Need help with 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17


I have a relative who is not Catholic and constantly trying to push her believes onto my family. She believes that everyone that dies, including Mary, is in a deep sleep until Jesus comes a second time. So in other words, we cannot talk to the dead or ask them to pray for us. Now she is a very strict bible Christian, so she states that the above is in the bible. I am assuming she means this passage:

1 Thessalonians 4:16–17, which states, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.”

I was wondering what this scripture means about the dead. I know I have found many scriptures saying things like God is God of the living, not the dead. This relative will also give passages of the times Jesus brought back the dead such as:

Luke 7:12-15: As he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large crowd from the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” And he came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother.

She says that the dead were in a deep sleep before Jesus brought their soul and spirit back to their body. Could someone help give me reasons that her thoughts on this is not correct in a way that a Protestant would understand (meaning very biblical reasons)?


This should help By father Callan


Neither of those passages says that the soul of the person was unconscious before they were brought back to life. It only is talking about the Resurrection.

But there are in fact several places in scripture that show the souls in heaven as active and conscious of not only what is going on in heaven, but on earth as well. I would point her first to Revelation 5:8. St. John has a vision of heaven, and in heaven he sees 24 elders, human beings, sitting on 24 thrones and each of them are holding a harp and golden censer filled with incense “which are the prayers of the saints” and they are taking this incense, the prayers, to the throne of God. This passage pretty clearly shows that human beings are active and awake in heaven.

Or Revelation 6:9-11? Where the souls of those who have been martyred are in heaven and asking God how much longer until He brings justice down on the earth. Again, these are human beings who have died, yet here we see them not only conscious, but making a petition to God.

1 Pet 3:19 talks about Jesus, after he died but before he rose on the third day, going to “preach to the spirits in prison”. You can’t preach to unconscious people, they have to be awake to hear you.

Finally, St. Paul in Phillipians 2 says something interesting that I believe contradicts the doctrine of soul sleep. I’ll quote the whole thing here.

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. My desire is to depart and be with The Lord, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Phil 2:21-24)

Here, St Paul says it is a far better thing to die because he’ll be with The Lord, and that is his desire. If, as your friend believes, when we die we just go unconscious until the resurrection, then St. Paul’s desire makes no sense. It wouldn’t be a better thing to be unconscious, it would be worse.

Anyways, hope that helps get you started. :thumbsup:


Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus, when they died the rich man was in hell while Lazarus was at Abraham’s bosom. Luke 16.
The thief on the cross, which Jesus said "today you will be with me in Paradise. I’m quite sure Jesus didn’t say that today you will be taking a long nap!


I just realized that last scripture quote is actually supposed to be from Phillipians chapter 1 not 2. My mistake. :slight_smile:


Thank you so much for all your posts! There were some very helpful passages in there that might change her mind. :slight_smile: I have been reading the bible and other books about the bible and our church history, but it is only making me realize how much I don’t know. The bible is just so deep with all the history, theology, and the translations from the languages! It is really amazing!

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