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Soul Sleep in the Bible

  • Soul sleep is a common teaching in some Christian circles.
  • Soul sleep is the belief that the dead are not conscious or aware, but rather in a state of deep sleep.
  • Soul sleep is good in some respects because it properly emphasizes the future Resurrection of the Dead, and not the immediate afterlife.
  • However, to say that the dead are completely unaware, in a state of soul sleep, is not supported by the scriptures.

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.

Soul sleep overlooks many critical verses, which indicate that the souls of the dead remain cognizant on some level.

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?

Soul sleep implies that a person's soul stays within, or connected to, their flesh body after death.

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, 15:33

May 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)
quoted at the end of this article, please? The original text did not have punctuation marks so the quote above has a very different meaning if we read it as “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee Today, thou shalt be with me in paradise” (Luke 23.43 KJV bible). And besides, didn't Yeshua at that time go to preach to the spirits in prison, not paradise?

Doug Buckley      07 Mar 2011, 10:31

Hi 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, 23:09

This 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, 18:39

Thank 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.

Most churches teach either some kind of soul sleep or nonexistence until the resurrection of the dead, or that people's souls go to heaven or hell forever when they die. Neither view is correct, as the souls will take part in the resurrection of the dead.

Michael david      30 Mar 2011, 20:34

You 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, 16:52

Thanks 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, 18:11

doug 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, 18:22

Hi 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, 15:45

I thank you for your clarification on the soul sleep subject,backed by holy scriptures from the Bible.

Doug Buckley      02 Jul 2011, 07:19

Hi 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, 06:42


I have a few questions regarding this topic about soul sleep.

In Mat 17:1-9, Jesus quoted this was a vision.

Mat 17:1-9
(1) And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,
(2) And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
(3) And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
(4) Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
(5) While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
(6) And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.
(7) And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.
(8) And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.
(9) And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.

How could people be alive before Jesus Christ could be raised back to life?

The scriptures teach, Jesus became the first one to raised back to life, the firstfruits of those that slept:

Jesus slept in the grave for 3 days and 3 nights, than God raised Jesus back to life again.

1Co 15:20
(20) But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

By reading the above scripture, it seems the rest are sleeping.

1Co 15:22
(22) For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Verse 22 says, ''all SHALL be made alive''

When will that be, I see verse 23 gives us the answer.

1Co 15:23
(23) But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.

It seems to me that we will not be made alive, wakened from that sleep, until the coming of Jesus.

God bless

Doug Buckley      23 Nov 2011, 01:07

Hi 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.

Regarding Matthew 17, let me point out that the Greek word there for "vision" does not mean a dream or hallucination, it means a sight or spectacle, implying that what they saw was real.

If the dead do literally sleep, then how could they have good news announced unto them by Jesus (1st Peter 4.6). If the dead must wait for Jesus then how could there be souls of people alive in heaven before Jesus returns (Revelation 7.9-10)

So the question with soul sleep is how do we explain these discrepancies, because both sides seem to have supporting verses.

Jesus often speaks of Christians having, right now, eternal life (John 10.28), but Christians die just like everyone else? In the New Testament, being alive or coming to life are often not meant to be taken literally, but spiritually. (see also ch.6)

I can't go through it all here, (see the chapters about the resurrection of the dead), but IMO the dead are raised to life in the sense that they are made whole or complete because they receive eternal spiritual bodies (1st Corinthians 15.44). All souls will be raised from a lower state to higher one, even if it is to face final judgment (see Revelation 20). In the end, soul sleep boils down to which side has the better explanations in the overall context of scripture.

Gillian White      04 Dec 2011, 05:31

Thank you Doug for your reply.

But I still do not understand how people, like Moses could have received eternal life before Jesus.

It's clear that Jesus is the first begotten from the dead.

Rev 1:5
(5) And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,

You quoted Rev 7:9-10, much of revelations, has still yet to be fulfilled; if you continue on reading, you will notice that these people are those that have come out from the great tribulation.

Rev 7:13-14
(13) And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
(14) And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Has the ''great tribulation'' taken place or taking place or yet to take place.

In Chapter 6, the last verse.

Rev 6:17
(17) For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

I see that believers are saved from God's wrath:

1Th 4:16-17
(16) The Lord will come from heaven with a command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the dead who believed in Christ will come back to life.
(17) Then, together with them, we who are still alive will be taken in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. In this way we will always be with the Lord.

When a person is alive and believes in Christ and dies, that person is now ''the dead who believed in Christ''

''dead in Christ''

Doug Buckley      04 Dec 2011, 14:56

Hi 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.

However, only Jesus has been resurrected into his eternal place and form, and this is why he is the first born from the dead. Jesus is at the right hand of God as the only begotten Son. Believers (even believers in heaven) will not be heirs with Christ until they are resurrected to him (see ch.15 on the right)(also compare Ephesians 1.14 with 1st Thess 4.13-17). The dead in heaven (those that sleep in Christ) are waiting to be made like Christ in the resurrection. They don't suffer any wrath, but are rewarded. (see ch.15 on the right for more on this).

Judi      27 Dec 2011, 18:09

What 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.

You also state a middle state...where does this exist? Are our "souls" simply flying around everywhere? Where is the Biblical support for this...not taken out of context with the verses before and after it?

Doug Buckley      20 Apr 2012, 11:46

In the end, all that matters is what the bible says. It makes clear that the dead people have souls, and don't literally sleep.

“But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Philippians 1.22-23 KJV bible).

Paul clearly says he, not some lifeless spirit, desires to depart and be with Christ. He doesn't say he desires to sleep in the ground.

"And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?" (1st Samuel 28.15 KJV bible)

Demons can't prophecy of God, so how can Saul talk with the prophet Samuel if the dead have no souls? This passage contradicts what you're saying about souls.

How is that Jesus talks with Moses and Elijah before the resurrection of the dead, “...his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him” (Matthew 17.2-3 KJV bible).

This is not their unconscious breaths of life, but their souls that are talking to Jesus. How is this possible if the dead are completely asleep and have no souls?

How is it that the SOULS of the martyrs are in heaven and awake before the first resurrection, "And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the SOULS of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held...(Revelation 6.9 KJV). The saints go to heaven like the bible says.

ALso the word used here for soul is "psuche" which means person, not spirit or breath. The biblical word used for soul is not the same as the one used for spirit.

Speaking of context, you should read Ecclesiastes in full. The whole context of the book is flesh man, or the man under the sun. This is why it says the dead know nothing, because the overall context is the world of the living.

You make alot of accusations about what others believe, but no one here is saying any of these things. No one is saying Jesus' soul went to heaven and then came back to his body. Matthew 12.40 says he was in the heart of the earth. Not asleep in a tomb, which is nowhere near the "heart" of the earth.

In fact, Peter says he preached to the dead, which is another verse that proves that the dead have souls and aren't fully asleep,“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).

One has to accept that people have spiritual souls in addition to a spirit of life, before moving on to understanding the resurrection of the dead.

Doug Buckley      20 Apr 2012, 11:48

(toned down my previous comment on soul sleep)

Cindy Hawkins      06 May 2012, 20:01

I 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, 22:31

I 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, 01:57

In that passage about spirits in prison, you will notice the sequence of events have a certain order:

1.Jesus died,
2. God raised Jesus back to life,

(Act 4:10 KJV) Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.

(Act 13:30 KJV) But God raised him from the dead:

3. Now to Verse 19, after being raised back from the dead to life, did Jesus speak to the spirits in prison.

1Pe 3:18-19 KJV
(18) For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
(19) By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

1Co 15:20 GW
(20) But now Christ has come back from the dead. He is the very first person of those who have died to come back to life.

Robert      12 Mar 2013, 01:58

Hi 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)
At death, everything goes into reverse. Eccl 12:7 "and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it." NIV The body returns to the earth, while the spirit returns to God. There are two different entities that makes up a human being: his spirit (sometimes called the soul, see the book of Revelation) and his body. Each of these entities takes a different path at death. One goes to the ground and the other goes to God.

God's Word tells us that our body is the house in which our spirit lives.

2 Cor 5:2-4 "Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life." NIV

2 Peter 1:13 "I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body" NIV

Our body is just the dwelling place of our spirit. Just like people's houses are just temporary places to live in, and after a while they may move to another dwelling, so is the case with our bodies. On earth it is our dwelling. When we die we leave that dwelling behind and move on to our "heavenly dwelling".

What happens when we die then? Very simple, our bodies return to dust, while our spirit goes to be with the Lord. The apostle Paul tells us that he 2 Cor 5:8-9 "would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord." NIV

It is not the soul that sleeps when we die, it is the body! It is not the soul or spirit that decays and returns to dust, it is the body! Our spirit returns to God. Jesus Himself made sure we knew this fact when he uttered His last words on the cross: Luke 23:46 "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When He had said this, He breathed His last. NIV

Stephen's last words (the first Christian martyr) were very similar: Acts 7:59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." NIV He was not looking forward to an unconscious existence. He awaited the immediate fellowship with His Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

He said about His Heavenly Father Matt 22:32 "â?¦I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living." NIV

And John 11:26 "whoever lives and believes in me will never die." NIV

As well as John 8:51 "I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death." NIV

God is not to be mocked. He is the God of the living and Jesus promised we would never die. How? Our physical body may die, but our spirit lives on to be with Jesus in heaven!

Jesus explains this promise clearly in And John 11:25-26 "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" NIV
Our bodies may die, but our spirit will never die. (Thank you Jesus)

At the present time, the immaterial side (the soul and spirit) of those who die, those who have turned to God in repentance through faith in Christ Jesus (THATS ME), and those who have died having never reached the age of accountability, go to be with the Lord in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:7). At a future date in time, their body (a glorified body which will never grow old get sick or die) will be resurrected and their body, soul and spirit will once more be reunited (1 Corinthians 15).

The immaterial side (the soul and spirit) of those who die at this time having reached the age of accountability, yet having never turned to God in repentance through faith in Christ Jesus (NOT ME), go to Hades (the area of the unrighteous dead). They (along with all of the unrighteous dead throughout time) await the resurrection of their bodies, at which time, their bodies, souls, and spirits will once more reunited. At that time, each will all stand before Christ Jesus in judgment of their sin, and their degree of punishment for all eternity, in the lake of fire, will be determined (Revelation 20:11-15). The Spirit or the soul cannot and will not die, its everylasting. This is my understanding as I read and study my Bible, and if the translation is off, it really don't matter cause only God knows my heart. Please understand God don't look at the clothes on your back are the shoes on your feet, its not what your drink or what you eat, its in your Heart where he gets his treat.
Love you all Rob

Doug Buckley      12 Mar 2013, 02:04

This is good but I moved it over here where its more on topic. Try to stay on topic.

Gillian White      12 Mar 2013, 07:12

Robert, you quoted Ecc 12:7.

Ecc 12:7 KJV
(7) Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

Are you saying, that a person could receive eternal life before Jesus Christ came?

You also say the soul cannot die, then how do you see these verses?

Eze 18:4 KJV
(4) Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.

Mat 10:28 KJV
(28) And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Mike Price      11 Apr 2013, 06:35

Just 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, 19:18

I 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, 16:07

I’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, 20:33

Yeshua 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!

Athanasius      28 Apr 2014, 17:54

From an Orthodox Christian Perspective, the Orthodox Church since the time of the Apostles has consistently seen the consensus of the Church Fathers ad understanding the departed in Christ go to Paradise to consciously and joyfully await the resurrection, receiving a foretaste of their reward, while those rejecting Christ go to Hades awaiting Hell, receiving a foretaste of their punishment. This is the correct faith. soul sleep is a heresy.

The fact that Saul sought out the help of Samuel after he died shows that the Jews believed in an immediate afterlife as well... why else would
Saul try if he thought samuel was unconscious or did not exist.

The body is sleeping not the soul

Doug Buckley      02 May 2014, 05:14

Athanasius, I am familiar with some of the eastern orthodox teachings and I know they take a more biblical approach to issues of the afterlife.

I personally wouldn't go as far as labeling soul sleep a heresy. As much as its true that a person has a soul that lives on, the soul is also only a vestige of the person.

When we look at how the dead are portrayed in the bible, such as with Samuel, they certainly seem conscious and know who they are, but there is some room for interpretation here. We don't know how they perceive time or the world or what their thoughts are like. Maybe they can be more stirred up at some times than others, as Samuel even chastises Saul for disturbing him.

In the case of Luke 16 I can certainly see the rich man as communicating with Abraham in a dream like state. He lifts his eyes and doesn't seem to have much freedom or strength. In the case of Lazarus, the idea of Paradise conveys a sense of comfort and relief like in a womb, without a lot of change or excitement. In Revelation 6.11 it says they should "rest" for a season.

So I'm not defending soul sleep, but there are variations of soul sleep and the idea of an immortal soul that is exactly like a living person isn't right either.

JohnG      26 May 2014, 02:52


What are your thoughts regarding John 14:1-3 as to the timings of events implied? Especially verse 3.


1. Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

2. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

3. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

In verse 3 Jesus is specifically telling the disciples that He is going to prepare a place for them.

He then specifically tells them that He will come again, and receive them unto Himself.

So...that where He is, they may be also.

I have always had a difficult time reconciling this (the simple, straight-forward Words of Jesus) with other passages of scripture that do seem to depict souls/spirits in Heaven with Jesus PRIOR to His return.

If we are indeed already in Heaven with Him immediately upon death then this passage does not make sense as we know Jesus has not yet returned (come again) to receive us unto Himself.

Also, let's mention the "other" Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha who died and Jesus raised as depicted in John chapter 11. What was the state of his body, soul and spirit for those 4 days? We KNOW where his body was but what about his soul and spirit? One would think he would have quite a story to tell after that event but scripture is dead silent on Lazarus after he was raised other than that the Jews wanted to kill him because he was a walking example of one of Jesus' miracles.

I do not have a definitive answer for any of this myself but "sleep" until the big moment, "the twinkling of an eye" sure seems to fit and make more sense in MOST instances.

Also, 1st Thessalonians 4:13-17 references those that "sleep in the Lord" three times. And almost in a sense of "fairness" this passage seems to imply that no one who had died has had a head start on being with the Lord, but rather, "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."

So finally...NOW after this event, "So shall we ever be with the Lord".

Full circle....this 1st Thessalonian passage then fully supports and backs up the John 14:1-3 passage.

He went and prepared a place for us.

He came again.

He received us unto Himself.

So...that where He is, there we may be also.

If we go to be with Jesus at death BEFORE any of this happens then these passages do not make a lick of sense logically or scripturally.

God Bless our efforts to better understand His Word and I do enjoy the "iron sharpening iron" that goes on here.

Doug Buckley      29 May 2014, 01:13

Hi JohnG, those are good tough questions relating to soul sleep. I will try to answer them as best I can.

Regarding John 14.1-3. This passage might be seem to be supporting soul sleep, or at least that the saints don't go to heaven. However its message is deeper and relates more to the nature of the resurrection.

What Jesus is talking about here is his return and the resurrection. Part of the nature of the resurrection is a coming back into the world. When Jesus returns he will gather the saints to him to reign forever. This isn't as much a literal gathering as it is a spiritual rising up to an inheritance in the Kingdom. So there are many places or houses with Jesus that the saints will occupy within the eternal Kingdom.

Here are some scriptures that help explain this, "And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom" (Matthew 20:21 KJV).

This request doesn't relate to heaven now. Its in the future and relates to the "places" in the Kingdom when Jesus returns.

"And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:42-43)

It's not that the saints are literally awakened or brought back into consciousness when Jesus returns, but that they're brought back into the world. This is why 1st Corinthians 15 says we shall not all sleep, but all will be changed, meaning alive or departed there's a change that takes place. The change involves being received as the bride, and having a new place in the world.

This is also what 1st Thess 4.13-17 is talking about, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep"
(1Thess 4:14-15 KJV).

It says that the ones who sleep in Jesus, God will bring with him. They return with Jesus (from heaven), but are still gathered to him in the resurrection. Verse 16 says they rise up first, but this isn't a literal reanimation out of the ground. There's some deep mysteries being expressed here relating to the "receiving" of the bride, and being forever united with the Lord.

Moving on, we have the meaning of the dead being asleep. Its not implying unconsciousness, or that the soul stays in the ground. Rather it's implying that they're asleep to the world. A sleeping person still exists, they're just departed and disconnected from us, but still alive (please see the next chapter for more about why the bible describes the dead as being asleep). As 1st Thess 4 explains they're coming back into the world to reign.

Lastly, I've heard this idea before that Lazarus must have been asleep before Jesus brought him back. How do we know that people didn't ask him what it was like to be dead? Maybe Lazarus did explain it. Maybe the state of the dead wasn't as important an issue as it is nowadays?

There's tons of examples in the scripture where we are left hanging and wishing there was more explanation. This one isn't even at the top of my list. Further most people were illiterate back then and it was very expensive and time consuming to record and preserve things. It's not like nowadays where everyone gets a book deal.

We're blessed to have the New Testament. Often the things that seem at first like contradictions are deep revelations. Its also these slogans about "going to heaven forever" that make things like the resurrection harder for people to grasp. God bless.
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