Special Report: The Third Element
Vol: 95 Issue: 26 Wednesday, August 26, 2009
The body is only one third of what God created in the Garden of Eden. God created the body out of the dust of the earth. The body is the first element of man. It is a physical shell.
Then God breathed into his nostrils, and man became a living soul. The soul is the second element of man. That’s the part that makes you ‘you’.
The Third Element is mentioned in Genesis 1:11 when God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. . . ”
What does God look like? “No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” (John 1:18)
“God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)
“And He said, Thou canst not see My face: for there shall no man see Me, and live. . . And it shall come to pass, while My glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with My hand while I pass by: And I will take away Mine hand, and thou shalt see My back parts: but My face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:20,22-23)
But we are in His likeness. That is the third element — the spirit. That is the component of man to which God was referring in the Garden when He said, “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) On that day, Adam’s spirit ‘died’.
What does it mean to say an immortal, eternal spirit ‘dies’? If it is eternal, how can it die? We use the phrase, ‘a fate worse than death’ as a modifier for something so horrible as to be humanly unimaginable.
Because truth be known, it is impossible for the human mind to conceive of a fate worse than death.
Death is unknown, so it is impossible to measure something known against it. That’s why we use it to describe something unimaginably horrible. That is the sense in which spiritual death is understood. It is a fate worse than death. Death is an ending.
Spiritual death is eternal torment, eternal separation from God, eternal nothingness. . . you are written off as dead by God. You wrote Him off as dead in this life. You aren’t separated from God at death — you were never joined to Him in the first place.
You had your chance. You made your choice. You will never hear from Him again. There is no reprieve, no appeal. But you continue to exist. Eternally.
Recently, my pastor, Ed Smith (a brilliant man who sometimes reads this column) used one of Clarence Larkin’s charts to illustrate that point.
I’ve always loved Larkin’s charts. Larkin was a man truly gifted with both a double measure of understanding and double measure of the gift of teaching.
Larkin beautifully illustrates the three parts of man.
The outer ring is the body. This is the physical part, the part that dies. But while we are here, the body serves as the sensory input to the soul. Larkin labels the senses as the “Eyegate” “Eargate” “Nosegate” etc because those are the gateways to the soul — for both good and evil.
Because that is our only sensory input, that is all we have to work with.
In Larkin’s center ring is our soul, wherein dwells the natural man. The soul consists of the mind, will and emotions. It is the ‘ghost’ in the machine.
It is the part of you that makes all the other parts yours. It is uniquely yours. It is God-breathed. It will continue to exist after your body dies, whether you are saved or not.
Now, look at the inner circle. This is the Third Element. This is your spirit. Notice that Larkin’s drawing is of a new creature — indwelling Larkin’s spirit-man is the Holy Spirit of God.
Let me summarize this all before going on. I want you to really see this.
The body is in the outer ring and it is the sensory gate that feeds the soul. The spirit is in the center and it is the sensory gate through which the Holy Spirit communicates with us. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:” (Romans 8:16)
When we die, the soul and spirit separate from the body and the body’s sensory input. The Bible tells us that our soul doesn’t sleep, but remains conscious; Paul tells us that;
“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 and not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2nd Corinthians 5:6-8)
I want you to see all that this teaches. The first is the most obvious since it is most often-quoted; ‘absent from the body, present with the Lord’ but see the Bigger Picture as well. When in the body, we are absent from the Lord. Our sensory inputs are limited to the five gates of the carnal body.
Most of us are spiritually blind. We hear the phrase often enough. Think of what it means. It refers to the sensory input we get from the center of our being, from the center of Larkin’s inner circle, where our spirit is.
At the center of the natural man’s the spirit is dark. It is totally blind to the things of God. The natural man can be spiritual; the world is filled with spiritual people who are in communication with the spirit world. But they are not in communication with the Spirit of God.
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1st Corinthians 2:14)
The natural man can thrash about trying make a spiritual connection, but he is just thrashing about blindly hoping to latch on to any spiritual passersby.
Understand the function of your spirit. It is your sensory input to the things of the spirit. The quickened, or regenerated spirit is in contact and communion with the Spirit of God. Absent the body, the spirit becomes the eyes and ears of the soul.
When we die, the body’s sensory gates close, but the spirit’s sensory gates swing wide-open. We (that is, the soul, the part that makes you ‘you’) remain aware of what is going on. (Absent from the body, etc. . .)
So when you die, the spirit functions much as the body did, as the primary sensory gateway into the soul.
Look at Larkin’s chart again. First, your middle ring was being fed from the outer ring. Now it is being supplied with sensory input from the inner, spiritual ring where the Holy Spirit sits.
Or not. If the spirit is dark, then the soul has no source of sensory input. The spiritual, but lost person who was thrashing about blindly in this life? We’ll come back to him momentarily.
We are half blind in this world. Our souls only know what they can learn from the sensory input of our carnal, physical bodies. Our spirits are capable of just enough faith to invite the Holy Spirit in, which then quickens us and opens up our spiritual ‘eyes’.
When we get our resurrection bodies, we will receive sensory input from both sides. Both the physical and the spiritual. The reason that at the Rapture, the dead in Christ rise first, is that they’ve been waiting half-blind for theirs.
Right now, Paul says, “we see through a glass darkly. . but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1st Corinthians 13:12)
Imagine at the Rapture, when we who are alive and remain suddenly start getting unrestricted sensory input from both our resurrection bodies and our eyes-wide open quickened spirits! It is a spectacular thought.
Back to the less-spectacular thought of the soul who dies without the quickening of the Spirit. His soul has lost its physical sensory input. His spirit is dark, dead, and incapable of getting any spiritual input. But at the Great White Throne, that soul will also receive a resurrection body.
Remember the function of the body and spirit. They are the gateways to the soul.
That lost soul will have his physical sensory input restored to him just before being cast alive into the Lake of Fire. There, he will be deprived of spiritual comfort, since his spirit is dead, but his resurrection body will be eternally alive.
And his soul, the part that makes him who he is, will spend eternity thinking about how he blew his chance to escape his fate while his spirit aches to see the God he rejected.
The body is not what its cracked up to be. It’s really only a temporary life support system and communications center that connects the soul to this physical world. The part that makes you ‘you’ is the part that makes the body work.
The body isn’t life to the soul. The soul is life to the body.
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” 1st Thessalonians 4:13)
“I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Psalms 139:14)