Risen from the Dust
The idea of soul sleep is a common teaching in some Christian circles. Proponents of soul sleep generally do believe in the existence of human souls, but maintain that when a person dies their soul or consciousness remains in or connected to their flesh body. From there, they await the Resurrection of the Dead in a sleep-like state of suspended animation, thus the term "soul sleep".
While perhaps soul sleep is an improvement over some of the more traditional teachings about the afterlife, to say that the dead are in a state of deep sleep is not accurate. Soul sleep also works hand-in-hand with many false teachings. Most notably, it supports a physical resurrection scenario, where people's flesh bodies rise out of their graves (see ch.15 Resurrection of the Body). It is therefore worthwhile to understand why soul sleep isn't true, so as to avoid arriving at this, and other false conclusions.
One of the root teachings of soul sleep is that the dead are not cognizant or aware, but unconscious. However, when the afterlife is depicted in both the Old and New Testaments the dead are basically cognizant, not asleep. They are often described as having both thoughts and feelings that they can communicate.
For example, in the Old Testament it says, "The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell [Sheol] with them that help him" (Ezekiel 31.21 KJV bible), "All they (the dead) shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?" (Isaiah 14.10 KJV bible), "let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave [Sheol]" (Psalm 31.17 KJV bible). In all of these examples, the dead are described as being awake and having thoughts and feelings they can communicate.
From the New Testament, we have the detailed account of the rich man and Lazarus, where a very poignant conversation takes place in Hades, "And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented" (Luke 16.24-25 KJV bible). Clearly this passage is not an allegory, but an account, that serves as a warning to individuals about the real consequences of not having compassion for others.
Another verse relating to soul sleep is in the book of Peter, where we learn that the gospel has already been preached (or proclaimed) to the dead, "For for this cause was the gospel preached [Greek: euaggelizo - to announce good news] also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit" (1st Peter 4.6 KJV bible). On Judgment Day, the dead in Hades will be judged according to their deeds in the flesh. Therefore, while it is too late for them to be firstfruits unto Christ, they do have the comfort of knowing that Jesus defeated death, and will raise them up in the second resurrection of the dead. It would not have been possible for the dead to hear this good news, unless they were somewhat conscious.
If the dead are asleep and unconscious, it would not be possible (before the resurrection) for Moses and Elijah to appear on the Mt. of Transfiguration, "And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him" (Matthew 17.2-3 KJV bible). Also, relating to soul sleep, we have the witness of the book of Revelation. In ch. 7, a great multitude of believers (from the tribulation) gather and praise the Lord in Paradise, "After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb" (Revelation 7.9-10 KJV bible). From this passage alone, we know that the souls of the righteous are both awake, and with the Lord in heaven (see also ch.4 Souls in Heaven). Lastly, one should consider what Jesus says in John 8.56, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad" (John 8.56 KJV bible). If Abraham is in a state of soul sleep, then how could he have rejoiced at the day when Messiah was born into the world?
There are many variations of soul sleep. One widespread principle of soul sleep is that when a person dies, their soul remains in or connected to their flesh body. However, it is well established in scripture, that when a person dies their soul does not remain within their flesh body. Rather, the soul moves on, and the body is left as an empty vessel.
When God answers Elijah's prayer by resurrecting the widow's son, it is written that the child's soul returns to him. This indicates that initially when the boy dies, his soul leaves him, "And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul [nephesh] come into him again. And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived" (1st Kings 17.21-22 KJV bible). Also, when Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamin it's written that her soul departs from her, "And it came to pass, as her soul [nephesh] was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Ben-oni" (Genesis 35.18 KJV bible). Job describes how at the end of his earthly struggle the Lord will long for the work of his hands, meaning Job's soul, "If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time [Hebrew: tsebawaw - campaign or service] will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands" (Job 14.14-15 KJV bible). Clearly, the soul leaves behind the flesh body at death, which is inconsistent with many versions of soul sleep.
In the New Testament, when Stephen is about to become a martyr, is he in error to call upon Jesus to receive his spirit, "[Stephen] looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God...And they stoned Stephen, [who was] calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit [pneuma]" (Acts 7.55,59 KJV bible)? Also, the book of Acts describes how during one of Paul's sermons a young man falls down from a third story window. Then Paul says, "Trouble not yourselves; for his life [psuche] is in him" (Acts 20.10 KJV bible). This indicates that if the young man had died, his soul or person (psuche) would have left his body, which it apparently did not.
If the soul stays within the body, then why does Jesus tell the malefactor on the cross that that very day he would be with him in Paradise, "And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23.43 KJV bible)? Also, Peter speaks of "putting off" his earthly tent or dwelling after his time in the flesh, "Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me" (2nd Peter 1.14 KJV bible). While there are many variations of soul sleep, clearly the widespread idea that the soul or consciousness remains within the body after death, has no scriptural support.
Ivor McClinton 06 Mar 2011, 15:33May I ask you about the verse “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23.43 KJV bible)
Doug Buckley 07 Mar 2011, 10:31Hi Ivor, It's true that there are no punctuation marks in the original manuscripts, but imo the translators are right to put the comma in where it is. This is because Jesus says many times "verily I say unto you,...", but nowhere does he say "verily today I say unto you,...". Also, the Greek word for today (saymeron) means this literal day but there are places where it is used to refer a time period longer than one 24 hour day (Luke 4.21, Matthew 27.8). In Luke 23.43, I believe Jesus simply means that he would soon be with him in heaven, which implies that the dead are not in a state of soul sleep.
Michael David 29 Mar 2011, 23:09This is very good, thanks for this. I have plagiarized it a few times now, in comments by people who believe in soul sleeping (in cases where I was able [where the word count restriction allowed me to] I have referenced you and your site). This took hard work and some intelligent application of apologetics. Kudos to you.
Doug Buckley 30 Mar 2011, 18:39Thank you Michael, I don't want people copying from my site, but it sounds like you cited it properly which isn't plagiarism. I'm glad you like the section on soul sleep. Alot people read it and think I'm trying to attack people who believe in soul sleep, but I researched it because I wanted to know for sure if soul sleep was true or not.
Michael david 30 Mar 2011, 20:34You are one of the first persons I have ever met who correctly understands the difference between Paradise and Heaven. The first person I've met that understands that people do not go to their final place until after they are judged. Clearly you have studied to show yourself approved as the scripture states. I'm glad I found your blog, and I will follow it now with interest, thank you.
Doug Buckley 01 Apr 2011, 16:52Thanks Michael, there's some scholars out there, but also alot of junk. The internet allows for sharing of ideas and debate, which is good. I've been working on some long term projects, and I send out updates when I post new writings.
tonya 19 May 2011, 18:11doug i can seen your points on the lake my pastor believes all will eventually be saved but he still preaches hard on holiness and living above sin. jus saw your site yesterday, for the past 2 wks i hav been leaning 2wards the wicked being destroyed not tormented because his mercy does endure 4ever. about sinners going straight 2 hades immediately upon death i disagree with, i understand that this comes from lazarus ok fine but how can one be tormented before the day of jugement(Ac 17:31) and Ecc 9:5 says the dead no nothing also psalms 13:3, 6:5, 146:4 how can one suffer if they are not conscious the soul that sinneth shall die they are dead until the resurrection. i believe when one dies u sleep the sleep of death according to scripture, awaiting the day judgement and/or the resurrection of the just and unjust then judge unto eternal damnation or everlasting life lets reason from scripture brother
Doug Buckley 19 May 2011, 18:22Hi Tonya, we agree about some things and your comment seemed more about soul sleep so I moved it here. I have looked into the issue of soul sleep. All the verses that seem to support the dead being unconscious can be explained easily because the bible uses "sleep" as a euphemism for death. There are alot more scriptures that clearly show that people have souls that continue on awake after death, and this isn't all based on Luke 16. Revelation 5.9 and 6.9 support souls in heaven. Jesus will even reject the souls of people when he returns, and this is before they are resurrected, "And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes” (Luke 12.47-48 KJV bible). I go where the scripture leads me.
Eve Erastus 01 Jul 2011, 15:45I thank you for your clarification on the soul sleep subject,backed by holy scriptures from the Bible.
Doug Buckley 02 Jul 2011, 07:19Hi Eve, thanks for your comment about soul sleep. I have nothing against people who believe in soul sleep, but alot of scriptures point to the dead being conscious before the resurrection.
Gillian White 21 Nov 2011, 06:42Greetings,
Doug Buckley 23 Nov 2011, 01:07Hi Gillian. It doesn't really sound like you have a question about soul sleep, as much as you believe in soul sleep. Soul sleep is a whole school of though that ties into many other biblical subjects, especially the resurrection of the dead. I respect soul sleep, though I don't accept it.
Gillian White 04 Dec 2011, 05:31Thank you Doug for your reply.
Doug Buckley 04 Dec 2011, 14:56Hi Gillian, Moses and Elijah have spiritual life in heaven, but they are not resurrected yet. They are the ones that sleep in Christ. They don't sleep in the graves or the tombs because they have life in heaven and are not in Hades (spiritual death). The great tribulation hasn't happened yet, but Revelation shows that believers do go to heaven (sleep in Christ) before the resurrection of the dead. The resurrection happens at Jesus' return.
Judi 27 Dec 2011, 18:09What do you do with the text that clearly says that the dead know nothing? Also, you have misinterpreted those who believe that the dead are asleep; just because one does not believe that the dead have no knowledge (Ecclesiastes 9:5), that doesn't mean that they do not believe in the soul (which, if you were a true Biblical scholar, would know that this is equanimous with the spirit - the breath of the individual, not a knowledgeable, living thing) as as something that has knowledge. This would be like saying that every time we breath out, we are losing some of our knowledge, for it would go with that breath! What a foolish thing! No one in their right mind would believe that. But yet there are tons of people who believe that the spirit or soul has knowledge. Further, the belief that we continue to live in some form is simply a falling for the initial lie of Satan to Adam and Eve in the Garden when he told them that they would not die. It makes absolutely no sense that Jesus would have risen to Heaven upon His death, then came back down to Earth to gather His human body, and then gone back up to Heaven when he rose from the grave. It would also be so very cruel for Jesus to raise anybody from the dead, or for us to try to save people's lives, if they went to Heaven. Why would Jesus have brought someone back to this sinful Earth from the most perfect place; Heaven? The Bible doesn't support a place somewhere in which the person waits to be judged. It does, however, support that the dead are "asleep," and that when Jesus returns, He will raise those who died in the faith first from that sleep, to be joined with Him, after which those who are still alive will join with them in the clouds to ascend to Heaven (1 Thess. 4:15, 16). If they were already in Heaven, why would Jesus need to come back to retrieve their bodies? The Bible states that those bodies will be changed in the blink of an eye, so if we believe that the dead are already in Heaven, they would already have transformed bodies; it wouldn't happen at the second coming of Jesus. Those resurrected bodies would need to be changed, otherwise there would be sinful states in Heaven.
Doug Buckley 20 Apr 2012, 11:46In the end, all that matters is what the bible says. It makes clear that the dead people have souls, and don't literally sleep.
Doug Buckley 20 Apr 2012, 11:48(toned down my previous comment on soul sleep)
Cindy Hawkins 06 May 2012, 20:01I can only speak from my own experience. When my 21 year old son, saved and Baptized, died, he was here with me on several occasions! I know that he is not always with me, I pray that his spirit is with the Lord. But upon his death and several times since he has made himself known to me. (yes, I am certain!)He could not have done this if he was asleep.? I was and still am very confused about all this which led me to this site to began with. I do truly believe that some day we will all meet again in the air and the saved will be with the Lord! I can not wait to be with my son again! I welcome any and all comments!
loveil 18 Oct 2012, 22:31I just want to say that there is a difference between the soul and the spirit of a man. According to the bible, God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed the spirit of life into him and then, and only then, did man become a living soul. Gen. 2:7. Also, the bible speaks of the word of God being able to seperate spirit from soul. Heb. 4:12 Again, in the valley of dry bones, the bodies were formed, yet they were not living until God commanded the breath to come into them (pause) from the four winds - not from some grave/state of sleep. Ezek. 37:7-10. Colossians 1:3 states, "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above where Christ is sitting on the right hand of God." If there is no difference between the resurrection of the spirit and the resurrection of the physical body, then how is it that we have already attained unto the resurrection of the dead to seek Christ in the first place? For we know that Jesus Christ was first raised then quickened by the spirit of God. The scripture shows us that there are two transformations, that of the spirit and of the body. Remember, you must be born of water and spirit. John 3:5. Did not the dry land appear from the water and did not God form man from the dust of the dry land before it was accursed and after a mist had watered the face of it? Gen. 2:6-7 For out of the body of Jesus flowed blood and water. Is not the life /quickening power of the body in the blood? If not, how could Abel's blood have cried unto the lord from the ground? There is that resurrection of the body when death and hell will be swallowed up forever. Then we shall be incorruptible and immortal in our bodies. To corrupt means to decay. How can a spirit decay? David said in psalm 16:10 that the lord would not leave his (David's soul) in Sheol and would not allow His Holy One(Christ) to see corruption. Not corruption of the spirit but of the body. He makes it clear in the scripture as well as elsewhere, that there is a difference between he and Christ for he said the lord said to My lord sit thou on my right hand. Again, "thou will not leave MY soul in sheol (Tartarus = prison)nor allow YOUR Holy One to see corruption. He also says in the same scripture v.9, my flesh shall rest in hope. So then, if his soul is in the grave with his body, how can it be in sheol (prison) while his flesh rests/sleeps? Christ, having died once, dies no more because he has been resurrected in both spirit and body. Rom 6:4-10. Furthermore, once he gave up the ghost the scripture says that the temple veil was rent in two and the graves were opened and many of the BODIES of the saints who slept arose...and appeared unto many. Matt. 27:51-53 Again, Jesus, risen from the dead, was the firstfruit of them that slept. Notice they slept in past tense which means they no longer sleep. So, where are they and How can this be? Well, he did descend and lead captivity captive. Ephes. 4:8-9 For the spirit of the Lord was upon Him to preach deliverance to the captives. Luke 4:18 Where were these captives? According to Ephesians 4:9 they were in the lower parts of the earth. I Peter 3:19 tells us specifically that they were in prison because they were sometimes disobedient. Remember, the blood of animals could not wash away sin, only cover it; therefore, the devil had a legal right to those before Christ, regardless of how righteous they were. We know he had this legal right because Isaiah 14:17 reveals him as the man (spirit) that openeth not the house of his prisoners. He was the same one who disputed over Moses' body. Now, if these captives were fallen angelic beings as some believe, then how could they live to God in the spirit though they be judged as if they were still in the flesh? I Pet. 4:6. Peter tells us that this is the reason why the gospel was preached to them for it did not exist prior to the ministry of Christ. The scripture says that the gospel was ALSO preached to the dead. So then, this implies it was preached to the dead as well as the living - that they may be judged according to the new covenant in which the blood sacrifice was perfect.
Gillian White 19 Oct 2012, 01:57In that passage about spirits in prison, you will notice the sequence of events have a certain order:
Robert 12 Mar 2013, 01:58Hi Doug and tks for allowing me to post, I know you have touched many lives and you will be blessed. I love reading all the post, and I also know that each of us have different understandings when we read God's word. God made us all a little different in many ways and that could be a good thing. Infact I know its a good thing, cause my God don't mess up. I try my best to use the whole Bible and to keep things in context and if i'm out please frogive me, because my Lord and savior has forgiven me. (I belong to him and looking foward to my new home)
Doug Buckley 12 Mar 2013, 02:04This is good but I moved it over here where its more on topic. Try to stay on topic.
Gillian White 12 Mar 2013, 07:12Robert, you quoted Ecc 12:7.
Mike Price 11 Apr 2013, 06:35Just wanted to mention there are numerous references to people having died as being asleep. I think the mistake we are making is equating spirit with soul. Man, created in the image of God, is a TRI-part being. The soul and spirit are 2 different things though closely connected. In Hebrews 4:12 we are told they can be divided. Man is composed of body, soul and spirit. Is it not possible the body dies and decays (corruption), the soul sleeps or rests and the spirit either goes to Heaven or Hell ? There are too many references to "being asleep" for there not to be truth to people who are dead being asleep. ( 1 Co 11:30;Ep 5:14;1 Th 5:6;1 Th 4:14;1 Co 15:51;Jn 11:11-13; Lu 8:52; Mt 27:52; Acts 13:36)
Doug Buckley 11 Apr 2013, 19:18I agree about us being tri-part beings, but there's a lot of translation issues here. See ch.9 for a discussion about soul and spirit. There is certainly a temporary state for the dead before the resurrection, and alot of disagreement here. In many verses the dead are said to be "sleeping", but the dead are never depicted as sleeping. In the next chapter I offer an explanation that sleeping is a euphemism for death, and that the dead are asleep to us, meaning the living. They are separated until they are brought back into the world at Jesus' return.
Bill Clark 21 Apr 2013, 16:07I’m currently studying 2 Corinthians chapter 5 related to the subject of heavens vs. heaven. Up front, I believe that the dead bodies sleep awaiting the two resurrections, and the soul, awake, goes to either Hades/Sheol or Paradise. The soul exists, awake, to see things (Abraham, John 8:48-59) to speak (Able, Hebrews 11:4), (Tribulation Saints Rev 6:9-11) have conversations (Abraham, Lazarus, rich man, Luke 16:19-31), appear and talk, (Moses and Elijah, Matt 17:1-9), (Samuel and Saul, 1 Samuel 28:7-19) and to sing (Great Tribulation Saints, Rev 15:1-4). Paradise being where Paul, or someone he knew, went to and is the same place our Lord was referring to with the man at His execution (Luke 23:43). Paradise, the Bosom of Abraham (Luke 16:22) and the Sea of Glass (Rev 4:6, 15:2) seem to be the only other places we find souls inhabiting that are not in Hades/Sheol. I lean towards Paradise and the Bosom of Abraham being different but very similar or possibly they are the same place. Then the Sea of Glass seems like a new place specifically for the tribulation and great tribulation saints.
Wayne Mitchell 07 Dec 2013, 20:33Yeshua said to his followers let the dead bury the dead so I think some are dead and some are asleep like Stephen. the ones that are asleep are part of the 1st resurrection the dead are part of the second resurrection, He will appear in his body and we will see his piercings, souls can not grind their teeth so there must be body's I think the ones that do his work are the true saints that are with him because he says he has heard their moaning and how much longer must we wait. being of low education I shake my head at some of the answers theologians give in response to these and many other questions asked of them, As if we need them to tell us, for god is my teacher, eyes that cannot see ears that can not hear if you do right in Yeshua u will see and hear more than any educated Christian will ever see or hear I love the word because when so called pastors claim things I look at the word and if it don't line up with scripture I try to show them it, mostly they go of at me and say I have been doing this most of my life what would know I've got degrees, to which I say he does not change today tomorrow or yesterday, just like the rapture if you can see its after the tibulation not before, he never done it in the past so why do people think he will do it in the future!
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