These are excerpts of some things shared by Stephen Jones on the soul and the spirit of man. Maybe this will help to tie up some loose ends for you. Keep in mind here that the spirit, if not already perfected (as it was with Jesus), is on a JOURNEY in the spirit realm back to the Father. The way that I understand it is that (for most spirits) this is not an instantaneous return (at physical death), but rather it is a spiritual ASCENSION through various realms until the New Jerusalem is reached – the place (for lack of a better term) where God communes with spirits that have been made “perfect.” You might also want to keep in mind here that there is no ascension of a spirit unless that spirit has been “made alive” by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our Guide on this journey, beloved. There is no other. — D
The soul had no existence prior to God breathing the breath of life into Adam’s nostrils, for at that moment, man became a living soul. When that breath is removed, the soul ceases to exist in its conscious state that we call “living.”
The soul is attached to the flesh and depends upon the physical body for its consciousness. Leviticus 17 shows this quite clearly, saying in verse 11, “the life [Heb. nephesh, “soul”] of the flesh is in the blood.” The phrase, “the soul of the flesh,” or “the fleshly soul,” as it could be rendered, shows that the soul is fleshly, or carnal. This is why the Apostle Paul speaks of the soulish, or natural man, as being carnal, fleshly. The soul is that part of us that is carnal. It is the “old man,” within each of us (Rom. 6:6), that derives its mortality and weakness from Adam. This is in direct contrast with our spirit, which, when made alive by a relationship with Christ, is the inner “new man.” We will have more to say about this in our next section dealing with man’s spirit…
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The breath (man’s breath – D) gives oxygen to the blood, which is then carried by arteries and capillaries in the body. Even so, the spirit gives life to the soul, which is in the flesh. The relationship between spirit and soul is pictured in the relationship between the breath and the blood. They are different, but it is the spirit that gives life to the soul. It was only when God breathed the breath of life into Adam that he became a living soul.
When the breath is removed from a man, his flesh and blood dies. Even so, when God removes the breath of life from a man, both his body and soul die. A man’s mind, will, and emotion cannot function apart from his flesh (brain). The out-of-body experiences that men often relate to us after being revived from death are not a function of the conscious soul, but of the consciousness of the spirit. As we will see shortly, the spirit and soul each have a separate consciousness.
The soul is not the part of man that transcends death …
The seat of life is in the spirit…
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Death is a return. The body returns to dust, the soul returns to “sleep,” and the spirit returns to God. A more metaphysical way of putting it is this: the body goes to the tomb; the soul goes to Hades (Sheol – D), and the spirit goes to God (heaven – the spirit realm — D).
The best example of this in the Bible is Jesus’ death. Jesus’ body was put in Joseph’s tomb (John 19:38-42). As we have already shown previously, Jesus’ soul went to Hades. We turn now to the idea that Jesus’ spirit returned to God.
The spirit—that is, man’s spirit, as distinct from the Holy Spirit of God—is the part of man that transcends death. Ecclesiastes 12:7 speaks of death, saying,
7 then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.
In the New Testament we find this idea continued in the death of Jesus. Luke 23:46 quotes Psalm 31:5 in giving Jesus’ last words:
46 And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, Father into Thy hands I commit My spirit. And having said this, He breathed His last.
This detail is recorded in Matthew 27:50 in this way:
50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
So we see that Jesus’ spirit did not go either to Joseph’s grave with His body, nor did it go to Hades with His soul (Acts 2:27). It went to God who had given it to Him. The real question is whether or not a person’s spirit has a consciousness that is distinct from the consciousness of the soul.
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The Consciousness of Man’s Spirit
Man’s spirit has a consciousness that is distinct from the consciousness of the soul. The fact that spirit has a conscious mind should not come as a surprise. The Spirit of God (i.e., the Holy Spirit) possesses a conscious mind. God is spirit (John 4:24) and needs no physical brain or soulish mind in order to function consciously. Gen. 6:3 says, “My Spirit will not always strive with man.” Such striving would require conscious behavior. Isaiah 11:2 speaks of the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. Such things also require consciousness. In 1 Cor. 2:16 we are admonished to put on the mind of Christ. In Eph. 4:23, 24 “the spirit of your mind” is identified with the “new self” (NASB) or the “new man” (KJV).
23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
It is obviously a spiritual mind and an inner self that has consciousness.
Unclean spirits also have a consciousness, as we read many times in the Scriptures. For example, Mark 9:26 says of an unclean spirit, “after crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out.”
Man is made in the image of God. Therefore, it seems reasonable to say man’s spirit also has a consciousness. Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 2:14 that divine matters cannot be understood with the natural (literally “soulish”) mind, but must be understood with the spiritual mind. He says,
14 But a natural [pseukikos, “soulish”] man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. 16 . . . we have the mind of Christ.
…both the soul and the spirit have a conscious mind of its own. The one, which is the seat of mortality, must be crucified with Christ in order for the other, the seat of immortality, to be RAISED UP (emphasis mine – D).