The Second Death

By COGwriter

Death is familiar to people.

But the Bible speaks of two types of death.

Is one temporal (like sleep) and the other one permanent?

Oddly, most who profess Christianity do not understand the truth about death.

All Sin, All Die

The Bible teaches that all sin:

22 ... For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:22-23; NKJV throughout or as otherwise annotated)

The Bible also teaches:

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

People get wages for their works. Human works result in death.

So we see that all deserve death, but that eternal life is offered. As far as when eternal life will be grantef, notice the following:

27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. (Hebrews 9:27-28)

Yes, it is appointed for all humans physically to die. Literally, verse 27 is translated as follows:

27 and as it is laid up to men once to die, and after this -- judgment, (Hebrews 9:27, Young's Literal Translation)

Hebrews 9:27 does not mean that people cannot die more than once. Various ones raised from the dead in the Bible, such as Lazarus (John 11:43-44), have since died. What Hebrews 9 is referring to is physical death. All will directly or indirectly (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-20; 1 Corinthians 15:50-54) die.

50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." (1 Corinthians 15:50-54)

For Christians, the resurrections with the last trumpet eliminates death--not previous physical resurrections that did NOT turn them immortal.

People fear death:

14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14)

Something will after this death.

Those who are true Christians will be granted eternal life when Jesus returns--this is confirmed by numerous scriptures (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 1 Corinthians 15:47-54).

Yet, what is the fate of others? What happens to Christians after they die, but before Jesus returns?

The Soul that Sins Can Die

Many think that the human soul is immortal and canot die.

But that is NOT what the Bible teaches.

Humans were made of dust:

19 ... For dust you are, And to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19)

47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. (1 Corinthians 15:47-48)

With physical death, humans naturally turn to dust. That is what happens with the first death.

Yes, there are drying, freezing, and other preserving methods, but these do not turn a person immortal.

What about the soul?

First consider:

7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7, NKJV)

7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7, KJV)

The soul is the life of the flesh.

This same Hebrew word, nephesh, translated as soul/being in English, is also used in the scriptures to refer to animals. Notice, for example:

19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. (Genesis 2:19, NKJV. Note: The KJV also translates nephesh as 'living creature' here)

Can the human soul die?

Ezekiel recorded:

4 Behold, all souls are Mine;
The soul of the father
As well as the soul of the son is Mine;
The soul who sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4).

Notice that Ezekiel says that souls that sin shall die. But since it is appointed unto men once to die (Hebrews 9:27), is this talking about the first or second death (Revelation 2:11;20:6,14;21:8)?

Well, notice the next several verses from Ezekiel:

5 But if a man is just And does what is lawful and right; 6 If he has not eaten on the mountains, Nor lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, Nor defiled his neighbor's wife, Nor approached a woman during her impurity; 7 If he has not oppressed anyone, But has restored to the debtor his pledge; Has robbed no one by violence, But has given his bread to the hungry And covered the naked with clothing; 8 If he has not exacted usury Nor taken any increase, But has withdrawn his hand from iniquity And executed true judgment between man and man; 9 If he has walked in My statutes And kept My judgments faithfully — He is just; He shall surely live!" Says the Lord God. (Ezekiel 18:5-9).

Ezekiel is obviously talking about the first death. And this soul that dies is not destroyed.

Why?

Notice that the just man shall live. Think about this point: the just man was already alive, hence the fact that he shall live suggests he had died and that God will resurrect him so that he can live forever.

Ezekiel basically continues and again warns:

20 The soul who sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:20).

But this death is not true destruction.

While some discount the passages from the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel, the New Testament teaches the same basic doctrines as the Old Testament, but tends to expand on them.

Before getting to the New Testament, let's see some other verses in the Old.

Notice:

3 Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. 4 His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish. (Psalm 146:3-4, NKJV)

4 His spirit goeth forth, he returneth to his earth, In that day have his thoughts perished. (Psalm 146:4, Young's Literal Translation)

Humans return to the earth upon death and "In that very day his plans perish." Humans ceases to think! Their thoughts perish. What God gave at creation was the body and the breath. God breathed into Adam's nostrils the breath of life. But that breath leaves humans at death. Dust humans are, and to dust we return.

Now consider Psalm 104:29: "You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust."

The breath then is what God gave humans. God takes away the breath when the person dies. Humans return to dust, and simply become dust again.

Next consider the following:

18 I said in my heart, "Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals." 19 For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. 20 All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. (Ecclesiastes 3:18-20)

That's human and animal alike. The Bible absolutely refutes the idea of the immortality of the soul. What God gave at birth is the breath of life. He breathed into the nostrils of animals and humans alike the breath of life. It leaves them when they die. Then they return to dust.

What about human souls?

Well, they will be resurrected for a time:

1 The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. 2 Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. 3 And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?"

So I answered, "O Lord God, You know."

4 Again He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: "Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. 6 I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord."'"

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.

9 Also He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, 'Thus says the Lord God: "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live."'" 10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army. (Ezekiel 37:1-10)

For a time?

Yes (cf. Isaiah 65:20; Revelation 20:5, 11-12).

Jesus confirmed that souls can and will be destroyed after the resurrection when He taught:

28 And you should not be afraid of those killing the body but not being able to kill the soul. Indeed rather you should fear the One being able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. (Matthew 10:28, Berean Literal Bible).

Notice that Jesus is distinguishing between two types of death--one physical and temporal, the other permanent (the Greek word 'psuche' is translated as soul). The Berean Literal Bible explains more literally than versions like the NKJV that this destruction is like that of a literal Gehenna fire. A fire that burns things up.

Humans Do Not Yet Possess Immortality

Many improperly believe that humans possess immortality.

Perhaps the most famous passage in the New Testament is John 3:16. It states:

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Notice the contrast above. Humans would perish (and this means eternally, since all die physically) if God had not loved the world enough to send Jesus so that the believers could have everlasting life.

Paul taught that he still did not have it made:

I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended (Phillipians 3:8-13).

Thus, the immortality attained at the resurrection is not something that Christians have today.

Furthermore, all humans cannot possible possess immortality now.

The first recorded lie in the Bible was when Satan told Eve that she would not die (Genesis 3:4). Disturbingly, she believed Satan over God. Jesus called Satan the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).

Look at what the Apostle John taught:

15 ...you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him (1 John 3:15).

Since many people are or have been murderers, this proves that not all humans possess immortality.

Currently, look at who only has immortality:

15 He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality (1 Timothy 6:15-16).

Thus, Jesus is the only one who was born human that who alone currently possesses immortality.

(Some have wondered about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. For details, please check out the article The Rich Man and Lazarus.)

It should be pointed out that early Christians DID NOT teach that humans had immortality.

Here is something from what is believed to be "the oldest complete Christian sermon that has survived" (Holmes M.W. Ancient Christian Sermon. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004). This Ancient Christian Sermon (note it is also called 2 Clement, but scholars, including Catholic ones, do not believe that Clement wrote it) contains these statements about it:

15:1 Now I do not think that I have given any mean council respecting continence, and whosoever performeth it will not repent thereof, but will save both himself and me his councilor. For it is no mean reward to convert a wondering and perishing soul, that it may be saved.

17:1 For if we have received commands, that we should make this our business, to tear men away from idols and to instruct them, how much more is it wrong that a soul which knoweth God already should perish!

Souls that can perish cannot be immortal. Notice also that the immortality was believed to take place after the resurrection:

19:3 Let us therefore practice righteousness that we may be saved unto the end. Blessed are they that obey these ordinances. Though they may endure affliction for a short time in the world, they will gather the immortal fruit of the resurrection. (Lightfoot J.B. Edited and completed by J.R. Hammer. The Apostolic Fathers: Revised Texts with Short Introductions and English Translations. Macmillan, London, 1891. With any Greek retranslated was based the Greek text as shown in Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p. 127)

Though the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch now lists him in their succession list, around 170 A.D. Theophilus of Antioch wrote a position that differs from current Eastern Orthodox doctrine on immortality:

When thou shalt have put off the mortal, and put on incorruption, then shall thou see God worthily. For God will raise thy flesh immortal with thy soul; and then, having become immortal, thou shalt see the Immortal, if now you believe on Him; and then you shall know that you have spoken unjustly against Him (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 1, Chapter VI. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

For if He had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him God...so that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality, and should become God...For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XXVII. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

But God at least, the Father and Creator of the universe did not abandon mankind, but gave a law, and sent holy prophets to declare and teach the race of men, that each one of us might awake and understand that there is one God. And they also taught us to refrain from unlawful idolatry, and adultery, and murder, fornication, theft, avarice, false swearing, wrath, and every incontinence and uncleanness; and that whatever a man would not wish to be done to himself, he should not do to another; and thus he who acts righteously shall escape the eternal punishments, and be thought worthy of the eternal life from God (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XXXIV. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

Immortality...The doctrine received its complete philosophical elaboration from St. Thomas. Accepting the Aristotelean theory that the soul is the form of the body, Aquinas still insists that, possessing spiritual faculties of intellect and will, it belongs to an altogether higher plane of existence than other animal forms...St. Thomas holds that we can prove the fact of the soul's conscious life when separate from the body (Michael Maher. Transcribed by Douglas J. Potter. Immortality. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Thomas Aquinas wrote:

It would seem that no souls are conveyed to heaven...immediately after death...On the contrary, It is written: "If our earthly house of this habitation be dissolved, that we have . . . a house not made with hands, but reserved in heaven" (Aquinas Thomas. Summa Theologica. Question 69. Matters concerning the resurrection, and first of the place where souls are after death).

It should be pointed out that "St. Thomas" (Aquinas) died in 1274 A.D. Hence, the Roman Catholic Church admits that the doctrine of immortality as now understood by the Roman Catholics was a relatively late development.

However, it should be pointed out that Thomas tended to base his position on early writings and traditions. And the idea of the immortality of the soul did not come just from Aristotle, it also was part of Mithraism-- a religion that shared many doctrines that the Church of Rome (as well as many other churches) adopted.

Protestants also accepted change. Protestants may wish to consider what Martin Luther wrote on 13 January 1522:

It is probable, in my opinion, that, with very few exceptions indeed, the dead sleep in utter insensibility till the day of judgment... On what authority can it be said that the souls of the dead may not sleep out the interval between earth and heaven... (Luther M. Translated by W. Hazlitt. The life of Luther written by himself. M. Michelet, ed. Bohn's Standard Library. G. Bell, 1904, p. 133)

The Bible teaches “the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5).

Yet, both Catholics and Protestants now almost universally claim that the soul is immortal--and many condemn the idea of "soul sleep."

Sadly, non-COG groups have tended to accept various doctrines that pagan Greeks held in preference to those of the Bible. And the truth is still known in the 21st century. Notice the following (bolding mine):

Plato, most influentially, separated the soul, or psyche, from the material body and argued that this reasoning part of our being was immortal. His idea was so powerful and attractive that it has kept philosophers intimately engaged with it to this day. Then, too, because so many influential Christian theologians were part of this philosophical tradition, Platonic ideas have left a lasting imprint on Christian beliefs. The body may die, many Christians hold, but the soul lives on, presumably extending into eternity those qualities that we associate with our conscious minds and our sense of selfhood...

Malcolm Jeeves, an honorary professor of psychology at the University of St. Andrews, is one of many believing scientists..."The immortality of the soul is so often talked about that it is easy to miss that the Jewish view did not support it," Jeeves says. "Furthermore, the original Christian view was not the immortality of the soul but the resurrection of the body." But Platonism did creep in, Jeeves acknowledges, winning over such influential Christian theologians as Augustine and John Calvin. (Tolson J. Is There Room for the Soul? New challenges to our most cherished beliefs about self and the human spirit. US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, October 23, 2006).

So there you have it. Some of the leading non-Church of God scholars got what people now accept from paganism. And some non-Church of God scholars do understand that the original Christians did not accept the immortality of the soul, but taught the resurrection of the body.

More on immortality can be found in the article: Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality?

Death is Like Sleep

After physical death the soul awaits the resurrection as it is in a sleep-like state.

The Bible teaches that when people die, they basically are like being asleep.

So what the dead are now doing? The dead are dead. They are simply "sleeping" in their graves, unconscious, waiting to be called to resurrection.

They are not strumming harps nor feeling the torment of pain and torture.

Someone recently sent me a link to something that was opposed to Church of God doctrines, and used the intended pejorative term 'soul sleep' to denounce this doctrine it considered 'cultic.' Here is the logic another source uses to denounce the same doctrine:

Soul sleep is the teaching that when a person dies that his soul "sleeps" until the time of the future resurrection. In this condition, the person is not aware or conscious. ...

The primary verses used to support soul sleep are found in Ecclesiastes:

Ecclesiastes must be understood in the context of its own commentary, which says at the opening of the book, "The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 2 “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” 3 What advantage does man have in all his work which he does under the sun?" (Eccl. 1:1-3). The writer is telling us how things are from the human perspective from "under the sun." He is not telling us doctrinal statements about whether or not the soul continues after death. Besides, it's a mistake to use the Old Testament to interpret the New Testament. It is the New Testament that sheds light on the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, we see Paul say in 2 Cor. 5:8, "we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord." Paul is clearly telling us that when he dies that he will go and be with the Lord. Furthermore, at the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matt. 17:1-8), we see Moses and Elijah who were alive. There was no soul sleep with them.

Therefore, the doctrine of soul sleep is incorrect. (Slick M. President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. What is soul sleep? https://carm.org/soul-sleep accessed 01/13/16)

The above is wrong. It not only wants to discount the Book of Ecclesiastes, it misunderstands the Apostle Paul's writings, and misconstrues the Transfiguration. Plus it ignores the direct teachings in both the Old and New Testaments on the state of the dead.

Notice some passages from the Old Testament Book of Psalms:

5 For in death there is no remembrance of You; In the grave who will give You thanks? (Psalm 6:5)

3 Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death; (Psalm 13:3)

6 At Your rebuke, O God of Jacob, Both the chariot and horse were cast into a dead sleep. (Psalm 76:6)

10 Will You work wonders for the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise You? (Psalm 88:10)

17 The dead do not praise the Lord, Nor any who go down into silence. 18 But we will bless the Lord From this time forth and forevermore. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 115:17-18)

The Book of Pslams, and not just the Book of Ecclesiastes, teaches that the dead no nothing and that death is like sleep. The dead must be resurrected to praise God, and that will happen (see also What Did Early Christians Understand About the Resurrections?).

What about the New Testament?

The idea that death is like sleep is what Jesus Himself taught:

18 While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, "My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live."

19 So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples. 20 And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment.

21 For she said to herself, "If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well."

22 But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, "Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well." And the woman was made well from that hour.

23 When Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing, 24 He said to them, "Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping." And they ridiculed Him.

25 But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went out into all that land. (Matthew 9:18-26)

49 While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying to him, "Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher."

50 But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, "Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well." 51 When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl. 52 Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, "Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping." 53 And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead.

54 But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, "Little girl, arise." 55 Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. (Luke 8:49-55)

11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up."

12 Then His disciples said, "Lord, if he sleeps he will get well." 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.

14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead" (John 11:11-14).

In each of the above cases, the person was dead, but basically because this was NOT the permanent, second, death, Jesus said the person was sleeping. All who sleep in the grave will be resurrected and hear His voice (John 5:28). Jesus showed a foretaste of this by resurrecting those He did.

As far as the Transfiguration supposedly disproving this goes, notice what the Bible actually teaches:

1 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!" 6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. 7 But Jesus came and touched them and said, "Arise, and do not be afraid." 8 When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

9 Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead." (Matthew 17:1-9)

Notice that Jesus said the Transfiguration was a VISION. Something related to the future. Not something that already happened.

Moses has not yet been resurrected nor has Elijah.

Consider that God called David "a man after His own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14). Yet, after Jesus was resurrected, notice what the Apostle Peter said:

29“ Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven ... (Acts 2:29-34, NIV).

David has not yet been resurrected, nor is he in heaven. Nor is anyone other than Jesus, the Father, and the angels.

But what about 2 Corinthian 5:8 and desiring to be being absent from the body? Does that not prove that 'soul sleep' was not taught?

No.

Notice what Pionius of Smyrna taught in the middle of the third century:

When Pionius had been nailed down the public executioner said to him once again: "Change your mind and the nails will be taken out."

But he answered: "I felt that they are in to stay."

Then after a moment's reflection he said: "I am hurrying that I may awake all the more quickly, manifesting the resurrection from the dead." (The Martyrdom of Pionius and his Companions, Chapter 21. Text from H. Musurillo, The Acts of the Christian Martyrs (Oxford, 1972), 137-167. http://archive.is/abf7S accessed 10/17/15)

Pionius desired to be with God quickly, but he understood that this would happen in the resurrection, which to him would seem to be the instant after he was killed.

As far as 'soul sleep' goes, notice what some of what the Apostle Paul was inspired to write:

29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. (1 Corinthians 11:29-30)

12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. 20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:12-23)

51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." (1 Corinthians 15:51-54).

14 Therefore He says:

"Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light." (Ephesians 5:14)

14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18)

It is proper for Christians to teach and believe that death is like sleep. Christians are to be comforted by God's plan, which includes the dead being asleep until they are resurrected.

Those who condemn "soul sleep" are also condemning Jesus and the Apostle Paul.

Did early Christians and others who professed Christ continue to teach this?

Yes.

The Letter to the Corinthians, also known as 1 Clement (though it does not state that Clement wrote it) from the late first century, teaches the following:

24 Let us consider, beloved, how the Lord continually proves to us that there shall be a future resurrection, of which He has rendered the Lord Jesus Christ the first-fruits by raising Him from the dead. Let us contemplate, beloved, the resurrection which is at all times taking place. Day and night declare to us a resurrection. The night sinks to sleep, and the day arises; the day [again] departs, and the night comes on. Let us behold the fruits [of the earth], how the sowing of grain takes place.

44 Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. (1 Clement, chapters 24, . Translated by John Keith. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 9. Edited by Allan Menzies. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1896.

Notice what bishop/pastor Polycrates of Ephesus taught in the late second century:

We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord's coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead ? All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ' We ought to obey God rather than man'...I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus (Polycrates as cited in Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book V, Chapter XXIV, Verses 2-7 . Translated by A. Cushman McGiffert. Digireads.com Publishing, Stilwell (KS), 2005, p. 114).

Notice that five times, Polycrates, who claimed his teachings came from the Bible and the Apostles Philip and John referred to death as being like sleep. Various leaders of the Greco-Roman churches (including Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox saints) also taught this in the second and third centuries (see Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality?).

Hippolytus was one of the Church of Rome's greatest early theologians according to The Catholic Encyclopedia. Notice what he wrote in the early third century:

For concerning the general resurrection and the kingdom of the saints, Daniel says: "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." And Isaiah says: "The dead shall rise, and those in the tombs shall awake, and those in the earth shall rejoice." And our Lord says: "Many in that day shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live" (Hippolytus. On the End of the World, Chapter XXXVI. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

The fourth century Greco-Roman bishop Ambrose of Milan taught that although some deny the resurrection, death is like sleep:

It is a cause for wonder that though they do not believe in the resurrection, yet in their kindly care they make provision that the human race should not perish, The immortality of the soul may be believed by those who deny the resurrection of the body, and was taught by many philosophers amongst the heathen. The resurrection of the body is a matter of divine revelation, and the very highest and best amongst the heathen seem not to have admitted it even as a speculation. and so say that souls pass and migrate into other bodies that the world may not pass away. But let them say which is the most difficult, for souls to migrate, or to return; come back to that which is their own, or seek for fresh dwelling places. But let those who have not been taught doubt. For us who have read the Law, the Prophets, the Apostles, and the Gospel it is not lawful to doubt. For who can doubt when he reads: “And in that time shall all thy people be saved which is written in the book; and many of them that sleep in the graves of the earth shall arise with one opening, these to everlasting life, and those to shame and everlasting confusion. And they that have understanding shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and of the just many shall be as the stars for ever.”Well, then, did he speak of the rest of those that sleep, that one may understand that death lasts not for ever, which like sleep is undergone for a time, and is put off at its time; and he shows that the progress of that life which shall be after death is better than that which is passed in sorrow and pain before death, inasmuch as the former is compared to the stars, the latter is assigned to trouble...We have seen, then, how grave an offence it is not to believe the resurrection; for if we rise not again, then Christ died in vain, then Christ rose not again (Ambrose of Milan. Book II. On the Belief in the Resurrection, verses 65-66,102).

Protestants may wish to consider what Martin Luther wrote on 13 January 1522:

It is probable, in my opinion, that, with very few exceptions indeed, the dead sleep in utter insensibility till the day of judgment... On what authority can it be said that the souls of the dead may not sleep out the interval between earth and heaven... (Luther M. Translated by W. Hazlitt. The life of Luther written by himself. M. Michelet, ed. Bohn's Standard Library. G. Bell, 1904, p. 133)

So, even Martin Luther somewhat understood that death is like sleep.

The Bible teaches “the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5).

Sadly, even some who were sabbath-keepers opposed the sabbath-keepers who taught against the concept that death was like sleep. This is was one of the reasons for the split between the Church of God and the group that ended up calling itself Seventh Day Baptists.

A recorded letter of William Davis, a Sabbatarian Baptist, in apparently the 1700s states the following:

"Now all this enmity among seventh-day men arose against me originally from a noted seventh-day man and soul sleeper in this country, who above twenty years ago opposed me about my principles of immortality of human souls, and afterward proceeded to differ with me about my faith in Christ and the Trinity, who, having poisoned several other seventh-day men with the mortal and atheistical notion, and set them against me, he secretly conveyed this drench over to Westerly to the persons beforenamed, who, complying with him in their judgments in the Socinian and Anti-Trinitarian error, drank it greedily down before I came among them . . . ." -- Idem, p. 108, Vol. 2, No. 3. (Dugger AN, Dodd CO. A History of True Religion, 3rd ed. Jerusalem, 1972 (Church of God, 7th Day). 1990 reprint, p. 277).

In 1825, the Seventh Day Baptist church also temporarily put out of the ministry, one who taught against the immortality of the soul (Randolph C.F. A History of the Seventh Day Baptists in West Virginia, 1905. Reprint 2005. Heritage Books, Westminster (MD), p. 87).

Another reported:

...the Cottrell family left the Seventh Day Baptists because the Cottrells refused to believe in the immortality of the soul. Original Sabbatarian Baptist (Church of God) leaders were outspoken against the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and were derisively termed "soul sleepers" by their opponents (Nickels R.C. Six Paper on the History of the Church of God. Giving & Sharing, Neck City (MO), 1993, pp.161-162).

According to A.N. Dugger, there were three unique doctrines that separated the COGs from Protestant sects: The observance of the seventh day Sabbath, nontrinitarianism, and teaching against the doctrine of the immortality of the soul.

According to A.N. Dugger, only the COGs held ALL three of those doctrines (Dugger AN, Dodd CO. A History of True Religion, 3rd ed. Jerusalem, 1972 (Church of God, 7th Day). 1990 reprint, p. 278). And he may have been correct in that.

Now, nearly all the Greco-Roman (including Protestant) faiths teach against what the Bible teaches regarding the state of the dead.

But some do know the truth.

The following is from an interview by Time with N.T. Wright, a high-ranking bishop in the Church of England:

Wright: …St. Paul is very clear that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead already, but that nobody else has yet. Secondly, our physical state. The New Testament says that when Christ does return, the dead will experience a whole new life: not just our soul, but our bodies. And finally, the location. At no point do the resurrection narratives in the four Gospels say, “Jesus has been raised, therefore we are all going to heaven.” It says that Christ is coming here, to join together the heavens and the Earth in an act of new creation.

TIME: Is there anything more in the Bible about the period between death and the resurrection of the dead?

Wright: … Paul writes that …it will be like being asleep. The Wisdom of Solomon, a Jewish text from about the same time as Jesus, says “the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,” and that seems like a poetic way to put the Christian understanding, as well (Van Biema D. Christians Wrong About Heaven, Says Bishop (N.T. Wright). Time, February 7, 2008. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1710844,00.html viewed 02/08/08).

Those who believe the Bible realize that it teaches that death is like sleep.

But souls will be resurrected.

Now, although humans and animals both die, there is a difference.

8 But there is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding. (Job 32:8)

1 Thus says the Lord, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him: (Zechariah 12:1)

Not everything about humankind is physical. The Bible calls this nonphysical component the "spirit [Hebrew ruach, Greek pneuma] in man" (Job 32:8; Zechariah 12:1; 1 Corinthians 2:11). It is not the, person. It is in people. This "spirit in man," however, has no consciousness apart from the physical human brain. It is not to be confused in any way with the fictional concept of a conscious "immortal soul."

That human spirit empowers the mind and enables humans to be a potentially moral and spiritual creature. That spirit allows us to think like and human being:

11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:11-12)

If, we are converted and gain God's Holy Spirit, these two spirits allow us to grow in the mind and character of our God , as well (1 Corinthians 2:10–16). This aspect of how God designed and created humans fit in with God’s very purpose for humanity.

Consider also the following:

14 If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, Till my change comes. (Job 14:14)

21 Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth? (Ecclesiastes 3:21)

Upon death, the spirit of humans returns to God (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:8). The human spirit is there, sort of like a saved computer file of your memory and character--in a sleep-like state (Psalm 13:3; 76:6)--and is saved for the resurrection (Ecclesiastes 3:21; John 3:13; Ezekiel 37:11-14; 1 Corinthians 15:50-54). But, the spirit of animals seeming comes to an end (Ecclesiastes 3:21) as they are not ever mentioned in any resurrection.

God's plan is have converted humans to be born into the the family of God in the resurrection to eternal life!

What Happens in the Second Death?

Since Jesus said that souls can be destroyed, when does that happen?

It happens to those who experience what the Bible calls the second death. Notice something from a lesson from the old Radio Church of God:

The third resurrection takes place when God's plan is complete. All of those wicked who have rejected God's ways and died in their sins will be raised to physical life. They will appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive THEIR REWARD — to suffer final extinction in the Lake of Fire. For them, this is the SECOND DEATH! They will never again be resurrected! ...

3. WHO ARE THE PEOPLE PUNISHED BY THIS SECOND DEATH? Rev. 20:15 and Rev. 21:8.

COMMENT: This is called the SECOND death, because all of those who have died once in their sins will be raised to die a SECOND TIME in the Lake of Fire. From this final death there is no more resurrection!

4. Doesn't anyone who persists in evil, rejecting God's good way of life, finally end up in this all-consuming Lake of Fire? Heb. 10:26, 27.

5. Wasn't this same fate promised to the wicked of Old Testament times who rejected God's ways? Dan. 12:2 and Mal. 4:1-3.

6. Isn't this the same scene depicted in the "parable" of Lazarus and the Rich Man? Won't the wickedly self-indulgent rich man suffer the destruction of this Lake of Fire? Luke 16:24. ...

7. What does God think of ministers who don't feed the people of God in proper season, who don't give them the understanding of His wonderful plan? Ezek. 34:2.

COMMENT: Other organizations may seem to have some little truth, but it has been cleverly mixed with the POISON OF ERROR! The mixture is DEADLY! Imbibing of this diluted poison will sooner or later end in your eternal death — THE SECOND DEATH! These diluted poisons may appear to be good, but they are improperly labeled as "Christian," and contain poison just the same. ...

Baptism of the Earth With Fire

1. To what historical event does the apostle PETER COMPARE THIS FINAL WORLD-CONSUMING Lake of Fire? II Pet. 3:5-7 compared with verses 10-12.

2. Didn't God destroy ungodly men and the society in which they lived during the time of Noah? Weren't only the righteous saved alive? Review Gen. 6: 12-13, 17-18.

3. Didn't John the Baptist foretell a coming baptism with fire? Mat. 3:11. Did John mean that it would be a pseudo-spiritual, emotional spasm called "the baptism of fire," or didn't he mean that just as the world before Noah was "baptized" — submerged in water — so the end-time world would be "baptized" — cleansed with fire — when God's Master Plan is complete? Were those to whom John spoke converted people, who had received God's Spirit, or were they Pharisees and Sadducees who were willfully and deliberately rejecting God's ways by substituting their own traditions? Verse 7.

COMMENT: These wicked ministers of John's time willfully rejected the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom of God. They had laid aside the key to knowledge revealed in God's Master Plan.

Later on they were responsible for putting to death Jesus Christ, the Passover Lamb in that plan. John warned them that unless they would repent (verses 8-9) they would be rejected as failures in God's plan, and be cast into the Lake of Fire (verse 10). Thus they would be "baptized" — immersed — in this Lake of Fire, devoured by the second death for all eternity!

This was a grave, stern warning from one of God's prophets. But in spite of it the religious leaders of Jesus' time put Him to death. In all probability, this small group will suffer the second death, after the Last Great Judgment period.

With this final baptism of the earth in a Lake of Fire, the earth, befouled by man's scratchings and scrapings upon its surface, will be purged of all defilement.

4. Isn't this the time when the old earth will no longer be useful to God, and its outer surface must be changed as someone might discard a used garment? Ps. 102:25-28, Heb. 1:10-12; see also Isa. 51:6. ...

God's annual Holy Days give you the opportunity to "ACT OUT" the purpose for which you were born. By "acting out" God's plan each year, your goal is constantly kept in the front of your mind. It is reviewed for you because you are symbolically "reliving" it each year.

God Almighty, in His loving mercy, has revealed this wonderful knowledge to you. If you intend to achieve the purpose for which you have been born, you MUST BEGIN TO KEEP the Holy Days which point out that purpose. If you neglect your opportunity for salvation, how can you escape the Lake of Fire and the second death (Heb. 2:3)?

What you will do with this knowledge is up to you. Notice God's admonition: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: BECAUSE THOU HAST REJECTED KNOWLEDGE, I WILL ALSO REJECT THEE, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children" (Hosea 4:6).

What will you do? (Lesson 39 - The Last Great Day - The LAST JUDGMENT. Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, 1965)

All need to make an individual decision (cf. Philippians 2:12).

The wicked who will not repent will be totally destroyed:

1 Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, And wither as the green herb. ... 9 For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the Lord, They shall inherit the earth. 10 For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, But it shall be no more. ... 20 But the wicked shall perish; And the enemies of the Lord, Like the splendor of the meadows, shall vanish. Into smoke they shall vanish away. ... 28 For the Lord loves justice, And does not forsake His saints They are preserved forever, But the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off. ... 38 But the transgressors shall be destroyed together; The future of the wicked shall be cut off. (Psalm 37:1-2,9-10,20,28,38)

2 As smoke is driven away,
So drive them away;
As wax melts before the fire,
So let the wicked perish at the presence of God. (Psalm 68:2)

1 "For behold, the day is coming,
Burning like an oven,
And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.
And the day which is coming shall burn them up,"
Says the Lord of hosts,
"That will leave them neither root nor branch.
2 But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings;
And you shall go out
And grow fat like stall-fed calves.
3 You shall trample the wicked,
For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet
On the day that I do this,"
Says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 4:1-3)

The Bible calls this the 'second death':

7 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."' ... 11 ... He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death. (Revelation 2:7,11)

6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)

11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)

8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)

Thus, it is a type of death, but permanent. It is not eternal torturing like many claim. Jesus came so we would not have to PERISH THAT WAY, but have eternal life (John 3:16).

In the first part of Revelation 20, we find two resurrections alluded to:

4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6)

Notice that in verse 4, the saints who are Christ's are to live and reign on the earth with Christ for one thousand years. Satan will be put away (verses 1-2) but the rest of those who have died will not live again until after that thousand years (verse 5).

The late Herbert W. Armstrong wrote that Obadiah 1:16 applied to those who experience the second death"... and they shall be as though they had not been" (Armstrong HW. Worldwide Church of God. Life After Death? 1978).

otice the plan for those who were converted as well as for those who will refuse to convert:

6 And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. 8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Revelation 21:6-8)

Those souls that refuse to repent after the second resurrection will die and be no more.

If that were not the case, the following would not be:

3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

5 Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful." (Revelation 21:3-5)

There still could be crying and pain if the incorrigible were not destroyed.

The second death will eliminate the wicked--body, soul, and spirit.

Thiel B. Ph.D. editor. The Second Death. www.cogwriter.com/second-death.htm (c) 2017 1110

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