Troublesome Topic: The Resurrection and a Play on Words with the Phrase “Dead Person”

Lesson 5 of 5

There is a strange quirk found in the Old Testament that suddenly takes on new meaning when seen in the light of the resurrection of Jesus.

 I’m referring to a Hebrew word that means “breath, life, spirit, and soul.” It was an important Hebrew word, the use of which reminded the Hebrew people that life came from God when He breathed His breath of life into Adam’s nostrils. The best I can express the word is to say, “a living, breathing soul.”

It could also mean simply “a person.”

But many times, the context indicated that the “person” being spoken of was a dead person even though the word being used meant “a living, breathing soul.” Verses like Lev 19:28 and Haggai 2:13 are examples of using that word while meaning “don’t touch a dead body.”

I think God allowed this strange usage to develop in order to prepare them for something He would do three days after Jesus was crucified. God allowed His son to experience physical death, but in reality, He was still a “living soul that was in tune with the Spirit of God.” (Jesus may or may not have a soul just like ours, but for lack of a better way to express it, I will keep speaking of Jesus as having a soul.) God reunited the spirit and body of Jesus in order to prove that, in a way, the term “living, breathing soul” applied to Jesus all along. To Hebrew speakers, any mention of “breath or wind” would make them think of the Spirit of God, for the word breath also meant spirit (and soul and life). Therefore, I must change my statement to say that Jesus never ceased to be a “living, Spirit-empowered soul.” We could say that Jesus was not a “dead person” but rather a “living, spirit-empowered soul” that for a time was in a unique context; He was no longer in the context being physically alive.

However, I must hasten to say that the death of Jesus was very real. His body did experience death. His spirit was separated from His physical body, and His spirit was separated from the Spirit of God for a time, even though we cannot adequately explain the details of the spiritual separation. He died in order to experience the curse of death and then break the power of that curse through resurrection.

Such is the potential for confusion that occurs when a word is used in a way that is the exact opposite of its actual meaning. However, we should trust and obey Him, because God knew what He was doing even in something like this. He wanted to show that He has power even over the curse of sin – death.

God also wants to apply this same principle to us. Even when followers of Jesus experience what humans call “death,” we are still “alive.” In fact, in the life that will come after this life, followers of Jesus will experience life on a level that will be more real than what we experience now. If we are in Christ, even when we die, we will never cease to be “living, Spirit-empowered, souls” just like Jesus never ceased to be the same. In contrast, someone who dies separated from Christ will always have a living soul, but it will not be empowered by or in tune with the Spirit of God, the giver of life.

What I am saying is that God left in their language a witness of His power and His master plan which pointed to the reality that God will someday eliminate death altogether and all that will remain will be “living souls that contain the breath of God.” This fits that other spiritual principle that says that death is a separation, for those that remain with God after the final judgment will never be separated from God again.

The next lesson in the Full and Medium series on the Covenants is: A Dwelling Place for God