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Contending for the Faith
The Heresy of Soul Sleep
Tuesday, December 2, 2014 at 9:00am

Soul sleep is a minority belief that the soul sleeps unconsciously between the death of the body and its resurrection on Judgment Day. Present-day defenders of soul sleep include the cults of Armstrongism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Seventh Day Adventist church, and others.

Let's take a look at the biblical record ...

The concept of “soul sleep” is not a biblical Christian doctrine.

When the Bible says a person is “sleeping” in relation to death (1 Corinthians 15:6; Luke 8:52), it does not mean literal sleep. Sleeping is just a way to describe death because a dead body appears to be sleeping. In a sense, a person’s body is “sleeping” while his spirit is in the temporary Paradise or Hades.

This body is then “awakened” and transformed into the eternal body a person will possess for eternity, whether in heaven or hell. Those who were in Paradise will be sent to the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21:1). Those who were in Hades will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). These are the final, eternal destinations of all people—based entirely on whether or not they have trusted Jesus Christ alone for salvation from their sins.

The Bible tells us that the instant we die, we are taken to heaven or hell based on whether we have placed our faith in Christ for salvation. For believers, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23).

Very likely, the most well-known, nameless person in the Bible is “the thief on the cross.” The Lord demonstrated His mercy one last time before He died by pardoning the repenting thief who begged Jesus, saying, “Lord, remember me when You come in Your kingdom” Jesus said to the repenting thief beside Him, “... Today you shall be with Me in Paradise”  READ (Luke 23:39-42).

For unbelievers, death means everlasting punishment in hell (Luke 16:22-23). The moment we die, we face the judgment of God (Hebrews 9:27). Until Jesus' resurrection early Sunday morning, on the third day after His Friday Crucifixion, there was a temporary heaven, “Paradise” (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4), and “Hades” (Revelation 1:18; 20:13-14).

Jesus clearly taught this in His story about the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). When they died, their spirits went to Hades. The rich man's spirit went to a compartment in Hades called "Torments." The spirit of Lazarus went to a compartment named "Abraham's bosom." On the Cross, Jesus referred to Abraham's bosom as "Paradise" (Luke 23:43). The two compartments were separated by a "great chasm" which could not be crossed.

Lazarus was dead in John 11:11-14, but Jesus referred to this as a "sleep" which Lazarus must be awaken from. Then Jesus later raised his BODY.

John 11:11-14 NASB "This He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep." The disciples then said to Him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover." Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. So Jesus then said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, "

In Jesus' story both men are pictured as fully conscious. They even carry on a conversation with each other. Their souls are not asleep. Even in the Old Testament the saints were not in an unconscious state while in the "paradise" section of the underworld. In Luke 16:22-31 Abraham was fully alert.

Further evidence of consciousness after death can be found in Revelation 7. John has been taken up to Heaven and is being given a tour of the throne room of God. He sees "a great multitude... from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues," standing before the throne of God "clothed in white robes" and waving palm branches in worship (Revelation 7:9). They are fully conscious as they cry out saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb" (Revelation 7:10).

Here are three scenes in Scripture of people after death who are fully conscious.

  1. John wants to know the identity of these people. He is told that they are martyrs for Christ coming out of the "great tribulation" (Revelation 7:14).

  2. The Apostle Paul affirmed consciousness after death. In 2 Corinthians 5:8 he wrote that he would prefer to be "absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord." He repeated this sentiment in his Philippian letter where he wrote, "to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). He elaborated on the meaning of this statement by adding that his desire was "to depart and be with Christ" (Philippians 1:23). Paul had no concept of lying comatose in a grave for eons of time. Upon death, he expected to be with the Lord immediately.

  3. Then in Revelation 6:10 the souls of some martyrs cry out and ask God, "...How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?"

They were dead, but they weren't asleep. Soul sleep is heresy.

  Belief beyond proof is faith. Belief in spite of proof is folly.  

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"Saint Pete", Sr.

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