Exegetical Psychology

The Spirit and Death of the Body │ Exegetical Psychology │ Christ Assembly

What Happens To Your Spirit at Death?

Exegetical Psychology

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Eternal Life


At the moment of death, what happens to your spirit? People tend to confuse the terms “spirit” and “soul,” or overlook the distinctions between them, but the Bible precisely defines those terms and provides a perfect guide to our spiritual lives. In this study, we will look at a few verses to help us understand what happens to your spirit at the moment of death. Of course, what happens depends entirely upon whether you received the free gift of salvation from Jesus during your time in your physical body on earth.


Section One

Forming Spirits in People

1.1 Spirit Formed. Yahweh forms the spirit of man within him (Zechariah 12:1). 1Zechariah used the term “formed” (“יֹצֵ֥ר“)–qal participle. The term “formed” described Yahweh forming man from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7). 2Yahweh Elohim formed (“יִּיצֶר֩“) man from the dust of the earth. He likewise formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky (Genesis 2:19). 3Yahweh Elohim formed (“יִּצֶר֩“) the animals from the earth. Therefore, we understand that God forms the spirit in man; God creates a particular spirit for each particular person. The spirit of man does not pass down from parents to child at the moment of conception. God forms the spirit in the child, just as God formed man from the dust of the earth. Notice that God did not create the spirit out of nothing, but formed it out of something already created. 4God created (“בָּרָ֣א“) the heavens and the earth (see also Genesis 1:27; 2:3; Deuteronomy 4:3; Psalm 51:10). Compare the use of the term “formed” (“יִּיצֶר֩“) to describe making a new arrangement of existing creation into a new shape (Genesis 2:7-8). Even so, God created (“בָּרָ֣א“) man in His own image, male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27). Therefore, every human has a God-formed, unique spirit within them. 5Yahweh gives breath (“נְשָׁמָה֙“) to the people on earth and spirit (“ר֖וּחַ“) to those who walk in it (Isaiah 42:5). Compare the difference between breathed, the breath of life, and soul in Genesis 2:7.

 Yahweh forms the spirit of man within him in the womb.

The same root term of the verb “formed” described God forming the body of man from the dust of the earth.

God created man in the image of Elohim.

The spirit of man does not pass down from parents to child.

God formed the spirit of man from something already created.

Section Two

Spirit Saved

2.1 Spirit Saved. Paul confronted the Corinthians about their acceptance of a man having his father’s wife. Although not physically present at Corinth, Paul had already judged that man, because such immorality did not exist even among the Gentiles. 6Paul used the term “immorality” (“πορνεία”) to describe the practice of a man having his father’s wife. The term “immorality” (“πορνεία”) refers to a broad spectrum of evil behavior. Paul then wrote that in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, to deliver such a one to satan for the ruin of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 5:1-5).  7Paul wrote about  the power of Jesus Christ to deliver (“παραδοῦναι”–aorist active infinitive) a man to satan for the specific purpose of the ruin (“ὄλεθρον”) of his flesh (“σαρκός”), so that his spirit (“πνεῦμα”) may be saved (“σωθῇ”) in the day of the Lord. The terms “ruin” (“ὄλεθρον”), mistakenly translated as “destruction,”  here should be distinguished from the term “destruction.” 1 Timothy 6:9, provides that the rich fall into temptation and snares which plunge them into ruin (“ὄλεθρον”) and destruction (“ἀπώλειαν”). Because God used the terms “ruin” and “destruction,” we should not confuse them. The term “ruin” (“ὄλεθρον”) refers to human flesh (see 2 Thessalonians 1:9 (see the rich man with a tongue in Luke 16:24)  and 1 Timothy 6:9) and “destruction” (“ἀπώλειαν”) means the destruction of both body and soul (Matthew 10:28). Satan ruins the flesh of the man, so that he dies, but the devil can no longer exercise power over a man after he has died (Matthew 10:28). God brings physical judgment in the form of sickness and death upon people who take the Lord’s Supper without judging the body properly, and so their fleshly bodies suffer and they may die (1 Corinthians 11:29). 8Paul used the term “body” (“σῶμα”) which must be judged correctly. Paul emphasized the fleshly body, related to immorality. Even so, the person will be saved in the Day of the Lord. 

Paul decided to deliver an immoral man for the ruin of his flesh to satan.

Although satan may ruin the flesh of a saint,  so that the saint dies, the saint still goes to heaven after death. 

After physical death, satan no longer has power over anyone.



Section Three

Spirit Departs the Body

3.1 Dead Spirit. James wrote that just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead (James 2:26). 9James wrote that a body (“σῶμα”) is dead (“νεκρόν”)  without the spirit (“πνεύματος”). Therefore, we know that when the body dies, the spirit leaves the body. The spirit does not die with the body, but survives the death of the body.

3.2 Thoughts Perish. The Psalmist wrote about the mortal man: “His spirit comes out, he returns to the earth; in the day, the very one, his thoughts perish.” The spirit of man comes out at the moment of death. 10The verb “comes out” (“תֵּצֵ֣א“) appears as a qal imperfect. His body returns to the earth. 11The verb “returns” (“יָשֻׁ֣ב“–qal imperfect) uses a very common word for return. God speaks here of a particular day, the day his thoughts perish. 12The Hebrew text points to a very specific day: in the day (“בַּיֹּ֥ום“), the very one (“הַ֝ה֗וּא“). Then the author used a construct phrase for “his thoughts” (עֶשְׁתֹּנֹתָֽיו“–construct plural feminine noun) perish (“אָבְד֥וּ“–qal perfect) to describe the termination of thoughts at the death of the body. Notice the generic quality of the description here, that the thoughts of all men perish at death. His thoughts perish in the very day of his death. Notice the emphasis on the very day of death. His thoughts perish on that very day, not before or after. The thoughts of man are not connected to the spirit, because his thoughts perish at the moment of death, but the spirit comes out and continues. Furthermore, the thoughts of the man are connected to the physical body. 

3.3 Spirit Alive. Christ died for our sins that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). 13This concept of “might bring us” (“προσαγάγῃ”) to God means that we are united with God at the moment of death (2 Corinthians 5:6-9), because Jesus died for us, and on that basis brings us to God at the moment of death. At the moment Jesus died on the cross, He was put to death in the body, but made alive in the spirit (1 Peter 3:18). 14The spirit (“πνεύματι”) has a direct link to the flesh (“σαρκί”). Paul used a common μὲν-δὲ clause to contrast what happened to Jesus at the moment of death: “θανατωθεὶς μὲν σαρκί, ζῳοποιηθεὶς δὲ πνεύματι.”  Jesus was made alive (“ζῳοποιηθεὶς”) in the spirit at the moment of death.  This same root term for “made alive” means that the sown seed will not be made to live (“ζῳοποιεῖται”) unless it first dies (“ἐὰν μὴ ἀποθάνῃ”), and that teaching occurs in the context of God giving glorified bodies to people after the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:36).  Paul also taught that Christ is the first fruits of those who sleep. By a man came death, by a man also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die (“ἐν τῷ Ἀδὰμ πάντες ἀποθνῄσκουσιν”–present active indicative), so also in Christ all will be made alive (“ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ πάντες ζῳοποιηθήσονται”–future passive indicative).  Paul also presented the order and timing of resurrection: Christ the first fruits (His resurrection on the third day after death), and then all believers will be raised at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). Therefore, we know that Christ will make all believers alive when He comes, meaning the saints will receive bodily resurrection at that time. Furthermore, we also know that the Father raises the dead and makes them alive (“ζῳοποιεῖ”), and Jesus makes alive (“ζῳοποιεῖ”) whom He wishes (John 5:21). Paul also wrote that the Holy Spirit also makes alive (“ζῳοποιεῖ”) (2 Corinthians 3:6). Therefore, putting all those concepts together, we see that Jesus was made alive in the spirit at the moment His body died, and that the Father raised Jesus and made Him alive, and the Holy Spirit also makes people alive. When Christ comes again to earth, we will be made alive with Him, in the sense that we receive resurrected, glorified bodies.

3.4 Gave Up His Spirit. On the cross Jesus said, “It is finished! And He bowed His head and handed over His spirit” (John 19:30). 15Jesus voluntarily “handed over” (“παρέδωκεν”) His spirit (“πνεῦμα”). The term “handed over” means to deliver something to another; see Matthew 18:34 (handed over to torturers); Matthew 25:14 (handed over possessions); John 19:16 (handed over to the Jews to be crucified). Therefore, Jesus consciously and voluntarily handed over His spirit. So, the question arises, to Whom did Jesus hand over His spirit?

3.5 Commit Spirit. David wrote: “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, Yahweh, El of truth” (Psalm 31:5). In this Psalm, we learn several important truths. First, at the moment of death, you may commit your spirit. 16The Hebrew term “commit” occurs a hiphil imperfect (“אַפְקִ֪יד“–hiphil imperfect) As a hiphil verb, the force here is causative, meaning that the he caused his spirit to go into the hand of Yahweh. Of course, no human can force Yahweh to do anything, but the force here is David’s conscious act of sending his spirit to Yahweh, by faith. Second, David knew that Yahweh had already redeemed him. 17The verb here for “redeemed” (“פָּדִ֖יתָה“) occurs as qal perfect. In this context, the verb indicates the action of redemption had taken place before the moment of death, an accomplished act. Therefore, we see the interplay between (a) the completed act (qal perfect) of redemption (based upon faith before physical death) and (b) the future act (hiphil imperfect) of committing the spirit. To be clear, before death he committed his spirit into the hand of Yahweh, but that act of transferring his spirit took place at the moment of death, when his spirit left his physical body. You may recall that Jesus on the cross quoted part of this verse (Luke 23:46).


The body without the spirit is dead.

The spirit leaves the body at the moment of physical death.

At the moment of death, the thoughts of a person perish.

Jesus gave up His spirit consciously and voluntarily at the moment of death on the cross.

At the moment the body of Jesus died on the cross, He was made alive in the spirit.

Before death, you may turn to Yahweh for redemption while you live in your body on earth and know He has redeemed you. 

Before death, you may commit your spirit into the hand of Yahweh as an act of faithful obedience.

At the moment of death, the hand of Yahweh is ready to receive the spirit of the redeemed.

Yahweh is the El of truth, so Yahweh will fulfill His promise to receive the spirit of the redeemed at death. 


Section Four

Spirit Returns to Body

4.1 Spirit Returned. Jesus commanded a dead child to arise. Her spirit returned and she arose immediately (Luke 8:54-55).  18Luke wrote that the child’s spirit (“πνεῦμα”) returned to her body and she arose. She had not been resurrected, because she her body would die at some point in the future. Jesus distinguished Resurrection from Raised from the Dead.

4.2 Spirit, Flesh and Bones. When Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, He invited them to touch Him and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as they saw that He had (Luke 24:39). 19Luke quoted Jesus: “a spirit (“πνεῦμα”) does not have flesh (“σάρκα”–referring particularly to His hands and feet) and bones (“ὀστέα”) as they saw He had. Therefore,  we know that spirits do not have flesh and bones, but exist apart from the human body and continue their existence after the human body dies. A spirit may return to a body to indwell it. 

Jesus commanded a dead child to arise and her spirit returned to her body.

When Jesus appeared after His resurrection to His disciples, they saw that He had flesh and bones.

Jesus also told them that a spirit does not have flesh and bones.

Jesus, with His resurrected body, had been made alive.


Section Five

Spirit Returns to God

5.1 Spirit Returns. At the moment of physical death, the spirit of the believing man returns to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7). 20Compare the concept of the dust of man’s creation (Genesis 2:7). At the moment of death, the dust (“הֶעָפָ֛ר“) returns to the earth. Dust returns to dust (Genesis 3:19; Genesis 18:27). You may recall that Yahweh made man from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7). 21Yahweh used the phrase “dust from the earth” (“עָפָר֙ מִן־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה“). The spirit of man, however, will return to God Who gave it.  22The Hebrew text indicates that the spirit (“הָר֣וּחַ“) will return (“תָּשׁ֔וּב“–qal imperfect) to Elohim Who gave it (“נְתָנָֽהּ“). The common word for “return” means to go back to where it came from in this context. Therefore, God gave an individual spirit to each human being during development in the womb. At the moment of death, that spirit leaves the body and returns to God Who gave it. This passage describes the death of a believer. 23Solomon wrote to his young son, a believer, in this passage. He wants a happy childhood for his offspring, before the evil days and years draw near. Solomon wrote to his believing son, who should remember his Creator (Ecclesiastes 12:1) and God has approved his works (Ecclesiastes 9:7). Solomon did not put his son in the category of people who act wickedly under the sun, but Solomon did name him as a person who will labor under the sun (Ecclesiastes 9:9).  The spirit enters into the physical body as its place of habitation, so long as that body continues to live. A spirit does not have flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). 

At the moment of physical death, the spirit of a believing man returns to God.

God formed the spirit of man in the womb.

God gave the spirit to man and then receives the spirit back from a believing man at the moment of death.


Section Six

The Rephaim

6.1 Rephaim Will Not Stand. Isaiah wrote that the dead will not live. 24The dead (“מֵתִים֙“) will not live (“בַּל־יִחְי֔וּ“). The verb “live” (qal imperfect) describes no life after death for the evil spirits. The “Rephaim” will not stand. 25The term “Rephaim” (“רְפָאִ֖ים“), also known as the Zamzummin (Deuteronomy 2:20), described a defeated people (Genesis 14:15) and were known as part of the Anakim (“עֲנָקִ֑ים“), also known as Emim (“אֵמִֽים“) in Deuteronomy 2:11. The Anakim and Emim were a great people, numerous, and tall (Deuteronomy 9:1-2; see also Numbers 13:30-33). The Rephaim inhabited Bashan, called the land of the Rephaim, and also known as the region of Argob (Deuteronomy 3:13). Og, king of Bashan, was the last survivor of the Rephaim. His iron bedstead was nine cubits (one cubit equals 18 inches), and its width four cubits). The children of Israel took possession of the land of Og, king of Bashan (Deuteronomy 4:47), and defeated Og the King of Bashan in battle (Deuteronomy 29:7). Yahweh destroyed both Og and his land (Deuteronomy 31:4). The remnant of the Rephaim lived at Ashtaroth and at Edri. The phrase “valley of Rephaim” occurs in Joshua 15:8, Joshua 18:16, 2 Samuel 5:18, 2 Samuel 5:22, 2 Samuel 23:13, 1 Chronicles 14:9, and Isaiah 17:5; battles were fought in that valley. The tribe of Manasseh inherited the lands of the Rephaim. As a side note, Caleb followed Yahweh when the other spies rebelled against Yahweh. In his old age, Caleb drove out the three sons of Anak, a giant (Joshua 15:13). 

The term Rephaim also described the spirits of the wicked who had died. Yahweh will not perform wonders for the Rephaim of the dead ones (“מֵּתִ֥ים“) and the Rephaim will not stand (“ק֤וּמוּ“) and praise You (“יֹוד֬וּךָ“) (Psalm 88:10).  Yahweh’s lovingkindness will not be declared in the grave, and Yahweh’s faithfulness will not be declared in Abaddon (Psalm 88:11). The house of the adulteress sinks down to death and her tracks lead to the Rephaim (Proverbs 2:18). The Rephaim are wicked and abide in the depths of Sheol (Proverbs 9:18) and constitute the assembly of Rephaim (“קְהַ֖ל רְפָאִ֣ים“) (Proverbs 21:16). The Hebrew term “dead ones” (“מֵּתִ֥ים“) includes the saved and the unsaved.
The term Rephaim refers to a group of people who populated the area of Bashan, but it also refers to the spirits of dead unbelievers which abide in the depths of Sheol. In the future, they will be destroyed by Yahweh and He will wipe out all remembrance of them (Isaiah 26:14). Please keep in mind that the souls and spirits of believers never went to Sheol after death, but their bodies went back to the dust of the earth in death. See Afterlife

6.2 The Rephaim Fall. In the future, the righteous dead of Israel shall arise, and, specifically, their corpses shall rise. The dust dwellers 26Isaiah described “dust dwellers” (“שֹׁכְנֵ֣י עָפָ֗ר“–qal participle plural construct) (Isaiah 26:19). will stand, 27The Rephaim will not stand and praise God (Psalm 88:10). and they shall awake and shout for joy, for their dew is as the dew of dawn. 28Compare Daniel 12:1-2. At that same time, the earth shall cause to fall the Rephaim. 29Based upon other uses of the hiphil verb “cause to fall” (“תַּפִּֽיל”–hiphil imperfect) in Proverbs 1:14 (cause to fall your lot) and Proverbs 19:15 (cause to fall into a deep sleep), the meaning in Isaiah conveys the idea of causing something to fall down. So, the earth causes the Rephaim to fall down, perhaps a reference to an earthquake or some other cataclysmic event. In the alternative, many translators prefer the metaphorical meaning that “cause to fall” means a baby drops from the mother and so it means gives birth. Because the Rephaim are the dead spirits of evil people, I do not see the earth giving birth to them. If they were believers, then the earth would give birth to the corpses, but the Rephaim are not believers, as described above. In my mind, this passage describes the clouds resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) where all saints from all ages will be given bodily resurrection, just before the Tribulation starts on earth. After that time of resurrection, the earth shall cause the Rephaim to fall. 30In Isaiah 14:9 Sheol is excited to meet the fallen king of Babylon, will arouse the Rephaim. In Isaiah 26:19, your dead (“מֵתֶ֔יךָ“) will live (“יִֽחְי֣וּ“) and the “corpse” (“נְבֵלָתִ֖י“) will stand (“יְקוּמ֑וּן“). You who abide in the dust (“שֹׁכְנֵ֣י עָפָ֗ר“) shall be awakened (“הָקִ֨יצוּ“) and they will shout for joy (“וְרַנְּנ֜וּ“–Piel intensive). The earth will cause to fall the Rephaim. I take the term “fall” (“תַּפִּֽיל“) as a Hiphil causative here, meaning the earth shall cause the Rephaim to fall.  Isaiah indicates that Yahweh assembled all (“פָּקַ֨דְתָּ֙“) the Rephaim and destroyed (“וַתַּשְׁמִידֵ֔ם“) them and wiped out all remembrance of them. Yahweh will cause the Rephaim to fall and God will destroy them so that the ground causes them to fall. 

The Rephaim will not stand.

The term Rephaim refers to both a group of fallen giants who dwelt in the land of Bashan and the spirits of the wicked dead.

In the future, the Rephaim will be destroyed and God will wipe out all memory of the them.

In the future, the righteous of Israel will arise from the dust and shout for joy. 

In the future, the earth will cause the Rephaim to fall.


Section Seven

Spirits in Prison

7.1 Spirits in Prison. Some spirits right now are in prison (1 Peter 3:19). 31Peter wrote that some spirits (“πνεύμασιν”) are now in prison (“φυλακῇ”). After its fall, Babylon will become the prison of every unclean spirit (Revelation 18:2). God did not spare angels when they sinned, but committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment (2 Peter 2:4). The disobedient in the days of Noah ignored the preaching of Jesus speaking through Noah. Those people died in the flood, and their spirits are now in prison. At the moment of death, those people went to Hades. See Afterlife

Some spirits are in prison right now. 

♦ Those spirits in prison may include human spirits.


The body without the spirit is dead. Disobedient spirits go to the prison of Hades after death, while the spirits of believers return to God in heaven. Jesus gave over His spirit into the hands of His Father at the moment of death. Jesus has the power to return a spirit to a dead body and so bring it back to life. In all things, Jesus has all power and exercises it with perfect righteousness and grace.