The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 1


V. Relation of “Spirit” or “Breath” to Life and Death


The “breath of life,” or “spirit,” which brought life originally to man, is expressly declared to have been inbreathed by God. The patriarch Job in characteristic Hebrew parallelism, in referring back to the creation of man, utters these impressive words: “The spirit [ruach] of God hath made me, and the breath [neshamah] of the Almighty hath given me life” (Job 33:4). CFF1 155.4

And in speaking of man’s death, Job states that it is brought about by the reversal of the creation process—God gathering back to Himself His “spirit (ruach) and his breath [neshamah]” (Job 34:14), which He originally inbreathed, or infused, into man. Hence the spirit that God takes back from man at death is God’s own vitalizing spirit, or breath, imparted to man, and then returning to its originating Source. This appears also in Ecclesiastes: “Then shall the dust [by metonomy, the body] return to the earth as it was: and the spirit [ruach; not nephesh, soul] shall return unto God who gave it” (Job 12:7). CFF1 155.5


In death man’s ruach (spirit) goes back to God, from whom it came when man was formed. While it is the presence of the spirit, or breath, of God that bestows life on man, it is to be particularly noted that God’s “spirit,” or “breath” (Job 33:4), is distinct from the life it has brought into being—just as cause is different from effect. CFF1 156.1

This differentiation is highly important. If the life of man were identical with the spirit that produced it, it would possess all the essential attributes of the spirit. But this is safeguarded in the Scripture account, which describes the spirit as the cause of life, but distinct and distinguishable from it. Thus the effect may perish, but the cause does not perish. The life of man may disappear and become extinct, while the spirit, or breath, from the Almighty does not. It simply returns to Him from whom it came. CFF1 156.2

Man has the breath, or spirit, of God within him. But the spirit may be withdrawn, since it is only a loan from God for the duration of man’s lifetime. Job significantly describes life as “all the while my breath [neshamah] is in me, and the spirit [ruach] of God is in my nostrils” (Job 27:3). Job knew that his spirit, or breath, was not his own, with an independent and innate right to keep it, but was the spirit, or breath, of God in his nostrils—subject to withdrawal at his Maker’s will. Job recognized himself as intrinsically but “dust” (Job 10:9; Job 34:15). CFF1 156.3


As the entrance of the spirit into man originally gave him life, so in the same way the restoration of the spirit, at the resurrection, renews his life. This is foreshown by Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of the dry bones—then “very dry” (Ezekiel 37:2) and entirely lifeless, having once had life but now with “no breath [spirit, ruach] in them” (Ezekiel 37:8). And then through the action of the figurative “WIND” [breath, or spirit, ruach] life was restored by God’s causing His spirit, or breath, to enter into them again. Thus: CFF1 157.1

“Behold, I will cause breath [spirit, ruach] to enter into you [the dry bones, and ye shall live: and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath [spirit, ruach] in you, and ye shall live.” “And shall put my spirit [ruach] in you, and ye shall live” (Ezekiel 37:5, 6, 14). CFF1 157.2

The life that was relinquished when the spirit left the body is thus renewed. And it was this renewal, or restoration of the spirit, or breath—the breath of God that caused life—that was the hope and the promise of a future life for the Old Testament worthies. When they knew they were dying, and were soon to sink back into their original earth, they commended their spirits into the safekeeping of God. Thus the psalmist David, upon the prospect of death, said: “Into thine hand I commit my spirit [ruach]: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth .... I trust in the Lord” (Psalm 31:5, 6). CFF1 157.3

He made the same committal that Christ later made (Luke 23:46). It was because he had been redeemed that David was able to commend his spirit with confidence into the hands of God. Reiterating then: God gave man his “spirit” at creation. But man forfeited his right to the causative spirit, and in consequence it is rendered back to God at (the first) death, going back to Him to whom it belongs. CFF1 157.4

And while the spirit is rendered back to God as a forfeit because of the original sin, its restoration is pledged by covenant through Christ. It is the believer’s in promise—a promise that will not be broken, for it is “impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18). It is kept safe for him. The separation is for the time when the sleeper lies silently in the dust of gravedom, which passage of time will seem as but the twinkling of an eve. CFF1 157.5