Soul sleep and the transitional period. Where do we go when we die?

The motivation for writing, in this case, initiated with the study that I have been doing on the Revelation, where, at the moment, we are in chapters 21 and 22. Those chapters focus on a new heaven and a new earth.

I share these studies with the guys I sit with, and they always have questions. For example, one of the men asked about death and Heaven, which prompted him to buy a copy of the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn. I have a copy of that book but, until recently, never opened it. 

The chapter I pursued first started on page twenty-three. By the time I got to chapter five, page 41, I had run into this bizarre statement by Randy Alcorn, and to be honest, I was done. 

When a Christian dies, he enters into what is referred to in theology as the intermediate state, a transitional period between our present lives on earth and our future resurrection to life on the New Earth.

A Pastor I am familiar with, in his book Countdown, states that “a few cult religions believe in a soul sleep.” The problem is, the Bible does not use the phrase soul sleep; nor does it speak explicitly about an intermediate state or a transitional period as we believers await our “future resurrection” to our life on the “New Earth,” as Randy Alcorn stated. 

The possibility of this intermediate state or transition being the same as soul sleep is not that difficult to perceive. 

Because of the questions that believers ask and the conflicting statements from books and the pulpit, I have felt the need to look into the biblical understanding of death and our transition to our heavenly home. 

Our education into death begins by grasping that the soul never dies

  • The ultimate “death” is separation from God, in whose image you are made. 

    It would be best if you let that statement sink in. 

    Since all of humanity was made in God’s image, then consider the fool that says there is no God, all the while their soul cries out as it longs to worship Him, and, because you chose to turn a blind eye to God, the rocks will sing out the praises of God.

    So, what we call death is distributed – in a sense, between those who are followers of Jesus Christ and those who are not.

  • For the follower of Christ, there is a glorious hope, and it is to live in the presence of Love Himself.

    The Apostle Paul told us in 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 that we are merely living in tents of fleshand when those tents are taken down – destroyed, we are immediately in the presence of Jesus, clothed in the glory and garments of Heaven. 

    The phrase used is, “we have.” It is the Greek word echō. Thayer’s definition conveys that this word means: to have, hold, own, and possess – as in the sense of wearing a tent.

    One of the verses we focus on is 2 Corinthians 5:6. Here the thought process seems to run backward; as Paul says, 

    “Therefore we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.” 

    If we apply a mathematical term, inverse, it is then easy to understand that we long to be clothed in our eternal bodies and be present with the Lord, an event that will happen instantly.

    While I can’t tell you if you will be hanging around in the clouds with Jesus or dancing on golden streets, I can tell you that the transition from here to there will be instantaneous.

    Please don’t ask me about the reasons behind God associating us back with our physical body, as I don’t have much more information than you do. Still, it is clear that God gave us these bodies, with sensation and emotion, for a reason and will, therefore, restore them in a condition far better than what we left them in.

    Having said all that, I can picture Jesus sitting at the sea shore with the disciples, eating fish. In His immortal body, He doesn’t have to, but He did.

    Is it because He could still enjoy it and the fellowship – an emotion?

    Nobody ever tries to tell you that in His last days on earth, He could not feel the distress the disciples felt. They had Him, lost Him, gained Him back, and now He was going back to the Father once again. What a roller coaster of emotions. Perhaps none of this could be experienced without the body.

The death of those outside of a relationship with Jesus is different. 

  • Again, your soul never dies. 

    So, if you are unfortunate enough to make it to the great white throne, there is the sad possibility that your name is NOT listed in the book of life. If that happens, you will be cast into the lake of fire, right behind your fearless leader – Satan. You will experience eternal separation from God and the eternal agony designed for Satan and his fallen angel horde. 

    While the believers are taken immediately into the presence of Jesus, this is not the case for those who would not follow Him. 

  • I contend that, for the non-believer, the dead know nothing. 

    What does that mean? 

    It means your soul just lies there, somewhere, without a thought. Most people think of this as being asleep. I don’t know about that because I have all kinds of dreams, some of which fall under the category of demonic if you ask me. But whether asleep or simply thoughtless makes no difference, as you are, for whatever amount of time that takes, doing nothing, going nowhere. 

    What evidence do I have for the statement above? 

    How about Ecclesiastes 9:5, for one. 

    “The living at least know they will die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward, nor are they remembered.” (NLT)

    I am aware that some could interpret this otherwise, so I found other witnesses. Psalm 146:3-4 is an excellent one.

    “Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; In that very day his thoughts perish.” (NASB

    Remember, it is two or three witnesses, so let’s look at one more. It doesn’t matter how many pieces of evidence I put up here, as some of you will never change your mind. Psalm 115:17 also bolsters the idea of a thoughtless condition. 

    “The dead do not praise the LORD, Nor do any who go down into silence;” (NASB)

    It seems obvious that the dead would not praise the Lord, but how do you know that? Considering how some who “come back from the dead” see and feel horrendous torment, why wouldn’t they want to praise the Lord?

I feel as though I have done an adequate job of giving you an understanding of death and how the dead know nothing, and I backed my assertions with scripture.

Am I now to be considered a cult religion by some Pastor just because, in his book, he deemed those who believe there is a soul sleep as a religious cult, and he does it by saying, “a few cult religions believe in a soul sleep.”? I don’t think so, for I believe in scripture, God’s word, and a relationship with Jesus. And, as this Pastor often tells the audience, I preach the pure Word of God. But obviously, for some Pastors, that is not the case. If this does anything, it moves men like this Pastor into the category of false teachers, who may need correction or be ignored because none of us have the right to make Biblical-sounding statements that have no Biblical basis. 

You follow whoever floats your boat because I am not the church police. But at least get yourself skillful with scripture and judge for yourselves. If what they preach is consistently wrong, and you follow them, then in time, what they say will weaken your faith and undermine your understanding of God’s character.

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4 Responses to Soul sleep and the transitional period. Where do we go when we die?

  1. Thanks for your response. Your points are well noted.
    However, from your own argument, you seem to agree here that the story of Lazarus and the rich man was a true story, but occurred before the coming of Christ. The wicked rich man was obviously not soul-sleeping and not conscious of his environment in hell, was he? He was fully conscious and aware of the unbearable torment he was experiencing. This corroborates Jesus’ description of souls suffering the torment of everlasting fire in hell, for which he warned people it would be better to cut off a misleading part of their bodies, rather than have their members complete and be cast into hell.

    Numerous scriptures talk of the wicked being turned into hell, as well as all the nations that forget God.

    Psalms 9:17 The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.

    Psalms 55:15 Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.

    You said that after Jesus, the next people to be cast into hell will be the Beast and the anti-Christ. But, Scripture says otherwise. The apostles spoke of hell awaiting false prophets and false teachers who turn the truth of God into lasciviousness (Jude1:10-15; 2Peter2:1-22). They said no worker of iniquity will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). People who reject Jesus in their life time already have the wrath of God abiding on them ( John3:18). At death, their soul go to God’s prison house called hell, from where they will await the resurrection of their bodies, to face God’s final judgement, which will end up with all the inhabitants of hell being cast into the lake of fire, the second death.

    Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

    Revelation 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

    Kindly note that people in hell will be cast into the lake of fire, having come up from hell to be judged by Jesus.

    God bless you!

    Revelation 20:14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

    Revelation 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

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  2. Thanks for the post.
    I agree with you that those who are in Christ die, their souls go to be with the Lord in Paradise, while their bodies await the first resurrection in the rapture, to be reunited with their departed souls.

    However, I disagree with you about the fate of unbelievers. From the account of the rich man and Lazarus, the souls of the Wicked go to hell at death, where they are conscious and suffer torment, awaiting the second resurrection and final judgement, when those in hell will be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death.
    I wont be able to give you all the back up scriptures now , but I’ll leave you with a link to an article I wrote on the subject. It’s been detailed, and has all the scripture references you’ll need. I hope the article helps.
    God bless you!

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    • remso says:

      A couple of things about the fate of unbelievers.
      1.) That story about the beggar Lazarus and the rich man, was most likely real; however, this happened before the cross. It would seem that the cross is a huge line of demarcation.
      In submitting to the cross Jesus conquered death, and hell, and He took the keys of death and Hades from Satan. Hebrews 2:15,16 tell us that He rendered him (Satan) powerless, freeing those who through fear of death were subject to slavery ALL their lives.and eliminated the need to fear.
      Isaiah 61:1-2, which Jesus quoted in Luke’s gospel chapter four, tells us that He proclaimed release to the captives. You could try to argue that this is speaking to captive believers today. The problem with that is that this was written to a Jewish audience that had little to no grasp of Jesus as the Messiah, therefore, the argument won’t hold up.
      The captives also speaks to the time of the cross and what He did in hell.
      Ephesians 4:8 states that when He ascended to the Father, that He led a host of captives. Again, you could try to pitch a case for these being believers, but you then have to explain how and when they became believers. This would be especially difficult as you have, by your argument, sent all the wicked to hell, with the assumption that they all deserved hell’s torment.
      And, one other thing. We do not see anyone going to hell, in scripture, since the cross. The first and only humans that we see going to hell since the cross is the beast and the false prophet. We see no others until the great white throne judgment.
      Based on this alone I could argue that there are No humans in hell, unless they were fool enough to refuse Jesus preaching. How would that be possible?

      This brings us to point number two.
      2.) ALL judgment has been given to the Son. (John5:22), therefore we have NO business proclaiming who is going to hell.
      Matthew 25:31-46 has Jesus, the shepherd, setting aside many and calling them sheep. These people are given access to eternal life with the Father, because: of their good works and their names being found in the book of life. Now, if you read the account, then you would have realized that none of these people went up in the rapture, so what happened there? If you are honest you will have say, I don’t know.
      Matthew 25 and Revelation 20:11-15 are the same account. Study the wording carefully and you will see what I mean. In Revelation 20 you have same books, however, Revelation 20 does not focus on those obtaining mercy.
      Ask yourself, who is seated on the throne in Revelation 20? We already discussed that all judgment was handed over to the Son, so it is Jesus in both scenarios.
      Now, since Jesus is capable of finding those in this crowd, worthy of mercy, how can you feel justified in sending them all to hell?
      By the way, there are only two resurrections, the martyred saints at the end of God’s wrath and the dead at the final judgment. No where else. It’s okay that we cannot figure out everything; we, however, do not get to make doctrine out of what we don’t understand. Perhaps it would be best to tell those who listen to you that you are working on understanding what to call our catching away and leave it at that.

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      • Thanks for your response. Your points are noted. However, there’s an apparent contradiction in one key point in your argument. You posited in your original post that dead unbelievers undergo soul sleep, in a state where they don’t know or remember anything, and can’t praise God. You quoted Ecclesiastes and Psalms to back this up. But, in your comment here, you just agreed to the fact that the story of the rich man and Lazarus was real, and that it occurred before the Advent of Christ. Remember how the wicked rich man was fully conscious in hell, and could feel the torment there? Obviously his soul wasn’t in a state of sleep from which he could feel nothing. Going by that account alone, we can conclude that the idea of soul-sleep for the wicked dead isn’t supported by Jesus.

        Secondly, numerous scriptures talk of God turning the wicked into hell, as well as all the nations that forget God. Jesus warned his listeners

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