Philippians 1:21-23      Soul-Sleep or Heaven?

Rev. David Holwick

First Baptist Church

Ledgewood, New Jersey        Bible study

August 12, 1990, evening



SOUL SLEEP OR IMMEDIATE HEAVEN?



  I. Various Interpretations:

      A. Liberal.

           There is no such place as heaven.  It is a comforting thought,

           but this life is all we have.  Some would say that heaven is

           what we can experience here and now.  At death our bodies

           disintegrate.


      B. Seventh Day Adventist.

           There is a heaven but believers do not go there.  Heaven is

           for Christ and his angels.  At death the soul sleeps until

           the Resurrection of all believers, after which they come

           alive and live with Christ on the new earth.


      C. Jehovah's Witnesses.

           There is a heaven but only a handful of believers go there

           (the 144,000).  The rest must wait for the Resurrection,

           when they will come alive on the new earth.


      D. Roman Catholic.

           All believers eventually go to heaven, but after death they

           must first go to an intermediate place (purgatory) to have

           small (venial) sins purged from them so they will be able to

           stand in God's presence.  If a person dies with large (mortal)

           sins, they go to Hell.  Those who go to heaven are spirits

           and receive supernatural bodies at the Resurrection.


      E. Evangelical (most Baptists).

           At death, all true believers go to heaven as spirits to live

           with Jesus.  At the future Resurrection their spirits receive

           supernatural bodies, and they return to the new earth to rule

           with Jesus.


II. Evidence from the Bible.

      A. Heaven is a real place.

          1) Many verses speak of heaven as a real place beyond our current

               experience.  Those who believe it is only symbolism or

               imagery are drastically reinterpreting the plain language

               the Bible uses.      John 14:2, etc.


      B. People (both saints and sinners) have a real existence after death.

          1) The Old Testament speaks of "Sheol", the place of the dead,

               where both the righteous and sinners go.

                           Job 3:11-19; 14:13; Psalm 6:5; 16:10

             The New Testament concept of "Hades" is similar, except that

               after the resurrection of Jesus, the place in Hades where

               the saints go is spoken of as being "up", not down.

               Specifically, Paradise is up in heaven.     2 Cor 12:2-4

          2) Both the rich man and poor Lazarus are conscious in Jesus'

               parable.    Luke 16:19

          3) Jesus says Abraham, Isaac and Jacob still live in God's

               presence.   Luke 20:37-38

          4) Moses and Elijah have an existence prior to the Resurrection.

               (However, some may consider them a special case.)  Matt 17:3


      C. Arguments for "soul sleep."

          1) Death is often described in the Bible as "sleep" or "rest."

                   1 Cor. 15:51; Ephesians 5:14; Revelation 14:13

                (However, the "rest" of believers is associated with being

                 in heaven with Jesus.   See Hebrews 4)

          2) Logically, for a resurrection of bodies to take place the

               people must be in the ground, not in heaven.


      D. Arguments for a half-way station, or purgatory.

          1) Most of the verses used by Roman Catholics are from the Old

               Testament Apocrypha, which Jesus (and Baptists) did not see

               as authoritative.

          2) The New Testament teaches that once we are dead, we face

               judgment.  There is no second chance.     Hebrews 9:27


      E. Arguments for immediate entry into heaven.

          1) Jesus told the thief on the cross next to him that he would

               be in Paradise "today."  (Some want to move the comma:

               Jesus tells him today, he will be in Paradise [in the

               distant future].  This is probably incorrect.)   Luke 23:43

          2) At his resurrection, Jesus took a "firstfruits of believers

               with him into heaven.                       Matt 27:52-53

          3) Paul says our entry into heaven is immediate.

              a) To be away from the body is to be with the Lord.

                                                   2 Corinthians 5:6-9

              b) To die is to be with Christ (not in the ground).  Death

                   is a gain.  What gain is there in "soul sleep"?

                                                   Philippians 1:23

          4) Christian martyrs are seen in heaven under God's altar before

               the Resurrection of all believers.      Revelation 6:9-11


Copyright 2021 by Rev. David Holwick

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