Soul sleep is the teaching that when a person dies, his soul “sleeps” until the time of the future resurrection. In this condition, the person is not aware or conscious. The Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Seventh-day Adventists hold to this doctrine. But the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach annihilation. This means that after death a person ceases to exist. At the future resurrection they maintain that the soul is made again. Basically, it is a re-creation of the individual. The Seventh-day Adventists teach at the soul is simply inert and resides in the memory of God (YHWH).
The primary verses used to support soul sleep are found in Ecclesiastes:
- For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
(Ecclesiastes 9:5 KJV)
- Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
(Ecclesiastes 12:7 KJV)
- Charistian Apologetics and Research Ministry: What is soul sleep?
- The Christian Courier: Dis Solomon Teach the Doctrine of Soul-Sleeping?
In the New Testament (B’rit Chadashah), in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul the Apostle wrote, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8 KJV). Paul is clearly telling us that when he dies, he will go and be with the Lord.
At the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ (Yeshua HaMashiach), we can plainly see that Moses and Elijah were there with Jesus Christ. They were alive and clearly not in soul sleep (Matthew 17:1-8).
- And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
(Matthew 17:1-8 ESV)
The moment we die, we face the judgment of God (Hebrews 9:25-27). For believers, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23). For unbelievers, death means everlasting punishment in hell (Luke 16:22-23),
- Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
(Hebrews 9:25-28 ESV)
- So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
(2 Corinthians 5:6-8 ESV)
- I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.
(Philippians 1:23-24 ESV)
- But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house– for I have five brothers–so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
(Luke 16:25-31 ESV)
Until the final resurrection, though, there is a temporary heaven (paradise) and a temporary hell (Hades).. As can be clearly seen in Luke 16:19-31, neither in paradise nor in Hades are people sleeping. It could be said, though, that a person’s body is “sleeping” while his soul is in paradise or Hades. At the resurrection, this body is “awakened” and transformed into the everlasting 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 a person trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation.
- “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house– for I have five brothers–so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
(Luke 16:19-31 ESV)
- Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
(Revelation 21:1 ESV)
- Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
(Revelation 20:11-15 ESV)
Finally, we get to the crucifixion on the Cross at Calvary.Whereas one thief mocked Jesus Christ, the other repented of his sins. The repentantthief was told that he would be with Jesus Christ that day in Paradise, not after some as yet to be determined time.
- One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise
(Luke 23:39-43 ESV)
- The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
(Matthew 27:52-54 ESV)
Obviously, Jesus Christ resurrected the righteous dead when He Himself was resurrected. The Bosom of Abraham is now empty, it is the abode of the dead who wait for their judgement in front of the Judgement Seat of God.
- GotQuestions:What is the judgement seat of Christ / Bema Seat of Christ?
- John Piper: What happens when you die? All appear before the Judgement Seat of God?
Therefore, the doctrine of soul sleep is incorrect. The soul continues on after death. The wicked face the Judgment Sear of God, and the Christians will dwell in His (Jesus Christs’) presence.