The Bible talks about humans having a spirit and a physical body and this separate spirit, is essentially who we really are.
And when the Bible speaks of body, soul, and spirit as Paul describes it in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, I believe this additional element, the soul, is what appears after our spirit merges with our physical body.
The soul is simply the expression of our spirit manifested in our physical body through such things as human consciousness, thinking, conscience and emotions and when our spirit leaves our body we are dead.
These two individual elements, body and spirit, are seen in Jesus’ story involving the death of a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).
While some consider it a parable, the fact that Jesus actually mentioned two people’s names (Lazarus and the Patriarch Abraham) leads many to believe the Lord was describing an actual event.
In this account, both Lazarus and the rich man die. Jesus explicitly said that the rich man’s body was buried, and by implication so was Lazarus’ body.
So at this point, we are now talking about the spirits of these two individuals. The poor man’s spirit ended up in heaven at Abraham’s side, and the rich man ended up in Hades.
22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. (Luke 16:22-23 ESV)
And it is clear from this story, which focuses primarily on the rich man, that he was fully aware of his situation.
He felt pain and was even able to communicate with Abraham’s spirit. The rich man was also aware of his family and asked that they be contacted and warned about the reality of Hades.
And we see a similar awareness showing up in a recent article on Faith Wire about The Case for Heaven, a new feature film based on Christian author Lee Strobel’s new book of the same name, The Case for Heaven: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for Life After Death.
In his book, Strobel investigated the instances of near-death experiences where people claimed they were aware of things after their bodies had died.
He admitted that there have been several instances of people fraudulently claiming to have a near-death experience, but added that there have been over 900 research articles published in medical and scientific journals about these near-death experiences.
Of course, many try to discount these stories.
However, Strobel shared one of his favorite accounts, involving a woman by the name of Maria who died while in hospital.
Maria said that she was totally aware of what was happening as her spirit floated above the table, and she watched the hospital staff trying to revive her.
But is there any evidence that this actually took place?
As hospital staff tried to revive her body, Maria said that her spirit continued to rise. She left the building and floated above the hospital.
Strobel explained what happened next:
“And when she was revived, and her spirit returned to her body, she said, ‘Oh, by the way, there’s a man’s tennis shoe on the roof of the hospital and its dark blue, it’s left-footed, there’s some wear over the little toe, and there’s shoelaces tucked under the heel.’”
Maria saw a tennis shoe on the hospital roof, and provided details on what it looked like.
This was easy to verify, and they found a left-footed, dark blue tennis shoe on the roof, just as Maria described it.