Denial of Soul Sleep
The first examples of what happens at death are given us in the Old Testament:
1. Gen. 25:8 "Then
Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and
full of years; and was gathered to his people."
In the above we have the death of Abraham, of Ishmael, of Isaac, and of Moses with a reference to the death of Aaron. In each of the above, we read where the individual "died" and was then "gathered to his people." This involves two actions. In the case of Isaac we read of a third action: he was buried. Now if the soul sleeps with the body, then what is meant by the phrase "was gathered to his people?" Now we read where Abraham was buried next to Sarah, but that hardly qualifies as "being gathered to his people," with people being a plural. Moreover, we know that Moses was buried alone with no one else around him. So the grave cannot be the gathering spot. The body of each of the above was buried and remains in the grave unto this day. However, there is something that was "gathered to his people" in the each of the above examples. As we continue in our studies of this subject we will see that it is the soul that is "gathered to his people." The gathering spot is paradise which is heaven.
The scriptures teach that at the death of God's people it is only the body that dies: James 2:26 "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." When the spirit and soul leaves the body, the body dies. There is no verse that teaches that the spirit and soul dies.
Next, we have some New Testament examples of a couple of people who died and what happened to their souls at death:
1. The first example is that of our Lord: Luke 23:46 "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost." Therefore, at the death of Jesus' body, the spirit and soul (ghost) of Jesus went into the hands of the Father. The body of Jesus died and was buried, but his soul and spirit lived on with the Father.
2. The second example is that of the thief on the cross: Luke 23:43 "And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." Now the Lord meant exactly what he said or he lied. We know that Jesus could not lie, so he meant exactly what he said. The body of the thief died and was buried. In contrast the soul and the spirit of the thief were present with the Lord in paradise. This means also that, even thou the body of Jesus died and laid in the grave for three days, yet his soul and spirit was in paradise, because he told the thief, "To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." So in the very day that both our Lord and the thief died, they were together in paradise. They both died before sundown, which was the start of the next day, and thus at their deaths their souls and spirits went immediately into the presence of God in paradise. I know of no other logical conclusion one can draw from this without doing great harm to the plain meaning of what Jesus said.
When a person is born again, he is born of an incorruptible nature in the inner man: 1 Pet. 1:23 "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." Since we are born again of an incorruptible seed, then what we have as a result of the new birth must be incorruptible. If our soul and spirit were to sleep in the grave, then that would be a corruption to what they were before death. Thus, the inner man does not die.
That the inner man does not die is evidenced by the following statements concerning eternal life:
1. John 11:26 "And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?"
2. John 3:36 "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."
3. John 5:24 "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life."
4. John 6:47 "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life."
All four references above set forth the principle that the believer in Jesus has everlasting life and shall never die. Now the body does not now have everlasting life and will die and be buried in the grave. However, the soul and the spirit have everlasting life and shall never die. This utterly refutes the idea of soul sleep. How can the soul have everlasting life and at the same time die and sleep in the dust? The answer is that this is impossible.
Moreover, we are given the example of the parable (?) of the rich man and Lazarus: Luke 16:22 "And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;" In this parable, both the beggar and Abraham were living after the death of the body in heaven. The individual consists of body, soul, and spirit. If the body is dead, then that leaves the soul and spirit, which compose the inner man of the child of God. This inner man is what lives on in heaven after the death of the body.
Man can kill the body, but he has no power to kill the soul: Mat.10:28 "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Man cannot kill the soul. Only God has the ability to destroy both the soul and body in hell. However, He does not destroy the soul and body of the elect family of God. Therefore, at death of the body, the souls of the children of God live on with God in paradise.
Moreover, the following verses show us that we have eternal life in the soul even when our body is corrupting itself toward the grave:
1. 1 Tim 6:19 "Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life." Can we lay hold of something if we don't have that something? We can lay hold on eternal life because we already have eternal life in the soul and spirit.
2. 1 John 3:15 "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." This teaches us that we have a murderous nature in the outer man, but that we have eternal life in the inner man.
3. 1 John 5:11 "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." There is a difference between the words "hath" and "will." God hath given us eternal life in the inner man, and he will give us eternal life in the body at the resurrection.
4. 1 John 5:13 "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." John said he wrote these things that we may know that we already have eternal life. This eternal life is in the inner man.
5. John 10:28 "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." Again, there is a difference between "I give" and "I will give." One is in the present and one is in the future. During our life time on earth we are given eternal life in the inner man. At the resurrection we will be given eternal life in the body. When the body dies, that which is eternal goes into the very presence of God in paradise.