Tag Archives: soul

Soul Sleep: Deviant Doctrine to Avoid

Most Christians agree that the soul survives death. What happens until the resurrection, however, is a matter of debate.

What happens to the human soul when a person dies?

Does it disintegrate the moment a person’s brain flat lines like materialists argue?

Or does it survive the body to live forever?

Of course most Christians agree that the soul survives.

However, not everyone agrees on what happens to that soul once a person dies.

Roman Catholics insist they trudge through purgatory.

Sects like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists, on the other hand, believe the soul remains unconscious until resurrection day.

This is called “soul sleep.” Or “conditional immortality.”

Soul Sleep: Biblical Proofs

Sects who embrace the soul sleep concept base their beliefs off of a host of verses:

Who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see…. 

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. 

The soul that sins shall die. 

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

At first blush it seems they might have a case. But they don’t. These verses have been wrenched out of their context.

Here’s how.

Soul Sleep: Where These Sects Went Wrong

Yes, First Timothy 6:16 suggests that it is God alone who has immortality. No argument from me. But in no way can we assume that he’s the only one.

In fact, Paul argues it’s BECAUSE God is the author of immortality that he is also the giver of immortality. We live forever because God sustains us.

I’ll admit, the notion of death in Genesis 2:17 is peculiar simply because Adam and Eve don’t actually die. At least not right away.

What’s going on? Here we have the promise of [future] physical death AND [immediate] spiritual death…

But the spiritual death the author of Genesis had in mind isn’t the soul sleep kind. No.

He had in mind the deadness in our desire for God…we turn the corner from agents who can sin to to agents who are slaves to sinblind to his beauty and incorrigibly bent to reject his son Christ.

What about Ezekiel and Romans? They simply echo the notion that physical and spiritual death is the punishment of sin. Adam’s original sin.

Okay. If souls don’t sleep while they wait for resurrection, what do they do? Here’s what the Bible teaches.

Orthodox View of the Soul After Death

Traditional Christians affirm that the human soul survives death. But not in a slumber.

In  Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

The Apostle  meant the “shedding of this body” and union with Christ in spirit.

Paul echoed a similar sentiment when he said, “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” .

Then you have the spirits of the martyred tribulation saints in heaven who cry:  ”O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 

The clincher, of course, is Jesus who said to the thief on the cross, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” .


As you can see, the biblical evidence for soul sleep is lacking while evidence for the souls immediate union with God is strong. In a nutshell, when a redeemed person dies his soul is united with God immediately to wait the final resurrection of his body…

And when an unregenerate person dies, he is immediately ushered out of the presence of God to await final judgment.

Now, it’s your turn. What did I miss? Got any questions?

Share your thoughts. Brutal and all.

Death: A Doctrine We Can’t Neglect


Death looms over us all.

It frightens some and elates other.

Drives us to noble works and dreadful deeds.

Perhaps no single force has worked so powerfully on man as his knowledge that he must surely die.

 called the knowledge of one’s own death the essential fact that distinguishes us from animals.

Yet, we spend our days thinking about everything but death.

Look at the billion dollar age-defying industry and you see what cultural anthropologist  might call symptoms of death denial.

Even our sermons are geared to the here and now: stable marriages, stout muscles, serene minds and safe investments.

Strange society, indeed: we strive to preserve the LEAST enduring part of our beings–the body. And we do this in spite of substantial words the Bible has to say about death.

Maybe you’ve never thought of death as a Christian doctrine. Or one that deserves much attention. But indeed, it is a doctrine and it does deserve healthy consideration.

Let me show you how and why.

Physical Death: The Lowdown

The Bible speaks of death in three ways: physical, spiritual and eternal.

For plants and animals, death is nothing more than the end of life. But for humans it’s more. It’s the separation of the soul from the body. It’s a passage of one kind of existence to another.

In ancient Israel, death was a natural end to life. So the goal of an Israelite was to live long and die in the presence of children and grandchildren.

For example:

And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. 

But where did they believe the soul departed to? Ancient Hebrews regarded death as the soul’s entrance into –where the deceased were cut off from God and community.

In spite of this grim fate,  proclaims that God the redeemer is in both heaven and Sheol. In fact, he is able to bring a person out of Sheol:

The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. 

It’s only in Ecclesiastes do you find outright pessimism expressed in the face of death. And that book probably shows considerable non-Hebraic influence.

Spiritual Death: The Lowdown

Abel was the first human recorded in the Bible to die. Cain, his brother, murdered him. But the first mention of death in a physical AND spiritual sense occurred in :

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.

In other words, death was a result of sin.

That’s why the New Testament sees death NOT as a personal event but a theological problem: sin introduced death and death involves separation from God.

This is spiritual death.

Romans 3:23 says it this way:

ll have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” They are spiritually cut off from God. But when we are born again–when Christ redeems us–we are raised from spiritual death and reunited spiritually with God.

Eternal Death: The Lowdown

Eternal death is the third version of biblical death. This is known as the second death–and it appears in :

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.

This is the everlasting separation from God in hell. It occurs after the final judgment.

In the meantime, the devil is the –the very god of this world that Christ conquered paradoxically by dying.

Death Defeated by Christ’s Resurrection

Paul saw death–all versions–as an enemy, an enemy conquered by Christ’s resurrection:

The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 

In fact, the major point of New Testament passages like 1 Corinthians 5:7; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Philippians 2:8 and 1 Peter 3:18-19 is that Jesus did not remain dead but defeated the devil, took the power of death and ascended in victory.

This naturally rules out notions of purgatory or soul sleep, doctrines that contradict the sufficiency of Christ’s death. Christ’s death and resurrection removed the curse of death once and for all.

How Christians Should View Death

So even though Christians still die physically, death can never separate us from Christ. We do not grieve like the rest of people who have no hope.

Instead, our mourning is enhanced by our anticipation of our own transition from this life to the next.

Phillip Yancey once said, “We need a renewed awareness of death” and “a faith, in the midst of our groaning, that death is not the last word, but the next to the last.”

A proper view of death–both the beautiful and the ugly–allows us to articulate to the godless the joy found in the hope we have secured in Christ’s own death and resurrection.

That is fundamental to the gospel.

Furthermore the paradox is that we can fully engage and enjoy our commission to subdue the earth when we realize that our half-baked, corrupt crafts will transform into eternal, incorruptible objects that glorify God in the future resurrection. A topic we will visit next in this series.

What About You?

Do you have a healthy respect for death? Are you living in the light that one day you will die? And how do you cope with that truth? Do you put your trust in Christ or this culture?

Drop me a line on Google+. I look forward to your thoughts. Brutal and all.

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