Intro: We must start with a biblical anthropology (study of man) before carrying on with other arguments about the state of man after death. Not to do so can only result in erroneous conclusions. Let us start in Genesis 2: 7: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” This has to be our starting point.We can’t allow ancient myths or cults of the dead or Greek philosophy to dictate what we believe about what man is made up of or his state after death. We have God’s word on it and thats what we must deal with. From Genesis 2:7 we find that the soul is not a part of man,rather we find that man in his entirety is a living soul. Secondly we find that God didn’t create a spirit to give man life, instead man has life because God breathed into him and gave him breath and life. So the biblical view of man to which the Hebrews held was that man was an integrated unity. Man can can only live as long as everything works together. There was no such thing as man having an immortal spirit which carried on living after death and could never die. The same goes for the body it can’t continue to live without the breath of God.(spirit)
The problem we come across later is that the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek. The breath of God was interpreted as being spirit.The life that was in man was translated the spirit.An illustration in point would be Jesus death on the cross. It says that his spirit went out of him and in another place it says he breathed his last.What it clearly means is his life went out of him and he was dead.It does not mean his spirit with a life of its own went from him to carry on living in another place. Again in Ecclesiastes 12: 7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. Again it is clearly not a spirit which has a life of its own that survives the body. It is the breath of God, therefore it is the life that returns to God who gave it. Clearly this is the breath of life which God breathed into the 1st man. So then it is clear that translators mistranslated the breath of God into spirit. But unfortunately it is not merely a translation error but an importing of the Greek philisophical worldview of Plato of man into the text of Genesis 2. The philosophy of Plate taught that the spirit was immortal and escaped the prison which is our body to go to another immaterial place where it would be free from this evil world.
It is this Pagan worldview that has been foisted on to the gospel and caused the gospel message to lose its distinctiveness. Many if not most contemporary pagan philosophies hold to this worldview of an immortal spirit that survives death. But this is not what the Gospel teaches. Immediatly I hear you scream what about the thief on the cross. Well lets look at the thief on the cross in Luke 23:42: “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43: And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” First things first,we must understand that these are ancient Jews and not westerners. Therefore they did not neccesarily have an idea of the spirit living in a spirit world after death. He says to Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom. He understood and believed Jesus to be the Christ who was to bring in an eternal Kingdom in Israel.Because it was promised King David that the one to take his throne would rule without end.Please read 2 Samuel 7 where it says this.So the thief believed Jesus to be the Christ and was asking Jesus to be included in His kingdom when he brought it to pass.Secondly we find the translation I tell you,today you will be with me in paradise. Now clearly Jesus did not go to paradise but went to the grave for 3 days that day.In fact Jesus only ascended to the right hand of God 40 days later so there is no chance that Jesus meant that very same day.Jesus went to the grave that very same day. Only if you hold to an unbiblical anthropology can you believe in an already immortal spirit. Maybe now you can see what was going on.So it should be translated I tell you today,you will be with me in paradise. Also in the Hebrew worldview they didn’t believe you went to paradise when you die.Rather they hoped to be raised up into the Paradise of God on the last day.To prove it from scripture we will look at Jesus interaction with Lazarus’s sister Martha after Lazarus had died. John 11:23,24: Jesus said to Martha your brother will rise again “Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.Martha as a Jewess had no hope of going to paradise at the moment of death,her hope as a believing Jewess was to be raised up on the last day. So we can see our Platonic interpretation of the thief on the cross is not held up by the Jewish hope and worldview of Jesus time.