THE SOUL-SLEEP ERROR
The GOSPEL UP FRONT:
DO YOU HAVE ETERNAL LIFE? Believe that Jesus Christ is the only-begotten SON OF GOD who DIED to save you from your sins and who ROSE FROM THE DEAD to give you Eternal Life. Simply believe IN JESUS as your Savior, and you will be saved. (John 3:16; Acts 16:31)
Your PERSONAL PROPHECY:
On the day that you depart this life “you shall be with [Jesus] in Paradise [Heaven]” because “He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 12:2-4; Mat. 22:32)
THE SOUL-SLEEP ERROR
"Soul sleep" means that when a person dies, they have no conscious existence from that time on until the day of resurrection.”
(as taught by the Jehovah’s Witness’s Watchtower Society (WS) and New World Translation (NWT “bible”)
The teaching of soul-sleep force-feeds its doctrine into all of the passages you will read below. This erroneous doctrine twists each of these passages to teach the soul-sleep error above. Yet these same passages clearly teach that at death a believer departs immediately in their spirit to be with Christ,
"Today...in Paradise,"(Luke 23:43) "absent from the body...present with the Lord,"(2 Cor. 5:8-9), explaining Paul’s "desire to depart...and be with the Lord," (Phi. 1:23-24) etc., etc.
Amazingly, all of these passages can be gathered under ONE PASSAGE that confirms them ALL....
"But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living." Matthew 22:31-32
The Sadducees believed that the DEAD DO NOT LIVE AGAIN NOW ...OR EVER, therefore there is no resurrection. They did not say the dead do not live again UNTIL the resurrection. They did not believe in the resurrection.
The ONLY difference between that belief and the soul-sleep belief is that soul-sleep says the DEAD DO NOT LIVE AGAIN NOW ...until the resurrection.
In answering the Sadducees , Jesus also refuted the Watchtower Society (WS) and New World Translation (NWT) soul-sleep doctrine. How? Jesus made no direct reference to the resurrection, but rather went straight to the heart of the matter-- the fundamental belief that both the Sadducees and the WS share: the DEAD DO NOT LIVE AGAIN NOW.
Jesus makes a clear and irrefutable statement that when God spoke to Moses in Exodus 3:6 God's use of the present tense verb "am" meant--and these are the words of Jesus--
"I am not the God of the dead, but of the living."
God spoke these words 400 years after Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had died. Yet God spoke of them as persons presently "living," (present-tense "am") persons ALIVE at the very same time as He spoke these words to Moses.
RIGHT: The testimony of the Bible is, when a believer departs this life, their body goes to the grave while they themselves in the whole person of their soul/spirit go immediately to heaven. Then at the resurrection they are re-clothed with their newly resurrected and glorified body.
God's statement that "I am not the God of the dead, but of the living" affirms the statements of Paul (2 Cor. 5:8-9; Phi. 1:23-24) and Jesus (Luke 16:22-31; 23:24) where they also state that God is not the God of mere corpses soul-sleeping in the grave, but God is the God of present-day people "living" with God in Heaven. Though their bodies are in the grave awaiting resurrection, until that happens, they are fully alive with God in Heaven.
Jesus was dealing in Matthew 22:31-32 with the Sadducees and their unbelief that the dead would come back to life in the resurrection. They did not believe in a resurrection because they did not believe in life after death. Jesus' point was that since God affirmed that Abraham was presently alive, then their disbelief in Abraham being resurrected bodily to life one day was baseless. But note: The truth was that Abraham was presently ALIVE—Living—though his body was not.
Therefore, this passage applied to the soul-sleep doctrine, would read,
"But regarding the [soul-sleep teaching that the DEAD DO NOT LIVE AGAIN NOW], have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB'? Therefore He is not the God of the soul-sleeping dead, but of the living." Matthew 22:31-32
This strained silliness in the WS teaching on soul-sleep is seen elsewhere when they have to twist a passage like Acts 7:59 which reads, “Lord, received my spirit”, to read "Lord, receive my 'breath' “(an attempt to keep Stephen’s spirit out of Heaven in a ‘soul sleep’ state). This belittles God’s Word, it belittles "the God of the living," it robs us of one of the Bible’s greatest promises, and it makes nonsensical the translation of Greek into English.
Jehovah’s Witness adherents are confused on this point when they say: 'If a man is living today in his spirit with Christ in heaven, then how could he be looking forward to a resurrected body?" Yet while living in heaven we are also looking forward to a ‘resurrected’ (new) earth. (Rev. 21:1) The reason is because, in both cases—body and planet— God intends to restore his entire creation to its original state. (Acts 3:21) This connection of our resurrected body to the “New Earth” is made clear in Romans 8:19-23. And though I am looking forward to being "absent from the body" to be "present with the God of the living" in heaven, I will still be looking forward to the resurrection of my body. Why? Because that will be the ultimate consummation of my salvation—to be clothed with my resurrected, glorified body—just as Jesus is (Phi 3:21).
Paul had no problem believing that God is "the God of the living," and that he would depart and be absent from the body, but present with "the God of the living", while at the same time looking forward to his future and ultimate glorification in his resurrected body (Phi. 3:11). This "God of the living" is far above the diminished-God of soul-sleep teaching.
To degrade God's Word on clear statements like Matthew 22:31-32 is to diminish God. The erroneous soul-sleep ideas reflect the teachings of the Watchtower Society (WS). I have their New World Translation (NWT) of the Bible. They have changed Scripture at numerous points to make it seem to agree with their sub-theology. I have witnessed the many contradictions this has caused within their inept "translation”—reaching all the way to the heart of the Gospel.
For instance, regarding the key passage where Jesus promises the criminal on the cross next to Him that "today you shall be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43), why, in over 50 times where Jesus uses the phrase "Truly I say to you,...", is the comma placed AFTER the word "you" EVERY TIME...EXCEPT (according to WS) in Luke 23:43, where the comma is placed after the word "today"? This is an obvious manipulation of the Greek text. And the reason for this is clear. It makes the NWT read,
"And He said to him, 'Truly I tell you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.'"
This simple mis-translation makes the text say, “What I am telling you TODAY, is, that after an extended time of unconscious “soul sleep” in the grave, someday in the remote future you will be with Me in Paradise”, rather than, “What I am telling you is, TODAY (instantly) you will be with Me in Paradise”.
Why, in only this verse out of more than 50 such verses, does WS place the comma after "today" instead of after "you" as it is in every one of the others? If the translation of this phrase were consistent with all of the other verses in which it appears, and the comma was placed after the word "you," it would not contradict, but rather it would agree with Jesus' confirmation that "I am [present tense, today] the God of the living" patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whose bodies, when this statement was given, had been in the grave 400 years, yet to be resurrected in the future.
Jesus promised the criminal on the cross the same thing when He said "today you shall be with Me in Paradise," which means that "God is the God of the criminal on the cross TODAY, for I am NOT the God of the dead, but of the living."
For those who have fallen captive to the Watchtower Society, any discussion of the Bible vs soul-sleep is relegated to a side issue. People under the shadow of this Watchtower group have a far bigger issue: Salvation. How do you know that you have Eternal Life? WHO makes it available to you, HOW so, and How DO YOU get it?
The ‘GOSPEL’ of Jehovah’s Witnesses: DO YOU HAVE ETERNAL LIFE? HERE’S THEIR ANSWER:
Believe that Jesus Christ is an EXALTED MAN, who DIED to MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR YOUR GOOD WORKS to save you from your sins, and who ROSE FROM THE DEAD to give ALL JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES FOLLOWERS Eternal Life. JOIN JWs, believe IN JESUS PLUS YOUR WORKS, and you will be saved. (Watchtower “bible” )
The ‘PROPHECY’-teaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses:
After the full number (it used to be 144,000, until their cult grew beyond that) of Jehovah’s Witnesses are won over into the Watchtower Society belief system, then the Exalted-Man Jesus will return to awaken all JWs from their “soul sleep”, and welcome them, based on their membership and merits, into a Jehovah’s Witnesses “paradise” on earth.
COMMENT:With the Jehovah's Witnesses, as with all cults, "soul sleep" doctrines or prophecy teaching is a side issue--yeah, a non-issue-- until they get the Gospel right, since the Gospel is the ultimate means to life or death. All false religions teach a works-based 'gospel'. But the Bible says,
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)