Where Did Old Testament Saints Think They Went When They Died?

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?

145 Responses to “Where Did Old Testament Saints Think They Went When They Died?”

  1. 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.

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

  3. // 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?

  4. 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.

    • 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.

    • Craig,

      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.

  5. 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.”


  6. 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?

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. David,

    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.

  10. “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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.”

  13. 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.

  14. 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?

  15. 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”.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

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

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

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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)

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

  25. @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?

  26. @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.

  27. “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!

  28. 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.

  29. 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…

  30. 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.

  31. 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.’

  32. 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.

  33. 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

  34. 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?

  35. @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!

  36. 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!

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

  38. 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! ;)

  39. 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

  40. 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)

  41. @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’! :)

  42. 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!

  43. @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!

  44. 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?

  45. 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!

  46. 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?

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


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