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"Soul Sleep" Christianity

December 24 2010 at 7:02 PM
Luke Parrish  (Login lsparrish)
Registered User

Is anyone here a Christian that believes in soul sleep?

I first learned about this doctrine from Seventh Day Adventists back in 2000 when Doug Batchelor did the Millenium of Prophecy series. I was surprised that there are Christians who believe this way, as I had been taught to believe that the soul is sort of like a virtual body that you use to navigate in a spiritual world or alternate dimension where heaven and hell exist. What I learned was that this traditional Christian concept is actually more of a Hellenistic Greek idea and not very well supported in scripture on closer analysis.

Scriptural basis for the soul sleep idea can be found in Ecclesiastes:

9:5 "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten."
12:7 "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."

The "spirit" is interpreted as the literal Hebrew meaning "breath" or perhaps by extension the vital processes (i.e. breath of life) which cease happening and thus return to God who gave them when you die. The "soul" is what you get when there is a body and a spirit together. So instead of claiming that there is a spirit and soul in addition to the body, the Adventists state that there is simply a soul, which is composed of a body and spirit.

There are other verses that seem to indicate that heaven is immediate, but Adventists dismiss them as figurative. For example in 2 Corinthians 5:8, it states "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." This is interpreted to mean that your subjective experience is that you will be present with the Lord as soon as you awaken from the death of this body (i.e. after it is replaced with a glorified body).

One interesting thing about this doctrine is that it takes away the question about whether "dead" makes a difference to cryonics. If you are in a state of complete unconsciousness, it is indistinguishable from an irreversible coma. If medicine cannot cure you of it before the Second Coming, what the Bible promises is that you will be healed of this sickness known as death at that point, a supernatural event referred to as the Resurrection Day.

The SDA church seems to be a fairly mainstream Christian denomination, so I can't help but wonder if there are others that take the same doctrinal position. I know there are other denominations that celebrate the seventh-day sabbath such as Seventh Day Church of God and Seventh Day Baptists. Are there other denominations that specifically believe in soul sleep?

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