Is Soul Sleep Biblical?


I have been seeing the topic of soul sleep creep up a lot on Reddit recently, and I have done my research and come to the conclusion that it does not seem to be biblical. Here is an argument for soul sleep a SDA has used with me recently:

"Luke 16:22 is a parable illustrating the false conception that the Hebrews at that time had about death, as well as their false notion of salvation by bloodline. Think about this: do you really want to be in heaven if you can hear the screaming of the people in hell from across the way, and see them being tortured? Does that really sound like heaven? It’s just a story to make a point.

When Jesus is dealing with the actual Lazarus (John 11:11-14), he calls death a sleep. The disciples are actually confused by this, but Jesus clarifies that Lazarus is dead.
With the thief on the cross… correcting the issue is as simple as moving the misplaced comma. Jesus says to the man, “I say unto you today, you shall be with me in paradise.” This promise doesn’t mean the thief necessarily was with Him in paradise that day, because Jesus taught elsewhere of the resurrection of the dead at His second coming. The thief would have known that he would be raised up on the last day. In fact, the thief just before says “Remember me when you come into your kingdom,” demonstrating that he knew this would take place at a later date.

Check out this website , aptly named “The Truth About Death,” which explores the various arguments for what happens when we die and provides ample evidence from the scriptures to show us what the Bible clearly teaches."

I have only done basic research, about 3 or 4 webpages, and was wondering if someone who is more knowledgeable on this subject could weigh in. Thanks. :slight_smile:


If it were Biblical, it would be believed and taught infallibly by the Catholic Church. Just like any other doctrine.



The problem you’re having is within Luke 16:19 –

That comma you mention is important. Jesus said, I say unto you, today you shall be with me in paradise. Of course He was speaking to the thief Today, no need to mention it.

Also, it would seem that Luke 16 is not a parable. Names are used and Jesus didn’t use names when speaking in parables. So it’s a real place.

But where is this place?

“Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to “Abraham’s Bossom” and the rich man also died and was buried and in Hades lifted up his eyes…”.

The rich man died and went to hell.
The poor man went to Abraham’s bossom - which has sometimes been called paradise also. But that’ll confuse things so forget that for now.

The people the rich man was seeing across the chasm were the ones in Abraham’s Bossom.

All the O.T. faithful went to A. B. because they could not enter into heaven. Heaven was not open to anyone until Jesus died and resurrected. If you remember, Jesus went to free the captives - the ones who were awaiting heaven to be “open”. They were NOT in heaven. Your assumption that they would not be too happy hearing the screams of those in hell is correct. They were awaiting in A.B.

The “sleep” interpretation by the Hebrews is correct as explained by you.

Remember that Paul said “to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord”.
Words may not be exact, check out 2 Corinthians 5:8.

AFTER the resurrection, if you’re absent from the body, you’re present with the Lord.

Soul sleep is not biblical and not a church teaching.



Soul sleep is supported by Daniel.

“As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”


So are you saying soul sleep is taught by the catholic church and christianity in general?

Are you saying we take ONE scripture and build a whole doctrine around it?

Why confuse things??



This may be a bit off the track of what you were asking, but I feel like clarifying this one.

If Jesus was telling the thief “TODAY you will be with me in Paradise,” where is this place called “Paradise?”

It’s our belief that Jesus did not go to Heaven the day he died on the cross! According to the Creed, “on the third day He rose again, in fulfillment of the Scriptures. He ascended into Heaven” or “He descended into Hell” (Nicene and Apostle’s, respectively) So where did the idea of Jesus being in Heaven the day of the crucifixion come from, never mind the thief? And in fact, Jesus was present with the Apostles for seven weeks after the day of the resurrection, so He wasn’t completely in Heaven yet until then. Paradise? That day? Not so fast.


Hi Zadeth.

“Soul sleep” as used by the Seventh Day Adventists = “Soul Sleep” (conditional immortality; the non-immortality of the wicked).

No. “Soul sleep” is not a Biblical doctrine.

Finding the word “rest” in a given sentence in the Bible does not make “soul sleep” a “Biblical doctrine”.

When the Catholic Church states: “May he REST in peace” we are NOT teaching “soul sleep” either.

The “theological” concept (erroneous theological concept to be sure) of “soul sleep” is put forth by folks like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Seventh Day Adventists, because they must attempt to reconcile Bible verses with statements their inventors or close proximity to their inventors) mention.

Ellen Gould White for example invented the Seventh Day Adventist religion and Charles Taze Russell invented the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

This is a good summation . . .

Brian Tice published a note.

A History and Analysis of the “Soul Sleep” Teaching

The doctrine of “soul sleep” is a fairly recent invention, developed in its current form by Jehovah’s Witness founder Charles Taze Russell, at the time a Seventh-Day Adventist, as a creative construct to support his denial of the existence of Hell. A young Russell found himself attracted to the “conditional immortality” teachings of George Storrs and William Miller. They taught eternal life for believers only, and immediate “soul extinction” at time of death for the unbeliever. Russell carried it a step further, however, and invented a derived doctrine which he called “soul sleep.”

Russell, by his own admission under court oath, was not at all schooled in the original languages (specified in his testimony as Hebrew and Greek), yet before his congregants, he attempted to make use of Hebrew and Greek dictionaries (in a clumsy, unscholarly manner) in order to feign a deeper knowledge of the Scriptures than he actually possessed. His early influences were Calvinist (Presbyterian and Congregationalist), nuanced later by the teachings of William Miller and others in that Adventist sect.

Hope this helps.

God bless.



This is what I was alluding to in my first post no. 4, I think.

The word paradise in the context of Jesus speaking to the thief probably meant Abraham’s Bosom. Paradise and Heaven get mixed up in the N.T. because of translations and contextual references.

So you could be right that the thief went to A. B., or paradise, THAT day and then to heaven after the resurrection of Jesus.

This could be studied if the OP is so inclined. Just look up the difference between heaven and paradise.

p.s. Of course at the end of time, we are resurrected with our new and glorious body, as on the Mt. of Transfiguration.


I am not doing any such thing.
The implication from the text is obvious though, after Daniel dies he would sleep until Judgment. Not much else you could get from that text.

The fact of the matter is that after death, some go to Heaven, some to Hell, some to Purgatory, and some just wander around loose as ghosts, and other may well just sack out 'til Judgment. The Bible is not exactly clear on a lot of points. Nobody can “make a doctrine” where the outcomes depend completely upon the individual.


Well, the thing is that the catholic church does have a doctrine.

Let’s just simplify: If you believe that you go somewhere when you die, then you do NOT believe in soul sleep. Which is what the church teaches.

The bible does speak to this and a doctrine has been made but not based on Daniel.

God bless


The teaching of Scripture developed over its course.

There really was no strict teaching on human eschatology prior to the coming of our LORD. It took HIM to give the teaching body – HIS own body!



In the Catechism it says

In his human soul united to his divine person, the dead Christ went down to the realm of the dead. He opened heaven’s gates for the just who had gone before him.(CCC 637)

Opening heaven’s gates has always been taken to mean that the souls of those who were just went to heaven, even tho the resurrection of their bodies would have to wait for the final day.

And all those who died just, after that event, their souls would also go to heaven since the gates of heaven were opened… the beatific vison.

When the phrase “he descended into hell” is used, it means Jesus’ soul not his body.
And those he preached to in “hell” were souls of the just. Jesus did not have to wait for his resurrection or ascension to go to the souls in “hell” who were just.


There is a clear depiction of people in heaven who are not sleeping, but are actually calling out to be avenged.

Rev. 6:10
And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

They are told to “rest” a little longer, but clearly resting and sleeping are too different things. As they were already resting and yet were crying out with a loud voice.

Also after going through many Old Testament figures who were great examples of faith the writer of Hebrews 12:1 states that these Old Testament people now surround us as a “great cloud of witnesses”. If they were sleeping they wouldn’t be witnessing anything.

Another example is the men of Nineveh which will rise, judge, and condemn that generation (Matt 12:41). If they are sleeping and unaware, how can they participate in the judging and condemnation of that generation if they weren’t able to witness what was taking place.


Very good. I didn’t think we’d get so into this.

Could I add then that “sleep” in the O.T. really meant “dead” because the person looked as if they were sleeping.

As stated above there are some cults (I say cults because they are out of the christian realm) that believe that we actually sleep till the resurrection and then wake up and get our new body.

Your above proof texts show this is incorrect.

I still like what Paul said: To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Not exact wording. But what happens, happens immediately upon death.



Hi Fred conty,

It seems to me that the church has changed its position on Jesus going to “hell”. There are so many words for hell in scripture and the translation thereof, that it becomes difficult to even teach on this.

We now say: On the 3rd day He rose again and is seated at the right Hand of the Father.

The prisoners Jesus freed after he died were the people waiting in “paradise” or Abraham’s Bossom or Limbo (old term).

The statement of Jesus going to hell brought about much misunderstanding. It’s all in the wording - which is all we have really.

If you could find out re my first sentence and then repost? Otherwise I guess I’m going to have to make sure about this because it seems important to me.

Another point that needs clarification:
As per the book of Hebrews: The O:T: lost went directly to hell.
The O.T. faithful went to the “holding place” till Jesus resurrection. Call it paradise, Abraham’s Bossom, Limbo.

I have catholic catechists who teach that EVERYONE went to the holding place. This will also have to be verified - I believe it’s wrong.

Wish I had more time, but if you don’t do this, I will. Please advise.

Thanks Fred Conty.



I see this as similar with Daniel 12:2 and doesn’t support soul sleep as much as people try to make it.

And many of those that sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake: some unto life everlasting, and others unto reproach, to see it always.” (Daniel 12:2)

I see these too examples of “resting and sleeping in the dust of the earth” as nice ways of saying someone is dead. This is also consistent with the resurrection of the body at the final judgment which remains “resting or sleeping” until that time. This does not indicate what happens **to the soul **in between the time of bodily death and the time of resurrection and final judgment.

After creation God “rested”. This certainly doesn’t mean that he fell into a form of soul sleep. In fact there is a theme that when people died they would enter into the rest of God or be excluded from entering into the rest of God. (Hebrews 3:11, 4:3-5 and others). So if someone dies and enters the “rest” of God they are not sleeping because God is not sleeping in His rest.

Ecclesiates 12:7 “and the dust return into its earth, from whence it was, and the spirit return to God, who gave it”. So the body may be “asleep” in the dust, but the spirit or soul returns to God and is either included or excluded from “God’s Rest” as previously stated even prior to the final judgment when the body will be resurrected and reunited with the soul.


Guess what? The part about Jesus going to hell:
The church has no official position! Interesting because every other mainline protestant denomination does. But if something is obscure, the church should not have a doctrine regarding it, unless it becomes clear and the magesterium wishes to promounce.

So it’s an interesting study in case anyone on this thread cares to follow up on the idea of Jesus descending to hell after the crucifixion.

Isaiah 42:7
Luke 16:19
1 Peter 3:18-19
1Peter 4:1-6

God bless
P.S. Just to clarify, the above is not regarding soul sleep. Soul sleep is not biblical.


Theologians refer to it as sheol ,yet not the place we know as hell,also sheol , but a place were the Fathers went and the just before Jesus opened the gates of Heaven.
So this is were Jesus went.As I understand it.
Never heard anything about any soul sleep.


Oops. I forgot the CCC cross reference, no. 637

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