What is the soul in a human being? Is it our mind? What goes back to God?
According to Genesis our whole being is a soul.
Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (Hebrew – nephesh).
The same word is used for animals.
Genesis 1:24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature (Hebrew – nephesh) after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
When we cease to breathe we become a dead soul.
This is obscured by the translators because they translate dead soul as dead body.
In Hebrew the word is the same
Leviticus 21:11 Neither shall he go in to any dead body (Hebrew – nephesh), nor defile himself for his father, or for his mother;
The soul that sins dies.
Ezekiel 18:20 The soul (Hebrew – nephesh) that sinneth, it shall die.
We are all souls and we all sin and we all die.
When we are placed in the grave our soul is placed in the grave.
Psalms 89:48 What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?
This was the point of the resurrection of Jesus on the third day – his soul was not left in sheol – the grave.
Psalms 16:10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (Hebrew - sheol – the grave); neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
The part of man which returns to God is his spirit.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
The spirit is God’s
Job 34:14 If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; 15 All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust.
Zechariah 12:1 The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.
We might reasonably understand this to be the power which gives us independence of thought from our maker.
It is not a part of ourselves which continues in a conscious existence after death.
Spirit is also used in scripture to denote our way of thinking.
Numbers 14:24 But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.
Luke 9:55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
Those who believe the gospel and are baptised into Jesus Christ have to change the way that they think.
Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Ephesians 4:23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
It is the change in the way that we think (along with Christ’s sacrifice) which makes us acceptable to God.
So we find that Jesus, just before he dies, says:
Luke 23:46… Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the spirit (Greek – he expired).
This is a quotation from Psalm 31
Psalms 31:5 Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.
Acts 7:59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
The prayer is that their way of thinking and character might be acceptable and result in resurrection to life at the appointed time.
God doesn’t have to receive anything from us to know how we think because his foreknowledge is so great that he foreknew everything about us before we were born.
Further, God’s spirit is everywhere present so there is nothing hid from him.
Psalms 139:1 O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. 2 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. 3 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. 4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. 5 Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. 7 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? 8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell (shoel – the grave), behold, thou art there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; 10 Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. 12 Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. 13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. 15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
We have free choice, but the choices we will make and all those who will be in the kingdom of God have been foreknown by God from the beginning of creation.
Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
1 Peter 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…
Ephesians 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
Acts 15:18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
We live therefore by the commandments of Jesus Christ, that we might be found acceptable in the day of judgment, secure in the knowledge that God knows us intimately.
Luke 12:7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.
When Christ returns he will raise and judge the dead and give the faithful eternal life.
The wonderful thing about this is that their names will have been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.
Exodus 32:32 Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin, and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. 33 And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.
Philippians 4:3 And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.
Revelation 3:5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
Revelation 21:27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
I hope you find this helpful.