IT’S THE QUESTION OF THE WEEK.
Sylvia Chillcott gets a free book for asking the question:
Why do people say a person is no longer in the grave at death, but their soul has gone to heaven? The Bible tells us that those who are asleep will be taken up to Jesus in the sky.
Here’s an excerpt from The Complete Guide to Bible Prophecy, addressing this tough question:
What are the dead doing?
Are they resting in peace, waiting for an angelic wake-up call at the Second Coming?Or are they already enjoying eternity, alert and joyful?
Based on what Paul wrote in several of his letters, Bible experts have come up with many theories. Two are especially popular.
The big sleep.“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death” (1 Thessalonians 4:13, TNIV).
Paul seemed to use sleep as a metaphor for death. So this isn’t where most folks get the idea of soul sleep. It’s what he said next that leaves people wondering.
“The Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, NLT).
What are they doing in their graves? It doesn’t seem to mesh with what Paul wrote later:
- “We would rather leave these bodies and be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8, NLT). Not at home in the grave.
- “I long to leave this world and be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23, NIRV). Not with earthworms.
Some scholars say the dead person’s soul will rest until Jesus comes, and that as far as the sleeping souls are concerned, no time has passed between their death and the Second Coming. They die one moment. And they wake the next to a heavenly trumpet and a glorious scene.
That’s quite a different take on death, compared to many non-Christians in Bible times who considered the sleep of death as terminal.
The sun can set and rise again. But once our brief light sets, We sleep through unending night.
—Gaius Valerius Catullus (Roman poet, about 84 BC-about 54 BC)
I was not. I was. I am not. I care not.
—Inscription on ancient Roman tomb
Living with a temporary spiritual body. Other Bible experts say that the godly dead go immediately to the home Jesus prepared for them in heaven. But they go there with a temporary spiritual body, not with the permanent body they’ll get after their resurrection.
As the theory goes, Paul believed like many Jews of his day that the soul of a righteous person goes straight to heaven to await the resurrection of the body.
Paul seemed to add that when Jesus comes back to raise the dead, he’ll come with the souls of the dead in tow:
“When Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died” (1 Thessalonians 4:41, NLT).
This leads some to conclude that the physical bodies raised from the dead will somehow unite with the spiritual bodies of the dead to become new and improved resurrection bodies.