July 29, 2024

Soul Sleep?

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

We will be with the Lord forever.

—  1 Thessalonians 4:17

What happens to our souls when we die? Across the ages, many people have offered ideas on our destiny after death. But what does the Bible say?

The Old Testament says that when we die, our bodies will return to the earth but that our souls will return to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7). And here in the New Testament the apostle Paul describes death for believers as being “asleep” in Christ (see also 1 Corinthians 15:20; July 26). Some Christians have suggested that when we die, we are in a state of “soul sleep”—but that may not be the best way to describe it. There’s also the promise from Jesus to the thief on the cross: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

In addition, the apostle Paul provides a promise in 1 Thessalonians 4, describing one of the most striking scenes in the Bible about the Lord’s return. With the shout of the archangel and the blast of a trumpet, the Lord Jesus will descend from heaven. All who belong to Jesus will be raised from the dead, and the living will be gathered to him.

And here Paul supplies an indelible, eternal promise: “We will be with the Lord forever.” With this assurance we can be filled with hope and encourage one another.

Dear Jesus, although the unknown moment of our death is a reality for each of us, we give thanks that you will never leave or forsake us. Amen.

About the author — Kurt Selles

Kurt Selles is the director of ReFrame Ministries and serves as the Executive Editor of Today. He is a graduate of Calvin College and Seminary, and received his PhD from Vanderbilt University. Before coming to ReFrame, he served 19 years in Taiwan and China with CRC World Missions. Kurt later taught missions at Beeson Divinity School, where he also acted as the director of the school’s Global Center. Kurt and his wife, Vicki, reside in Grand Rapids and have three adult children.

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