Soul, Spirit, Flesh :: By Tom Tillman

Hello Courtleigh; Thank you for writing and for listening to our ministry. We are honored and thank you for your very good question.

If it sounded like I was saying that the unsaved, unregenerate, not born-again person does not have a spirit, that is not what we understand from Scripture. The person who is lost, before God gives him Eternal Life, is a soul, living within a body of flesh, having a spirit which is dead… not nonexistent, but rather, dead. As regards Man: the Bible teaches us that we were all born into this world spiritually dead.

In the beginning, when God created Adam and Eve, they were created in His Image; God is Tripartite, meaning He is Three in One: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit… Three Persons, One God, the Trinity. We don’t fully understand that reality, but we do believe it because His Word clearly teaches it. He chose to create Adam and Eve in His Image, also, tripartite: they were souls, living within a body of flesh, living within a body of spirit.

God told Adam, regarding his potential rebellion to sin, not to eat of that tree. “But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Gen 2:17).

God does not lie; something, some important part of Adam and Eve, died that very day. Since we know from Scripture that Adam continued to live many centuries longer, whatever part of Adam that died was not his physical body or his soul: “So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died” (Gen 5:5).

Paul tells us that before we were ‘born again,’ we were spiritually dead: “Even when we were dead in trespasses, [He] made us alive together with Christ” (Eph 2:5).

After his sin, Adam’s spirit died; ever afterward, he was a soul living within flesh, but his spirit was dead. After Adam, until the time of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, every person who died went to ‘Sheol,’ the place of the dead. Those who had trusted in God went to Paradise while all the rest went to Hades. Even though the Old Testament Saints were ‘saved,’ they could not enter Heaven until Jesus Christ paid the full penalty for their sin with His life, death, and resurrection.

When we, who have been born again, die, we go immediately into the presence of God because He has already made us spiritually alive so that we can continue our unbroken fellowship with Him forever. For us, physical death is just closing our eyes and opening them to see Jesus Christ. For the lost who die, their souls still go to Hades to await the Final Judgment after Jesus Christ’s 1000-year Kingdom on Earth.

We’ve all seen or known those who’ve suffered a major stroke; we’ve seen them walking – dragging one leg and foot behind them as well as the arm and hand on the same side, and maybe also that side of their face. Those parts of his body are now ‘dead’ to his brain. He is incapable of using them, no matter how hard his brain concentrates on moving them. He is unable to interact with anything of the physical realm using those ‘dead’ parts of his body. That is an example of part of his flesh being dead while he still lives. That is how every person’s spirit is from birth; they are a soul living within flesh with their spirit being dead, dragging it along. When we are born again, that dead spirit suddenly experiences new life; it has become a new creation.

Think of it this way: At the moment of our conception, within our mothers, we become a living soul while God formed, for us, a special suit made of flesh. As we wear our special suit of flesh, we are able to interact with the physical world; we can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. If we were to step out of our special suit made of flesh, we would no longer be able to interact with the physical world at all. That is what happens when a person dies; they lay aside their suit of flesh and immediately go to one of two places: Heaven with God, now that Jesus Christ has redeemed us, or Hades, the place of the dead, to await the Final Judgment.

When we are born again, God enlivens our suit of spirit. As we now wear our special suit of spirit, we are actually able to interact with God in the spiritual realm, albeit in a limited manner. Before their sin, Adam and Eve’s suits of spirit enabled them to interact with the spiritual realm fully and completely; Adam was able to actually walk and talk with God.

For those who are lost, they are only able to interact with the physical world, as they can only wear their suit of flesh. We’ve seen pictures of different kinds of animals who shed their outer suit of flesh as they continue to grow ever larger; they constantly shed their previous, now dead, suit of flesh. The lost can, however, interact with the spiritual realm to a degree through the use of drugs, mediation, and other sorceries.

Those who are lost live within their suit of flesh, but their suit of spirit is dead and being dragged behind them or, rather, hanging dead upon them. Because their suit of spirit is dead, they are completely incapable of hearing God’s voice or understanding His Word; in fact, God and His Word are foolishness to them.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Cor 1:18).

“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14).

“For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor 15:21-22).

“So also it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45).

“And if Christ is in you . . . the spirit is alive because of righteousness” (Rom 8:10).

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins… who were… by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:1-7).

God describes us to have been people who were dead (our spirits) while some other part of ourselves could still walk around in our flesh. When God reveals Himself to a person and calls that person to Himself, giving them the gift of faith to believe, that person then becomes fully alive; their spirit is ‘born again;’ something of that person is new. Even the Biblical term, born again, indicates something new has been born…. God has created within that person a newly alive spirit within which he can now interact with God.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor 5:17).

Now, we are a living soul in a physical body within a fully alive spiritual body. At the moment of the Rapture, our physical bodies will be changed into bodies just like that of Jesus Christ:

“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thes 4:13-18).

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Now we are living souls within flesh, within spirit. Now that our spirits are alive, unto God, so that we can actually live, walk and remain in close fellowship with God, through His Holy Spirit, we are told to think of ourselves as spiritually alive unto God and to also think and live as if our flesh is dead to sin, dead to the World:

“Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:11).

At the moment of the Rapture, our fleshly bodies will become glorified eternal bodies, and we will then reflect the Lord Jesus Christ in a full and complete way; we will be a fully integrated trinity of Soul/Spirit/Flesh, and we will be able to fully interact with God, with all His other children and with all of His Creation, the spiritual realm, the physical realm and all other realms of His Creation of which we now have no concept. Now there is a separation between the physical realm and the spiritual realm. God has put a filter over our eyes, ears, etc., so that we are incapable of interacting with most of the spiritual realm. Then… we will enjoy all of God’s Creation; nothing will be withheld from us as it is now.

God’s eternal plan has always been to Glorify His Name; He alone is worthy of glory, honor, and praise. He has also, from eternity past, planned His creation of each one of us, destined to be His children, and He has planned to further glorify Himself through His blessing, honor, and glory, which He has planned to shower upon us throughout all eternity. He will be glorified through us, His trophies of Love; He was able to take lost, dirty, broken little people like us and eventually form us into a kingdom of kings, queens, and priests unto Himself; we will be the ultimate example of His Grace, Mercy, Love, Power, Dominion, and Glory forever.

Finally, another mistake made by many is that our soul and spirit are the same thing, that the terms are interchangeable. They are, indeed, complete unique parts of ourselves. In finishing his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul wrote:

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes 5:23).

He will come for us soon…. He might even come for us today, so let us always “walk in a manner worthy of our calling, setting our hearts, always, on things above, not on things of the Earth” (Eph 4:1, Col 3:2).

God bless you, Courtleigh,

Tom and Debbie