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SOUL-SLEEP, life after death

Is there an afterlife? There are two extremes that are used to distort the Bible doctrine of the intermediate state of the believer after death. One is Spiritism, that teaches everyone has an afterlife in heaven, so it doesn't matter at all what you believe here on earth. Within this is the belief that we can contact the dead. Those who die have not really passed on into another place away from earth, but they are living in the spirit world, a world which is a dimension right here on earth which we cannot see. In other words, they are among us, they are watching and helping us. The Bible clearly denies this fact by showing that there are two destinations in the afterlife, and none of these are related to any closeness to the living. We cannot contact them and they cannot contact us (Lk.16, Deut.18:10-12).

The other extreme is evolution, that this is all there is and that there is no afterlife, so we needn't consider what happens when we die. This is what Atheism teaches, that there is no eternality to our soul and we all just go back to the ground since that's what we're made of and there is no spirit or soul in man.

The Jehovah's Witness's teaching is quite similar to this since they believe that when you die both the soul and body are extinguished, the body taking longer to cease to exist, yet the soul is immediately snuffed out. Atheism also believes in annihilationism. The Devil, who invents these views, will use both ends to distort the truth. On one hand he has people choose to believe that there is no after life, and on the other he distorts it to say that we all go to the same place, no matter how we live or what we believe in our life right now everything will be alright.

So what exactly happens to us when we die? Is there an afterlife? Do we cease to exist as atheists say? Or does life continue on as the spiritualists state, with everyone ending up in the same place where we will all be comfortable? Throughout the history of mankind, the afterlife has been an enigma. Almost all religions believe in an afterlife, some quality of life in the spiritual realm that exists afterwards, either in a nebulous world or in having an abundant life in a place called heaven. The immortality of the soul is something hoped for by all people. This has also been a subject debated within the church for centuries. Does the Bible teach existence after death, or do we cease to exist, as Jehovah's Witness claim? And what of the soul-sleep of the Seventh Day Adventists?

First, let's look at what the Jehovah Witnesses believe. This comes from Charles Taze Russell being influenced by what was called Second Adventism, (meaning the second advent). This is before they became the Seventh Day Adventists where they based themselves on the Sabbath day belief. Jehovah Witnesses believe that when someone dies their personality and life is so united with the body that it ceases to exist. This not only occurs with believers, but also non-believers and with Jesus, so God has to refashion everyone by memory.

What we're dealing with here is re-creation. What they have is not a resurrection, because the individual's body and soul are carbon copied to exist later on Paradise Earth. This is what they teach as their good news of the kingdom. Everyone is going to live on paradise earth one day. one of the problems is if you die before the resurrection, well, you won't be there. You will not participate in the new earth because God will copy you from memory and your duplicate will be enjoying all the benefits of all your hard work for the kingdom. Of course, none of this is biblical, it's all fantasy and never going to happen. If we ask the Jehovah's Witness about this and explain this to those who come to our door it can strongly affect their false belief system and make them question what hope they have as a Jehovah Witness. So annihilations, which is what they teach, is not a biblical answer for how God deals with the after life of the soul and the body.

When we come to the subject of soul-sleep we find this view has been sporadically held throughout church history. The Ana-Baptists believed in this in the 1500's. King Edward VI stated in his fortieth article out of forty-two, that "The souls that do depart hence do sleep, being without all sense, feeling, or perceiving until the day of judgment, do utterly decent from the right that is closed to us in Holy Scriptures."

In modern times we have two well known major groups that hold to this teaching. One is Christadelphianism and the other is Seventh Day Adventism. Soul-sleep is the denial of man's conscious existence between when he dies and the resurrection day. It's what is called the intermediate state of the believer, in which their view is both the body and the soul lay rest in the ground.

Christadelphian's deny the existence of hell and they hold to what is called conditional immortality, as do the Seventh Day Adventists. What most groups do, who deny an immortal existence either with the Lord or in punishment in the hereafter, end up camping on the Old Testament Scriptures to prove their points.

We need to understand that there are a number of mysteries in the Bible that were not fully revealed until Christ came. This doctrine comes under that heading. It was concealed in the Old Testament and revealed in the New Testament. What most people do is look to the Old Testament Scriptures to validate this teaching such as Eccl. 9:5-6, "For the living know they shall die: but the dead know not any thing," or Psalm 146:4, "His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish". Or Psalm 115:17, "The dead do not praise the Lord, nor any who go down into silence" or Psalm 6:5 "For in death there is no remembrance of Thee; in the grave who shall give Thee thanks? And of course, there is Ezek. 18:4, "the soul that sinneth, it shall die. "From these Scriptures and many others, the Seventh Day Adventists and other groups make their air-tight case that death is a peaceful sleep for the soul. Well, actually, it's not so air-tight, it's more like Swiss cheese. This means that it is spiritual death, a separation not a non existence. Otherwise they would cease to exist as soon as they sin. There are many scripture that say the soul is dead even when someone is alive, he is dead even when alive

When someone does a study on this or any other subject, they need to take all the body of literature and weigh it out and see which covenant these things were spoken under, are they a metaphor, is it a hyperbole, is it poetic? To make biblical sense out of this serious issue, we need to look at all the literature of that particular subject.

Because this is not just a spirit sleeping, waiting for the resurrection that is being promoted. This doctrine actually affects other crucial doctrines, such as eternal punishment and eternal life.

As I read the fundamental doctrines of Seventh Day Adventism, there are a few Scriptures either missing or purposely neglected which actually changes one's view on this particular subject, because they hold vital information on the afterlife. Before I go to that I'm going to walk us through the arguments and some biblical answers.

There is poetry in the Psalms, for instance Psalm 22:26: "The meek shall eat and be satisfied; they shall praise the Lord that seek him; your heart shall live forever." Now, logically, I don't think anyone takes this Scripture in its solid, literal sense or would believe that someone's physical heart is going to live forever while our body and our soul die. Our heart is not going to be outside our body living forever. The word heart obviously means something other than how we interpret it today. the intent of this word means something other than the physical organ. Proverbs 23:7 tells us as a man thinks in his heart, so is he, or Matt.13:5, lest they should understand with their heart. Obviously there's an intent of this Scripture that means not just the physical organ.

Actually the word heart represents the inward man, his soul, his spirit, and is usually interchangeable throughout the Scriptures. Just as soul can be substituted for one's life, their heart, mind and body, so can the word heart. They are interchangeable throughout the Scriptures.

The main argument for those who promote soul-sleep are these: the word sleeping is for those who die, that it is unconsciousness (1 Thess.4:13-14, 1 Cor. 15:20,51). Some go so far to say that one's eternal destiny is determined, not at death, but later at the final judgment. And some will even claim that we can still repent, even in the afterlife. We don't find this is the Seventh Day Adventism but there are other groups that believe this kind of teaching.

So, let's look at the word sleep, because that's what's crucial here. What does sleep mean? The Bible uses this term when speaking of death in that the physical body, a dead body, looks very similar in this state. It's always referring to the physical body, not the soul. It is the appearance of the body that is sleeping, no one is able to see the spirit . It is also a term used exclusively for believers. The term sleeping, in reference to death, is not used for unbelievers. I find that to be crucial in understanding what the Bible is trying to portray to us when it says that the dead in Christ are sleeping.

Believers and unbelievers do not experience the same afterlife.

 Why would God allow a believers spirit to go to the same place as a non believer ? He didnít do this before the resurrection of Christ (Lk. 16 they were separated after death). Now we are told paradise is in heaven and we are to be with the Lord. so it is illogical, not to mention unbiblical to think that we are to all sleep in the grave until a resurrection- what sleeps is the body, what stays alive is mans spirit which was created in Godís likeness and contains the qualities that God gave man to be similar to himself.

Sleeping in the New Testament is used for one who is in Christ, it is God' s viewpoint of a temporary suspension of physical activity, yet, there is a continuation of the mind and the soul, the personality. The Spirit is just as alive outside the body as it is inside the body.

Dan 12:2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.

The word for sleep here is not the same as one sleeping in everyday use.  yashen ( from 3462; sleepy: KJV-- asleep, (one out of) sleep slept.

In Jer 31:26 After this I awoke and looked around, and my sleep was sweet to me. Also in   Dn.2:1 shenah  corresponding to 8142:

One is hard pressed to make a case for souls sleep even from the old Testament, certainly it cannot be done from the New testament that reveals much more on mans state after he dies.

Does the believer wake up in the resurrection? Is he put back in an immortal physical body? Yes, he is, yet, we never see an example of a spirit resurrected because it does not die like the body. The term resurrection only applies to the body.

The Bible is very clear that the spirit can live outside the body. Angels can and do function outside a body and yet, they can also function within a body. We see they can possess people and actually there can be more than one spirit or fallen angels inside a body. Although this alone does not make a strong case for a continuation of an afterlife, it does show that a spirit can operate and function outside the body.

There are numerous passages that teach that humans are conscious after their death, so let's look at a few. Matt. 17:1-8 and Luke 9:28-36 are just a few of the passages on the transfiguration where we find Moses and Elijah appearing on the Mount with Jesus and a few of His disciples. Elijah was taken to heaven alive while Moses died a physical death, yet, Moses is consciously alive just like Elijah. Moses couldn't have been resurrected because Christ is to be the firstfruits of the resurrection and he had risen yet. While Christ raised may from the dead they were people that recently died not old Testament saints dead for hundred of years. There were others raised to life on earth on earth by Jesus only to die again later. But, here is someone who is dead for 1,500 years, so it isn't Moses' decomposed body brought back out of the ground as a resurrection, this was a spiritual appearance.

Jesus taught that he is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the living, not of the dead, referring to Exodus 3:5, I am who I am, insinuating that all these prophets were still living. This silenced the Sadducee’s who challenged Him on this matter because they did not believe in an afterlife. So we have Moses here, appearing in spirit. That is the only plausible explanation because, again, Jesus had to be the first body resurrected unto eternal in life in that way.

Paul himself relates a story in the New Testament In 2 Cor. 12:1-4 in which, fourteen years before, he was caught up to the third heaven. This is the place where God dwells. He calls this place Paradise and he was awed by the experience and the things that he heard but, he wasn't sure if this occurred in his body or without his body, so he wasn't sure if he was alive or dead when this event occurred. Now obviously, his corruptible body could not enter heaven since all must go through transformation to be able to function there. Mortal flesh is unable to enter heaven, as Jesus said, flesh and blood cannot enter, so there has to be some kind of transformation to enter in there.

What happens to believers, according to the Bible, at death? This is the question we're pondering about as far as soul-sleep. Do we just rest in the ground just like our body? What exactly happens to our body, what exactly happens to our soul? The Bible speaks about a material and immaterial part of man. We find in Gen. 3:19 our bodies are made of the earth and they return to the earth. In Phil. 1:23-24, Paul states that he desired to depart to be with Christ, which is far better. Now, Christ is in heaven, He's not in the ground, so if this was soul-sleep, he being with Christ, Christ would have to be in the ground. Paul goes on to say, nevertheless, to be in the flesh is more needful for you. so he wanted to stay to help out the saints in the church and fulfill his ministry.

We also find in 2 Peter 1:13, Peter talks about putting off his tabernacle, or tent, calling it a temporary dwelling place. James 2:26 tells us the body without the spirit is dead. He doesn't say the spirit also dies, he says the body without the spirit dies. In Gen. 35:18, speaking of Rachel, it tells us, her soul was departing and she died. The spirit exists afterwards and  gives us life, when he leaves the body it dies. The body dies and goes back into the ground, yet the spirit continues on with a   life of its own.

Eccl. 12: 6-7 describes in poetry the shattering of life, that the dust returns to earth, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Yet, earlier, in verse 5, he writes a man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets. So Solomon is speaking about those who turn to God as he started off this chapter, stating remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before difficult days come. And then he speaks about our eternal home. If it is sleep in the grave, as people are claiming, then that means we are going to stay in the grave, the ground, forever, if our soul actually sleeps. They are using this scripture in a way that it's an eternal home in the ground and we are never to be raised up. Of course, that is not what it means.

One of the scriptures they use is Eccl. 9:5, the dead know nothing. Now this is true, since it is the body that dies, that part of the man which dies and goes into the ground, knows nothing. But there is a part of man that flies away at death and returns to God who gave it, Psalm 90. So, Those who believe, go to rest in Christ. It couldn't mean only our breath since that would not go to God but to the atmosphere.

Many of the Old Testament Scriptures, rather that showing a state of unconsciousness of the soul, are really languages of appearance, that after death they had the inability to continue the process that was normal while they were here on earth in their bodies. So it is a language of appearance as man's perspective is looking at the body functions. Yet, in Heb. 9:27 we find after death, the judgment, in other words one goes either to heaven or to hell, and it is determined at death, not afterwards. So we go to rewards, to rest, or to punishment and eternal separation. Death is not a cessation of existence, but a separation of existence. We have choices to make now that will effect our eternal destiny. Jesus knew very well of this and he warned of it constantly.

Now, what of the Scripture in 1 Tim. 6:16 speaking of God, who alone has immortality? The Scripture applies mortal and immortality to one's bodily condition. It is the body that is mortal, never the soul, or spirit. For example, Paul writes in 1 Cor. 15: this mortal will put on immortality, speaking of the resurrection of our bodies, not our spirtit. Likewise, in 1 Tim. 6:16, he's speaking of Jesus as the immortal God/man. Spirit, by its own nature, is a deathless entity. God is spirit, and so are angels. God is spirit and fashioned man in the image of Himself, and, while God has always existed, no beginning or end, he has given mankind a limited similarity, like Himself, something that lives on. The body is described as mortal the soul is never described in these terms. Paul states this mortal must put on immortality (1 Cor.15:53). He is speaking of a resurrected body just as it was said in 2 Pt.1:13 to put off this tent as a temporary dwelling. In. Rom. 6:9: "Knowing that Christ having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over him." Therefore 1 Tim.6:16 means he alone has immortality as his nature and being the first fruit raised in the resurrection.

In our human experience our spirit never feels old, no matter how old the body gets our spirit inside does not feel the same age. If one becomes an invalid it doesn’t affect their spirit, their spirit does not also become an invalid , it essentially is unaffected by the outer person it still is free. Science tells us our body renews all its cells every 7 years. If we were only our body we would have to relearn everything again because all of our knowledge is contained in the physical aspect of man. But this again is not so, even the bible shows people who died in heaven remembering and recognizing others.

The New Testament teaches Spirit existence after death as doctrine. James says the body without the spirit is dead not the spirit itself. For example, in Rev. 6:9-10, we see souls who have been slain, under the alter of God, asking the Lord to avenge them. We find they are conscious and they are speaking. The soul and personality of each one of us lives on. Jesus taught in Matt. 10:28, Fear not those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. The Greek word for destruction, aplollumi, has numerous meanings. We have to look at the context it's put in. It can mean perish, lost, destroy, to render useless, or to give over to eternal misery, and I believe that is the correct rendition when we look at where he's saying the soul will be in the afterlife of those who disobey the Gospel.

In Matt. 25:46 there are those in the judgment who go into everlasting punishment and those who go into everlasting life. The same Greek word means eternal and forever. If there is no eternal punishment, then the same word that is applied for eternal life means there is no eternal life, ever. So the Greek, appropriated to both these places that destined for those who either believe or not believe, means eternal. Likewise in Luke 16, the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Jesus always used real-life situations to illustrate His teachings. In this story He actually names the person. Jesus does not teach fictitious stories and it's not a parable, in my opinion, because He actually names a person, which He did not do in parables.

These are living conditions in the afterlife of torment and peace. The New Covenant has revealed what was unclear in the Old Testament writings. 2 Cor. 4:16,18 tells us "though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. . . .While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." Now here, Paul applies the outer man to the temporal and the tabernacle we live in, and the inner man to the eternal. In the following verse he states, "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" Here is the scripture that is often neglected and, put in context, we find it fully elaborating on the continual existence of man, 2 Cor. 5:1-8. He sums it all up in verse 8 saying, we are always confident knowing that while we are home in the body we are absent from the Lord. and he goes on to say to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. When all our earthly tent is dissolved, we can be assured that we will be in the presence of the One we serve and we love here on earth We will be further clothed. This is the Scripture that is consistently neglected by those who promote soul-sleep. As in Phil.1:23 Paul states to be with Christ is far better. This would be impossible if we go to sleep in the ground with the body.  

Likewise, in 1 Thess. 4:13-17, we are told that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. Then he states, those who are alive will not precede those who have fallen asleep. The Lord from heaven will come down with a trumpet call and the dead in Christ will rise first. And then those who are alive will be caught up together with them in the air with the Lord forever.

Since the resurrection did not occur before this event, who is Jesus bringing with him from heaven? They don't have bodies, the resurrection hasn't occurred, so they are immaterial souls that will be united with their bodies at this resurrection event. They existed fellowshipping with the Lord in heaven. Jude says the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints. Paul describes this event in 1 Cor. 15:51 Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed. When? At the last trump. The dead are raised incorruptible, and then he goes on to describe that mortal will put on immortality. So he's talking about our bodies. Then death, he states, is swallowed up in victory; our souls are not dead because we were made alive in Christ.

Rom. 8:11 says, But if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who dwells in you.

There is a day of uniting with those who fell asleep in Christ, with their bodies to be transformed and live forever, and the hope of the believer is that, whether we live or die, we are to be with the Lord. It is stated in the Scriptures, I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, death, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is Christ Jesus our Lord.

If you're in Christ be persuaded, be encouraged, we have assurance. Yet, there are many other people all around us who don't have this assurance and I hope that we will be the ones to bring the good news to them. We should not sorrow as the world does (1 Thess.4:16-18) 

For further refutes on soul sleep




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