Faith Baptist Church
4258 Botetourt Road
Fincastle, Virginia 24090
(540) 473-2325

The Soul After Death

The Material and Immaterial World

Everyone wonders about life after death. Some believe there is life in some form after death. Others believe their existence ends forever at death. As a Christian our perception of life and death and the hereafter goes much further than human rational and empirical experience. We believe in things we do not see and because we do we believe there are things and personages that exist that we cannot see or feel with our physical bodies. We believe in God and we believe there is a reason we are drawn to this conclusion. We believe God created us with more than earthly materials. We believe God created us with immaterial (soul) capacities. We believe God created us for fellowship with him so he made us in his image so there would be some compatibility. He made the material part of man out of the finest minerals of the earth, and he made the immaterial part of us from his own soul. We believe, due to the sin of Adam, the material part of us is doomed to die at some time, but the immaterial part of our person lives on after physical death. The part we cannot see, but what makes us different than the animal kingdom, is our soul. The soul of man in immaterial essence shows itself in man’s ability to create music, art, poetry, written lyrics, write books, worship our creator, create nations, establish nations and govern them, invent technology, go to the moon and send exploratory machines to distant planets, put satellites into space to take pictures to send back to our eyes. We have been given a great mental capacity, which is given conscience to guide our steps. We have been given self-consciousness which gives us self-awareness and satisfaction in our accomplishments. We have been given emotions to express joy and love, and we have been given in our creation free will. This free will can determine our course in life and the life to come. Free will is greater than survival of the fittest where we would chose only to take what we can to live another day. Free will can chose to believe in more than meets the eye. Free will chooses to believe in the unseen, and here is where faith as a means of perception steps in. Once free will chooses to accept faith as a means of perception regarding the world around us, then many avenues of faith come to us. The Christian faith believes God created the heavens and the earth; that mankind is lost in sin; that God sent the second person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ, to be born of a virgin (so he would be born without sin); that Christ came to be a sacrifice for all of mankind’s’ sin. That whosoever believes in Christ Jesus will have everlasting life and after death the souls of those who do believe go to heaven to eternal paradise and those who do not believe go to hell to eternal judgment.

What Happens To The Soul At Death

We believe the souls of men, lost and saved, are fully conscious immediately at the point of death and remain in such a state forever.

Ask yourself; “why would we want to believe God wants us to be unconscious after death, until our judgment day?”

What purpose would it serve God for us to be unconscious? In Adam’s case he would be unconscious for more than seven thousand years.

The following Scriptures are often used to support soul sleep after death, but in fact they actually say the opposite.

1. Eph.5:14 Wherefore, he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”

This is a quote taken from Isa.60:1. Both verses refer to the believer’s spiritual condition. When the believer is living in darkness this refers to spiritual darkness. This is the believer living in sin. The status of such saints is not one of loss of salvation, but temporal death. When the believer is out of fellowship with the Lord he is said to be carnal. He is out of touch with spiritual reality. Though he is eternally positioned in Christ, this believer has chosen to temporarily abandon his spiritual convictions to serve the sin nature. Paul scorns the saints for giving into the sins of their pre-salvation life, Eph.5:1-15.

2. I Cor.11:30 “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.”

In this passage Paul addresses the sinning believers for disrespectfully partaking the Lord’s Supper. Their notion of taking the drink and the bread became irreverent. So Paul warns them that to continue in such behavior would bring about the discipline of God. First would come warning discipline, weakness, and then sickness if repentance is not forthcoming. Ultimate divine discipline would come in the form of the sinning unto death which is explained in v.32, “...that we should not be condemned with the world.”

The sleep referred to in v.30 relates to physical death, or physical sleep not soul sleep. The body when dead is said to sleep until the time of its resurrection, but the soul will never sleep after death.

3. At the rapture of the Church in I Thess.4:13-17, those believers who have died, which is noted by the phrase, “those who are asleep” ; this event relates to the resurrection of the believer’s dead body joined to that believer’s soul, a soul which comes back with Christ at that time. At death, the soul of the saint instantaneously returns to God. The body is mortal, that is, it is temporal, and due to our fallen Adamic nature, it is destined to die, but the soul, which comes from God, is immortal and it shall never die. Our soul only becomes unconscious when we go to sleep because the body is tired. If our souls did not become unconscious we could never sleep, so God triggers the soul to go into a shut down mode while the body recuperates from its day.

If our souls were not in these earthly bodies the soul would need no sleep. When we die our souls will depart our bodies and return to the place we have chosen in life. The saved soul goes to heaven, and the lost souls go to Hades, the place of the soul which has departed a lost person’s body. The resurrection body will not require rest, so the soul will never be triggered to shut down.

Here in I Thess.4:14 we see Jesus will bring with him the souls of those who bodies sleep in the grave. It is apparent that the soul is not in the grave for if this were true Jesus would not be bringing them out of the third heaven.

In vs. 15-17 Paul says that at the rapture of the Church those who are still physically alive, that they will not proceed, go ahead, of those who are asleep. Paul is referring to the resurrection of the body, not the awakening of souls. The bodies of the deceased saints, whose souls Christ brings with him from heaven, will be reunited to their resurrection bodies, and when this happens, then we believers who are yet physically alive, then we will be physically changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye; in a split second we will be changed from an earthly body to a resurrection body, I Cor.15:51-54. At that point all N.T. saints will be ushered to heaven by our Lord Jesus Christ.

4. II Cor.5:8. The aorist tense which shows action undefined, of the Greek words absent, and present, referring to ones soul being absent from the body and present with the Lord means this is an automatic transaction that takes place at the moment of death.

5. A well used Scripture which substantiates complete awareness after death is found in Luke 16:19-31.

This is exciting to me because the thought of being unconscious for hundreds if not thousands of years is not good news to me. Part of the good news of the gospel is that we go to be with the Lord at death, even though our bodies are resurrected later on. We don’t need a body to be happy; our bodies don’t make us happy now. Happiness comes from the soul, not the body. But the resurrected body is raised so that the believer can be glorified with Christ. What does this mean? This means our eternal rewards, given at the time when N.T believers are judged for their Christian living, these rewards decorate the resurrected body and at this time they become glorified. Our faithfulness and good works in time shows the love we had for God while here on earth. This love we showed on earth for God is what glorifies Christ for all eternity.

Getting back to Lk.16:19-31 we note that these dead men, lost and saved, have several characteristics conscious men have while still in their bodies. As a matter of fact if we did not know the location of these men we wouldn’t even know they had died. It’s as if they are carrying on a conversation in the flesh where one man is asking another for help, but the space between the two men makes it impossible for one to help the other.

All of these men are dead. Their bodies are in the ground at the surface of the earth where they were buried. But these men see each other, they hear each other, they talk to one another, they have feelings, both of suffering, and refreshment. They have active memory and even the man on the torment side of Hades shows compassion for his five brothers still alive on the earth as he ask Abraham to go to them and try to get them saved because the torment for this man was more than he wanted any loved one to experience.

Does this sound to us like these men were unconscious; that their souls were asleep? Obviously not.

6. From I Cor.15:20 we note Paul speaks of Christ as raised from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. So here we have our most notable passage; that Christ also slept after his death. However, once again the sleep refers to Christ body in death, not his soul. He said before his crucifixion that in three days he would raise the temple, referring to his body.

And yet we know that while he was in his tomb he descended to the lower parts of the earth, and ministered to those departed, conscious souls, Eph.4:8-10. The lost saw their unbelief shaken to the core as they saw Christ releasing the saved on the paradise side of Hades. These things did Christ do while his dead body lay in the tomb on the surface of the earth. On the third day his soul returned to the tomb and he, being God, raised himself from the dead and exited the tomb.

Their is no such thing as the death of the soul, only the body. It is the resurrection of the body that redeemed men anticipate, I Cor.15:12-19.

7. From II Cor.12:2-4 Paul was caught up into the third heaven, the place of God’s throne, and there he while in paradise heard unspeakable words, things so wonderful God had to give him an infirmity of the flesh to keep him humble. We can see here that Paul’s soul was transported to heaven, but his body remained on earth. The soul of mankind is once again seen as conscious and functioning very well outside the physical body.

8. From Phil.1:23 the Apostle Paul was caught between a rock and a hard place, which was to either stay and try to untangle the unrest at Philipi, or die during his Roman imprisonment. Paul said he would rather die and be with Christ. The infinitive, to depart, is an aorist, active, infinitive of the Greek word, analuo. This compound word made up of the prefix preposition, ana, which means up, and luo which means to loosen, tells us under divine inspiration, that Paul expected to have his soul immediately released upward to heaven at the point of his death. He expected to be set free from his body at death, and then immediately be with Christ. The infinitive, to be, is the Greek word, einai, which is a present, active, infinitive, from the root word, eimi. This word means to be or to exist. The present tense defines Paul’s presence with Christ to be at present time having present results. Paul is saying that if he departed, by way of death, that in the next moment he would be present with the Lord in heaven.

What incentive would it be for Paul or any other believer for that matter, to contemplate being confined to a sleepless state for hundreds if not thousands of years than to stay and continue to deal with the struggles of life?

9. Lk.23:43 While our Lord was on the cross he told the repentant thief, “..., Today you will be with me in paradise.”

For the departed souls of the lost what does the Bible say about them? What is their state until the day of their resurrection; the resurrection unto damnation, John 5:29? We have already seen from Luke16 the narrative of the rich man suffering on the torment side of Hades. This example gives to us the present state of the unbelievers condition after death; a soul which is wide awake.