The Meaning of Soul

By Lloyd Ellefson

The scriptures differentiate between the soul and the spirit. Since both are in the unseen realm, many ideas concerning them are prevalent. Some even have the far-out notion that the soul and the spirit are going to be joined, and thus produce a new body. This, they say, will result in our vile body being changed into an incorruptible body. This is utter nonsense.

In Hebrews 4:12 we read that the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and it brings a division of soul and spirit, and judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Since it brings a division of soul and spirit, we know that they are not the same.

The soul is generally defined as consisting of the mind, will and emotions. I believe the soul is our consciousness of being, and our desires emanate from the mind and emotions. It may be an activity of the mind or the soul - but it is not the soul.

Our physical body sends messages to the mind, informing it of its bodily needs. Obeying the dictates of the mind is called minding the flesh. The mind itself does not have the ability to create anything out of non-existing materials. It is a receptive agency, and with the knowledge it has, it can do marvellous things in the natural realm. As it discovers the laws that have been put into nature, it can make use of them to produce new inventions, new ways of travel, new ways of exploring the universe, new ways of healing the body, new ways of destruction, etc.! This ability to reason and to produce things to meet man's natural needs, has given him a strong reliance on his mind. This has caused him to overlook his need to hear the Spirit. His trust in his own ability has not solved man's dilemma!

Christ in God is the only one who can solve our dilemma! To understand what He has done for us, we must have a basic understanding of the word soul. I believe it has great significance for us.

I personally believe that the soul is our sense of being. Our consciousness of being comes to us through our physical body. God made Adam's body out of dust - out of the creation that already existed. So this body is dependent upon, and united with the creation! This dependency and union brought an estrangement from God. When man is minding the flesh, he is not minding God; he is separated from the true knowledge of God, and so creates his own ideas of God and self. This brings him into the darkness of human thinking and the futile trust in human resources.

In our search for understanding we'll go to the scriptures. In Genesis 1:20,21,23, the Hebrew word CHAI, meaning to be alive, lively, is translated as "moving creatures that have life" in the KJV. In v.24 it says, "Let the earth bring forth the living creature after its kind..." This actually has to do with movement, and could be translated living moving souls, as it is in the Concordant Literal translation. The word moving is very important because movement distinguishes soul life from plant life. Trees, herbs, etc., have life in them; they grow, bear seeds and reproduce themselves, but they cannot move; they do not have a personal consciousness. But animals, birds and fish do, and that is why they were called living moving souls. They have a sense of being in varying degrees, and this sense comes to them through their bodies. It is in this context that the word soul is first used in the Bible.

The Hebrew word NEPHESH, meaning SOUL, is first used in Genesis 2:7 in reference to man. It says, "...and man became a living soul." This Hebrew word NEPHESH has been terribly misused by the translators. 151 times it has been translated LIFE, but it doesn't mean life. The Hebrew CHAIYIM is used for life. Life is something beyond that. We will see that more clearly when we get into the New Testament.

In the KJV, NEPHESH has been translated in about 16 different ways. To illustrate how loosely it has been translated, let me just quote from Strong's Concordance: "a breathing creature, i.e. animal or (abstract) vitality; used very widely in a literal, accommodated or figurative sense (bodily or mental): any, appetite, body, beast, breath, creature, dead(ly), desire, X (dis)contented, X fish, ghost, +greedy, he, heart(y), (hath, X jeopardy of) life, (X in jeopardy of), lust, man, me, mind, mortally, one, own, person, pleasure, (her-, him-, my-, thy-) self, them, (your) -selves, +slay, soul, +tablet, they, thing, (X she) will, X would have it." So you see we are dealing with a real problem.

But soul is actually a consciousness of life or being; a conscious sense of being awake, of being alert, of being conscious. Death is often referred to as sleep in the scriptures. Jesus and some New Testament writers refer to death as sleep, and in the Old Testament it says they slept with their fathers, etc.

Since NEPHESH has frequently been mistranslated in Leviticus 17, false teachings have arisen based on this faulty translation. In some verses it has been correctly translated and in other verses it hasn't. This chapter deals with sacrifices and contains the commandment not to eat the blood of animals. This is important because eventually we are told to drink the blood of Christ. This means that we are to drink of His sense of being or consciousness, but we are not to drink of an animal's sense of being. It says that unless we drink the blood of the Son of Man we will not have life in us.

Nephesh is correctly translated in Leviticus 17:10 in the KJV. "And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood, I will even set My face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people." Verse 11 says, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul." Here it is incorrectly translated LIFE instead of SOUL at the beginning of the verse, then correctly translated SOUL at the end. The blood of Jesus makes atonement for the soul!

Notice that the wrong translation says, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood." However the life of the flesh is not in the blood. The soul is in the blood; life is in the Spirit! It is the Spirit that gives life - not the blood. People still have blood in their blood vessels after death, but they do not have life - their spirit has left them. Nevertheless, people base their understanding on this mistranslation, so their wrong ideas are passed on from person to person, and from generation to generation.

"Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, `No person (soul) among you may eat blood, nor may any alien who sojourns among you eat blood.' So when any man from the sons of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, in hunting catches a beast or a bird which may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. For as for the life (soul) of all flesh is its identified with its life (soul)." (vv.12-14) It should read SOUL. This is an example of the 151 mistranslations of NEPHESH. We have to realize that the life is not in the blood. The blood carries with it the sense of being that the owner has, and this sense of being is the soul. So the blood of Jesus carries with it the sense of being that is in Jesus Christ. That is why it saves us. He gives us His sense of being, His realization of sonship, of innocence, of justification, of life, of eternity, etc. Now we have the mind of Christ!

"You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life (soul) of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.'"(v.14b) The correct rendering here is "the soul of all flesh is in the blood". The Old Testament sacrifices in which the blood of an animal was poured out, typified the New Testament blood or soul of Jesus Christ that has been poured out for us. Christ's soul, i.e. His sense of being, becomes ours. His consciousness becomes our consciousness and His mind becomes our mind. That is why redemption is also in the blood.

In Isaiah 53:10 it says, "But the LORD (Yahweh) was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring (seed - KJV), He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand." The seed of Christ reproduces Christ; it produces sons, because He is the Son of God.

The literal translation of HE in verse 10 is SOUL. His soul is given as a guilt offering to man. God offered us the soul of His Son - the sense of being of that life that Jesus Christ had as the Son of God. The sense of being Jesus had as a Son before He even took on flesh, is the soul that is given to us to redeem us from our soul which has been formed and developed by the physical body.

"As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, by My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities." (v.11) His soul is His sense of being, His realization of sonship. His knowledge includes everything He knows - His wisdom, intelligence, righteous judgment, who He is, who we are, etc. This comes to us in the mind of Christ.

When the Spirit awakens and quickens us, He begins to feed us the same character thoughts Jesus Christ had. He knew that He was God's Son, that nothing marred His relationship with His Father, that He had never sinned and that He had immortality! All these things were in Christ's sense of being - in the consciousness of His soul. This is given to us to redeem us, to buy us back from our ignorance, our darkness and our lack of understanding.

"He will bear their iniquities." (v.11b) He takes away our sins by bringing us innocence, relationship, oneness with God, etc.

"Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself (literally, His soul) to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors." (v.12) He intercedes for us; He comes in and His sense of being takes the place of our Adamic sense of being, thus bringing us to God.

Jesus poured out His soul to death! In John 10:17-18 we read, "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life" (literally, soul) "so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father." He laid down His soul! In verses 11, 15 and 17, the Greek word PSUCHE has been mistranslated LIFE instead of SOUL. The only reason Jesus Christ could say that He could lay down His soul, was because He had received this authority from the Father. He had no independent authority or power over His soul because God was His life. Jesus Christ had no independent life separate from God. He was an extension of the life of God, for there is only one life!

He said, "I live by the Father...and you live by Me." Notice the correlation. We can never get life that is ours in separation from God. We do not own the life God gives us; it is not ours to possess independently. God has only one life, and anything separated from that life is death - for it cannot be sustained by humanity. If anyone thinks he can do so, he is totally wrong. We are kept by the power of God unto salvation!

In Acts 17:28, Paul, in talking about God, said to the pagans on Mars Hill, "In Him you live and move and have your being." You live and move and have your sense of being in God.

Then in Acts 17:25 Paul said, "Nor is He (God) served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things..." Life cannot be maintained by man, regardless of who he is, what he does, or how hard he tries. Yet, even while we were in Adam, we lived and moved and had our being in God! It is impossible to live without having our being in God, for He is omnipresent and fills all things. He has given breath to all things, and we have to realize that we are completely dependent on Him!

Jesus Christ was the only one who correctly demonstrated this dependence. His greatest virtue lay in being able to totally subject Himself to God! He trusted God completely! He realized that God was His life, His wisdom, His sense of being and His activity. He consciously lived in God and had His being in Him. To follow Him we have to put away the mind of the flesh, and receive the Spirit and mind of Christ! This enables us to understand spiritual things.

In Matthew 16:26 it says, "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" Isn't it amazing that PSUCHE has been translated correctly here?! Those who try to retain their sense of being will lose it.

Many people today are trying to understand who they are. They wonder whether they were entities living in ages past before they were born. If so, where were they? Since we were chosen before the disruption of the world, many think we were in God all the time, but we were unaware of it. If that is the case, we apparently did not have a soul, for the soul receives its sense of being from the body.

I don't believe we were anything. In all honesty we have to admit that we had no consciousness until we were born into this world with a physical body. Birth brought us into the consciousness of the flesh. We came into a natural existence because of our natural parents. Even as babies we were dependent upon this creation. We had to breathe, eat and drink. At first we had no consciousness of who we were. But our body told us when we were uncomfortable, wet, hungry or thirsty - even though we had no understanding of body processes.

As we grew and our senses developed, we learned to interpret our feelings, and to know our parents. We minded the flesh and lived according to its reasonings. Living in that mind is living in separation from God. Is that sinful or evil? No, it is just the way we came into this world. A lot of people live and die in that. The Spirit has never activated anything in them to reproduce the seed of Christ. Therefore we need to be born again and be taken into God's life that always is! We become a part of life that has always existed! Then we can fulfill our calling to reproduce the seed of Christ!

In John 8 Jesus told some Jews that they were of their father the devil. They vehemently disagreed with Him and said, "We are of Abraham's seed." Jesus explained to them that according to the flesh they were Abraham's offspring, but according to their nature they were the devil's offspring. If Abraham were their father, they would do the deeds of Abraham. Instead they were doing the works of the devil! What did He mean by that? Their soul or sense of being did not come from God! It originated from the flesh and creation. It operated in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Their confidence lay in their mentality.

Since their conception of God was formed by the law and their own mentality, it was totally wrong! They opposed Jesus and they killed Him. They were doing the works of their father who was a murderer from the beginning. He never had any light in him; he never was any good. Satan is probably the most misunderstood thing there is. He produces a sense of being in us, but it is not the sense of being we receive in Christ! So there are two consciousnesses. The first one is developed in us through our body of flesh; the second one comes to us in Christ. When we are baptized into the body of Christ, His body supplies us with our sense of being! So there can be no activity of life or sense of being before either of these consciousnesses are present.

In Col. 1:16 we read that all things have been created by Christ Jesus and for Him. That means we have been created for Him! Everything God did was for His own pleasure and His own purpose. We are here for His purpose - not for our own purposes! God does not do anything specifically for us that does not serve His purpose! Things were not created for us - they were created to serve His purpose. God's purpose for us is that we shall be an exact representation of Himself! What a high calling He has for us! To accomplish this, He has to redeem us from being a misrepresentation of God. This is His great plan of redemption!

Any activity in the flesh will always misrepresent God, for it produces a wrong image of God! That is why we have to lay down that sense of being. To try to do away with our sins without living in the sense of being we have in Christ is useless! We have become new creatures in Christ Jesus, and He has given us His mind and made us members of His body! The Spirit of Christ supplies us with a new sense of being. This is what the gospel is all about!

In Matthew 16:26 we read that a man can forfeit his soul. This occurs when we try to hang onto our sense of being - to who we are as a physical person. By doing that we will lose our soul. We lose it when our body dies, for at that time the sense of identity our body gave us, also dies. When the activity of the body ceases, the sense of being that comes from the body also ceases. Minding the flesh stops when the flesh is unable to support thoughts. The body deteriorates and returns to the creation from where it came. It will never be resurrected, for God said, "You are dust and to dust you shall return."

Jesus Christ came to give us a new realization - one that is not dependent on our physical body. Since it isn't dependent on the body, it remains when the body passes away. This new sense of being realizes that we are no longer flesh because within us we have the life of Christ. His life has passed through what we call death, and has come again to be in us.

"If that Spirit that raised Christ Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He will quicken or make alive your mortal body." This can happen to us right now - while we are living. This is the mortality that Jesus Christ was dealing with when He overcame death. It is not our flesh but the mortality that causes our flesh to die. Christ overcame that sense of separation from God, that estrangement from the presence of God and the wrong realization of God. Embedded in that death was ignorance and separation, and the self-importance and ego of man.

Jesus Christ came to produce His resurrection and redemption in us. Resurrection is not for the physical body. It means being raised from the death that is in the carnal mind. Instead of minding the flesh (which is death) we now mind the Spirit (which is life). This is passing from death to life. One is Adam, the other is Christ. Passing from Adam to Christ is resurrection!

Redemption, on the other hand, is the process by which man is being redeemed so he can be a true witness in his representation of God. Obviously man was not a true witness when Jesus came, because he killed Him. Although they were God's chosen people and had Abraham as their father, Moses as their law-giver, David as their king, and the prophets as God's mouthpiece, and had witnessed many miracles, they did not recognize Jesus as their Messiah! Instead, they took Him in their wicked hands and killed Him!

Some believe that God killed Him - but He didn't; man did! Actually the ignorance in the mind of the Adamic man killed Jesus, and continues to kill Him. Even though Jesus does not have a physical body today, He is still being crucified. We, who are part of His many-membered spiritual body, are being crucified today. In our country, our physical body is not being crucified, but we are rejected because of what we believe. Inside the soul or understanding, the battle of Armageddon rages on. Although I am involved in it, the rejection I get from people for testifying to the truth of Christ that is in me, is a comfort to me - knowing that in this I share the sufferings of Christ. The sufferings of Jesus were not due to sickness, disease, or wrongdoing. His sufferings came because of the true testimony of His relationship with God His Father.

Matthew 11:27 reads, "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." The mind of the flesh can never know the Son! Since no one knows the Son except the Father, how are we going to get to know the Son? Through the Father, of course! But no one knows the Father except the Son! So the Son declares the Father, and the Father declares the Son, and you can't have the Father without the Son, and you can't have the Son without the Father!

That is also true in the natural. Once a man fathers a child, he is always a father. Once someone has been born of a father, he is always his child. Nothing can take that away. Genetically it is absolute - and this is the way it is in the Spirit. The revealing of the Father has to come through the Son - and God has given us the Son! He is the revelation of the Father's love to us!

If the law is working in us it will lead us to repentance. In repentance we undergo death to our carnal thinking and we receive a new life. Life gives us understanding of what we have been experiencing.

Jesus said, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt.11:28) Wow! We receive rest from all the stress that comes from our sin-consciousness, from all the addictions to the evil, greed and lust that are in the world today. Instead of receiving this rest, people try to get it through psychology and education, pills and drink. These things don't work, and the inner unrest remains.

Jesus said that in the world we are going to have tribulation. Being burdened with anxieties is natural to those who are living in this world. So Jesus extends an invitation to them to come to Him. He alone can give us rest. This rest brings a cessation of that which has been troubling us. This rest actually means stopping, ceasing.

Jesus Christ is the Sabbath; He is our rest! The Sabbath is not the seventh day of the week that is repeated week after week. This rest does not refer to a physical rest from doing certain things. Jesus Christ Himself is our rest. He doesn't give us rest - He IS our rest. His life in us is our rest!

Jesus said, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS." (v.29) Preachers who hype things up by their yelling and antics, do not remind me of Jesus Christ. They remind me of an anecdote I read years ago. A certain preacher had his sermon typed out. At one point he had inserted, "Argument weak; yell like everything!" Jesus was meek and humble and spoke with the authority that comes out of truth and rest.

Meditating on who He was, will reveal the wrongs and inconsistencies that are being performed by those who claim to come in His name. It will reveal that they are coming in their own name, psyching people up, making great promises, and forecasting future events. But they never get people into the things that are available to us now.

"And YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." So our souls find rest in the soul of Christ - in His sense of being, realization, spiritual blood. The mind of Christ begins to displace our ignorance of God and the death and darkness that are in the carnal mind. This realization brings us rest. The Spirit tells us that we are sons of God, one with Christ, and members of the body of Christ. The body of Christ feeds us, for it is a many-membered body of righteousness, life, truth, understanding and relationship to the Father! Let us walk in the rest that is in the soul of Christ!

God bless you! Amen.

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