Is Soul Sleep Biblical? (What Happens When We Die?)

For those of you who don't know, there are different views on what happens to us after our bodies die and we are ready to go on to the afterlife. One of these views is a doctrine called Soul Sleep. This is a belief that states that when we die, we are only in unconscious sleep until the second advent of Christ where we will then wake up to be with the Lord forever.

At first I thought this view was only held by groups such as Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses. But then I realized that this view was more common than I thought, as I have been other Christians outside of those groups hold to it also. So let's examine this doctrine to see if it holds any biblical ground.

The main reason some hold to soul sleep is because of how the Bible describes death as sleep. One prooftext is John 11:11, which reads as follows: "These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth: but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep". Another proof soul sleep advocates will put forth is that the Bible says the dead know nothing. Psalm 115:17 says the following: "The dead do not praise the LORD, nor any who go down into silence". Another point they will make is that those who were resurrected didn't tell any tales of a conscious afterlife upon death. So it is assumed that they were unconscious. But consider 2 Corinthians 12:4, which says the following: "How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter". This means that those who went to paradise and came back were not allowed to speak of what they saw.

I think one of the strongest proofs against soul sleep is Luke 23:43, where Jesus says the following: "And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.". The way soul sleep advocates get around this is that they say the comma was put in the wrong place, since there were no commas in the original manuscripts, which would change the verse's meaning to that Jesus only told him the news today, not that this very day the thief would be in paradise with him.

That being said, there is still more proof to use against these advocates. Consider 2 Corinthians 5:8 which says the following: "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord". In my opinion, it couldn't be more clear. And how could Paul say that being absent from the body is better if we would only be asleep? So then what of the verses that talk about sleep? Well, one thing we can look to is the example of Stephen in Acts 7:59-60: "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.". From what we see here, it was his body that fell asleep or died. And he expected the Lord to receive his spirit.

It would appear that the literal application of sleep is only to the body. Another verse is Acts 13:36. "For David, after he had served his own generation after the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption". The emphasis here is on the body, and not the spirit. For how can the spirit see corruption if the spirit believed?

Another strong proof against soul sleep is in 1 Peter 3:19. "By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;". So, here's my question. If the spirits in prison are unconscious, why would Jesus preach to them? There would be no point in preaching to them if they could not see or hear.

One more good proof against soul sleep is in Revelation 6:10, which describe souls crying out in God's presence. "And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth". How could they be crying out if they were in unconscious sleep?

Finally, what I think might be the ultimate proof against soul sleep, is the historical tale of the rich man and Lazarus, described in Luke. In this story,  the rich man upon dying goes to hell to be in torment, and Lazarus is carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. It cannot be interpreted any other way and there's just no way around that.

So, in conclusion, I do not believe the Bible teaches soul sleep. I think this doctrine is the result of only a few prooftexts while ignoring the rest of what clear scripture has to say. So my conclusion is that upon dying, our spirits go to be with the Lord in a conscious state. Then our bodies and spirits will be rejoined together once more at Judgment Day to receive The New Heavens and the New Earth. It could not be more basic than that.

If you agree with me on this and think I missed anything, leave those in the comments below. Or if you disagree with me on this and are an advocate for soul sleep, give your case in the comments and I will give an answer. God bless, everyone!


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