Some believe in reincarnation, the idea that man's soul comes back to life on earth in a different body or form. Many who say they are Christians, especially Catholics and Protestants, believe in the immortality of the soul. This soul, according to the teaching, goes directly to heaven upon death, or immediately to the flames and torture of Hell, or to a middle state of existence known as purgatory.
The Bible states each human being has two separate dimensions to their life, one is spiritual, and the other is physical. They give man the ability to live and to think (to make choices). Jesus revealed to us the existence of these two pieces that make up a human when he stated the following.
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but do not have power to destroy the life; rather, fear Him Who has the power to destroy (put to death) both life and body in Gehenna (Matthew 10:28, HBFV, see also Luke 12:4 - 5).
Jesus warns us not to fear other humans who can only affect our physical existence. We are to fear God, however, who can take away both our physical existence (our body) AND permanently kill the spirit within us.
Two parts to existence
Man is made up of physical and spiritual elements that can be destroyed forever by God. The physical part of his existence is what man shares with every living creature. The Hebrew word for this aspect of every living thing is nephesh (Strong's Concordance #H5315). It refers to an existence that is sustained by food, air, and water; one that can cease, perish and die.
And God said, 'Let the earth bring forth living creatures (nephesh) after their kind - livestock, creeping things . . .' (Genesis 1:24, see also 2:7)
Note that there is nothing stating that nephesh, the part of existence man has it common with all living creatures, is immortal or lives forever. In fact, the Bible is clear that this physical part of man CAN and DOES die. It is mortal and not conscious after death (Ezekiel 18:4, Ecclesiastes 9:5, see also 3:19).
God gave humans the ability to live a physical life and to think, create and chose. The Bible calls the entity that makes this possible in every human the "spirit in man." This non-physical component enables humans to be conscious, to be able to think, choose and feel, and have a relationship with God.
But there is a spirit in man . . . (Job 32:8)
Thus says the LORD, who stretches forth the heavens . . . and forms the spirit of man within him (Zechariah 12:1)
Human life is unique in all of creation. It is the ONLY thing that possesses both physical and spiritual existence
When our life ends in death the physical part of our existence, our bodies, returns to the ground from where God made it (Genesis 3:19). However, what happens to the spirit in man? Where does it go when we die? Wise King Solomon also wondered what happens to this spiritual component of humans (Ecclesiastes 3:21). Solomon answers his own question a few chapters later.
Our bodies will return to the dust of the earth, and the breath of life (our human spirit) will go back to God, who gave it to us (Ecclesiastes 12:7)
At death, the spirit of man returns to God who gave it. King David also understood that God was the owner of this spirit (Psalm 31:5, see also Luke 23:46). The book of Revelation also tells us that man's spirit (in this case, of those who are true Christians) belongs to God (see Revelation 6:9-10).
Do the dead merely SLEEP?
Several verses in the Bible talk of those who are dead as being in a state of dreamless sleep. This is because those who have died are not conscious nor have any thoughts (Psalm 146:4; Ecclesiastes 9:5 - 6).
He (Jesus Christ) said to them (his disciples), 'Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep . . .' (John 11:11, see also 1Corinthians 11:30, 15:51-52)
The countless humans who have ever lived and are now dead are unaware of the passing of time. The time period from their death to when God resurrects them will seem, to them, like one occurred immediately after the other - even though the actual time between the events may be thousands of years apart.