I believe I have met many individuals whose bodies were healthy, and whose spirits were vital, but whose souls were lost. They are dead in eternity but still walk upon the earth, as Cain did after he chose the way of darkness. Some don’t know they are lost, while others do know, but believe they have made their choices and must accept the consequences.
How can the body and spirit live when the soul is lost?
It helps me tremendously to look at the body, spirit, and soul separately before considering our current and future state as a whole. Begin with the physical body. The body lives when it is born and receives the breath of life. It dies when the breath of life leaves, at the separation of the body and spirit.
At the time of physical death, the spirit continues to provide a vehicle for the soul, but it’s freedom to choose and act is now limited to the spiritual world. A soul with both body and spirit was able to choose and act in both worlds, so the loss of the body is extremely limiting, even if temporary.
Jesus said: “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voiceand come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-9).
Christians have traditionally believed the resurrection to be physical – as do I – for otherwise there would be no need to come out of the graves. To review then, the body lives at birth, dies at some time after that, and is resurrected still later whether the person is good or evil. If evil, then the resurrection precedes judgement, at which time the soul and resurrected body lives forever, but the spirit dies forever. This is eternal torment.
Now consider the human spirit body, a fit vehicle for the soul in the spiritual world, but not capable of choice and action in the physical world without flesh. Our spiritual life depends upon two things. First, we all receive probationary grace after the Fall of Adam, to live and choose what or whom we will believe and worship.
Second, we receive the ministrations of God’s Holy Spirit and of his living messengers, which leads many to Christ. The decision we make about Christ determines what will happen to the soul when the body dies and rises again. At death, the spirit leaves the body and must inhabit the spiritual world. A believer immediately enters rest with Christ, a blessed state of anticipation awaiting resurrection and glory. The lost immediately enter a state of unrest, anticipating the second death and torment.
If spiritual death is eternal separation from God, then we all “died” spiritually when Adam fell – at least temporarily – until we believed. A lost soul can have a vital human spirit empowering it, because all receive grace equally until death.
To recap the life of the human spirit, it is imputed stillborn at physical birth, but given probationary grace to allow the soul a vehicle to choose the way of life or death, light or darkness, salvation or judgement, while in the body. At the separation from the body, the spirit continues to house the soul but in a limited state, awaiting the body’s resurrection to a form suitable for eternity, either for eternal life, or eternal torment.
At the risk of being a little repetitive, the soul can’t die, and is held accountable for all choices, thoughts, words, actions, and reactions of the body and spirit in response to the gift of life in the world; but more important than all of these is belief. The soul choses to believe or not everything presented to it. Believing (and yielding to) God results in eternal life. Rejecting God results in an eternity with only the self – torment indeed.
Paul said even unreached Pagans had the opportunity to recognize that the cosmos did not make itself, and to believe that it had a Creator. Even those that never heard of Christ are held accountable for choosing good or evil in the John 5 passage above.
The things we believe make a difference. They change us, and they change the physical and spiritual worlds around us. What your soul believes changes the past, present, and future forevermore. Every soul can be a force for good or evil in the world by choice, with or without Christ, but far better with. We should not assume that God has no plan for those who never heard, that would have believed, for he knew the name of every soul that will be saved from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4).
If that doesn’t make you want to say Halleluia out loud, better check your pulse.