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What Is Man?


Man’s Creation and Nature


Of what was man formed in the beginning?


“The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7.


What act made him a living soul?


“And [God] breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Verse 7.


Note – The living soul was not put into the man; but the breath of life that was put into man made him – man, formed of the earth – a living soul, or creature. “Man became a living being,” says the Smith-Goodspeed American translation. (University of Chicago Press.)

The Hebrew words translated “living soul” in this text are nephesh chayyah, the same expression used in Genesis 1:24, translated “living creature.”

The word nephesh occurs 755 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. In the King James Version the word is translated:

428 times as “soul.” For example: Genesis 2:7; 12:5; Numbers 9:13; Psalm 6:3; Isaiah 1:14.

119 times, “life” (life’s, lives). For example: Genesis 1:20, 30; 9:4; 1 Kings 19:14; Job 6:11; Psalm 38:12.

29 times, “person.” For example: Numbers 31:19; 35:11, 15, 30; Deuteronomy 27:25; Joshua 20:3, 9; 1 Samuel 22:22.

15 times, “mind.” For example: Deuteronomy 18:6; Jeremiah 15:1.

15 times, “heart.” For example: Exodus 23:9; Proverbs 23:7.

9 times, “creature.” Genesis 1:21, 24: 2:19; 9:10, 12, 15, 16; Leviticus 11:46.

7 times, “body.” (or, dead body), Leviticus 21:11; Numbers 6:6; 9: 6, 7, 10; 19:13; Haggai 2:13.

5 times “dead.” Leviticus 19:28; 21:1; 22:4; Numbers 5:2; 6:11.

3 times, “man.” Exodus 12:16; 2 Kings 12:4; 1 Chronicles 5:21.

3 times, “me.” Numbers 23:10; Judges 16:30; 1 Kings 20:32.

3 times, “beast.” Leviticus 24:18.

2 times, “ghost.” Job 11:20; Jeremiah 15:9.

1 time, “fish.” Isaiah 19:10. 

One or more times as various forms of the personal pronouns. (These figures are from Young’s Analytical Concordance.)


Are other creatures besides man called “living souls”?  


“So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:21. “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.” Genesis 2:19.   


Note – Look up the nine instances of nephesh,” soul,” translated as “creature,” and you will see that they all refer to animals as “living creatures,” or, as the words might have been translated, “living souls.”  On the phrase nephesh chayyah, living soul or creature in Genesis 1:24, Adam Clarke says: “A general term to express all creatures endued with animal life, in any of its infinitely varied graduations, from the half-reasoning elephant down to the stupid potto, or lower still, to the polype, which seems equally to share the vegetable and animal life.”

An examination of the various occurrences of nephesh in the Old Testament shows that nephesh describes the individual rather than being a constituent part of the individual. It would be more correct, therefore, to say that a man is a nephesh, or “soul,” than that he has a nephesh, or, “soul.” True, the expressions “my soul,” “thy soul,” “his soul,” etc, occurs frequently, but in most cases these are simply idiomatic expressions meaning “myself,” “thyself,” “himself,” etc. Translators recognizing this have at times substituted the personal pronoun. For examples see Psalm 35:25; Proverbs 6:16; 16:26; Isaiah 5:14.

In other instances nephesh means “life.” Where such is it’s meaning “my soul” would mean “my life,” “thy soul,” etc. See 2 Samuel 1:9; Jeremiah 4:30; etc.

In the New Testament the word translated “soul” is the Greek psuche. This is the word that in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, translates the Hebrew word nephesh. New Testament writers used psuche as the equivalent of nephesh, and did not attach to psuche the pagan Greek concept of the allegedly immortal part of a man as opposed to his body or perishable part. Psuche is rendered by the following words in our King James Version:

58 times, “soul.”

40 times, “life.” For example: Mark 3:4; 10:45; Luke 6:8; 9:56; John 13:37; Romans 11:3; Revelation 8:9; 12:11.

3 Times, “mind.” Acts 14:2; Philippians 1:27; Hebrews 12:3. 

1 time, ‘heart.” Ephesians 6:6.

1 time, “heartily” (literally, “from the soul”) Colossians 3:23.

Psuche is also used once in John 10:24 and in 2 Corinthians 12:15, in idiomatic phrases that are properly translated by the personal pronoun.


Do others besides man have the “breath of Life”?


“Every living thing that moved on the earth perished – birds, livestock, wild animals, all creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died.” Genesis 7:21,22.


When man gives up this spirit, what becomes of it?


“And the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:7. 

Note – The word translated “breath” is ruach, which is defined in Gesenius Lexicon as “Ruach:  

(1) Spirit, breath, (a) Breath of the mouth… Hence used of anything quickly perishing… Often used of the vital spirit… (b) Breath of the nostrils, snuffling, snorting… Hence anger…(c) Breath of air, air in motion, i.e., breeze…

“(2) Psuche anima, breath, life, the vital principle, which shows itself in the breathing of the mouth and nostrils (see No. 1, a, b), whether of man or beasts, Ecclesiastes 3:21; 8:8; 12:7; …

“(3) The rational mind or spirit. (a) As the seat of the senses, affections, and emotions of various kinds…  (b) As to the mode of thinking and acting…. (c) Of will and counsel… More rarely (d) it is applied to intellect…

“(4) The Spirit of God.” – Tregelles’ translation (1875 ed.)

The word spirit in the Old Testament is always from ruach, except twice (Job 26:4 and Proverbs 20:27 from neshamah), Ruach, besides being rendered 232 times as “spirit,” is also translated:

28 times, “breath.” For example: Genesis 6:17; 7:15, 22; Job 12:10; Psalms 104:29; 146:4; Ecclesiastes 3:19.

8 times, “mind.” Genesis 26:35; Proverbs 29:11; Ezekiel 11:5; 20:32; Daniel 5:20; Habakkuk 1:11.

4 times, “blast.” Exodus 15:8; 2 Kings 19:7; Isaiah 25:4; 37:7.

Also translated one or more times by the following words: ‘anger,” “air,” “tempest,” “vain.”

At death the spirit goes back to the great Author of life. Having come from Him, it belongs to God, and man can have it eternally only as a gift from God, through Jesus Christ. (Romans 6:23.) When the spirit goes back to God, the dust, from which man’s body was formed, goes back as it was, to the earth, and the individual no longer exists as a living, conscious, thinking being.

“Our personal identity is preserved in the resurrection, though not the same particles of matter or material substance as went into the grave. The wondrous works of God are a mystery to man. The spirit, the character of man, is returned to God, there to be preserved. In the resurrection every man will have his own character. God in His own time will call forth the dead, giving again the breath of life, and bidding the dry bones live. The same form will come forth, but it will be free from disease and every defeat. It lives again bearing the same individuality of features, so that friend will recognize friend. There is no law of God in nature that shows that God gives back the identical same particles of matter that composed the body before death. God shall give the righteous dead a body that will please Him.” – E.G. White in S.D.A. Bible Commentary, Vol. 6, p. 1093.


From Wrath and Death to Life


Who only have hold of the life eternal?


He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

1 John 5:12. 


Note – The individual sinner has this temporal life; when he yields up this life, he has no prospect or promise of eternal life. That can only be received only through Christ. 


Why was Adam driven from Eden and from the tree of life?


‘And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good from evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” Genesis 3:22. 


What was done to keep man away from the tree of life?


“After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flashing sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” Verse 24.


How are all men in the natural state regarded?


“All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following after its desires and thoughts.” Ephesians 2:3. 


If the wrath of God “abides” on us, of what are we deprived?


“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” John 3:36. 


Through whom can we be saved from wrath and given immortality?


“Since we have been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” Romans 5:9. “But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

 2 Timothy 1:10. 


Who only possesses inherent immorality?


“Which God will bring about in his own time – God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.”

1 Timothy 6:15,16.


Note – This word for immortality as applied to God is not aphtharsia, “incorruptibility,” which is used twice, in 2 Timothy 1:10 and Romans 2:7, but athanasia, “deathlessness,” which is also used in 1 Corinthians 15:53, 54. God is the only being who possess original life or immorality in Himself. All others must receive it from God. (See John 5:26; 6:27; 10:10, 27, 28; Romans 6:23; 1 John 5:11.)


To whom is eternal life promised?


“To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” Romans 2:7. 


Note – One does not need to seek for a thing that he already possesses. The fact that we are to seek for immortality is proof in itself that we do not now possess it.

Again, it would mar the felicity of one’s employment in heaven could he look upon earth and see his friends and relatives suffering from persecution, want, cold, or hunger, or sorrowing for the dead. God’s way is best – that all sentient life, animation, activity, thought, and consciousness should cease at death, and that all should wait till the resurrection for their eternal reward. (See Hebrews 11:39, 40.)


When will the faithful be changed to immortality?


“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52.   


What is then to be swallowed up?


“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” Verse 54. (See also verse 57.)


Note – Isaiah 25:8 says, “he will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people will be taken away from all the earth: For the Lord has spoke it.” When Christ comes in the clouds of heaven, the amazing transformation from mortal to immortal takes place, both of the righteous dead and the righteous living. Then regenerated man is completely saved beyond all possibilities of death and will be no longer troubled with this great enemy.   

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