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Psalm 37:10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

10 Just a little while longer and the wicked one will be no more;
And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there.

As we have seen through this publication, the punishment for those who reject Jesus Christ is total destruction rather than everlasting torment. This directly related to the soul [Heb. nephesh, Gr psyche] is the person (“man became a living soul,” Gen 2:7, ASV), who has lost everlasting life, and the only way to have everlasting life restored is by way of our accepting the sovereignty of God. The doctrinal position of annihilationism is the complete destruction of the soul, i.e., the wicked person, which leaves the righteous with everlasting life.

Interpretation of Scripture

Those investigating the Scriptures must ask themselves, ‘why would God use words like “destroy, destruction, perish, death” to mean something other than their plain meaning? This seems to fly in the face of the idea that the soul goes to some place of eternal torment, but rather are terminated by their destruction.

Psalm 1:6 … the way of the wicked will perish
Psalm 37:20 But the wicked will perish… the enemies of the Lord will be like the glory of the pastures,

They vanish–like smoke they vanish away.

Psalm 92:7 evildoers flourish, … are doomed to destruction forever
Matthew 10:28b Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
John 3:16

 

John 3:36

… whoever believes in him should not perish (Gr destroyed) but have eternal life.  …

whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Rom. 6:23 For the wages of sin is death …
Phil. 3:19 whose end is “destruction” …
2 Thess. 1:9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction …
Hebrews 10:39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
James 4:12a There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy.
Rev. 20:14 This is the second death…

There is little doubt that the most difficult thing any human has to suffer through is death. However, for the wicked, who have rejected the sovereignty of God that is the extent of their pain and suffering, knowing that live is no more. The wages of sin is death, not eternal existence.

Hebrews 10:26-27 English Standard Version (ESV)

26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

The apostle Paul speaks of a figurative “fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament says, “(a figurative extension of meaning of ἐσθίω ‘to eat,’ 23.1) to destroy, with the implication of doing away with all traces of an object—‘to destroy, to consume.’”[1]

2 Peter 3:7 English Standard Version (ESV)

But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

Peter tells us that the ungodly will be destroyed. The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament says, “to destroy or to cause the destruction of persons, objects, or institutions—‘to ruin, to destroy, destruction.’”[2]

Some may wonder, though, about 2 Peter 3:7a. It says, “The heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire.” Does this not support that the earth “shall be burned up”[3] (2 Pet. 3:10) as the KJV says. Does this not show that the earth will be burned up? See the footnote below, the reading heurethesetai, “be disclosed, “be exposed,” or “be discovered” is the preferred reading. Katakaesetai (KJV), “be burned up” is the inferior reading and is not preferred. Moreover, the Bible sometimes uses the terms “heavens,” “earth,” and “fire” figuratively, as symbols. For example, at Genesis 11:1, it reads, “Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.” Here we see Moses uses the word “earth” in a figurative sense, to mean all of human society.

Romans 2:7 English Standard Version (ESV)

to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;

Paul tells us here that it is only the righteous, who will receive eternal life. Certainly, to suffer eternal torment is eternal life, which would contradict this verse.

Genesis 3:19 English Standard Version (ESV)

19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

God had made Adam from the dust of the ground. (Gen. 2:7) Adam had not been in existence prior to God creating him. Therefore, when God said that Adam would return to the dust, he meant that Adam was going to return to that nonexistent state. In other words, Adam would be as lifeless as the dust from which he had come.

Psalm 146:4 Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

His spirit goes forth; he returns to his earth, In that day have his thoughts perished.

Are we to understand that there is some spiritual being within us, which then departs from us at death? No, this is not the understanding, as the Psalmist next words were, “In that day have his thoughts perished,” (“all his thinking ends,” NEB). How, then, are we to understand this verse?

In the Hebrew Scriptures, we have ruach, and in the Greek New Testament, we have pneuma, both with the basic meaning “breath.” This is why other translations read, “His breath goes forth.”

Psalm 146:4

(ESV)

When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.

Psalm 146:4

(LEB)

His breath departs; he returns to his plot;
on that day his plans perish.

Psalm 146:4

(HCSB)

When his breath leaves him,
he returns to the ground;
on that day his plans die.

We will notice this further clarified when Moses informs us of what took place at the flood. However, we look at the literal translations first, followed by other literal translations that choose to define the use of the term “spirit.” Note how we will use a footnote in the literal, and the others that chose to define.

Genesis 7:22

(NASB)

22 of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life [breath of life], died.

Genesis 7:22

(ASV)

22 all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life [breath of life], of all that was on the dry land, died.

Genesis 7:22

(YLT)

22 all in whose nostrils [is] breath of a living spirit [breath of life] — of all that [is] in the dry land — have died.

Other literal and semi-literal translations,

Genesis 7:22

(ESV)

22 Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life [“a breath of spirit of life”] died.

Genesis 7:22

(LEB)

22 Everything in whose nostrils was the breath of life [“a breath of spirit of life”], among all that was on dry land, died.

Genesis 7:22

(NRSV)

22 everything on dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life [“a breath of spirit of life”] died.

Therefore, “ruach” and “pneuma,” i.e., “spirit” can refer to the breath of life that is active within both human and animal creatures. Then how do we explain Ecclesiastes 12:7?

Ecclesiastes 12:7 English Standard Version (ESV)

and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Are we to understand that a spiritual being within us, leaves us at death, and returns to God? No. We just learned that the “spirit” is the “breath of life,” which sustains human and animal life. Once we lose our “breath of life,” and are dead, the only hope of having it restored comes from God. Therefore, “the spirit returns to God,” in that our only hope for living again, but this time for eternally, comes from God. It is only God, who can restore the “breath of life,” which allows us to live again. Keep in mind too, this person was never in heaven with God, so the idea of him as a spirit person returning to God is not what is meant. How can he return to God, if he was never in heaven with God to begin with? Again, it is the “breath of life,” which enables the person to live that returns to God, not literally, but in the sense of his having the power to restore it.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 (LEB)

And the dust returns to the earth as it was,
and the breath returns to God who gave it.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 (NRSV)

and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the breath returns to God who gave it.

All conservative Christians would point to the Bible as the final authority on all doctrine. This is true of our understanding of the soul as well. In the Hebrew Old Testament, the Hebrew word nephesh (translated “soul” in the UASV) is found 754 times, first in Genesis 1:20. In the Greek New Testament, the Greek word psuche (translated “soul” in the UASV) is found by itself 102 times, first in Matthew 2:20. In each case, a literal translation, looking to give its readers what God had said, should render this Hebrew and Greek word “soul,” with the interpretive rendering in the footnote. By doing this, the reader of the Bible will be able to see how the word “soul” is used within the whole of the inspired, inerrant Word of God.

What is the Condition of the Dead?

When the Bible talks about the condition of the dead it presents it in five senses, (1) knowing nothing, (2) asleep like state, (3) powerless, (4) returning to the dust of the ground, (5) and awaiting a resurrection. If we examine both the Bible and religious history, the belief that a soul or spirit within us lives on after our physical death originates with Socrates and Plato. However, was it not Satan, who argued clear back in the Garden of Eden to Eve, saying that “You will not surely die.”? (Gen. 3:4, ESV) Yes, it was Satan that implied that Eve would not die in the flesh if she ignored God’s prohibition on the tree og knowledge of good and bad.

First Sense

Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10 English Standard Version (ESV)

For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol [gravedom], to which you are going.

Second Sense

John 11:11 (ESV)

11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”

1 Kings 2:10 (ESV)

10 Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David.

Third Sense

Proverbs 2:18 (ESV)

18 for her house sinks down to death,
and her paths to the departed;

Isaiah 26:14 (ESV)

14 They are dead, they will not live;
they are shades, they will not arise;
to that end you have visited them with destruction
and wiped out all remembrance of them.

Fourth Sense

Genesis 3:19 (ESV)

19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 (NASB)

19 For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity.20 All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust.

Fifth Sense

John 5:28-29 (ESV)

28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

Acts 24:15 (ESV)

15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.

In death, Scripture shows us as being unable to praise God. The Psalmist tells us, “For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol [gravedom] who will give you praise?” (Psa. 6:5) Isaiah the prophet writes, “For Sheol [gravedom] cannot thank you [God], death cannot praise you; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness. ‘It is the living who give thanks to you, as I do today; a father tells his sons about your faithfulness.’” – Isaiah 38:18-19.

Can the Soul Die?

When we die, what happens to the soul? If you recall from above that the “soul” is the person, the being, the creature, i.e., us, and the life that we have. If you recall from above, the Human soul = body [dust of the ground] + active life force (“spirit”) [Hebrew, ruach] within the trillions of human cells which make up the human body + breath of life [Hebrew, neshamah] that sustains the life force from God. In other words, the “soul” is we as a whole, everything that we are, so the soul or we humans can die. Let us look at a few verses, which make that all too clear.

Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

19 For the fate of the sons of men [humans or people] and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. 20 All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust.

In other words, when we breathe our last breath, our cells begin to die. Death is the ending of all vital functions or processes in an organism or cell. When our heart stops beating, our blood is no longer circulating, carrying nourishment and oxygen (by breathing) to the trillions of cells in our body; we are what are termed, clinically dead. However, somatic death has yet to occur, meaning we can be revived, after many minutes of being clinically dead, if the heart and lungs can be restarted again, which gives the cells the oxygen they need.

After about three minutes of clinical death, the brain cells begin to die, meaning the chances of reviving the person is less likely as each second passes. We know that it is vital that the breathing and blood flow be maintained for the life force (ruach chaiyim) in the cells. Nevertheless, it is not the lack of breathing or the failure of the heart beating alone, but rather the active life force (“spirit”) [Hebrew, ruach] within the trillions of human cells which make up the human body + breath of life [Hebrew, neshamah] that sustains the life force from God.

Ps.104:29 (ESV)

29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.

Ps. 146:4 (ESV)

When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.

Eccl. 8:8 (ESV)

No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.

Again, …

Ezekiel 18:4

(ESV)

Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.

Leviticus 21:1

(ASV)

21  And Jehovah said to Moses, Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them, There shall none defile himself for the dead [Or “for a soul.”] among his people;

Numbers 6:6

(ASV)

All the days that he separates himself unto Jehovah he shall not come near to a dead body [Or “soul.”].

Again, the death of a “soul” means the death of a person …

1 Kings 19:4

(ASV)

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper-tree: and he requested for himself that he [Or “his soul.] ”might die, and said, It is enough; now, O Jehovah, take away my life [soul]; for I am not better than my fathers.

Jonah 4:8

(ASV)

And it came to pass, when the sun arose, that God prepared a sultry east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and requested for himself that he might die [Or “that his soul might die.”], and said, It is better for me to die than to live.

Mark 3:4

(ASV)

And he said to them, Is it lawful on the sabbath day to do good, or to do harm? to save a life [Or “soul.”], or to kill? But they held their peace.

 

As you can see from the above texts, a “soul,” or person can die. However, how are we to understand those texts that say the “soul” went out of a person, or came back into a person?

Soul Departing and Soul Coming into a Person

Genesis 35:18 English Standard Version (ESV)

18 And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.

Are we to understand from this that Rachel had some inner being, a soul, which departed from her at death? No. We will recall from the texts from above that the term “soul” can also be used in reference to the life one has. Thus, this is a reference to her life that she had leaving her. Note the Lexham English Bible, “And it happened that when her life was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-Oni. But his father called him Benjamin.” (Bold and underline is mine) Therefore, it was her “life” that she had, which departed from her, not some inner being. When we take the time to ponder these things, it becomes all the more clear.

1 Kings 17:22 American Standard Version (ASV)

22 And Jehovah listened to the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.

Here again, the word “soul” is the “life” that someone has. The New American Standard Bible reads, “The life of the child returned to him and he revived.” The Lexham English Bible reads, “The life of the child returned within him, and he lived.” The Holman Christian Standard Bible reads, “The boy’s life returned to him, and he lived.” (Bold is mine)

John 11:11 (ESV)

11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”

1 Kings 2:10 (ESV)

10 Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David.

Notice that Lazarus’ death is equated with being asleep in death, while King David is referred to as sleeping in death. This gives the reader a hope, as just as easily as you and I can awaken a person from sleep, Jesus is going to awaken people from death, a death like sleep. We are going to look at these verses a little differently that we have with the others. We will pause for a moment to see how a literal translation is best (which has already been demonstrated), with an interpretation in a footnote. Moreover, it is important that we read those footnotes. Otherwise, we can come to the wrong conclusions.

[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 232.

[2] IBID, 231.

[3] The preferred is “be exposed” or “be disclosed,” (א B K P 424c 1175 1739txt 1852 syrph.hmg arm Origen; while the less preferred reading is “be burned up,” A 048 049 056 0142 33 614 Byz Lect syrh copbo eth al