from what I have seen, if you want to really convince stout believers of soul sleep, you can’t get bogged down in the scriptures. You’ll end up arguing over a passage for days, and leave utterly frustrated. Instead, you must rise above the scriptural evidence because these strong supporters will ALWAYS have an answer for any text (this readiness to defend is just more evidence in my opinion). My argument goes as follows:
One of the reasons why SDA’s adhere to soul sleep is because they say that this theory was held by Jews of the OT. I think the thought is that OT Jews received a certain amount of divine truth, and are thus apparently INFALLIBLE in their theological stance. Truthfully, the Jewish concept of the afterlife has shifted more than can even be accounted for: from an ancient greek-like view of an indescriminent Hades, to a retributive heaven and hell (eye for an eye), to ressurection, to reincarnation. This site isn’t exactly scholarly but it works: near-death.com/experiences/judaism06.html . The point here, obviously, is that the Jewish understanding of the afterlife is very unsteady. FYI, today the Jewish THEORY is that the afterlife is a sort of long journey. I say theory because they admitt they know very little about the afterlife.
So, Christian supporters of soul sleep take this one point in the long history of Jewish understanding of the afterlife, because it is in the Bible, and say that because the Jews were God’s people, this is truth. From what I have seen, they also support the idea because they feel that over time God’s will has been corrupted (concept of eternal downfall of man from grace), and that the biblical Jews, who were closer to the point of the fall and therefore less corrupted, had the best understanding of God’s will and plan. However, this can ealisy be torn apart because in other ways, God did not reveal to them what he has revealed Christians. First, in the Catholic perspective, there is the fall of man from grace, which ceases at the crucifixion and turns to a rise back to grace, led by truths given from Jesus. This seems blindingly apparent in the book of Exodus when Moses asks God what His name is. The Jews, in the fall, have forgotten their God’s name, “Lord,” which abounds throughout the book of Genesis. Thus, if the Jews forgot the very NAME of their creator we can assume that God was not constantly revealing all to them, and that they had forgotten many other things, including a correct view of the afterlife.
Even more compelling, did the Jews know about the Trinity? They knew that their savior was coming, but they had NO IDEA that he is one piece of a three-part essence. We know that this essence has been in existence for all eternity, so why did OT Jews not know about it? The answer is because God HAD NOT REVEALED IT TO THEM yet. If we know for a FACT that the OT Jews had no knowledge of the very ESSENCE of what God is, then it seems strange to trust our understanding of the afterlife to their views on it.
So, in short, God has actually revealed more truths to us through Jesus as time has passed; truths which were not available to the Jews of the OT. This leads one to realize that OT Jews did not have all the devine knowledge some Christians would think, that closer historical relation to the fall does not equal greater knowledge of truth, and so biblical Jews did not hold truths about the afterlife that have somehow been changed through history by the will of man.
It’s not extremely well worded here, but I have found that if you tie a paraphrased version of this argument in with the scriptural evidence you have supplied, it is very difficult for Soul Sleep believers to wiggle out, and you might even get them to think about it.