Where Do the Dead Go After Death?
Soul sleep is the belief that your soul goes to sleep until the resurrection. This teaching is not Scriptural. Those who believe in soul sleep are interpreting the Bible instead of reading and believing it as it says. Interpreting the Bible by your own beliefs is going against Scripture, which says in 2 Peter 1:20, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” Most of those who believe in soul sleep belong to cults or religious organizations that are questionable, including Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists. Just the fact that the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in soul sleep should be enough to raise a red flag for any Bible believer. Those who believe in soul sleep do not have a firm grasp of Biblical truths. This study is done to show that when a person dies, their body dies, but their soul departs.
Revelation 6:9 says, “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held” Let’s notice a few things here.
One – these souls were in Heaven, and there were still people on earth, because the souls mentioned “them that dwell on the earth” (vs. 10). This verse, among many, is one that testifies AGAINST soul sleep. When a person dies, their body gets put in the ground. Not their soul. Genesis 35:18, speaking of Rachel, says “her soul was in departing, (for she died)”. Rachel’s soul departed her body when she died. When the son of the widow of Zarephath died, Elijah “stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again. And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.” This child’s soul had left his body, and because it left, the body died. When the child’s soul came back into his body, he came alive.
The Bible is clear. When a person dies, their soul departs their body. When their body gets put in the ground, it is dead because the soul is what gave it life, and the soul is not there anymore.
Two – these souls spoke and had intelligence apart from the body. The soul is the real person, not the body. The body will change. The soul won’t. 1 Corinthians 15:44 says, “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” The body will change at the resurrection, not the soul. It is the soul that gets saved, not the body. James 5:20 says, “Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death.” Hebrews 10:39 says, “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” (emphasis mine)
There is also a spirit body. Revelation 5:1, 7 mention God holding a book in His right hand. John 4:24 says that God is a Spirit. God, Who is a Spirit, has a hand. And a hand is part of the body. So therefore, God has a body, but it’s a spirit body. When we die, our physical body goes into the ground, and our soul and spirit go to Heaven. In Heaven, until the resurrection, we will have a body, but it will be a spirit body. At the resurrection, our physical body is resurrected and changed into a spiritual body. Our soul and spirit will combine with our spiritual body and we will become a trinity, as we were meant to be.
When a Christian dies, their soul and spirit go to be with the Lord in Heaven. Their body is dead and is put in the ground. Whenever the Bible speaks of a deceased Christian as “dead”, it is speaking of their body, not their soul or their spirit. Notice Acts 2:29 says, “Men 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.” Remember, the Bible defines itself. To be dead is to be buried. The body gets buried, because it is dead. James 2:26 says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead…” It is the body that is dead in the grave, not the spirit!
Let’s dig into this a little deeper. 1 Thessalonians 4:14-16 says, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” Notice that is says those who sleep in Jesus will come with Him when he returns at the rapture. It also says the dead in Christ shall rise first.
One verse says those who are asleep Jesus will bring with Him, and another verse says the dead in Christ will rise to meet Him in the air. These verses seem contradictory. If we believe the Bible just as it says, and not put our interpretations on it, it is easy to explain. Those who are “asleep” are the souls in Heaven. The “dead in Christ” are the bodies that are buried on earth. A complete Christian is a trinity – soul, body and spirit, just like God. When a Christian dies, his soul and spirit separate from his body. He is no longer a trinity, but only a two part being. That is why the body is resurrected – so that the Christian can be complete.
When Jesus returns at the rapture, He brings the souls and spirits of those who “sleep in Jesus.” He resurrects their bodies and their bodies rise to join their soul and spirit, becoming a complete trinity. Those who are alive are a complete trinity, and only need to have their body changed, not their soul or spirit.
Luke 16:22-23 says, “the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” Here the rich man went to hell right after he died. If you put thousands of years in between the word “buried” and the word “and”, you are putting something there that isn’t there and doesn’t belong there. In Luke 23:42-43, the thief on the cross “said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Plain enough. Yet those who believe in soul sleep have to change this verse to support their doctrine. They move the comma from before “today” to after “today”, so the verse looks like this: “Verily I say unto thee today, shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Search if you like, but nowhere in the Bible does Jesus, or anyone else, use the phrase “I say unto thee today.” No one talks like that. This is another attempt to change God’s word to suit the doctrine of soul sleep.
Those who believe in soul sleep are using their doctrine as a base to find Bible verses, instead of using the Bible to base their doctrine on. That is how you can expose a cult – by their changing of God’s word. For an example, see below the paragraph on the word “absent.” They change the grammar of a sentence, or change punctuation, or redefine basic words. They have to, because if they leave God’s word alone, it will never back up their false doctrine.
Matthew 12:40 says, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” The grave is not the heart of the earth. When Jesus died, He went to hell. Acts 2:31 says, “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.” Notice that Jesus’ SOUL went to hell. This was before He resurrected, so His body was still in the tomb. Just another verse that shows when a person dies, their soul goes to Heaven or hell, but their DEAD body is in the grave. Isaiah 32:18 says, “Son of man, wail for the multitude of Egypt, and cast them down, even her, and the daughters of the famous nations, unto the nether parts of the earth, with them that go down into the pit.” Notice the pit is in the nether parts of the earth, which means the lower part of the earth. It is not the grave.
John 8:51-56 is good for this study, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself? Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.”
Jesus said that if a person keeps His saying, that person will never see death. The Pharisees said that Abraham is dead. So who is telling the truth? They both are. Jesus is speaking of Abraham’s soul. The Pharisees are speaking of Abraham’s body. Jesus said that Abraham saw His day. The only way Abraham could see Jesus’ day was if Abraham was alive. If Abraham was asleep in the grave, he couldn’t see anything.
Jesus said in Mark 12:27, “He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.” The context of that verse is about the dead (see Mark 12:19-22; 25-26). But Jesus said God is not the God of the dead. John 3:15 says, “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” God is a giver of life. God is the God of the living, those who are alive in Heaven. God is not the God of the dead, those who are in the grave.
2 Corinthians 5:6&8 say, “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Absent means you aren’t there. If a person is absent from roll call, they aren’t there. If a person is absent from school, they have played hooky. There is no need to ponder over words, or try to make new meanings from plain words. God’s word means just what it says. If you are home in the body, in other words, if you are still here in your body, then you are absent from the Lord. Where is the Lord? He’s in Heaven. If you’re absent from Heaven, you aren’t there. That is plain as day. Then the Bible says if you are absent from the body, you are with the Lord. Absent means you aren’t there. If you are absent from the body, you aren’t in the body anymore. You are with the Lord. Where is the Lord? He’s in Heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father. If your soul has left your body, you are absent from your body. You aren’t there anymore. You are in Heaven. Those who believe in soul sleep must change plain meanings of words, and must ignore the rest of 2 Corinthians 5:3,9; 10:1,11; 13:2,10 and all the other verses that have the plain meaning of the word “absent.”
The Bible is very clear. When a person dies, their soul goes to either Heaven or hell. It does not go to sleep. When a person dies, their body is dead, because the body is only a covering for the soul. And as such, it gets put in the grave to await the resurrection. The body gets resurrected, not the soul. Believe the Bible. Take it as it says and you will never go wrong. God bless.