What Is Soul Sleep?


I am sure that many people have never heard of the term ‘soul sleep’ and to help us understand what soul sleep is referring to, here is a summary.

‘Soul sleep is the belief that the soul rests after death in an unconscious state, or ceases to exist, until the final resurrection.’

In other words, when a person dies, they do not immediately go to heaven to be with God but enter into a state of unconscious limbo.

Death As Sleep

It is true that both the Lord and Paul speak of death as sleep, John 11:11 / 1 Corinthians 15:6-20, in fact, the word ‘cemetery’ comes from the Greek word ‘kormeterion’, from which we also obtain our word ‘dormitory’. Thus, a cemetery is regarded as a sleeping place.

But the words ‘dead’, or ‘death’, are never used in the Scriptures in connection with the ‘soul’, one’s true self. The soul is never described as sleeping after death. In fact, nowhere do the Scriptures ever suggest that the soul ‘sleeps’.

The word is only ever used with reference to the body, the ‘tent’, or ‘tabernacle’, as Peter calls it in 2 Peter 1:13. In 2 Corinthians 5:1, Paul uses the same expression, when he refers to the death of the body. He also uses the same expression in Philippians 1:23 and in 2 Corinthians 5:5-8.

This means that when a believer ‘dies’, the worn-out tent, his body goes to ‘sleep’ in the earth, to await the resurrection and the change which will occur when Christ returns but the soul, the real person, goes to be with the Lord. Our loved ones do not lie in graveyards. They are simply not there!

In Romans 8:23 Paul says that we have, as believers, already received the first fruits of the Spirit, and we now await, the redemption of our body.

Furthermore, he says that we have been given the Holy Spirit as the ‘arrabon’. The word describes a ‘pledge’, or a ‘deposit’, as a guarantee that He will complete the ‘purchase’!

By His gift of the Spirit, God assures the believer that He who raised Jesus from the dead will raise him also. This means that when the Lord Jesus returns, the body which was committed to the earth to ‘sleep’, and to ‘wait’, will be raised incorruptible, a new body, like His glorious body, Philippians 3:21, to be reunited with the soul, which has been at home, with the Lord who has made redemption possible, 1 Corinthians 15:6-20.

The souls of those who have died are very much alive and conscious. Mark 12:24-27 tells us that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are very much still alive and conscious and in the presence of God, God is still their God. Luke 16:19-31 tells that Abraham, the rich man and Lazarus are very much alive and conscious after death.

Mark 9:4 tells us that Elijah and Moses are very much still alive and conscious as they spoke with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Revelation 6:9-11 tells us that those souls who had been slain because of their faith are very much still alive and conscious, as they are told to wait for God to act on their behalf.


We can understand where the idea of ‘soul sleep’ comes from and we see that it is simply a misunderstanding of the words death and sleep. When we look at the evidence the Scriptures provide, we clearly see that the soul is never described as sleeping after death, it is the human body which sleeps.

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the rich man, Lazarus Elijah, Moses and all those souls who had been slain are very much still alive and conscious.