DOES THE BIBLE TEACH SOUL SLEEP?
We do recognise that the position of conditional immortality or soul sleep is held by millions of people particularly the Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, could we point to the following Scriptures to support the position that when we die that our spirit either goes to Heaven or to hell:
1 John 5:11-13 “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the Name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye hath eternal life, and that you may believe on the Name of the Son of God.” The grammar and context of this passage presents eternal life (Eionion Zoes) as the present possession of every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. The implication is a never ending life as a continuing conscious existence.
John 11:25-26 Jesus said to Martha: “I am the Resurrection and the Life: He that believeth in Me, thou he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this.” The context was the Lord Jesus Christ consoling Martha upon the death of her brother Lazarus. Martha had stated that she believed her brother would rise again on the last day. In response Jesus stated: “I am the Resurrection and the Life: He that believes in Me, even though he were dead, yet shall he live, and the one living and believing in Me shall never die.”
2 Timothy 1:9-10 “Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light to the Gospel.”
In this verse life (Zoen) and immortality (Aphtharsian) are clearly distinguished. Life is bestowed upon the believer at the moment of regeneration, immortality is a future gift to be bestowed upon the believers’ body at the second advent of our Lord. “This corruptible must put on incorruption (Aphtharsian) and this mortal must put on immortality (Athanasian).”
Similarly in Romans 2:7 the Apostle Paul distinguishes between life as a spiritual existence and immortality as incorruptibility in a body like that of our risen Lord.
Philippians 1:21-23 “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I know not for I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better; nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” Paul clearly combines departing from this life with being with Christ. (Philippians 1:23).
2 Corinthians 5:8 “…To be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”
The Hebrew word for soul is Nephesh. The Hebrew word for spirit is Ruach. The New Testament Greek equivalents are Psuche for soul and Pneuma for spirit. In Acts 7:59 Stephen committed his spirit (Pneuma) into the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ. We then read that he “fell asleep”, in death, as his physical body took on the appearance of sleep. But he as a person did not die, he experienced the separation of his soul from his body and he went to be with the Lord into whose hands he had committed his spiritual nature.
In Luke 23:46 the Lord Jesus said “Father into Thy hands I commend My spirit.”
In Matthew 10:28 our Lord Jesus taught that we should not fear those can only kill the body, but were not able to kill the soul.
In Matthew 17:3 we see Moses and Elijah (who had died) with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration.
It is on the basis of such Scriptures that the Westminster Larger Catechism concludes that: “The communion and glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible Church enjoy immediately after death, is, in that their souls are then made perfect in holiness, and received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full Redemption of their bodies, even in death continue united in Christ, and their bodies rest in their graves as in their beds, till at the last day they be again united to their souls. Whereas the souls of the wicked are at their death cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, and their bodies kept in their graves, as in their prisons, till the Resurrection and Judgement of the Great Day.
“At the Last Day there shall be a general Resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust; when they that are then found alive shall in a moment be changed; and the selfsame bodies of the dead which were laid in the grave, being then again united to their souls forever, shall be raised up by the power of Christ. The bodies of the just, by the Spirit of Christ, and by the virtue of His Resurrection as the Head, shall be raised in power, spiritual, incorruptible, and made like to His glorious Body; and the bodies of the wicked shall be raised up and be dishonoured by Him, as an offended Judge.”
“It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the Judgement.” Hebrew 9:27
We need to be like the Bereans who were more noble than the rest for they studied the Scriptures daily to see if the things which the Apostle Paul taught were true.
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74
Cape Town, South Africa
Fax: (021) 685-5884
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