THE STATE OF THE DEAD

Does the human soul sleep between the death of the body and the resurrection? Some contend that it does. They would appeal to passages like John 11:11, where Jesus said, regarding the recently deceased Lazarus, "Our friend Lazarus is fallen asleep..." (cf. also 1 Th. 4:13f).

The doctrine of "soul-sleeping" is false, as the following facts clearly indicate.

First, the term "sleep," when used of death, always has to do with the state of the body, not the soul. The passage mentioned above indicates this. The Lord announced that He intended to "awake" Lazarus "out of sleep" (11:lb), which He did by raising His friend's body from the tomb (11:43,44).

The prophet Daniel declared that the dead, who "sleep in the dust of the earth," shall awake (12:2). It is only the body of man that returns to the dust of the earth in death (cf. Eccl. 12:7).

It is thus clear that it is man's body that sleeps in death. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest the concept of soul sleeping.

Second, the narrative concerning the rich man and Lazarus makes it plain that the dead are conscious (Lk. 16:1; 9f). The setting described there is prior to the resurrection (evidenced by the fact that the rich man had brothers upon the earth), and yet both the suffering rich man and the comforted beggar are aware of their surroundings.

Third, the Bible teaches that the wicked are being punished prior to the time of judgement. "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment unto the day of judgment" (11 Pet. 2:9ASV; cf. RSV, NKJV).

Since evil men are being continuously punished (present tense form), even before the judgment day, and as punishment implies consciousness, it is obvious that the dead are conscious between the time of their demise and the resurrection.

Thus, underline "asleep" in John 11:11, and in your margin, note: Only of body, not the soul. -- Editor Wayne Jackson, Christian Courier, Vol. 28, No. 6, Oct. 1992.