Understanding Human Nature

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Genesis 2-3
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 3

Understanding Human Nature

(Genesis 2-3, Ecclesiastes 12, Matthew 17)

Copr. 2022, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: http://www.GoBible.org. Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: When you think of traffic laws, I expect that you do not want a police officer pulling you over and giving you a ticket. But, you believe in firmly enforcing the traffic laws against others. Right? What about life after death? You would love to live eternally, but there are a lot of people who you are rather sure should not be allowed to engage in evil forever. What does the Bible say on this topic? Do humans have an eternal nature? Let’s dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. The Spirit
    1. Read Genesis 2:7. What made man a “living creature?” (Receiving the breath of life from God.)
    2. Read Ecclesiastes 12:1. What does this say about getting old? (If you live long enough, at some point you say of life, “I have no pleasure” in it.)
    3. The following verses in Ecclesiastes 12(verses 2-5) paint a picture of what it is like to age. Let’s read Ecclesiastes 12:5-7. When you focus on verse 6, does it seem that death is the end? (These things certainly seem final.)
      1. Compare Ecclesiastes 12:7 with what we just read in Genesis 2:7. Is this a reversal of the process? (It seems like it.)
  2. The Body
    1. Read Genesis 3:22-24. How do you relate this to our discussion of the spirit? Must we have both the spirit (breath) and the Tree of Life to keep living?
      1. As long as your body does not return to dust, you keep your spirit?
    2. Read Revelation 22:1-2. Why is the Tree of Life in heaven? Is our situation in heaven the same as it was for Adam and Eve in Eden? (Logic says that it is indistinguishable - our immortality in heaven depends on continuing to eat from the tree of life.)
      1. What does that say about all who do not make it into heaven? (They cannot continue to exist.)
      2. What does this say about the dependence of our spirit upon our body? (Our body is essential to the continuing life of our spirit. If this were not true, we would not need a Tree of Life.)
  3. The Spirit and Body
    1. If we look again at Genesis 2:7 and Ecclesiastes 12:7 it appears that the spirit is separate from the body. When God blew into Adam’s nostrils “the breath of life,” did He blow “Adam” as a distinct human being?
      1. Think about this: is every person who has ever lived a person created in God’s mind and then implanted into a distinct spirit to be merged with our body while we live?
    2. Read Jeremiah 1:4-5 and Galatians 1:15. What do these texts say about God knowing us before we were born? (They state specifically that God was aware of us before we were born.)
        1. Is this proof that when God blew His breath into Adam, He blew a specific identity into Adam’s body? (Yes.)
        2. Or, is this a generic statement that God knows the future and that future includes us? (The way Jeremiah 1:5 is written speaks of God’s interaction with Jeremiah before he was born.)
    3. Read Genesis 1:26. Who is the “us” that God speaks of as creating humans? (Us seems to be the Godhead, which includes the Holy Spirit.)
      1. Does the Holy Spirit have an independent role? (Yes. In John 16:7 Jesus says that unless He leaves the Holy Spirit will not come. See also John 16:13.)
        1. Does that suggest that if we are made like God our spirit has an independent role? (It sounds like that - when we begin to take in oxygen (which is in the womb) that breath of God implants a unique identity.)
        2. Do you think the Holy Spirit could exist without the rest of the Godhead? (No. This parallel reinforces the idea that the spirit needs the body to be viable.)
    4. Read John 3:5-6. Whose “spirit” does this reference? (This is a reference to baptism. The body is ours, but the Spirit is the Holy Spirit.)
    5. Read Romans 8:15-16. If the Holy Spirit “bears witness” to our spirit, does that mean that our spirit has an independent thought process? (It must.)
    6. Read 1 Corinthians 6:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 6:19. These verses are about sexual sin and they tell us that not all sin is equal, this sin is worse. Why? (Because in the sex act you are joined to “become one flesh.” The problem is that you are already joined with God.)
      1. Let’s explore this idea of being joined with God and being “one spirit with Him.” How does this joinder occur? (Verse 19 tells us that it comes from the “Holy Spirit within you.”)
      2. Does this mean that we have an independent spirit? (This is a bit difficult to understand, but it appears that our independent spirit is linked to the Holy Spirit.)
    7. If God breathed an independent Adam (and an independent you) into the body, do you have a recollection of consciousness before you were born? (No. We only recall knowing things while in our body.)
      1. What does that teach us about consciousness when our spirit returns to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7)? (What returns to God is a unique you, but not a conscious you.)
    8. Let’s review what we have read and discussed to see if we can reach a Biblically based (and logical) understanding of our spirit. When God created Adam he breathed a specific identity into him. But, that identity could not continue without the body, which is the reason for the Tree of Life in Eden and in Heaven. Our spirit is like the Holy Spirit and the two interact. Do you agree?
  4. Problem Texts
    1. Read 2 Corinthians 5:6-9. What is Paul saying about consciousness “at home with the Lord?” (He seems to say that we would be conscious “away from the body.” Context is important. If you read 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 Paul refers to a “tent” as our body. His discussion compares living on earth to living in heaven. He is not suggesting an independent immortal spirit for he ends the discussion with a reference to the final judgment.)
    2. Read Psalms 115:17-18. These two verses seem to contradict each other. The dead do not praise, but the Psalmist praises God “from this time forth and forever more.” Does this mean that it is the righteous who never die and have a conscious spirit? (This reads too much into these texts. The point is simple, dead people are not observed by the living as praising God. However, the righteous have an expectation of eternal life (in the earth made new) and thus eternal praise.)
    3. Read Ecclesiastes 9:5. This text seems to be the most popular “go to” Bible text to show that we know nothing after death. Look more closely. Do you believe that the dead “have no more reward?” Do you believe that God has forgotten the righteous dead? (This is horrible text to cite because if taken literally, it means there is no heaven.)
    4. Read Ecclesiastes 9:2-3. Does this seem to be true? (Certainly not if you believe that God rewards those who choose Him. Death is not the end. If you read the entire chapter you will see that Solomon seems depressed. His conclusion (Ecclesiastes 9:7-9) is to live life as if there is no tomorrow, because there is no tomorrow. That is not the message of the Bible.)
    5. Read Matthew 17:1-4. Are Moses and Elijah alive and well? (Absolutely.)
      1. Read Deuteronomy 34:5-7. Didn’t Moses die? (He did.)
      2. If the dead are unconscious, how do you account for Moses being alive and well and greeting Jesus? (Jude 9 tells us that Michael claimed “the body of Moses.” Thus, God can raise the dead and take them to heaven.)
    6. Read Matthew 27:51-53. What does this say about the dead? (The “saints” can be raised to life before the Second Coming of Jesus.)
    7. Friend, what should we conclude about the nature of humans? I think that God implants in us a unique spirit that returns to God at death. This spirit needs the body to be conscious, and that only happens when God decides to resurrect our body.
  5. Next week: The Old Testament Hope.