Soul Sleep?

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Jane Doe (a mythical character), we can take comfort in the fact your mother will stand before the judgment seat of God clothed in the righteousness of Christ if, as you said, she was truly a believer. We can rejoice that “there is no longer any condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.” We can also rejoice that if you likewise believe you will see her again someday (see Gen. 25:8; 35:29; 49:29; Num. 20:24; Judg. 2:10; Matt. 8:11; 17:3-4; Lk. 22:17-18; 1 Thess. 4:13-18) and you too can enjoy the all-satisfying-joy that is found in the LORD God alone.

Jane, as we look at this subject you must realize that there is no easy answer. Many good biblical scholars differ on what they believe on this question. Let me tell you a little bit about the four major opinions on this subject and then I will tell you what I believe.

One of the opinions is that our souls, including your mother’s, go straight to being with Jesus. However, there are others that believe that our soul will go into some kind of sleep until the resurrection. Still there are others that believe that we will receive our final resurrected glorified bodies and enjoy being with Jesus right away. Lastly, there are those that believe that we will receive some type of intermediate body; that is, a body that is not are regular earthly body yet is also not our final glorified body but somewhere in between the two.

I do not believe that our soul will go to sleep until the resurrection. I do not think that view is biblical. So, Jane, I do not think your mother is in some type of coma in heaven waiting to be awoken to a new resurrection body.

I believe your mother is at this very moment with the Lord Jesus. We can see this from a few passages. Do you remember the thief on the cross beside Jesus? Jesus told him, “today you be with me in paradise,” (Luke 23:39-43) or heaven. I think that is one clear example that your mother is with Jesus right now. I think today she is with Him in paradise.

We should also note what Paul said in Philippians. Paul said, “My desire is to depart [that is, to die] and be with Christ” (Phil. 1: 23). So, Paul believes that once he dies he will be with Christ so I conclude from that when your mother departed she went to be with Christ. I further conclude that there was no “soul sleep” involved because Paul said, “To depart [to die]… is far better” (v. 23) and it would not be far better if his soul was only going to sleep. The only thing that makes our, and your mother’s, departing (dying) better is that we will not sleep but we be with Christ

Romans chapter eight says nothing at all can separate us from the love of Christ (cf. 31-39). Death cannot even separate us from Christ’s love; we see this in Romans 8:38. Jane, be reassured by Paul’s word: “I am sure that neither death nor life…” or anything “…will be able to separate us [or your mother] from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 9:38-39).

There is yet another passage in Scripture that references us being with the Lord after our death. Paul says in second Corinthians that when “we are at home in the body [that is, when we are alive on this earth] we are away from the Lord” (5:6). Later on in verse eight, he says, “we would rather be away from the body [dead and in heaven] and at home with the Lord.” So, once again, from this passage we see that we will be with the Lord upon our death and it will not be a “soul sleep” as we noted earlier because we would rather be away from the body not so we can sleep but so we can be at home with the Lord. Jane, you can rest assured that your mother is with the Lord, and she is truly now at home.

Jane, I know your mother is with Christ right now, since she trusted in Him alone for salvation. I, however, do not know exactly what state she is in. What I mean Jane, is that, I do not know if your mother has her glorified resurrection body yet or if she just has a temporary intermediate body. Or if it’s possible that she does not have a body yet and only her soul is with Jesus.

I believe we can be completely confident that we go directly to be with our Lord Jesus after death based on what we have already talked about. However, I am not completely confident when it comes to the state that we will be in when we go directly to Him. We can rejoice in the fact that our faith is not in vain and that we will receive resurrection bodies (cf. 1 Cor. 15) whether or not it happens immediately upon our arrival in heaven or if it happens after the final judgment. The greatest thing to remember is we, like your mom, will be with the God that created everything out of nothing and yet still loves us who rebel against Him enough to humble Himself to death, even death on a cross, where He would absorb our curse and the wrath reserved for us. We will be with the LORD, our Lord!