Because of the original sin of man in the book of Genesis, we are born into this world incomplete with only body and soul – no spirit. Once we are born again of God’s Spirit then we are complete in him. Then we have not only body (physical health) and soul (breath life) but also Spirit (supernatural gift from God) This is a research topic detailing what happens when a person is born, when someone is born again, and finally when one dies, or as the bible so graciously states, “falls asleep.” I Thessalonians talks about this:
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 – But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
This is a precise description not only because of the gentle nature of the statement, but the accuracy that it is written since those who were born again and have passed away will be raised again at the return of Christ. Even though their bodies have died, it’s as if they were only asleep and will be awakened because of the eternal life of the spirit.
This chart below shows when the three individual parts of our life begins, and what happens to our body, our soul, and our spirit when we die. It’s important to note that Soul and Spirit are not the same. Much confusion has been caused in regard to this topic both inside and outside of churches, but according to the Bible, Soul and Spirit are not synonymous. Here is one scripture where they are all noted specifically. If they were the same, there would be no reason to list both soul and spirit here.
I Thessalonians 5:23 – And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God’s desire for us is that we are Body, Soul, and Spirit and therefore complete. Then he wants us to live a blameless (upright, honest) and a sanctified life (sanctified means set apart, so that we are not deeply involved in the affairs and negativity of this world)
In order to participate in the “Spirit” category you MUST be born again by acting on the promise noted in Romans 10.
Romans 10:9-10 – That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Salvation is really that simple. Any outward action we take or feelings we may have are largely unrelated to being born again, as the only requirement for salvation is believing these verses. When we become born again, we gain the incomplete part that we are missing from birth, which is the spirit of God within us.
Now let’s take a look at the body, soul, and spirit chart below and see how each one is distinctly noted in scripture:
|What Happens in:||Life||Death|
|Body||Genesis 2:7 – And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground…
Genesis 3:19 – ..the ground; for out of it wast thou taken
|Genesis 3:19 – …for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 – Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was…
|Soul||Genesis 2:7 – And the LORD God… …breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.||Psalm 146:4 – His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
Ecclesiastes 9:5 – …the dead know not any thing…..for their memory is forgotten.. (NAS)
|Spirit||Genesis 2:27 – So God created man in his own image [Which is Spirit], in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
John 4:24 – God is Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
|Ecclesiastes 12:7 – …and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
Matthew 27:50 – And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
The body was formed by God from the dust of the earth. It returns unto the earth.
The soul was made when God breathed into man. The last breath returns unto the air.
The spirit was created in man by God. It returns unto God who gave it.
Isaiah 43:7b – … for I [God] have created him [man] for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.
This describes the formed, made, and created that God performed to make us complete. He formed our bodies, made us breathe with our soul life, and created Spirit within us when we were saved.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 – …But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
The Word of God says that a person ‘falls asleep’ when they die. We are also instructed to sorrow not, knowing the comfort that we will again see the person at the return of Christ.
Acts 13:36 – For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption.
David fell asleep just as his fathers (forefathers) did and awaits the return.
Next we will see what will happens when Christ returns as we read the rest of this section in I Thessalonians. This is referred to as the “second coming” of Jesus Christ and is still a future reality. (For more information about the first coming of Jesus Christ and his birth, click here)
I Thessalonians 4:13-18 – But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Let’s look at these concepts in further detail:
16 For the Lord [Jesus Christ] himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
“The dead in Christ” are those who were born again and have fallen asleep.
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Those who are born again and still living will be caught up together with Christ. Not everyone will need to be raised again since they will still be alive.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
These are the words that we are to use to comfort one another regarding those who have died. It is very reassuring to know that we will see them again when Jesus comes to gather his followers. To add to this concept, I Corinthians 15 also talks about what will happen when Christ returns.
I Corinthians 15:51-54 – Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
It is at this point when we will see our friends and relatives who have ‘fallen asleep’ but not before then.
Contrary to popular belief, they are not watching over us, protecting us, or doing anything else. The Word speaks very clearly – the dead are in fact dead and not until Christ returns will those born again believers be risen. If they were already in heaven, then there would be no need for Christ to return.
Another misconception is that of the “wrath” and end-times which will occur after Christ returns. As born again believers we are saved from that tribulation period and will already have been raised up to sit together in heavenly places with Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:20) and therefore exempt from any participation.
I Thessalonians 1:10 – And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
Romans 5:8-9 – But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
The wrath noted in the book of Revelation chapter 20 does not apply to God’s Children. It’s important to note however, that we will be held responsible for our actions and will answer for the way we lived while on this earth, whether good or bad.
II Corinthians 5:10 – For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
That is why it’s important to live out the Christian walk and not take advantage of the free gift of salvation by squandering it on a selfish life lived without service to God. While good works don’t lead to salvation, they are the next logical step in return for God granting us a life which is eternal. (Ephesians 2)
In this teaching we have read scriptures concerning believers which “sleep” and how according to God, they are spiritually asleep until the return of Christ when they will be raised again. We looked at a chart illustrating what happens to body/soul/spirit in life and death. We saw that Christ is returning again for the saints (for you and I, those who believe) and that we are saved from the tribulation and wrath that will follow.
It is very comforting to know what happens when a born again believer passes away, and that you will see them again at the “Gathering Together” Let’s comfort one another with these words.
God Bless You