In Defense of the Faith |

Dave Hunt

What about “Soul Sleep”?

Question: Isn’t it true that when the body dies, the soul goes to sleep, only to awaken at the resurrection of the body? Isn’t this what is meant by the expressions “them which are asleep” and “which sleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians:4:13-15)?

Response: On the contrary, from what the Bible says, the fact that the souls that have been separated from their bodies by death are conscious is quite clear. We have, for example, the rich man who after his death carries on a conversation with Abraham, who is also dead (Luke:16:19-31). We also have the “souls of them that were slain for the word of God” crying with loud voices to God for revenge upon those who killed them (Revelation:6:9-11). Paul is “caught up to the third heaven,” where he “heard unspeakable words” (2 Corinthians:12:2,4), and he says he doesn’t know whether he was “in the body” or “out othe body” (2 Corinthians:12:2,3).

The word “asleep” or “sleepeth” is used in the Bible as a synonym for death (Matthew:9:24; John:11:11; 1 Corinthians:15:6) and refers to the body, not to the soul and spirit. In heaven the redeemed are in conscious bliss in God’s presence, awaiting the resurrection of their entombed bodies, which “sleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians:4:14). It is the conscious souls and spirits of “the dead in Christ” that God will “bring with him” when He comes to earth to resurrect their bodies (1 Thessalonians:4:14). Paul’s desire was to “depart [from this life] and to be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians:1:23), though he was willing, for the sake of those who needed his ministry, to continue “in the flesh,” serving them and Christ here on earth (v. 24).

Paul would not have wanted to leave this life of service to Christ and the church simply to fall into a soul sleep. Neither would he have called being with Christ “far better” had it meant to slip into an unconscious state of “soul sleep,” as some erroneously teach.