Seventh day Adventism [along with Jehovah Witnesses or Herbert W. Armstrong teaching] does not believe anything of a person survives death except in the memory of God. They believe the essence of a person is “soul”, the thing they say comes into existence when a person breathes. When they cease to breathe, that “life force” goes away, and the soul dies. Life ceases, and the body decays. God remembers the person, but nothing immaterial or material remains.
First Samuel, however, challenges the Adventist out-of-context defense of the non-biblical doctrine of “soul sleep”. In fact, 1 Samuel:15:34-35 compared with 1 Samual 28 shockingly contradicts the Adventist worldview.
In 1 Samual 15:34-35 we are told Samuel would not see Saul again until the day of his death. These words proved to be prophetic: “Then Samuel went to Ramah, and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel” (1 Sam:15:34–35).
The grammar above is important. In the second sentence we read, “Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death.” Grammar dictates that a pronoun (his) must refer to the last noun named—Saul. This is a consistent rule of grammar; the word “his” cannot refer to the name Samuel, because the name Saul is the noun that immediately precedes the pronoun. In technical terms, “Saul” is the antecedent of “his”. In other words, we could accurately read this sentence, “And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of Saul’s death.”
As we read 1 Samuel 28, we learn that on the night of the very day Saul died (Jewish days began at sundown and lasted until the next sundown), he went to the medium of Endor and asked her to “bring up” Samuel who had already died. The context suggests that Saul believed that if the medium of Endor really did call up Samuel, it would actually be the prophet speaking from the grave.
The chapter tells the story of Samuel appearing, to the witch’s shock and fear, and delivering the prophecy to Saul that he would die “tomorrow”. Samuel said, “Moreover, the LORD will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The LORD will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines” (1 Sam:28:19).
Saul did die during the battle with the Philistines before the next sundown, fulfilling 1 Samuel:15:34-35. Samuel, who had already died, nevertheless saw Saul on the day of Saul’s death. In fact, he not only saw him, but he prophesied to him and let him know that he would die in a battle with the Philistines that Israel would lose.
Adventists [or other teachers of “soul sleep”] say that Saul saw an evil spirit impersonating Samuel. This interpretation, though, denies the words of Scripture. Furthermore, only God could have known the day of Saul’s coming death. An evil spirit would not have given an accurate prophecy; it had to be God’s prophet Samuel speaking from the grave the infallible words of God.
Furthermore, when one studies the whole of 1 Samuel 28, the passage never suggests that Samuel had any personal, direct knowledge of what was currently troubling Saul. Samuel simply told Saul the message God gave him to say.