The Bible Disproves Soul Sleep


Soul Sleep refers to the idea that when we die, our souls cease to exist or at least "fall asleep" and become totally inert, until the end of the world and our resurrection. Various religions have different understandings about exactly how soul sleep works, but in practical terms it would mean that the dead are not conscious in any way, and hence that there are no saints in heaven interceding on our behalf, etc.

Here is an example of a verse that is used to defend soul sleep:
Ecclesiastes 9:5
For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.
The context shows that this verse is not speaking about soul sleep, just as "they have no more reward" is not denying the resurrection of the dead. To show that the author of Ecclesiastes did not believe in soul sleep, one can cite the following verse from the same book:
Ecclesiastes 12:7
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.
That is, the soul has an existence independent of the body, and returns to God at death, etc.

Biblical verses which disprove soul sleep

Here is a list of verses which show that "soul sleep" is contrary to what the Bible teaches.

Revelation 6:9-10
When he broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of all the people who had been killed on account of the word of God, for witnessing to it.  They shouted aloud, "Holy, faithful Master, how much longer will you wait before you pass sentence and take vengeance for our death on the inhabitants of the earth?"
The Bible is saying that martyrs go to heaven before the Judgment. Note that this takes place before the resurrection, before the end of the world, before the Judgment, while life is going on as usual on the earth. Also, the martyrs, despite being "dead", have their own memories, and remember that they have been martyred.  So to say that these martyrs "know nothing" (Ecclesiastes 9:5) in the sense of being unconscious, or something like that, would be incorrect.

Luke 16:19-31
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 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; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame." But Abraham said, "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence." Then he said, "I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment." Abraham saith unto him, "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them." And he said, "Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent." And he said unto him, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."
Lazarus and the rich man have both died, but their souls are still alive, despite the death of their bodies (and the same is true of Abraham).  All this takes place before the resurrection of their bodies, while the rich man's brothers are still alive.

1 Peter 3:18-19
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.
If the spirits in prison are dead and "know nothing", then why is Jesus preaching to them?

Luke 12:4
And I say unto you my friends, "Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do."
Here we see that Jesus says that murderers kill only the body, and cannot harm the soul at all.  In other words, our soul stays alive, despite anything a murderer might try to do.

2 Corinthians 5:6,8-9
Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.... We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.  Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.
If our soul dies when our body dies, then how can we be "absent" from the body?  Yet, the Bible says that we can be with the Lord while absent from our body!

Matthew 22:31-32
...have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?" God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

Luke 24:37-39
But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, "Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have."
If a spirit apart from its body is dead, then surely the Apostles would know this and thus would not have thought that a living Jesus would be a spirit.  Also, if the Apostles had been incorrect in believing that a person's soul survives apart from that person's body, then why didn't Jesus correct them instead of encouraging them in this "erroneous" belief they held?  In fact, Jesus here says that the spirit exists independently of the body.

Genesis 35:18
And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died)...
Note that, when Rachel died, her soul departed. It didn't "fall asleep".

John 11:25-26
Jesus said unto her, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die."

Revelation 20:4
I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus... they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
Note that John saw only the souls of the martyrs.

Jude 1:7
Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
Note that they are presently suffering, and thus not unconscious.

Luke 23:43
And Jesus said unto him, "Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise."
That day ("today") was before the resurrection.

Matthew 17:1,3-4
And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.  Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias."
Moses had died, (Deuteronomy 34:5 - So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.) and yet, despite being dead, he is able to speak to Jesus.


Please email any comments to: Antoine Valentim
Suggestions, comments, or submissions would be appreciated!

Return to Ecclesia Triumphans Catholic Apologetics