|By Carlyle B. Haynes
Chapter 3— The Creation of Man
the consciousness of man will continue after death depends entirely upon
what effect death may have upon those things which produce consciousness.
If death destroys those things which result in consciousness, then
consciousness itself is destroyed by death. If death has no effect upon
them and they continue their activities regardless of death, then
consciousness continues in death.
What produces consciousness? Is it the result of the organization of man’s physical structure, which death dissolves, or is it the result of the working of forces outside of himself, upon which death has no effect?
Spirit Returns to God
A passage of the Bible which is used perhaps more than any other to prove that the soul is immortal and that the dead are conscious is that found in Ecclesiastes 12:7. It reads, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” It is assumed that this spirit which returns to God is conscious, and that, therefore, consciousness in death is proved by this verse. But this is only assumption.
And this verse proves more than that the spirits of the righteous dead go at once to heaven, which doctrine it is commonly used to prove. It proves that the spirits of all go to heaven regardless of their condition, and thus can be made the basis of the teaching of universal salvation. The whole chapter in which it occurs is speaking, not of the righteous, but of all mankind, without any reference at all to their personal relation to God.
The chapter opens with that familiar exhortation to “remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth,” and goes on to give reasons why this should be done, by graphically describing the infirmities of old age and the ultimate dissolution of the body at death. All are admonished to remember their Creator in youth before “the evil days come” and “the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no. pleasure in them”; before the days come “when the keepers of the house shall tremble” (before the hands and arms are palsied with age) ; “and the strong men shall bow themselves” (when the knees bend with the weight of years) ; “and the grinders cease because they are few” (the teeth decay and fall out) ; “and those that look out of the windows be darkened” (the eyesight fails) ; “and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low” (the vocal chords are impaired); “when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish” (the hair becomes white as the almond tree in full bloom) ; “and the grasshopper shall be a burden” (every little thing is magnified into great importance); “and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets.” It is then, at the dissolution produced by death, that it is said, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” This is speaking of all men, not of the good alone. The spirits of all will go to God at death.
How God Created Man
This verse points us very clearly back to the time when man was made. From the language employed in it, it is plain that man at death returns to the same condition that he was in before he was made alive, or before he was created. At death the dust shall return to the earth “as it was.” And then the spirit shall return to God “who gave it.” We are referred back to the time of creation in order that we may know what the condition of man in death is.
Returning to the time of creation, we find this clear, simple, and brief account of the creation of man in 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.” Here we find the method used by the Creator to bring man into existence.
First He formed the man, and the material He used was “the dust of the ground.” Then He breathed into that lifeless form “the breath of life.” As a result, the “man became a living soul,” a very simple procedure. An analysis of this verse will reveal a number of very significant things. “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.” The materials chosen by God of which to make man were not superior in any way to the materials of which He had previously made other earthly creatures and things. These also were made of the dust of the ground.
It appears from this passage also that the first man was fully created and completed, as far as his physical form was concerned, before he began to live. “God formed man of the dust of the ground.” After he was completely formed, there lacked nothing of making him a living man, or “living soul,” but “the breath of life.” When this was breathed into him by his Maker, the “man became a living soul.” This breath of life is that which man breathes in common with all other animals. This breath is represented as having been given to the beasts as well as to man, and therefore the beasts are also said to be “living souls.” (Genesis 1:30, margin; Revelation 16:3 ; Genesis 7:22). In Dr. Lange’s Commentary, under 1 Corinthians 15:45, these remarks are made: “The expression ‘living soul,’ as used in Genesis, is often taken to indicate an order of being superior to the brute, and is the text of many an argument to prove the immortality of the soul. The incorrectness of this assumption will be readily seen by referring to Gen. 1:20,2 1,24, and elsewhere, in which passages the words translated ‘living soul’ are applied also to the entire lower creation. They are used indifferently of man and beast to express animal life in general; and it is in this very light that the apostle uses them, as the very course of his argument shows. Adam is spoken of as a living soul, not to prove his immortality, but rather his mortality.”
It should also be noticed that there is no record in this verse that God thrust a living soul into this lifeless body, nor is it said that He created a living soul within the body as something apart from it. It is said only that as a result of the breathing into his nostrils the breath of life, the man, the whole man, became a living soul. The sense in which this term soul has come to be used, as a spiritual essence which can live apart from the body, is not known or taught in the Scriptures.
Witnessing the Creation
Now let us, in imagination, take our stand back in the Garden of Eden and witness the creation of this first man. God speaks, and of the dust of the ground a form is made and lies before us. It is the form of a man. It is perfect in its symmetry and complete in all its parts. All its organs are there, but it is lifeless. Its brain is ready to think, but it is not acting. Its heart is ready to beat, but it is not beating. Its blood is ready to flow, but it is not flowing. There is no intelligence, no thought, no knowledge, no wisdom, no memory, no consciousness because there is no life. In a short time this lifeless body is to become “a living soul.” Now it is a dead soul.
No one will contend that there was any consciousness in this body as it lay there without life. It is not believed by anyone that consciousness was produced from the dust of the ground.
And now into the nostrils of the lifeless form the Creator breathes the vital breath of life. Immediately the man is a living soul. The brain leaps into instant action. His heart begins to beat. The blood flows through his veins. He now has intelligence, power of thought, knowledge, consciousness. And he has all this because he now has life.
Consciousness has been produced. But how did it come? We have already concluded that it did not reside in the body, the dust of the ground. Was it present, then, in the breath of life? No, for then it would have been present before the breath of life ever came into the body, and that would teach the preexistence of the soul as well as its immortality, Surely no one will maintain that consciousness exists in the breath which we breathe, for then our consciousness would be in our nostril, into which God breathed the breath of life.
Death Results in Unconsciousness
If the consciousness was not in the dust of the ground, the body, nor in the breath of life, where, then, did the consciousness come from? It is at once obvious to all that the consciousness was produced as a result of the union of the breath of life with the dust of the ground, or body. There was no consciousness either in the body or in the breath before these two were united; but when the breath of life was breathed into the body, that union created a consciousness.
Therefore let it be forever settled that consciousness depends solely and altogether upon the union of the breath with the body. When that union does not exist, whatever may remain, it is certain that consciousness does not remain.
Now let us reverse this process. The man approaches the time, as described in the last chapter of Ecclesiastes, when this breath of life is to be withdrawn and the elements of his body are to be dissolved into dust. His last breath leaves his body; his heart ceases to beat; his brain ceases to act; his blood ceases to flow; his power of thought is gone; there is no intelligence, no knowledge; and what has become of his conscious-ness? It, too, is gone. All the processes of sensitive, conscious life are at an end. And the organism itself immediately begins to fall into ruin, and the body to dissolve into the dust from which it came. “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was.”
As the consciousness depends on the breath’s being united with the body, it follows that when this union is broken up and the breath is separated from the body, the consciousness is destroyed, and there is no consciousness in death.
The spirit which returns to God, therefore, is but the breath which God gave. The constituent elements of the man are broken up, the dust returning from whence it came, and the breath also returning to Him who gave it.
But there is no consciousness in this spirit, or breath of life, which returns to God. The consciousness was destroyed when the breath separated from the body. This verse, therefore, does not teach that there is consciousness in death.
This is not merely a personal theory. This is what the Scriptures say. “Thou sendest forth thy spirit [Hebrew ruach—breath], they are created.” Psalm 104:30. “Thou takest away their breath [the same word, ruach], they die, and return to their dust.” Verse 29.
And again: “His breath [ruach] goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” Psalm 146:4. His consciousness is gone.
And again: “For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath [ruach] ; so that [in this respect] a man hath no preeminence above a beast.” Ecclesiastes 3:19. That breath and spirit are the same will also be seen by reading Job 27:3: “All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God [margin, “the breath which God gave him”] is in my nostrils”; and Job 33:4: “The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.” Read also Ezekiel 37:1-14.
How clear it is that our dependence is in God alone for life. We have no life of our own; we cannot exist unless God gives us life.
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