Soul sleep

Question: regarding the state of the soul after death
“The Bible states at one point that the dead in Christ shall rise to greet Him at His return, which indicates to me that, at the point of our physical death, we will have to wait for Him to return and greet Him via the first, second or third “bus” so to speak. That could be a long wait for some or a short time for others to sleep in the earth or if they choose cremation then to wait in a jar till His return (hoping they don’t have claustrophobia!)
or whether they choose to be scattered after cremation, or … God forbid … even if someone should accidentally drop that jar on the floor and it breaks and one’s ashes end up in a dust pan! On the other hand, when Christ was crucified and He said to the thief that today you shall be with Me in paradise, did that just single out the thief as a major favor to him, or does that apply to everyone today who qualifies for Heaven? ”

Answer: Jefferis Kent Peterson, biblical and theological web scholar

The rising of the dead to meet Jesus at his return appears to have to do more with the resurrection of the body than soul sleep. There are many sections of scripture that point to both a “consciousness” of the dead, both of those in Christ and those who are lost. The touchstone verse for me would be Paul’s own anticipation of “going home” to be with the Lord, rather than dying and losing consciousness:

“So we are always of good courage; we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, RSV.
“I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.” Philippians 1:23, 24, RSV.

There is also the parable or story of Lazarus and Dives told by Jesus, where the man in torment asks for water from Lazarus who is in the “bosom of Abraham” (Luke 16:19-31). And the letter to the Hebrews describes those who have gone before us as a “great cloud of witnesses” who are watching from heaven and cheering us on in the race of salvation (Hebrews 12:1). So the idea of soul sleep doesn’t match up with the general sense of scripture.
Finally, while cremation was an ancient pagan practice, outlawed in Europe under pain of death by the First Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, since so many martyrs to the faith were burned at the stake and their ashes scattered, I figure the God who knows every hair on your head and has numbered them would have no problem gathering up all the atoms of your former body if that is what He needed to do to put you back together 🙂

Published in: on July 10, 2009 at 9:43 pm  Comments Off on Soul sleep