What Does the Bible Say about the Soul?

Author of Someplace to Be Somebody
What Does the Bible Say about the Soul?

Scripture is profuse with its mention and directives concerning our souls. What does the Bible say about the soul?

What Is Our Soul and Where Did It Come From?

“In the beginning…” (Genesis 1:1) God created everything ex nihilo (out of nothing). When the Lord God created man, Genesis 2:7 tells us, “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 being.” The Hebrew word used is nep̄eš, which is also translated, soul. When we define our soul, we must realize without God having breathed the breath of life into the first man’s nostrils, we would not be living souls.

The word soul is so prevalent in the Old Testament, the KJV utilizes forty-two English words to translate it, with the two most common being soul and life. Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology defines soul in the Old Testament as, “simply the life principle or living being.” And in the New Testament, the term psyche is used in place of soul. “It frequently designates life, a person or self, the expression of emotions, and ‘in adjectival form,’ soulish indicates a person governed by the sensuous nature with subjection to appetite and passion.” In some instances, the Greek word (psyche) is contrasted to the physical body and “refers to the immortal part of man.”

As human beings created in the image of God, our souls were given by God when He breathed life into the first man — Adam. No breath of God, no life.

What Does the Bible Say About the Soul?

Our Bible says much about the soul. The Outline of Biblical Usage states the soul is portrayed in the Bible as a living beingthe seat of the appetites, emotions, and passions, and the activity of the mind, will, and character. The Lexham Bible Dictionary denotes four main uses for the word soul:

- To indicate meanings of desire (Psalms 25:1; 42:2)

- A personal or individual being (Genesis 12:5; Leviticus 2:1)

- A conscious self (Leviticus 11:44-45)

- An emotional state (Genesis 26:35; Job 21:4; Ecclesiastes 7:9)

Bearing with the fact the Bible uses so many different words for soul, we will use the mentions of the word soul based on the ESV translation. The first mention in Genesis 2:7 is important to regard, however, because that’s when God gave man his life (NKJV), which is the soul.

Following are few more examples of the different ways the Bible treats the word soul:

Genesis 27:4 is in the narrative about Isaac planning to bless Esau. Here he tells Esau to hunt and prepare his favorite foods for him so he could eat and so, “my soul may bless you before I die” (Conscious self).

1 Samuel 30:6 - “And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God” (An emotional state). See also Job 3:20.

Psalm 56:13 - “For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life” (A person).

In the New Testament, we have these examples:

Matthew 16:26 - “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (A conscious self).

Acts 2:43 - “And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles” (A person).

Hebrews 6:19 - “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain” (An emotional state).

What Is the Purpose of Our Soul? Does It "Do" Anything While We Are Alive?

In Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (the Shema), God tells His people through Moses, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” This passage shows us the soul is to be active in faithful usage as we love God with all our soul.

Because of the life God breathed into us, our souls allow us to commune with God, as opposed to other life forms, which do not have souls as we have. David said in Psalm 16:2, “O my soul, you have said to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord, My goodness is nothing apart from You.’” Our soul directs us as we pray to the Lord as the Spirit leads us.

Without our God-given souls, we would not have the ability to even perceive God, let alone be called to salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. We can stand in awe of Him because we know Who He is and what he has done, is doing, and will do, according to His Word. We, as Christians, can reflect Jesus because our soul was created by Him and for Him.

Dr. R. C. Sproul said this about our souls, “Humans cannot see the soul, nor can they see, at least ordinarily, joints and marrow. God, however, is not only able to see these parts, He can divide them with His Word.”

What Happens to Our Soul After We Die?

Jesus and His apostles are very clear about what happens to our soul when we die, and the Apostle Paul gives us an incredible look at the why and then what happens.

In 1 Corinthians 15, he explains what happens when Christ returns and we are raised with imperishable bodies. In this chapter, Paul likens our souls to seeds. What is sown doesn’t come to life unless it first dies, and the new heavenly body we’re given (and that which we were created to inhabit) is raised imperishable. This must happen to enter into heaven in glory.

When we Christians die, our souls will immediately be in the glorious presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as we wait for the resurrection of our bodies at the end of the age (2 Corinthians 5:8). It’s called the intermediate state.

Why Do We Say Jesus "Saves Our Souls"?

Without our souls, we are nothing — lifeless. Everyone’s soul is immortal, and every person will spend eternity either in the presence and joy of the Lord in heaven or apart from His goodness in hell. 


God created Adam and Eve as perfect souls, until they weren’t. They fell to the temptation of the devil (Genesis 3) and as God said, they died (spiritually). Adam’s sin was imputed on the whole of humanity, yet our sovereign God instituted His plan of redemption immediately after the fall (Genesis 3:15). Thereafter, Scripture is replete with the prophecies, fulfillment, and upcoming fulfillment of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. All of Scripture, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, is about Jesus. 

The Lord gave the Old Testament sacrificial commands to the people of Israel as a shadow of the coming atonement through Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 9 describes how Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant. The Mosaic Law commanded “nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).

God does not change, and only the shedding of blood by a perfect, sinless man could erase the sins of all mankind. Jesus, as fully God and fully man, stood in our place on the cross and is the atonement for our sins. God calls whom He will to faith and repentance; they are those Jesus saved from God’s wrath against the ungodly. We are also saved for Him as His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). The first man, Adam, became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45).

Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” This is a hopeful reminder that this temporal life on earth will make way for the eternal life to come. Christians who have surrendered in faith and repentance to Jesus Christ will reap a heavenly existence when they die to life here on earth. The souls of unbelievers will also live for eternity, but separated from God’s goodness. Pastor Don Stewart relates the sad truth that unbelievers are already under judgment (John 3:18) and “there is an intermediate or ‘in between’ state for the unbeliever. Between their death and resurrection, their body remains in the grave while their spirit or soul is in the unseen realm of the dead awaiting final judgment.” They will not find their names written in the Lamb’s book of Life. (See also Luke 16:19-31.)

Though inscribed thousands of years ago, the Bible never loses its relevance (Hebrews 4:12). As believers, it’s our calling to share the Gospel with any audience the Lord gives us. It’s the best news ever, and our loved ones not only need to see our changed lives but also hear God’s Word (Romans 1:16; Romans 10:17). Jesus and His Word are the Gospel that saves souls. May the kingdom of God gain a great harvest as God uses you to fish for men (Mark 1:17). 

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/metamorworks

Lisa Baker 1200x1200Lisa Loraine Baker is the multiple award-winning author of Someplace to be Somebody. She writes fiction and nonfiction. In addition to writing for the Salem Web Network, Lisa serves as a Word Weavers’ mentor and is part of a critique group. She also is a member of BRRC. Lisa and her husband, Stephen, a pastor, live in a small Ohio village with their crazy cat, Lewis.