By J. Frank Norris (1877-1952)
In I Kings 17:21, 22, Elijah the Tishbite was having some trouble with Ahab and his idolatry, so God pronounced a curse upon him and Israel. The man of God told this wicked king that “there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” And to make sure it was true he went into hiding.
His first hiding place was by the brook Cherith where the ravens fed him morning and evening. Soon the brook dried up; God then hid him in a widow’s house in Zarepath. While there something happened that proves positively that the soul and body of man are not the same. They are separate and distinct.
When a person dies, the body and soul separate. The body goes to the grave, the place for departed dead, and the soul goes to SHEOL / HADES the place for departed souls. “And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child’s SOUL COME UNTO HIM AGAIN, And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and THE SOUL OF THE CHILD CAME INTO HIM AGAIN, and he revived” (Vss.21-11).
Here Elijah prays that the child’s “soul” might re-enter the lifeless body; and in answer to the prayer, “the soul of the child came into him AGAIN and he revived.” This clearly shows that the soul had departed, and that death is a separation of the soul from the body.
When the ruler’s daughter was raised to life (Luke 8:49-55), it was said, “And her spirit came again, and she rose straightway,” implying that in dying her spirit had left the body and must needs “come again” before she could be restored to life. No language could make it more clear that death is a separation of the spirit from the body. The same truth is taught in II Samuel 12:19-23.
When David learned that his beloved child was dead, he ceased to weep and fast; and when questioned concerning his unusual conduct, he said, “But now he is dead, therefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” This language plainly indicates that his child had gone hence, and that he could not return, but that the bereft father expected to depart also–to “go to him” –When this mortal life should end.
The Apostle Paul sets forth this same truth that death is a separation of the spirit from the body. Second Corinthians 5:6-9: “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord; for we walk by faith, not by sight; we are confident, I say, willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.”
What does Paul mean by “at home in the body” and “absent from the body” if the soul and body are not distinct, and if death is not a separation of the one from the other? Surely, the “absent” from the body, means that at death his soul would separate or depart from the body.
Death as a separation, is inferred in the following. The inspired writers represent the human body as a tabernacle or frail dwelling place; and death as the putting off of this tabernacle. Thus Paul says in II Corinthians 5:1, “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
The Apostle Peter in II Peter 1:13-15 says, “Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shown me. Moreover I will endeavor that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.”
In these passages, Then, the “tabernacle” to be “dissolved” and the dwellers in the tabernacle are as distinct as the house and its occupant. It is equally clear that by the “putting off” of this “tabernacle” (as Christ had shown him, John 21:18, 19) Peter meant his “decease.” We are in a tabernacle, and death is the putting off of our tabernacle. Death is the separation of soul and body.
Various Scripture References Speak of Death as A Departure. This shows that Death is A Separation of the Spiritual Nature (The Real Individuality) from the Body.
Saint Paul described death as a “departure” to occur when he should cease “to abide in the flesh” (Philippians 1:21-24). “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor; yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better; nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.”
What does the apostle here mean by “abiding in the flesh” if it be not living in the body? And what by “departing” if it be not dying?
It is scarcely possible for language to teach more clearly the doctrine that death is a separation of body and spirit, and a departure of the spirit from this world.
The same doctrine that death is a separation or departure is taught in numerous other Scriptures. For instance, II Timothy 4:6, where the apostle says, “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.”
Also Genesis 35:18.–“And it came to pass as her soul was departing, for she died,” etc.
It was revealed to Simeon that he should not see death till he had seen the Lord’s Christ; and when he saw the infant Redeemer, he said, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word” (Luke 2:29). To him, also, death was a departure, which could not be true in any sense if the soul died with the body, and was not separated from it.
That death is a separation of soul and body is further evident from James 2:26, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
Here the apostle refers for the illustration of his subject, to a fact acknowledged by all professing Christians of his day, namely, that the body was “dead” when it was “without the spirit”; or, in other words, that death is a separation of the spirit–or departure of the real individuality–from the body.
Thus, in foregoing paragraphs, according to the testimony of the infallible Word of God we have learned that death is a separation of the spirit, or departure of the real individuality, from the body.
The original decree of death consigns only “the dust” (the body) to return to the earth, while the spirit returns to God who gave it.” Death is “the giving up of the ghost,” and the dead are not restored to life, unless their “souls come into them again.”
We are now dwelling in “earthly houses of this tabernacle” which we shall “put off” at death. We now “abide in the flesh,” but at death we will “depart” and will be “absent from the body,” and then the body without the spirit will be dead.”
This message by Dr. J. Frank Norris taken from the pages of THE BIBLICAL EVANGELST (November – December Issue 2010) edited by Dr. Robert L. Sumner, used by permission. www.biblicalevangelist.org
WHY NOT SURPRISE ME?
Dr. Michael Guido of Metter, GA presents this little story. I felt it adds a timely edge to Dr. Norris’ message published above.
A New Yorker bought a burial plot near his home in New York. Tired of the cold, stormy winters, he moved to Florida to retire. Not long after his move, he bought another burial plot. He became very ill and was told he would not live much longer. His friends, knowing of the two plots asked, “Where do you want to be buried, here or New York?”
In his anguish, he smiled and said, “Surprise me!”
Life is full of surprises, but death is not one of them. Each time we learn of a friend’s death, read the obituaries, attend a funeral, pass a cemetery or watch the news, we are reminded of the uncertainties of life and the reality of death.
God’s Word states that “man is appointed once to die, then comes judgment.” We can be sure of two things: death and judgment. And we can prepare for both. How? By making arrangements with Him in advance.
The Bible says, “Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation!”
We must first make sure of our salvation and then reach out to those around us; our family and friends, and bring them to Christ. No surprise is the best surprise!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank You for the assurance of salvation and the promise of eternity with You. Convict us to bring others to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture: Hebrews 9:27 “… it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:”