Is There a Difference Between the Spirit and the Soul?

Jimmy asked:

Hello – I know you have differentiated this before but can you explain to me the difference between the soul and the spirit again. which one goes to heaven, which one is material and which one is air?

  • It’s a little bit complicated
  • The Bible uses the words “soul” and “spirit” to refer to the non-material part of our being.
  • Our mind, our will, our spiritual existence and interaction – these are things that are not material, but they are real.
  • Sometimes the words are used in a general sense, and mean pretty much the same thing
  • Yet other times they are used in a sense that gives some distinction between the soul and the spirit – such as in Hebrews 4:12.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

A demonstration of the truth that God’s Word is living, powerful, and sharp is found in that it is able to do the work of [12] piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow.

The whole point is that this is not an easy distinction to make, but God’s word is able to make it.

[12] Even to the division of soul and spirit: The writer to the Hebrews makes a distinction between soul and spirit, indicating that a division can be made between them.

i. Certainly, there is some distinction between soul and spirit.

  • Spirit (pneuma): the human spirit that relates to God
  • Soul (psyche): the inner life without any regard to God; what all humanity may share, born again or not

ii. But the stress of this passage isn’t to spell out a theology of the difference between soul and spirit

iii. However, it is important to understand what the Bible means with the terms soul and spirit.

  • The Bible tells us that people have an “inner” and an “outer” nature (Genesis 2:7, 2 Corinthians 4:16).
  • The inner man is described by both the terms spirit (Acts 7:59, Matthew 26:41, John 4:23-24) and soul (1 Peter 2:11, Hebrews 6:19, Hebrews 10:39).
  • These two terms are often used the same way, as a general reference to the inner man. But this is not always the case. Sometimes a distinction is made between soul and spirit.
  • We can say that soul seems to focus more on individuality regarding the inner life (often defined as the mind, the will, and the emotions).
  • The spirit seems to focus more on supernatural contact and power in the inner life.

iv. That there is some distinction between soul and spirit is obvious in passages like this (Hebrews 4:12) and 1 Thessalonians 5:23: Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

v. Passages like Job 7:11 and Isaiah 26:9 show that the terms are sometimes both used to generally refer to the inner man.

vi. Because the soul and spirit both have reference to the “inner man,” they are easily confused. Often an experience intended to build up the spirit only “blesses” the soul. There is nothing wrong with “soulish” excitement and blessing, but there is nothing in it that builds us up spiritually. This is why many Christians go from one exciting experience to another but never really grow spiritually – the ministry they receive is “soulish.”

vii. A soulish life isn’t necessarily bad; there are many wonderful, soulish enjoyments of life that God wants us to experience. There can be a legitimate soulish pleasure in a beautiful sunset; in a romantic relationship; in a music concert. The great mistake is to confuse soulish and spiritual, and to live your life for the soulish and to pretend that it is spiritual. The difficulty of distinguishing between soul and spirit shows why the Word of God is so powerful and precise; it can pierce even to the division of soul and spirit, which isn’t easy to do.

viii. The point is not to eliminate soulish enjoyments of life; but to make sure that the spiritual is also pursued, and to whatever extent possible, launch from the soulish into the spiritual. The enjoyment of the sunset is soulish, and blesses the Christian and the pagan alike – but the Christian can step from the enjoyment of the sunset and truly spiritually connect with the Great God who painted it.

ix. In the same way, if your Christian life is lived mainly on the soulish level, you can’t keep it hidden from God. The word of God discovers and exposes your condition.

Where exactly are Satan and his demons right now and when did they get thrown out of Heaven?

Where exactly are Satan and his demons right now? And when did they get thrown out of heaven? Was it before or after the creation of the earth?

I’m going to give my own perspective. In dealing with matters in which there is some substantial difference among believers, I want to be very upfront with that. Christians have differing opinions about some things. I’m going to give you my perspective on this, to which some would agree, and others might disagree.

I believe that, at present, Satan and his demons have access to both Heaven and Earth. We know that Satan has access to Earth. He’s the prince of the power of the air, of the atmosphere, of the world around us. Peter says that the devil walks about the earth, roaming about, roaring as a lion. So, he has a presence on the earth. There’s no doubt about that. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers that are here on this earth. There’s no doubt that Satan has access to Earth, along with his demons.

I would say that they also have access to Heaven, because in the book of Revelation, the Bible calls Satan the accuser of the brethren, who accuses them before God day and night. Satan, and at least some of his demonic associates, have some access to Heaven, where they can accuse believers before God’s throne day and night. So, I believe that Satan and the demons that are called his angels, have access to both earth and heaven.

Now, what about the passage where Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall”? I believe that there were several falls of Satan. Let me count the falls of Satan that I can think of.

Number one: there was his fall from glorious to profane. That’s the fall described in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28.

Then secondly, the Fall is from heaven, to being restricted on the earth. The Book of Revelation talks about that, that there will come a time when Satan is booted out of heaven. I don’t believe that that time has come yet, because there are scriptures that seem to indicate that Satan has access to heaven right now.

The third fall of Satan is when he falls from having access to Earth, to being imprisoned in what the Bible describes as a bottomless pit, where he’s chained and  forcibly stopped from all his activity on Earth.

The fourth fall of Satan is his fall from the bottomless pit to the Lake of Fire, or Gehenna, which is Hell.

Now, I would say that only the first fall of Satan has already happened. The other three falls of Satan are yet to happen. So, why did Jesus say, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven?”

Well, I think Jesus was either referring to the first fall where Satan fell from glorious to profane, or he could have been referring prophetically to the second fall. Sometimes the Bible speaks of future events with great certainty, because they are for sure going to happen. I think that’s the idea there.

After the creation of the earth, I believe Satan fell, and it was his first fall from glorious to profane. The other three falls – from Heaven to Earth, from Earth to the bottomless pit, and from the bottomless pit to the Lake of Fire – have yet to happen in God’s unfolding plan of the ages.

How do Muslims reject Jesus’ death?

How do Muslims reject Jesus’ death? They say Simon from Cyrene was crucified instead, despite biblical and non-biblical evidence.

This question refers to the general Muslim belief that Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, did not die on the cross, but that a man was substituted for him: Simon the Cyrene, the one who helped Jesus carry his cross. They believe it was Simon the Cyrene who was crucified, and not Jesus of Nazareth. That’s the Muslim belief.

Why do they believe this, despite the evidence? There’s a powerful answer to that question. Simply, people reject the truth of the Bible, not because of the evidence, but despite the evidence. There is evidence that Jesus was who He said He was. The Bible records truth about what Jesus said and did. That evidence, in my estimation, is overwhelming. There’s just really no question about it for me. I’m convinced. People choose to deny that evidence, rejecting things despite the evidence, but not because they have firm, solid evidence giving weight to their estimation.

Why is the cross such a stumbling block for Muslims, and for many other people? The Bible tells us that this would be the case. Paul talked about preaching Christ and Him crucified. To the Jews and the Greeks, it was foolishness, having no wisdom; but to those who believe it’s the power of God, and the wisdom of God. It’s very hard for the natural the person, who’s spiritually dead, to believe. As I spoke earlier, maybe they have a soulish slide, but spiritually, they’re dead. It’s very hard for that person to comprehend many spiritual truths.

One of those difficult truths for them to believe is that God glorifies Himself in and through weakness. There is a mentality that God can only glorify Himself in and through obvious displays of strength. And I don’t think that’s the case. No, God glorifies Himself and displays Himself in and through weakness. Often, it was through the apparent weakness of Jesus. Not His actual weakness, but His apparent weakness, because that’s how He looked to the entire world when He was doing the most powerful work that this world has ever seen. He offered salvation to the world in and through the Person and work of Jesus Christ. It’s hard for some people to see the glory and the power of God being manifested and shining forth from such a weak and humble beginning or display, such as the cross.

​What does apostolic authority look like today and why can’t they write scripture?

If I had a print Bible in front of me, I would hold up to you this simple truth. I would say that if you want to see apostolic authority, here it is. It’s in your Bible. That’s apostolic authority today. That’s what apostolic authority looks like. Friend, when I teach the Word of God, I feel a conviction and a boldness. I feel that I am a messenger of God, a messenger with apostolic authority, not because my words are anything special, but because the words of God carry apostolic authority.

Ephesians 2:19-20 – Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.

What is the foundation of God’s work? It’s what He has given us through His apostles and prophets. In context, this is speaking of those first century Apostles and Prophets. I think this is a very important distinction to make. God laid a foundation by giving us the New Testament in the early church, the apostolic church, the church of the very first century of Christianity. That foundation no longer needs to be laid again. We don’t need more chapters to our Bible; we need to learn and live and obey what God has already given us in His Word.

So that foundation is laid, according to Ephesians 2:20, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. It was brought to us through God’s Apostles and Prophets. That’s why we don’t have Scripture being written today.

What does apostolic authority look like today? First, Apostolic authority looks like those who genuinely stick close to the Word of God and bring the essential truths of God’s Word to God’s people and to a needy world. That’s it. There’s an idea that there is a continuum of apostolic authority that works like this: Jesus laid his hands on some apostles, who laid their hands on other apostles, who laid their hands on other apostles all the way down to the present age. I strongly disagree with that idea.

Yes, Jesus did lay His hands, so to speak, especially on those foundational Apostles and Prophets, the Ephesians 2:20 Apostles, if you want to call them that. They gave us the New Testament and laid that foundation which can never be laid again. Yes, there’s a special place and role for them, no doubt about it.

However, we don’t need to go back to that. We just need to refer to that. That foundation is not being set all over again. Jesus did lay that foundation, and we are at peace with it. Charles Spurgeon said something humorous but in a way that might be hurtful to somebody. He called the modern ideas of apostolic succession, “The laying of empty hands on empty heads,” because there is no real continuum that goes back. The continuum that we have are those who are faithful to God’s Word. They have true apostolic succession. They have true apostolic authority.

​Did God’s presence come over Saul in a unique way?

Was Saul changed internally, like people are today when they are born again? Or did God’s presence come over Saul in a unique way?

Yes, God’s Spirit came upon Saul in a unique way. I have a hard time saying that Saul was born again, because I don’t see any real change in Saul. There was very, very little spiritual fruit in his life, or perhaps none. I think there’s very little evidence that Saul was born again by God’s Spirit. Now, there was a definite and a unique filling of the Holy Spirit for Saul, the first king of Israel, no doubt about that. But I would not call it being born again, as one experiences under the New Covenant. So really, that that’s it. God’s presence did come over Saul in a unique way.

Do I need to get baptized again?

I got baptized once. But I did bad things after being baptized. Now, I’ve repented to Jesus once again. My question is, do I need to get baptized again?

There are some Christians who take great offense at the idea of a believer being baptized again or baptized twice. It comes from their specific view of what baptism is all about, and the main idea of baptism. But I just want you to know that I don’t see that being a terrible thing. I’ll explain why.

I believe that baptism has several significances. One of my great arguments with and disappointment with those who baptize babies is I think that they focus on and emphasize only one aspect of what baptism is all about. Baptism in the New Testament very clearly signifies several things. It doesn’t just signify that you are part of the church, and part of God’s people as a whole. That’s just one aspect of what baptism is, and there are many other aspects of baptism.

For someone to be baptized again, especially if there was a significant falling away, I would say that that’s not a denial of their previous baptism; it’s an affirmation of it, or at least it can be and it should be. I suppose somebody could be denying their previous baptism, especially if they were baptized as a baby and their own choice and own will had absolutely nothing to do with that decision.

I believe it’s analogous to renewing wedding vows. Sometimes a couple, at a very important landmark, or if they’ve come through a very tough stretch in their marriage, may have a renewal of their wedding vows. Now, when a couple renews their wedding vows, they’re not denying their original vows. They’re affirming them. It would be something quite strange if a couple was renewing their wedding vows every other day or every week. In the same way, there’s something strange if somebody is getting baptized again and again and again. In the same way, for someone to be baptized again, I look at it more as analogous to a renewal of wedding vows. It does not deny the previous experience, but rather affirms the previous experience.

Concerning your specific question, do you need to get baptized again? I can’t tell you that. Why don’t you speak to the Holy Spirit about it. And you may say, “Well, I was baptized this or that way or time.” But maybe the Holy Spirit would say, “No, this is for you. This is what I want you to do. This is important for you to do.” If the Holy Spirit would lead you to be rebaptized, then I think you should do it.

​Is the statement “God can’t be in the presence of sin” biblical?

Is the statement God can’t be in the presence of sin biblical? Wasn’t He in the direct presence of Satan in the story of Job, and when Jesus walked among sinners?

No, this statement, “God can’t be in the presence of sin,” is not biblical. It’s something that preachers often say. I can’t tell you exactly whether or not I’ve ever said that phrase. Maybe I have; it wouldn’t surprise me if I’ve said it at some time in my preaching. But it’s not true, for the reasons that you cited yourself.

Jesus, being God, could be in the presence of sinful people. It’s not that sinners have “spiritual cooties,” to use an American expression. “Cooties” refers to some kind of imaginary affliction or virus that’s all over a person, a moral virus of some kind. It’s not that those people have spiritual cooties, or some virus, so to speak, which prevents them from being in the presence of God. Satan comes into the presence of God; we see that in the book of Job. We see Satan in the presence of God a few other places as well.

So, it’s not like God says, “I know you! Get away from me; you can’t be here.” No, friends; know that that’s not the idea. The idea is that sin does separate us from God, most definitely. Those who appear before God in that very last day, will appear before God in judgment. They will stand before Him, and they will be judged by Him.

Sometimes preachers, when they’re trying to describe the holiness of God, will use that phrase, that God cannot be in the presence of sin. I just want you to know that that is not a fundamentally biblical phrase or idea. It’s just something that we preachers often say. And in fact, we say it more than we ought to say it.

​Is praying against the devil, demons, etc. biblical?

Is praying against the devil and demons biblical? Do they harass the lives of believers? And should we be praying against that?

Yes, Satan and his demonic agents seek to hinder the work of God. However, they can’t stop the work of God. Satan is in no way God’s equal. If God wanted to, He could boot Satan out of the universe once and for all, right now. If Satan is allowed to continue his work, it’s because God does have some kind of purpose in allowing it. And we should remain sensitive to that; we should think about that often. God has a purpose in allowing Satan to do what he does in the world at this time.

So yes, we should be praying that God would continue to hinder in greater measure the trouble that demonic spirits make. But I would like to stress this: the authority that we do have is in Jesus Christ; it’s not in and of ourselves. It’s authority that we have as soldiers, so to speak, in the Lord’s army. We are those who really battle against these things. We should be conducting what is sometimes called spiritual warfare: standing against demonic spirits, in prayer, in resistance, resisting the devil (and he will flee from you, as it says in James), and doing those things, so that the work of God would have more freedom. We understand that, ultimately, Satan can’t stop the work of God. God’s work is going to be done. But in our individual situations, God may very well use our prayers to remove hindrances and to see His work advance.

​Does Jesus teach us in John 14:14 that it’s ok to pray directly to Himself?

Does Jesus teach us in John 14:14 that it’s okay to pray directly to Himself? He teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer to pray directly to the Father. Could you clarify?

John 14:14 – If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.

This passage refers to some kind of prayer towards Jesus. But let’s understand the widest possible scope of prayer. Prayer is any kind of communication with God. Jesus invited us to worship Him, to ask Him, to learn from Him. These are all aspects of communication with God, in the broadest idea of prayer. These are all aspects of prayer. Toward that end, we understand that, yes, we can speak to Jesus, we can ask Jesus for things, we can ask for His help, we can ask for strength. He is a mediator, meaning that He’s one through whom we approach God the Father. So, the Bible does not prohibit our prayers to Jesus.

God predominantly operates under this arrangement: God the Father is the initiator, planner, and overseer of the work which the Son has accomplished through His great sacrifice and resurrection. The Holy Spirit is the active agent of God here in the world today. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all God, which means that we can pray to each one of them, we can worship each one of them.

However, the predominant aspect of prayer illustrated for us in the Bible is this: pray to God the Father, through God the Son, and in the power and the enabling of God the Holy Spirit.

​How will the Old Testament people be judged by God?

They will be judged by whatever faith they had in the Person and the work of the Messiah who was to come. We look back at the Person and the work of Jesus the Messiah in retrospect, which is fine. That’s the only vantage point we have: looking back. However, in the Old Testament, people were saved and found salvation rescue from God by putting their focus on the Messiah who was promised way back in Genesis 3 at the very beginning of God’s work in this world.

Immediately after the fall, God promised the coming of a Messiah who would be a conqueror and would conquer on behalf of God in His great work. Those who trusted in that promise were saved. As time went on, more and more details of God’s redemptive plan, were revealed. A person’s faith could be more and more knowledgeable, because more and more was revealed to them about this plan.

So, people in the Old Testament will be judged by the faith and the confidence they had in God’s promised provision. You and I, on this side of the cross, are saved by our faith in God’s prior provision: by what He did for us in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, especially what He did at the cross and the empty tomb.

​Can we sin in heaven?

No, we can’t; that’s going to be off the table. We have a time of choosing, and our time of choosing is now and not later. That’s really something to consider carefully. The time we have in which to stand for the Lord in difficult times and in tough battles, is now; it’s not in heaven. We will not even have the capability to sin in heaven; we won’t even have the capability to resist temptation, because there’s never going to be any temptation for us to resist. Now is the time to stand strong for those things. So no, we will not have the capability to sin in heaven.

​Is this statement true: “God helps those who help themselves”?

First, I will be very clear. That statement is not in the Bible. It’s not a biblical thing. There are many people who think that statement is in the Bible, maybe in the book of Proverbs. But it isn’t there. “God helps those who help themselves” is not a biblical statement, and at least in some aspect, it’s anti-biblical.

If you really want to get biblical with this, God helps those who look to Him for help in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. It’s in our weakness, that His strength is perfected: in us and for us. In that regard, we understand it would be a wrong statement.

Now, in practical living – and I’m not speaking of the kingdom of God, but simple day to day life — there is a truth in that phrase, “God helps those who help themselves.” The idea would be that you’re just sitting around, waiting for God to bless you and to provide for you. And God says, “Get out there, go get busy, and you’ll see My blessing upon you.” So, if somebody wants to take that as a practical principle for living, there’s some room for that. Even though it’s not a biblical phrase, we sense that it reflects a biblical truth. But if somebody want to take that as an operating principle of the kingdom of God, No, never. As I said before, 1000 times no, it does not fit. So no, we need to recognize that is not a statement from God.

​Are the angels happy to fellowship with us in heaven?

Is there a verse that says that angels are happy to fellowship with us in heaven? Because we got to experience God’s grace while they only get to see it.

The question is if there’s a verse which communicates that truth. I can’t think of one immediately. I can think of a verse that tells us that angels long to look into the life of believers and what God is doing among them; they kind of look at it with eyes of envy.

We see the phenomenon that angels are observers. Angels certainly have some kind of peace before God. They see God in His majesty, and they’re filled with confidence and trust in who God is and what He does. Again, we’re talking about faithful angels, not fallen angels.

So, we would say that they are going to be happy to fellowship with us in heaven. We have somewhat of an advantage over the angels, because as far as we know, we have been shown great grace by God which the angels have not been shown. It’s well known that we have received grace, but it seems that the angels have not received the same kind of grace.

I think the angels are happy, though. I can’t point to a specific verse that says it. There’s a verse that speaks of the angel rejoicing, when it says there’s more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner that comes to repentance, than over ninety-nine who haven’t sinned. I think it’s fair to say that there’s enough biblical evidence to be able to agree with the idea that angels are happy to fellowship with us in Heaven. Maybe Heaven is waiting for us with blessings that we simply cannot comprehend. We just need to be grateful for it.