Soul vs. Spirit: Do the Wicked Cease to Exist?

Author: Michele at ScriptureStudy.Guide
Posted: September 22, 2022
. Updated January 1, 2023.

Does the soul ever cease to exist? Does a human spirit ever cease to exist in the spiritual realm? Is there even a difference between the soul and the spirit?

This study will cover:

  • Soul versus Spirit and their duration
  • Kill versus Destroy (Matthew 10:28)
  • Being created “in God’s image”

We will be studying Matthew 10:28 which reads:

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.


Summary First

For simplicity, we’ll begin with a summary of the findings, then give the word study proofs afterwards.

The meaning of Matthew 10:28 in the Greek is as follows (I’m paraphrasing here): And fear not those who kill the body but are not able to kill the “invisible driver” (psyche, instinct, ego, mind – the place of your inner voice, conscience, thoughts); but rather fear him with the ability/power to destroy both psyche/instinct/mind AND body in the valley of Gehenna (a literal valley where they sacrificed infants and burned dead corpses in a fire).

This verse is saying that men can only kill that which is temporary and short-lived; they cannot kill what makes you, you (i.e. that which is unseen and affects your eternity). We are to fear God who has the power to destroy the unseen by fire and who is the One who determines our eternity. Notice that man kills flesh; God destroys flesh and soul.

The Soul
The Greek word for “soul” is psyche (G5590) and is given to mankind along with the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). It is what powers “the how and why” of human life on this earth. It is the natural instinct and the mind. It is the drive of self.

The soul is why serial killers murder, why Jesus didn’t defend himself from wrongful persecution, why mothers nurture, why some abuse…. the soul is HOW the Why happens…. it is the driver behind the action of the earthly body.

The soul is inherently focused on self and is being refined by God in His children while they are on this earth — this is to shape our eternal righteous spirit. The soul causes the spirit to build up treasures in heaven. God’s children go through the Refiner’s fire in this earthly realm, and is what saves their spirit from needing refinement in the spiritual realm (see Hell is Not Eternal – God Works in Ages).

The soul is what makes a human vessel to be created either to honor or dishonor. God’s created “vessels of wrath fitted for destruction” are given wicked souls which damages their spirit (Romans 9:21-22). The refinement of their spirit will be done in the lake of fire after Judgment Day (see God Created Evil).

When a human or a creature dies a physical death, the soul dies when their last breath leaves them, never to return. Traits of their human soul (not the soul itself) will be present in their spirit in the spiritual realm. The soul is only used to power and shape things within these earthly elements where all is made from dust. It is like the exercise equipment, or health regime, for the spirit — garbage in, garbage out; goodness practiced, goodness results.

The Spirit
The Greek word for “spirit” is pneuma (G4151). In the bible, the word is used for a human’s spirit, God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit/Comforter, a man’s unclean spirit, a man’s foul spirit. So the word spirit applies to what God is, what the Holy Spirit is, and what humans have, both good and bad.

Our spirit, where the Holy Spirit dwells in our spiritually renewed hearts, is for the spiritual realm.

All humans have a soul and a spirit. The soul shapes our spirit. When the physical vessel dies, the soul dies with it but its lessons remain with the eternal spirit.

Created in God’s Image
Adam was created to fall from before the foundation of the world to show God’s power and glory. The Hebrew word adam is defined as “mankind,” both male and female. Fallen mankind was created in Elohim’s image. The adam consists of the righteous AND the wicked, so being created in God’s image does not mean that humans are righteous.

It also does not imply that we are to look like Him while on this earth. Being created in the image/likeness of God does not mean God has arms and legs. God is described as having eyes of flaming fire, having “wheels,” and Jesus has feet of brass. These earthly-realm descriptions are metaphorical for their spirit powers which is being all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-seeing.

God is a Spirit (John 4:24) — an eternal Spirit who creates, plans and reasons. Mankind was created with an eternal spirit, and given dominion over the animals and over the earth, just like God has dominion over His creation and over His spiritual realm.

God gives ALL mankind a soul AND a spirit (Isaiah 42:5).

“Destroy” vs. “Kill”
Destroy is απολεσαι – G622. Kill is αποκτεινοντων – G615. They are two different Greek words.

Note that Matthew 10:28 in the original Greek says that men “kill” which is murder, but it says that God “destroys.”

To “destroy” is to alter something to a different state; to bring to ruin. It does not mean “kill” or “cease to exist” in the bible.

God is without sin. One of His ten commandments is to not kill. When God destroys a person or a people, He ended the temporary flesh on earth, but did not kill His own image/likeness within adam-man which is our spirit. God is Spirit (John 4:24).

Now for the study….

Soul versus Spirit

1 Corinthians 15:43-49 explains the difference between soul and spirit very clearly:

44 It is sown a natural [of breath] body; it is raised a spiritual [of spirit] body. [There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.]

45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul [natural, of breath body]; the last Adam [is not a “man”] was made a quickening [changed in the twinkling of an eye] spirit. Note: This verse tells us that the soul DIES with the breath, and that the second adam has no flesh, renewed or otherwise.

46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. [After we die, we will be SPIRIT, not renewed flesh that looks like Mr. or Miss Universe which is pagan love-of-self and love-the-world thinking.]

47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. [We will be THE LORD/Spirit in the heavenly realm. Colossians 1:20 says God will be all-in-all.]

48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. [This verse says that flesh is for the elemental earth where all is made from dirt, and the heavenly spirit is for the heavenly realm.]

49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

We will not have a “renewed flesh body” with arms and legs in the afterlife. We will be spirit which is unseen in this physical realm. God is Spirit so Jesus is Spirit and His bride will be spirit (John 4:24). It will also be spirits that will dwell in the lake of fire for a time (details here).

Matthew 10:28

The following is the KJV Bible with Strong’s Concordance numbers (the KJV+ bible in eSword):

Mat 10:28 — AndG2532 fearG5399 notG3361 (G575) them which killG615 theG3588 body,G4983 butG1161 are notG3361 ableG1410 to killG615 theG3588 soul:G5590 butG1161 ratherG3123 fearG5399 him which is ableG1410 to destroyG622 bothG2532 soulG5590 andG2532 bodyG4983 inG1722 hell.G1067 

The following is the Greek Interlinear New Testament Bible with Strong’s Concordance numbers with parsing/parts of speech (Greek INT NT+ bible in eSword):

The shaded boxes are words that are not in the Textus Receptus Interlinear Bible, or they are variations of a word. If they do not change the meaning of a verse, then I disregard them.

What Stands Out

The word “hell” is not a biblical term. The proper word here is “Valley of the son of Hinnom, Gehenna” or “Ge-Hinnom” or “Valley of Gehenna” or just “Gehenna” for short. It was a literal physical place outside of Jerusalem where apostate Israel would sacrifice their firstborn children to Molech, and people would toss in dead carcasses to be burned. It was a valley of fire that dead things and innocent infants were thrown into. It was not a place of punishment; rather it was where earthly elements were thrown in to be destroyed.

The New Testament lake of fire is defined as “a fiery pond.” So the proper word for “hell” is “fire.” God destroys and refines with fire.

What’s Important

We can see that the arrangement of this verse and the choice of English words does not change the meaning. What is important for this study is defining these words:

  • Soul
  • Spirit
  • Destroy
  • Kill

These are defined in the summary above — below is where those definitions are found in scripture.


There are 13 unique Greek forms of the word soul that fall under G5590. We will be looking at the 1 form/word used in Matthew 10:28 which is ψυχὴν.

There are 32 verses in the bible that use the same Greek word/form for soul that is used in Matthew 10:28 (ψυχὴν). You can see them all on one page in the Blue Letter Bible here.

We see this Greek word is primarily translated as life (21 times), lives (2 times), soul (10 times), and one time as doubt. This word is primarily translated as life.

Reading these verses and considering their context gives us a picture of what “soul” is and how it differs from “spirit.”

Keep in mind that this word, G5590, is psyche in the Greek which is where we get our word “psyche” and “psychology” from.

Let’s look at 1 John 3:16 where soul (G5590) is translated as life and lives:

Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life G5590 for us: and we ought to lay down our lives G5590 for the brethren.

1 John 3:16

Can you see how this is laying down all pride and self? Jesus laid down His soul for us; we lay down our soul for the brethren. This points to the soul as being the “human driver.”

People read this verse and assume it’s only talking about Jesus’ body being killed, but then it says we ought to do the same for the brethren. You can’t apply both a spiritual and a physical context to something that is describing a like context. It is saying that Jesus denied Himself, allowed Himself to be wrongly persecuted, humiliated, falsely accused, ashamed, tortured and then killed for our sake without His human nature fighting back to save Himself. Jesus denied self for the sake of others.

Likewise, we should seek to save others before thinking of ourselves. We are to care for the psyche/soul of our brethren by supporting them emotionally and tangibly. When they need a sitter, we offer to help. When they transgress against us, we forgive. If they say something that comes across wrong, we don’t retaliate. If they normally do things out of love and support, then we allow them to make their occasional mistakes at our expense (because we ALL make mistakes and speak out of turn). Caring for their “invisible driver” and realizing that it errs is a part of how we take up our cross daily — we deny self for God’s kingdom just like Jesus denied self.

Here is Luke 14:26 where soul (G5590) is translated as life:

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life G5590 also, he cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:26

We can see how the soul is life — it is the unseen that makes up our human condition.

Are we being told in this verse to hate people and ourselves? God’s hate is not how we understand hate. Hate here is “to turn away from, abandon or leave”… it’s not cruel, ugly or ruthless. We are to turn away from the vain worldly needs that unbelievers impose on us, and abandon the vanity and selfishness of our own inner drive, in order to serve Jesus Christ in our spirit. We are commanded to love everyone, but Jesus Christ comes first… and part of serving Him is caring for His bride.


Spirit is used 387 times in the KJV New Testament.

G4151 is pneuma — there are 11 unique Greek words/forms lumped under this one Strong’s number. It refers to God’s spirit, our human spirit, the Holy Spirit, a man’s unclean spirit, a man’s foul spirit. This Strong’s number refers to all spirits, God and man, good and evil. [You can see all 11 words under G4151 here.]

G5326 is phantasma — it is only used twice and is referring to a phantom, when they thought they saw a dead person’s apparition (Matthew 14:26, Mark 6:49). Our word phantom comes from this word.

This next verse is probably the very most important statement in scripture that applies to this study:

And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; G5590 the last Adam (was made) a quickening spirit.

1 Corinthians 15:45

This CLEARLY explains that the soul is for our first man — the created earthly vessel. It will not continue on into the last form of man that does not include flesh or bone (Jesus’ bones not being broken symbolized that this earthly realm did not break His earthly body — His life was given by choice; not because He was overtaken by men).

The phrase was made was added by translators and is not in the original Greek. The last form of man is “into a quickening/to vitalize spirit.” The word quickening is ACTIVE tense — this means the spirit does not come later, but is with us now and will be given its own life (to vitalize) apart from the body when the physical vessel is gone.

Our last man is the eternal man — that is, an eternal spirit after we die. It is this spirit-body that will stand before God at the Great White Throne Judgment for the wicked, or the Judgment Seat of Christ for the redeemed. The unbelieving will have a spirit marred by sin, and Jesus’ bride will have an infallible/perfect spirit-body without blemish.

The infallible body we receive after death or after earth’s last day will not contain earthly elemental flesh and bone. Jesus’ earthly bones were not broken on the cross as a symbol that earth did not break him…. He has no use for these bones of dust in the spiritual realm. God says He is a spirit and we are to worship Him in spirit; so in the eternal realm, we will also be a spirit:

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

John 4:24 (ESV)

At Jesus’ final coming, dead bodies will NOT be coming up out of the ground (the dead rise/stand up first because upon physical death, they go straight into the presence of the Lord). Flesh was needed for an eye witness under the Old Covenant to establish the New Covenant, but all has been made spiritual since 70 AD (details here and here). Our bodies are dust that are not wanted or needed in the spiritual heavenly realm.


“Destroy” in Matthew 10:28 is G622.

Remember that “destroy” is defined as changing something to an unrecognizable state (to lose, mar, perish). When referring to an action of God, it never means to make something disappear.

The phrase “to destroy” occurs 80 times in 78 verses in the KJV Bible. You can see all of the verses on one page here.

You will notice in those 78 verses that, in every instance it is used, God is destroying earthly elements made of dust. People, temples, lands, strong holds, frogs, city, Jerusalem, nation, kingdom, etc. With an earthly death, this would affect the soul but not the spirit.

God did not plan to “kill” ANY man because we are His image… He created every adam-flesh to have an eternal spirit that never dies (see Hell is not Eternal). And God’s 6th commandment is “thou shalt not kill” which speaks volumes.

Old Testament Definitions
Looking in the Old Testament helps when defining New Testament Greek words.

In Esther, we are given an example where “to destroy” and “to kill” are clearly separated:

And the letters were sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day,…

Esther 3:13a

“Destroy” (H8045) here is defined as “to desolate, to overthrow, bring to nothing.” This is to bring someone or something down to nothing; not to end a spiritual existence.

“Kill” (H2026) is defined as “to smite with deadly intent, murder, slay.” This is an act to viciously end life forever. Jehovah sought “to kill” Moses in Exodus 4:24, but this seems figurative — the Lord was wanting Moses to comply with His law.

“Perish” (H6 + H853) is defined as “wander away from purpose of self; lose oneself; fail.” This is their purpose of earthly living — their livelihoods — being done away with… everything they took pride in was destroyed and family members killed.


“Kill” in Matthew 10:28 is G615 which is defined as “to kill outright, put to death, slay.” And in the Old Testament, it also means “murder.”

“To kill” occurs 32 times in 32 verses in the KJV. You can see all of the verses on one page here.

In all of scripture, there is only one instance in Exodus 4:24 where Jehovah sought “to kill” Moses if Moses did not comply… in context, this seems figurative for a severe twisting of the arm (so to speak).

In Matthew 10:28, we see that we are not to fear those who kill the flesh — this is referring to mankind. We are to fear the one who can send spirits to the lake of fire and that is God.

We are Created in God’s Image

Would God cause His own image to cease to exist?

All adam-flesh were created in God’s image. We know that after Noah’s flood, only 8 were saved which left only “normal” adam-man remaining to this very day (before the flood, some were given God-powers, but they were still adam, just the elect-adam until they made the mistake of having children with wicked women — see this study for details).

We covered above how God’s image is spiritual and made up of certain attributes that have been given to man: knowing good and evil from the fall in the garden, given dominion over earthly creation, being able to reason, plan and create on earth.

In Closing

This is a message of forgiveness. Every man — including the wicked — has an eternal spirit which is God’s image, and we will see them all again at some point in the spiritual realm. Are you prepared to accept all of God’s ways which are beyond our understanding?

I pray this study prepares us to see the necessity of “loving our enemies” through forgiveness, just as Jesus commanded us to do. We don’t have to befriend them, and we are to avoid being in the presence of unrighteousness; we just have to forgive, treat them with kindness, and leave vengeance to God which ultimately benefits us and our spirit.

God created these vessels of wrath fit for destruction (see God Created Evil). And we only have salvation because God gave it to us (Ephesians 2:8-9). We cannot shun His handiwork by calling the majority of unbelieving human spirits — spirits created in God’s own image — disposable garbage. God is sovereign over ALL of His creation (see Hell is not Eternal). ALL of creation was created unto Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:9).

We also should be ever so thankful that our refinement will not be in the lake of fire, and that we are the called according to God’s perfect purpose and will.

God grants mercy on whom He will. He will pardon whom He will. We should always be counting our blessings and never looking around to see if we were “short-changed” in this life, or in the next spiritual life, by God (remember that Lucifer was jealous and felt short-changed!). We have already been given the greatest gift — we are the bride of Christ and New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-3).

Praise God for His mercy on us!

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