What is man?

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What is man? What makes us different from animals? Do all humans possess a spirit or soul that lives forever or does it die?

King David asked the profound question, "What is man that You are mindful of him . . ." (Psalm 8:4, HBFV throughout). This article will reveal the two essential attributes God gives us in order to make us unique in the universe. It will also briefly discuss a third attribute man can obtain that will give him never-ending life.

The first component man was given was flesh to live in. The Bible states, "Then the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground . . . and man became a living being (Hebrew nephesh)" (Genesis 2:7). The flesh we live in was crafted out the same earthly chemical components that were utilized to create the flesh of all animals (see Genesis 1:20 - 21, 24 - 25).

The Hebrew word nephesh (Strong's #H5315), erroneously translated as "soul" in many Bibles, simply means any flesh that is (or was) alive. It is used to refer to our fleshly life in Genesis 2:7 but also the life of animals in Genesis 1:20, 1:20 - 21, 24, 30, 2:19 and so on. It is even used to refer to the dead flesh of a man in Numbers 19:11, 13 and other places. The Greek word psuche, also erroneously translated as "soul" in the New Testament, is roughly equivalent to nephesh.

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What is God's wrath?
Do we have an immortal soul?

The second component all humans receive, at conception, is a spirit. This "spirit in man" gives us the ability to think, reason and make choices. This added attribute makes us far superior to animals, which only make decisions through a sophisticated chemical program we call instinct. This spirit also records all of our thoughts, choices, and experiences (our character) that make us who we are.


Creation of Eve from Adam
Creation of Eve from Adam
Michelangelo, 1509 - 10

Job mentions this piece gifted to us when he states, "But there is a spirit in man . . ." (Job 32:8). Zechariah, one of the Minor Prophets, confirms this, "Thus says the Lord, who stretches forth the heavens . . . and forms the spirit of man within him" (Zechariah 12:1). King Solomon also revealed its existence when he wondered what happened to it upon death (Ecclesiastes 3:21).

Jesus taught his disciples to not be afraid of what man can do to them but rather, ". . . fear Him (God) Who has the power to destroy both life and body in Gehenna (the lake of fire)" (Matthew 10:28). God retains the right to remove both components of a person's existence from the universe such that they will no longer exist or be conscious.

Jesus' statement in Matthew 10:28 also teaches that man has not be given something immortal, like a soul, that is guaranteed to live forever after a physical death. In fact, God will someday exercise his authority and permanently kill those who are incorrigibly wicked (they refuse to repent) through a second death in the lake of fire.

There is a third, and final, component that a man can possess. It, however, must be requested from God. Paul wrote about this added attribute when he states, "The Spirit itself bears witness conjointly with our own spirit, testifying that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:16).

God's Holy Spirit, given to those who are repentant and willing to obey him, gives man the power to increasingly think and reason like their Creator. It joins with the spirit each person already has and enables them to become a true Christian. Only those who have it and are faithful until death qualify to receive the gift of eternal life.

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When will the second death occur?
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