What is the Doctrine of Soul Sleep? Is it in the Bible?

Soul Sleep Controversy in Bible?

Definition: The doctrine of soul sleep is the belief that after a person dies, their soul goes to sleep during the intermediate state until the final resurrection and judgment of God before they enter their eternal destiny of either heaven or hell.  This is a belief that we have an unconscious existence between our present lives and our eternal lives.

Although there are some portions of the Scriptures that are used to make an argument that soul sleep is biblical (like Job 14:10, 14; Psalm 6:5; Daniel 12:2; Ecclesiastes 9:5; Ecclesiastes 12:7; John 5:28-29; 2 Peter 3:4), nothing cannot be explained simply by saying that the dead appear to be asleep to those who are alive.  There are several Old and New Testament passages that are very clear about the consciousness of an afterlife.

Jesus speaks to the thief on the cross next to him in Luke 23:43 saying, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” If soul sleeping is what we will enter into, then why does Jesus say today you will be with me in Paradise?  He could not have meant taking a nap until the Second Coming of Christ.

Other Scriptures are clear that being absent with the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).  A temporary heaven called paradise exists (Luke 23:43, 2 Corinthians 12:3-4) along with a temporary hell called Hades (Revelation 1:18; 20:13-14; Luke 16:23).  More insight comes from Luke 16:19-21 where a poor man named Lazarus and a r3525109561_bca05f2396_zich man both die, going straight to conscious places, one of torment and the other of relief.  Other supporting verses include 1 Peter 3:18-19, John 11:25-26, and Genesis 35:18.

The reformers did not all agree on what the Bible says about soul sleep.  Martin Luther believed the New Testament supports soul sleep, while John Calvin disagreed, claiming it false and unbiblical. “Soul Sleep” is closely related to Christian mortalism, which says that humans are not inherently immortal, an idea that is not found in the Scriptures.

Why does it matter?

This is important because if the controversial doctrine of Soul Sleep is true, then the sayings of Paul in Philippians 1:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 and of Jesus in Luke 23:43 and Luke 16:19-21 do not make any sense or are plain wrong.  It makes more sense to believe that we will be in paradise with our Lord awaiting the final judgment.

The good news is that as soon as we exit this world, believers in Jesus Christ will be enjoying the paradise of God in the presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  This is also good news if you have a loved one who died.  You can know with confidence that they are enjoying the presence of Christ and the fullness of joy that is there (Psalm 16:11)!

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What does the Bible Say about Life after death?  Here are some Bible Answer Videos:
What Might a Body and Soul Say to Each Other in Eternity?
How Can a Believer Face Death with Confidence?
Preparing a Believer for Death
Preparing an Unbeliever for Death
Unlocking the Bible’s Bible Study Resources
Ten Keys to Unlock the Christian Life
Author: Kevin Halloran – Kevin blogs for Unlocking the Bible, loves reading, baseball, and coffee, and can be found on Twitter @Kp_Halloran or at KevinHalloran.net.

Date Posted: April 17th, 2012

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