You may not know it, but there is a very controversial issue in Old Testament theology concerning the afterlife. It seems that the Old Testament saints did not have the privilege of reading all these books about people who have died, seen heaven, and come back to tell us all about that which awaits us! In fact, as odd as it may seem, the hope that you and I have of being in a conscious state of existence with Christ at the moment of death is strangely absent among Old Testament believers. Those in the Old Testament often speak of death as the absence of God, hopelessness, and dead silence.

This makes little sense to most of us. We, like Paul, attempt to view death as gain (Phil. 1:21). We believe that the moment we exit the body is the moment we are present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). Let me correct myself. The word “present” does not do this passage justice. “We are of good courage,” Paul says, “and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” The word used here for “home” is endemeno. It is used only here in the New Testament. In fact, Paul uses it three times. It means “to be in a familiar place” (BDAG) or “to be in a place of comfort.” “Home” is a good translation. We believe that when we die, we exit the familiarity of our current existence to a greater comfort with the Lord. We believe that the day we die is the day we are in Paradise (Luke 23:43), when we are home. As well, although we need to be careful that we don’t make parables walk on all four theological legs, I think a good case can be made that we have an angelic escort to heaven the moment we take our last breath (Luke 16:22). All of this to say that believers in Christ have very strong biblical support for the hope that death immediately presents us with a mysterious yet wonderful new life with Christ.

However, this does not seem to be the case with Old Testament believers. They present themselves as those who fear death a great deal, more than most of us are comfortable with. In fact, in some cases, it looks like they don’t believe in heaven at all. Notice here:

Psalm 6:5
For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?

David, fearing the presence and antagonism of his enemies, is calling on God for deliverance. What is his main argument? Well, it goes like this: “If my enemies take my life, I will not be able to praise you.” What gives here, David? In Sheol (death, the grave), he won’t be able to praise God? Are you kidding? When we die, we will be in his very presence. And the first thing I will do is fall down and worship Christ.

And this verse is not the only troublesome verse in Old Testament personal eschatology (theology of the what happens after death). Listen to these passages:

Psalm 30:9
What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?

Psalm 88:10
Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah

Psalm 115:17
The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any who go down into silence.

Isa, 38:18
For Sheol does not thank you; death does not praise you; those who go down to the pit do not hope for your faithfulness.

Ecc. 9:5
For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten.

Ecc. 9:10
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

These passages are indeed difficult to harmonize with a New Testament theology. All of them suggest that, at least according to Old Testament believers, death is it. There is no afterlife or intermediate state of existence and, possibly, no resurrection.

So how do we deal with this? I see a few options:

1. There is no intermediate state

This is often referred to as “soul sleep” or “Christian mortalism.” There is another fancy term for this, hypnopsychism. This view simply argues that the soul ceases to exist during the time between death and judgement. There is no conscious intermediate state of existence. This has been around for a while. In fact, John Calvin wrote a tract condemning this view called Psychopannychia. The subtitle reads: “Or a refutation of the error entertained by some unskillful persons, who ignorantly imagine that in the interval between death and the judgment the soul sleeps.” As odd as it may seem, there are some well-known theologians who have argued for this view. Among them are John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, John Milton, and A.T. Robertson. Of course this is the doctrine that is dogmatized by Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, and Seventh Day Adventists. And it will probably surprise many of you to know that N.T. Wright is an advocate of Soul Sleep. But the most significant believer in this view is Martin Luther (although many argue he changed his position later in life).

My opinion is that while this view sufficiently deals with these Old Testament passages, it is nearly impossible to systematize with the New Testament passages mentioned above. I don’t think this is a legitimate Christian option and I would be comfortable labeling it as heterodoxy (note: that does not mean that those who hold to this are not saved; it just means that their view of personal eschatology is coloring outside the lines of the historic Christian faith and fails to present a legitimate biblical theology).

2. Old Testament believes did believe in a conscious intermediate state

The argument here is that these passages in the Old Testament must be contextualized. The writers were not trying to present a theology of personal eschatology, but simply saying that our life here on earth presents us with a particular work that ends at death. While here on earth, we can praise God in a different way through the trials, tribulations, and glories of this world. For example, when we die, we can no longer evangelize. When we die, we can no longer partake in the sufferings of Christ. When we die, we cannot grow in our sanctification. When we die, we cannot continue to acquire rewards. It is in this sense only that our spirit becomes silent. Support for this can be found in John 9:4 when Christ says, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” The “night” is not an uncouncious state of existence, but a ceasing from the work that glorifies God in a unique way.

This view is the most popular in Christian history and held by most evangelicals and Catholics.

3. Old Testament believers did not believe in a conscious intermediate state, but this does not mean that there is not one

Here, it is granted that the Old Testament believers did not believe in an intermediate state of existence, but the New Testament provides further revelation which reveals a greater hope. The Old Testament passages above seem to present an authorial understanding which lacks any view of hope in the afterlife, while it seems very possible that they did have a hazy view of the resurrection. In short, their view of what happens after death is dark, sad, and wrong. But we should not expect Old Testament believers to have a fulfilled theology. Revelation is given progressively. What this means is that there are a lot of things that Old Testament believers did not know. When they spoke on issues such as this, we should not expect them to always express a perfected hope.

Of course, the problem with this may be obvious. It seems to deny inerrancy as there is a suggestion that these Old Testament texts teach wrong theology. However, I don’t necessarily think we have to go there. Many times Old Testament saints write to illustrate their feelings, but this does not necessarily mean that what they write is teaching doctrine. For example, in Psalm 22:1 David says “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We know that God does not forsake any of his children and he had not forsaken David (Heb. 13:5). David was wrong in his theology, but accurately expressed his feelings. We give David some theological slack here, understanding that such cries are not meant to contribute to doctrine, but to accurately represent the troubles that people go through. With the passages that do seem to suggest soul sleep, they, like Psalm 22:1, are not meant to contribute to doctrine. Yes, it is very possible that Old Testament saints (at least the ones who wrote the above passages), did not believe there was any consciousness after death, but this does not mean that there is not consciousness after death. Progressive revelation explains this problem.

My view

I reject any notion of soul sleep. Again, I don’t think anyone is going to hell for believing it, I just don’t think it is a legitimate option. I do believe both #2 and #3 are worthy of support. However, I am more inclined to #3 right now. I do understand the problems people may see with inerrancy (a doctrine to which I hold), but I think these problems can be overcome by looking at it as presented above. I think #3 holds to the integrity of authorial intent hermeneutics (interpreting the Bible through the eyes of the author) better than the other two options. Either way, I believe very strongly that when believers die, they are immediately escorted to the presence of Christ and await resurrection with great anticipation.

What about you? Which option do you think is best?

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C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    145 replies to "Where Did Old Testament Saints Think They Went When They Died?"

    • Bryant King

      Many years ago I read Walter Martin’s The Kingdom of the Cults. In this book, he described the Seventh Day Adventist’s concept of soul sleep. He was doing this in order to refute them, but the concept, at least on some level, made much sense to me. It seemed to account for judgement in the Bible which seems to be all encompassing and not some sort of always rolling courtroom for when people die. I do not, as Walter Martin suggests, think that annihilation is a necessary assumption to go along with a concept of soul sleep. But I quickly realized that accepting the idea of soul sleep would put me at odds with all sorts of Christians that I respected (the fact that I was learning about it in a book about cults was plenty of clue to that). So I have shelved this topic away. I don’t bring it up. I would not feel comfortable telling my kids or anyone else that any dead relative is in a certain place at this specific moment, but those questions have been easy to avoid up to this point. Now that I have answered this and attached my name, I will probably not be allowed to join any church that I would want to join in the future, but so be it.

    • Irene

      No mention of the Limbo of the Fathers?
      And “He descended into Hell?”

    • Thomas Larsen

      // N.T. Wright is an advocate of Soul Sleep. //

      I’m pretty certain N. T. Wright doesn’t advocate soul sleep. Check out this clip (1m.29s) of Wright addressing the question “What Happens After You Die?

    • Craig Benno

      Hey Michael. And here lays the rub why I don’t believe in hell as is commonly portrayed by evangelicals. Simply put, death meant death.

      It does however raise some issues here about “some” of the churches emphasis on God being with us in the afterlife and not in the now.

      • C Michael Patton

        Craig, I don’t think hell, as we believe it will be some day, is open for business right now. Unbelievers go to a place that is awaiting judgement.

      • C Michael Patton


        It’s seems that death meant death only in the OT. I think it wiser to systematize OT revelation with NT revelation considering the limited theology of those in the OT. To do the opposite would seem very hard to argue for, yet that is what advocates of soul sleep do.

    • Mike O

      I don’t know. And I’m OK with that.

      As Bob Hope once said when asked where he would like to be buried when he died …

      “Surprise me.”


    • […] Without books like Heaven is For Real at their disposal, where did Old Testament saints think they were headed after death? C. Michael Patton answers this one. […]

    • Dave Z

      All of these positions assume time continues uninterrupted after death. That, for example, Paul and the other apostles have been kicking back in heaven for some 2000 years awaiting the resurrection. Soul-sleep assumes there is time to sleep through. That seems like a big assumption to me. What if time is entirely different once we step out of the physical universe? What if we step out of the current space/time continuum and immediately find ourselves at the judgment?

      Is there some good reason to think that time as we know it here and now continues after death?

    • Don Donaldson

      I’d say the OT Saints did not expect to be in the Lord’s presence at death because in fact they went to Abraham’s bosom – a la Lazarus – ceasing from their works and awaiting God’s ultimate salvation. I doubt that all (or even many) of them understood this simply because God did not reveal these particular details at that time. The focus of the Old Covenant was earthly blessing and reward for obedience (which cease at death) while our New Covenant puts the focus on eternal rewards and life everlasting, and reveals these truths in greater detail.

    • Yes, its # 2 for me! Btw, in Jewish lit., there is Abraham’s Bosom for the “righteous” dead. We can see some of this in Luke 16, and the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus: 16: 19-31. And btw, “Lazarus” is the only named character in a parable. (See too, Lk. 13: 28-29) Is there a connection between the parable and John 11: 1-44 ; 12: 1, 9?

      Limbo, is of course somewhat connected to the question of Baptism and infants, and a Church issue, especially Roman Catholic. And for “He descended into Hell”, we can see the reality of 1 Peter 3: 18-22. Here is Christ’s descent into death, and into the realm of the dead. For HE is the resurrection and the life! But we should also consider Christ proclaiming His Victory to perhaps “the spirits in prison” (Tartarus, 2 Pet. 2:4, Jude 6 – 1 Enoch 14, 5 and 18, 4?)…this Victory was both thru Christ’s incarnation and death in the flesh, over Satan’s scheme to derange God’s divine plan. We can see the latter in some of the Church Fathers.

    • C Michael Patton


      First, soul sleep is often described as the view that recognizes a lack of time in heaven. This is how many argue for their position.

      However, timelessness is a correlated to the doctrine of simplicity. God, by definition, is the only simple being. Without time, there is no space or matter. God is the only infinite in this regard. In other words, in order for there to be timelessness one has to be God.

    • Jonathan K

      “Luke 18:18 And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

      If this man is searching for eternal life, he must have been taught that it exists.

    • Kenton

      Could it simply be that things changed after Christ died and rose? It seems to be that the OT saints were correct in that death meant real separation from God. Though Jesus describes a sort of rest for those who were righteous through faith, they were still in Sheol, and cut off from God’s presence.

      However, the reason why the resurrection matters so (especially to Paul) is that all those who were righteous were raised with Christ in a sense from Sheol, to the presence of God. Now they are at home with the Lord (yet awaiting bodily resurrection). Hence, they are no longer separated from God’s presence.

      So there is a very real difference between the OT and the NT in terms of what happens after death. But in terms of consciousness or unconsciousness, the OT saints definitely seemed to deny unconsciousness, but at the same time, from Job and David and Solomon, they seem to describe a limited consciousness, a shackling of sorts that would lead David and Solomon to suggest that the dead are idle and neither have knowledge, hope, wisdom, or speech. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that consciousness has a very real physical component. Those who die lose all of the very real physical aspects of existence (which would explain why physical resurrection is something that Paul counts a necessity for experiencing the hope of God’s kingdom in 1 Corinthians 15). So while it’s not a sleep state, for all intents and purposes, it is an unconscious state by modern conceptions of unconsciousness. But keep in mind that this is before Christ’s death. Those who die in Christ have a very real hope and rest and freedom from sin. But this seems to come from being in the presence of God, not separated from him.

    • Dan Wilkinson

      I’d be interested to know why you think Wright is an advocate of soul sleep. In Surprised by Hope he says: “I therefore arrive, fourthly, at this view: that all the Christian departed are in substantially the same state, that of restful happiness. Though this is sometimes described as ‘sleep’, we shouldn’t take this to mean that it is a state of unconsciousness. Had Paul thought that, I very much doubt that he would have described life immediately after death as ‘being with Christ, which is far better’. Rather, ‘sleep’ here means that the body is ‘asleep’ in the sense of ‘dead’, while the real person – however we want to describe him or her – continues.”

    • Just a point, but there is only a general position of dogma here, I love what the Anglican Henry Alford said about 1 Peter 3: 21-22, and the “appeal”…”of a good conscience unto God, through the resurrection of Christ, Who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, angels and authorites and powers being subjected to Him.” – “The seeking after God in a good and pure conscience.” Indeed this kind of question, which asks for an appeal or even a demand, sees the sign and seal of baptism, as the or one’s appeal to God for a good conscience.. toward God. But this most powerful sign & seal, is a counterpart of our faith and belief in all the accomplishment of Christ, in HIM is all our problems of sin, death and judgment solved! And surely without Christ the sacrament of baptism becomes empty and a dead ritual, by itself. So the order is God In Christ, faith (a gift from God), and a “good conscience”, God’s sign & seal that we are ‘In Christ’! Note, to we must not diminish this sign & seal (Baptism) from God, but we also must not make it what it is not, the thing itself! That is Christ and “in” Him!

      And too btw, we have from here proper creed and baptismal instruction, and later the Apostles Creed, itself. But always what God In Christ has done! And from here we have both Word & Sacrament.

    • Robert Whitaker

      I assume you’re including Christian materialism in your critique of ‘soul-sleep,’ even though it denies a soul? Or are you just not considering it as a legitimate option?

    • Dave

      What about this verse from Daniel 12?

      13 “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.”

      Seems like a pretty clear indication that at death we “rest” until the judgement, for which we will “rise”.

    • jin

      How can you just write off “soul sleep”? There are so many verses in the NT that attest to this.

      Jesus, Himself, described death as sleep when He talked about Lazarus.

      11These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”
      12Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. John 11

      And what about the resurrections? If we are not in our graves, then why go through all that charade of resurrecting the dead?

      28Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. John 5

      Do we go back into the graves after being with Christ in heaven for the resurrection?

      And one last point about the thief on the cross. Despite telling the thief that He will be in paradise today, Jesus did not ascend till several days later.

      17Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ” John 20.

      Does this make Jesus a liar?? No, I don’t think so. We have to remember that the Greek language had no punctuation and that some translations were not correct.

      In my view, there is more Biblical evidence for “soul sleep” than not. Plus, we can not judge and accept as fact such things as back from hell or heaven scenarios. We should only base things from the Bible.

    • Irene

      Do Evangelicals believe in two types of judgement? —-A personal judgement at death and a “public” judgement (same verdict) at the end? Catholics believe this, and it seems to answer some of these difficulties.

    • theoldadam


    • Matthew James

      What about another view?…

      That when the OT saints wrote those verses, the intermediate state was different before the arrival, death, and resurrection of Jesus than it is after.

      Contrast the “summoning” of Samuel to the descriptions given in the New Testament.

      May they were right then and we are right now.

    • C Michael Patton

      Good thoughts Matthew. Have to consider that one. Have you ever heard of anyone who interprets these verses that way? Thanks for the idea!!

    • C Michael Patton

      Here is my attempt show that a separate heaven (“Abraham’s Bosom”) is a myth.

    • Matthew James

      I must have somewhere. I’m usually not that creative. But I’m also very forgetful! If I think of someone with something similar, I’ll post it here. Thanks for all the good stuff.

    • Matthew James

      I just read your article on Abraham’s Bosom, and I was just going to say that in my mind this intermediate state of “death” in the OT would have basically been the same for both the good and the bad. Same place, same experience upon death. And that it would have been a state of conscious rest. Once again, thinking of 1 Samuel 28:15-19. I would take verse 19, “be with me.” To be quite literal, not just figurative of you’ll be dead too. But I must admit, I don’t have any conclusive proof of that. Fun stuff.

    • Davids Gibbs

      Didnt the Apostle Peter in Acts 2: 34 says that David is NOT ascended into heaven? And the John 3: 13 state that “No man has ascended into heaven”? Eccl says that the Spirit return to God (i.e heaven)

    • Kenton

      yes, but in context he’s talking about resurrection. David didn’t ascend bodily to heaven (but Christ did).

    • Dave Z

      @CMP, my statement did not refer to timelessness; the main thrust is that every measure of time we have depends on some aspect of the physical universe, whether the phases of the moon, seasons, the rotation of the earth, the vibrations of a quartz crystal or cesium atoms and magnetic fields, all of our time measurements are physical. Space and time are inseparable, we describe them as a continuum. So my point is not directly related to transcendance, but to what time might be like for beings outside of the physical universe – spiritual beings, includes angelic/demonic spirits.

      Also, my understanding of soul-sleep is not timelessness, but unconsciousness during a passage of time; i.e., someone dies and then “sleeps” until the judgment (or whatever) happens. This is not timelessness – the word “until” requires a passage of time, again assuming time (as we know it) is a constant. I’ve not seen anything that indicates such an assumption is valid.

      So, on what basis should we assume non-physical time is the same as physical time?

    • Hell, No!

      […] the Hebrew Bible. There are authors who assume that death is the end of life, that any sort of shadowy existence in sheol is not worthy of being called “life.” Some indicate this through their silence, as for […]

    • @Irene: Yes, many Evangelicals consider the Bema-Seat of Christ to be the “believers” or Christian’s judgment, (2 Cor. 5:10)! Which is more a “day” of reward and blessing, for the Christian faithfulness, (not salvation earned strictly).. “who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1: 8-9) See too, 1 Cor. 3: 10-15 / Rom. 14: 10-12)

      However, this “Bema” (Tribunal) is in reality both for the “evidence” of faith and salvation (final), and the blessing and reward “of glory beyond all comparison”, (2 Cor. 4: 16-18). And there really will be some “purgation” for Christians, in the grace of God! (1 Cor. 5: 13-15)… But the “purgation” of love and mercy ‘In Christ’! *Btw, I don’t see the essence of the Roman or medieval doctrine of purgatory here, myself.

    • “So that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1: 10-11)

      Surely here is both Justification & Sanctification!

    • Btw, maybe we should be exegeting Phil. 1: 21-23! It is the “body” of the believer-Christian that sleeps, at death, not the soul-spirit! Note, Stephen and Acts 7: 55-60.

    • jin

      I think a lot of us make the mistake that Jesus’ death changed EVERYTHING. Clearly, this is not the case.

      17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. Matthew 5
      27And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself….
      44And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Luke 24

      Jesus’ death fulfilled the Mosaic Laws of sacrifice and penalty after sin because Jesus was the “lamb of God”. His death changed the Old Covenant to a New Covenant, but God’s requirement for us to be like Him and become holy is still the same.

      Jesus’ death did not change the state of the dead.

      How can you ignore the whole OT and just try to “explain away” things that do not fit your doctrine. The Bible as a whole must be accepted as a whole.

      When you accept Jesus as your Lord, you accept His teachings. When Jesus says that Lazarus is asleep when he is dead, he is asleep. Even after 4 days of death, Jesus said that he was just asleep. One interesting note: Notice how the Bible does not say a single word about Lazarus’ experience. Even after 4 days of being dead and brought back to life, there is no account of anybody asking what it was like or any account of Lazarus giving testimony of where he was or what it was like. HE WAS AS IF HE WAS ASLEEP.

      The story about Abraham’s bosom is a parable. It is a well known Jewish tale that Jesus turned upside down to show the Jews that despite having Moses and the prophets teaching them (being rich), they will not get to heaven. The beggar who ate crumbs indicates the Gentiles with little knowledge about the Word of God. Jesus made them understand that despite all their knowledge and other miracles, the Jews did…

    • Paul Hosking

      Although I think immortality must be outside the constraints of time and space (as God is), yet there is a clear Biblical concept of a “day” of resurrection associated with a “day” of judgement, and until that day dawns the dead are in an unconscious state, or using the apostle Paul’s term, “asleep”.

      I feel no need to force an artificial meaning on the word “sleep” to make it somehow mean “conscious” in order to accommodate a disembodied “immortal soul” , an idea that is nowhere mentioned in the Bible.

      I believe the assurance Jesus gave to the thief on the cross (that he would be in Paradise that very day) was taking into account the long unconscious sleep that would end in the selfsame day (of resurrection) that the apostle Paul eagerly awaited.

      When the thief died on the cross, and when the apostle Paul died some years later, and when the modern day believer dies, the next conscious moment for them all is the Resurrection, still future to us who are alive, but always “today” for the unconscious one. This momentous event will be shared by Abraham (Gen 15:6,7), David (Psalm 17:15; Acts 2:34), Job (19:25-27), Daniel (Dan 12:2,13) and Paul (2 Tim 5:8) who all shared this hope, without regard for the delay (which means nothing to them!).

      In Heb 11:39 and 40 we find a very clear reason why God has arranged things this way.

    • And then there are verses of the so-called “saints” or Church-Militant: Heb. 12: 1 / Rev. 5: 11-14 ; 6: 9-11 ; 7: 13-17.

      Were Moses and Elijah asleep at the Transfiguration of Christ, as they “talked” with Jesus? Indeed both Moses (the Law), and Elijah (the prophets)… ‘their presence shows that the law and the prophets, the living and the dead, all bear witness to Jesus as the Messiah, the fulfilment of the whole Old Testament.’

    • jin

      Moses and Elijah were special representatives of God’s Law and His Spirit. Remember, Elijah was just taken by God in a chariot of fire. He never tasted earthly death. And Moses was taken by God after His death. These two individuals were special “first fruits”.

      They represented the law and the prophets who were and still are witnesses to Jesus.

      There is also Enoch who God just took. Although there are special circumstances, the majority will be asleep after death awaiting Jesus’ return unto either the resurrection of life or the resurrection of damnation.

    • Paul Hosking

      I think the great cloud of “witnesses” have done their witnessing in the lives they had lived, from whose example (or witness , see Heb 11:4) we can take encouragement.

      I think Moses and Elijah could have been especially raised from sleep to a mortal state for the purpose of encouraging Jesus with their prophetic insights; or that Jesus was “transported” into the future (“time travel” may be used in certain circumstances by God, as Paul may be describing in 2 Cor 12), and the three disciples were given a limited share in that experience

    • C Michael Patton

      For those of you who believe in some sort of soul sleep, I am interested in hearing your evaluation of my option #3 to which I hold. Don’t you believe that it is possible to interpret OT theology through such a lense?

    • @jin & Paul: This is “Eisegesis”, I know we all do it sometimes, but true “Exegesis” is not always neat & clean, in Biblical Theology. And we cannot, or should not reject some Church history, etc. And this includes our Judeo and good Jewish friends and theology. But, in the end, its Canon, OT and the New!

    • Paul Hosking

      Abraham must have believed in a future Resurrection, even if he had no idea of the means. Heb 11:19 implies this, and so does John 8:56!

    • Michael Davis

      With all the talk of “Abraham’s Bosom”, I thought I would post on how the phrase relates to the Book of Jubilees:

    • As Michael has said, at one time Martin Luther held to some form of Soul-Sleep, but later I think saw the Pauline Scripture at least to teach the believer’s or Christians death, to be alone of the body! The “spirit-soul” of the Christian returns to God at death, and is a peace, rest and real enjoyment before Christ! (Phil. 1:23) However, I am quite aware that some good Christian minds have seen and taught a form of soul-sleep, noting the great E.W. Bullinger, here also. But, this is not the general consensus of the history of the Church and Christianity (#2). Which is where I fall myself. But again, the Church is a Pilgrim Body, and there is no infallibility, and most especially on many details biblical. We sometimes just don’t know? One of the hardest places for us “theolog’s” to take! 😉

    • jin

      I think we should accept the Bible as it is. The Bible explains it very well on it’s own. Don’t you think that when you interpret any scriptures through a lense that you made because of your doctrine is a bit dangerous and arrogant?

      The OT people understood that death was being “cut off” from God and that there were no afterlives until the resurrection too.

      17The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence. Psalms 115

      5For 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. Ecclesiastes 9

      4His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. Psalms 146

      2So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.
      13O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!
      14If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.
      15Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands. Job 14

      The OT people also knew about the resurrection too.

      1And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
      2And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12

    • However, this is NOT the white-flag on this subject for me, I still maintain that the Christian spirit-soul lives in the presence of Christ after the death of the body! 🙂 (Rev. 6: 9-11, and here again is Stephen – Acts 7: 55-56)

    • @Michael Davis: Myself, I think we must in finality, use alone the Textual Canon to decide these places of Dogma! But then I am a Reformational and Reformed Christian Anglican. But since Jesus Himself speaks of Abraham’s Bosom (Side), (Lk. 16: 22), I take it relational, and with Christ’s Death, Resurrection & Ascension…’In Christ’! 🙂

    • Btw, funny or ironic, but here I am closer to my “Catholic” and “Orthodox” Brethren! Wish we had a few on this subject! 😉 Of course minus the RC doctrine of purgatory! Note, even the EO have a doctrine of a kind of soul/spirits purity or purgation at death. Of course salvation is not experienced until death for both the Catholics or the EO. But we Reformational and Reformed, Salvation is already ‘In Christ’ for us! But yes, we too still have the Bema-Seat of Christ, but this is for the Redeemed!

    • @jin: Again, we simply MUST exegete & interpret verses, and not only quote them! Again, you seem to be advocating some form of mere “fundamentalist” doctrine or position? I have sought to put the verses I have quoted, in the context of the subject, itself! What say you about Stephen (Acts 7: 55-56), with Rev. 6: 9-11)? Not to forget Paul in Phil. 1: 21-23, etc. Yes, indeed we must do as Philip, in Acts 8: 35, and seek a Christological place and statement, from Scripture!

    • jin

      Fr. Robert,

      Of course, there are times to interpret verses, but there are plenty of times when we need to take them as is.

      Acts 7:55-56 – This shows in no way the state of the dead. Stephen is looking up to heaven while filled with the Holy Spirit BEFORE his death. As we all agree, Christ is sitting on the right hand of God in heaven. This vision Stephen had PRIOR to his death assures him of Christ being the Son of God. This incident does not explain the state of the dead.

      Rev. 6:9-11 – This again is a vision of symbolic importance. As you will agree, most of Revelations is symbolic visions and these indeed have to be interpreted. There are few things you have to notice before you conclude that it is an example of the state of the dead. Firstly, the martyrs are crying for revenge for their death (which is a little disturbing because asking for revenge is contrary to Christian beliefs – vengeance belongs only to God). But, notice that since they are crying out for revenge, that means that the revenge has not yet happened. In fact, they ask “how long?”. So one has to ask the question, “why weren’t those that persecuted them been punished yet?” In the doctrine of immediate ascension, there is also immediate punishment into Hell. So in conclusion, these verses clearly show that this is purely a vision showing symbolic events of the heavenly sanctuary prior to Judgement and not the state of the dead.

      Phil. 1: 21-23 – This is very easily explained. Since the apostles all knew of “soul-sleep”, they knew that their very next conscious thought after death would be seeing Christ. It is just like when we are in deep sleep where morning comes after a second of sleep.

      When Jesus says that death is sleep, you have to work out the other hard verses to match Jesus’ teachings. After all, Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, right?

    • I love the great mystery of Holy Scripture, it has many different genres in its great historical movement of progressive revelation! Here is a great verse/verses from Job somewhat on this subject:

      “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” (Job 19: 25-27, ESV) It is a “kinsman-redeemer”. Here is simply but profoundly revelation!

    • Paul Hosking

      I’ve been pondering the variations between the following passages in which Paul contemplates states and events subsequent to his own “departure” from this life 2 Cor 5:1,2; Phil 1:23; 1 Tim 4:6-8; and that of his fellow believers. 1 Thess 4:13,18; 1 Cor 15:51-54.

      in my own mind an intermediate conscious state raises more questions than the expectation of an unconscious “sleep” period between dying individually and awakening collectively to be “with the Lord”.

      Such questions include:
      1. At what stage is the gift of immortality received? Is it at the beginning or the end of the intermediate period?
      2. If we can exist in perfection without a body for the intermediate period, why do we need to be given (or re-united with) a body at the end of it?

    • Paul Hosking

      In my post above, 1Tim 4:6-8 should read 2 Tim 4:6-8.

    • Paul Hosking

      Michael P, I agree in principle with your general observations under option3 in your opening post, but have difficulty in sharing your particular view and that of orthodox Christians in general.

      I would be interested to look at any scriptural descriptions of a conscious intermediate state, as distinct from a final state. Which passages would you suggest?

    • @jin: I can appreciate your zeal for your belief, but again, it does appear that you are but seeking to prove your supposition of soul-sleep. And again in hermeneutics this is more “eisegesis”, than exegesis. I hope you might see this? Perhaps you are in a Church tradition that teaches this position? But again, we must be able to step away from our own history, church and theology, if but to renew them in further study. This is always a challenge!

      Btw, let me recommend a now classic book on this subject overall, called: The Hermeneutical Spiral, A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, by Grant Osborne, (IVP, 1991).

      And to answer your last question, see Romans 14: 7-9 / Rev. 1:17-18. When Christ comes HE alone will destroy “Death” the last enemy… “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:14) But again, for the Christian there is really no death, as ‘In Christ’! (John 11: 25-26)

    • Don Donaldson

      I would suggest that the reason we can exist without a body in the “intermediate” state, yet need one in our final state, is that we were not created to exist permanently as disembodied spirits… we are spirit, soul, and body (1 Thess 5:23) created to live in a physical world – the New Earth described by John. That IS heaven for us.

    • First of course Luke 43: 42-43 / 2 Cor. 5: 5-8 to give a few.

    • jin

      Fr. Robert,

      I must respectfully ask you to heed your own advice. It seems to me that you have no interest in actually understanding the verses that you quoted. Any verse that talks about heaven, Father’s house, and earthly bodies does not automatically mean that there is an immediate ascension after death. Just because YOU believe in that doctrine does not mean that every after death description means immediate ascension.

      You give me these verses that are ambiguous at best. There is not a single verse that describes immediate ascension after death. In the meanwhile, you conveniently neglect to explain my verses. Please explain these….

      Psalms 115:17, JOb 14:12-15, Daniel 12:1-2, John 11:11-13

    • @jin: You asked “Michael” for a few verses, and I simply thru out a few!

      There is really no further point to this however, you believe in soul-sleep (without a bit of biblical context or exegesis), and I do not! I would suggest you do a Greek word study on death, there are several Greek words involved in the NT, but surely “Thanatos” (noun), and “Thanatoo” (verb), are very important! Note however, “Anairesis” is used of the murder of Stephen, in Acts 8:1.

      The Intermediate State is simply a NT biblical presupposition, and most certainly homogeneous with the doctrine of the Millennium and the Eschatological outlook and reality! And we should note too, that Christian sects such as Mormonism, Seventh Day Adventism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses teach soul-sleep. And btw, let me recommend Charles Hill fine book: Regnum Calelorum, Patterns of Millennial Thought In Early Christianity. He gathers both chiliastic (millennial) and non-chiliastic people.

    • Note “jin” I have a bit of a time constraint, since much of my time is done, up and down (on the blog), as a hospital chaplain. The blogs are indeed so imperfect in such biblical debates. And I am not a real full-blown blogger myself! Though I do have a wee blog (I am 63 btw).

      *I have many of my personal books listed on my computer. I am a “full-time” reader, and old “theolog”! 😉

    • And Christ did NOT ascend right after death did He! See, 1 Peter 3:18 thru 20, etc. Though certainly death had no hold on Him! (Acts 2: 24 ; 27, etc.)

    • jin

      Fr. Robert,

      I have to be brutally honest with you.

      I don’t understand why you simply do not believe in the Word of God. I think it’s crystal clear that when Jesus says “sleep” it means sleep. There is just no way of going around that.

      And, you frankly admitted that the Intermediate State is a presupposition. Are we to base our faith on presuppositions, assumptions, and hearsay?? There is only one truth. There is only one faith. It is from the Bible and not from the various other books you have been suggesting. While other people’s understanding of the truth may be valid and may give us more insight, it is not the source. When the source says “sleep”, it is sleep.

      Please, do not give me your bio. No matter how much of a “learned scholar” one may be, if you have prideful blinders on, it results in nothing. The Bible was meant for everybody – the unlearned and the learned. Most often God uses the most poor and most uneducated to deliver His spiritual messages.

      I urge you to re-study and ask the Holy Spirit for insight. Always remember that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior and that we must work out the vexing verses to harmonize with His teachings and not anything else.

    • John I.

      Jin, you misread Fr. R. When he referred to presuppositions, he was not referring to his but to those of the disciples and other first century Christians. It was their presupposition that there was an intermediate state.

      Further, your argument can be turned on you: you are the one with prideful blinders and so your posts result in nothing. You are the one that is urged to re-study and ask the Holy Spirit for insight. –what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

    • @jin: And I too will be “brutally” honest with you! It appears that YOU are bound by a kind of “cult” mentality, since you are PRESSING this position of soul-sleep! As Michael has said, it may not mean heresy, but then again, it just may.. if it is pressed and connected to other poor and perhaps wrong doctrine! And I suspect this with you? Note, “suspect” (not sure?), but I have been around awhile! 😉 And I do see a strain of “fundamentalist” doctrine and supposition with you certainly! Btw, I used the word “presupposition” in its most historical, biblical and certainly theological way!

      And yes, we all have “prideful blinders” at times, were children of Adam still, even as Christians! I have noted yours in your use of so-called spiritual simplicity! (Over and above my “Biblicism”). Yes, I am really a Biblicist, though always a “theological”- minded one! (2 Tim. 2:15 / 3:16) Btw, you too might want to “re-study and ask the Holy Spirit for insight”. In reality, this is something we all must do and really daily! So climb down and join the rest of us poor sinner-saints, as Luther so stated of Christians!

    • Hey Amen there @John I! 🙂

    • Btw, just a point, but I have heard some of the same verses used by our soul-sleep friends, used by those that believe in Annihilation of the soul-spirit of the lost! Death is certainly the consequence of sin, but the biblical Second Death surely does seem eternal! (Matt. 25: 46) I say this, for the one (soul-sleep) does seem to lead to the other, of annihilation.. at least in many of the so-called Christian cults! So heterodoxy is always among the orthodox, and has been in the life of the Church and Christianity.

    • jin

      Fr. Robert,

      All this ancillary arguments really do not hold water.

      Again, back to the scriptures please….

      Remember, Jesus showed us that the only way to deliver the truth is through scripture when He fought off the devil’s temptations while in the desert.

      Despite all your accusations and assertions and presuppositions (whether from you or the early church), you still can’t and for some reason won’t explain those verses to me.

      Back to the scriptures – The Inspired Word of God – please.

    • @jin: Well for your information, I am a Anglican Christian, but most certainly a Protestant-Reformed- Evangelical, in doctrine and theology. I would challenge you to read the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles, and perhaps even the Irish Articles 1615 (noting the latter is pretty much the work of the great Anglican Archbishop, James Ussher).

      Note, I really don’t care what YOU personally believe, and I am not really seeking to win any argument either. But I am, as I have stated in the position of # 2, as to this post and position. Here I believe myself that soul-sleep is in error! But as I have noted, one of my rather favorite Anglican “theolog’s”, E.W. Bullinger came close to this position, though with certain variations. But, Bullinger always has some ideas that are simply not orthodox. Though on the “absolutes” of the faith, I believe he is sound. But yes, this is nother issue.

      Perhaps the reason I don’t want to take the time to fully engage, is that you appear ill bent on this subject, and no matter what anyone says, you will continue your soul-sleep position! And you have not engaged fully and honestly with the texts I have mentioned. So, I am not going to pound the keys for nothing! And again, the history of the Church is certainly with # 2! We can see this plainly with the theological history of 1 Peter 3: 18-22! Catholic, Reformational-Lutheran & Reformed! The classic Descent of Christ into death & hades is as the Victor! And most certainly Luke 23: 41-43 is central here also, the economy and salvation history of God! Here is Covenant/covenants also. We simply must do “theology” here! (Something you appear afraid of it certainly seems!)

      Do you believe in the Nicene “homoousios” and Creed? Yes, note I am Churchmen! Do you know what that means? So the so-called “ancillary arguments” really do matter, and often lead back to the centre of The Faith!

    • Don Donaldson

      Regarding soul sleep and the Fr. Robert / Jin debate, although Jesus might seem to equate death with soul-sleep in the case of Lazarus, He equally distinguishes between the two in regards to the daughter of Jairus: “The child is not dead, but asleep.” (Mk 5:41). So either death = sleep (Lazarus) or death does not = sleep (Jairus’ daughter). I don’t think Jesus’ references to “sleep” can be used definitively either way.

    • jin

      Don Donaldson,

      Thank you! Finally, a scripture based answer and debate. Don’t need all this church history, Anglican this, Anglican that, reformed, un-reformed….ugh.

      Good point.

      But, did not Jesus also refer to Lazarus as being asleep instead of being dead. It was the disciples who understood that Jesus was talking about the “dead state” of Lazarus.

      11These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep…..
      13Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. John 11

    • Debate? Not from me! One cannot debate ignorance and fundamentalism, and the super spiritual! (Or so they think).

      But again as the context in John, Lazarus had died, and “sleep” in NT scripture means the body had died, as in 1 Thess. 4: 13-15-16…”and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” Again, this is speaking of the “body” of the redeemed!

    • jin

      So are you saying that the resurrection is just the “body” while the soul awaits it somewhere?

      But then how do you explain Paul’s assertion that we will have a spiritual body upon resurrection?

      42So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 1 Corinthians 15

    • Don Donaldson

      Going strictly by the Bible: Yes, Jesus first said that Lazarus was asleep, but then declared emphatically, “Lazarus is dead.” (v14). In the case of Jairus’ daughter, Jesus clearly distinguished between the two in a single statement: “The child is not dead, but asleep.” So you can 1) make an assumption that sleep is a euphemism for death, or 2) you can conclude that death is really some sort of literal sleep, or 3) death and sleep are two different things entirely. Each of these views is supported by something Jesus said, but none is fully supported based strictly on His words alone. That’s why we have to interpret.

      I interpret that both Lazarus and the girl were literally dead, and that Jesus used “sleep” as a eupmemism for death, because He was about to “wake” them (call them back to life).

    • The Resurrection is of the body, soul & spirit! And in 1 Cor. 15, Paul sees the essence of the resurrected body as surely spiritual, but this does not diminish the natural body, but it is not the old body merely resuscitated. We can but imagine the grandiose glory of the Resurrected “spirit-soul-body” ‘In Christ’! (Note, 1 Thess. 5: 23) When a person and believer dies his spirit returns to God, who gave it, (Ecc. 12: 7), but also for the believer: “WE are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5: 8)…And the Bema-Seat of Christ surely follows the “death” of the believers body, (verse 10). Note too, Hebrews 9: 27.

      “I interpret that both Lazarus and the girl were literally dead, and that Jesus used “sleep” as a eupmemism for death, because He was about to “wake” them (call them back to life).” Amen there Don!

    • jin

      okay…I can see how we can surmise that Jesus might have used “sleep” as a euphemism for death from those verses.

      However….if you take into account all other verses by Paul

      51Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 1 Corinthians 15

      by Job

      12So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. Job 14

      by Daniel

      2And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12

      and many more…

      If we take all of them using the word for “sleep” into account then it leads to two conclusions. 1) They all knew to use the word “sleep” as a euphemism despite living in different times. or 2) they all knew that it was death.

      I think 1) is too much a coincidence.

      Therefore, I think it is more likely to be 2).

    • Don Donaldson

      I’m more inclined to believe that all used sleep as a eupmemism, partly because it seems so apt: a dead person does appear to be sleeping, and if one has knowledge of the resurrection, it might naturally described as “waking up.” These descriptions apply- I think – to the physical body, since it is the body that dies, and appears to sleep, and will one day be resurrected.

    • Ray Dymun

      Mike, I could not help but notice that your OT references are usually attributed to David, Saul, or one of their contemporaries. I find this fascinating as from Paul and Jesus, an afterlife was definitely part of Jewish thought. One could argue of course that this was due to Babylonian syncretism, but we find David remarking upon the death of his and Bathsheba’s first child, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” I would like to submit the following suggestion: Death as cited in your examples not only referred to physical death as we understand it, but the separation of the individual from the covenant. One who died outside the covenant would have no opportunity for the afterlife, they would exemplify the state described. This would be reconcilable with the notion of progressive revelation showing that God desired all the nations come to Him, not just Israel. This combined with Jesus’ refutation of the Sadducees and their contention with the Pharisees on the subject of resurrection and the afterlife, would seem to indicate there was a stronger awareness of the afterlife in the OT than these verses suggest.

    • Ray Dymun

      Sorry, I meant to type ‘Solomon’ not Saul.

    • Here is a nice link on Soul-Sleep I believe!

      And Amen there Don! It simply obvious to orthodoxy overall! And again, we cannot escape the simple essence and context of Luke 23: 42-43…””Truly I say to you TODAY with ME you will be in Paradise”!

      And again, 1 Peter 3: 18-19, etc.

    • I have found no better and yet simple historical and theological statement about Paradise (Paradeisos, Gk.), than old W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary! A word of Persian origin, and used in the Septuagint of the Garden of Eden, Gen. 2: 8. See Luke 23: 43 in the NET Bible also. And in Rev. 2: 7 for the Edenic paradise, as in Isa. 51: 3 and Ezek. 36: 35. Surely this is a word & moniker for Heaven!

    • jin

      Luke 23:42-42…can be explained in two ways.

      1)17Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ” John 20

      This was 3rd after he had promised the thief on the cross. Jesus would not lie. And…don’t tell me that “today” meant the next thought only for the thief.

      2) The Greek language did not have punctuation and the translators simply misplaced the comma. Luke 23:43 should have the comma after the word “today”. So it should have been written, “Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be in heaven today”.

      There are similar mistakes in the Bible.

      12So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them. Acts 19

      This verse reads as if the handkerchiefs or aprons are the ones sick and diseased. But with the comma in the right place….

      There are many such punctuation mistakes that often confuse people.

    • jin

      OOpss, sorry.

      Luke 23:43 should say

      Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise.

    • jin

      Here’s another verse that needs to be addressed by those who believe in immediate ascension.

      29Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day…..
      34For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Acts 2

      I am pretty sure that we all agree that King David would be saved and would be in Heaven. Then why does Peter specifically say that King David has not ascended into Heaven. Peter is speaking approximately 2-3 thousand years after King David’s death.

    • Don Donaldson

      Jin, I would explain Jesus’ words to the thief vs. his statement to Mary this way: Paradise refers to that place of rest for the righteous (Abraham’s bosom) and discomfort for the unrighteous – also known as hades. It was to this place that Jesus descended, and this is where the thief went also – on that very day. After rising from the dead, Jesus ascended to the Father, and because He was given the keys of death and hades, He took with Him all the righteous who had been resting in Paradise. They are now in His presence, as we will also be at death. A fundamental change took place at the ascention of Jesus insofar as there is no longer an intermediate “Paradise” for the righteous, but immediate access to the presence of the Lord.

    • @jin: Indeed the literal Greek does not follow out of any punctucation! But if we were to place the so-called comma for translation, it would be better at: ‘Truly I say to you,’ Again, note the NET Bible notes here…”Truly (amen), I say to you,”

      “Jesus gives more than the criminal asked for, because the blessing will come “today”, not in the future. He will be among the righteous.” (Note “today”, in Lk. 2:11)

    • @Don: I think as Michael, with his position of # 3, we cannot overly press “Paradise” as soley Abraham’s Bosom, but again the promise of the Edenic (Garden), and “the Paradise of God”, (Rev. 2: 7). Surely again, this is the presence of God, and thus “heaven”! This verse in Revelation is a hammer blow to my mind! (Noting too, Isa. 51: 3) 🙂

    • I quoted Acts 2 in this discussion! Funny, people don’t fully read the comments often I guess.

      And we who believe in the biblical Intermediate State, don’t believe Christ ascended to the Throne, before His Resurrection, but He was the God-Man before, after, and (during His own Holy Death)…John 3: 13! And forever now at the Right Hand & Throne of God, in Resurrection & Ascension!

      Also David was simply not the Mediator, so the ascension was not his place. There is nothing else here! Christ alone is the Resurrection, the Ascension.. and thus both Lord & Christ, i.e. the Mediator! (Acts 2: 30-36)

    • Jin

      Fr. Robert,

      You see one but not the other.

      Yes, David is not the mediator. Peter is explaining that BECAUSE King David is not the mediator, he has not ascended yet….or BECAUSE he did not ascend yet, King David is not the mediator. in other words, all other ordinary humans are still in their graves awaiting the resurrection.

    • @jin: Wow! What an argument from silence, and or supposition! And King David will never ascend! But David’s “spirit” (in/from death) is even now with God, (Ecc. 12: 7). But David is even now spiritually conscious, as were and are both Moses and Elijah! “the spirits of just men made perfect.” (Heb. 12: 23)

    • Jin


      What part of “For David is not ascended into the heavens” do you NOT understand??

      I’m just speechless…

    • In Acts 2: 25, we can see that in this whole section, he (David) is talking about Christ! I will quote from the NIV for clarity or ease: David from Pslam 16 in Acts… “I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand. I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay…Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patiarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would see one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay.” (Acts 2: 25-31, etc.)

    • Jin

      So what is your point? I think we ALL know that David was talking about Christ.

      Peter was explaining that even though David himself did not ascend to heaven, he (David) knew that one of his descendants (Christ) would be sitting on the right hand of God.

      In explaining this, Peter makes it very clear that King David did not ascend yet!
      “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” ’ (Acts 2:29, 30, 34, 35 NIV)

    • Where in this whole section and Text, do you get the idea that David “himself” is going to “ascend” at all? (His soul & spirit went to God at death! Ecc.12:7) His “body” awaits the Resurrection. Certainly verses 34-35 of Acts 2 don’t say anything about David’s so-called ascension! It is only one and of his “descendants”, that will ascend, and be enthroned in the Glory!

    • Jin

      So now it’s the “body” that has not ascended. Lets think this through then…

      Why would Peter need to tell us that David’s body didn’t ascend to let us know that David believed God’s oath to him? What does David’s physical body have to do with Christ sitting on the right hand of God? Why would Peter need to emphasize that David’s body did not ascend to tell us that David believed in Christ?

      Also, if its just the physical body that resurrects, then the only difference between Jesus’ glorious resurrection and ours is just the physical body?!?

      Seems to me that this immediate ascension doctrine belittles the glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    • @jin: This ad hoc that you have with a called “immediate ascension” is simply YOUR myth! You are in grave need of so proper biblical and even church doctrine & theology! (Acts 2:42)

    • jin

      Fr. Robert,
      Whatever you guys call the state of the dead is just a church doctrine and theology. And, it is NOT Biblical. It does not matter what the proper name of the so-called intermediate place you think the “soul” goes to. It is just a human made church doctrine.

      Wouldn’t it have been easier if Peter would have just plainly said that King David had not ascended to heaven yet because he was at some intermediate place for the physically dead “souls”? But, Peter did not. In fact, Peter plainly stated that David was still buried and sill in his grave.

      In addition, why do you make such a big deal about our physical bodies? Isn’t the Bible pretty clear throughout that our physical and earthly possessions are worthless and meaningless? In your doctrine (whatever that may be) you suggest that Christ has to return to earth JUST to resurrect our physical bodies so that we can be reunited with our “souls”. And then…get new heavenly bodies?!?Is this correct? Then, what a waste of time and such ceremony for our worthless, depraved, diseased, and corruptible bodies! Your doctrine does not make sense at all. It is NOT Biblical.

      Please…do NOT read into verses and assume things because of your doctrines. Take the scriptures as it is plainly given to you.

    • jin: Yes us or “you guys” is most certainly the historical church: Catholic, Reformational/Lutheran, Reformed.. all see and believe that the Holy Scripture teaches the Intermediate State, for both believers, Luke 23:43, and unbelievers…as Jesus said in Luke 16: 19-31. As too Peter, (1 Pet. 3: 18-19, etc.)

      Sadly, you are not presenting either Holy Scripture, or the belief of the historical Church, (1 Tim. 3:15)!

    • Btw, the physical body of the redeemed is very important! We can see this in Jude 9, with the archangel Michael contending with the devil about the body of Moses.

    • Don Donaldson

      Jin, the reason Peter emphasized David’s physical body was to prove that David was not referring to himself in this passage. Since David’s body DID see decay in the grave, David must have been speaking of someone else whose body would NOT see decay. Peter goes on to declare that this person is Jesus, the Christ, who did not see decay bacause He was raised from the grave.

      Also, I think our physical bodies are quite important. Paul says that our resurrected bodies will be like His (Jesus’) glorious body, emphasizing that the glory of Jesus is seen (visibly) in His body, just as His glory was seen on the mountaintop by a change in His physical appearance. Our spirits aren’t “glorified” per say, because they have already been born again.

    • jin

      While I appreciate your explanation, I have to disagree. Please note that in verse 34, it says that “David did not ascend into the heavens…”. I think we can clearly see and even safely say that Peter meant both the physical body and spirit when he says just “David”.

      I must point out that the “heavens” is NOT a physical place. Heaven is a spiritual place. We do not need our physical bodies in heaven. Paul specifically stated that we would be receiving “spiritual bodies” in 1 Corinthians 15:44.

      So when Peter is talking David not being ascended into heaven yet, it is pretty clear that he is talking not only about David’s physical body, but also the spirit.

      It is amazing to me how your doctrine can ignore the scores of verses that point out that the state of the dead is sleep.
      1 Corinthians 11:30, 15:6, 18, 51
      1 Thessalonians 4:13-16
      Acts 7:60

      I think this verse from Psalms says it all

      3Consider and hear me, O Lord my God;
      Enlighten my eyes,
      Lest I sleep the sleep of death; Psalms 13

      Last point: But I am sure this will stir up more controversy.

      I submit to you that the reason why the OT saints do not write about the a separate intermediate place of the dead is because they did not believe in such a place. They knew it was a state of sleep and therefore, did not bother to mention it, expound upon it, or explain it. Please note that all of their contemporaries such as the Egyptians and the Babylonians all believed in a separate state of the dead. Notice how the Egyptians and others wrote scores and scores of texts explaining the state of the dead and in the meanwhile, the Israelites are silent. This should be a clear loud voice of evidence that the OT saints did not believe in a separate state of the dead.

      By the way if you really look into the history of the early church, their view of the “dead” and other Biblical doctrines started to change as Paganism crept into the church through the newly converted Romans.

    • I am always amazed how many so-called Christians (fudamentalists really), that reject historical theology! (This was a weakness even in the great Anglican, E.W. Bullinger!) But true Christianity can never reject history, both the canonical, and the history or the historical of the Church, itself! Even Luke-Acts was written with both in mind. So much more is involved here than any idea of soul-sleep, but how we believe and trust in the authority of the Word of God, and the church’s place therein! Sadly the latter is rarely understood, for the Church itself is as Paul wrote, “which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3: 15)

      For example, Eusebius’s: The History of the Church, is the only surviving historical account and record of the Church during its first crucial 300 years. It is surely not of course infallible, but non-the-less still important in the life of the historical church. Eusebius (a Greek Christian) was Bishop in Caesarea in Palestine, (A.D. 260-339). He is often called the ‘Father of Ecclesiastical History’.

    • jin

      I am too just so amazed at all this “church history” nonsense. Don’t you want to be a Biblical Christian?? Isn’t that what it’s all about? After all, the only written account that has been inspired by God Himself is the Bible. Everything else doesn’t even come close to being sacred or even authoritative. When you put historical theological documents on seemingly the same level and authority as the Bible, then you are seriously bordering on heresy and blasphemy. This is the reason for so much confusion in Christianity and the reason for so many denominations. I think there are over 1000 different denominations around the world just because of this kind of nonsense. The Bible is the one and only authority for Christians!!

      6He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
      ‘This people honors Me with their lips,
      But their heart is far from Me.
      7And in vain they worship Me,
      Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
      8For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men —the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”
      9He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. Mark 7:8

    • @jin: You only show your great “historical” ignorance here! I too believe in the authority of the Bible or the Holy Scripture, and in again the historical place of what we Reformational & Reformed Christians call Sola Scriptura! And btw without the Reformation YOU would not have a Protestant Bible! Note Martin Luther’s great German Translation of the Bible! Again I am not making theological documents themselves equal to the Holy Scripture. But, indeed the First Seven Ecumenical Councils, and especially the first Five are themselves very much central in the biblical and theological centre, of our Christian doctrine and theology. It is here btw, that so-called “fundamentalism” itself breaks down badly! For one simply cannot do theological study without the Biblical history itself! Indeed the Bible did not simply drop out of the sky, but has itself its own history! And again btw our Christian Bible comes from the Jewish Bible, and so we Christians are Judeo-Christian, with both the Old and New Covenant!

      You really need to get into some Biblical theology and history here mate! If I may ask, what is your ecclesiastical and church tradition? Simply what “church” do you belong to? And since you are certainly presenting a “fundamentalist” mentality, man-up and tell us! How’s that for just no-nonsense! 😉

    • jin

      ahhh…yes, the Seven Ecumenical Councils. It is my view that everything started to go awry with these meetings. As you may well know, the early Christian church was doing just fine without any schisms until the newly converted Romans and Pagans started to meddle with the doctrines. Although early Christians were being persecuted, they did not have any schisms or separate doctrines. Before these meetings the early church leaders stayed true to the Jewish scriptures and to the early writings and letters of the Apostles. But after Constantine legalized Christianity and started to give Christians political and religious power, things started to go awry. As in all things, power corrupts. When it was beneficial to be a Christian, people became Christians not because they loved God, but because of their greed for power. The true Christians were willing to sacrifice their lives for Jesus and gladly accepted Christianity despite persecution. But these newly converted Roman Christians became Christians because it was beneficial to them and it was the seat of power for the Roman Empire under Constantine.

      I see these Seven Ecumenical Councils not as a religious meeting to seek God, but rather as a power struggle between the various so-called “Christian Emperors”. The early Roman Catholic history is not a very good one.
      The early Reformers such as Luther were fighting against the things made awry by these “Christian Emperors” who abused their power to change doctrines for their benefit.

      So back to the scriptures and back to the fundamentals!

      And, yes…I am a Bible “thumpin'” Christian. But, I am not going to tell you what “church” I attend to worship because of your preconceived bias against this “church” and that “church”. It matters none anyways because I serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ just like you.

    • Don Donaldson

      Jin, not to get off topic, but the “spiritual” bodies Paul speaks of are not immaterial… not the same as disembodied spirits. Indeed, we long to be clothed with our immortal bodies, rather than unclothed as spirits only. When Paul says “spiritual” he is referring to the supernatural (greater than natural) resurrection body – uncorrupted, immortal, yet more than merely spirit. His pont in 1 Cor 15:35-54 is that we will indeed have bodies of substance, needed because we will not live in the “heavens” but on the new earth, recreated to be the home of righteousness. (Rev 21)

    • jin

      Don, Yes I agree. We will get new un-corruptible and immortal bodies on the new earth. But, we will NOT have our old corruptible and diseased bodies while in heaven. Remember that the whole point of baptism is to be born again. That means that our old self – the sinful man is going to be no more. This includes not only our spirit, but our outer physical bodies. Hence, when we die, our bodies return to dust where it came from and we get “supernatural” bodies in heaven? and new immortal physical bodies on the new earth.

      Then, this begs the question: Why would Peter say that David’s physical body is still in the grave? Just to distinguish between Christ and David?!? If so, then we would be saying that the only difference between Jesus’ glorious resurrection and ours is the physical body. Jesus led a totally holy life without sin to die for our sins only to resurrect with His earthly body?? while we get “supernatural” ones? So David is in heaven now with a brand new spankin’ “supernatural” body while our/ His Lord and Savior has the earthly one still?!?!

    • Irene

      Hi jin,

      To recap, you are advocating soul sleep because you believe Scripture needs to be taken literally, at face value, without the lens of historical Christian theology.

      You are being zealous and stubborn in the defense of God’s Word, which is good, but what you are actually defending is not what you THINK you are defending.

      Do you go to church on Sundays?
      Do you have a Christmas tree in your home on Dec 25?
      Can you recite the list of books of the New Testament?
      Do you reject books like The Gospel of Thomas and others because they are not the inspired Word of God?
      Do you believe Jesus is true God AND true man?

      Then there is tradition you accept as important parts of your faith.

      You have repeatedly said we need to take verses as they are given to us (who gave them to us, by the way?), without applying our own doctrinal interpretations to them.

      Do you use that same strategy for these verses?
      If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off….
      Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood….
      I am the Bread of Life….
      Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water….
      It is shameful for a woman to speak in church…
      A woman ought to have a veil on her head…
      I tell you, on the day of judgement men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

      EVERYONE looks at Scripture with some kind of lenses. Look at all the thousands of churches which all sincerely claim Scripture alone. There is no Scripture alone. There is just Scripture plus “how I interpret it”.

      If it weren’t for the authority of church and tradition, you wouldn’t have a Bible to “thump”!

    • First Amen there Don! Let us continue to “flesh” things out here, i.e. the real “spirit and truth” about the Resurrection ‘In Christ’, and the New Creation! Btw, I am Historic Pre-Mill, but post-trib… and if ever there was an hour and time for “prophetic” study and preaching, it is now! Surely the Day of the Lord is near! We can see the LAST precursors even now.. Come Lord Jesus!

      WE can see now too, I believe, our friend jin’s somewhat fundamentalist agenda! Now we are well beyond the error of Soul-Sleep, to the grave errors of his loss of history, and also biblical hermeneutics! This is not really a personal attack on my part, but most certainly a biblical, theological and historical criticism! Let’s use a military term, and say my point is a biblical-theological-historical strike, I have probed.. but now its time to expose the said errors here, which are many!

      And afraid to show your ecclesiastical place and position? Very strange to say the least, you have sort of backed yourself into a biblical-theological-historical corner! I mean shouting a “fundamentalist” ad hoc, just does not cut it! But let me pull back a bit, and let us consider the Biblical Canon itself, as even the Church Fathers, who have said: “All things the Divine Scripture says are utterances of the Holy Spirit.” (Gregory of Nyssa) But for us Reformational and Reformed Christians, the Canon and Holy Scripture are self-authenticating, but this teaching of what we Reformed call sola scriptura, surely can be traced back to the early Patristic period, and then to Augustine (Conf. 6.5; 11,3). We Evangelicals would call this also, the Internal Testimony of the Holy Spirit! As John Calvin could say, “God alone is a fit witness of himself in his Word. . . . Scripture is indeed self-authenticated.”

    • Wow! With # 9 things just get worse! The Resurrection of Christ is surely as Paul said, a complete “spiritual” but material: spirit, soul and body! (1 Thess. 5: 23) “We shall be like him; for we shall see him as HE is.” (1 John 3: 2)

    • Don Donaldson

      Jin, I would disagree that we get wholly new bodies at the resurrection. Paul says our bodies are planted in corruption but raised incorruptible. Our bodies themselves will be “changed” in the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor 15:52), so it is by the power of God that our formerly sinful bodies are raised glorious and new.

      I’d say that Peter spoke of the physical bodies of Christ and David only to illustrate the point that the prophecy applied to Jesus and NOT to David (since David’s body did see decay). He was not saying anything about what degree of glory Jesus will have compared to our resurrected bodies, or what other distinctions there will be between us and Him. His only point was that David’s body decayed in the grave, while Jesus was resurrected, so Jesus is therefore the prophesied “Holy One.”

      We will not receive our glorified bodies until the resurrection, when our old bodies are raised and changed in a moment’s time. Until then, only our spirits are at home with the Lord.

    • […] The Afterlife of Old Testament Saints – Michael Patton over at Credo house ministries offers a post regarding the views of heaven held by Old Testament saints (David, Abraham, etc.) Whether or not you agree with his final take on things, this issue is worth reading, pondering, and praying over. […]

    • jin

      Let’s just go back to the scriptures…with a reasonable and sound mind, not clouded by emotions.

      Don, I appreciate your explanations. I agree with you on that we will not receive our heavenly bodies until Jesus’ second coming. The point I can not agree is the fact that our spirit will be in heaven or some other intermediate place in the meanwhile. Where does it say that in the Bible? Can you give me verses that specifically describes or points to such a place? It seems to me that those verses are ambiguous at best and that an intermediary place or immediate ascension is drawn from assumptions or presuppositions.

      3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. John 14

      Even in this verse from Christ tells us that He will come back to receive us unto Himself. This verse coupled with all other verses in the OT and NT can’t be more clear enough for me that there is NO intermediate state.

    • Even the OT clearly teaches that when a human-being dies his/her spirit returns to the Lord: “And the dust (body) returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave (made) it.” (Ecc. 12: 7)

      Amen, there is simply no soul-sleep, in a dead body! Our Lord Himself taught the intermediate state after death and before the resurrection: Luke 16: 19-30, what could be more clear! “Hades” in the time of Christ, as now, was/is the place of the wicked dead – a place of torment! (Lk. 13: 27-28)

      Btw, Biblical Truth should always cause us great emotion and desire! GOD give us passion & desire for your Word & Truth! Indeed back to the sources of truth, ALL of Holy Scripture! “All Scripture is breathed out by God!” (2 Tim. 3: 16)…”theopneustos” Gk. only here – God & Breathed!

    • jin

      Luke 16:19-30 is very controversial and ambiguous. Many contend that it is an old Jewish story that Jesus used as a parable to teach and rebuke the Jews that despite having the “oracles of God” (being rich) that they will not get to heaven or paradise (Abraham’s bosom) because of their unbelief.

      Luke 13:27-28 is talking about events during or immediately after judgement. Notice that in verse 25, it says “once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door…”. This could only mean after judgement (once…shut the door) and so this can not be talking about the state of the dead prior to judgment.

      Ecc. 12:7. Does this really say what you think it says? Yes, the spirit returns to God. But from this statement, you can not assume that there is a separate intermediate place. I submit to you that the word “spirit” here refers to the life-giving breath that only God can give. The Greek word for the Holy Spirit is “Hagios pneumatos”. “Pneuma” is the root word “breath” in Greek. This harmonizes very well with Genesis 2:7
      7And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

      The most important factor is to harmonize the Bible. Just let the Bible explain itself.

    • Luke

      @ Fr. Robert: At the Orthodox “particular judgment” at the time of death, we are confronted by our past misdeeds, with no body to otherwise distract us. I suppose that could be called a kind of purgation.

      It would be incorrect, however, to say that salvation is not experienced until death for EO. Salvation is experienced, but not complete, from the time of conversion. The Greek perfect tense is easy to succinctly translate into English; we are saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved.

    • @jin: This is one of the very reasons I have been a bit harsh with you, as we can see in your said answers to these Texts of Holy Scripture, especially like Luke 19: 16-30, i.e. “very controversial and ambiguous”? This is always one of those stock answers that I have seen by people who don’t really want Holy Scripture to say what THEY don’t want it to say, based upon their own suppositions. And sadly often this is just cultic, and hardly honest! I say this too, for who knows what historical so-called church you belong too? Yes, I am going to press you here! For we as pastor-teachers must be seeking some transparency, and hopefully clarity in our teaching! And you sir are just hell-bent on teaching Soul-Sleep, from any and all verses! And I am one who just does not believe in it, nor as does the long history of the Church, itself! And when we mention the history of the Church: R. Catholic, Orthodox (EO), Reformational/Reformed, etc., you cry foul! As if the historical Church has been all wrong, on almost everything! So, get my point, as I hope any who read here!

      Are you Trinitarian? I ask, for at this point, who knows what YOU really believe? You have already spoken against the Ecumenical Councils, and thus Creeds! So you are not on the historical Church ground, (1 Tim. 3:15, etc.), at least Creedal!

      In the end, Holy Scripture does explain itself, but only within both the Revelation of God’s Word, and somewhat too from the Historical Pilgrim Church! (1 Tim. 3:15, etc.) The Reformation was never about neglecting the Church of God, but seeking to renew it, biblically and theologically! And thus all real Christian pastor-teachers, are simply Churchmen!

    • Btw, here is, as Michael has stated, Calvin’s piece on Soul-Sleep or Pannychia. A must read, for the serious student! And were all students, even us pastors!

    • @Luke: You are right that salvation is biblically, past, present, and future. But only in the Reformational and Reformed evangelical teaching and theology is this “gift” fully expressed for the Christian now! (Note, Jude 1:1 ; 24)

      *I was raised and somewhat early educated Irish Roman Catholic.

    • Also 1 Peter 1: 2 is also a grand text for the Christians salvation! And election is centred first in God the Father! (Yes, I believe in the monarchy of the Father in the Godhead!)

    • Irene

      @Luke: (#18 on this page)
      Hey, could you say something like that in the Theology Unplugged comments? 🙂

      Theology Unplugged: Roman Catholicism, numbers 4 and 5, about justification. The group keeps bringing up a ledger as an anology for salvation…..claiming that in Catholicism (and also in the Orthodox Church, right?) believers spend their lives building up enough credits/merits to earn salvation by the time they die. I’ve tried to explain differently, but you hit the nail on the head there! Salvation is also a present reality for Catholic and Orthodox too!

    • @Irene: I am not sure salvation present ‘In Christ’ is really properly expressed in either R. Catholicism or the EO? For how can I know that I am “saved” today, if I don’t know that God has called me in His past or eternity, and will thus keep me to the end? (Rom. 8: 31-39)

    • jin

      Fr. Robert, Thank you for the link to the Calvin article. What an exhaustive read!!
      I agree that there is a distinction between the physical body and a “spirit/soul”. The Bible does use “spirit” and “soul” interchangeably and needs to be read in context to get the exact meaning. However, this fact does not change the fact that when a “spirit” or “soul” sins, it dies. We all know that the wages of sin is death and it is undeniably written that the “soul that sinneth, it shall die”.
      Even God, Himself told Adam and Eve that “You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die”.
      As Calvin pointed out, we are indeed made in the image of God. And since God is Spirit, we too are spirit encased in our physical bodies. But, Calvin neglected to point out that the major difference (among many) between God’s Spirit and ours is SIN. MAN HAS SINNED. Sin has separated us from God. Therefore, I submit to you that sin not only causes physical death, but also complete spiritual separation from God. This separation can be seen as a “sleep” until the resurrection when the saved will be given new bodies and new eternal life. Isn’t this why God prevented the fallen Adam and Even from partaking from the Tree of Life? Not only to prevent them from getting eternal physical body, but also to prevent them form getting an eternal spirit/soul? I must ask the question, If we were made in the image of God and if sin only deprives us of our physical bodies, what is the potency of sin? If we still have an eternal soul, what is the punishment of sin? Just mere degradation of physical bodies? ahhh…you say that the soul is placed in “prison” where Jesus supposedly will come and minister again. I think that verse has been blown way out of proportion and has led to so many assumptions! Please tell me where else in the Bible is “prison” referred to as hell or any such intermediary. NOWHERE! “Prison” is always mentioned in reference to being…

    • jin

      reference to being “chained” to sin and to any physical or meta-physical place such as hell. Almost made up a whole doctrine because of the word “prison”. Certainly, Jesus ministered to those who were “chained” to sin or “imprisoned to sin”. And Jesus did so in spirit to those in the OT and especially to those in the antediluvian world. I submit to you that this is what is being said in this vexing verse.

    • Don Donaldson

      Jin, the primary texts that inform me about my condition at death are Paul’s statements that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor 5:8) and that Paul had a desire to depart and “be with Christ, which is far better” (Phillip 1:23). Paul thought dying was preferable to living due to his expectation that death would place him in the presence of Christ, and for this to be “far better” must mean that Paul expected to consciously experience the Lord’s presence. I think that’s a pretty straightforward understanding of what Paul said and meant.

    • Irene

      About 1 Pet:19
      He went and preached to the spirits in prison.

      Let’s not only rely on our modern interpretation of the word “prison,” but how it was used in the culture in which Peter was writing.

      Here is some cultural context from Wisdom of Solomon.
      “For you have power over life and death; you lead men down to the gates of Hades and back again. A man in his wickedness kills another, but he cannot bring back the departed spirit, nor set free the imprisoned soul.”
      So the “imprisoned” soul is not just a sinful soul. It is the soul of one who has died, according to the Jewish understanding preceding Christ.

      We can see that the understanding of first century Christians confirms this in the most ancient “Apostles Creed” which professes, “He descended into hell,” as that 1 Pet verse says.

      So we have pre-Christ writing about death as “prison” and post-Christ writing about the dead at the time of the crucifixion being in “prison.”

      Now if Christ PREACHED to these spirits in prison, it follows they must have been conscious (maybe not so for ALL preachers today, ha, ha) and not in a literal “sleep.”

    • Irene

      I’ve skimmed the comments looking for a reference to Samuel and Saul –I know I read it somewhere along the way. I can’t locate those comments now, but in Sirach there is an interesting reference to that story and to “sleep.” I’m aware that jin, Don, and Fr Robert, you wouldn’t accept this as Scripture, but I think you would accept it as one example of how the term “sleep” is used in the Jewish culture of the time.

      Sirach 46:19-20
      “Before the time of his eternal sleep, Samuel called men to witness before the Lord and his anointed: “I have not taken any one’s property, not so much as a pair of shoes.” And no man accused him. Even after he had fallen asleep he prophesied and revealed to the king his death, and lifted up his voice out of the earth in prophecy, to blot out the wickedness of the people.”

      So I notice that it says his *eternal* sleep. This fits with the notion that sleep means rest after death, as in a ceasing from work during life. In this context, it couldn’t possibly mean a sleep that will end at the resurrection. And during this eternal sleep, Samuel prophesies….so he couldn’t be unconscious. At any rate, this verse demonstrates that the word “sleep” doesn’t necessarily mean a period of unconsciousness whenever it is used in Jewish/Christian writing.

    • @jin: I am happy that you have read Calvin’s article on this subject, yes it is massive, and just think he wrote that 500 years ago or so! What a biblical and faithful theolog Calvin was… always a pastor-teacher!

      As to Calvin too, and the doctrine of sin, no one has written about the reality of the “death” of sin, both spiritually and quite literally in judgment than John Calvin, and perhaps his students in the Genevan Academy (see Theodore Beza and Francis Turretin). This is the best of “Calvinism”, historically in my opinion! And “neglect” in and from Calvin? Never! 😉

      I think we have covered this subject biblically, and sometwhat theolgically! (Noting Don also). And in my opinion no matter what someone says, and even what the Holy Scripture says, YOU are going to continue to believe and teach Soul-Sleep! Against also the major history and the classic historical Churches of God!

      Not much else to say that I can see, at least biblically?

      But btw, what do you think of the Apostles Creed, as Irene has noted? And you have not put a dent in 1 Peter 3: 18-22, exegetically!

    • Luke

      @Irene and Fr. Robert:

      I wouldn’t mind discussing salvation elsewhere, but I don’t want to drag the comments too far off-topic here.

    • @Luke: I don’t think I have the time to do the subject justice! But, if you and Irene want to start and get into it, I would try to follow along to some degree. But indeed, best some other place!

      *But note, I am Reformed basically on soteriology! 🙂

    • Irene


      You might be interested in these podcasts:


      I’m not so much interested in debating whether Catholic or Reformed Evangelical ideas of justification are correct as I am in fairly portraying Catholic theology in response to those podcasts.
      If you are Orthodox, you may have some good points to contribute there.

    • Indeed in the end, Justfication: Iusttia Dei: is the work of God’s Righteouness, (Rom. 1:16-17). But as verse 18 in Romans 1, there is also a “punitive righteousness” in God, the concept as necessary to the divine righteousness and the divine law! i.e. Law/Gospel. And this is only fulfilled ‘In Christ’! (Rom. 10: 4, etc. (5-17)

    • Hubert Frost

      I really think that a honest reading of the texts leads to the conclusion that in the large majority of cases, the author did not believe in an afterlife and considered this as a theological truth to be conveyed.

      This , however, flies in the face of the inerrancy dogma since the authors wrote their own false beliefs into the bible.

      Thus following the path of honesty should also lead us to reject inerrancy, however painful it may be to many of us.

      By the way, this is only one example among many whereby unbiased scholarship provides us with solid grounds for not believing in an inerrant bible.
      Examples of contradictions abound and can only be denied by reinterpreting some verses in a fully arbitrary and absurd way.

      Far from protecting Christendom, inerrancy is gravely harming the Church.

      On the one hand, it is an insurmountable hurdle for sincere and intelligent unbelievers who clearly see that the Bible is not free of errors.
      On the other hand, it leads quite a few of the most clever folks to leave the Church and abandon their faith because they can no longer afford the mental gyrations and cognitive dissonance associated with a belief in inerrancy.

    • Jeremy

      I know I’m late to the party, but I’ve just found this site and it looks like it has a lot of meat.

      On the original article, the first thought I had in reference to the OT believers and the afterlife was what Job said :

      For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
      And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
      Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.
      Job 19:25-27

      Others have mentioned this passage in passing. But to my eyes, it seems to be stark in its declaration of a dual existence (natural and spiritual flesh). And the hope of seeing the Redeemer in the “flesh” and the reference to “latter days” seems to imply (along with Daniel 12 and his being commanded to sleep until judgment) that the OT believers looked to that day and nothing previous.

      But when Christ arrives, we have Him saying this :

      Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
      And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
      John 11:25,26

      And in combination with what occurred on the mount of Transfiguration (God is not the God of the dead but the living), it would seem that something may have happened (or maybe just revealed?) around that time.

      I think it worthy of note that “there remaineth a rest to the people of God”. The book of Hebrews goes to great pains to make that clear that it is in Christ. And, in (possibly direct) conjunction, we find this eschatological declaration :

      Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
      Rev 14:13

      While I am certainly sympathetic to Jin’s SDA doctrine of soul sleep, there is something greater happening that a dry literalism cannot apprehend.

    • Jeremy

      I know we are to be limited in posts, but I don’t know that my conclusion was made clear. I see #2 as the most likely, but not a necessary conclusion for NT believers.

    • arthur shasta

      it’s in the book…

      everything before Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension is run thru Sheol, one side Paradise (or Abraham’s bosom) , on side for eternal torment with, as Jesus portrays Abraham saying “a great gulf fixed between”. the thief on the cross went to this Paradise.

      after His resurrection and when His work of atonement was complete, Christ was able to present Himself to the Father as a a COMPLETE sacrifice that bridged the gulf between God and man, thus he could bring those from Paradise into the presence of the Father wrapped in the holiness of Christ. hell remain those who die in their sins, heaven for those who rest on their belief in Christ.

      all will be resurrected and given new, eternal bodies fit for their destination.

      the only exception will be those that are ‘raptured’ to meet the Lord in the air, at the beginning of the days of the Wrath of the LORD.

      when all is said and done, unbelievers are sentenced at the Judgement seat to eternal damnation, believers are rewarded at, using Paul’s example of the runner and the race, the “awards” seat where their works are revealed by the “fire” of the Lord’s examination (wood, stubble and hay or gold, silver and precious stones) and their role in the heavens given them accordingly.

      we need to stop going on what we “think” and react to what the Word “says”.

    • Fred

      Christ’s Resurrection radically changed the “intermediate state”. For all humanity before Christ, death meant Sheol/Hades, but Christ’s resurrection broke the bonds of death. So for the OT writers, death did mean separation from God (at least temporarily, although they did not know this for the most part), but the NT writers knew better because they were witnesses to the risen Lord and understood what this meant for all humanity. This has been the teaching of the Orthodox Church for 2000 years.

    • jin

      Stop the senseless doctrines of the “church”!

      Just read the Bible

      Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

    • Fred

      Back on Jan 9, Matthew wrote “That when the OT saints wrote those verses, the intermediate state was different before the arrival, death, and resurrection of Jesus than it is after.” Mike asked “Have you ever heard of anyone who interprets these verses that way?”. I was just answering Mike’s question – yes, there are many that hold such a view.

    • Keith

      I think Christianity is too steeped in tradition and fear of death. If pressed, I would say the Bible supports Soul Sleep more than not. A verse that always gets me is John 14:1-4. I really hope today’s theologians aren’t willfully turning a blind eye to truth to keep tradition or ease peoples minds.

    • Teddy D

      Brothers and sisters I think we ought first to consider each other even if we disagree strongly or think someone is dead wrong. Gal 6:1 tells us “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual, restore that one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” . One valid point not fully ventilated here, is that there is a difference between the soul and the spirit and according to Heb 4:12 they can be separated. Thus we might consider the destination of the soul at death as distinct from the spirit which returns to God who gave it. (Eccl 12:7) We may also want to contemplate whether such a state of separation allows for conscious awareness.

      Also contrary to what has been oft quoted here and in other places 2Cor 5:8 does not state that, “to be absent from the body IS to be present with the Lord.” Rather he said that he was “willing” to trade one position for the other but there is nothing in the text to imply that it is a simultaneous transfer. If I said “John I am willing to leave my house and come to yours” unless my exit door was your entrance door there would of necessity be a time lapse. Now I am not saying that there is a time lapse, however I do not believe we can assume absent from body = at home with the Lord, without reading something into that text.

      Further, because Paul says it is far better that does not imply that there is anything wrong with sleep. I am not for or against soul-sleep (I hate labels) but we all like sleep now. We have no problem with sleep if we are sick or tired. So what is wrong if we grow sick and tired of this awful world and wait for our dear Lord’s return in blissful sleep? Does that somehow diminish us or Him? I think not.

      Being consciously aware in the presence of Jesus and the Father will be an awesome thing for us all. None of us should want less than that, but whether we believe it will happen instantly or after sleep won’t change the outcome.

    • Brian

      I may have missed it but why is nobody considering the many passages that support the idea that OT Saints believe in life after death. Certainly the early patriarchs believed they would be raised in that land. David says of his son who dies as a baby ” I will go to him; he will not come to me. Even Job speaks of being in his body and seeing the great day of his redeemer. Also, if you notice when God gives him (Job ) twice what he had before, He only gives him 7 sons and 3 daughters. Why? Because the former sons and daughters still exist giving him 14 sons and 6 daughters. If you hold the account of Saul bringing up Samuel to ask what to do because God no longer would communicate with him to be a real experience, then for certain Samuel came from somewhere. Ecclesiastes which seems totally void of the thought of an afterlife even says that the spirit returns to God from where it came. This demands a distinction between the body and the spirit. Daniel speaks of a future judgement and raising of the dead. The NT Jews were not shocked at this notion. In fact there was a sect that held that there was no resurrection seen primarily when Jesus says to those directly that God is the God of the living, not the dead. These are just a few examples. In light of all of these examples and ones I have not mentioned, I would have to vote primarily with the context explanation.

    • Patti

      I must say this…who cares? Our ultimate goal is to BE with God and to be KNOWN by Him. If I sleep or not, oh well. Christ did tell the thief he would be with Him that day in paradise. Comforting, but sleeping is not bad either. My thought is this: How much more the OT saints loved and served our God!! If they thought that living in the body was all there was, and they were willing to suffer their one and only life to please God, without reward of eternal life,,,,WOW. How many of us would do that? Who of us would suffer and live life as God demands if we did not have the HOPE, the FAITH of eternal life. I dare say very few of us would.

    • NORMA

      There were two schools of thought on death the Sadducees and the other Pharisees. The Pharisees did believe in the resurrection of the dead, and in spirits and angels, but the Sadducees did not. The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit. Basically, the Sadducees were anti-supernaturalists—they did not believe in miracles. It would almost seem the Sadducees were farther from the truth (at least about the resurrection of the dead) than the Gentile pagans. The reality and finality of death is all too obvious. There are many things which can be said at a funeral, but there is only one message which gives hope, and that message is the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is because the gospel of Jesus Christ has as its central theme and message the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and the resulting hope of resurrection and eternal life for every Christian. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul deals with the subject of death and the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. In so doing, Paul gives one of the clearest, most concise definitions of the “gospel” found anywhere in the Bible. He shows how a denial of the resurrection of the dead is a denial of the gospel itself, and how believing in the gospel gives one hope for the next world as well as for the present.

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