Here are the possible explanations as given by various Christian groups regarding the period between death and resurrection.


·        Soul Sleep, Christian Mortalism, thnetopsychism

 θνητόψῡχος, from θνητός (mortal) and ψῡχή (soul) +‎ -ism.

"souls fall asleep until the resurrection"


The soul sleep and remain with the body until the final resurrection on the Last Day? The Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and some evangelical Christians hold this view. Since the soul is sleeping, the soul has no consciousness and is unaware of anything until they are resurrected by God in the last days.

There are two words in the Greek New Testament for “sleep.”  

The term katheudo occurs 22 times in the New Testament. In a literal sense it is used of “natural sleep” (Mt. 13:25; 25:5).

The term is found in the story of the raising up of Jairus, (Mk. 5:35). Here Jesus asserts that “the child is not dead, but is sleeping” (v. 39) and story ends up as her “spirit returned” and she rose up immediately (Lk. 8:55) implying that the spirit was still alive while her body was sleeping.

The same is applicable in the story of Lazarus:  Jesus said “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep (kekoimetai— the perfect, passive of koimao); but I go that I may awake him out of sleep” (Jn. 11:11). 

Another term in the New Testament for “sleep” is koimaomai . The word is found 18 times. The word is used for normal sleep as in   (Mt. 28:13; Lk. 22:45),as well as  figuratively for the “sleep” of death (see Mt. 27:52; 1 Cor. 15:20; 1 Thes. 4:13-15).

The term probably refers to the dead body which is inert and without life as a person is in deep sleep.

The doctrine asserts that when the body dies, the soul also dies, and that both are to be called back to life at the Day of Judgement. This was first recorded as taught by the Thnētopsȳchītć, a third century sect of Christianity in Arabia, and is based on I Timothy 6: 16, an epistolary doxology addressed to the God who alone has immortality.

1 Tim 6:15-16 which He will bring about at the proper time-- He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.


This doctrine is held by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah's Witnesses).

"When somebody dies, the spirit (life force) ceases to animate the body cells, much as a light goes out when the electricity is turned off. When the life force stops sustaining the human being, man-the soul-dies." Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life (Brooklyn: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1995)  


"Therefore, God's Word refers to the dead as being asleep. For example, upon learning that his friend Lazarus had died, Jesus Christ told His disciples 'Lazarus our friend has gone to rest, but I am journeying there to awake him from sleep.'"


Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) also holds the same view 

"The grave is not a place of consciousness. Since death is a sleep, the dead remain in a state of unconsciousness in the grave until the resurrection, when the grave (Hades) gives up its dead (Rev. 20:13)." A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Assoc., 1988) 

Some of the proof texts include the following where death is referred to as sleep:

Ecclesiastes 3:19-21; 9:5, 6; 12:7; Job 14:10-12; Psalm 115:17; Matthew 9:24; Mark 5:39; John 11:11-14; Acts 7:20; 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; and 2 Peter 3:4.   .

John 5: 28-30 is probably the final proof text of all:

"Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgement is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me."

Daniel 12:2  "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt."


This theory of "soul slumber" was defended by the Nestorians and Copts, and later by the Anabaptists, Socinians, and Arminians. Calvin (Inst. III, 25) holds that the final destiny is not decided till the last day.

Most traditional Christians believe that death is a period of dormancy, or sleep in the body, or an Intermediate state, on Earth, or in the Bosom of Abraham, in which there is no consciousness and no Heavenly activity has yet begun...no judgment, no trip to heaven nor hell based on their interpretation of the following scriptures:
(Eccl. 9:5): "The dead know not anything ... Their love, their hatred, and their envy is now perished"
(Psa. 6:5): "In death there is no remembrance of thee; in the grave, who shall give thee thanks?"
(Psalm 115:17):  "The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence" (Isaiah 38:18). "The grave cannot praise thee: death cannot celebrate thee"



Particular Judgement
The soul receives a temporal place of pre-judgement.

In Mark 12:26-27, Jesus states that those who have lived in obedience to God are resurrected upon death. According to Luke 23:43, the resurrected dead are taken to paradise right after resurrection.

But paradise is not heaven. An explanation is found in the following verses.

TaIking about the death and resurrection Jesus Peter 3:18- 19 says “...being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by His Spirit: By which also He went and preached unto the SPIRITS IN PRISON...”. Also Ephesians 4:9, “...He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?”.

Ephesians 4:8 This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people."


http://www.gospeloutreach.net/soul_sleep_error.html (Plper's detail verse study is appended.)

All believers having "died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off,  " (Hebrews 11:13). indicates that those dead in Christ did not enter the promised land of Heaven but yet see it from far just as Moses did/    The soul leave the body at death, and depending on the Soul's relationship with Jesus they are either given the Paradise (if Christian), or to a place of punishment (if he is not a Christian)?  Lutherans, Catholics, and most Protestants hold this view.

The following passages refers to the dead as still alive:

These are the scriptural basis of this view

In Matthew 22:31-32, Jesus says:  "Have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living."

At the transfiguration (see Matt. 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36; and 2 Pet. 1:16-18). Peter, James, and John sees Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. Moses clearly died, at Mount Nebo, in Jordan (dated as 1272 BC) years before Jesus (Deut. 34) Elijah was taken to heaven in a fiery chariot  (2 Kings 2:11).

Luke 23:39-43 in the events that transpired at the time of crucifixion, Jesus assures the repentant thief on the cross  "Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Here the thief was with Jesus after death and the place is called Paradise.

John 11:25 Jesus says: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies."

2 Corinthians 5:6-8  "Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord--for we walk by faith, not by sight. We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord."

(Phil. 1:21-24)"For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake"

." (I Thess. 5:9-10 )."For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we are [present tense] awake [alive] or asleep [dead], we may live together with Him."

In the book of Revelation John saw a vision of the “souls” of those who had been slain upon the earth (Rev. 6:9-11).


D. L. Moody said before he died, "Soon you will read in the papers that Moody is dead. Don't believe it. For in that moment I will be more alive than I have ever been."


One explanation is that God creates a body for those believers who have died and are in Heaven and this explains how the redeemed in Heaven can relate to Christ and to one another.

Since departed believers can sing praises to God we can assume that they have a spirit through which they can communicate with other spirits and to God.  If the dead can communicate with one another, they must have some kind of body in which to do so.



The Errors of Soul Sleep

Keith Piper



At death, the soul and spirit leave the body.

1. Unbelievers.

In the Old Testament, the spirit and soul of an unbeliever went immediately to the torment of hell, which is inside the earth. Notice these verses showing that people are conscious in hell, and that hell is inside the earth.

1. The sorrows of hell compassed me about. (Psalm 18:5) Note: Hell has sorrows.

2. The pains of hell got hold of me. (Psalm 116:3) Note: Hell has pains.

3. The wicked shall be turned into hell. (Psalm 9:17) Note: Hell is for the wicked.

4. It is as high as heaven ... deeper than hell. (Job 11:8) Note: Hell is deep.

5. A fire ... shall burn to the lowest hell. (Deuteronomy 32:22) Note: Hell has fire.

6. Hell and destruction are never full. (Proverbs 27:20) Note: Hell is like destruction.

7. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. (Proverbs 23:14)

8. Hell from beneath ... stirs up the dead for thee. All they shall speak and say unto thee, art thou become weak as we? (Isaiah 14:9-10) Note: People's souls in hell can stir, speak and say.

This proves that soul sleep is false for unbelievers.

9. Unto the nether (lower) parts of the earth, with them that go down into the pit. (Ezekiel 32:18) Note: The pit and hell are in the lower parts of the earth.

10. The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell. (Ezekiel 32:21) Note: People in hell can speak, showing that they are not asleep.

11. The Zidonians which are gone down with the slain ... Pharaoh shall see them, and shall be comforted, even Pharaoh and all his army slain by the sword. (Ezekiel 32:30-31)

Note: Pharaoh, after being killed in battle is comforted in hell by seeing the Zidonians, who have also been killed in battle, enter hell with him. People can see in hell, have comforting thoughts of other people suffering and thus, are not sleeping.

12. The rich man in Hell, could see, hear, taste and touch.

Four times it says that he is tormented.

"And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeing Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom (v.23). And he cried and said, father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame (v.24). But Abraham said, ...now he (Lazarus) is comforted, and thou art tormented (v.25).

Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment (v.28)." (Luke 16:19-31)


2. Old Testament Believers.

In the Old Testament, the spirit and soul of a believer went immediately to the comfort of paradise in the lower parts of the earth.

a) Now he (Lazarus) is comforted. (Luke 16:25)

b) Jesus said unto him, verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with Me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)......

c) Samuel's spirit came up out of the earth after his death to tell Saul that tomorrow Saul, Jonathan and his other sons would be killed in battle, and would be with Samuel in paradise. "... The woman said to Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth ... What form is he of? And she said, an old man cometh up: and he is covered with a mantle. And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? ... Tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me." (1 Samuel 28:12-19)

Note: Samuel was resting in paradise in the earth, and resented Saul disturbing him by bringing him up. Samuel was not asleep, just resting, not soul sleep, but conscious.

When Jesus died, He descended into the lower parts of the earth, and after preaching to spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:19), He led all Old Testament believers out of paradise (inside the earth) and up to heaven. " ... when He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive ... (now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?)" (Ephesians 4:8-9)


By which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison. (1 Peter 3:19)

Jesus would not waste His time preaching to spirits imprisoned in the underworld if they were sleeping and could not hear Him. You only preach to those who are conscious.

3. New Testament Believers.

In the New Testament, the spirit and soul of believers go immediately upon dying to heaven. We know this because of these reasons:

a) To depart and to be with Christ in heaven is far better.

"For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and TO BE WITH CHRIST; which is far better." (Philippians 1:23)

Paul desired to depart his body by dying, so that he could be with Christ IN HEAVEN, which is far better than staying on the earth.

It is far better to go to soul consciousness with Christ in heaven.

b) When we are absent from the body, we are present with the Lord in heaven.

"... 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." (2 Corinthians 5:6, 8)


When we are out of our body (death), we are present with the Lord. Where is the Lord now? In heaven.


Therefore believer's spirits and souls go to heaven on dying.

c) Spirits of just men made perfect are now in heaven.

"But ye are come unto ... the heavenly Jerusalem ... to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the SPIRITS of just men made perfect." (Hebrews 12:23-24) This clearly tells us that when believers die, their spirits go to heaven immediately.

d) Christ at the Second Coming brings departed believers' souls with Him to the air.

1 Thessalonians 4:14 tells us that the spirits of believers who have died, are waiting in heaven until the day when Jesus Christ will bring their spirits and souls with Him at the second coming in the air to be rejoined with their resurrected bodies. "... them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." Their dead bodies, buried in the grave will be resurrected to rejoin their spirits and souls which Christ will bring with Him from heaven. Christ bringing their spirits and souls, shows that they are with Christ in heaven after death awaiting the resurrection.

e) Souls of departed believers are in heaven crying out for revenge.

After the rapture (catching away of believers to heaven) many people get saved in the seven year tribulation. Many of these are killed by the Antichrist. Do their souls go to soul-sleep in the grave? No! Their souls are seen under the altar in heaven: "I saw under the altar the SOULS of them that were slain for the word of God ... they cried with a loud voice, saying ..." (Revelation 6:9-10)


These souls of dead believers are in heaven. They can cry out with a loud voice. They have memory of their death on earth, crying for revenge. They are not unconscious or soul-sleeping in the grave.


Objection: Some verses come close to saying that the dead are unconscious (e.g. Psalm 30:9, 115:17, 146:4; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Isaiah 38:18-19). These say that a dead body can't praise God, but the soul is still alive. How do we understand these verses in the light of the vast majority of verses that teach that human souls are conscious after death?


1. "What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth? (Psalm 30:9)


Answer: The Old Testament saints had a gloomy view of death. Death to them was seen as an interruption in their communion with God, even for believers. They saw death as a continuation of existence (Isaiah 14:9-11), but on terms which robbed it of all that deserves to be called life. David shared the common view, and he uses it as part of his appeal to God.


2. "The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence. But we will bless the Lord." (Psalm 115:17)

Answer: Jesus had not yet brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. "But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel." (2 Timothy 1:10)

Believers now have eternal life and an immortal soul. The Holy Spirit used Old Testament believers' limited understanding of the afterlife to urge them to praise God while they could.


3. "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts6250 perish." (Psalm 146:4)

Answer: When a person dies, his earthly plans, ambitions and thoughts perish with him. When you are dead, you cannot contribute anything to fulfill your earthly ambitions. "Thoughts" in Hebrew mean "polished, sleek, plans formed in the mind". "His thoughts perish" means that his ambitions perish. "Eshtonah"6250 from "ashath"6245 is only ever used of "thoughts" here in Psalm 146:4.


"Thoughts" most commonly used in the Old Testament is "machashabah"4284, a different Hebrew word to that word used in Psalm 146:4.


"Thoughts that perish" are the wicked man's plans and purposes which come to naught at his death. The thoughts which go to the grave are his vain projects. (e.g. the thoughts of the rich fool of building bigger barns and of many years of ease and prosperity.) All his selfish, worldly schemes, perished in that same night. (Luke 12:16-21).

Luke 9:30-31 show that Moses and Elias lived after death to talk with Christ on the Mount Transfiguration.

Luke 20:38 "He is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto Him."

Colossians 3:2 The New Testament tells believers to "set your affections on things above." This means that we go to heaven at death.


4. "... the dead know not anything ..." (Ecclesiastes 9:5)

Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished." (Ecclesiastes 9:6)

"There is no work, no device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave where thou goest." (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

Answer: Ecclesiastes 9:4, 6, 10 is written from the standpoint of knowledge "under the sun", from the viewpoint of natural man who lives without thoughts for God. This restates the philosophy of unbelievers that "when you're dead, you're dead."


"For the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth." (Isaiah 38:18)

The term "sleep", when applied to death, refers to death of the body only. After the resurrection of Christ, believers went into the presence of Christ at their death.


Many of the reports from those who had a back to life experience says that they saw departed relatives awaiting their arrival. If this is true it could indicate that the dead believers in Heaven already have recognizable bodies.This is better understood if we take the life forms as a series of sheath in which one sheath is soul all containing the spirit.  The Bible has a great many references to dead believers having recognizable bodies. 

·        On the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus in some kind of body though neither yet had his permanent resurrection body. Yet there they were, talking and communicating with Jesus and evidently very recognizable to Peter, James, and John. You have to ask yourself, does this not indicate that there is not a life after our physical death occurs, considering that Moses and Elijah were still around after so many thousands of years

·        In the story of the Rich man and Lazarus as told by Jesus,  Abraham, Richman and Lazarus recognized each other. 

·        In Revelation 6:9-10, the saved souls of those that were martyred and that were beneath the Altar had a voice with which they were able to cry up to God.  These souls were given white robes to wear and they could think and speak.

·        John 8:51 "Most truly I say to you, if anyone observes my word he will never see death."

·        John 11:25-26 "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die."

Verses like this tell us that if we put complete faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, then even though our human body will eventually die, our spiritual body - our soul - will never ever die."

·        Then there is the story of the dying thief, to whom Christ said, " Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise." 

I believe it is dangerous to dogmatize. Here is the real situation:

Man consists of body, soul and spirit as we have discussed earlier.  Just look at the function of each part. Body is necessary for the soul to communicate with the material world using the senses.  Devoid of these sense organs, the soul cannot interact with the material world. If soul existed, it is still in existence but it cannot interact with the world now.  Bible also affirms that the spirit returns to God who gave it.  This will leave the soul without body and without spirit .  This would mean the souls have no open communication to either the material world or to the spiritual world.  This will be best described as sleep.



When a man die,

·        the body returns to earth and goes back into material elements.

·        The Spirit of man returns to God. 

This much is certain. 

As such the Soul is left alone which of course contains memories. All the life data is still in that hard disk.  Since within itself it is conscious, - or is it? - the soul can still dream.

What the dogmatists miss out is the function of God.

God can join this soul with the spirits by placing it in the Spirit realm if God wants to. 


Or God can make the soul and spirit return to the material realm if God can create a new body with the DNA codes afresh for that soul. This body can be material or immaterial in any dimension of existence. Man is man only with material body.  Can God make a ghost of the Man.  Certainly, if He wants that.  We would not call him Man.  We will call him a ghost or spirit.  It is still a resurrection of the soul. 

Does God give a temporary body while we await for the resurrected glorified body?

Some early Church Fathers, apparently including Justin, Irenaeus, Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria, believed that, in general, the saved did not enter heaven until Judgment Day, and during the interval between death and the resurrection they dwell happily in a delightful abode, awaiting their final glorification.   What kind of bodies do the believers who have died in Christ have now?  Since the resurrection of the body is in the future, are the present dead believers in heaven "disembodied" spirits or do they have some kind of temporary "intermediate" bodies ?  Of course exceptions were admitted by God for the martyrs and some other classes of saints, who were admitted at once to the supreme joys of heaven.

After this "particular judgment", according to Orthodox dogmatic theology, the soul experiences a foretaste of the blessedness or the eternal torment that awaits it after the resurrection.


Tertullian (c. 200) wrote that, even before final judgment, a soul "undergoes punishment and consolation in Hades in the interval, while it awaits its alternative of judgment, in a certain anticipation either of gloom or of glory"

Hippolytus of Rome pictured a particular judgment of souls in Hades, by which the righteous are assigned to "a locality full of light" and the unrighteous are "forced down into the lower parts".

Augustine of Hippo (d. 430), one of the Church fathers of the Catholic Church, wrote that the human part of the city of God (as opposed to the part composed of the angels) "is either sojourning on earth, or, in the persons of those who have passed through death, is resting in the secret receptacles and abodes of disembodied spirits".  He said that the dead are judged at death and divided into four groups:

·        the place of the truly virtuous, such as saints and martyrs, is Paradise;

·        the unmistakably evil are damned to eternal punishment in Hell;

·        the two intermediate groups, the not completely wicked, and the not completely good.

These could be helped by the prayers of the living, though it seems that for the former repentance and the prayers of the living created a "more tolerable" hell, while the latter would pass through a penitential fire before being admitted to heaven at the time of the Last Judgment.


This idea which finds no scriptural verification became a dogma leading to the building up of  Purgatories in the Roman Catholic Church.  Unless the hell itself act as a purgatory it will remain another hypothesis.

The faith of the Church concerning Purgatory is clearly expressed in the Decree of Union drawn up by the Roman Catholic Council of Florence (Mansi, t. XXXI, col. 1031), and in the decree of the Roman Catholic Council of Trent:

"Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has, from the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers [of the Catholic Church], taught, in sacred councils, and very recently in this OEcumenical Synod, that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls there detained are helped by the suffrages of the Faithful, but principally by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar [i.e., the Mass]..." (Roman Catholic Council of Trent, Decree Concerning Purgatory, Session 25, Wednesday, December 4, 1563).


Epiphanius (haer., lxxv, P.G., XLII, col. 513) complains that Acrius (fourth cent.) taught that prayers for the dead were of no avail. In the Middle Ages, the Cathars and the Albigensians, and also the Waldenses, and Hussites, each of which rejected the actual existence of Purgatory. Saint Bernard (Sermon 66 On the Canticles, P. L. CLXXXIII, col. 1098) states that the so-called Apostolici denied Purgatory and the utility of prayers for the departed. In the 16th century, Martin Luther, O.S.A. [Schmalcaldic Article, Pars. II. Art. II, Sec. 12-15], and John Calvin [Instit. III 5, 6-10], denied the existence of Purgatory.  The Eastern-Rite Orthodox, e.g., the Greek Orthodox, seem to have a vague and indefinite notion of Purgatory [cf. Confessio Orthodoxa of Petrus Mogilas, P.I., q. 64-66-revised by Meletios Syrigos, and the Confessio of Dositheos, Decr. 18]. 

Here the dead begin their eternal fates after death, either immediately or after being purified in purgatory. On judgment day, the dead are reunited with their bodies and their eternal fates continue.

That is why Christ could say, "And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul, but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body."Matthew10:28.