Does the Bible say anything about the pre-existence of souls?
The idea that souls existed before human conception originates from a philosophy and reason outside the teaching of the Bible. No mention of the pre-existence of souls can be found in the Bible.
What is found in the Bible is a clear, consistent theology that God creates each person, (Genesis 2:7; Zechariah 12:1; Jeremiah 1:5), including each soul. Psalm 139:13–16 says, "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My fame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." Each person was known by God before they were born, when they were in the womb (see also Isaiah 44:24). This does not mean their souls pre-existed, but rather demonstrates God's intricate involvement in the creation of each human life, His omniscience, and His sovereignty. As important, each person created will exist forever (Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25:46).
Those who posit that souls pre-existed before conception, must conclude one of three things.
First, that all souls always existed. If this is true, then all souls are eternal from before the universe was created by God—making each soul equal with God. The Bible clearly teaches that God, Yahweh, is the only God (Genesis 5:1; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 4:12; Malachi 2:10; 1 Corinthians 8:5–6).
The second option would be that a soul would have to be created at some point and wait until a body was available. The primary biblical argument against that is Genesis 2:7: "Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." The two words "man became" connote that the entire being (spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and biological) of this man came into existence.
The third possible conclusion for the pre-existence of souls calls for the transmigration of souls from person to person through history. God tells us, however, that each person will stand individually in judgment for his or her life (Revelation 20:13; Romans 2:6; Jeremiah 32:19). It would have been simple for God to communicate to us that it is each soul which will be held accountable, but He did not. God communicates that each person will be required to give an account. Hebrews 9:27 tells us that "it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement."
Christians believe that each soul will leave the body at death to join those others who have died (Deuteronomy 32:50; Numbers 20:24). Jesus illustrated this with His story about the rich man, whose soul existed in torment (Luke 16:23), and Lazarus, whose soul dwelled with Abraham (Luke 16:22). Both of them received just consequences for their lives (Luke 16:19–31). Also, 1 Corinthians 15:42–49 and Philippians 3:21 tell us that the souls of those who have put their faith in Jesus will reunite with our glorified bodies at the resurrection!
There is one person who did exist before He was born—Jesus (John 1:1; 17:5; Colossians 1:17). John the Baptist knew it and declared that Jesus existed before he was born (John 1:30). According to Luke 1:26, John was conceived six months before Jesus. Jesus Himself testified that He existed before Abraham (John 8:57–58), though Abraham existed on earth thousands of years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Jesus, as God, has always existed, even before time began (Ephesians 1:4; Revelation 13:8).
Each of us is occupied by a unique soul and someday we will meet God face to face to give an account of our life (Romans 14:10; Revelation 22:12). If we have put our faith in Jesus Christ and accepted the salvation He offers, we know we will dwell eternally with God in heaven (John 3:16–18).
Copyright 2011-2021 Got Questions Ministries - All Rights Reserved.