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There are many wonders about us that we simply cannot comprehend with our limited and yet awesome minds. Humans are the most amazing creatures on earth. There are no creatures we cannot dominate if we put our mind to it. We have managed to bring quite a number of animals to the point of extinction in the way we abuse this world and yet our Creator gave us the ability and instruction to cultivate and keep it (Gen. 2:15). That special position was intended so that humans could work with everything in this world to make it good or at least better. We are able to use things like the soil for crops, trees for wood and ores for a variety of needful objects - without ruining the world. When a human is likened to an animal, we do not see a great difference in some aspects (Eccl. 3:19,20). The one astounding difference is that humans can think, hope, gather information, learn, plan and design. Science teaches us that some creatures have larger and even more complicated brains than we humans, but they cannot think. There does not seem to be any physical reason that we differ so greatly. The Bible teaches a difference. It was stated thousands of years ago that there was a "spirit in man" and a "spirit in animals." Apparently they are different. At death, the spirit in man goes back to God who gave it and the spirit in animals goes downward (Eccl. 3:21). The Bible makes the observation that at death, "the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it" (Eccl. 12:7). That which is special about humans is the "spirit in man." We only know that because God stated it in His Word.
There are things we simply do not understand about that spirit in man. Exactly what is it, when does it come into a person, how does it come into a person, when does it leave the body and can a person die and still come back to life and be the same? God does not make everything clear for us and even if He did, our minds are limited in comprehension. Just as some humans cannot master mathematics - for them it is an area that their brain avoids it seems. Most people have some areas on which they draw a blank. When can we say a person is dead? When does life cease? When does the spirit in man leave us and return to God? Once that spirit leaves us, can it return? When does God give that spirit in man - at the union of sperm and ova, at some further stage in the development of the cells, at the fetus stage, at birth and the first breath? We have many questions and can guess somewhat, but there are wondrous secrets of creation that God does not share with us. God sometimes simply states something has happened - and we cannot grasp how. The Logos or Word became flesh (John 1:14) is a simple statement with no additional explanation. "Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus" (I Thess. 4:14) is another profound statement to ponder.
Today that we have a much better understanding about how the body works, some truly amazing things have happened. If we say death is the moment that the heart stops beating, we stop breathing, or our brain stops functioning - we could decide that would be the moment the spirit in man returns to God. But that would only be a guess and we still have no valid proof to work with. We have learned that if we can keep the heart pumping blood and the lungs taking in oxygen, life might continue. We have developed effective methods of massaging the heart into action again - and pumping air into the lungs. We call that CPR and lives have been saved by using that. We have developed machines to fill the lungs with air and to stimulate a heart to beat again once it has stopped. We have the evidence of people who were buried in snow slides being deep in the snow for up to 20 minutes, but who do revive. We realize that if the body is kept cool so that decay is delayed, life can return - or perhaps has never left. Many people have been pulled lifeless from cold and frigid water, and then revived on shore. In heart surgery, there are times when the heart stops and the blood flow stops during the operation, and then life can be restarted. It seems a degree of "decay" must set in before we can say it is not possible for life to continue. What happens to the spirit in man? One example is written about a girl who had died (Luke 8:49,53). Jesus was about to do a wonder and said: "Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well" (Luke 8:50). Then an astonishing statement was written by Luke. "Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately (Luke 8:55). This was a special case in which Jesus was doing great wonders and the changes that needed to take place for the girl to live are beyond our understanding.
One truth the Bible gives us is that God gives each human the "spirit in man" and at death, that spirit returns to God. We have noticed that if the brain is damaged to some extent, the person will not be the same as they once were. The spirit in man may be present, but the personality of the person is not. From that observation we can conclude that the spirit in man is not alive in the sense of being the person. Some are confused into thinking we are a living soul - a spirit being trapped in this physical body. There are many beliefs and all simply show the confusion and lack of knowledge and understanding we have about this subject. God must want it that way for His purposes. It seems that the spirit in man functions within the human body to record our personalities and true essence of what we are - and it need the brain. What the Bible often calls sleep (death) is when that spirit is no longer functioning in the body - but waiting for God to call.
The Bible speaks of a resurrection to life for those who have died. Some call I Cor.15 the resurrection chapter because it simply tells us that the dead will live again. Without going into detail, Paul wrote that God gives the person a new body as it pleases Him and it will not be a physical body, but a spiritual one (I Cor. 15:38,44). Paul went on to make some breathtaking remarks about that new body - he wrote that it will be the image of the heavenly man (Christ) and that it would be immortal and incorruptible (I Cor. 15:49,52-54). It seems that God has kept the spirit in man that returned to Him at our death and He will place that into a new body and we will live again. About 3 thousand years ago David wrote about his trust in God and stated: "Into Your hand I commit my spirit" (Psalm 31:5). Hundreds of years before that Job wrote that he trusted God to raise him up after his death (Job 14:13-15). Both Stephen and Christ at the last moment of life committed their spirit to God the Father (Acts 7:59, Luke 23:46). All three of these comments use the words "my spirit" as though it belonged to them. Everything is given of God, but the life and essence of each human is unique and therefore we can say "my" spirit.
Paul wrote that the Lord is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17). It is through the Holy Spirit that the Father and Son dwell in a converted person. Paul noted that all who are in Jesus Christ walk according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:1). He says humans who set their minds on the things of the Spirit and are led by God's Spirit are His sons (Rom. 8:5,14). Our spirit is formed by that which we believe and follow. That becomes "us" - the real essence of what we are. Through God's word and direction, we become partakers of the divine nature - but we are expected to continue to work to let that mature (2 Pet. 1:4-8). How remarkable it is that God's purpose is that we become "one" with Him and Christ (John 17:22,23). God wishes to pour out "My Spirit" on all flesh (Acts 2:17).