Spirit, Soul, Body
Traditional teaching insists that the verse in 1 Thess. 5:23 means that when a man dies, his soul, body, and spirit will be preserved as some immortal entity. However, for this to be true, it has to be reconciled with the more than 33 verses listed at the end of this study that clearly show the preeminence of Christ as the firstborn from among the dead. To believe that anyone is in heaven or a burning hell at this time denies the fact that Christ is the Firstborn from the among the dead (and still is). To believe that souls do not die is in total disagreement with the many references in the Bible to the fact that we are souls, that animals are souls, and that they will return to dust.
This study will look closely at the following verse and its reference to “spirit and soul and body.”
Before we look at the context of 1 Thess.5:23, let’s focus on the verse itself.
“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.” (1Thes 5:23)
First, note that it ends, “unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Corinthian and Thessalonian church were waiting for the return of Christ. At that time they were alive and in their fleshly bodies in anticipation and awaiting His return to earth. His coming was imminent and therefore we have the first clue that death is not in any way implied or contained in this verse.
Secondly, the idea that the “body be preserved blameless” is another strong clue that death cannot be implied in this verse. The body is not “preserved” blameless or “preserved” anything else if it dies! One can see how well a dead body is preserved by a visit to the local morgue.
If Christ had returned during that time, (which was postponed due to Israel’s blindness, Acts 28:25-28, and with that the ushering in of The Mystery), the Thessalonian and Corinthian believer would have been given a body “like unto His own glorious body”. Those earthly bodies would have been made completely new, for those mortals would have “put on immortality”.
The soul (if one understands what a soul is) cannot be “preserved” blameless or “preserved” anything else if it dies. The soul has two ingredients, dust and breath (of life)(for other usages of “soul” see the study “What is a Soul?” on this web site. At death, the breath/spirit leaves the body and returns to God. The body which remains will return to the dust from which it came (see Gen 2:7 and 3:19) So, in reference to 1 Thess. 5:3, if those souls remained alive until His coming, clearly the “spirit/breath” must also be preserved. For when the spirit/breath leaves the body, then the soul is clearly dead and ceases to live.
We will now look at the context of the passage to see if more light can be shown concerning the meaning of this verse. The second verse in the same chapter of Thessalonians speaks of the day of the Lord sneaking up on people:
“For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.” (1 Thess.5:2)
And the verses leading up to verse 23 indicate how the Thessalonians were to remain blameless:
(16) Rejoice evermore.
(17)Pray without ceasing.
(18)In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
(19)Quench not the Spirit.
(20)Despise not prophesyings.
(21)Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
(22)Abstain from all appearance of evil.
(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. (1Thes 5:16-23)
So Paul is telling the Thessalonians that the day of the Lord (and His 2nd coming) will be at any moment and to be careful to remain blameless. In this regard to some of the wording, the verses in 1 Corinthians 1:7, 8 has strong similarities to the verse in 1Thes 5:23:
“So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the COMING of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be BLAMELESS in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Cor 1:7-8)
This verse repeats the admonition of being blameless “unto the end” or “day of the Lord.” If the Corinthian and Thessalonian church were waiting for the coming of the Lord at that time, they would be doing this very much alive since it was imminent. This verse therefore further strengthens what has already been said about the similar verse in Thessalonians – that they both were to remain blameless (and quite alive) until Christ’s return.
In conclusion, to say that 1Thess. 5:23 is speaking of man at death as an immortal spirit or soul, is to disagree with all that is written concerning the future resurrection and the state of man at death. Correct interpretation of the subject of the state of man at death should always be looked at as a whole. Only then, after weighing all the evidence of ALL Scriptures can the believer come to sure and concrete conclusions on the subject of the state of man after death.
Short Study on the Mortality of the Man (Soul)
The following are some of the many verses that clearly show that only Christ (the firstfruits) has been raised and that when we die we do just that – die – and await a later resurrection.
1Cor 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
Col 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the FIRSTBORN from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
1 Tim 6:16 WHO ONLY HATH IMMORTALITY, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.
John 3:13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
Acts 2:29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.
Acts 2:34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand.
Eccl 9:5-6 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
Eccl 3:19-20 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.
Psa 6:5 For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?
Psa 49:12 Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish.
Psa 49:14 Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling.
Psa 49:20 Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.
Psa 88:11-12 Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction? Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
Psa 115:17 The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence.
Psa 146:3-4 Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
Job 14:7-15 For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant. But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up: So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.
Job 17:11-18 My days are past, my purposes are broken off, even the thoughts of my heart. They change the night into day: the light is short because of darkness. If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness. I have said to corruption, Thou art my father: to the worm, Thou art my mother, and my sister. And where is now my hope? As for my hope, who shall see it? They shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust. For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.