Bill Weiss on “Soul Sleep”

Soul sleep is a false teaching. Those who support this belief often reference the verses, 1 Thess. 4:13-18 and John 11:11.  However the word “sleep,” as used in these verses, is a euphemism. Believer’s Bible Commentary, pg. 1805 says, “The expression fallen asleep refers to the bodies of believers.  Sleep is never used of the souls in the N.T.  The soul of the believer departs to be with Christ at the time of death, while the body is spoken of as sleeping in the grave.”

The MacArthur Commentary, pg. 1606, “…a common euphemism for death. This is not soul sleep, in which the body dies and the soul or spirit supposedly rests in unconsciousness.”

Jameson, Fausset and Brown’s Commentary, pg. 1052 states, “Sleep is the death of saints in the language of heave.  The symbol of sleep for death is common to all languages.”

Matthew Henry’s Commentary, pg. 1989, “The soul does not sleep but becomes more active, but the body sleeps without any toss…the grave to the wicked is a prison…but to the godly it is a bed.”

In John 11:11, Jesus states, “our friend Lazarus sleepeth.”  The disciples then said, “If he sleeps, he shall do well.”  The verse goes on and says, “However, Jesus spoke of his death but they thought that he had spoken of taking a rest in sleep.”  Then Jesus said unto them plainly. Lazarus is dead.”  You can see that the term “sleep” is just an expression because a Christian doesn’t die spiritually, but only takes on the form of sleeping. The body goes to sleep until rapture of the church and at that time Christians get a new glorified body.  Currently, our soul and spirit go directly to heaven where we live. (Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 5:1-8; Phil 1:21-23), but we wait for that time that our bodies are changed and made alive (1 Cor, 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:16-17; Matt. 24:31; Luke 17:34-36). The following verses confirm that the soul does not sleep after death:

Luke 16 says the rich man was in torment in flames.  In verse 23 it says “in hell,” and the word for hell is “hades,” which is not the future lake of fire, but the current hell. Lazarus was with Abraham in Abraham’s bosom, which was a comforting place.  And the rich man asked Abraham if he could send Lazarus.  He was tormented in the flame and wanted a drop of water to cool his tongue.  How could he be tormented and have the desire for water if he were sleeping?  How could Abraham answer him if he were sleeping? The soul is eternal and will immediately be in Heaven or hell at death just as Jesus said in Luke 16.

Rev. 5:5 “Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah.”  This was an elder talking to John in heaven.  He was not sleeping.

Rev. 6:10 The saints who were killed during the tribulation said, “and they cried with a loud voice.”  They were seen by John “under the altar” of heaven.  This was prior to the great white throne judgment.  They spoke.

Matt. 17:3 On the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus and spoke to Him.  The disciples also saw them.

Jonah 2:2 “Out of the belly of sheol I cried.”  Jonah was not sleeping when he cried out.

Isa. 14:9-10  “Hell (sheol) from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming:  it delivereth up the dead for thee:  they shall speak and say unto thee, at thou also become weak as thee.”  They meet thee and they speak.

1 Samuel 28:7-20 The witch of Endor was consulted by Saul to bring up Samuel. Samuel was in Abraham’s bosom.  Samuel spoke to Saul and said, “Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? He was alive and he spoke.

Psalm 26:9 “Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men.”  David did not want to go where sinners go.  Why would he fear sleep?

Isa. 38:17  “But thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption.”  If the soul were just sleeping, there would be no concern.

Pr. 23:14 “And deliver his soul from hell.”

Ez. 32:21-27 “The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell (sheol).”  They were speaking.

Rev. 20:12-15 “Death and hell (hades) delivered up the dead that were in them.”  People were in hell and not sleeping.

In 2 Cor. 5:8, Paul said, “To be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”

Phil. 1:23 “Having a desire to depart and be with Christ.” Paul knew that when we die, we are immediately in God’s presence.

Luke 23:43 “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”  Jesus told the thief on the cross he would be with Him in paradise that very day.

Acts 7:59  “Lord Jesus receive my spirit.”  Stephen spoke these words when he was being stoned.  He knew would be directly in heaven with Jesus upon his death.

If you are born again, you will go directly to heaven when you die. If you are not, you will go directly to hades.

My book, “Hell,” goes into much more detail on this topic.