Sunday, February 3, 2013

Are The Souls Of The Redeemed Conscious?

INTRODUCTION 1. In the previous study, I suggested that the spirits of believers go to be with the Lord during the "intermediate state" between death and the resurrection a. Implied was the idea that the souls of the redeemed are conscious during this interim b. But are they? 2. In this lesson, we shall consider the doctrine of "soul-sleeping", and make some observations concerning it I. THE DOCTRINE OF "SOUL SLEEPING" A. THE THEORY... 1. That the souls of the departed continue to exist, but are in an unconscious state until the resurrection 2. This is not to be confused with the doctrine held by JW's, who believe there is no consciousness until the resurrection because until then there is no existence at all B. THE ARGUMENTS... 1. The Scriptures often represent death as a "sleep" a. Mt 27:52 - ...bodies of the saints who had "fallen asleep" b. Jn 11:11-14 - Jesus says of dead Lazarus, "our friend sleeps" c. Ac 7:60 - As Stephen is stoned to death, it is said "he fell asleep" d. 1Co 15:6,18 - Those who were dead are spoken of as "fallen asleep" e. 1Th 4:13-15 - Brethren who were dead "sleep in Jesus" 2. Other passages come very near to saying that the dead have no consciousness a. Ps 30:9 - The psalmist asks, "...when I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you?" b. Ps 115:17 - The psalmist declares, "The dead do not praise the Lord, nor any who go down into silence." c. Ec 9:5,10 - Solomon, in his search for meaning, observes: 1) "...the dead know nothing..." 2) "there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going." d. Isa 38:18-19 - King Hezekiah says concerning God that "Sheol cannot thank You, Death cannot praise You, those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your truth." [Such is the theory and the arguments presented by those who believe in "soul sleeping." At face value, the doctrine appears very convincing. But let's take a closer look at it...] II. EXAMINING THE DOCTRINE OF "SOUL SLEEPING" A. ARGUMENT #1: DEATH IS CALLED "SLEEP"... 1. Nowhere do the Scriptures say that the SOUL of the departed one fell asleep a. It was the PERSON who "fell asleep" b. Thus it can have reference to the body, not the SOUL 2. The term "SLEEP" can be a figurative reference, and a very appropriate one: a. For sleep implies REST... 1) When one sleeps literally, there is rest from one's labor 2) So it is that the dead also "rest from their labors", cf. Re 14:13 b. For sleep implies a CEASING OF PARTICIPATION... 1) In literal sleep, one ceases in the activities pertaining to the sphere in which one has been busy during the hours of wakefulness 2) So it is with the dead, they are no longer active in the world which they left c. For sleep is generally a PRELUDE TO AN AWAKENING... 1) In literal sleep, it is followed by an "awakening" 2) So it is with death: a) Though the souls may be conscious during the intermediate state... b) the resurrection there will be the "awakening" of the glorified and transformed bodies in which to house our souls 3. Perhaps it can also be said that the term "sleep" became a euphemism for death because of the sleep-like appearance of the body B. ARGUMENT #2: PASSAGES WHICH SUGGEST THE DEAD HAVE NO CONSCIOUSNESS AFTER DEATH... 1. Notice first that these passages are in the OLD TESTAMENT, when revelation of God's truth was not yet complete a. The passages in Psalms and Isaiah are the expressions of faith and understanding by those who knowledge of God's revelation was incomplete b. I.e., their concept of "life after death" was not as complete and developed as that found in the New Testament c. We should be cautious, therefore, against developing a doctrine of life after death which does not take into account what is ultimately revealed when revelation is complete 2. In some cases, the statements are made solely from an earthly perspective a. This is especially true in Ecclesiastes b. Where the theme is "Life Under The Sun" c. When one looks at things purely from an earthly perspective... 1) It does not appear the dead know anything 2) It does not appear the dead praise God d. Thus, Ec 9:10 is saying nothing more than that when we die, we are no longer conscious of things in THIS life C. FINALLY, THE DOCTRINE OF "SOUL SLEEPING" IS OUT OF HARMONY WITH PASSAGES THAT CLEARLY TEACH CONSCIOUSNESS OF SOULS AFTER DEATH... 1. Lk 16:22-26 - Abraham, the rich man, and Lazarus a. Some believe that this is only a "parable" b. Highly unlikely in my opinion, but even if so, parables used "true to life" experiences as a basis for comparison, not science fiction or fantasy! 2. Lk 23:43 - How can Paradise be a state of unconsciousness? 3. Re 6:9-11 - Can souls cry out if they are not conscious? 4. Re 7:9-17 - Can souls praise God and serve Him if they are not conscious? 5. Re 20:4-6 - Can souls reign with Christ if they are not aware of what is going on? CONCLUSION 1. In view of such passages... a. Describing the condition of souls during the "intermediate" state b. Where they are very much awake, praising and serving God, reigning with Christ ...The doctrine of "soul sleeping" does not hold up 2. We can best harmonize the Scriptures if we view the term SLEEP in reference to death as only a figure of speech... a. Naturally drawn from how the body appears at death b. Pertaining to our relationship to this earthly realm 1) We are at rest from labors IN THIS LIFE 2) We are not aware of what goes on IN THIS LIFE 3) But one day, there will be an "awakening" (the resurrection), in which we will be rejoined with those who are still IN THIS LIFE (of course, they too will be changed) 3. In the next study, we shall consider the question: "Shall we know each other in the life after death?"

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