by Shari Abbott, Reasons for Hope
We’ve had an incredibly large response to our article on soul sleep last week.
A member of our rforh community responded with a desire to further dialogue about this issue. We thank him for his willingness to do so and his open heart. We are all on a journey to know the Lord and better understand His Word. It is the Holy Spirit Who teaches us all truth, so we ask for His guidance as we further discuss this.
Our comments are in blue, and all emphasis and bracketed information is ours.
On Feb 28, 2013, at 9:20 AM, a friend wrote:
Hello all the way from sunny South Africa!!
Thank you for this teaching on soul sleep. Before I begin, I’d just like to say I don’t conform to any teaching of any church group – I am a Born again, GOD fearing Christian and love to read/study Gods Word. Therefore I talk/debate about issues like this with a open and willing heart.
I always thought that our spirits do “soul sleep” while our flesh is dead until the day of Judgement, because of the following:
1Cr 15:51 “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,” In context this verse is talking about the time when our LORD JESUS CHRIST returns – some call it the Rapture – but the thing in this verse that stands out it (we shall not all sleep) talking about the dead.
Because Paul is talking about the time when Christ will come for His bride here, we believe Paul is addressing that not all will die a physical or bodily death.
1 Cor 15:51 Behold, I show you a mystery; We [who belong to Christ] shall not all sleep [bodily death], but we shall all be changed,
When Christ comes there will be believers who belong to Christ, still living on earth and they too will “be changed.” Paul goes on to confirm this by saying:
1 Cor 15:52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the [bodily] dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we [all believers] shall be changed [all believers will be changed -receiving glorified bodies - both those whose bodies lie dead in the grave and those who are alive at His coming for His Church, His body of believers].
1Th 4:15 “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.” In this verse we can also see those that the dead are referred to as being asleep. And we can’t say its talking about the flesh because we know the flesh can’t inherit the kingdom of GOD!
You are correct that flesh and blood will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Let’s look at a broader context of this:
1 Th 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep [dead in the grave], that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
1 Th 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus [the body is dead] will God bring with him.
We believe Paul is speaking of the death of the body here. We see many cases in Scripture where “sleep” means physical, bodily death. A good example is the witnesses to Christ’s resurrection, of whom Paul says:
1 Cor 15:6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. [They have died. Paul is saying they no longer live to testify.]
We believe the soul never dies, and that the “wages of sin is death” — that death being a physical death of the body for both believers and non-believers. However, Jesus conquered that physical death also and the body will be resurrected. Believer to glorification and non-believers to condemnation.
Let’s look at a question that Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians:
1 Cor 15:35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?
In this verse, Paul is addressing two errors regarding the bodily resurrection: error #1) that the same body in the grave will rise (It will not. Remember the blood and flesh are gone) and error #2) that the risen body is unrelated to the body that previously lay dead in the grave.
1) Paul explains in verse 38 that it is the body God has chosen:
1 Cor 15:38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.
2) and that the new body is related to the former:
1 Cor 15:36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:
1 Cor 15:39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.
1 Cor 15:40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
1 Cor 15:41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.
The Bible tells us that we will receive glorified bodies:
Phil 3:20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
Phil 3:21 Who shall change our vile body [the human body, changed at the bodily resurrection], that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body [the promise of a glorified body likened unto His glorified body], according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. [this working is what Christ will do. He will "fashion" our bodies like His when He comes for His bride, His Church, and the dead in Him]
Only the Lord can “awaken” or quicken (make alive) believers’ dead bodies that lie in the grave. Remember, when Jesus comes for His bride, those who are alive still have a physical, living body. But they also will be “made alive” with a new glorified body. Their earthly body of flesh and bones will ascend to heaven. All believers will receive glorified bodies.
Look at this verse:
1Th 4:16 “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:“
Why rise when you have already risen?
Again, in context, this is about the bodily resurrection. It teaches that those bodies of believers lying in the grave will be made alive first. That includes, all believers who died in faith…both the Old Testament saints and New Covenant believers.
Consider the verse you mentioned in a larger context:
1 Th 4:15 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 [those still living at this time] shall not prevent them which are asleep. [those who have died will be bodily raised first]
1 Th 4:16 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:
1 Th 4:17 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.
Our souls are already with the Lord, but now our “incorruptible” bodies will put on “immortality” (a glorified body 1 Cor 15:52-53) and “death is swallowed up in victory”
1 Cor 15:54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
1 Cor 15:55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
1 Cor 15:56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
1 Cor 15:57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Consider again what we wrote in the article about soul sleep. Paul considered it gain to go and be with the Lord. If there were an unconscious state, why would that have been a gain? He served the Lord with joyfulness on earth. We can only suppose, that he would have much rather stayed here and continued to serve than to lie in unconsciousness until the time of the Lord’s coming for him.
Paul understood that some would live to see that day…but he did not know when that day would be. Wouldn’t he have preferred to continue living and serving the Lord? And yet he said, “to die is gain” (Phil 1:21) and he considered it far better to depart and be with Christ (Phil 1:23). We think it’s because, in his own words….
2 Cor 5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. [The soul departs the body and is forever in His presence. Remember we supported this thought also with the souls under the altar who are conscious Rev 6:9]
Consider again the account of Lazarus and the rich man. Neither were in an unconscious state. And Jesus promised the thief on the cross that he would be with Him that day in Paradise. Jesus was not unconscious in Paradise. His body lay dead in the grave, but His soul was alive and preaching in Paradise.
So we believe the soul is eternal and does not die or sleep in any way.
With that said I also don’t totally disagree with your article!!
Thank you for considering a different teaching than what you adhere to. We have considered your words also, and appreciate this opportunity to dialogue with you.
For me this is a “time” issue. Let me explain: God created time! The only way I can explain time in a different way is calling it: “ordered sequence”. God created time therefore exists outside its constraints unlike us.(2Pe 3:8)
Reading through the book of revelation truly showed me not to think of the events in an ordered sequence. – nope – Just read it as is! And for that reason I “think” that our souls will be fully alive with God and dormant(sleeping) at the same time until the day of Judgement.
Let me know what you think.
We agree that God created time and that He is outside of time. We also believe that our souls are not temporal, but eternal. They will never die or be unconscious. Remember our judgment [for believers] has already taken place at the cross. Our sins have been paid for and our souls were made alive at the time we repented and trusted in Christ’s finished work. “Made alive” means we were given eternal life. We believe that “alive” is a conscious “alive” for all eternity. If our souls need to be made alive again, after any amount of time in unconsciousness, then why did Christ say “it is finished?” If the soul must be made alive again — then our salvation did not secure an eternal life with Him in which we will always know Him and be in communion with Him.
We believe that while here on earth He is with us by the presence and power of His Holy Spirit indwelling us. When we die we go immediately to be with Him. So we are, from the time of our salvation, eternally with Him.
Remember He said He would never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). If our souls sleep in an unconscious state and the Holy Spirit is no longer with us, then we cease to have communion/relationship with Him. He said He would “never leave” (Hebrews 13:5)….so the concept of His being forever with us outside of our time dimension, but not within our time dimension seems to deny what Jesus said. We also find no biblical support for the soul being both inside and outside of our time dimension. God is omnipresent, but we find nothing that suggests our soul could be in both places at the same time.
Jesus prayed in John 17 that we be united to Him as He and the Father are united (John 17:21). The Triune Godhead is co-eternal. United in One for all eternity. We believe that when Christ saves us we have that same assurance of unity in Him.
So with all this said, we’ll stand firm on our belief that the souls of all people live eternally. For believers, at the time of death, their souls go to be with the Lord. For non-believers their soul departs into the place of torment, spoken of in Luke 16, awaiting a final judgement.
We thank you for your willingness to consider this. We encourage you to seek the Lord in prayer and to continue reading and studying His Word regarding this.