ETERNITY AND TIME
W. E. Best
Copyright © 1986
W. E. Best
Scripture quotations in this book designated “NASB” are from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, and 1977 by the Lockman Foundation, and are used by permission. Those designated “translation” are by the author and taken from the Greek Text. All others are from the King James Bible.
This book is
distributed by the
W. E. Best Book Missionary Trust
P. O. Box 34904
Houston, Texas 77234-4904 USA
1 Eternity And Time Must Be Distinguished
2 Distinction Between Eternity And Time Is Illustrated
3 God’s Eternal Purpose Is Executed In Time
4 The Eternal God Adapted Man For Time
5 Man In Time Has Eternity In His Heart
6 The Certainty Of Eternity And The Uncertainty Of Time Are Contrasted
7 Man’s Eternal Existence Does Not Consist In The Possessions Of Time
8 Man Was Created In Time To Live Eternally
9 The Whole Man Created In Time Will Live Eternally
10 God Distinguishes Immortality From Incorruption
11 Immortality Of The Body And Everlastingness Of The Soul Are Distinct
12 Momentary Light Affliction Is Outweighed By Eternal Glory
13 Temporal And Eternal Things Are Compared
14 Christians Are Saved In Hope
15 The Eternal House Will Replace The Tent Of Time
16 Paul Desired His House From Heaven
17 To Be Absent From The Body Is To Be Present With The Lord
18 Death Is Gain For The Christian
19 Biblical Information Must Not Remain In A Closed Bible
20 The Body Belongs To God
21 Resurrection Is Associated With Christ’s Second Coming (Part I)
22 Resurrection Is Associated With Christ’s Second Coming (Part II)
23 Flesh And Blood Will Give Place To Flesh And Bones
24 The Rich Man And Lazarus Are Contrasted
25 Attitudes Of The Elect And Nonelect About Time And Eternity Differ
26 Lazarus Ascended And The Rich Man Descended
27 The New Body Is Spiritual In Nature
28 Christ Is The Firstfruits Of The Elect’s Resurrection
29 The New Body Has A New Source Of Energy
30 God’s Creative Acts Are Either The Beginning Of Or In Time
31 Satan’s Contamination Of The Heavens and Earth Necessitates Their Renewal
32 The New Heaven And Earth Are The Elect’s Permanent Residence
33 Divergent Views Of The New Heaven And Earth Are Discussed
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Theological research is considered by many assembly (church) members to be hairsplitting. Thus, we see another method of Satan to keep Christians from an in-depth study of Scripture. Why do people call the spiritual desire for research into the depths of Biblical evidence unprofitable for the spiritual life? There is no complaint against scientific research for the improvement of physical life. People in general are not only requesting scientific research in this area but they are giving large sums of money for such endeavor. Scientists consider it a great honor to spend their lives in analyzing plants, insects, the human body, space, etc., to improve the quality of physical life. This work is never called hairsplitting but scientific research.
There can be no worthier object of mental application than the eternal God and His relation to eternity and time. We must never forget that theological research has its boundary. It is limited to “thus saith the Lord.” The word reveals the eternal God and His purpose for the elect. Satan wants to deceive, but deception is difficult where the light of Biblical research is made, proclaimed, and received. Hence, the more knowledge one has on a given subject, the less likely his deception.
The man of God who devotes fifty or more years to the study of Holy Scripture is no fanatic. There is no better way to demonstrate the deception by Satan than to contrast Biblical research with scientific research. For example, a physician might spend five to ten thousand hours in his laboratory before he discovers some wonder drug like the Salk vaccine. Is he called a fanatic for his enthusiasm? No, he is praised. However, a man of God who spends a hundred thousand or more hours in an in-depth study of the word of God is considered an extremist. He is criticized for not giving more time to unprofitable programs. Churches today are filled with such critics who have more concern for time than for eternity. They do not know that the greater knowledge believers have of eternal verities the better equipped they are to redeem the time.
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MUST BE DISTINGUISHED
A recent newspaper article reported a recognition among many doctors of a near-death phenomenon. The report was that more people talk about the phenomenon because of publicity concerning near-death research. According to the article, near-death experiences have become common and are no longer considered fictitious. The poll that was taken revealed a variety of near-death experiences. Those claiming to have had the experience gave various testimonies: (1) They had a sense of peace and painlessness. (2) They experienced a panoramic view of their lives. (3) They felt the presence of dead relatives or spirits. (4) They felt themselves moving through some kind of passage or tunnel.
The various conclusions drawn from the poll are interesting. A doctor, who requested anonymity, said his out-of-body experience while undergoing surgery has altered his skepticism about an afterlife. He said he had always believed in God, but his experience made him realize there really is something out there. Some suppose that their lives have been changed for the better by their near-death experiences, but others say their experiences have proved disruptive. Some have become reckless, and others become dissatisfied with their jobs and marriages. There are some who become so enamored with their near-death experiences that they do not want to go on with the business of living. They would rather have this wondrous death.
A question asked was whether near-death experiences open peepholes to heaven, or if they are merely the unraveling of the brain as it approaches death. The article stated that a decade of research has discredited some theories and produced some others: (1) Endorphins, the morphine-like substance released by the brain during trauma, may account for the peace and painlessness. (2) Temporal lobe seizures, which sometimes cause the brain to replay life experiences, could result in the panoramic vision of one’s life. (3) Out-of-body observations may be evidence that the mind and brain can exist separately. (4) Anoxia, the lack of oxygen to the brain, could produce the sensation of out-of-body-floating. The rush of blood to the brain as the person regains consciousness could result in the brilliant light witnessed by some. (5) Subconscious memories of the birth experience may account for the moving through a passageway or tunnel. (6) Near-death images of heaven may be the mind conjuring pictures based on previous religious instruction. (7) Near-death experiences are not death itself, and they cannot be interpreted as visions of people who have come back from the dead.
The near-death experiences of millions should promote interest in the study of time and eternity. Subjective experiences of people in time should never be accepted as valid in relation to eternal realities. Christians must beware of a humanistic philosophy that makes human experiences the norm for judging reality. Human philosophy denies that Scripture provides the norm for belief or action. Furthermore, it stresses human freedom not to merely choose correctly but to create a subjectively meaningful world. Hence, anthropology replaces theology. Conclusively, with those who embrace this philosophy, human opinions overshadow and replace the objective facts of Holy Scripture.
Time is valuable because it has not only a beginning but an ending. Therefore, there is a future, a present, and a past. The only part of time that actually exists is the present. The past is gone, and the future has not yet arrived. Failure to redeem the time, that is, “the now,” is to lose it: “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15, 16). The Greek word for “redeeming” is the present middle participle of exagoradzo, which means to buy out, to redeem, or to set free. In the middle voice it means to secure for oneself or to rescue from loss.
The correct way to speak of time is not past, present, and future but future, present, and past. Time is not moving from the past but from the future. Time that is past is lost forever. It cannot be redeemed. Since the future has not arrived, one cannot make the most of what does not yet exist. Time is a point and has a location. A common expression is “at that point in time.” Time’s location is the present. Therefore, Christians should continually make the most of the “now.”
Time began with creation. Three things basic to the created universe are space, matter, and time. Space consists of three dimensions— length, breadth, and height. These are the basic dimensions with which we are familiar. Matter consists of energy, motion, and phenomena. Time consists of future, present, and past. This universe was created by God for His glory (Gen. 1:1; John 1:3; Col. 1:16). God’s essence cannot be comprehended, but His existence cannot be denied. (See Rom. 1:19, 20; Rev. 4:11.) The purpose of God in creation is presently being completed. “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36). Please observe that the verse does not say “to,” “by,” and “for” the people. All things are moving toward their consummation that “God may be all in all” (I Cor. 15:28). The beginning of creation, therefore, includes the beginning of time.
Time has an important relation to man. It speaks of the period of his life, because there is a time to be born and a time to die (Eccl. 3:1, 2). The brevity of life and the certainty of death are generally understood. “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble [NASB: short-lived and full of turmoil]. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not....Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass...” (Job 14:1, 2, 5). Man is constantly subjected to objects that should make him reflect on his exit out of time. However, the depravity of man’s nature is so engrossed with present pleasures of time that he seldom reflects on eternity. Human life is flattering in its beginning. It comes forth like a flower but becomes tumultuous in its continuance. Life is ceaseless in its course. It flees like a shadow and moves gently and silently.
Distinction must be made between God’s appointed time and man’s expected time. The term of life cannot extend beyond the time determined by God. Job spoke of his days being determined (Job 14:5) and the days of his appointed time (Job 7:1; 14:4). David said, “LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am” (“what time I have here” —KJV margin notation; “how transient I Am” —NASB) (Ps. 39:4). There is no contradiction between these verses and those that seem to teach that man may lengthen his days: “...Why shouldest thou die before thy time” (“not in thy time” —KJV margin notation) (Eccl. 7:17). “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Ps. 90:10). “...Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days” (Ps. 55:23). The truest lengthening of life is to live while we live. That means wasting no time but using every day for the highest ends. What is the meaning of Scriptures that speak of prolonging one’s life? God promised the Jews, if they were obedient, their lives would be long in the land of Canaan and they would not be interrupted by captives (Deut. 4:40; 5:16, 33; 22:7). When Paul quoted Deuteronomy 4:40 in Ephesians 6:3, he left out the concluding words, “in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee,” and made it a promise not confined to one people or land.
Man’s days cannot be lengthened beyond God’s decree, and all obedient children do not live long lives. Nevertheless, these are not inconsistent with the general rule that obedient children are prosperous and happy, and diligence makes men wealthy: “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat” (Prov. 13:4). Laziness is the creed of the sluggard. Idleness is a sin against the ordinance of God. Whether one’s temporal life is long or short, the diligent person lives a long life in a short time. On the other hand, the sluggard lives a short life in a long time. “The fear of the LORD prolongeth days [KJV margin notation— addeth days]: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened” (Prov. 10:27). Fear of the Lord leads to a virtuous life, because Christians fear Him whom they love. Conversely, the wicked fear whom they hate. Hence, they “shall not live out half their days...” (Ps. 55:23). Conclusively, the wicked shall live only half of their expected days, not their days determined by God.
Time has been defined as “the consideration of duration, the measure of it, as set out by certain periods, and marked by certain measures.” The river of time rises in value as the Christian rushes on to the ocean of eternity. Time is the essence of everything in the physical universe. Therefore, this universe is a time universe. Since time presently coexists with eternity, man has difficulty differentiating between them. Being a creature of time, man wants to put time in eternity by speaking of “eternity past” and “eternity future”.
Everything is timeless in eternity. Eternity is not an extension of time. There is neither past nor future in eternity. Some say there is time in eternity because one event will follow another. One must understand that what Bible students mean by “before” and “after” in reference to God’s decrees is not that one is before another in the order of time, because all are from eternity. However, he must form an idea of one decree before another inasmuch as God decrees one thing out of respect to another decree. Hence, one decree becomes the foundation of another decree. For example, God’s decree to manifest His glory should be considered before the creation and fall of man. Creation was the means of manifesting His glory. Therefore, God’s decree to manifest His glory preceded—in order—the decree to create.
There is order but not time in eternity. Order does not necessitate time. It means arrangement, classification, or coordination of persons or things by sequence or rank; but time means the sequential relations that any event has to another as future, present, or past. Hence, the sequential which is characterized by regular sequence of parts— future, present, and past —would bring finite duration into eternity which is impossible. There is order in eternal election. Since our election is in Christ (Eph. 1:4), the election of Christ to be our Savior preceded our election in Him (Is. 42:1; Luke 23:35; I Pet. 2:4). Furthermore, the acts of God in time are the acts of God’s will decreed before time. The eternal decrees of God must be understood in the mind of God in the same order in which they are executed in time.
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AND TIME IS ILLUSTRATED
Time is transitory presence in contrast to eternity which is abiding presence. Since time presently coexists with eternity, man who is a creature of time has difficulty differentiating between them. The puritans spoke of eternity as an “eternal duration.” Duration, however, can be measured; but eternity is immeasurable. The dictionary defines “duration” as continuance in time or the length of time during which something continues or exists. Eternity cannot be explained by the use of a term which speaks of “the length of time.” It cannot be defined by a measurable term. If eternity were made up of what the puritans called “the extension of duration,” it would be made up of an endless succession of measurable units of time. Thus, eternity would be gradually running out of time. However, eternity can be neither shortened nor lengthened.
Martin Luther’s concept of eternity was “the whole thing at once.” Augustine has shown there cannot be a hundred present years. His illustration was that if the first of those years is now going on, it is present, but ninety-nine future years do not exist. He concluded that if the second year is going on, one is gone, another is present, and the rest are future; therefore, there cannot be a hundred present years. When one considers the factuality of this statement, he may substitute month, day, hour, minute, and second, and the conclusion is that the present has no length at all. Furthermore, one cannot speak of either past or future as having any reality. The present alone has reality, and eternity may be expressed as “the immeasurable present.”
When God spoke of His eternality, He said, “I AM” (Ex. 3:14). If he had said, “I Was,” the meaning would be that He is not now what He was. Furthermore, if He had said, “I Will Be,” the meaning would be that He is not yet what He will be. Einstein wrestled with the problem that there cannot be a span of time, because it will not stay still long enough to measure it. Hence, the conclusion is that eternity is not time, like a rainbow, disappearing into eternity at both ends. Eternity does not flow past, or some would have already been used up. Therefore, eternity is the abiding, immeasurable present.
There is a difference between the succession of events in time and the intensity of experience in eternity. Intensity of experience will replace extensity when time ceases to exist. The word “extensity” means the quality of having extension. Psychologically, it is the attitude or sensation by which spatial (pertaining to space which also involves time) extension is perceived. The word “intensity” refers to the quality or condition of being intense. The essential quality of eternity is intensity rather than extensity. For example, to think of length as the essence of eternal life is to suppose that the reality of it is to be measured by how long it lasts. We are so conscious of our mortality that we tend to emphasize the quantitative aspect of our life in Christ, with its guarantee of victory over death. However, the qualitative aspect of our life in Christ is immensely significant. Such a life is not engineered by the persuasive eloquence that produces a mere mental assent for a period of time. (See John 10.)
The difference between extensity and intensity may be illustrated by showing the difference between life in prison and capital punishment. The intensity of capital punishment exceeds the extensity of life in prison. Life in prison is measurable, but capital punishment is immeasurable. Apply this same distinction to the death of Jesus Christ. The extensity of His human suffering on the cross lasted for three hours, but the intensity of the suffering of the infinite Person compensated for the eternity of the punishment He endured.
Man is ever seeking a better understanding of eternity and a more concise way of expressing his belief in such an infinite subject. Various ways of illustrating eternity have been suggested, but most of them are utterly inadequate.
There are some who say duration of Divine existence is from eternity, according to our finite way of understanding eternity. They state that the Divine duration must be considered as wholly permanent and the ever present “now,” and it is as incapable of division into parts as Divine existence Himself. They conclude that as the present “I Am” of Divine existence does, at once, fill heaven and earth, the present “now” of the Divine durat (Rom. 9:11). “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11). “According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:11). “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (II Tim. 1:9).
There is a natural order in God’s purpose. Since there is order in its execution, there had to be a natural order in the mind of God. This does not place time in eternity. There is a difference between God’s purpose which is one in intuition and the execution of God’s one plan. That can be illustrated several ways. There is one God, but three Persons. We think successively, but God thinks simultaneously. Our glorification was in the mind of God at the same instant He chose us. God is in one mind (Job 23:13).
Disregarding the debates over the order of God’s decrees, the following order in the execution of God’s purpose in time must be acknowledged:
FIRST— God purposed to “save” some (Eph. 1:4; II Tim. 1:9). This is one of the seven things mentioned that took place before the foundation of the world.
SECOND— God purposed to “redeem” those He purposed to save: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (I Pet. 1:18-20). It is wonderful that God has displayed his eternal purpose before us in order that we might know His purpose for us.
THIRD— God purposed to “regenerate” all whom He purposed to redeem: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5). The washing of regeneration of Titus 3:5 is a once-for-all washing. Once a person has been cleansed in the blood of Jesus Christ he will never need cleansing again. The renewing which begins in regeneration continues as long as one is in time, but the once-for-all-washing will never be repeated.
FOURTH— God purposed that all whom He would regenerate should “believe”: “...as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). God enables the one purposed to be saved, redeemed, and regenerated to believe. By reason of his depravity, man’s will is naturally biased to that which is evil (John 5:40). Therefore, apart from the grace of regeneration, no one can believe until he has been regenerated. If an unregenerate person could choose Jesus Christ as his Savior, his will would not be depraved. The unsaved, unregenerate person who thinks he has the ability to choose Jesus Christ falsifies depravity, and the one who supposes he can receive Jesus Christ as Savior apart from grace falsifies grace.
FIFTH— God purposed that everyone who believes will pursue “holiness” of life: “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication” (I Thess. 4:3). We are chosen in Christ that we might be holy and without blame before Him in love (Eph. 1:4). Holiness of life follows true faith in Jesus Christ.
SIXTH— God purposed that all who believe will “persevere”: “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Heb. 10:39). We persevere because God preserves us (I Pet. 1:3-5).
SEVENTH— God purposed that all who shall persevere will be “glorified”: “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30).
Within the context of the execution of God’s eternal purpose, time is the system of sequential relations that one event has to another. A consideration of the past, present, and future of time forces one to admit that time’s duration is not only indefinite but finite. On the contrary, within the context of God’s eternal purpose, there is nothing more than the thought of past, present, and future. Without a future in God’s thought, the message of “...he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world...” (Eph. 1:4) and “...according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (II Tim. 1:9) is without meaning. The words predestination and foreordination would be meaningless if there was no future in God’s thought. Furthermore, without a past in God’s thought, all the regenerate are yet in our sins; Christ has not died; etc. Without a present in God’s thought, the admonition to make the most of our time is meaningless (Eph. 5:16). Other expressions related to this are “the fulness of the time” (Gal. 4:4) and “in due time” (Rom. 5:6).
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THE ETERNAL GOD ADAPTED MAN FOR TIME
God’s eternality and His existence are equivalent terms. They imply the same idea. Hence, God is His own eternity. We do not presume to either fully understand or explain the Being of God or His infinite attributes. “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?” (Job 11:7). “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever...” (Rom. 11:33-36). If God could be fully comprehended by finite men, He would be no different from men. The natural tendency of the depraved mind is to think of God as corresponding in some way with men. The anthropomorphic (made to resemble a human form) representations of God in the Bible appeal to the natural disposition of the human mind, which is all men can see. Man’s depraved reasoning is, “since I was made in the image of God, I must think of God in the image of myself.” Such thought leads to heresy. Hence, we understand why God said, “...thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself...” (Ps. 50:21). We must never forget the Biblical truth that God took upon Himself in the incarnation the likeness of men, but He did not become altogether like men (Rom. 8:3; Phil. 2:7). While being in the likeness of men, the incarnate Christ was very much unlike men.
Man is not eternal except in God’s eternal purpose. His existence began in time. However, it has never ceasing existence. Man’s existence in time was a present reality to God who has neither a past nor a future. Therefore, all things have, with respect to God, both a known and a real existence simultaneously because there is no time with God. Man’s existence in time did not coexist with God, but God coexisted with man. God is the first, and He is simultaneous with the last: “Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he” (Is. 41:4).
The Bible nowhere attempts to prove God’s existence, but it does declare that the knowledge of God is universal (John 1:9; Rom. 1:19-21, 28, 32). Existence itself does not demand a cause. However, the coming into existence of that which did not previously exist does. What is the principle by which an endless series of causes is avoided? The principle is the difference between the Creator (the uncaused Cause) and creation (which demands a cause). This eliminates the endless series of causes. How can one formulate such a principle? An interesting comment is that God is more truly thought than He is described and exists more truly than He is thought. Subjective knowledge of God is less real than the objective fact of His existence. This means that God has more of existence than the thought of Him has. Therefore, formulate the objective, and you will better understand the subjective. When the objective is formulated, the subjective will take care of itself. As light from the sun manifests other things to us, it also manifests itself. God reveals Himself to all without exception in general revelation, but He specially reveals Himself to the elect in grace.
There are only three kinds of beings: (1) There is the Entity without beginning or ending, proper only to God. All creatures not only derive their existence from the eternally existent Creator, but they are also totally dependent on Him. (2) There are beings that had a beginning but shall have no ending. Both angels and men have a never ceasing existence. (3) There are creatures that have both beginning and ending. Beasts, fowls, and fishes all have a beginning and an ending. We are concerned only with the first two in our present study. It must be observed, however, that creature life is successive; whereas, the life of the Creator is inherent.
The angelic creatures were adapted for the celestial sphere. They had access into God’s presence. Celestial beings were created as ministering spirits (Ezek. 28:13-18; Heb. 1:14). There are 273 references to these heavenly creatures. The designation “angel” in both Hebrew and Greek means messenger. The elect angels are the messengers of God (I Tim. 5:21). The fallen angels are the messengers of Satan (Matt. 25:41). The classification of angels is an interesting study, but we only want to consider in this lesson the function of the elect angels. There are not only angels, cherubim, seraphim, and living creatures but reference is made to individuals— Lucifer (son of the morning), Michael (who is like God), and Gabriel (the mighty one). Angels are sometimes called “sons of God” in the Old Testament, while men are called “servants of God.” But in the New Testament, angels are called “servants,” while Christians are called “sons of God.” Angels have a special service for God in behalf of His people. “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Ps. 91:11, 12). “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Heb. 1:14).
Paul described the close attention given by angels to the Son of God during His first advent: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh...seen of angels...” (I Tim. 3:16). Angels were witnesses of the most important events concerning the Redeemer. They saw Him with wonderment. Here was One who was above them but had come down to be clothed with a nature beneath their own (Heb. 2:9). What amazing condescension! Never until now had they seen the eternal Son insulted and maltreated by His creatures. Their desire to look into the affairs of the redeemed resulted from Christ’s sufferings and glory that shall follow (I Pet. 1:10-12). We understand enough about angels to desire to comprehend more. Hence, we desire to look into their affairs as they do ours. Although their knowledge is superior to ours, it is progressive. How different from their Creator who is of “one mind.”
An examination of Genesis 1:26 shows the uniqueness of man compared with other creatures adapted for the terrestrial sphere. Man created “in the image” and “according to the likeness” of God has had many interpretations. The words “image” and “likeness” are not synonymous. Image seems to refer to man’s capacities; whereas, likeness refers to his tendencies. In God’s image, man somehow represents God. In His likeness, he resembled God. Being created in God’s image, man was equipped with certain capacities to accomplish God’s purpose as His representative. In God’s likeness, man was blessed with a tendency Godward, which made cooperation with God a delight.
The word “image” has been interpreted many ways— dominion, man and woman, original uprightness, the non-material aspect of man (soul), and immortality. But the whole man is the image of God. The Genesis record does not imply that certain “higher” qualities exclusively make up the content of the image. Some believe that the image of God is in the immaterial rather than the material part of man. Hence, man’s body is excluded from the image. They claim that unless this view is embraced, the Bible student would be supporting the anthropomorphism of earlier sects. Scripture, however, makes no distinction between man’s spiritual and bodily attributes in order to limit the image of God to the spiritual (immaterial) aspect of man.
The seat of the image of God in man is the whole man— body and soul. God is said to create man in His image— not the soul only or the body only. As the whole man was the image of God before the fall, the whole regenerated and sanctified man is the image of God (I Thess. 5:23; Rom. 12:1, 2; II Cor. 7:1). Man is like a coin which bears the image of a monarch. Our Lord illustrated this with tax money when He called for a coin and said, “Whose is this image and superscription?” (Mark 12:16). His hearers replied that it was Caesar’s, indicating that the head on the coin bore some resemblance to the emperor. It has been said that in creating man God theomorphized (made man in His image); therefore, man necessarily anthropomorphizes (views God as a Person who sees, hears, etc.). What other idea of God can we have? Without God revealing Himself to us in human terms, it is impossible for us to have any concept of our God. God does not reveal Himself to us in terms of angelic language. The perfections of God are represented by the human body— His omniscience by eyes, omnipresence by ears, omnipotence by arm and hand, and His pleasure or displeasure by His face toward or against men.
Modernists sneer at the childlike faith of Christians and designate us as anthropomorphists. But the word anthropomorphism does not frighten Christians. Its derivation is simple. It is a compound word made up of anthropos (man) and morphe (form, the Greek for substance). Hence, we have a thought of God in human form: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5-8). The ultimate expression of God identifying Himself with man is in the humanity of Jesus Christ. Therefore, Christians see no difficulty in believing that the body of Adam was formed according to the idea of the body of Christ in the Divine mind. “And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil...” (Gen. 3:22). “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come” (Rom. 5:14). “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me” (Heb. 10:5).
Scripture speaks of man formed after the Divine image (Gen. 1:27). This indicates a profound principle of Biblical thought. It presupposes God to account for man. Man, therefore, does not form an idea of God from himself. But he forms an idea of himself from God. There are two sides to the God-resemblance of man— one can be lost, and the other cannot. That which was lost in the fall is regained by redemption and regeneration (Col. 3:10; Rom. 8:29). There is, on the other hand, a God-resemblance even in fallen man (Gen. 9:6; James 3:9).
Angels and men were both created for their respective spheres— spiritual and physical. The nature of men is inferior to that of angels. Men at their highest are compared to angels. Stephen’s highest moment of spirituality is analogous to an angel. His face was seen as the face of an angel (Acts 6:15). David’s wisdom is said to be as “an angel of God” (II Sam. 14:20). Paul’s eloquence could not surpass angels (I Cor. 13:1). Angels are spirits (Heb. 1:14), everlasting spirits (Luke 20:36), and heavenly spirits (Matt. 24:36). Men are dust and ashes (Gen. 18:27), grass (I Pet. 1:24), and have their abode on earth (I Cor. 15:47).
Man created in the image of God has no higher purpose than to be a reflection of God. He must never presume to be original. Original and image are opposites. He that becomes image is nothing in himself, but he exhibits all that he is in absolute dependence upon Him whose image he bears. Original man was glorious, but fallen man is despicable. Fallen man, in opposition to God, undertakes to make an image of God (Rom. 1:21-23). However, God alone has the prerogative to make an image of Himself. Therefore, the image in man lost by the fall is restored by the incarnate Christ through His work of reconciliation. Since the whole man was made in the image of God originally, the whole man becomes the new image of God eternally. There is an interdependence between the soul and the body in the elect, just as there is an interdependence between the form of God and the form of man in Jesus Christ, the Son of Man.
God who inhabits eternity prepared a body for His Son that was adapted for time. Thus, we have the incarnation which was a necessity for the redemption of the elect. David prophesied the incarnation: “Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me” (Ps. 40:7). The writer of Hebrews quoted this prophecy and added, “...a body hast thou prepared me [aorist middle indicative of katartidzo, which means a body you prepared or provided me]” (Heb. 10:5). Christ’s body was human but sinless. Being clothed with a human body, Christ could stand in the place of men. Furthermore, being sinless, the Lord Jesus Christ could be a substitute for sinful men before God.
When the Son of Man accomplished His mission, His earthly body had to be adapted for its eternal habitation. After His resurrection, Christ told Mary, “...Touch me not [present middle imperative of hapto, which means cease clinging to me],” because He had not ascended to the Father (John 20:17). Between that time and when Christ “appeared in another form [en haterai morphei— in a different form],” His body had been adapted for heaven (Mark 16:12). One must remember that Christ’s body was not subject to corruption. Therefore, He could appear to Mary in His resurrected but unglorified body. The ascension of John 20:17 is not the same as that described in Acts 1:9-11. Hence, the transformation of Christ’s body which had been adapted for earth took place between the time He said to Mary, “Cease clinging to Me,” and His appearance to the disciples behind closed doors (John 20:26-29).
Man who was created for earth in time must undergo a change to adapt him for eternity. As Jesus Christ ascended to heaven as the glorified God-Man, the Christian will enter heaven to be with Christ as man— soul and body. The new liberties of Christ’s “different form” (Mark 16:12) suggest the kind of freedom the elect will have when they shall be made like Christ: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2).
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MAN IN TIME HAS ETERNITY IN HIS HEART
God not only inhabits eternity but He put eternity in the heart of man whom he created in time. Of all earthly creatures, man is the only one who will live eternally either with the eternal God or separated from Him. There are only two destinies for mankind— heaven or hell. Having considered, to the best of our finite understanding, the immensity of eternity, let us now consider the twofold relationship of mankind in time to the eternal God.
God dwells in eternity: “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy...” (Is. 57:15). Included in this statement are (1) God‘s supreme rank— “the high and lofty One,” (2) God’s eternal existence— “that inhabiteth eternity [dwells in eternity],” and (3) God’s absolute holiness— “Whose name is Holy.” God’s voice from eternity to men in time reveals the incomprehensible difference between eternity and time. Although God’s eternity is intellectually incomprehensible, the thought of it is invaluable. Although men cannot comprehend eternity, they can comprehend that there is an eternity in which the high and holy One dwells.
God’s indwelling eternity exalts Him above the limitations of time and frees Him from the limitations of space. God is not in time, but time is of God. Time has a beginning and an ending, but eternity is an eternal “now.” We speak of time as having passed, but to use that terminology with reference to eternity would suggest that God is older now than He was. Eternity is that perfection of God whereby He is elevated above time. Furthermore, God’s infinity with reference to space is called immensity. Immensity may be defined as perfection of the Divine Being by which He transcends all spatial limitations, and yet He is present in every point of space with His whole Being: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?” (I Kings 8:27). “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD” (Jer. 23:24).
The nature of God is spiritual. His spiritual nature is of an immaterial substance unlimited by material nature. The essence of God is indivisible. It has been said that the light of the sun cannot be divided; therefore, it is entire in every place (in its sphere). As the sun is entire in every place in its sphere, God who created the sun is more present in eternity than His created sun in its sphere. This is why the prophets said God fills the heavens and the earth and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him.
Imperfection in man’s vision is not the thing that renders him unable to see the invisible God. Since God is spiritual, our apprehension of and approach unto Him must be spiritual. Man can neither paint a portrait nor make an image of God whom he has never seen. The attractiveness of the flesh has no place in spiritual worship. God who is Spirit can be embraced and known only by the spirit of a regenerated person.
God alone is eternal. Something must exist as a cause before anything can exist as an effect. A nonentity giving existence to itself is impossible. If there is an act, something must exist to produce the act. This means the Cause is eternal and the effect is temporal. The will to create is eternal, but the creation is not. From the standpoint of God, the creation of the world was not in the past and its destruction will not be in the future. Hence, it can be said that the eternal God knows all things by one act of knowledge, purposes all things by one act of His will, and creates all things by one act of His power. Eternity implies perfection and completion, and time implies imperfection and incompletion. Some say that eternity with succession is like immensity with extension and omniscience with contingency. That eternity is the timeless state can be factually stated.
Man’s comprehension that there is an eternity is because God has set eternity in his heart: “...he hath set the world in their heart...” (Eccl. 3:11). The NASB has translated the statement, “...He has also set eternity in their heart....” This is why the things of time can never satisfy man. His heart is too large for them. Hence, there is an instinct in man which makes him dissatisfied with the finite. All living creatures on earth other than man are satisfied with their sustenance. However, man is never satisfied. As a depraved person, he does not know wherein true satisfaction lies. The great lesson of Ecclesiastes is that one without Christ can never be satisfied, even if he possessed the whole world. His heart is too large for the object. Hence, he says, “...vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Eccl. 1:2).
The problem of Ecclesiastes is how one can be satisfied without the eternal God. There is only one long comment in this book: “...Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again” (John 4:13). The impartial verdict was brought in by Solomon who was in the best position to know. He knew by experience. He sought satisfaction in science (Eccl. 1:4-11), but he observed a dreadful sameness. He tried wisdom (Eccl. 1:12-18), but all to no purpose. The book of Proverbs gives the sufficiency of Divine wisdom, but Ecclesiastes shows the insufficiency of human wisdom. Solomon tried pleasure and found that it is dangerous to take pleasure in pleasure (Eccl. 2:1-11). Pleasure is always exaggerated. Nothing is ever said about the high price one pays for a little pleasure that is short-lived. Moses chose suffering with the people of God rather than pleasure: “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Heb. 11:25). It always appeals to a person’s lustful appetite. Solomon tried materialism but hated his labor, because he did not know if the person who received what he left would be wise or a fool (Eccl. 2:12-23). He tried wealth but found he could never satisfy his appetite for more (Eccl. 5:6-12). He tried morality only to find that a high moral plane gave no lasting satisfaction (Eccl. 7:1-12; 12).
Solomon was a wise man. As King in Jerusalem, Solomon was in an exalted position. He was the wisest man of his day. Solomon was a literate— “he spake three thousand proverbs,” a musician— “his songs were a thousand and five,” a forester— “he spake of trees,” a zoologist— “he spake also of beasts,” an ornithologist— “he spake...of fowl,” and a biologist— “he spake...of creeping things” (I Kings 4:29-34). As wise as the King was, he spoke as man “under the sun,” not as a man “in the Son of God.” Hence, the key to the problem is man “under the sun,” a statement used 28 times in this book.
Scripture proves that a subjective knowledge of God’s eternal existence abides within every human being: “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Rom. 1:19-21). Since man’s subjective knowledge of God’s eternal power (proof of existence) is an objective fact, it must be revealed and established by evidence. Atheists (so-called) seek to prove that God is nonexistent. They foolishly reason like a man who walks outside his home, looks through a window, sees no one inside, and denies that anyone lives there. One who claimed to be an atheist said he was an atheist and God knew it. As a person acknowledges his own existence by doubting it, he acknowledges God’s existence by questioning it. Eternity being set in the heart of every man renders him inexcusable before God. The eternity within acknowledges God’s eternal power and Godhead.
The message of The Song of Solomon is different from that of Ecclesiastes. The person in grace learns that he cannot fathom the infinite preciousness of God’s love provided in Christ’s redemptive work which has been shed abroad in his heart by the regenerating Holy Spirit. However, he is satisfied with the triune God, because the Object of his love is too large for his heart. His heart in which eternity has been set has been touched by Divine grace. One may drink water from this world’s well (phrear, well or cistern), but he will thirst again (John 4:11, 12). However, when one by grace drinks once-for-all the water that God gives, he will never thirst (John 4:14). The absence of thirst is because he has life for the soul, light for the mind, love for the heart, grace for strength, comfort for sorrow, faith for the pilgrimage, and hope for the future.
The Song of Solomon is one of the most misunderstood books of the Bible, because men by nature do not have spiritual minds. The book gives the history of a humble and virtuous woman engaged to be married to a man of unexcelled qualities. Hence, it is a revelation of the chaste and virtuous love which no splendor can dazzle and no flattery can seduce. One who correctly interprets the Song will recognize in it a duality in unity, for which it expresses pure and marital love ordained by God in creation and the vindication of that love against asceticism and lust. The deeper and larger prophetical meaning has reference to Christ and His sheep.
Spiritually-minded people rejoice in this Song. It was sung annually on the eighth day of the passover feast. Therefore, only those who know Christ as their Passover can possibly understand it. It speaks to Christians in a profound manner about Christ’s love for them and their love for Him.
The text of the book is 2:16— “My beloved is mine, and I am his....” The Song does not bring before us the first movements of God in the soul. They had already been settled. One must be attracted to Jesus Christ because of who He is and not merely for what He has done. It has been pointed out that there are three stages of love in the life of a Christian, and they are emphasized in this Song: (1) The young woman said, “My beloved is mine, and I am his...” (2:16). This is the first ruling thought in the mind of one who has been regenerated. Observe the order in the text. She spoke of the “beloved” being her possession before acknowledging that she was his possession. (2) She said, “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine...” (6:3). Here the order is reversed. The ownership of the beloved is now given its rightful place in her thoughts. This denotes spiritual growth. It is no longer “mine” but “thine”. (3) She said, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me” (7:10). Here the word “mine” is dropped in perfect assurance that being the beloved’s includes all. The beloved’s ownership of the young woman swallows up every other thought in the spiritually mature Christian.
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THE CERTAINTY OF
ETERNITY AND THE
UNCERTAINTY OF TIME ARE CONTRASTED
an’s short time on earth bears a never ending relationship to eternity. His duration of time is uncertain. Therefore, two impressive warnings are given, one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament: “BOAST not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Prov. 27:1). “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil” (James 4:13-16). Man’s today does not satisfy apart from his expectation of tomorrow. The only thing certain about tomorrow is its uncertainty. Therefore, “BOAST not thyself of to morrow....” People in general admit that tomorrow is uncertain, but they seem to think there is an exception in their particular case.
The warning “BOAST not thyself of to morrow” does not mean that man is to give no thought to preparation for “a rainy day.” “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest” (Prov. 6:6-8). Here we see what the fall of man has done to him. Man created in God’s image and after His likeness was given dominion over the lower creation (Gen. 1:26-28); but now as a depraved creature, he is sent to school and taught by the ant. That should take the wind out of the lazy man’s sail, but it will not because he is void of understanding.
The sluggard is an inactive and lazy person. Conversely, the ant is industrious in order to provide food for the time of its scarcity. The lazy person is without excuse. He possesses the spirit of understanding, and he has guides (Job 32:8; Mal. 2:7). On the other hand, the ant has neither guide nor overseer. God warned the Israelites about not knowing the judgment of the Lord by contrasting them with creatures: “...the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD” (Jer. 8:7).
The sluggard is void of understanding: “I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction” (Prov. 24:30-32). The understanding person plows his field, looks to its crops, and tries to make the best of everything. On the other hand, the man void of understanding or empty headed conjures up excuses by his own imagination. “The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing” (Prov. 20:4). “The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets” (Prov. 22:13). Although the sluggard is too lazy to work, neither his imagination nor his tongue is slothful. The imagination can create a whole menagerie of wild beasts, and the tongue never tires of complaining about inclement weather.
God who purposed that man shall reap has also purposed that he shall sow. He did not place Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden to walk through and watch the spontaneous growth of food supplies without their dressing and keeping it. God appointed that every Israelite should have a piece of land, thus making him a landowner. He meant that each man should possess and cultivate his apportionment. Furthermore, God appointed for His people a spiritual inheritance, not that we should lie down beside it, but be diligent: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Eccl. 9:10). We should work while it is day because the night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9:4).
Solomon, who gathered instruction from the sluggard’s farm, said, “Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction” (Prov. 24:32). Men generally gain wisdom if they possess wisdom. The artist’s eye sees the beauty of the landscape because he has beauty in his mind. The spiritual mind sees the neglected vineyard of his own life and determines to do something about it. Without cultivation the believer’s mind will produce an abundant crop of evil thoughts and vain imaginations which will affect his soul. Furthermore, without continually pruning and training his affections, his heart is prone to become occupied with temporary objects that will prevent it from being captured with eternal issues. A neglected garden and a neglected life both lose their distinction.
Men must not waste what God in providence gives because “He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich” (Prov. 10:4). This rule applies not only to the business of life but also to the concerns of man’s soul. It is true that we are saved by grace (Eph. 2:8), but the other side of the coin says, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). It has been said that it would be a libel on the Divine economy to imagine that the tender plant of grace would thrive in the sluggard’s garden. Hence, we are not only to give diligence to make our calling and election sure (II Pet. 1:10) but to add to the faith God has given (II Pet. 1:5-9). The Greek word for “diligence” of II Peter 1:5 is spoude. It means haste, earnestness, or diligence. The verb used in verse 10 is an aorist imperative of speudo, which means to urge on or to make haste. Diligence includes the employment of time. It implies activity, watchfulness, constancy, and perseverance.
Diligence is opposite to delay. Therefore, “BOAST not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Prov. 27:1). Since there is a sinful confidence regarding the future, none should say what he will or will not do tomorrow. While we can review our past life, we can make no prediction of its future in time. We are not forbidden to look to the future and provide for prospective needs, but presumptuous confidence about the future is denounced: “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow...” (James 4:13, 14a). The arrogant words “we will” displaced “If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (James 4:15). The person who says “If the Lord will” recognizes with David that “his times” are in God’s hand: “My times are in thy hand...” (Ps. 31:15). Conversely, those who say “we will” deny that their times are in God’s hand.
Our times of prosperity, adversity, and death are all in God’s hand. Hence, our living as well as our dying is in the hand of God. No wonder James raised the question, “What is your life?” and answered, “It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14). Scripture proves that it is a dying life and a living death: “I die daily” (I Cor. 15:31) and “...though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (II Cor. 4:16). The verb “perish” is present passive indicative of the Greek verb diaphtheiro, which means the outward self is progressively decaying. Therefore, our physical life is so unstable that James asked, What is it? It is a vapor (atmis, an exhalation, vapor, or smoke— used only here and Acts 2:19).
The boastful words “we will” are evil because they replace the will of the sovereign God (James 4:15, 16). Men who speak in this manner are relying on a second cause rather than the first Cause, the Cause of the second cause. Every effect has a cause, and that means the second cause is the effect of the first uncaused Cause. The uncaused Cause is by necessity self-existent, and therefore eternal and unchangeable. Hence, those who put their will above God’s are practical atheists. However, this is no more evil than religionists who believe God’s will is subordinate to theirs. God said to Moses, “...I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Rom. 9:15, 16). Paul said to the Philippian saints, “...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12, 13). Man’s will to do good is the effect of God’s will. Therefore, the second cause is the effect of the first uncaused Cause.
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EXISTENCE DOES NOT
CONSIST IN THE POSSESSIONS OF TIME
The subject of Luke 12:13-21 is “beware of covetousness.” It literally means that one should take heed and guard himself from inordinate desire for more. Unlawful desire is forbidden. Within the context of this passage, Christ warned His disciples about being unduly concerned about their physical welfare. Our Lord’s discourse was interrupted by a man who wanted Him to intervene in a case where an inheritance was involved. At first sight, Christ’s refusal to arbitrate between the two brothers might seem astonishing. Was not a question of justice to be decided? Furthermore, who is more competent to deal with it than the Holy and Just One? However, a second look reveals that the brother who was demanding his dues, as well as his brother against whom he complained, was moved by the spirit of covetousness. Hence, Christ said unto them (not him), “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15 NASB).
The Biblical understanding of Luke 12:13-21 condemns both socialism and communism. Socialism is the theory of a political and economic organization that advocates public, collective ownership and management. Its philosophy is that social reform can be brought about by collective effort. Communism is the theory of a social organization based on holding in common all property whose ownership and control is ascribed to a totalitarian and self-perpetuating political party. On the contrary, the community of goods in the Jerusalem assembly was not compulsory. It was the Christians’ voluntary act of love rather than duty. Nowhere outside of Jerusalem do we find any other Christian community of goods. The Lord left no definite instructions for the future community of goods by His “little flock.” (See Acts 2:44, 45; 4:32.) There are brief references to the assembly’s responsibility to Christians (Acts 6; I Tim. 5).
The passage before us also condemns the idea of the present existence of the kingdom of Christ. The things of God and the things of Caesar are distinguished in this age. This distinction will not exist in the kingdom of Christ. There would be no need for the teaching of Romans 13:1-7 if the kingdom presently existed. Christ’s first advent was not to establish the kingdom but to redeem those who would become heirs of the kingdom. Christ’s mission was not to socialize mankind but to redeem the elect. Furthermore, He disclaimed the position of “judge” (krites, one who passes judgment) in the case of a civil matter. He also refused to be a “divider” (meristes, an arbitrator or apportioner) in this civil matter. He refused to take from the oppressor and give to the oppressed, and He did not encourage the oppressed to take from the oppressor. He condemned oppression. On the other hand, as King of the kingdom Jesus Christ will not permit oppression. His reign will not be restricted. It will be universal.
Covetousness is an inordinate desire for the things of time. It is often represented as prudence. The prudent, like the ant that prepares its food supply for the future, manifests foresight in his planning. However, the prudent may often be like the rich farmer in the parable that Christ gave to illustrate covetousness. Some have said the one good thing recorded of the rich farmer is that he thought of the future and laid up for years to come. But his thought was bad because it was of time without considering eternity.
Covetousness has its roots in the creature rather than the Creator. The rich farmer loved himself more than the Creator. Such a person may be industrious and moral and yet be a slave to covetousness. Inordinate desire manifests itself by dissatisfaction. The sole interest of a covetous person is the inordinate desire for more, even at the expense of others or his own soul: “...the love of money is the root of all evil...” (I Tim. 6:10). Money itself is not evil, but the love of it leads to all kinds of evil: “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition” (I Tim. 6:9). The words “drown,” “destruction,” and “perdition” must be considered. “Drown” is the present active indicative of buthidzo, which means to cause to sink or drag to the bottom. The person who has an inordinate desire for riches will drown in his own lusts. There is no sin too heinous for the lover of money. “Destruction” (olethros, ruin, destruction, or death) and “perdition” (apoleia, utter destruction; eternal ruin or perdition) are used together only in this place, and they show the result of being dragged to the bottom by an inordinate desire for money. The destruction experienced by the lover of money will be eternal perdition.
The providence of God caused the farm in the parable of the rich man to be productive. There is no doubt the rich farmer was considered an industrious person who took advantage of the seasons and made the most of them. His frugality was revealed by making good crops and knowing the value of saving what he harvested. There is nothing wrong with laying up something for “a rainy day.” Providence does not always provide good seasons. Therefore, the farmer should store up something for a time of drought or famine. He should not waste what he could not use. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with enlarging one’s plans. Progress demands setting aside old plans and making new ones. The rich farmer, according to the picture Christ drew, would be considered by the world as wise, industrious, and frugal. But he portrays a man our Lord called a “fool.” He did not consider the providence of God as the cause of the productivity of his land because he thought he was the cause.
The reasons Christ called the rich farmer in the parable a fool are evident: (1) In the conversation the farmer had with himself, he used the pronouns “I,” “me,” “thou,” and “thine.” He lived as though there were no God or eternity. (2) He spoke to his soul as though it should be grateful for the provision he had made for its future. He was presumptuous of the future. (3) He supposed that the worldly goods of time would satisfy his soul in which eternity had been placed. God broke in on his soliloquy with the shocking statement, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou has provided?” (Luke 12:20).
The rich man not only thought within himself but spoke to himself. One who considers only self is empty. The personal pronouns manifest that he was wrapped up in himself. He applauded himself, but God said, “Thou fool.” With selfishly depraved men, honesty, plain dealing, and preaching of the gospel are foolishness, but they are not so with God. The farmer promised himself ease, pleasure, and contentment for many years, but God threatened him with death that very night. The farmer appropriated all the provided peace, comfort, and contentment to his own soul, but God questioned who should have the things he had provided. Hence, the rich man from God’s perspective is an entirely different person from the one seen on the surface by men. This is understandable because man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart.
The rich farmer thought of time and himself rather than God and eternity: “...Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19). The different tenses of the verbs in the command of the farmer to his soul are interesting. There is one Greek word for each of the parts of the command: (1) “Take thine ease” is present middle imperative of anapauo, which means “keep on resting.” (2) “Eat” is aorist active imperative of esthio, which means “eat at once.” (3) “Drink” is aorist active imperative of pino, which means “drink your fill.” (4) “Be merry” is present passive imperative of euphraino, which means “keep on being merry.” The rich man felt that he was the master of his own destiny. The command to his soul was as empty as the often heard statement, “Have a good day.” The fool was saying, “Have not only a good day but a good tomorrow.” However, the fool had to leave his crops unharvested and his barns unbuilt. His prosperity in time was not because he was industrious and frugal, but God’s providence caused the land to bring forth plentifully.
The rich farmer did not know his own name. Furthermore, his real name was not known by others until God revealed it. Many live most of their lives without knowing who they are. After all, there is something to the frequently repeated statement, “I am trying to find out who I am.” Without knowing it, their statement has revealed who they are. The rich man in the parable was no doubt known as a prosperous, great, frugal, eminent, etc., man. But God said his name was “fool.” The Greek word for “fool” is aphron, which means unwise, spiritually unenlightened, boastfully foolish, or vain. The only place God is not is in the thoughts of the wicked. This is practical atheism: “THE fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good” (Ps. 14:1). Hence, the wicked live in a state of habitual forgetfulness of God. They, like the rich farmer, act without an abiding sense of accountability to God. They live for self and time and not for God and eternity.
God said, “...Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.” “This night” is not what Jeremiah told Hananiah or Hosea told the revolting Israelites: “Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the LORD. So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month” (Jer. 28:16, 17). “And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity; Judah also shall fall with them. They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the LORD; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself from them. They have dealt treacherously against the LORD: for they have begotten strange children: now shall a month devour them with their portions” (Hos. 5:5-7).
The death of the righteous comes as the dawning of the morning: “Seek him that...turneth the shadow of death into the morning...” (Amos 5:8). The call is a gracious summons by the electing God. Conversely, the death of the wicked is like a vessel being dragged from its moorings. It is like the approach of a tempestuous night: “The rich man shall lie down, but he shall not be gathered: he openeth his eyes, and he is not. Terrors take hold on him as waters, a tempest stealeth him away in the night” (Job 27:19, 20). Unlike the Christian’s gracious summons, the call of the wicked will be by forceful arrest. God said to the covetous farmer who lived for time and ignored eternity, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee” (Luke 12:20).
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MAN WAS CREATED IN
TO LIVE ETERNALLY
The eternal God created man in time, but man created in time shall live forever. Time is transitory presence, but eternity is abiding presence. The adjective “transitory” means that which is passing is short-lived. It is opposite to that which is permanent. Time consists of future, present, and past; but the present is all of time that actually exists. When God created the universe with time, all time was future. When time shall be no more, all time will be past.
Time and change coexist. Therefore, man must be changed by grace in time to insure an eternity with the eternal God, with whom there is no change. There is no change where there is eternity. Those for whom Christ died are first changed by grace in regeneration. From that time, they are continually changed until they are finally changed in glorification. The first change assures the final change: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). The word “confident” is a perfect active participle of peitho, which means to be confident, convinced, or persuaded. God’s preservation of the good work He began in the Philippian saints is described by the future active indicative of epiteleo, which means to carry out to completion. It must be pointed out, however, that God’s preservation is linked with human perseverance in the statement “...your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:5). This proves that once God has begun a good work in a person, the recipient never remains passive: “...whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well [pege, a source or fountain] of water springing up into [to] everlasting life” (John 4:14).
Paul spoke of the “outward” and the “inward” man: “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (II Cor. 4:16). The apostle was not teaching dualism but duality. The two must not be confused by making them identical. There is duality but not dualism in man. Duality signifies that there are two aspects in man, but dualism divides man into two mutually irreducible elements. Duality within created reality does not exclude unity. Duality between body and soul becomes dualism only when there is a separation which destroys the unity between them. Hence, when we speak of the assembly (church) as the body of Christ, we are talking about one Divine organism with two aspects. The assembly (church), like man, is essentially one with two aspects— visible and invisible. As the visible aspect of the assembly is not swallowed in the invisible and the invisible is not swallowed in the visible, the outward man is not swallowed in the inward man and the inward man is not swallowed in the outward man. Furthermore, as the assembly (church) is neither visible nor invisible only, but both, man is neither outward nor inward only, but both. The assembly (church) and man are both mysteries.
A very important question must be answered. Is man dichotomous or trichotomous? This is a debatable subject among theologians. Those who believe man is dichotomous teach that trichotomy began with Greek philosophy, which has a dualistic background. They claim that such philosophy broke the unity of man’s nature. On the other hand, those who teach trichotomy believe the dualistic tension is even more acute in the dichotomistic view. The debate goes on.
The following are the basic arguments used by dichotomists: (1) There are two distinct elements in man— material and immaterial. (2) Spirit and soul are not two substances but one and the same immaterial substance viewed from two aspects. (3) I Thessalonians 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12 do not teach trichotomy, because the Bible elsewhere speaks of man as consisting of two parts (Rom. 8:10; I Cor. 5:5; II Cor. 7:1; Eph. 2:3; Col. 2:5).
The following are the basic arguments used by trichotomists: (1) Man is a trinity in unity (I Thess. 5:23; Heb. 4:12). (2) Through the spirit, soul, and body, man attains God, self, and world consciousness. (3) The triunity of man’s personality may be compared to the Mosaic tabernacle. In his spirit, man enters the holy of holies through God-given faith. He believes what he can neither see nor feel. In his soul, man enters the holy place through his understanding of things seen in the light of the candlestick. In his body, man manifests what he believes and understands by the way he lives. Hence, the unseen spirit and soul are manifested in the body which is seen.
There were two aspects of the one creative act of God of Genesis 2:7— “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul [being— NASB].” Hence, man is not dualistic. He is one person with a dual nature— material and immaterial. The two natures of man’s being are closely connected. The soul is adapted to the body, and the body is adapted to the soul.
Man’s immaterial nature consists of spirit and soul. The spirit is the seat of God-consciousness, and the soul is the seat of self-consciousness. The Greek word for spirit is pneuma, and the word for soul is psuche.
The “spirit” is the higher consciousness of man’s immaterial nature. The word “spirit,” pneuma, is used several ways in Scripture. Spirit refers to the noncorporeal entity in personality, whether human (Mark 14:38; Luke 1:17; Rom. 1:9; 2:29; I Cor. 2:11), Divine (Matt. 1:18, 20; 3:16; John 14:26; Acts 5:3, 4), angelic (Heb. 1:14), or demonic (Mark 1:23; I Tim. 4:1). We are concerned with the human spirit in this lesson. The spirit of man is the higher consciousness of man’s immaterial personality.
The soul is the lower consciousness of man’s immaterial nature. The word “soul,” psuche, means breath, life; the principle of animal life; the soul of man (the inner self— Luke 12:19); the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions; the essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death. This word is translated heart, life, mind, and soul. The adjective psuchikos proves the soul is lower than the spirit in the consciousness of man. It means not possessing the Spirit of God, nonspiritual, physical, and sensual (I Cor. 2:14; 15:44— twice, 46; James 3:15; Jude 19).
Man’s material nature consists of a body. The body of man is essential to his being. The soul is designed for the body, and the body is designed for the soul. There is an interdependence between soul and body. Man was created a whole being. Every act of man is seen as an act of the whole man. The body is not viewed as less valuable than the soul. “HAVING therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Cor. 7:1). “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thess. 5:23). “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (Rom. 6:12). “I BESEECH you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:19, 20). “It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven” (I Cor. 15:43-47). Hence, the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, a sacrifice for service, an instrument for righteousness, a means of glorifying God, and a seed-corn for the glorified, spiritual body.
There are two kinds of error regarding the body. Some are concerned with the health of the body to the neglect of the soul. Others abuse their bodies by failing to show the proper respect for them. The body of the believer is not his vessel, but it is the Spirit’s temple (I Cor. 6:19, 20). Paul’s desire was that he and the people to whom he ministered would put the “body” in its proper place. The Christian is to give the body its need but not what its lust calls for or desires. It must not be injured or defiled but possessed in sanctification and honor: “That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour” (I Thess. 4:4). There is a double love in every Christian— supernatural for Christ and natural for the body: “We love him, because he first loved us” (I John 4:19). “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church [assembly]” (Eph. 5:28, 29).
Paul’s thought was far from gnostic dualism, in which the soul is imprisoned in the body and longs for escape. God’s making woman for man was not a dualism but a unity (Gen. 2:22, 23), and so it was in His making the body for the soul. Therefore, Genesis 2:7 is a revelation of man’s complete createdness and dependence in his whole existence.
What is man? We will seek to answer the direct question by first asking some questions: (1) Is man a soul? (2) Does man have a soul? (3) Is man a combination of spirit and body, forming a soul? (4) Is man a soul who has a body? (5) Is man a combination of spirit, soul, and body?
In answer to the first question, to say “man is a soul” is to emphasize the immaterial (incorporeal or spiritual) to the neglect of the material (corporeal or physical). If man is the soul, what need is there for a body?
In answer to the second question, to say “man has a soul” is failure to give all that constitutes man. Man was not designed to be merely a soul. There is an interdependence between soul and body. Man is an incarnated soul.
In answer to the third question, to say “man is a combination of spirit and body, forming a soul” is untenable. That would make the order of the words, “spirit and body, even the soul.” If this were true, the personality would be dissolved at death— a doctrine worse than soul sleep. The spirit and soul represent the immaterial side of man.
In answer to the fourth question, to say “man is a soul who has a body” is, like the first two questions, placing emphasis on just one aspect of man’s being.
In answer to the fifth question, to say that “man is a combination of spirit, soul, and body” is Biblical; but so is “soul and body” or “spirit and flesh (body).” The “spirit and soul” represent the immaterial feature of man, which may be called either spirit (Luke 1:17, 47, 80; 2:40; 23:46; John 11:33; 13:21; Acts 7:59; 11:12; 17:16; 18:5, 25; 19:21; Rom. 1:9; 7:6; I Cor. 2:11; etc.) or soul (Matt. 10:28; Mark 8:37; John 12:27; Acts 2:27, 31; 14:22; 15:24; Heb. 4:12; 6:19; 10:39; James 1:21; I Pet. 1:22; II Pet. 2:8; III John 2). The “spirit” and the “soul” are distinct but inseparable. Their distinction is used in a metaphorical sense by the word of God, “piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit” (Heb. 4:12). They are never separated. The “spirit” is the higher part of the immaterial feature of man which understands (I Cor. 2:11) and is in touch with the unseen by worshipping God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). The “soul” is the other part of the immaterial feature of man that connects it with the body. It desires, loves, sorrows, hates, etc. The personality is sometimes connected with the soul (Acts 2:41, 43) and sometimes with the body (Acts 8:2).
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THE WHOLE MAN CREATED
WILL LIVE ETERNALLY
Since the fall of Adam, men have had difficulty preserving a proper balance between the material and immaterial natures of man. In our study of man, we are dealing with the whole man. The wonder of man cannot be explained in terms of his soul alone, and even less in terms of his body alone. The “whole man” —material and immaterial natures— must be considered. The “whole man” was affected in the fall, and the “whole man” is redeemed. Hence, the Bible deals with the “whole man” in the actuality of his existence. Furthermore, we can never see man from the Biblical perspective as long as we remove what some call the “real man” from his bodily existence. False religions, in their quest for the “real man,” have ignored the whole man. Scripture does speak of a change from the corruptible to the incorruptible and from the mortal to the immortal, but this transformation does not minimize the “whole man.”
Scripture does not view man’s body as secondary. The moment one devaluates the body of man he has deactualized man’s reality as a creature of God. The informed Christian will always be suspicious of any view of the human body which, in one way or another, devaluates it to detract from the genuineness of the Divinely created human being.
In our last lesson, we gave the basic arguments of the dichotomists and the trichotomists concerning their respective views of man. We will summarize their views before giving a more detailed study of the “whole man.” The dichotomist would say that God works upon the spirit, the spirit works upon the body, and the body works upon the world. The trichotomist adds one thing. He says God works upon the spirit, the spirit works upon the soul, the soul works upon the body, and the body works upon the world. Thus, the trichotomist places strong emphasis upon the order of I Thessalonians 5:23— “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Neither dichotomists nor trichotomists believe man is “all soul,” but they differ in their views of man’s immaterial nature. Dichotomists believe the soul and spirit are not two substances, but they are one and the same immaterial substance viewed from two aspects. On the other hand, trichotomists believe the spirit and soul are two substances within man’s immaterial nature.
The difficulty between dichotomy and trichotomy is a man-made problem, but there is a simple solution where prejudice does not prevail. Scripture is plain concerning the nature of the spirit and the soul. Both are immaterial. When no distinction is made between spirit and soul, one correctly views man as dichotomous. Both spirit and soul are one as to their nature; hence, man is dichotomous. He has only two natures— immaterial and material, incorporeal and corporeal. However, when spirit and soul are viewed as two substances within the immaterial nature, we are forced to use the term trichotomous. It is not contradictory to say that when the two elements— spirit and soul— are discussed as one nature (immaterial), man is dichotomous. On the other hand, when one shows that the two elements— spirit and soul— are two different substances, it is not contradictory to say that man is trichotomous.
Some teach that when a person is “born of the flesh” (John 3:6), he is dichotomous (soul and body); but when he is “born of the Spirit” (John 3:6, 8), he is trichotomous (spirit and soul and body). This view makes the unbeliever a dichotomous person without a human spirit, and only the believer is a trichotomous person with a human spirit. When this theory is taken to its logical conclusion, one must believe that before the fall, man was trichotomous; but after the fall in a state of depravity, man is dichotomous. Unless fallen man is regenerated, he will never become a trichotomous person. Hence, the bottom line of such teaching makes depraved man something less than man.
The soul is the link between the spirit and the body. Hence, the order of I Thessalonians 5:23 is important: “...spirit and soul and body....” It has been suggested that a type of the difference and relationship between the two elements of man’s immaterial nature is found in man and woman. In their characteristic difference, they typify the features of spirit and soul. Man is known for his mentality and woman for her emotionality. Each complements the other in the relationship. One is not complete without the other. In the fall, Adam was not deceived, “but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (I Tim. 2:14). The serpent deceived Eve (Gen. 3:13). Adam was led by the affection of his soul. His understanding was seduced by the affection of his soul for Eve. The spirit of Adam fell with his soul, and Eve fell with Adam.
The spirit has yielded its authority to the soul in fallen man: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14). (See Rom. 1:21-28.) Conversely, the spirit is in control in the believer. Man’s spirit is the seat of his mind, or understanding: “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (I Cor. 2:11). Therefore, it should be sanctified (I Thess. 5:23). It should be cleansed from everything that might pollute it: “HAVING therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Cor. 7:1). The verb “cleanse” is first aorist active subjunctive of katharidzo, which means to cleanse or purify. The aorist subjunctive means immediate point-type action. However, there is a continual struggle in “perfecting” (present active participle of epiteleo, which means to complete or to carry into practice), which means to bring to completeness that state of holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). This perfecting is achieved by a reverential fear of God controlling the believer: “And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth” (I Pet. 1:17 NASB). Cleansing includes the whole man, in which the spirit is one of the elements. Intelligence and judgment are ascribed to the Spirit (Hebrew ruach or Greek pneuma). The spirit is the noncorporeal element in personality, whether Divine, human, angelic, or demonic. These are some of the numerous references in the Old and New Testaments: “And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled...” (Gen. 41:8). “...The LORD thy God hardened his spirit...” (Deut. 2:30). “And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tilgathpilneser...” (I Chron. 5:26). “...They provoked his spirit...” (Ps. 106:33). “They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding...” (Is. 29:24). “...The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit...” (Luke 1:80). “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit...” (Rom. 1:9). “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit...” (Philem. 25).
Affections, appetites, and desires are ascribed to the soul (Hebrew nephesh or Greek psuche). The soul is the lower noncorporeal element in the immaterial nature of man. Like the spirit, there are many references to the soul. The following are a few: “...The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter...” (Gen. 34:8). “...The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David...” (I Sam. 18:1). “...So panteth my soul after thee, O God” (Ps. 42:1). “...My soul thirsteth for thee...” (Ps. 63:1). “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord...” (Ps. 84:2). “My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments...” (Ps. 119:20). “...O thou whom my soul loveth...” (Song of Sol. 1:7). “And I will say to my soul, Soul...” (Luke 12:19). “...Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (I Pet. 2:11). “...Vexed his righteous soul from day to day...” (II Pet. 2:8). “And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee...” (Rev. 18:14).
The Greek word psuche is translated “heart” (Eph. 6:6), “mind” (Acts 14:2; Phil. 1:27; Heb. 12:3), “life,” and “soul” many times. It must be made clear that the word dzoe, not psuche, is used when speaking of eternal life. The soul is distinct from the body (Acts 2:27; III John 2). It is contrasted with spirit and body in I Thessalonians 5:23 and with spirit in I Corinthians 15:45.
Some say psuche and pneuma are used interchangeably, and they quote Luke 1:46-47, where the “soul magnifies” and the “spirit rejoices.” The answer to this is not difficult. The soul expresses how its longings are satisfied, and the spirit expresses the joy of the mind. They also say the soul has as much to do with the higher action of the mind as the spirit, and they list such passages as Psalms 42:1 and 63:1. The informed Christian does not deny that the soul has nothing to do with Divine things. Knowledge of God causes the soul to rejoice.
The Greek word psuche is translated “life” and “soul” in all but seven references. Soul is the primary meaning, and life is the secondary meaning. The word pneuma also has primary and secondary meanings. Its primary meaning is “spirit,” and its secondary meaning is “wind.” The same word is translated “wind” in the first part of John 3:8 and “spirit” in the latter part.
The “spirit” distinguishes man from animal. The animal has a “soul” (psuche, Rev. 8:9; 16:3), but it does not have a spirit. Man has something the animal does not possess. He has a higher life than that of the animal. There are different kinds of created life. The vegetable kingdom has life but not self-consciousness. Animal life has self-consciousness but not God-consciousness. In view of man’s salvation, he has been granted by the sovereign God a threefold consciousness: (1) of God, (2) of himself, and (3) of the world. Thus, we have “spirit and soul and body” (I Thess. 5:23). Through his spirit, man attains God-consciousness; through his soul, self-consciousness; and through his body, world-consciousness. From this point of view, man is trichotomous.
The body of man is his material nature. There are two heresies concerning man’s body: (1) The materialist makes the body everything; and (2) the religionist makes the body nothing. The materialist places emphasis on these verses: “...Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3:19). “...Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust” (Ps. 104:29). “For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again” (Eccl. 3:19, 20). The first two Scripture references indicate that death is to be viewed as terminating all labor and pleasure “under the sun.” In the third passage, Solomon was writing from the viewpoint of a man “under the sun,” not “in the Son.” The key to understanding this is Ecclesiastes 3:18— “I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men....” From such a view point, the dissolution of man and beast appears to be the same. Man does not appear to have any preeminence over the mere animal. Conversely, the uninformed religionist places all the emphasis on the soul. He sees man “in” the body: “...The life which I now live in the flesh...” (Gal. 2:20). “...If I live in the flesh...” (Phil. 1:22). “...Whilst we are at home in the body....willing rather to be absent from the body...” (II Cor. 5:6, 8).
There are Scriptures where man is identified with his body, and others where man is identified with his spirit or soul. Therefore, one is in error to argue exclusively for either class of Scriptures. The following are some passages from both classes— material and immaterial: “And he [Joseph] bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre...” (Mark 15:46). “Devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him” (Acts 8:2). “...Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (II Cor. 4:16). “...Willing rather to be absent from the body...” (II Cor. 5:8). “..To die is gain...” (Phil. 1:21). “..The time of my departure is at hand...” (II Tim. 4:6). “Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle...” (II Pet. 1:14).
Let us not be as guilty as some who say, “Let the outward man perish; its perishing will only set the inward man free, in an infinite and everlasting liberty.” Christ “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (II Tim. 1:10). The soul possesses life, but immortality refers to the resurrection of the body— the hope of the soul. Therefore, we cannot exalt the immaterial (spirit or soul) over the material (body) or the material over the immaterial. Both are necessary to constitute man. The perfection of salvation includes the whole man.