What Is the Doctrine of Soul Sleep?

As Taught by Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists

Soul Sleep
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Question: What Is the Doctrine of Soul Sleep?

Not too long ago we took a look at what the Bible says about death, eternal life and heaven. In the study, I wrote that at the time of death, believers enter the Lord's presence: "In essence, the moment we die, our spirit and soul go to be with the Lord."

I was pleased when one of my readers, Eddie, provided this feedback:

Dear Mary Fairchild:

I did not agree with your assessment of the soul going to heaven before the Second Coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I thought that I would share some Scriptures that can lead one to believe in the aspect of "soul sleep."

Scriptures pertaining to soul sleep are listed below:

  • Job 14:10
  • Job 14:14
  • Psalm 6:5
  • Psalm 49:15
  • Daniel 12:2
  • John 5:28-29
  • John 3:13
  • Acts 2:29-34
  • 2 Peter 3:4


Personally, I do not accept the concept of Soul Sleep as a biblical doctrine, however, I do appreciate Eddie's input very much. Even if I do not agree, I remain committed to publishing “reader feedback” articles such as this one. They provide a unique way of presenting various perspectives for my readers. I do not claim to have all of the answers and admit my views could be wrong. This is an important reason to publish reader feedback! I think it’s vital to remain willing to listen to other perspectives.

What Is Soul Sleep?

"Soul Sleep," also known as the doctrine of "Conditional Immortality," is primarily taught by Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists. To be more exact, Jehovah's Witnesses teach "soul annihilation." This refers to the belief that when we die, the soul ceases to exist. At the future resurrection, Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the souls of the redeemed will be recreated.

Seventh-day Adventists teach true "soul sleep," meaning after death believers are not conscious of anything and their souls become completely inert until the time of the final resurrection of the dead. During this period of soul sleep, the soul resides in the memory of God.

Ecclesiastes 9:5 and 12:7 are also verses used to defend the doctrine of soul sleep.

In the Bible, "sleep" is simply another term for death, because the body appears to be asleep. I believe, as I stated, the moment we die our spirit and soul go to be with the Lord. Our physical body begins to decay, but our soul and spirit go on to eternal life.

The Bible does teach that believers will receive new, transformed, eternal bodies at the time of the final resurrection of the dead, just before the creation of the new heavens and new earth. (1 Corinthians 15:35-58).

A Few Verses that Challenge the Concept of Soul Sleep

  • Genesis 35:18
  • Luke 16:19-31
  • Luke 23:43
  • John 11:25-26
  • 1 Peter 3:18-19
  • Revelation 6:9-10