The Doctrine of the immortal soul
(Source: Heaven Dwellers)
Another obvious crack in Israel's armour, where heresies of spirit-beings or ghosts crept into our Christian faith, was at the point where our ancestors began to accept the pagan doctrine of the « immortal soul ». That is the doctrine which teaches that « a soul » is one-third of the component parts of a man, and that it is immortal: an entity which cannot die. God's people fell for this false teaching starting in the book of Genesis, chapter 3 Where the first false prophet bamboozled Eve by telling her: « You shall not surely die ». Genesis 3:4.
What did this primal guru mean by « ye shall not surely die? » Well, he meant « THE REAL YOU cannot die; just your flesh (the unneeded part of you) dies. The real YOU (your soul) cannot die. YOU are immortal. Only the flesh part of you dies » (not actually YOU). This has been the first and foremost lie foisted upon idolatrous mankind.
Churches accepted and then taught this pagan doctrine. It came largely through the Catholic Church after the traditions of the Pharisees. It was largely through this channel that paganism got its foothold in Christendom.
The doctrine of the immortal soul was only one of the many false doctrines which the Catholics brought in. And in the process, the concept of « soul » and « spirit » got confused. According to them, a man's « soul » was his « spirit ».
The pre-existence doctrine
When you think in terms of an immortal spirit or an eternal life, you start to realize that eternity in this sense goes BACKWARD as well as FORWARD; it goes into the past as well as into the future. Therefore, if a soul or spirit is eternal then it had to exist before it took over a body, and it must also continue after that body dies. So where were they before they became fleshly bodies? The false teaching is, that a man is not what he appears to be. Supposedly he is a spirit-being with this external flesh attached just to give him form. According to them, the real person is not the body which is temporal, but the spirit which is eternal. This adds up to « pre-existence ». This doctrine is taught by several pseudo-Christian groups like the Mormons who claim that they were Immortal spirits some place up in heaven before they came down to earth and slipped into a body of flesh.
The reincarnation doctrine.
One of the natural results of the false doctrine of pre-existence is that it naturally leads to a belief In reincarnation. Our fleshly body cannot live very long, so If you are really an Immortal spirit you have to go somewhere else when the body dies. Usually, they claim that we go from body to body. You cannot remain forever in one body, so you must « transmigrate » (reincarnate). « Incarnation » Is a pagan concept of a spirit possessing a flesh body. Truthfully, I do not believe it is even a viable term, but it is a popular concept nonetheless. The doctrine of incarnation is that a spirit can « incarnate » or possess, a flesh body. « Reincarnation », then, is simply a repeat of that process where a spirit being is said to possess one body until that body dies and then move on to another body until it dies and on and on it goes. First John, chapter 4 addresses this problem directly: « Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits (test the spirits), whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit (not every ghost but every motive) that confesseth that Jesus Christ Is come In the flesh is of God. And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is the spirit of antichrist... » 1 John 4:1 — 3
Gnostics held, according to the pre-existence doctrine, that Jesus was actually a spirit and not flesh. That, by definition, made them « antichrists ». In Greek, « ANTI-CHRIST » means « IN PLACE OF CHRIST » (ANTi = in place of). The gnostic teaching of reincarnation described another Christ. This other Christ was the one whom the Gnostics claimed was not flesh. This imaginary non flesh christ was an « anti-Christ » — a christ who was put « in place of » the true Christ. John was warning Christians against accepting a counterfeit anti-Christ.
This heresy is known as Gnosticism and it has serious implications concerning Jesus. « Gnostic » is a Greek word that means « to know ». Therefore, a « Gnostic » is « one who knows ». What does he claim to know? Simply this: that we are each immortal and cannot die. Therefore, the immortality of the soul was their salvation — omitting their need for Christ.
Now, if you think you have an immortal soul, then you must think that Jesus did too. If Jesus had an immortal soul, guess what? OUR SAVIOUR NEVER DIED FOR US! (Remember you cannot die if you are immortal). If you embrace the teachings of Gnosticism, you do not need Christ to die for you; all you need is someone to tell you that you are eternal — so you can « know » it. Of course, Gnostics do not believe Christ really died. They believe that Christ was not flesh because flesh is evil. Therefore, He was a spirit in a mere « envelope of flesh », and on the cross only the flesh died. Jesus, himself (the spirit), went right on living. In other words, Gnostics claim that Jesus did not die. Therefore, if He did not die He could not have been resurrected. That is Gnosticism. Unfortunately, this very serious doctrinal error is believed by many in Christendom today.
This is heavy doctrine. These issues form the foundation upon which is built everything else that we believe. They are the foundation upon which we can build a strong, correct understanding of God's Word. Otherwise we will be building on sand, and everything will wash away in the first storm. In logic we are told to always check the premise, because if the premise is wrong then everything else no matter how logical it may sound will be wrong. Therefore, in the following section, entitled Body Soul and Spirit, we will break this subject down even further to make sure our premise (or foundation) is correct.
I realize that some of you are hearing this for the first time, and it may sound strange. But this subject is the kind of study YOU must prove for yourself. Scripture says to: « Prove all things, hold fast that which is good ». 1 Thessalonians 5:21
Body, soul and spirit.
« 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 ». Gen 2:7
Let us examine the picture this presents. God formed a body out of the dust of the ground. At this point it is not a person; it is simply a body-or more accurately, a corpse. Then God « breathed into his nostrils the breath of life »: or in other words, moving air. As I mentioned earlier, the word « spirit » literally means air in motion. Breath is air in motion, and thus, spirit. Spirit is added to the body. Therefore, a body (corpse), plus spirit (breath), equals a LIVING SOUL.
Conversely, at death you have a body or a corpse again with no life in it. It is now a dead soul. Thus, « a living soul » is a body with a spirit. This is according to the Old Testament Hebrew language.
The Greek language in the New Testament has a slightly different connotation. The Greek word for « soul » is « psuche » (psoo-khay). In Greek thought, the word « psuche » actually meant the whole essence of a person. In other words the « soul » is the result of all the components together that make a person what he is. However, in the New Testament, when it quotes from or refers back to the Old Testament, in these places we understand « soul » according to the Hebrew meaning.