What is plain to men of every religion is that we are a body plus something else. This is called "dualism" and the "something else" is alternately termed soul or spirit. In dualism spirit and soul are synonyms. This requires no revelation nor heavenly insight to perceive.
Heb 4:12 (NAS) For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.So for us these are distinct and separate. And as we grow in grace this becomes all the more clear in experience.
Mat 12:18 (NIV) "Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations."The best and most clear explanation I could give you is that you do not have a soul, you are a soul. You may or may not have a live body, and you may or may not have a live spirit (more on this in a moment). But in either case you are a soul.
Rom 8:11,13 (NAS) But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you... for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Your soul is your eternal self that will spend eternity in heaven or hell. It is you. It is not necessarily good; it needs to be transformed and healed.
So what does it mean for our spirits to be "alive" or "dead"?
Before we are "born again", our spirits are dead in the sense that we cannot perform the function for which we were designed. An analogy would be a car without gas in it. It would still be a car (spiritless humans are still human) but it would be dead for the use an owner bought it for. In the same way, we are dead to be able to do anything useful to God without His Spirit quickening us to life.
1 Cor 15:45 (NAS) So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living soul." The last Adam [Christ] became a life-giving spirit.Through Christ we are "brought near" to God, and specifically because of the perfection of Christ and His favor towards us we are able to have His Holy Spirit dwell within us. This very small portion of the Holy Spirit in each of us is what I take to mean our "spirits". If our spirits are made alive, it is by participation in God via the Holy Spirit given us through Christ. And the Spirit in us will prosper our souls and outlive the temporary bodies in which we dwell.
Joel 2:28 (NIV) "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people."Some have different views, but my understanding is that our "spirits", if "alive" are our portion of the eternal Spirit of God which dwells within us.
Acts 2:17 (NIV) In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
Gal 5:25 (NAS) If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.To have God's Spirit in us, whatever our views of the nature of the human spirit, is a great privilege indeed. Jesus makes this possible. For the Holy Spirit would never dwell in carnal, sinful me unless Jesus had died in my place and made me acceptable to be brought into God's presence; or rather in this instance, for God's presence to be brought into me. Now my soul is saved forever, even though the body is doomed to die. And our souls have been promised new bodies.
1 Cor 6:13 (NAS) Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.
1 Cor 15:42-49 (NIV) So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.
Rom 8:10 (Wey) But if Christ is in you, though your body must die because of sin, yet your spirit has Life because of righteousness.
Rom 3:21-22 (NIV) But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
Phil 3:9-11 (NIV) ...and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.