Essay / Theology

Q&A Dr. Torrey: Soul and Spirit, The Mark of Cain, This Generation

Q&A Dr. Torrey:

Please explain the difference between soul and spirit.

The Bible clearly teaches that man possesses not a two-fold nature as it is ordinarily put but a three-fold nature, not merely soul and body but Spirit, Soul and Body (1 Thess. 5:23), though in some instances what is true of the spirit seems to be spoken of the soul.

The soul is the result of the union of the spirit and the body. We are taught in Genesis 2:7 that God formed man of the dust of the ground, thus his body was produced, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, that is the spirit, and man thus became a living soul.

There are those that maintain that only regenerate men have a spirit, but this position will not stand careful investigation. At the death of the believer the body crumbles into dust, the spirit, the real and essential man departs to be with Christ in conscious blessedness, “absent from the body, at home with the Lord” (Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:1-8). What becomes of the soul during the period in which the spirit is absent from the body and before their reunion when the body of the believer is raised at the resurrection, we do not seem to be told.

It is difficult to distinguish in every instance between the soul and spirit. They are well nigh indivisible and inseparable, This is brought our very strongly in Hebrews 5:12, R.V. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joint and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

What was the mark that God set upon Cain?

We are not definitely told further than that it was a mark for Cain’s protection; the passage reads,

And Cain said unto Jehovah, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou has driven me out this day from the face of the ground; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth; it shall come to pass that whosoever findeth me shall slay me. And Jehovah said unto him, “Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him seven-fold,” and Jehovah appointed a sign for Cain lest any finding him should smite him.

The mark was not a penalty but a protection. In it the grace of God and not the judgment of God was manifested. Of course, in ordinary, every-day speech the mark of Cain is spoken of as if it were a sign of scorn and judgment. This entirely perverts the Scripture teaching.

What is meant by “this generation” in Mark 13:30?

The generation living when these signs mentioned in the context begin. Our Lord is comparing the final culmination of things to the fig tree which when it becomes tender puts forth leaves showing that summer is near at hand. So when the things mentioned in the context begin to come to pass the consummation will be close at hand and the generation then living shall not come to an end until all these things be accomplished.

There is another interpretation that “generation” means race (as the Greek word often does) and that what Jesus taught was that the Jewish race should not pass away until all these things be accomplished. The Jewish race has been wonderfully preserved and there may be this added meaning in the passage, but the interpretation given above is the one that gives the most natural force to the words used and is in strictest accord with the context. It is the view held by Frederick Grant and other eminent commentators who have specialized on the subject of our Lord’s return.

Originally from The King’s Business Questions and Answers by R.A. Torrey, June 1914, pp. 353

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