cup of wrath

Disembodied Souls

  • There is debate about the existence of human souls in the bible.
  • There are many passages that support the existence of human souls.
  • Some of the most important ones depict the disembodied souls of individuals who have passed away.

Some biblical passages depict disembodied human souls.

In the previous chapter, we looked at various Hebrew and Greek words that support the concept of human souls in the bible. Moving away from our study of these different spiritual words, there are several passages that in-and-of themselves "lock in" the existence of human souls.

One such passage is from Isaiah, where we are given a future vision of Sheol, "Hell [Sheol] from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?" (Isaiah 14.9-10 KJV bible). This passage is important because it describes the disembodied souls of the dead being "stirred up", as part of a future prophecy.

A similar verse is in Ezekiel, where he depicts the souls of the dead speaking out from their place, "The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell [Sheol] with them that help him: they are gone down, they lie uncircumcised, slain by the sword" (Ezekiel 32.21 KJV bible).

There are also many persuasive verses in the New Testament, that acknowledge the existence of human souls. In the gospel of Mark, both Moses and Elijah are witnessed by the disciples talking with Jesus on the Mt. of Transfiguration, "And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus...For he [Peter] wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid" (Mark 9.2-4 KJV bible).

Unless one is to argue that something absurd was going on such as a mass hallucination or hologram, the only conclusion to be drawn from this is that the disembodied souls of both Moses and Elijah were present on the mountain with Jesus. Apparently, the disciples were convinced of this as well, even to the point of being terrified.

We can draw many other examples of human souls from the New Testament. For example, in the book of Luke, we are given a vision of the hereafter in which three individuals are identified as disembodied souls, "And in hell [Hades] he [the rich man] lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame" (Luke 16.23-24 KJV bible).

Another example is in Revelation, where the disembodied souls of people who have passed on are depicted in heaven, "And they [the elders] sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Revelation 5.9 KJV bible), (see also Revelation 6.9-10, and 7.9-10).

In 2nd Corinthians, Paul describes being taken up to the third heaven, and speaking of himself he says, "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven" (2nd Corinthians 12.2 KJV bible).

Paul is saying that he was taken up to the third heaven, either in his own mind through a vision from God, or via his soul leaving his body and going there. By mentioning this second possible scenario, "or whether out of the body", he is acknowledging that his center of consciousness lies within an immaterial soul dwelling within his flesh body. Further, he is acknowledging that this soul continues on apart from the body, as would be the case if he went to the third heaven apart from his body.

This is why in Philippians, Paul speaks of desiring to depart from the flesh and be with Christ, "But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better. Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you" (Philippians 1.22-24 KJV bible), (see also 2nd Corinthians 5.2-9).

Likewise, Peter implies that his spiritual soul is the center of his being, when he describes the putting off of his earthly tent or dwelling, "Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me" (2nd Peter 1.14 KJV bible).

He also speaks of the gospel being declared unto the dead, "For for this cause was the gospel preached [Greek: euaggelizo - to announce good news] also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit" (1st Peter 4.6 KJV bible). This delivering of good news to the dead, indicates that they must exist in a disembodied spiritual state.

Samuel comes back to give a prophecy.

One passage that deserves mention is the story of Saul and the witch. In this passage King Saul is desperate for guidance. Instead of turning to God in repentence he seeks help from a witch. His plan is to have her summon the prophet Samuel from the dead.

"And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do" (1st Samuel 28.15 ASV bible).

This account has been interpreted and reinterpreted over the years by different expositors. While there is much speculation about what could have happened, the most obvious understanding is that Samuel spoke from the dead. The attempt to contact him appears to have been successful, and there is no suggestion this was a deception.

After appearing to both Saul and the witch, Samuel gives his last prophecy. As a final rebuke to the disgraced king, he predicts Saul's defeat by the Philistines and David's reign. Samuel's words would prove accurate, and show that his prophetic ability was still intact, even from the other side.

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