Here's my response to this week's challenge:
0:05 This week's challenge is one that you
0:07 might have heard from a Jehovah's
0:09 Witness concerning soul sleep until the
0:12 final resurrection. The challenger sites
0:15 two passages to back up their claim. The
0:18 first is Psalm 146 verse 4 and says that
0:23 conscious thought perishes at physical
0:26 death. Here's what it actually says: "His
0:29 spirit goes out, he returns to the
0:31 ground, and on that very day his thoughts
0:34 perish." They go on to say, "This proves
0:37 that no conscious existence exists after
0:41 death. After all, thoughts cease at death.
0:45 Therefore, if there's no thoughts, then
0:48 there's no consciousness."
0:50 Now let me stop right there and respond
0:52 to this.
0:53 This actually is a misunderstanding of
0:56 what the psalmist is communicating.
0:58 Jehovah's Witnesses take the word
1:01 "thoughts" to mean consciousness, but
1:04 that's not what the author is talking
1:07 about. By "thoughts" he actually means
1:10 plans or purposes. In fact, a good
1:13 translation will say this:
1:15 "Put not your trust in princes, in a son
1:18 of man in whom there is no salvation.
1:19 When his breath departs he returns to
1:23 the earth, and on that very day, his plans
1:27 perish." The point is that man's plans
1:30 perish when he dies, but God's plans
1:33 always endure, so put your trust in Him.
1:37 In addition, they argue that Solomon also
1:39 supports soul sleep. They say, "In
1:42 Ecclesiastes 9:5, 'For the living know that
1:45 they will die, but the dead know nothing
1:47 at all. Nor do they have any more reward
1:50 because all memory of them is forgotten.'
1:52 And since the dead know nothing at all,
1:56 therefore, they must not be conscious."
1:59 Okay. How do we respond? Well, the book of
2:02 Ecclesiastes presents two
2:04 contrasting views. One's humanistic and
2:07 one's more divine. Most interpreters read
2:10 Ecclesiastes chapter 9 verses 1 to 10 as
2:15 strictly a humanistic view. That's what a
2:17 humanist, apart from divine revelation,
2:20 would believe. And so soul sleeping is a
2:24 doctrine held by Jehovah's Witnesses,
2:26 and I guess there are some Christians
2:28 that hold the view as well. The question
2:30 of soul sleep is deeply tied to one's
2:33 understanding of what we mean by "soul."
2:36 Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe that
2:39 human beings possess an immaterial
2:42 nature that goes on living after death.
2:45 Therefore, he cannot be conscious of
2:48 anything following his death.
2:50 Moreover, all human beings remain
2:52 unconscious and inactive in the grave
2:55 until the time of the future
2:57 resurrection. This means after death,
3:00 there's no bliss or suffering. In fact,
3:02 the person, whether they're a believer or
3:05 not, goes out of existence. We need to
3:08 remember to let Scripture interpret
3:10 Scripture. That is, we should look at what
3:13 all Scripture teaches and form our
3:16 doctrine from there. So let's look at a
3:19 few passages of Scripture together. First,
3:21 Jesus says, "and do not fear those who
3:24 can kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
3:26 Rather, fear Him who can destroy both
3:29 soul and body in Hell. That's Matthew
3:32 10:28. If words mean anything,
3:35 Jesus is affirming that the soul can
3:37 live on without the body. On a Jehovah's
3:40 Witness view, when the physical body is
3:42 killed, the soul is killed too. But Jesus
3:46 says there's a difference between
3:47 killing the body and killing the soul.
3:50 That is, it's possible to kill the body
3:53 without killing the soul. Second, when
3:56 Jesus was dying on the cross, He says,
3:58 "Father, into your hands I commit my
4:00 spirit," and then He breathed His last and
4:03 Stephen, while he's being stoned, he says,
4:05 "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Now, the
4:08 most natural way to understand these texts
4:11 is that there was part of them that
4:14 survived their physical death, the death
4:18 of their bodies. Third, the Sadducees also
4:21 believed that the soul dies with the
4:25 This is one of the reasons they actually
4:27 denied the final resurrection.
4:28 However, in confronting this belief, Jesus
4:31 says to them, "but that the dead
4:35 are raised." Even Moses showed in the
4:37 passage about the bush where he calls
4:40 the Lord "the God of Abraham," "the God of
4:43 Isaac," and "the God of Jacob," now He is the
4:46 God, not of the dead, but of the living,
4:48 for all live to Him. The tense of
4:52 the word "live" is not future, its present.
4:55 Jesus clearly indicates that Abraham,
4:58 Isaac, and Jacob are presently living,
5:02 even though their physical bodies had
5:07 Paul is particularly clear on this
5:09 subject. In his letter to the Philippians
5:11 he writes, "For to me, to live is Christ and
5:14 to die is gain. If I am to live in the
5:18 flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.
5:20 Yet which I shall choose, I cannot tell. I
5:23 am hard pressed between the two. My
5:26 desire is to depart and be with Christ
5:29 for that is far better, but to remain in the
5:32 flesh is more necessary on your account,"
5:35 Philippians 1:21-24. How could Paul
5:39 call death "gain" and "far better" if it
5:43 means non-existence? That makes
5:46 absolutely no sense.
5:47 What is gained in death? Why is it far
5:50 better to die?
5:51 Paul tells us. Death for the believer
5:54 means being with Christ. This also lines
5:57 up nicely with what Paul says in another
6:01 "Yes, we are of good courage, and we would
6:04 rather be away from the body and at home
6:07 with the Lord." I'll leave you with one
6:09 final text, and that is when Jesus is
6:12 dying on the cross next to the thief. He
6:15 turns to him and says, "Truly I say to you,
6:18 today you will be with me in paradise."