soul sleep concept of soul sleep Christianity when you die Heaven
Tenets of Christianity The Good News of Jesus

Nobody is in Heaven

At least; almost nobody.

I was reading some tributes recently on social media to a much-loved British actor who just died. Of the hundreds of comments, one said “sleep soundly mate.”  How often to we wish that the person who has just passed away “rest in peace?” (RIP)  Did you ever consider that the one fan’s comment and the well-wishes of rest in peace are both very Biblical?

Jesus told the disciples that his friend Lazarus “sleeps,” when describing his death. Jesus had no reason to employ euphemisms. Jesus described Heaven as “paradise.”  Since we know that Heaven is a billion times more wonderful than life on earth, would Jesus have forced Lazarus to leave the splendor of Heaven and return to this earth?  Would Peter have done the same to Tabitha?

When someone’s family member dies, or the member of a church family dies, the surviving family members, or even a pastor, will quip that the person is in Heaven now or they are “looking down on us right now.”  No they aren’t. The only people who go to Heaven are those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior.

If a person believes that the Bible is unerring, and it doesn’t contradict itself and it is God-breathed, then they have to consider what Jesus said of Lazarus. They have to think critically about what they learn from the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, where it says that at the Rapture: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.”

If those who died in Christ are already in Heaven, then why are they now rising from their graves? Maybe, as Jesus told us, they simply “sleep.”

If you were asked about your sleep experience from last night, you could relate going to bed, and the last moments before falling asleep. You could relate your experience of waking up this morning. But, you could not relate what happened as you slept. Nobody can. You are not in a conscious state of mind.

So, when the believer in Christ dies; they sleep. Since there is no recollection of the events during sleep, they may sleep for 5 minutes or 1,000 years, until Jesus returns in the clouds. We are told throughout the Bible that those who are dead are asleep. It is not that the Bible has chosen that term out of the blue. We hear it from the Apostle Paul and from Jesus himself. We find 88 references to “sleep” in the King James Bible. The term “asleep” is used another 16 times.

In John 11:13, referring to Lazarus, we learn: “Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died.”

When someone says: “rest in peace,” they are being very Biblical. The person who has died and is a believer in Christ will continue to exist in a spiritual body and that body will be asleep until the return of Jesus at the Rapture.

In Jeremiah 51:39, it says “In their heat I will make their feasts, and I will make them drunken, that they may rejoice, and sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the LORD.” Sounds like it is referring to death, wouldn’t you say?

In Matthew 9:23-26, we learn: “And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise,  He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.”

If she was simply in a state of soul sleep, and had not gone to Heaven, then again, Jesus description that the maid “sleepeth” describes her actual state. If the people who heard Jesus and laughed were many Christians today, who might laugh at the suggestion that we “sleep” after death, then aren’t they contradicting Jesus?

Sleep is also referred in the Bible as a reward or a time to recharge. But, just as often, it is a reference to death.

In Mark 5, (22-24, 35-42) we learn the story of the death of the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue. “And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live. And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him. While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?

“As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.  And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.  And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.”

As mentioned above, the Apostle Paul confirmed that those who die in Christ don’t immediately go to Heaven. If those who died in Christ are already in Heaven, then instead, they soundly sleep, unaware of their present state. When Jesus told us they “sleep,” he literally meant they sleep.

The Apostle Paul again, in 1 Corinthians, refers to death as sleep when he says in 15″17-19: “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.”  Paul refers to the Resurrection and the fact that those who have chosen to follow Christ have not just fallen asleep, but will meet Jesus in the clouds at the Rapture. 

In 1 Thessalonians 4:12-14, Paul also says: “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.”

In Matthew 17, in the story of the Transfiguration, we learn that both Moses and Elijah are present with three of the disciples. Matthew 17:3 says: Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.”

This might suggest that the only beings who are in Heaven are Enoch, (“Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. – Gen. 5:24) Moses and Elijah, God the Father, Jesus and the angels. It may mean that all others, who are destined for eternity in Heaven, are presently asleep.

Many people point to Jesus’ words to the thief on the other cross that they would both be in Heaven that day. But the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, which don’t have punctuation. It would have required Tyndale or King James’ scholars to only get their placement of a comma in the famous verse off by one word to change the entire meaning of what Jesus said. By changing the comma one word, then Jesus tells the man that he is telling him “today.”  This brings it in line with what Jesus tells Mary Magdalene a few days later: “Touch me not for; I am not yet ascended to my Father, ” in John 20:17.  The Bible does not contradict itself.

Jesus and Paul repeatedly refer to “sleep” and the awakening from sleep for those who trust Jesus. So, for those who are asleep in Christ; may they rest in peace. Someday in the future, they will enjoy the splendor of Heaven. For now, they sleep, and nobody but God the Father, Jesus and Moses and Elijah, or the multitude of angels, may be looking down on us at any given moment.



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