Today we are examining Chapter 23, The Essential Nature of Man, in Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Everyone would agree that there is a physical element to existence, but is there more than the physical? The Bible’s answer to this question is yes, and most of us would agree. We feel like we are more than just cells. We feel that there is an essence to us.
In numerous places in the Bible we see God referring to more than just the body of man. In our text above we see a reference to “body and spirit.” In other places we see reference to the body and soul. For example, Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
The Bible is clear that there is more to humanity then just flesh, but how much more? There are two schools of thought, dichotomy and trichotomy. Dichotomy believes there are two elements: body and spirit. Trichotomy believes there are three: body, soul, and spirit. According to Grudem, most modern theologians believe in dichotomy, however, I am not convinced it matters much.
What does matter, however, is that there is more to us than just skin and bones. In Genesis 2:7 it says, “then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Humanity is different than all other creatures. God, who is Spirit, has breathed in man His Spirit. The land, the water, the plants, and the animals do not have the breath of God within them. We do. This should cause us to ask, “What is man that you are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4).
In addition, upon death, our spirit does not remain in our body. For Christians, we are told that to be absent from the body is to be with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8, Philippians 1:23). Therefore, death is not something to fear, it is a doorway for our spirits to be reconciled with God (Notice there is no purgatory mentioned. Purgatory is one of the many false teachings of Catholicism). For non-Christians, however, being absent from the body means the beginning of eternal torment. (Luke 12:20, Luke 16:22-23).
Therefore, depending upon if we believe in Jesus, at death our spirits will experience incomparable joy or unbearable torment. This will continue until the resurrection of the dead, when all humanity will be reunited with their bodies. For those who have repented and believed in Jesus we will live on a New Earth and New Heaven with the Lord (Revelation 21). For those who reject Christ, they will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).