Challenge Response: Our Souls Sleep until the Resurrection

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

2:14 expressing

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

4:02 died.

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

4:24 body.

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

5:05 died.

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

6:00 letter.

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."

video |
Tim Barnett