Part Five

by A.E. Knoch

THE FUTURE of humanity lies in its spirit. Our bodies indeed will be glorified, and our souls satisfied, yet even this exultant bliss will depend upon the fact that our very frames will be spiritual, and we will be vivified by the fullness of the spirit. The present mode of operation of the human spirit is not final, nor the ideal of the consummation. The spirit is now with us in humiliation and weakness, unable to dominate the body which it vitalizes. It is but the feeble flicker of a candle, as compared with the splendor of the sun in the future glory. Difficult as it is to define the function of the spirit in humanity today, we at least have our experience as a check. For the future we have nothing but the bare Word of God. Nevertheless, to really gain a clear conception of the human spirit in its essence, we must know it in the might of its manifestation, as well as in the hour of its humiliation.

The Word of God can penetrate up to the parting of soul and spirit. I doubt whether any other literature, unless it is based solely upon the Scriptures, is competent to do this. Even for well instructed saints, the boundary between soul and spirit is but faintly defined. Hence no one need be unduly concerned if our present attempt is not easy to understand at first sight. It is a field of thought where men, because they are living souls, find delving difficult. We are constrained, by our very constitution, to consider things by means of our senses. Hence we learn about the body with comparative ease. The soul also makes a strong impression upon us. But the spirit, which cannot be apprehended by our senses, especially if we seek its acquaintance through its effects, tends to sink to the level of the soul whenever we seek to seize upon its essence.

The language used of the spirit is, therefore, largely figurative, and may easily lead to false conclusions. The very word ruch (WIND, spirit) is not literal. A recent Jewish translation, not seeing the figure, has tried to get an intermediate or composite meaning by rendering it "spirit-roaring" or "roaring," when it plainly denotes wind. He tries to force the figure into the meaning. Such a course has often caused confusion of thought, and is one of the chief pitfalls which beset the concordant student. We cannot deduce from the phrase "a broken spirit" (Psa.51:17) that the spirit must be solid substance because only such can be broken. Nor can we say that a sore (wounded) spirit (Prov.18:14) identifies the spirit with the body, for only living tissue can be sore. Deductions of this kind from figurative expressions are deceptive.

We speak of some of the manifestations of spirit as "feelings," whereas these are literally sensations, hence belong to the body and are the soul. But we must remember that no feeling is possible without the power of the spirit acting on the body. Hence the word "feeling" is largely used in a figurative sense, even when there is no direct bodily sensation. It is doubtful, however, if these are ever entirely absent, as the spirit affects the body, and through it the soul, very powerfully. Thus sorrow and contrition, joy and exultation, may arise purely from the spirit, but they never fail to affect the functioning of the body and thus are "felt" by the soul. Because we must speak of the manifestations of the spirit in terms of substance and sensation, we have almost lost the power of identifying the spirit, and confuse it with its effects.

In previous studies on this theme we have considered spirit in its manifestations, life and sensation. We tried to show that, in man as at present constituted, this was dependent on breathing the oxygen of the air, just as the body is dependent on food, or oxygenated soil. Apart from breath, the spirit of man has no conscious existence. We said "It is impossible to perceive a human spirit apart from its two necessary causes, body and breath. "Breath is essential to spirit, life, and sensation." These statements must be kept well within their context, which deals with the phenomenal, the apparent, the soulish, what we can perceive (not conceive), that is, the "zoological aspect" of spirit, in humanity, before vivification. It will need restatement and modification, lest conclusions be drawn from this temporary and incomplete view, which will give us false impressions as to the essence of spirit itself. We now wish to form a conception of spirit which goes beyond the possibilities of our present perception.

A study of the human spirit in its present manifestation has shown that, in life and consciousness, it is dependent on the breath, on the oxygen of the air, which makes contact with the body through the blood. The power generated by the combination seems to be the food of the spirit, so to speak, and sustains our life. Withdraw the breath, and life and consciousness leave the body and the spirit no longer functions. This is because we now have a soulish body. But, in vivification, especially of those who are not only made alive but changed, this can no longer be the case. There will be no blood, even as our Lord had none. We will be able to live consciously among the celestials and traverse regions of space where there is no air. As at present constituted, we cannot do this. Our bodies need to be replenished from the soil. They are soilish. Our spirits need to be sustained by the atmosphere. They function by means of a soulish body.

The fact that a spiritual body does not depend on breathing seems to show that, while this is its mode of functioning in a soulish body, it is not essential to the human spirit, even as it is not needed by spirit beings. We might make this clear by means of a parallel. The food we eat seems essential to the human body. Certainly it cannot live long, as at present constituted, without food, or apart from the soil from which our sustenance is derived. But the fact that the human body can also be a celestial one shows that the soil is necessary to the body only in its present state. If this is so as regards the body, how much more may it be true of the spirit! The further fact that there are spirits, without flesh and bones, makes it practically self-evident. Spirit in general, as well as the human spirit, cannot be confined to the conditions under which humanity exists during the process which involves humiliation and death and the withholding of the fullness of the spirit.

To simplify the subject, we will ignore the bodies and spirits of the circumcision saints who remain upon the earth. Their state reveals less of the spirit's power than ours, whose bodies will be changed for a celestial environment. What is revealed concerning our future frames seems to be the highest manifestation of the human spirit. Hence here we will receive the most help in understanding the spirit. And here we will be best guarded from allowing our present experience in a soulish body to obscure our apprehension of the glorious possibilities of the human spirit when fittingly equipped and at its best.

The secret of the resurrection reveals that, in our case, this terrestrial body will be changed to a celestial one. It will no longer be a soilish or a soulish body, but a celestial and a spiritual house. Nothing is said as to any change in our spirits. Then as now we will have bodies and spirits. But this body is not that which shall be. Would we not be informed if our spirits were different? Are we not justified in assuming that our spirit is the same and of the same kind? God's silence on this point seems conclusive. This being so, it is evident that our previous studies of the spirit must be limited to its association with a soulish body. In humanity as at present constituted the spirit leaves with the breath, but in the resurrection body it does not. It is evident, therefore, that the present manifestation of the spirit in humanity does not reveal its essence, but is a temporary manifestation. We will need to add to our knowledge of its present operations what we know of it in vivification before we can form an idea of its essential nature.

As the resurrection bodies of the saints neither disintegrate nor die, there is no need of the blood stream to carry new supplies of substance to renew the waste which the dying process produces at present. Nor will it be called upon to convey oxygen from the air to sustain sensation and life. Hence the blood disappears in the body that shall be. It was not restored to our Lord in resurrection. Hence the spirit will not function through the breath and the blood, as is now the case. Life will no longer involve a process of combustion. Energy will come by other channels. This opens up to us a view of the spirit which transcends our present experience. Yet we must confess that, since this manifestation multiplies the power of the spirit, it must be a much better revelation of its essence.

For matters beyond our experience our language is quite inadequate, and it is difficult to make oneself understood. So we will only indicate the probable direction of truth by using an illustration. Our present state may be compared with a lamp. The wick represents the body, the oil the food it consumes, the light and warmth the soul, and the energy represent the spirit. The lamp must be lighted to begin with. A certain amount of energy, in the form of heat, must be applied to it before it begins to develop heat itself. Then it burns by combining its fuel with oxygen, until some factor fails. So is man, cut off from the life of God.

But it will be different in the vivification. In the future we will be more like a permanent electric bulb, which does not (or cannot) be used up, oxygen is excluded, but to which a continuous stream of energy is conveyed from without. So will we be when we are connected with the life of God.

In the case of the lamp it is difficult for us to think of the power apart from its effects. It has been stored in the fuel used. But we know that oil and oxygen (food and breath) would never unite unless first a certain amount of power is imparted. This corresponds with the impartation of the spirit to Adam.

But the wick eventually becomes burned up, which might illustrate the operation of death. The point is that now God gives the spirit to each descendant of Adam, but only in measure. There is no continuous supply. We live on for a brief period independent of God's immediate power.

A rather striking experiment I once saw in the laboratory of my dear departed friend, Vladimir Gelesnoff, may help our minds still further. Electrical energy is usually produced in a rather roundabout way, through the fall of water or the combustion of coal. The energy of the sun is stored up on the earth and recovered by means of machinery. Dynamos are needed to produce it. But this is not necessary. Heat can be derived directly from the sun. In the experiment to which I refer a small electric lamp was lit by catching the sun's energy in a substance which looked like yellow powder. Put this powder in the sunlight and it would absorb enough energy to light the electric bulb. Theoretically, such an arrangement would give continuous light, at least so long as the sun or some other source would supply the energy.

As energy produces light when applied to substances, so spirit produces life. Perhaps this will help us to broaden our ideas as to spirit, and not limit it to particular manifestations. The energy applied to the lamp, as well as that produced by the combustion of the oil by combining that stored up in its substance with that in the air, and the energy in the electric current is all essentially the same, though quite different in its mode of manifestation. What we may say about the lamp and its energy may be quite true and helpful, yet it must not be made universal, or applied to all energy at all times. So it is with the spirit and the human body. At present it is not a spiritual body, but a soulish one. In a spiritual body the spirit will have a different mode of manifestation, hence the body itself must be modified.

Let us preserve the same distance between our parallels. Energy is not spirit. One produces motion, or light, the other life. Energy cannot be personal, spirit can. If the spirit in man is simply the latent energy stored up in him or produced by his body, then he is a robot, a mechanical marvel, a combination of substance and power, but lacking life. As life is unspeakably more than motion, so is spirit more than energy. Everywhere there is latent energy, which, when released, will produce motion, heat, light. The sun sheds it upon us in abundance. But spirit makes itself evident in a higher manifestation, and operates only in organized matter. Its realm is clearly defined in chemistry where organic and inorganic each has a field of its own.


Moreover, there is vast variety in the organisms which are vitalized by spirit. Plants live and breathe and have a limited motion not only downwards but also upwards against the force of gravity. They sometimes exert a tremendous amount of energy. The giant trees of California, the oldest and largest form of life on earth, pump up vast quantities of moisture from the ground to a height of two or three hundred feet. But plants have no sensation, no soul. The hair in man is somewhat like this. It may be cut off or otherwise mutilated without appreciable pain. It seems to have no blood hence no sensation. In the hair, plant life seems to find its place in the human frame.


In animals the spirit uses a higher organism, much more separate from the ground and independent of the earth. There is no need of constant contact with the soil. Substance, usually organized plant life, is absorbed from within, to sustain the flow of power. Breathing is also an inward process, in contrast to the leaves of the plant. Movement is extended to locomotion. So we see that the spirit operates in quite a different way, through different organs, but it is spirit nevertheless. Mankind has very much in common with animals. Both have locomotion and sensation, with such functions as feeling, smelling, hearing, and seeing. The point is that the instrument through which the spirit functions, rather than the spirit itself, determines the effect in each of the many forms of life.

Mankind occupies an intermediate place between animals and spirits. But the tendency of God's dealings with him is toward the spiritual realm. The change wrought at his vivification does not make him a spirit, but it brings him into a condition where he can associate with spirit beings and is able to judge them (1 Cor.6:3). In this way some section of humanity has contact with every part of creation, and is able to fulfill the functions which fall to it in Christ. We must not fail, therefore, to consider the human spirit in the future as well as in the present if we wish to understand its essence. In its present manifestations, and in our experience, it is almost impossible to consider it apart from the soul, through which alone we become conscious of it. Outside the Scriptures the words pertaining to soul and spirit are so confused that clear thinking is practically impossible. The soul is often spoken of when the spirit is intended, as well as the reverse.

[Part Six]

[Return to main indexpage]