Soul Sleep

Hello Ralph,

I believe you are doing a wonderful job on your website and enjoy reading your answers to very difficult questions.

I do have a question for you regarding your understanding of where the dead go after they die. As far as I've studied Jesus plainly said they sleep in the grave and will arise in the Last day if they are to be with Him.

1) There appears to be a contradiction in the statement below regarding the dead which is not Biblical. Please correct me if I am wrong.

2) Secondly, the righteous will reign with Him in Heaven not on earth for the 1000 years, the earth will be a desolate place for a thousand years.

In your tenets of Faith you write the following:

"I believe that when a believer dies today, that they go to be immediately with Christ Jesus. I reject the doctrine of soul sleep." JOB 14:12-14 - TIM 4:6-8

"I believe that Jesus will return for His Saints and rapture those still alive when He returns and bodily resurrect those who have died, reuniting their spirits with a glorified physical body. I believe that after a seven year tribulation when God the Father pours out His wrath on those living on the earth, Jesus will return with His resurrected and raptured Saints and reign on this earth for 1,000 years." REV 20:4

Keep the Faith and good work you are doing in the Lord.

Thanks for writing me. I think you have a couple of things wrong with your thoughts on soul sleep and on the 1,000 year reign of Christ. So let me try to address them.

First soul sleep. You have to take the Bible as a whole, this is important no matter what doctrine you are speaking about and it is certainly important with this doctrine. You list Job, but what Job says is just much like what Solomon said when he said that a dead man knows nothing. They are not making doctrinal statements as much as their opinion of death. Now if the rest of the Bible either supported their view or if the rest of the Bible didn't say anything, then it would be okay to use those statement as a basis for doctrine, but the Bible has other things to say about it.

Then you use Timothy 4 but you didn't list whether you were talking about 1 Timothy or 2 Timothy and to be honest I couldn't tell from reading both of them, so I will skip Timothy and go forward.

It is important to understand what the Jewish people thought about death. Their belief was that the body died but the soul and spirit went to Hades and that in Hades there were two compartments; what we would call hell where the unbelievers went and Abraham's bosom or also called Paradise where believers went. Now this is what the Jewish people believed, but is it biblical? Well take a look at this:

Luke 16:19-31 [19] "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. [20] At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores [21] and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
[22] "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. [23] In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. [24] So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
[25] "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. [26] And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'
[27] "He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, [28] for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
[29] "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'
[30] "'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
[31] "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'" [NIV]

Now people will tell you that this is just a parable, but why would Jesus tell a parable which was not based on fact? Why would He tell a parable that supported what the Jews believed and yet was not what was true? I don't believe He would, but I have more evidence:

Luke 23:40-43 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? [41] "And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." [42] And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" [43] And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." [NASB-U]

Today you will be with me in Paradise. If what the Jews believed was true then this statement makes perfect sense but if they were mistaken and death meant soul sleep until the resurrection, then what Jesus said was 1) not true, 2) just a saying with no real meaning. I don't believe either of those is true.

1 Peter 3:18-20 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, [19] through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison [20] who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. [NIV]

Ephes. 4:7-8 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. [8] This is why it says:
"When he ascended on high,
he led captives in his train
and gave gifts to men." [NIV]

Who were these captives? Simple, they were the souls who were in Paradise when Christ died. Before His death a believer could not go into the presence of God the Father because of their sin. But once He paid for their and our sins, that opened the way to the Father. Am I pulling that out of thin air? No, look at this:

Matthew 27:50-51 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. [51] At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. [NIV]

This curtain separated the common man from God. Inside the curtain was the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was and of course on the cover of the Ark was the mercy seat where the blood was poured each year by the High Priest to cover the sins of the people. Only the High Priest could go into the Holy of Holies and he could do so only once a year with a blood sacrifice. They even tied a rope around his ankle so that if he had any un-confessed sin and died they could pull him out. So as you see the curtain keep people from approaching God. Once Christ died the He opened the way to God the Father for all of us. That is why He was able to lead those who were in Paradise to heaven with Him when He went.

Now when a believer dies they don't have to go wait in Paradise, in fact Paradise is now in heaven.

2 Cor. 12:3-4 And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-- [4] was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. [NIV]

This is Paul speaking about the time when he was stoned, but the important part is that he went UP to Paradise not down to Hades.

2 Cor. 5:6-8 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— [7] for we walk by faith, not by sight— [8] 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-U]

Notice that Paul doesn't say absent from the body and asleep, but rather with the Lord.

One last quote on this subject:

Rev. 6:9-10 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. [10] They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" [NIV]

These people had not be resurrected yet, but they weren't asleep either.

So if you take all of this together it gives much evidence that when we die, we remain conscious. Our bodies sleep, awaiting the resurrection when our souls, spirits and bodies will be reunited.

As for the 1,000 year reign, again I think you are mistaken. You said that the earth would just be a desolate place. I am not sure where you get this from, but again let me go to the Bible:

Rev. 20:2-3 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. [3] He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. [NIV]

Notice that I quoted a passage just before the passage that you used for your argument. What is important about the one I quoted? Simple, it shows that there are still nations on the earth, because it says that the devil cannot deceive them anymore for that 1,000 years, but then it says that he will be released and again deceive the nations.

Now look at this:

Rev. 5:9-10 And they sang a new song:
"You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation. [10]
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth." [NIV]

When does this take place? Just before the 1,000 year reign of Christ, during the Tribulation. Notice that they will reign on earth with Christ, not in heaven.

Ralph

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