Soul Sleep is the belief when a Christian dies, the soul sleeps until the resurrection. The soul is in an unconscious state until the resurrection.
Some have said the soul sleeps with the body; others have said the soul goes to Heaven, but is unconscious. Or even that the soul is destroyed at death and later recreated by God.
There are verses that may seem to indicate Soul Sleep. For example:
5 For the living know that they will die;
But the dead know nothing,
And they have no more reward,
For the memory of them is forgotten.
6 Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished;
Nevermore will they have a share
In anything done under the sun.
Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes “under the sun.” In other words, without God in the picture and as though this life was all there was to life. In that sense, this passage is true. But Solomon concludes this book acknowledging God, and that life has no real meaning and satisfaction apart from God (Ecclesiastes 11:9; 12:1, 13-14).
Another way to put it is that a dead body doesn’t know anything because, when a person dies, the body sleeps in the grave, the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The New Testament uses the word “sleep” as a symbol of death. A doctrine should not be developed from a figure of speech. The body sleeps, but the spirit goes to be with the Lord.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. -1 Thessalonians 4:14
Notice those who are departed believers are with the Lord now, and at the Rapture / Return of Christ, God will bring with Him those whose bodies are asleep. At that time they will be reunited with their resurrected bodies (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Scripture gives strong evidence against Soul Sleep:
Absent From The Body, Present With The Lord
We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. -2 Corinthians 5:8
Notice there is no hint of an unconscious state, but we will immediately be present with the Lord.
Death Is Gain
21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. -Philippians 1:21, 23
Why would death be gain for the Apostle Paul if he has now been in an unconscious state for 2,000 years? How can death be far better, if it only means unconsciousness for centuries? Rather, when a Christian dies they are immediately and consciously in the presence of the Lord, and that is great gain.
Story of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.
23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. -Luke 16:22-23
I am among those who do not believe the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is a parable. It does not have characteristics of a parable, and does not say it is a parable. Unlike parables, it names one of the individuals. Scripture presents it as a real, literal story.
The Rich Man died, was buried, and was in torment in Hell. Lazarus was immediately in Abraham’s bosom, Paradise. In this story both the Rich Man and Lazarus are presented as being conscious immediately after death.
Mount of Transfiguration
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. -Matthew 17:3
And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. -Mark 9:4
30 And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah,
31 who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. -Luke 9:30-31
Moses (Deuteronomy 34:5) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) had long since departed this earth - yet here in New Testament times they were not sleeping or unconscious. They were alive and well, and speaking with Jesus about his coming sacrificial death.
Not God of the Dead, But of the Living
31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying,
32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” -Matthew 22:31-32
He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken.” -Mark 12:27
For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him. -Luke 20:38
The body may be dead, the soul, spirit is alive.
Definition of Death
According to the Bible, death is not ceasing to exist. It is not annihilation. According to the Bible, death is separation.
To be spiritually dead, simply means to be separated from God.
When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they immediately died, spiritually.
They did not cease to exist. They still walked, talked, breathed. They still could hear the voice of God.
But they were spiritually separated from God.
To be physically dead, does not mean you cease to exist. It does not mean you are annihilated. It does not mean you know nothing or are unconscious.
To be physically dead simply means you, your soul, spirit, are separated from your body. The spirit, the real you, is separated from the physical body.
-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, May 11, AD 2015.
Soul Sleep Is Unbiblical; Part 2 of 2
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