Thursday, December 31, 2009

Do human souls exist before this world?

My article from today's Algona Upper Des Moines about the pre-existence of human souls:

Q:  If Jesus always existed, even before He was born to the Virgin Mary, what about other people?  Do human souls exist somewhere before the person is born in this world?

This is a topic of much speculation in conversations I have heard.  There are many theories and stories about the status of people before they are born, but sadly, most of these bear a closer resemblance to fairy tales than they do to reality.  There is a general consensus that humans exist in a material aspect, called the body, and an immaterial aspect, commonly called a soul or spirit.

Even though one of the most popular of these ideas, called reincarnation, comes from non-Christian religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, it is believed anyway by numerous Americans.  This belief holds that there is really no beginning or end to the existence of the soul.  Instead, reincarnation teaches that a soul moves from body to body, living numerous lives.  A good life would ensure a promotion to a better species in the following life—from a fly to a dog, for example.  An immoral life would result in a demotion in the next life—from a human to a raccoon, for example.

Another category of these stories teaches that a human soul exists in heaven, on other planets, in other spiritual realms, or any of a number of places, before finally being introduced to a body at some definite point in time.  Adaptations of this story portray bodiless human souls being born as a result of some intimate relation between the souls deceased humans.  Others picture these souls spending time with God, conversing with their dead relatives, or any of a number of other imaginative scenarios.  I even encountered one person who was convinced that her child had been given an orientation to earthly life by his grandfather during the short time between the grandfather’s death and the child’s birth.

Still other types of stories portray humans as existing as angels before being assigned to human bodies.  These stories seem to be quite appealing to those who also hold the misconception that people become angels after death.  All of the stories mentioned to this point are no more reliable than fairy tales, and some, in fact, are quite unbiblical. 

Jesus did exist eternally with the Father before He was born, but for those of us who are not God, this is not the case.  God has no beginning and no end.  He has always and will always exist; therefore Jesus also existed from before the creation of the world, even though He would not be born as a man until only about 2000 years ago. 

Unlike God, humans do have a definite beginning, although their existence does not end—even at death.  At the time a human child is conceived by his parents, he exists for the first time—both in body and in soul.  Before this moment, the person does not exist.  Even after death, a person’s body and soul both continue to exist, although separated for a time—the body in the grave and the soul either with Jesus or imprisoned awaiting judgment. 

When Jesus physically returns to earth on the last day, the bodies of all the dead will be raised from their graves and reunited with their souls.  Each person will be judged and will live eternally, in both body and soul, in eternal blessing or eternal punishment, according to their trust in Jesus or lack thereof. 

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