The Third Temple  The Center for
Messianic Learning 

Unapologetically Pro-Torah
Unashamedly Pro-Israel
Irrevocably Zionist
“… out of Tziyon will go forth Torah, the word of ADONAI from Yerushalayim.”
(Isaiah 2:3)
Jew and Gentile (Synagogue and Church), one in Messiah. (Ephesians 2:14)
“For He is our peace, Who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition, …”

If your life is not in jeopardy for what you believe, you’re probably on the wrong side!
If you don’t believe Genesis 1:1-11:32, how can you possibly believe John 3:16?
“Indeed, all who want to live a godly life united with the Messiah Yeshua will be persecuted.” (2Tim 3:12)
It is what you actually believe that determines how you walk out your faith, “but avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, quarrels and fights about the Torah; because they are worthless and futile.” (Titus 3:9)
The one who is testifying to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’”
Amen! Come, Lord Yeshua!
(Rev. 22:20)

Please Note: Absolutely nothing on this website should be taken as anti-Church or anti-Rabbinic. I am not anti-anything or anti-anyone. I am only pro-Torah and pro-Truth (see “Philosophy”), but sometimes the Truth upsets our long-held beliefs. I know it certainly upset mine! For example, see “Why Isn’t My Theology Consistent Throughout the Website?”

Developing a
Systematic Messianic Theology:

What Torah Says About
The Future

“The purpose of careful theological formulations is not to put barriers in the way of people who are seeking salvation, but to define clearly the truths upon which genuine [Biblical] faith rests, so that people will not be misled by false doctrines.” [Bowman]

“It must be clearly and unequivocally stated that theology cannot save you. Only faith in Messiah Yeshua can save you. Theology can only give you sound doctrine.” [RLS]

Unless otherwise specified, throughout the Theology section of my website I use the term “Torah” in the wider sense of including the entire body of inspired Scripture: both the Tanakh and the Apostolic Writings. No other so-called “sacred writings” are considered inspired by God or authoritative for the Believe’s walk of faith.

[Explanations of rabbinic citations are HERE]

[Please read the introductory comments first]

The articles on this page are mirrored without permission of their respective authors for the sole purpose of education, which is within the “Fair Use” provisions of [17USC107. If you are the copyright holder and want your article removed, please contact me and I will immediately remove it.

A Refutation of the
Doctrine of “Soul Sleep”

In This Article

Old English capital letter OOn this page I have presented for your consideration a number of opinions expressed by others. The presence of their opinion on this page in no way indicates my agreement with them. My own opinion is at the bottom of the page.

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Wikipedia Definition of “Soul Sleep”

[It should be remembered that Wikipedia articles can be created and/or edited by anybody who has created a wiki user accout, and should therefore not be considered as authoritative on any topic, especially in matters of theology.]

Soul sleep[1] is a belief that the soul sleeps unconsciously between the death of the body and its resurrection on Judgment Day. Soul sleep is also known as psychopannychism [from Greek psyche (soul, mind) + pannuchizein (to last the night)].

A similar belief is thnetopsychism [from Greek thnetos (mortal) + psyche (soul, mind)], the view that the soul dies with the body to be recalled to life at the resurrection of the dead, or that the soul is not separate from the body and so there is no “spiritual” self to survive bodily death.

In both cases, the deceased does not begin to enjoy a reward or suffer a punishment until Judgment Day.

The more common Christian belief about the intermediate state between death and Judgment Day is particular judgment, that the soul is judged at death. In Roman Catholicism, the soul is judged to go to heaven or hell immediately after death, a belief also held by most Protestants. In Catholicism some temporarily stay in purgatory to be purified for heaven. In Eastern Orthodoxy, the soul waits in the abode of the dead until the resurrection of the dead, the saved resting in light and the damned suffering in darkness. This Eastern Orthodox picture of particular judgment is similar to the 1st-century Jewish and early Christian[2] concept that the dead either “rest in peace” in the Bosom of Abraham or suffer in Hades. This view was also promoted by John Calvin in his treatise attacking soul sleep.[3]


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What does the Bible say about soul sleep?

“Soul sleep” is a belief that after a person dies, his/her soul “sleeps” until the resurrection and final judgment. The concept of “soul sleep” is not biblical. When the Bible describes a person “sleeping” in relation to death (Luke 8:52; 1Cor. 15:6), it does not mean literal sleep. Sleeping is just a way to describe death because a dead body appears to be asleep. The moment we die, we face the judgment of God (Heb. 9:27). For believers, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2Cor. 5:6-8; Phil. 1:23). For unbelievers, death means everlasting punishment in hell (Luke 16:22-23).

Until the final resurrection, though, there is a temporary heaven — paradise (Luke 23:43; 2Cor 12:4) and a temporary hell — Hades (Rev 1:18; 20:13-14). As can be clearly seen in Luke 16:19-31, neither in paradise nor in Hades are people sleeping. It could be said, though, that a person’s body is “sleeping” while his soul/spirit is in paradise or Hades. At the resurrection, this body is “awakened” and transformed into the everlasting body a person will possess for eternity, whether in heaven or hell. Those who were in paradise will be sent to the new heavens and new earth (Rev 21:1). Those who were in Hades will be thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:11-15). These are the final, eternal destinations of all people — based entirely on whether or not a person trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation.

accessed 11/23/21]

See also:


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Soul Sleep[4a]

By Tal Davis

“To be or not to be: That is the question.”
— William Shakespeare

One of the most vexing questions every person faces in life is, “What happens when I die?” The answer to that question is, therefore, one of the most crucial for any religious faith to provide for its adherents.

One answer some have proposed has been called “Soul Sleep” or, more accurately, the doctrine of “Conditional Immortality.” This view asserts, simply put, that when people die, their physical body ceases to function and the life force of the spirit is removed. This means that their conscious existence ends while they wait in the grave for a resurrected body restored by God at the end times. Their perspective is that human beings are not naturally immortal and do not survive, in any sense, after physical death.

This doctrine is propagated dogmatically by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses). In their widely distributed book, Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life (Brooklyn: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1995, p. 82) they state:

“When somebody dies, the spirit (life force) ceases to animate the body cells, much as a light goes out when the electricity is turned off. When the life force stops sustaining the human being, man — the soul — dies.”

Further, in the same publication (p. 83) they assert:

“Therefore, God’s Word refers to the dead as being asleep. For example, upon learning that his friend Lazarus had died, Jesus Christ told His disciples ‘Lazarus our friend has gone to rest, but I am journeying there to awake him from sleep.’”

Another faith group that teaches the same view is the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church. In their official doctrinal publication, Seventh-Day Adventists Believe … A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Assoc., 1988, p. 353) they state:

“The grave is not a place of consciousness. Since death is a sleep, the dead remain in a state of unconsciousness in the grave until the resurrection, when the grave (Hades) gives up its dead” (Rev. 20:13).

Both the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the SDA[4b] base this “Soul Sleep” doctrine on their interpretations of certain key biblical terms and passages. For example, both agree that both the Old Testament Hebrew sheol and the New Testament Greek term Hades refer to the common grave of mankind. Thus, they do not infer any concept of natural immortality of the soul at physical death. Old Testament passages like Eccl. 3:19-21; 9:5-6; 12:7; Job 14:10-12; Psalm 115:17; and others are often quoted to buttress this position. New Testament passages such as Matt. 9:24; Mark 5:39; John 11:11-14; Acts 7:20; 1Cor. 15:51, 52; 1Thess. 4:13-17; and 2Pet. 3:4, where dead people are referred to as “sleeping” or “asleep", are also utilized as proof that the dead are now in a sort of unconscious state of nonbeing. The term “sleep” (Greek: Koimao or Katheudo) was a common biblical euphemism for death. Paul used it only in reference to believers in Christ who had died.

We need to ask, however, do these passages actually prove unquestionably what the Jehovah’s Witnesses, SDAs, and others holding this position, assert? Obviously, we do not have space here to exegete every passage above. However, we can look carefully at a few Scriptures, particularly from the New Testament and the words of Jesus, that may lead us to a different conclusion than that summarized above.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, SDAs, and others holding to “Soul Sleep” are basically correct in saying that there is no dualism taught in the Bible between the human soul and physical life. Certainly the Hebrew view is not that man “has a soul,” totally separate from his body, but that he “is a soul” which includes his mortal body and immortal spirit. Several significant passages indicate that a person has a conscious spiritual existence after death and prior to the resurrection of the body.

For instance, in Matt. 22:31-32, Jesus, in response to a pointed question about marriage, life after death, and the resurrection, quoted Exod. 3:6 and then added His authoritative comment to it. “Have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Jesus’ words clearly imply that the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were even at that point in Jesus’ day still alive, in some way. Would he have made such an assertion were they totally dead spiritually?

Likewise, in Luke 16:19-31 Jesus told the story of Lazarus and the rich man. According to His story, the righteous poor Lazarus died and went immediately to “Abraham’s bosom,” while the wicked rich man (unnamed) died and went to Hades. In both cases, they were presented as conscious, aware, and communicative. Soul Sleep advocates sometimes argue that the story was only a parable and not to be understood literally. If that is so, then it would be the only parable Jesus ever told that could not have been at least conceivably possible in real life. Even Jesus’ other parables were true to life, even if they were not actual events. So, why in this case alone would the Lord use false information to convey such a critical truth as that regarding the fate of the dead?

Another key event wherein Jesus’ words contradict Soul Sleep is when He spoke to the repentant thief on the cross (see Luke 23:39-43). Following the thief’s confession and appeal to Him for mercy, Jesus answered, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” This statement begs the question of the Soul Sleep position. What did Jesus mean by “today you will be with me” if the thief would have no conscious life when he died? Some have argued that translators have misrepresented the passage by placing a comma between the word “you” and “today.” Their view is that since the original Greek text had no punctuation it could just as well correctly be read, “Truly I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise” (a promise of the resurrection). This interpretation seems unlikely, however. Jesus used the phrase “Truly I say to you” many times as recorded in the Gospels as a validation of His divine authority. In no instance did He ever attach to it any temporal conditionality such as “today.” Clearly the term “today” in the context was to be attached to the promise — that day the thief would be with Jesus in Paradise.

One of the most dramatic events that weighs on this issue was that of Jesus’ transfiguration (see Matt. 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36; and 2Pet. 1:16-18). Peter, James, and John all personally heard the voice of God and witnessed the visible appearance of Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. The obvious problem for Soul Sleep advocates is to explain how Moses, who had died centuries before (see Deut. 34:5,6), could suddenly appear and converse with Jesus and Elijah (Elijah had not died but was taken to heaven in a fiery chariot — see 2Kings 2:11).

Perhaps Jesus’ classic statement in this regard was when He received the news of His friend Lazarus’ death. Told by his sister Martha of her brother’s demise Jesus comforted and answered her by stating, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies.”

The apostle Paul in his letters, likewise, presents evidence that there is no cessation of conscious life at death, at least for the believer in Christ.

In 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 (NASB) Paul was contemplating death.

“Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord — for we walk by faith, not by sight. We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” (NASB)

Paul implies that if he died he would be separated from his physical body for a time but, nonetheless, present with the Lord-that is Jesus Christ-in some spiritual sense. Thus, for Paul, anticipating death held no terror. This clearly contradicts the Soul Sleep perspective.

Later in the same epistle (see 2 Cor. 12:2-4) Paul described “a man” who, fourteen years before his writing, had been caught up “to the third heaven” or “Paradise.” Most New Testament scholars believe he was talking about himself. In any case, Paul twice stated, that he did not know if the man “had been taken up in the body” or “out of the body.” If no conscious existence apart from the body can exist, then he would have to have been “in the body.” But Paul said only “God knows,” implying at least the possibility of an immaterial conscious state of life.

In a similar light, Paul mulled his possible martyrdom in Philippians 1:12-26. He evidently did not think that he was going to be killed at that point since God still had much work for him to accomplish. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that, even if he were to die, it would actually be to his advantage:

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. (Phil. 1:21-24, NASB)

Those advocating Soul Sleep are hard put to explain why Paul would make the above statements if he did not believe he was going to be with Jesus immediately upon his death, whenever and however it was to happen, but not in the flesh.

Another of Paul’s epistles also gives us some clue as to the fate of dead believers. In 1Thessalonians 4:13-18 Paul wrote about those who were “asleep” or “the dead in Christ.” Those were believers who died before the Lord’s return. He states that they would accompany the Lord at His return and be the first to be resurrected from the dead. Those who advocate Soul Sleep would likely say this fits their perspective well. However, in chapter five of the same letter Paul, in speaking of the present state of both the living and dead, in expectation of the Lord’s future return says,

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we are [present tense] awake [alive] or asleep [dead], we may live together with Him.” (1Thess. 5:9-10, NASB).

Bible students may sincerely differ on some doctrinal issues. In the case of “Soul Sleep” (or Conditional Immortality) it is our position that the doctrine contradicts the balanced survey of New Testament teachings, and especially the Words of Jesus. They teach that spiritual life, for believers in Christ, continues after death in an intermediate state of conscious being until the general resurrection of the dead at the return of Christ.
last accessed 09/12/23


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What Is the Doctrine of Soul Sleep?
As Taught by Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists?
By Mary Fairchild
Updated on October 09, 2019

Take a look at what the Bible says about death, eternal life and heaven. At the time of death, believers enter the Lord’s presence. In essence, the moment we die, our spirit and soul go to be with the Lord. But doesn’t this contradict the doctrine known as Soul Sleep?

What Is Soul Sleep?

“Soul Sleep,” also known as the doctrine of “Conditional Immortality,” is primarily taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists. To be more exact, Jehovah’s Witnesses teach soul annihilation.” This refers to the belief that when we die, the soul ceases to exist. At the future resurrection, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the souls of the redeemed will be recreated.

Seventh-day Adventists teach true “soul sleep,” meaning after death believers are not conscious of anything and their souls become completely inert until the time of the final resurrection of the dead. During this period of soul sleep, the soul resides in the memory of God.

Ecclesiastes 9:5 and Ecclesiastes 12:7 are verses used to defend the doctrine of soul sleep.

The Bible does teach that believers will receive new, transformed, eternal bodies at the time of the final resurrection of the dead, just before the creation of the new heavens and new earth. (1 Corinthians 15:35-58).

A Few Verses that Challenge the Concept of Soul Sleep

Fairchild, Mary. “What Is the Doctrine of Soul Sleep?” Learn Religions. (accessed September 12, 2023).


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What Does the Bible Say About Eternal Life?
What Happens to Believers When They Die?
By Mary Fairchild
Updated on July 02, 2020

One reader, while working with children was presented with the question, “What happens when you die?” He didn’t quite know how to answer the child, so he submitted the question to me, with further inquiry: “If we are professed believers, do we ascend to heaven upon our physical death, or do we ‘sleep’ until our Savior’s return?”

What Does the Bible Say About Death, Eternal Life and Heaven?

Most Christians have spent some time wondering what happens to us after we die. Recently, we looked at the account of Lazarus, who was raised from the dead by Jesus. He spent four days in the afterlife, yet the Bible tells us nothing about what he saw. Of course, Lazarus’ family and friends must have learned something about his journey to heaven and back. And many of us today are familiar with the testimonies of people who have had near-death experiences. But each of these accounts are unique, and can only give us a glimpse into heaven.

In fact, the Bible reveals very few concrete details about heaven, the afterlife and what happens when we die. God must have a good reason for keeping us wondering about the mysteries of heaven. Perhaps our finite minds could never comprehend the realities of eternity. For now, we can only imagine.

Yet the Bible does reveal several truths about the afterlife. This study will take a comprehensive look at what the Bible says about death, eternal life and heaven.

Believers can face death without fear.

Psalm 23:4
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (NIV)

1 Corinthians 15:54-57
Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. (NLT)

Believers enter the Lord’s presence at death.

In essence, the moment we die, our spirit and soul go to be with the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:8
Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. (NLT)

Philippians 1:22-23
But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. (NLT)

Believers will dwell with God forever.

Psalm 23:6
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (NIV)

Jesus prepares a special place for believers in heaven.

John 14:1-3
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (NIV)

Heaven will be far better than earth for believers.

Philippians 1:21
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (NIV)

Revelation 14:13
And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this down: Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!” (NLT)

The death of a believer is precious to God.

Psalm 116:15
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. (NIV)

Believers belong to the Lord in heaven.

Romans 14:8
If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (NIV)

Believers are citizens of heaven.

Philippians 3:20-21
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (NIV)

After their physical death, believers gain eternal life.

John 11:25-26
Jesus said to her, “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)

Believers receive an eternal inheritance in heaven.

1 Peter 1:3-5
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (NIV)

Believers receive a crown in heaven.

2 Timothy 4:7-8
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (NIV)

Eventually, God will put an end to death.

Revelation 21:1-4
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away … I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God … And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (NIV)

Why are believers said to be “asleep” or “fallen asleep” after death?

John 11:11-14
1 Thessalonians 5:9-11
1 Corinthians 15:20

The Bible uses the term “asleep” or “sleeping” when referring to the physical body of the believer at death. It is important to note that the term is used solely for believers. The dead body appears to be asleep when it is separated at death from the spirit and soul of the believer. The spirit and soul, which are eternal, are united with Christ at the moment of the believer’s death (2 Corinthians 5:8). The body of the believer, which is mortal flesh, perishes, or “sleeps” until the day it is transformed and reunited to the believer at the final resurrection. (1Corinthians 15:43; Philippians 3:21; 1Corinthians 15:51)

1 Corinthians 15:50-53
I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed — in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (NIV)

Fairchild, Mary. “What Does the Bible Say About Eternal Life?” Learn Religions,
Apr. 5, 2023,
accessed 09/12/23


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Soul Sleep and the Bible: An Evaluation

by James Patrick Holding [source]

“Soul sleep” is a fairly unobjectionable doctrine that supposes, quite simply, that between the time of our individual deaths, and the time of the final resurrection and judgment, we will be in an “unconscious” state. There are undoubtedly many variations on the theme, and the doctrine is held generally by a number of groups (both orthodox and unorthodox), but we will concern ourselves here with the core contention of unconsciousness between death and new life.

The following arguments in favor of it are taken from a wide variety of sources, and we will organize by Scripture cite. We will not address cites tied in with the doctrine of annihilation, which hold that the wicked soul “dies” without returning to consciousness, as we consider such arguments covered by this article.

Coverage of this issue begins well with consideration of a broader and related issue, that of the nature of the relationship between what is called the body, soul, and the spirit. Soul sleep advocates speak disparagingly of a “dualist” line of thinking which sees these as separate entities, and regard these entities as a holistic total that is inseperable.

Previously and in other contexts we have noted that under the Semitic Totality Concept a man is a unity. But this does not necessarily equate with the constituent elements being inseparable; it simply means that to make a whole man, the elements “belong” together. The question would remain as to whether the elements can indeed exist separately and whether a practical dualist view is warranted in terms of the afterlife.

In this regard I have noted some confusion of terms. Our primary source for support of this doctrine, Adventist scholar Samuel Bacchiochi, in an essay called The Human Soul, at first says, “Those who believe their nature is wholistic, consisting of an indivisible whole where body, soul, and spirit are only characteristics of the same person, generally envision a destiny where their total mortal person will be resurrected either to eternal life or eternal death.” But in the next paragraph he says:

On the other hand, those who believe their nature is dualistic, that is, consisting of a material, mortal body and a spiritual, immortal soul, generally envision a destiny where their immortal souls will survive the death of their body and will spend eternity either in the bliss of paradise or in the torment of hell.

What happened here? Bacchiochi turned the three (spirit, soul, body) into two (body, soul)[6] and left the spirit in the dust, so to speak, or collapsed it adverbially into the soul. Later he seems to regard “soul” and “spirit” as synonyms: “The body and the soul, the flesh and the spirit, are characteristics of the same person and not detachable components that come apart at death.”

It is perhaps true that “soul” and “spirit” are used interchangeably today, and may have been used thusly in NT Greek (cf. Luke 1:46-7[?!?]), but that clearly was not the case in the OT. Note even to begin the variation in the Hebrew words: “spirit” is ruach, and “soul” is nephesh.

In general and by appearances, we would suggest the thesis that the “soul” as defined here is the combination of the body and spirit, which creates the unified whole of a person (or an animal  —  cf. Gen. 1:21). Bacchiochi speaks of combating the idea that the “soul” is an immortal substance, but if that is his argument, he seems to be fighting the wrong battle.

Bacchiochi offers a thorough and informative analysis of the various uses of “soul” (nephesh) in the OT, and every one of these supports the idea of the nephesh as the combined body and spirit. If these two elements were a composite that made a man a man, it is quite sensible that both are affected in times of trouble, experience emotion, and sin, and that the nephesh dies when the body is killed, as Bacchiochi clearly shows.

Indeed, he quotes one commentator as saying, “The Hebrew did not divide and assign human activities. Any act was the whole nephesh in action, hence, the whole person..” This matches as well with the NT triple-combo of psyche (soul), soma (body), and pneuma (spirit) as the words are used by the writers of the NT (though the Greeks seem to have overlapped the words in usage somewhat, and some dictionaries and resources, in defining the words, uses them to define each other  —  perhaps reflecting our own modern confusion of the terms.

The question we wish to pose, then, is not, according to the Bible, “Does the soul survive death?” but, “Does the spirit survive death?” Bacchiochi correctly notes that the NT distinguishes soul and spirit (1Thess. 5:23, Heb. 4:12) and also rightly decries those who regard “spirit” and “soul” as complete synonyms. But he never gets around (where we have read) to a full discussion of what exactly man’s “spirit” is and what happens to it after death.

The word is often used figuratively of one’s emotional attitude (i.e., a “revived spirit") but it is clearly also used to refer to sentient entities (both good and evil) and  —  as classically formulated in James 2:26 ("For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.") is clearly a separably identifiable entity within a human, whatever its condition after a body dies.

2 Cor. 5, Paul’s excursus on the resurrection body compared to the old one, uses the metaphor of a tent, which suggests, obviously, an “inhabitant”  —  though where exactly the “inhabitant” rests and in what state is not stated. Hebrews 4:12 confirms this, speaking of the “division of soul and spirit” comparably to bones and marrow  —  the latter being a component of the former.

It should be noted first of all that “spirit” being described in terms of “breath” should not by any means be taken to assume that the two are the same thing. As various organs are connected with certain things by the Hebrews (see more here so it is that we would expect the spirit to be linked to a certain part of us  —  the equation no more makes the two the same thing than we may assume that kidneys do not exist because they are called “reins".

One of Bacchiochi’s few statements about the spirit concerns Eccl. 12:7, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” He quotes the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible as saying that the spirit “is not, properly speaking, an anthropological reality, but a gift of God which returns to him at the time of death.”

One is hard pressed to see how this reasoning plays out. There is nothing here that shows that the spirit is not an “anthropological reality” at all; if angels and evil spirits and the Spirit of God are anthropological realities, whence is the spirit of a man not so? (Eccl. 12:7, of course, does not say what happens to the spirit when it returns to God, or whether it has any consciousness; the word “return” has as many broad meanings as our modern word.)

Another verse pressed often into service in this regard is Gen. 3:19, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” This is taken to say that man is dust with no remainder at all, giving the idea that there is nothing else to survive death. (Eccl. 3:19-20 is also used similarly, but for reasons we will note below, using Ecclesiastes to support this doctrine is not a valid option.)

Taking this as a statement of complete identity, however, is rather too literalistic. Gen. 3:16-19 forms a metrical pattern and cannot be expected to be providing a full anthropological outline. If all man is is dust, what has happened to the breath of God that was put in him? Eccl. 12:7 answers, as does Elihu[5] in Job 34:14-15, for what his answer may be worth: “If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust.” The latter seems to be an OT version of James 2:26.

We conclude therefore, for now, that “soul sleep” advocates may need to fine-tune their case and take the ruwach into consideration. They (as well as respondents) seen to have erred in taking “soul” and “spirit” as synonyms. (In fact, one of Bacchiochi’s sources, Wolff’s Anthropology of the OT, notes what I have about “spirit” above, but Bacchiochi oddly says nothing about this part of Wolff’s book in the pieces we have read.)

Our primary source for the next part of this work is Philip Johnston’s Shades of Sheol: Death and Afterlife in the Old Testament, which collects and collates data on belief in death and the afterlife as expressed in the OT. We may begin by summarizing some of Johnston’s relevant conclusions that will be taken into consideration as proceed:

Psalms 6:5 For there is no mention of Thee in death; In Sheol who will give Thee thanks? (cf. Psalm 30:9)

Psalm 115:17 The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence.

Psalm 146:4 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

Though not strictly used to absolutely prove soul sleep, the first two verses may be appealed to as persuasive evidence of it. Practically speaking they only tell us that the dead do not thank or praise God. That’s only two activities out of many, and it is obviously possible to be conscious and not do these things for other reasons. (Eccl. 9:10 does note that “there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave,” but as we will see below, it is questionable to use Ecclesiastes for this doctrine.)

The question raised is whether we have any sign that those in death are indeed conscious. Johnston [76] has collected all references to Sheol and notes these very verses as indications that Sheol cuts the person off from Yahweh, and that it is a place of silence. Only two texts describe any sort of activity in Sheol:

Is. 14:9-11 Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us? Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.

Ezek. 32:31 The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell with them that help him: they are gone down, they lie uncircumcised, slain by the sword.

These verses speak of the dead as being roused to greet a newcomer, and speaking from Sheol. This is not what one would call an active retirement, of course, but it is clearly a conscious retirement, or at the least, a state in which consciousness is a possibility.

This would meld well with the consistent use of the metaphor of sleep with reference to the dead that is found throughout the Bible; there is no need to press the metaphor into indicating a permanent or absolute state (see below). Note particularly in Isaiah that the dead mock the newly arrived dead and their “weakness".

In reply one may perhaps argue that Isaiah speaks figuratively of the dead only as though they were capable of conscious thought. On the other hand, if this is so, then Isaiah’s choice of the “fellow dead” as the speakers, as opposed to those still alive or the Lord himself, seems particularly unfortunate for proponents of soul sleep.

It is the third verse from Psalms that seems most definitive. If one’s thoughts “perish” then that implies that there is an unconscious state. It is of some note, however, that the word for “perish” is not the same as words found elsewhere: כָּרַת karath, a word which explicitly indicates punishment[9] or destruction (Gen. 41:36), “And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.” or נָפַל naphal (Ex. 19:21) “And the LORD said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish.”.

The word used, ’abad, has a primary meaning of wandering away or losing one’s self. Here is how it is used elsewhere:

Ex. 10:7 And Pharaoh’s servants said unto him, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?

Deut. 4:26 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.

Consider this in light of the point that Israel’s ultimate punishment was exile.

Deut. 26:5 And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous.

1 Sam. 9:20 And as for thine asses that were lost three days ago, set not thy mind on them; for they are found. And on whom is all the desire of Israel? Is it not on thee, and on all thy father’s house?

The sense of this word suggests that the state of death is not exactly unconscious, but one in which your mind wanders and focus is extremely difficult (which may make sense if your brain is missing). In essence, if we understand ’abad correctly, those in Sheol do not lose consciousness, but rather, concentration. And if that is so, little wonder “sleeping” is the main activity.

Eccl. 9:5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.

Nearly every defense of “soul sleep” I have seen thus far begins with or contains this verse. If it could be taken at face value, it would offer substantial evidence that the dead are in a state of unconsciousness. However, it is precisely because we cannot take it at “face value” that its use for “soul sleep” is unjustified.

As we have noted in other contexts, the nature of Ecclesiastes is paradoxical. It is a book filled with statements regarded as being in tension (for example, on one hand mulling over the despair of life, then shortly thereafter encouraging the enjoyment of life) and has been variously identified as either a ddialogue of a man debating with himself, “torn between what he cannot help seeing and what he still cannot help believing,” [Kidner, Wisdom of Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes, 91], or else as the author’s “challenge to the man of the world to think his own position through to its bitter end, with a view to seeking something less futile.”

In either case, the compositional principle is the same, and derives from the ancient Near Eastern methodology, which we might loosely compare to a Hegelian case of combining thesis and antithesis, to arrive at a synthesis.

In this regard Ecclesiastes is related to other ANE literature with the same, or similar, content and methodology. Works like A Dialogue About Human Misery and Pessimistic Dialogue Between Master and Servant from Babylon; The Man Who Was Tired of Life from Egypt; and the book of Job from the OT, are all examples of this genre in which problems were discussed and resolved via dialogue.

It is therefore incautious to use Eccl. 9:5 as a doctrinal foundation passage. It is like quoting, alone, Eliphaz or Bildad in the book of Job (or even Job himself, as some do: cf. Job 14:12), as Ecclesiastes is a whole is a “dialogue” document and, even if this understanding of Eccl. 9:5 is able to be maintained, it arguably comes from the “negative” side of the dialogue and only represents a perception of the arguer from the negative side rather than being an affirmation of fact.

To the bewilderment of modern men who need all their answers in summary fashion, the above offers all that the Old Testament explicitly says about our subject. There are many other passages about Sheol and death, but no other passages give any explicit information about the state of the dead, and with particular reference to consciousness.

The only other relevant data from the OT is that which tells us of the illegal practice of necromancy (communication with the dead). The OT explicitly forbids this practice (Lev. 19:31, Deut. 18:10; cf. 2Kings 21:6, 2Kings 23:24) but that it is indeed practiced clearly suggests a belief in the ability to contact and speak to the dead in the first place. The most complete account, 1Sam. 28, shows us that Saul clearly expected Samuel to be able to be contacted and therefore conscious. Nevertheless, this is not hard enough evidence, for of course it is arguable that Saul was acting upon a mistaken belief, and whether indeed Samuel himself was called up (or whether it was some other impersonation, natural or supernatural) cannot be determined from the text.

Such is the work of the OT; now what of the NT? The data is more plentiful pro rata, but little more specific. References to the dead being “asleep” on one hand, and Paul referring to being “present” with the Lord on the other (2Cor. 5:8), harbor few specifics in terms of what the state of the deceased is (is “asleep” merely a euphemism, based on the bodily similarity of death to sleep, or are we to take it as reflecting a state of consciousness —  most of the time? all of the time? is one “with” the Lord in an unconscious state, being kept ready for resurrection?) and where they are “located".

As noted, it is difficult to invest too much meaning into the figurative use of “sleep” to refer to death. If the analogy has to be pressed, then during sleep, we do dream, and we do thereby have a sort of conscious life even in the intermediate state. We also have “light sleepers” who get up in the middle of the night, and go back to sleep. Yet proponents of soul sleep do not seem to press the analogy that far.

Proponents of “soul sleep” will inevitably point out that Judaism of this time, which apparently did believe in a conscious afterlife, had been tainted by Hellenistic thought, from whence it is supposed this idea came of a consciousness that could live apart from the body. While some would argue this in line with the Semitic Totality concept, that concept only, again, suggests that the material and immaterial parts of the body rightly belong together, not that they cannot exist independently. The immaterial part divorced from the material may, of course, be in less than optimal working order (as the “dizzy Sheolites” paradigm may suggest) because it is not in its proper place, but this would still not mean that there might not be some degree of consciousness after death.

Here are a few points about certain relevant passages:

Matt. 22:31-2 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

Opponents of “soul sleep” would argue that this passage indicates that the patriarchs are “alive” and in some sense conscious even now. Proponents respond that because Jesus’ original answer had to do with the resurrection body, this says nothing about a conscious state prior to that time.

The contextual data favors the former position. The same passage cited by Jesus, Exod. 3:6, was also used by Philo (Abr. 50-55) and 4 Maccabees 7:18-19, 16:25 to say that the patriarchs are still living, and later rabbis used a similar passage, Exod. 33:1, to say that “the righteous are called living even in their death” [Keener, Matthew commentary, 529].

However, it must nevertheless be granted that nothing specific is said here about the state of consciousness of the deceased. A “sleeping” soul might well be reckoned as “living” after the manner of a person in a cryogenic freeze. We need to seek more specific descriptions.

We will save Luke 16 for next to last. Last will be an special end-around.

John 11:11 These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.

Perhaps the most peculiar argument I have seen for “soul sleep” comes from Bacchiocchi. In the item called “The State of the Dead” he writes:

Lazarus’ experience is significant because he spent four days in the grave. This was not a near-death experience, but a real death experience. If, as popularly believed, the soul at death leaves the body and goes to heaven, then Lazarus would have had an amazing after-life experience to share about the four days he would have spent in paradise. The religious leaders and the people would have done all in their power to elicit from Lazarus as much information as possible about the after-life, especially since this topic was hotly debated among the Sadducees and Pharisees (Matt 22:23,28; Mark 12:18,23; Luke 20:27,33).

But Lazarus had nothing to share about life after death, because during the four days he spent in the tomb he slept the unconscious sleep of death. What is true of Lazarus is also true of six other persons who were raised from the dead: The widow’s son (1Kings 17:17-24); the Shunammite’s son (2Kings 4:18-37); the widow’s son at Nain (Luke 7:11-15); the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:41-42,49-56; Tabitha (Acts 9:36-41); and Eutychus (Acts 20:9-12). Each of these persons came out of death as if it were out of a profound sleep, with the same feeling and individuality, but with no afterlife experience to share.[10]

Bacchiocchi is wrongly taking silence in texts as an affirmation. We do not know what if anything these persons experienced, and the narrators of each document had other concerns, and didn’t have reams of paper to spare to write about it. Moreover, only Lazarus spent any significant amount of time dead (the Shunammite’s son and Tabitha may have been dead for half a day or one day), and the powers that be didn’t want his story — they wanted to kill him. (John 12:10) Bacchiochi is imposing modern fascination with “near death experiences” unto the texts.

Acts 2:34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand...

This has been used to declare that David is not in heaven, but still asleep in his grave; however, the context of this remark is a comparison to Jesus, who did ascend to heaven, and to make the point that Psalm 110:1 is fulfilled by Jesus, not by David. It really doesn’t make a clear point saying that David is not in beatific bliss somewhere, though it doesn’t make a positive affirmation about where he is, either.

1Peter 3:19-20 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

This passage should never be used against the doctrine of soul sleep. As we have shown in Chapter 5 of The Mormon Defenders, and here, the “spirits” referred to are not human spirits.

Luke 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.[11]

I have purposely saved this cite for near last. If any passage gives us a clear view of the afterlife one way or the other, it is this one; yet it still lacks specifics enough to develop a full-fledged picture of the afterlife. The rich man is conscious in hades; Abraham is conscious in paradise, and Lazarus presumably is as well (or can be) if he is being asked to run an errand.

This would seem clear evidence of an afterlife in which consciousness is at least possible (of course they could just all have been awake for a short time) but Bacchiocchi objects on the following grounds:

 • If we take this view literally, then what of that “the rich man is described as having ‘eyes’ that see and a ‘tongue’ that speaks, as well as seeking relief from the ‘finger’ of Lazarus — all real body parts"?

Also, there is a gulf between the two that cannot be crossed, yet does allow conversation. Are we to see these as being literal? Hence Bacchiochi implies that perhaps the state of consciousness is figurative as well.

This is rather an odd argument from an author who wants to press the “sleep” metaphor for death. We have no idea what these deceased men were “made of” so we can hardly say reference to eyes and tongue aren’t appropriate or might not refer to parallel sense organs/capabilities (see below). Nor can we say that it is impossible they could communicate long distance. Jewish apocryphal literature envisaged no such problem. The rich man, however, may have been wrong to think Lazarus could come over to him, which seems to be the point of Abraham’s rebuke.

Other than that, Bacchiocchi has an emotional objection about how we could not be happy in heaven if we could see people tormented in hell, but that’s rather off base from Jewish perceptions (which saw true “peace” when everyone was where they were supposed to be, and anyway, he’s not fully up to date on the rich man’s condition anyway  —  see also here) and amounts to anachronzing his modern individualism on the text.

 • Next he tells us that if we take this literally, it contradicts Matt. 25:31-32. But he’s not reading the passage right in the first place. This reflects not a single “judgment day” but a continuing process.

 • Bacchiocchi then brings out the OT verses noted above and claims they would be contradictory. (I.e., Eccl. 9:5-6). He then notes descriptions of hades by Josephus which match Jesus’ account. This leads to his last argument:

 • If this is an incorrect depiction, why did Jesus use it? We are told that “Jesus capitalized on the popular understanding of the condition of the dead in hades, not to endorse such views, but to drive home the importance of heeding in this present life the teachings of Moses and the prophets because this determines bliss or misery in the world to come.”

Really? Then why didn’t Jesus place the parable in the setting of “the world to come”? Bacchiocchi tries to draw a parallel thusly:

It should be noted that even in the preceding parable of the Dishonest Steward (Luke 16:1-12), Jesus uses a story that does not accurately represent Biblical truth. Nowhere does the Bible endorse the practice of a dishonest administrator who reduces to half the outstanding debts of creditors in order to get some personal benefits from such creditors. The lesson of the parable is to “make friends for yourselves” (Luke 16:9), not to teach dishonest business practices.
The parallel, however, holds no water: The issue is not “Biblical truth” per se but reality. Dishonest stewards obviously existed, even if they were poor moral examples. Nothing Jesus told in that parable reflected a non-reality. Thus the steward parable only lends credence to the suggestion that Jesus is illustrating real conditions in the afterlife and using them as a “template” for a moral story.

In closing, though, we might add that we have no idea whether Abraham, Lazarus, and the rich man were always active like they are depicted, or whether they were all in a sleepy state most of the time, or what. This parable doesn’t give us more than a sliver of a view regardless of what we make of it.

Now for the last verse I want to look at, and it is an “end around” that I have seen no “soul sleep” advocate deal with —  because it doesn’t mention death, they would probably never think to mention it. Here it is:

2 Cor. 12:2-4 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

This proves that Paul believed that a man could have a conscious life apart from a body. He didn’t die (most commentators think he is referring to himself obliquely here, and his conversion experience on the road to Damascus, as a means of not assuming too much honor) but he allows that he may have been “out of the body” and yet was still conscious and able to hear things (in spite of having no “ears"). None of this proves this state was static or permanent, but it is clear that he allows for the separation of two elements with consciousness remaining even in the separation.

The conclusion: It is clear that consciousness is possible in the intermediate state before resurrection; whether it is a steady or a changing state is a matter of speculation. Not that we need to be concerned. I suspect the Bible spends little time on the afterlife (including the silence Bacchiochi mistakenly sees as problematic) precisely in order to keep our minds where they should be  —  on the here and now, serving the Lord Jesus.

Related subject: Why are the doctrines of heaven and hell not found in the OT?

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False Doctrines On The Intermediate State After Death

Part 1 - Soul Sleep vs The Truth Of Scripture

By Ed Tarkowski

“Soul sleep” means that when a person dies, they have no conscious existence from that time on until the day of resurrection. Another definition I have come across is that the “soul sleep” of the deceased is an existence of silence, inactivity, and entire unconsciousness.

Mark 12:26-17 And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.

When God spoke to Moses, Jesus said said to him that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In other words, when God spoke to Moses at the burning bush, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had already lived and died. Yet Jesus said God was their God even now, the God of the living in the present, meaning, though these three had died physically, their spirits were not dead. Nor did He mention their spirits were asleep. In other words, their spirits were alive, God was their God, even while their bodies laid in the ground.

The bodies of these three were dead and buried at the time Jesus spoke of them. He spoke of them spiritually, though, as being alive. He mentioned God as the God of the living, not the God of those asleep whether in or out of their bodies, as some propose, that after death men’s spirits slept in their bodies until the resurrection and were basically unconscious. No, He said that God meant He was “the God of the living” when He spoke to Moses and when Jesus spoke to the men of His time, “living” meaning,

LIVING 21 2198. ζάω, dzah’-o; a prim. verb; to live (lit. or fig.): —  life (-time), (a-) live (-ly), quick.

James described the dead [sic.] of a person:

James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

In other words, when a person dies, his body dies and the spirit leaves the body:

WITHOUT 55 5565. χωρὶς (chōris); adv. from χώρα, (chóra); at a space, i.e. separately or apart from (often as prep.): —  beside, by itself, without.

In Genesis 35:19-19, we read this about the soul departing from Rachel when she died, making soul sleep an impossibility:[12]

18And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. 19And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem [parenthesis in the original].

That the spirit goes to be with the Lord is stated by Paul in Philippians 1:21-26:

21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. 23For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: 24Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. 25And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; 26That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.

Paul’s choices were two in number: either

(1) stay in the flesh and continue to live on this earth serving God’s people, or,

(2) depart and be with Christ.

Where is Christ? Is He in the ground in some type of soul sleep? No, He is in heaven until He returns and the believer joins Him there when each departs at death, that is, when their spirit leaves the body at death as James described. Paul again repeated himself in 2 Corinthians:

2Corinthians 5:6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:

Simply stated. while he is in his body, he is absent from the Lord’s heavenly presence. When he will be absent from the body, he will no longer be “absent from the Lord.” There is no mention of an intermediate state of soul sleep.

One of the most important scriptures refuting soul sleep is found in Ephesians and it concerns Christ and His resurrection:

Ephesians 4:7-10: 7But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

Jesus lead captivity captive when He descended into the lower parts of the earth. In other words, He descended and then ascended out of their taking with Him a host of captives (those who waited for His coming). That they were there waiting to be lead out shows the non-existence of soul sleep:

LED CAPTIVITY 161. αἰχμαλωσία, aichmalósia; from αἰχμάλωτος (aichmalótos); captivity: —  captivity.

LED CAPTIVITY From 164. αἰχμάλωτος, aheekh-mal-o-tos’; from aichme (a spear) and a der. of the same as G259; prop. a prisoner of war, i.e. (gen.) a captive: —  captive.

LED CAPTIVITY From 259. ἅλωσις, halósis; from a collateral form of G138; capture: —  be taken.

LED CAPTIVITY From 138. αἱρέω, haireó; prob. akin to G142; to take for oneself, i.e. to prefer: —  choose.

LED CAPTIVITY From 142. αἴρω, airó; a prim. verb; to lift; by impl. to take up or away; fig. to raise (the voice), keep in suspense (the mind); spec. to sail away (i.e. weigh anchor); by Heb. [comp. H5375 שְׂא֤וּ nasah] to expiate sin: —  away with, bear (up), carry, lift up, loose, make to doubt, put away, remove, take (away, up).

At death, the spirits of men of faith were held captive at death in Hades and released from there when Jesus descended there after His death (see 1Peter 3:19;  4:6). Jesus preached to spirits held captive, whether they be the spirits of those in Noah’s days or not. He didn’t preach to a sleeping crowd.

Finally, Revelation clearly indicates that the souls of the martyrs and the saints are in heaven before the resurrection on the last day, again refuting the idea of soul sleep:[13]

Revelation 6:9-11 9And 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: 10And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? 11And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.,
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Part 2: The False Doctrine Of Annihilationism

By Ed Tarkowski

The doctrine of Annihilationism has various forms. Some, not believing in an afterlife at all, believe man exists during a life on this earth, but at death simply ceases to exist. But, those who are sincere concerning this doctrine believe man was made to live forever, a free gift that can be forfeited by continuing in sin by rejecting Christ. These do not suffer eternally, but only temporarily and then are annihilated and cease to exist.

An example of this doctrine is that which is proposed by the Jehovah Witnesses. They do not believe in the separation of the spirit from the body at death as described in James 2:26:

James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

WITHOUT 5565. χωρὶς (chōris); adv. from χώρα (chóra); at a space, i.e. separately or apart from (often as prep.): —  beside, by itself, without.

“Without” means separately.” The spirit is separated from the body at death. This is much different than believing the soul and spirit become so infused with the body at death that the entire person is annihilated.

They believe each person’s life ceases to exist, both those who believe in Christ and those who don’t, when the body is placed in the grave. God then supposedly re-creates them as they were for their life in Paradise.

There are basically three forms of this belief. One is that at death, everyone ceases to exist, but those who do believe in Christ receive immortality. A second form of this belief is that the wicked are given another chance after death to accept Christ, but if they do not, they then cease to exist and are annihilated. Another form is that the wicked are thrown into hell for a short period of suffering and are then annihilated.

Annihilationism denies the existence of an eternal hell as Scripture describes it because the doctrine denies the eternal existence of man. If one is immediately or eventually annihilated when life on earth ends, there is no need for a place of punishment. But, Jesus said,

Matthew 25:46 And these shall go away into EVERLASTING punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Revelation 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Notice the word “everlasting” in Matthew 25:46. It is the same word used in this verse concerning the New Covenant:

Hebrews 13:20-21 20Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

This denies annihilationism because the wicked will suffer forever in the lake of fire. If this is not so, then the New Covenant is also nullified because it cannot be eternal as we understand it. The result of this type of nonsense concerning annihilationism is that all will eventually be lost and annihilated, the saved and the unsaved (because of the definition of “everlasting” in everlasting covenant). But, don’t worry, the New Covenant is forever.,
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Famous Supporters of Soul Sleep
Adapted from Wikipedia

William Tyndale (1484-1536), English Bible translator

“And ye, in putting them [the departed souls] in heaven, hell and purgatory, destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection... And again, if the souls be in heaven, tell me why they be not in as good a case as the angels be? And then what cause is there of the resurrection?” —  William Tyndale, An Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue (1530)

Martin Luther (1493-1546), Anti-Semitic German reformer and Bible translator

“Salomon judgeth that the dead are a sleepe, and feele nothing at all. For the dead lye there accompting neyther dayes nor yeares, but when they are awoken, they shall seeme to have slept scarce one minute.” —  Martin Luther, An Exposition of Salomon’s Booke, called Ecclesiastes or the Preacher (translation 1573)

“It is certain that to this day Abraham is serving God, just as Abel, Noah are serving God. And this we should carefully note; for it is divine truth that Abraham is living, serving God, and ruling with Him. But what sort of life that may be, whether he is asleep or awake, is another question. How the soul is resting we are not to know, but it is certain that it is living."[GN]

“But the soul does not sleep in the same manner (like a person on earth.) It is awake. It experiences visions and the discourses of the angels and of God. Therefore the sleep in the future life is deeper than it is in this life. Nevertheless, the soul lives before God.”[GN]

John Milton (1608-1674), English poet and Latin secretary to Oliver Cromwell

“Inasmuch then as the whole man is uniformly said to consist of body, and soul (whatever may be the distinct provinces assigned to these divisions), I will show, that in death, first, the whole man, and secondly, each component part, suffers privation of life… The grave is the common guardian of all till the day of judgment.” — John Milton, De Doctrina Christiana (never published)

Present-day defenders of these doctrines include the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, the Church of God (Seventh Day), the Church of God Abrahamic Faith, and various other Church of God organizations including most Related Denominations which adhered to the older teachings of the Worldwide Church of God. Some authorities within Conservative Judaism, notably Neil Gillman, also support the notion that the souls of the dead are unconscious until the Resurrection.[14]


dividing line

Opponents of Soul Sleep
Adapted from Wikipedia

Opponents of psychopannychism and thanetopsychism include the Roman Catholic Church, most mainline Protestant denominations, and most conservative Protestants, Evangelicals, and Fundamentalists. The Roman Catholic Church has called soul “mortality” a serious heresy:

Whereas some have dared to assert concerning the nature of the reasonable soul that it is mortal, we, with the approbation of the sacred council do condemn and reprobate all those who assert that the intellectual soul is mortal, seeing, according to the canon of Pope Clement V, that the soul is … immortal … and we decree that all who adhere to like erroneous assertions shall be shunned and punished as heretics. Fifth Council of the Lateran (1513)

Calvinism and Eastern Orthodoxy both affirm a conscious interim state, and both deny that the interim state of rest or suffering is the final state of “heaven” or “hell”.

John Calvin

“As long as (the soul) is in the body it exerts its own powers; but when it quits this prison-house it returns to God, whose presence, it meanwhile enjoys while it rests in the hope of a blessed Resurrection. This rest is its paradise. On the other hand, the spirit of the reprobate, while it waits for the dreadful judgment, is tortured by that anticipation…” [NOTE]

Contemporary opponents include Millard Erickson. [NOTE]
accessed 11/23/21


dividing line

My Personal Opinion

Of all of these articles, I believe that Holding does the best job by far of presenting the scriptural basis upon which to refute the concept of soul sleep.

To add to his quite capable study, I wish to present my personal conclusion upon the matter; however, as unusual as it may be for me to do so, I am going to base this opinion primarily upon human logic, using Holding’s conclusion as the foundation stone for that logic. My argument is going to be presented as a series of logic statements, each of which builds upon its predecessor to the final conclusion.

  1. Yehovah, the God of Avraham, Yitz’chak, and Ya’akov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), is clearly presented in the Scriptures as being the Creator of all things that exist.
  2. Inasmuch as Yehovah created both time and space, then clearly He must exist outside of both; He obviously cannot exist totally within, and be bound by, that which He created.
  3. The Scriptures clearly teach that Yehovah became a Man and walked among us in the Person of Yeshua HaMashiach.
  4. The Scriptures (particularly 1Cor. 8:6 and Col. 1:16) declare that Yehovah, in the Person of Yeshua HaMashiach, created all things, and by Him everything created continues to exist.
  5. Since Yehovah is the Creator God, and since Yeshua created and sustains all things, then Yeshua is HaShem.
  6. Since Yeshua is Yehovah, Who exists outside of time and space, and Yehovah is the Creator, then Yeshua the Creator must now exist outside of both time and space.
  7. The God of Avraham, Yitz’chak, and Ya’akov, in the Person of Yeshua, taught His talmidim that He was going to prepare a place for them (and for us who believe in Him).
  8. Yeshua told the thief on the cross that he would be with Yeshua in “Paradise” [Hebrew גַּן עֵדֶן (Gan Eden, “Garden of Eden”)] not at some time in the distant future, but that very day.
  9. Under the inspiration of Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit of God) Rav Sha’ul taught that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
  10. From statements 7, 8, and 9 we can determine that immediately upon the death of the body we should expect to be with Yeshua in Gan Eden.
  11. Since Yeshua exists outside of time and space, and to be absent from the body is to be with Him where He exists, then when we are absent from the body we must of necessity be with Him, ourselves outside of time and space.
  12. Since immediately upon our death we exist outside of time and space, then for us there can be no “time” between our physical death and our resurrection. Our resurrection must therefore of necessity occur instantaneously, precisely at the instant of our physical death.

This scenario, however, can only apply to those who have experienced, or will experience, physical death subsequent to Yeshua HaMashiach’s resurrection. Prior to that event, the spirits of the deceased were conscious (not asleep) in Sheol, the land of the dead, as described by Yeshua and recorded in Luke 16:19-31. We can be sure that this teaching was not merely a parable, since in the Master’s parables nobody was ever specifically named; yet in this account the poor man is Lazarus, a real person and not some fictional character invented for the sake of the illustration.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house — for I have five brothers — in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31, NASB)

From Yeshua’s description we know that in sheol there are (or were at the time of His teaching) two separate areas or compartments, Avraham’s Bosom where the righteous dead, with Avraham, awaited their resurrection to eternal reward, and Hades where the unrighteous dead likewise, in conscious torment, presently await their resurrection to eternal punishment. We also know that these two areas are separated by a “great chasm” across which none may pass.

From Ephesians 4:8-10 we learn that when He ascended, he led a host of captives from the lower parts of the earth (sheol), and ascended with them far above all the heavens.

From these two passages we may draw the assumption (though not a firm conclusion by any means) that upon Yeshua’s resurrection and ascension, He led all the righteous dead from Avraham’s Bosom to go to be with Him in that place outside of time and space that He has prepared for us.

We may likewise assume (though not conclude with certainty) that all the unrighteous dead from all ages continue in conscious torment in Sheol until the time of their resurrection to the Final Judgment.


  1. This is an old Wikipedia entry that has been deleted. The topic of “soul sleep” has now been incorporated into the article on “Christian mortalism.” [RETURN]

 2. “Several places in the New Testament we clearly find the notion that the dead are conscious, dwelling somewhere in the heavenly realms beyond, and awaiting, either in torment or comfort, the final judgment (Luke 16:19-31, 23:43; 1 Pet. 3:18-20; 4:6; Rev. 6:9-11; 7:9-12).” James Tabor [02/12/23 Dr. Tabor’s website is currently being redesigned, so this particular article is no longer available.] [RETURN]

 3. John Calvin, “Psychopannychia,” @, accessed 11/23/21. The website has been taken down as of 09/12/23. [RETURN]

4a. Tal Davis, “Soul Sleep” at, last accessed 12 September 2023. [RETURN]

4b. It should be noted that most Evangelicals consider the Jehovah’s Witnesses to be a pseudo-Christian cult and the Seventh Day Adventists to be outside the scope of “Mainstream Christianity.” [RETURN]

 5. To take just any speakerְ’s statement, in or out of context, and use it to construct a doctrinal position is absolutely foolish. There are all kinds of speakers in the Bible who say all kinds of things that are totally wrong! We can only accept as authoritative those speakers or writers who are speaking in the name of Yehovah. [RETURN]]

 6. The writer accuses Bacchiochi of contadicting himself, but this is simply not the case. Bacchiochi states what he believes, then in the next paragraph he states what some others believe. [RETURN]

 7. The NIV is not well know for its accuracy in translation, and I do not believe it should ever be used for serious Bible study. In fact, I ofter refer to the NIV as the “Non-Inspired Version.” That being said, translating the Hebrew word שְׁאוֹל (sheol), as “grave” is using a Hebrew idiom to translate the word. Johnston is absolutely correct! In the Hebrew Bible, Sheol refers to the underworld, or the abode of the dead, for which “grave” is an idiom.   [RETURN]

 8. The primary use of “Sheol” in the Hebrew Bible is as the designation for the abode of the dead. The word is used metaphorically to refer to the wicked because they are “spiritually dead” and their destiny is Sheol. [RETURN]

 9. I have provided a link from the word karath yo the NAS Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon so you can check it and see if you agree with the author that the primary meaning of the word is punishment. [RETURN]

10. Scripture is absolutely silent about whether Lazarus and the others mentioned did or did not have anything to say about his “after-life” experience. To assume that Lazarus and the others had nothing to say simply because Scripture mentions nothing about it, either pro or con, is a horrendous error in Bible interpretation, which should lead us to approach with extreme skepticism everything else the author may have to say on any subject concerning the Bible and its interpretation. That being said, assuming the Sadducees did interview Lazarus and the others after their resuscitation, they would have dismissed out of hand anything they were told because of their disbelief in the resurrection of the dead. They would have simply assumed the entire event was a hoax. [RETURN]

11. IMHO, the King James Version is directly responsible for a huge portion of the doctrinal error extant within the Christian Church. Not only were the KJV translators woefully ignorant of the Hebrew language, the English language has so deastically changed since 1611 that a huge percentage of the King James Version vocabulary words have different meanings than they did in 1611; some interpreters extimate as high as 25% or more. Of the approximately 12,000-word 1611 vocabulary, 300 words or so are found today only in the KJV; they have totally disappeared from modern English. Here is a list of nearly 750 “less-commonly-used” words from the KJV. In the passage in question, the word incorrectly translated as “hell” is the Greek word ᾅδης (hadēs), which is the exact equivalent of the Hebrew word Sheol, and refers to the “nether world,” the realm of the dead, not to γέεννα (Gehenna, hell). [RETURN]

12. The text says that Rachel called out as she was dying, not after she died. Therefore the author’s assumption that this verse rules out soul sleep simply does not logically follow. [RETURN]

13. The text says that John saw the souls “under the altar” but it does not say that the altar is “in heaven.” It is therefore not logical to deduce that those souls were in heaven. At the time that John envisioned, the Temple had been rebuilt and Levitical worship had been re-established. Is it not just as reasonable to assume that these souls were the souls of those who had been martyred by the Antichrist and that they were beneath the altar in the Temple in Jerusalem? I’m not stating that I believe this to be the case, but the assumption is just as logical. Be very careful what you assume from a single verse in the Bible! [RETURN]

14. Note that all of the organizations listed in this paragraph are considered to be outside of mainstream Christianity. [RETURN]

15. 12 Sep. 2023: Some of the source sites have been renamed and others have been totally reformatted from html to php resulting in numerous links being broken. I think I caught them all. If you find links I missed, I apologize profusely. [RETURN]

Originally posted (in this form) on Tuesday, 23 November 2021
Repaired numerous broken links on Tuesday, 12 September 2023[15]

Page last updated on Monday, 25 September 2023 01:13 PM
(Updates are generally minor formatting or editorial changes.
Major content changes are identified as "Revisions”)

Anxiously awaiting Mashiach’s return

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