There are those who teach that when we die, we go into a state of unconsciousness or “soul sleep” until the time of the resurrection, when the decision is made on our final state. They use several Scriptures to defend this error. For example, they point to when Jesus referred to dead Lazarus as asleep, then plainly declared he was dead (John 11:11-14).
Jesus once said to the Sadducees who didn’t believe in the resurrection, “It is written, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob.’ God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:32).
He said to Martha, the sister of Lazarus: “He who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live. Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).
So we can say to those who believe this doctrine, “God is not the God of the sleeping, but of those who, through faith, have been awakened from sleep, never to sleep again.”
“He will not allow your foot to be moved; He Who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He Who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalms 121:3-4 MKJV).
Even as He Who keeps us never slumbers, so we who are made in His image will never slumber.
The new birth is one in which we are born of God, born again by His Spirit. Does God sleep? If He doesn’t sleep, and we are in union with Him, born of His Spirit, then how can we ever sleep? Yes, in body we sleep – our outer man perishes – but our new birth in Christ precludes death or sleep of the inner man.
Only those without the present reality or understanding of the union with Christ could possibly believe the lie that the physically dead in Christ are unconscious, asleep, that is, dead in spirit. Only those dead in spirit (asleep) can’t comprehend the present reality of eternal life (wakefulness) in Christ Jesus.
So how shall the following words of Paul’s be explained?:
“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will also bring with Him all those who have fallen asleep through Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:14 MKJV).
To those living in this world, those passed on are asleep, but are awake to the world where they are now. If they are in Christ, they are very much awake, both when they lived in this world and in the next.
If they aren’t in Christ, they are dead to Him and the Kingdom of Heaven, but alive in carnal consciousness, having to be redeemed, chastened, and cleansed.
True Christianity isn’t a religion, but Reality. It is Jesus Christ, God Himself no less (John 1:3-4; Colossians 1:17). When He comes to dwell in Person within the believer, that person never sleeps again. In the flesh he sleeps (dies), but in spirit, united with Christ by the new birth, he is ever awake to the One Who keeps him and never slumbers.
The writer of Hebrews speaks of the reality of life and the awakened state from the dead of the believer as a fact in this world and this life:
“But you are come [have come] unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general Assembly and Church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24).
Did the Hebrews writer say we go to oblivion and unconsciousness? If so, who are these to whom we come when we are born again? We come to a city, to the living God, to the angels, to the general Assembly and Church of the firstborn.
And to Whom else do those born again come? We come to the Judge of all, Who is the God of the living, not of the dead (as Jesus said in rebuke to the Sadducees). We come to the spirits of just men made perfect, not to spirits asleep. We come to Him Who is Life! He’s alive! All in Him are alive.
Our entering this fellowship of saints is not merely a theoretical matter, but an actuality, just as the Hebrews writer wasn’t speaking of theoretical persons or speaking of people existing at a time other than during our existence here on earth. He was speaking of real, living, present people here and now:
“Therefore since we also are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1 MKJV).
Is God alive, real, and present? Are the angels alive, real, and present? Is Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, alive, real, and present? If so, why would God include the dead with the living in the great assembly of witnesses to which we come when entering the Kingdom through the new birth? He didn’t; those witnesses are also alive, real, and present.
The notion that God is in Heaven with the angels, while Abraham and all other passed-on believers are unconscious, is ludicrous. Why should they be unconscious, asleep, or dead? Why should Stephen be unconscious, having seen Jesus Christ alive in the world to come? Is he not a partaker of the resurrected life, Jesus Christ Himself? Of course he is! That’s how Stephen was able to see the Son of Man seated on the right hand of God. He was already partaker within of the Resurrection, Whom Jesus Christ is.
When Moses and Elijah met with Jesus on the mount, were they sleepwalking and talking in their sleep? The Adventists, who believe in the dead being unconscious, under the devil-inspired leadership of Ellen G. White and her self-appointed successors, brush aside this event as a mere vision, as though visions of God are unreal or untruthful. Otherwise, they declare that Elijah and Moses never died. When it is pointed out in Scripture that Moses did die (Deuteronomy 34:5-8), they say he was an exception – that he, of all dead, did not become unconscious as others do.
On what basis do they make that assertion? They must explain away the testimony of the Scriptures to preserve and defend their doctrine, which has no foundation in God. They make null and void the Law and the prophets by their traditions and doctrines of men.
Now read this:
1) “I, John, have heard and seen all these things. And when I finished hearing and seeing them, I fell down at the feet of the angel who had shown me these things, and I was about to worship him. But he said to me, ‘Don’t do it! I am a servant together with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all those who obey the words in this book. Worship God!’” (Revelation 22:8-9 GNB)
The angel spoke of the servants of God as active, not dead or asleep, just as Jesus said to the Sadducees (Matthew 22:32).
There are other Scriptures demonstrating that those who pass on from this life in Christ are not unconscious or in “soul sleep”:
2) At Saul’s request of a woman who could divine, the prophet Samuel (whom had previously died) appeared to Saul and told him that the next day the Philistines would defeat Israel and Saul and his sons would die and be with Samuel (1 Samuel 28).
One may argue that it was devils working by the witch to deceive Saul into believing he was speaking with Samuel. Why, then, was the woman alarmed by what she saw? Yes, devils can frighten; but why did all the things spoken of by Samuel come to pass? Do devils have power to speak the judgment of God that comes to pass?
How else was Saul rebuked for his evils, except by a servant of God? Yes, devils can pretend righteousness and condemn offenders, but they don’t have the authority of God backing their accusations, as Samuel demonstrated here.
This Scripture clearly testifies of one who had previously passed on. Samuel was awake unto God and spoke what He gave Saul to hear.
3) There is the example of Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison, those who died in the Flood.
1 Peter 3:18-20 MKJV
(18) For Christ also once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, indeed being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit;
(19) in which also He went and preached to the spirits in prison,
(20) to disobeying ones, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared (in which a few, that is, eight souls were saved through water).
The souls to whom Jesus spoke were not unconscious or sleeping.
4) What about the souls under the altar?
“And when He had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Until when, Master, holy and true, do You not judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ And white robes were given to each one of them. And it was said to them that they should rest yet for a little time, until both their fellow servants and their brothers (those about to be killed as they were) should have their number made complete” (Revelation 6:9-11 MKJV).
5) There is the gathering referred to in Scripture:
“And Abraham expired and died in a good old age, old and satisfied. And he was gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:8 MKJV).
“And these were the years of the life of Ishmael, a hundred thirty-seven years. And he expired and died, and was gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:17 MKJV).
“And Isaac expired and died, and was gathered to his people, old and satisfied of days. And his sons, Esau and Jacob, buried him” (Genesis 35:29 MKJV).
“And [Jacob] charged them and said to them, ‘I am to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite’” (Genesis 49:29 MKJV).
“And Jacob finished commanding his sons, and he gathered his feet into the bed. And he expired, and was gathered to his people” (Genesis 49:33 MKJV).
God said to Moses, “…and die in the mountain where you go up, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died in Mount Hor and was gathered to his people” (Deuteronomy 32:50 MKJV).
Is this speaking of gathering dust and ashes into one great eternal heap, carcass by carcass, or is it speaking of the Living God presiding over the living, not over the dead, in a dimension of which mortal men have little understanding without the life and Spirit of Christ in them?
“And as regards the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses how God spoke to him in the bush, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob?’ He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. Therefore you greatly err” (Mark 12:26-27 MKJV).
6) There are the multitudes John saw in Heaven:
Revelation 7:9-17 MKJV
(9) After these things I looked, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, out of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues, stood before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palms in their hands.
(10) And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God sitting on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
(11) And all the angels stood around the throne, and the elders, and the four living creatures, and they fell before the throne on their faces and worshiped God,
(12) saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
(13) And one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these who are arrayed in white robes, and from where do they come?”
(14) And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who came out of the great tribulation and have washed their robes, and have whitened them in the blood of the Lamb.
(15) Therefore they are before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in His temple. And He sitting on the throne will dwell among them.
(16) They will not hunger any more, nor thirst any more, nor will the sun light on them, nor any heat.
(17) For the Lamb Who is in the midst of the throne will feed them and will lead them to the fountains of living waters. And God will wipe away all tears from their eyes.”
7) Paul spoke of being absent from the body and present with the Lord. If we are present with Him Who is the Resurrection and the Life, how can we be unconscious, whether in this life or the next?
“Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: For we walk by faith, not by sight: We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8 KJV).
One can make the Bible say almost anything. I have had Seventh Day Adventists and others argue from the Scriptures, using many passages to press their points. The common comment they give is: “Even a child can see that!” This comment exposes their death and darkness. They err, carnally interpreting the Scriptures by their own powers of observation, influenced by devils’ doctrines, knowing neither the Scriptures by the Spirit of God nor the power thereof.
The Lord’s testimony is clear: The most intelligent man can see nothing in Scripture unless it is revealed to him from above. Until then, he’s in total darkness about any matter in Scripture. As Jesus said, “I thank You, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the sophisticated and cunning, and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight” (Matthew 11:25-26).
Why do men make such commotion about the departed falling into unconscious oblivion? What is their purpose? They may seem more enlightened and kinder than others who preach everlasting torment. Compared to the prospect of never-ending torture, consigning souls to oblivion seems far more humane. But it’s a lie about God all the same, and lies always kill or keep you asleep.
“This also, knowing the time, that it is already time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we believed” (Romans 13:11 MKJV).
None of the preachers of this diabolical doctrine have known the Life that now is. Ironically, they are the very ones who are asleep, unconscious as they walk and talk, dead to the Kingdom of God. But those who believe on Him partake of Life presently, being delivered from death and Hell.
“Therefore He says, ‘Awake, sleeping ones! And arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light’” (Ephesians 5:14 MKJV).
Consider the alternative to believing this doctrine: Know there’s never-ending life in Christ beginning here on earth. Jesus promised, “Whoever lives and believes in Me shall NEVER die [sleep].” How blessed is the truth! How blessed is the one who believes!
Devils love this one. Admit defeat and lose. Jesus says, “Go and sin no more,” but Satan says it’s impossible to do as Jesus commands. Jesus says, “Be perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect,” and man says, “Impossible!” But whoever said anything about trusting ourselves for righteousness?
You have nothing to explain away if you don’t believe a falsehood in the first place. Nobody receives the Spirit of God within at repentance. Repentance is not the new birth. Therefore, there’s nothing to explain. Furthermore, the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit of Christ are all one and the same Person, not three.
We can be very secure in the Lord Jesus Christ, but faith in this doctrine, rather than in Him, can be a license to sin. This is a doctrine that’s false in the way it’s used, being carried on the back of a lie and compounding the error and confusion that comes from the lie. The sequence goes like this: “Once a person has accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, he/she is forever saved.”