What Does the Bible Say About Soul Sleep?

Soul sleep is a minority belief that the soul sleeps unconsciously between the death of the body and its resurrection on Judgment Day. The concept of “soul sleep” is not a biblical doctrine. When the Bible says a person is “sleeping” in relation to death (Luke 8:52; 1 Corinthians 15:6), it does not mean literal sleep. Sleeping is just a way to describe death because a dead body appears to be sleeping. The Bible tells us that the instant we die, we are taken to heaven or hell based on whether we have placed our faith in Christ for salvation. For believers, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23). For unbelievers, death means everlasting punishment in Hell (Luke 16:22-23). The moment we die, we face the judgment of God (Hebrews 9:27). Until the resurrection, though, there is currently a temporary heaven “Paradise” (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4) and hell “Hades” (Revelation 1:18; 20:13-14).

In a sense, a person’s body is “sleeping” while their soul is in the temporary Paradise or Hades. This body is then “awakened” and transformed into the eternal body a person will possess for eternity. These eternal bodies are what we possess for all of eternity, whether we are in heaven or hell. Those who were in Paradise will be sent to the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21:1). Those who were in Hades will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). These are the final, eternal destinations of all people—based entirely on whether or not they have trusted Jesus Christ alone for salvation from their sins. Present-day defenders of soul sleep include the Seventh Day Adventist church, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, and others.