Soul Sleep!

One false teaching that we must firmly reject, is that of soul sleep. When man dies, the soul is separated from the body, but “when separated from the body (it) neither sleeps nor dies” (Second Helvetic Confession). A little later in the chapter, the Confession expressly “condemn(s) all who ridicule or by subtle arguments cast doubt upon the immortality of souls, or who say that the soul sleeps or is part of God.”
At the time of the Reformation, soul sleep was a live issue. John Calvin’s first published theological book was not his Institutes of the Christian Religion or one of his commentaries, but a treatise against the heresy of soul sleep entitled Psychopannychia. It was especially certain groups of the Anabaptists who promoted soul sleep. They taught that at the moment of death, the soul becomes unconscious. It “sleeps,” as it were, in that it experiences neither conscious glory nor judgment. At death, the soul goes into a kind of spiritual hibernation. At the moment of the resurrection, not only is the body raised up, but the souls of the dead are awakened. Usually, those who teach soul sleep go on to teach that after the final resurrection the wicked will not experience an eternity of suffering in hell, but will be annihilated. Generally, the two errors of soul sleep and annihilationism go hand in hand. Both of these errors are characteristic teachings of certain modern-day cults and sects as well, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The teaching of soul sleep contradicts the express teaching of Scripture that, immediately after death, those who die experience in their souls the beginning of conscious glory in heaven or conscious suffering and shame in hell. This is the plain teaching of Scripture. In Psalm 73:23-24 the Psalmist confesses: “Nevertheless I am continually with thee (notice that, continually with thee): thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward (immediately afterward) receive me to glory.” Jesus’ word to the penitent malefactor was: “Verily I say unto thee, today thou shalt be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
Not only does the error of soul sleep contradict the express teaching of Scripture, it also fails to do justice to what the soul of man is as created by God. The soul in man is that which stands in a conscious relationship to God. It cannot “sleep;” that is impossible and contrary to the very nature of the soul that as God has created it.

By Prof R. Cammenga, The Standard Bearer, Feb 15 2019, Vol 95, N. 10.

(James R Hamilton, February 2019)
Sermon Audio

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s