Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Why is "Soul Sleep" So Important for a Seventh Day Adventist?

The question that I’ve been thinking about is of a systematic nature: Why is ‘soul sleep’ so important to a Seventh Day Adventist?

I actually started a CARM discussion on this found here. I asked: what role do 'soul sleep' and the mortality of the soul play in SDA theology? In other words, why is holding to these particular beliefs important for an SDA? I find the answers and discussion very interesting.

Two links were given that have some helpful information:



Of course, I expected an SDA to respond, “It’s important because the Bible teaches it.” This of course, misses the nature of the question. I included this paragraph with my question: “I'm not looking for the obvious answer: "We believe these doctrines are important because they are taught in the Bible." At this point in my "fact finding" the question of the Biblical-ness of these doctrines is not the question.”

This didn’t stop zealous Adventists from giving the answer anyway:

“…holding to said belief is important to adventists because they believe it is biblical, and because they believe it to be biblical, it is important to them...”

“I believe it to be biblical.. and anything biblical is important to me.. It's that simple...Not sure what answer you were expecting.”

I am SDA, I really don't know what [Ellen G. White] says about this topic, but I know what the Bible says, for what I read is clear for me, that the person who dies, just go the the grave, the next time thise person open his or her eyes will be at the resurrection, resurrection for eternal life, or resurrection of condemnation John 5:29 "and come forth -- those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation…”

The answer appears to be more complicated than I had expected. A few responses made bold assertions:

Soul sleep is of utmost importance for SDA theology. If soul sleep goes, so does everything else. This is why they are so hard headed about it. too much to lose.”

Soul sleep is actually a core doctrine of Adventism. Without it, nearly all Adventist theology would crumble.”

Helpful responses to my question can be found here:




Ree said...

I can't read the CARM links because I'm not registered there. Actually, I did register about three years ago, but I never posted, and I certainly don't remember my password.

James Swan said...


CARM completely revamped its boards about a month ago. Everyone had to re-register. Whatever user name and password you had no longer work. I think you would enjoy the new CARM boards. I rarely post on boards,but CARM tends to get some interesting folks.

I didn't keep up with CF thread you sent me because the topic of the annihilation of the soul was a banned topic. I would have liked to continue with that Luther SDA thread- but I didn't want to deal with being censored. Hence, I moved over to CARM for more SDA info.


Anonymous said...

Hi James,
I would be opposed to the idea of 'soul sleep' on the basis of 2Cor.5:6 and Phil.1:23 for example. But yet there remains 1Thess.4:16 where it speaks about the dead in Christ rising first. How would you interpret this verse?

Charlie.(aka Soul Winner)

James Swan said...

Hi Charlie-

This passage does not say that departed believers are "asleep".

I see the word "sleep" as a metaphor for physical death in the New Testament, and I believe that it how its being used in 1 Thes. 4:13-18. Where the word "sleep" is used in situations like this, it is to be applied to the body, not the soul. I do not think there are any instances in the New Testament in which the word "sleep" is directly applied to the soul.

Verse 14 uses the phrase, "will bring with". Christ "will bring with" him believers that have experienced physical death. Their bodies are asleep, or dead.

Verse 17 uses a similar phrase. Believers alive at the end will be caught up together "with them" in the clouds. Those people being described will be caught up "with" the dead in Christ.

Notice the parallel: Christ brings with him those who have died (v.14) to be united with those who are "still alive" (v.17).

Then the verse says and we will be "with" the Lord forever. So, I interpret this verse to be saying that those who died and are present with the Lord (Philippians 1:21-24) come back "with" Christ. At that time they receive their resurrected bodies.


Charles Malone said...

Yes, I would agree with you James that what you are saying here is what I have always understood the biblical texts on the subject to mean. It was just this idea of 'rising' that seems to imply the notion of being in the grave rather than being with the Lord. This in turn caused me to think of those who had been cremated rather than buried. Where were their souls if not with the Lord. As you pointed out in the case of Luther the subject can become a bit ambiguous at times.

God bless,


James Swan said...


I was thinking of doing a blog entry on your point about people being cremated- but the spirit is willing, the body weak. What I would have pointed out would be as follows:

1. If you can find a baby picture of yourself- take a good look at it. Now, that baby has a completely different set of cells comprising it than those currently in your body. I seem to recall that cells die and new ones replace them every x amount of years. this process goes on continually through our lives- cells die and new ones replace them. The "charlie" at 20 has set of different cells than the "charlie" at 40, or 60.

My devils advocate question: which body will the Lord resurrect? If our cells completely change during our life, which body will get resurrected? To complicate matters, our bodies are in a constant state of change- there is no tangible moment when you are not in a state of flux- so who is "you"?

God though is wiser than our (or should I say, 'my') foolishness. He's able to speak reality into existence. Perhaps he does so by speaking our DNA into being- I don't know.

Bottom line: Weather or not someone was cremated doesn't matter. God speaks and it is.


ps- enjoying your posts on the SDA forum.