What happens when we die? Even among Christians who believe in Heaven there are questions. What will Heaven be like? When will we get our resurrected bodies? One theory that has been proposed is typically referred to as Soul Sleep. Soul Sleep is the view that when we die, we do not immediately go to Heaven. Instead, our souls sleep until Jesus returns, there is the final judgment, and then we all enter Heaven or Hell together. This may not be what you’ve heard described before, but is Soul Sleep biblical?
Soul Sleep is a Misunderstanding of Heaven
The Soul Sleep view stems largely from a misunderstanding of Heaven and the final resurrection. Many Christians misunderstand Heaven as our final destination. However, what we find in scripture is that Heaven is our temporary home where we wait for the final resurrection when our souls are reunited with our bodies. When that happens, we will enter the new Heaven and New Earth with our new resurrected bodies and live there forever. John 5:25, 28-29 “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live… Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out-those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”
Why the confusion? I think there are 2 key things people are tripping over. First, there’s plenty of times that scripture describes people who died as sleeping (Acts 7:60, Daniel 12:2, John 11:11, 1 Corinthians 15:20) . Most read this simply as a metaphor or euphemism for death. Proponents of Soul Sleep would see it as a bit more literal than that. Second, when we read about the final judgment, it talks about how the dead will be raised and face judgment. I suspect many get confused over this, because would it really make sense for us to die, go to our eternal dwelling place, return to Earth, face the judgment, and then just go back up there same as before? Soul Sleep only really makes sense with a wrong view of Heaven as the end, rather than the resurrection.
There Is No Sleep
There are a few key verses that refute Soul Sleep. One of the most significant is Luke 23:43, where Jesus tells the thief on the cross that TODAY you will be with me in paradise. Not that you’re going to die, sleep for a few thousand years, wake up, be judged, and then enter paradise. Similarly, in Philippians 1:23 he describes his desire to depart and be with Christ. Not to rest and wake up in the resurrection. There are others, but this gives a solid foundation that despite language of sleeping, Soul Sleep is not biblical.
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