds onto its spirit, still cut off from God,

    the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (Gal. 5:17, see also Rom. 7)

  8. That in the coming of the Promised One, God reunited Himself to mankind, (and, conversely, reuninted mankind to Himself). This Man, the second Adam (that is to say, the recreation of the race in, by, through, and to Him), was not merely a body with a spirit from God, but is God Himself (Who is Spirit) united with a body like ours ("made of a woman", Gal. 4:4) to be the God-Man: Jesus.

    (NOTE: For the purposes of this discussion, I have intentionally ignored the distinctions between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, subsuming them all under the title "God").

    And through this God-Man, God once again breaths His Spirit into Mankind (Gal. 4:6). (More on this below.) And so

    And so it is written, 'The first man Adam was made a living soul;' the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. (1 Cor. 15:45)

  9. That the death of this Jesus on His Cross was, like the death of all men, the separation of His Spirit from His body (and it's return to God). But the key difference is that His death was voluntary, and not of necessity (as for other men). This is evident, for as He Himself said,

    ...I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (John 10:17b, 18)

  10. That because of it's voluntary nature, His death is the trap wherein God caught (and slew) death: He by right took up again that body which He had voluntarily "offered by the eternal Spirit" (Heb. 9:14). But because He was not subject to death, but voluntarily gave Himself over to it, He also was able to take His life back from death, and thereby to destroy death.

    This, incidentally, is the entire purpose of His union with "the likeness of sinful flesh" (Rom. 8:3) (that is to say, unglorified flesh, subject to death) —

    that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Heb. 2:20)

    And so

    this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost [that is, to rescue from death] that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. (Heb. 7:24, 25)
    For as He says,
    I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. (Rev. 1:18)

  11. That the "resurrection of the dead" at the end of the age is the reunification of the spirit(s) with the (glorified, incorruptible) body(/ies) -- that is, the body restored to it's pre-fall existence. Christ the firstfruits, and those that are His at His coming.

  12. That the rescue from death occurs for all men, and therefore

    the living God...is the Saviour of all men (1 Tim. 4:10)

    That all will be raised, He Himself testifies:

    Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth. (John 5:28)

  13. But that some who are raised will be raised to "damnation", since they did not obey the Gospel of God before their death. And thus

    [He] is the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe. (1 Tim. 4:10)

  14. That although all will be raised, some (who still reject and try to flee from Him) will be raised to everlasting torment, and some (who love and obey and rejoice in Him, i.e. "all them also that love His appearing" [2 Tim. 4:8]), everlasting bliss.

  15. That we who believe, repent, and are baptized into Christ are baptized into His death and resurrection, and thereby receive remission of sins and "the earnest of the Spirit" (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Rom. 8:11), Who, if we do not grieve and drive away through a return to unbelief and sin,

    seals us unto the day of redemption, (Eph. 3:30)
    and
    sanctifies us wholly; and preserves our whole spirit and soul and body blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:23)
    so that
    be[ing] found in Him...our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto Himself. (Phil. 3:20)

    This is the great hope of all the saints, by which we are saved. (1 Tim. 2:13; Tit. 3:7; 1 Pet. 1:3, 13; 1 John 3:3)

    I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. (Nicene Creed)

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