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#4. SOUL SLEEP REFUTED

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Greek word definition καθεύδω meaning 'to sleep' Strong's 2518
Greek word definition κοιμάω meaning 'to sleep/lie down' Strong's 2837
Greek word definition ὕπνος meaning 'sleep' Strong's 5258

Introduction 4

Before you read this study it would be a good idea to go to the Greek Word Definitions listed above to become familiar with the different words used for sleep. What is Soul Sleep? It is a belief that after a person dies, his or her soul 'sleeps'. They do not suffer anything, or know anything, but basically it is as if they do not exist until the resurrection and final judgment. This doctrine is very easy to teach at funerals when unsaved people die, because it comfort the mourners to think that their departed loved ones are not suffering anything. If you were to tell them the truth, that they are in torment awaiting their judgment, it would make you unpopular, but it might also minister the fear of God to some that they may be saved.  Concerning saved people, or those who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior, when they die their spirit or soul goes to be with Jesus, a very pleasant place to await their resurrection and judgment. This is bible study explains the true meaning of the scriptures that are misused to promote the false doctrine of soul sleep.

#4.1 Sleep is Figurative of Dead Bodies

JOB 14:12
12 So man lies down, and does not rise: till the heavens are no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.

ISAIAH 26:19
19 Your dead shall live, together with my dead body they shall they arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust: for your dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.

DANIEL 12:2
2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and long-lasting contempt.

MATTHEW 27:52
52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who slept arose.

Note: The doctrine of soul sleep is false as the word sleep is misused. During natural sleep a person's soul or spirit does not 'sleep' or cease to operate. It keeps all the body functions working, such as heart beating and breathing, and is often active in dreams or visions; 'his heart does not rest in the night' (Ecclesiastes 2:23), 'I sleep, but my heart is awake;' (Song of Solomon 5:2). The term 'sleep' is only figurative language applied to the body, which lies down, and sleep is the nearest thing we know in this life which looks like it. Sleep is therefore figurative of the appearance of the dead body. There is no mention in scripture of a soul (separate from the body) sleeping, or a spirit sleeping. Where are the verses? The body is usually buried or cremated and returns to dust but the spirit or soul of the person who died departs and goes somewhere. This fact needs to be accepted, that when people die their bodies and their spirit or soul separate, and after that they must be dealt with as separate entities. The people who teach soul sleep do not seem to recognize this fact and therefore end up misapplying the scriptures. What happens to the body is not the same as what happens to the spirit or soul. When we see scriptures like these above which speak of saints sleeping in graves (Matthew 27:52), or dead people sleeping in the dust of the earth (Daniel 12:2), it makes it clear that the word 'sleep' is referring to the body, not the soul or spirit. Speaking of those 'who dwell in the dust' (Isaiah 26:19), the word 'Awake' implies they were figuratively asleep. Also when Jesus said, 'Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, that I may awake him.' (John 11:11), he was evidently speaking figuratively as Jesus spoke of his death (John 11:13). Jesus then said to them plainly (not figuratively), 'Lazarus is dead' (John 11:14). So speaking plainly Jesus said that Lazarus was 'dead', but speaking figuratively he said that Lazarus was 'asleep'. Also to figuratively 'awake him' he went to the tomb where the body was and called to the body to resurrect him.

#4.2 'The Dead' is Usually used of Dead Bodies

PSALM 88:5
5 Free among the dead, as pierced ones lying in the grave, whom you remember no more, and who are cut off from your hand.

ISAIAH 26:19
19 Your dead shall live, together with my dead body they shall they arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust: for your dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.

ACTS 2:29
29 Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.

JAMES 2:26
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Note: When scripture refers to 'the dead', as in the physically dead, it usually refers to the body, as 'the body without the spirit is dead' (James 2:26). The above scriptures which refer to 'the dead ... lying in the grave' (Psalm 88:5), David being 'dead and buried' (Acts 2:29), and 'the earth casting out the dead' (Isaiah 26:19), all confirm that the context when mentioning 'the dead' is the body in the grave. When referring to 'the dead' physically it does not refer to the soul, because Jesus said that the body could be killed, but not the soul (Matthew 10:28). So the soul does not die when a person dies. This is proof from the words of Jesus himself that you cannot treat the body and soul as being in the same condition when a person dies. Jesus also said, "Everyone who lives and believes in me shall certainly not die for ever." (John 11:26). Now those who heard him all died physically so he could only be referring to the soul or spirit. There are numerous other references where 'the dead' refers to the bodies of people or animals (Exodus 21:34, 21:35, 21:36; Leviticus 21:1, 22:4; Numbers 5:2, 6:11, 9:6, 9:7, 19:11, 19:13; 1 Kings 3:32-33; etc. There are also numerous references where the words 'dead body' or 'dead bodies' come together, but are translated from other Hebrew words (Leviticus 21:11; Numbers 6:6, 9:6, 9:7 9:10, 19:11, 19:13; 2 Chronicles 20:24, 20:25; Psalm 79:2, 110:6; Jeremiah 26:23, 31:40, 33:5, 34:20, 36:30, 41:9; Amos 8:3; Haggai 2:13.).

#4.3 David slept with his Fathers

1 KINGS 2:10
10 So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.

2 CHRONICLES 9:31
31 And Solomon slept with his fathers, and he was buried in the city of David his father: and Rehoboam his son reigned in his place.

JOB 21:25-26
25 And another dies in the bitterness of his soul, and never eats with pleasure.
26 They shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them.

Note: Some translations like the KJV, NASB, ESV etc. translate the first two references of these as 'slept' and the NKJV translates them as 'rested'. There are many other places where they do the same (1Kings 14:31, 15:8, 15:24, 16:6, 16:28, 22:40; 2Kings 8:24, 10:35, 13:9, 13:13, 14:16, 14:29, 15:7 etc.). The Hebrew word used here is שָׁכַב 'shakav' which means to 'lie down' Strong's 7901. The evidence that where the word 'sleep' used in some translations is only used figuratively of the body is that on numerous occasions the word 'buried' is used in the same verse, and that is what happens to the body. Also Job referred to lying down 'in the dust' and 'worms covering them'. There are no references to the 'soul sleeping' or the 'spirit sleeping'.

#4.4 The Soul who sins shall die

EZEKIEL 18:4
4 Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine; the soul who sins shall die.

Note: The argument here is that the statement 'the soul who sins shall die' proves that the soul of a person is not immortal. This is an attempt to justify the belief that a soul or spirit does not continue to live somewhere else or still exist when a person dies. There is a gross misunderstanding here of what a soul is. In numerous cases in the Old Testament the word 'soul' refers to a whole person, including children.

(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.
(Genesis 17:14) "And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."
(Genesis 46:26) "All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, all the souls were sixty six;"
(Exodus 1:5) "And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls:"
(Numbers 5:6) "When a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit, to do a trespass against Yahweh, and that person be guilty;"
(Numbers 19:18) "Sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons who were there,"
(Deuteronomy 10:22) "Your fathers went down into Egypt with seventy persons;"

Before Adam became alive (Genesis 2:7) he was a dead body - a dead person. The Hebrew word for soul is נֶפֶשׁ 'nephesh' Strong's 5315, and is used of dead bodies a number of times.

(Leviticus 19:28) "You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead,"
(Leviticus 21:1) "There shall none be defiled for the dead among his people:"
(Leviticus 21:11) "Neither shall he go in to any dead body,"
(Leviticus 22:4) "And whoever touches anything that is unclean by the dead,"

There are many other references (Numbers 6:6, 9:6, 9:7, 9:10, 19:11, 19:13, Haggai 2:13 etc.). In these scriptures the Hebrew word 'nephesh' is translated 'body', or 'dead', or 'corpse', referring to a dead body. This is obvious, because a person was unclean by 'touching' a dead person, and he cannot touch the immaterial part of a person, only that which is physical. So as far as 'The soul who sins shall die' is concerned, this would refer to a living person, as a dead person cannot die. It applies in a physical sense, which means die physically, and in a spiritual sense, which is separation from God. Remember that Jesus said the body could be killed, but not the soul (Matthew 10:28), so it cannot refer to the immaterial part of a person ceasing to exist. Here is an example; Adam was told, "But the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat of it, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:17). When he ate of it he died spiritually the same day and was driven out of the presence of God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:23), but he did not die physically until he was 930 years old (Genesis 5:5). There is nothing in Ezekiel 18:4 that says a soul ceases to exist after death.

#4.5 I have not yet Ascended to my Father

JOHN 3:13 (Jesus)
13 And no man has ascended up to heaven, but he who came down from heaven, even the Son of man, being in heaven.

JOHN 20:17 (Jesus)
17 Jesus says to her, Do not hold me; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brothers, and say to them, I ascend to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

ACTS 2:29, 34-35
29 Men and brothers, let me freely speak to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he says himself, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit you on my right hand,
35 Until I make your enemies your footstool.

Note: The argument here is this, that as these scriptures show that no one had yet ascended into heaven, when Jesus spoke to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection. Therefore, he could not have gone to his Father when he died. David was a righteous man who God described as 'a man after his own heart' (1 Samuel 13:14), so surely he must be in heaven if righteous people go there when they die. The quoted scriptures show that neither Jesus nor David had yet ascended into heaven. If we rightly divide scripture on this subject then we must look at other scriptures which appear to contradict this.

(Ecclesiastes 12:7 ) "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.
(Luke 23:46) "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the spirit.
(Acts 7:59) "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon the Lord, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

The answer is not difficult to see once you accept the fact that the spirit and body part company at death and are treated differently. It needs to be discerned when scripture is speaking of the spirit, or the body, or the whole person. The ascending into heaven that Jesus spoke of was as a whole person in a resurrected body. Jesus had not yet ascended to his Father after his resurrection (John 20:17), even though his spirit went there when he died (Luke 23:46), but this he did later (Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9). As far as David is concerned, he will not be resurrected until Jesus returns and that is why he has not ascended into heaven yet. Before his resurrection Jesus could say, 'no MAN has ascended up to heaven' (John 3:13). Notice the word MAN in this scripture, which refers to a whole person, but does occasionally refer to a body (Genesis 2:7, Job 14:12, 34:15). It does not say 'no spirit has ascended into heaven!' Look at a scriptural example to confirm this.

(Revelation 11:11-12) "And after three days and a half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon those who saw them.
12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying to them, Come up here. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies watched them.

These two end-time prophets were killed by 'the Beast' (Revelation 11:7), and their dead bodies were left in the streets of Jerusalem (Revelation 11:8) for three and a half days (Revelation 11:11 KJV). It was after they were resurrected that they ascended into heaven.

#4.6 The Dead Know Nothing - His Thoughts Perish

PSALM 6:5
5 For in death there is no remembrance of you; in the grave who will give you thanks?

PSALM 146:4
4. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

ECCLESIASTES 9:5
5 For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.
6.Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; no more will they have a share in anything under the sun.

ECCLESIASTES 9:10
10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.

Note: The context here is clearly 'in the grave' (Psalm 6:5, Ecclesiastes 9:10) and obviously dead bodies in the grave do not have knowledge or wisdom as their soul or spirit has left. We have already seen that the term 'the dead' refers to dead bodies (Psalm 88:5, Isaiah 26:19, James 2:26), so it is no surprise that they 'know nothing' as knowledge is a spiritual thing, "For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?" (1 Corinthians 2:11), and the spirit or soul has left. It is also wise to remember that some of Ecclesiastes is looking at life from a worldly point of view, and this is the case here as the context of these verses is also 'under the sun' (v6). Worldly people, who do not believe in God, often believe that death is the end of our existence and there is nothing after that. We have already shown several scriptures which show that the spirit or soul of a dead person does have knowledge and speaks (Isaiah 14:9-10, Ezekiel 32:21, Luke 16:23-24, Revelation 6:9-11, 7:9-10, 15:3). As far as, 'In that day his thoughts perish.' (Psalm 146:4) is concerned, the word for 'thoughts' could easily be translated 'plans', as in the NKJV, NIV, NLT, ESV, NET Bible etc. Look at this example that Jesus gave.

(Luke 12:16-20) "And he spoke a parable to them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
20 But God said to him, You fool, this night your soul (or life) shall be required of you: then whose shall those things be, which you have provided?

This man planned to build himself bigger barns and take life easy, but what happened to his thought (or plans) when he died. They perished! No one knew about them and they would never be done. To try and argue that 'he though within himself' is different to 'he planned within himself' would be foolish. The words 'he' and 'his' (Psalm 146:4) obviously refer to the body because 'HE returns to his earth'.

#4.6 The dead do not praise the LORD

PSALM 6:5
5 For in death there is no remembrance of you; in the grave who will give you thanks?

PSALM 115:17
17 The dead do not praise the LORD, nor any who go down into silence.

ISAIAH 38:18
18 For the grave cannot thank you, death cannot praise you; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your truth.

Note: There are two ways you can look at this. The term 'the dead' can refer to those who are spiritually dead but physically alive. They have no spiritual life of God in them and live in 'trespasses and sins' (Ephesians 2:5). They do not praise God. The other way you can look at it is as if it applies to the body as we have shown so many times. It certainly does not apply to the spirits or souls of dead saints (Revelation 7:10, 15:3).

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