John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, once said in a sermon, "I am now an immortal spirit, strangely commingled with a little portion of earth. In a short time I am to quit this tenement of clay, and remove into another state."
19th century southern Presbyterian Robert Dabney wrote: "It is the glory of the Gospel that it gives a victory over death...While the worms destroy the unconscious flesh, the conscious spirit has soared away to the light and rest of its Savior’s bosom."
C.S. Lewis wrote in his book The Weight of Glory, "There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors."
And on the radio not too long ago, I heard Greg Laurie (a popular author, evangelist and mega-church pastor) say, "Death for the believer is not the end of life, but a continuation of it in another place" (https://twitter.com/greglaurie/status/393774409305325568).
Even among those who may be agnostic on the subject, many are quite open to the possibility that people "pass on" to a "better place" after they die. But apart from a divine revelation concerning this, is this really a reasonable approach to take? It seems to me that a much more reasonable approach would be to assume just the opposite until we have compelling evidence to believe otherwise. We know, for example, that syncope (a temporary loss of consciousness) is due to a shortage of oxygen to the brain because of a temporary reduction of blood flow. But what happens when there is a permanent reduction of blood flow to the brain and all brain activity ceases? Is there any observable indication that a person whose brain has stopped functioning completely is more conscious than a person who has simply experienced a temporary reduction of blood flow to their brain? Do not our own God-given senses suggest otherwise?
1) The sentience of living beings - that is, their sensation (broadly speaking) or sensory awareness (Gen 1:20, 30; 19:17; 35:18; Ex 4:19; 21:23; Lev 17:11-14; 1Sam 22:23; Job 12:10; Esther 7:7; Prov. 12:10; Jonah 4:3), OR the seat of the desires and sensations of sentient beings (Ex 15:9; Deut 23:24; 2 Kings 4:27; Ps 27:12; Prov. 6:30, 23:2; Eccl 6:7, 9; Jer. 22:27; Micah 7:3; Zech 11:8; Hab. 2:5).
It is evident from these verses that "Rachel" was not thought to be that which was departing from her as she was dying. Rather, Rachel was understood to be wherever her body was as she was dying, not where her "soul" went after it departed. This fact tells us that Rachel was thought to be constituted by her body. When Rachel's body died, Rachel died, and when Rachel's body was buried, Rachel was buried. So what was the "soul" (nephesh) that was said to be departing from Rachel when "she called his name Ben-oni"? Answer: it was simply Rachel's sensation, or sentience, that was "departing" from her.
Whenever "body" (soma) and "soul" (psuche) are distinguished in the NT (e.g., in Matt 6:25), "soul" likely stands for the sensation or sentience that is common to all biological beings (which must be sustained by food and water, and can be "lost" if one dies, or "saved" if one is kept alive).Sentience depends on life. Only a living being can be sentient and conscious. By "life" I mean the kind of life shared by all living things (including plants, animals and human beings). So how should we define this "life" that is shared by all living things/beings? First, let's determine what this life isn't. Whatever this life is, it is not a personal entity or thing. That is, it does not exist as a person, is not conscious, and does not have a first-person perspective. Nor is this life that is shared by all living things something that either lives or dies, or that can be considered as either alive or dead. A living thing is either mortal or immortal, but life is not a living thing and is neither mortal or immortal.
Life is not something that can exist outside of or apart from a living being (whether the being is mortal or immortal, personal or impersonal). Just as love cannot exist apart from a lover and thought cannot exist apart from a thinker, so life is inseparable from a living thing. So what is "life?" It is a capacity for functional activity. This would include activities such as self-organization, self-regulation of internal conditions, the transmitting of information, etc. For many living things, "functional activity" would include self-motion, and among the highest forms of life (such as God, angels and humans), "functional activity" would also include things like self-awareness (the capacity to notice the self), rational thought and volitional activity.
In these verses Job is employing what is referred to as "Hebrew parallelism," which is a figure of speech by which the same or similar idea or meaning is expressed using two different words or expressions (see, for example Job 4:17; 8:11, 15; 27:4; Ps 119:105; Prov. 3:1). If this “spirit of God” that Job declared was in his nostrils (cf. Isaiah 2:22; Eccl 12:3) was actually Job himself (i.e., the “real” Job), then Job would have been saying that he was in his own nostrils! But the "spirit of God" that was in Job's nostrils is simply a reference to the "breath of life" that God is figuratively said to have breathed into Adam's nostrils, and which he gives to all "living souls" to keep them alive. Similarly, in Job 34:14 we read: "If he should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit (rûach) and his breath (neshâmâh), all flesh would perish together, and man would return to the dust." Or consider Isaiah 42:5: "Thus says God the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, who gives breath (neshâmâh) to the people on it, and spirit (rûach) to those who walk on it..."
In Psalm 104:29 (ESV) we read, "When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath (rûach), they die and return to their dust." Here the same word translated "spirit" elsewhere is translated "breath" (which, again, means that the translators understood that these two Hebrew words can have the same meaning). The same can be said for Psalm 146:4 as well: "When his breath (rûach) departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish." It is evident that the Psalmists had in mind the same "breath of life" that God breathed into Adam and gives to all "living souls," whether human or animal.