What does the Bible say about soul sleep?


Clarify Share Report Asked July 01 2013 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

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Shea S. Michael Houdmann Supporter Got Questions Ministries
"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 "s...

July 01 2013 4 responses Vote Up Share Report

Eced7a1f c81d 42f4 95ea 9d5719dce241 Singapore Moses Messenger of God, CEO in IT industry, Astronaut, Scientist
► No Soul-Sleeping Taught in Scripture
All scriptures used to teach soul-sleep clearly refer to the body which does sleep in the dust of the earth until the resurrection of the body (Dan. 12:2; Jn. 5:28-29). The body is the only part of man that dies at physical death (Jas. 2:26). The reason it dies is because the inner man, the life of the body, leaves the body. It then goes back to dust and is spoken of as being asleep (Gen. 3:19 Eccl. 3:19-21 Mt. 9:24; Jn. 11:11; 1Cor. 11:30; 15:6,18,20,51; 1Th. 4:13-17).

► Soul-sleeping is a fallacy, but body-sleeping is a reality in Scriptures:

The following soul-sleep references from the Bible teach us the body sleep and it does NOT relate to the soul and spirit that NEVER sleeps.

1. Sleep in the dust (Job 7:21; Ps. 22:15; 146:4; Eccl. 3:19-20 Dan. 12:2). Only the body was made of dust and that is what will return to dust again (Gen. 2:7; 3:19; Eccl. 3:20). The soul and spirit are not made of material substances as the body so they will not return to dust.

2. Death--a falling asleep (Acts 7:60; 13:36; 1Cor. 15:6,18,20,51; 1Th. 4:13-17; 5:10; 2Pet. 3:4).
This is true as far as the body is concerned, for the body is the only part men can see as falling asleep. No man could see the soul and spirit, or the invisible part of man, whether it fell asleep or not. 

3. Death is spoken of as sleep (Dt. 31:16; 2Sam. 7:12; 1Ki. 2:10; 11:21,43). This refers to the body falling asleep, as in points 1 and 2, above.

4. No difference between man and beast in death (Eccl. 3:19-20). This is used as conclusive proof by some that both man and beast become extinct at death, but an honest acknowledgement of facts here will show that it refers to the body, not the soul. In the same passage it confirms that the spirit of man goeth upward, and the spirit of beast goeth downward to the earth.

5. No consciousness in death (Ps. 6:5). Physically, there is no remembrance, because the body dies and has no soul or spirit in it that could cause the body to continue having memory and consciousness. The body without the spirit is dead (Jas. 2:26).

6. The dead don't praise the Lord (Ps. 115:17). This is true as far as the body is concerned, for it is lifeless, unconscious, and goes into dust again when the soul and spirit leave it (Jas. 2:26). 
However, the souls of the righteous continue to praise God in full consciousness after leaving their bodies (Heb. 12:22-23 Rev. 6:9-11), but the wicked who go to hell will have no praise for God. Their sole interest will be to escape such a literal burning hell and that will be impossible (Lk. 16:19-31).

7. In the day of death "his thoughts perish" (Ps. 146:4). This also is true as far as the body is concerned.

8. "The dead know not anything" (Eccl. 9:5-6 Job 14:21). Again, we repeat these facts are true regarding the body, but not the soul and spirit.

9. The dead come out of the graves (Mt. 27:52; Jn. 5:28-29). As to the bodies which die at physical death, they are put into graves; but the souls and spirits never go to graves, as proved in many scriptures.

10. David is not yet ascended into heaven (Acts 2:34). This is true as to his body, but not true as to his soul and spirit, for all souls who died before Christ's resurrection were taken to heaven as captives (Ps. 68:18; Eph. 4:8-10).

October 20 2015 2 responses Vote Up Share Report

Closeup Jennifer Rothnie Supporter Housewife, Artist, Perpetually Curious
'Soul sleep' is a term referring to the theory that there is no awareness between death and judgement. That is, the theory that after a person dies, the next thing they are aware of is the Resurrection and judgement. 

"Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." I Cor 15:35-58

To the people left alive and living, it would seem like the person had 'fallen asleep'. To the dead, there would be no awareness of the passage of time at all. They would be dying, then the next thing they would be aware of would be the Resurrection/Judgement/and being present with the Lord.

"We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord." II Cor 5:1-10

In the theory of soul sleep, there is no intermediate state that the soul or spirit resides in such as Purgatory, a subsection of the grave such as 'Righteous Sheol' in which souls or spirits are self-aware, or in heaven looking down at their loved-ones still on Earth. Rather, the soul-sleep theory holds that there is death and then there is judgement, with no in-between phase of consciousness.

Heb 9:27 "..Just as man is appointed to die once, and after that to face judgment..."

John 5:28-29 "...An hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment." 

Rev 20:5: "The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection."

There are several support verses for man being unaware of his state of death before the Resurrection, mostly from the Old Testament, the largest NT support being I Cor 15:35-58:

Eccl. 9:5: "For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten."

[This verse in context is speaking of earthly rewards, as believers still look forward to a heavenly reward (Eph 6:7-8, John 4:36, Rom 6:22, etc].

Psa 146:4: "His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; In that very day his thoughts perish."

[The breath of life returns to God, but the thoughts of a mortal perish at death, unless we have hope in the redemption of God (Hosea 13:14)].

I Sam 28:15 "Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?"

Psa 6:5: "Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave?"


There are many criticisms commonly leveled against the soul-sleep theory. Some are valid, some are spurious.

For example of a spurious criticism, one charge often leveled is that Christ said 'I tell you today you will be with me in Paradise', and as such the thief must have gone to a subsection of sheol (the grave) dubbed 'Paradise' along with Jesus. This interpretation neglects several things; namely that Paradise is in heaven, Jesus was making proclamation to spirits in Tartarus while in the tomb, and that 'TODAY' was a rabbinical term referring to the coming of the Messiah, specifically to entering God's rest. See http://ebible.com/answers/19855?ori=167400 for more detail.

Yet there are legitimate criticisms of the theory as well. If those who have died are asleep without consciousness, then how are the several descriptions of individuals conscious after death explained? What of Moses and Elijah, seen at the transfiguration (Matt 17:3)? What of the martyred souls under the altar? (Rev 6:9-10)

With differing theories pointing to different verses, and differing usage of terms [such as soul or hell], it is hard for anyone to be completely dogmatic about the state of the dead between death and Resurrection.

What we can know clearly from scripture, however, is that our hope is in Christ and in the Resurrection unto eternal life! (Jude 1:21)

October 09 2015 5 responses Vote Up Share Report

Image Greg Kelly
There are so many verses that explain what Paul meant by saying "absent from the body". 

There are so many verses that explain the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is about the Jews and Gentiles, not what happens when someone dies. Jesus referred to death as sleep. He did not take Lazarus from somewhere and place him back here. 

The word for "hell" in the Bible is "Sheol" which means "the grave" and in the New Testament "Tartarus", "Hades" and Gehenna, which was simply the garbage refuse dump outside of Jerusalem, with Hades being used in allegorical context and Tartarus a place of darkness. I say it is up for a great discussion, a good place to reason together and why it matters, but I by no means think it is "unbiblical" and I would be denying the very Bible to say so. 

There are literally 41 or more times where death is equated to a cease of life. We are not immortal, only God is immortal and it is immortality of the soul belief that causes this disbelief in a doctrine that separates all the other "good place up, bad place down" religions in that eternal life is in the hands of Jesus at His second coming and The Last enemy to be defeated will be death. 

In Genesis everyone is stated as dying in the genealogy except Enoch, why? I could keep going for books have been written on the subject. Each person weigh the evidence on your own--you will see that some people are not asleep, but soul sleep is not without Biblical reasoning. That is quite logical and not "off the wall".

September 19 2014 5 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Mark Hilburn
I think that the term "soul sleep" is a red herring that helps hide the truth. Genesis 2:7 (kjv) clearly states that God formed man from the dust and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man "became" a living soul. So, we do not have a soul, we "are" a soul. When we die our body returns to the dust from whence it came and the breath of life goes back to God who gave it. If you remove hydrogen or oxygen from water then you no longer have water. Likewise, if you remove the body or the breath of life then you no longer have a soul. The soul does not sleep at death, it ceases to exist.

Jesus reffered to death as being sleep. By definition, Lazarus was not a soul when he was asleep because he had not the breath of life. I think the use of the word sleep by Jesus here was just the most understandable word to describe the state we are in between death and the resurrection.

October 21 2015 2 responses Vote Up Share Report

Stringio Dale Richardson
To define what a soul is in the biblical sense we must look to the first appearance of the word in the Bible, genesis 2:7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

That passage is quite clear on what constitutes a soul. The body+God's breath = soul. That is the first and clearest definition of a soul. At death the breath returns to God and is separated from the body. According to this that means that the soul ceases to exist. That is consistent with Ezekiel 18:20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

All the other mentions of the dead sleeping are in accordance with that. Just like when you sleep you are unaware of the passage time and much of what goes on, God is using that to tell us what happens at death. The Bible cannot contradict itself. If there is an apparent contradiction the Bible must be used to interpret it self.

In addition the word immortal is never mentioned anywhere in the Bible with the word soul. The Bible said that God alone is immortal. 1 Timothy 6:14-16 That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:
15 Which in his times he shall shew, [who is] the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;
16 Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

If God alone is immortal but man has an immortal soul, let me ask you this question what does that make man if he is immortal?

November 28 2016 1 response Vote Up Share Report

Mini Marvin Reynolds Retired Chaplain U.S. Army Hospital
Soul Sleep is noted in Ecclesiastes 9:4-7 which is the only place it occurs in this question. The note is when you die the issue of this world ceases for you. The fact it points out is your awareness of this world passes but NOT GOD. Peace is your factor of eternity but one day based on the bible in Revelations chapter 20 you will see that all come out and stand before God and his throne in Judgement of eternal existence in Gods location.

October 14 2016 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

My picture Jack Gutknecht ABC/DTS graduate, guitar music ministry Baptist church
In the chronology of Paul’s journeys and labors see that a little more than fourteen years before he wrote his Epistle to the Corinthians, he was laboring at Lystra (Acts 14:19). There the Jews stoned him and dragged him outside the city supposing he had been dead. It is generally believed that his experience in paradise to which he refers took place at Lystra while he lay unconscious. He tells us that he was so enraptured by the glories that he saw in Heaven that he did not know whether or not he was there in body--“whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth.” Do not overlook the teaching here. It is possible to be fully conscious and yet be absent from the body. Such clear and unmistakable teaching as this of the Apostle Paul defies and defeats the theory of “soul-sleep.”

There are three accounts of our Lord’s raising the dead. Each time He approached the dead and spoke to him as if he were alive. To the son of the widow of Nain He said: “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise” (Luke 7:14). When Christ came to the daughter of Jairus, we are told: “He took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise” (Luke 8:54). Finally, He said to the brother of Mary and Martha: “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43). In each case Jesus speaks to the person as if he were alive. We can only answer that each was alive. The body was dead. The man was not dead. No man is ever dead when his body lies dead! The soul of man will never enter into a state of non-existence nor unconsciousness.

April 10 2019 2 responses Vote Up Share Report

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