What do you think of the theory of "soul sleep" (people get that from a few places where Paul is talking about those that have "fallen asleep" in Christ and passages such as 1 Corinthians 15.
I usually refer back to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" as well as many different passages from the Old Testament and from the Gospels and other parts of the NT. Why do people believe in this soul sleep?
My response is in Green:
The question you asked me is an example of how people can make the Bible say or defend almost anything if they are willing to close their eyes to other passages. I think you are on the right track with Paul's statement that being absent from the body is being with the Lord, but I have a couple of other passages that I believe address this too.
One might sound strange at first but when you think about it, I think it does address the idea. Let me quote the passage and then explain my thoughts. (Luke 9:28-31 (NIV)  About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.  As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.  Two men, Moses and Elijah,  appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. We are told in the Bible that Elijah did not die but was taken to heaven in a whirlwind, however, we are told that Moses died. We are told that in the Old Testament and we are told in the New Testament that Satan and Michael argued over Moses' body, so again we know he was dead. Yet he appeared here with Jesus, he was not asleep, he was very much awake and aware of what was about to happen.
Now look at the story Jesus told about Lazarus and the rich man: (Luke 16:19-31 NIV)  "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.  At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores  and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
 "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried.  In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.  So he called to him, "Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
 "But Abraham replied, "Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.  And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'
 "He answered, "Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house,  for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
 "Abraham replied, "They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'
 ""No, father Abraham,' he said, "but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
 "He said to him, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"
In this story we see three people who were dead: the rich man, Lazarus and Abraham, yet they are not asleep they are very much awake, they are thinking, they are feeling emotions and even pain or comfort. The other thing to notice is the way the rich man's death is described. He died and was buried, yet it says in hell where he was in torment... Lazarus on the other hand is said to have been carried to Paradise by angels. The bodies were asleep but the soul was very much alive and awake and aware of their surroundings. This was not a parable, Jesus never used names in parables. Does that mean it was an actual story of actual events and actual people? Well I think so, but I don't think you can be too dogmatic about that, however, having said that I don't for a moment believe that Jesus would have told a story whether fictional or true that was not based in truth. So I think we can take the idea to the bank. The next passage goes hand in hand with this one:
(Ephesians 4:7-10 NIV)  But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  This is why it says:
"When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men."
 (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?  He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)
Let me quote one other passage and then explain my thoughts: (Luke 23:42-43 NIV)  Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
 Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
Jesus told the thief that he would be with Him in Paradise that day. Where was Paradise? It was a chamber in Hades, also called Abraham's bosom. The Jews believed that Hades had two compartments, one we call hell where unbelievers when to be tormented and finally cast into the lake of fire and Paradise where believers went to be comforted and await the Messiah who would set them free. These are the two chambers we see described in Jesus' story of Lazarus and the rich man. This would also be where Jesus was going to be with the thief after he died. Now go back the passage in Ephesians: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train..." Who were those captives? They were the believers who were in Paradise. Until Jesus shed His blood they could not come into the presence of the Father. When Jesus died what happened? The curtain separating the holy of holies from the common part of the temple was ripped from "top to bottom" and from that point on not only the High Priest but all believers had access to God the Father's presence. So Jesus by His death was able to take the captives from Paradise to heaven with Him. But going back to our subject, these people were not asleep, they were very much awake and aware of what was going on. Oh what a happy day that must have been in Paradise when they saw their Redeemer face to face and were brought into the very presence of God the Father. And what a horrible day it must have been in hell when those people realized their fate was sealed because of their unbelief and rebellion.
And along those same lines, that is why Paul now says that to be absent from the body is to be present with Christ. We no longer have to wait for anything, we can come boldly into the thrown room.
E-Mail Ralph (whose comments are in green)
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