Deuteronomy 31:16 (KJV)

16 And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them.

It seems like God is telling Moses what will happen while he's asleep because he won't know — which matches perfectly with Ecclesiastes 9:10.

Does anyone else get a sense that we die, our soul sleeps, then at Christ's return we wake up to Him — which would match Psalm 17:15?

  • 3
    What about Jesus' comments to the thief on the nearby cross about being in paradise today?
    – Frank H.
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 0:39
  • Sure, that's part of the difficulty in reconciling. Issue there is that there are always outliers. Enoch, Elijah, Lazarus, Saints at Christ's resurrection. So then the question becomes, was the thief on the cross an outlier?
    – N.Ish
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 0:52
  • 2
    @N.Ish 'sleeping with the fathers' in scripture is largely a metaphor for crossing to other side, having little to do with circumstances of the deceased in the spirit, although occasionally that too is hinted at in the context. One affirmation is Matthew 17:3. Elijah's 'exit' which by far was different from Moses', would imply that Elijah who didn't 'sleep' can still 'show up,' as God wills, whereas Moses who slept as God states, hasn't that priviledge until what happens to all who ''go the way of all the earth(Jos 23:14)'', the 'awaking' in 'Dan 12:2. That's why both characters are 'awake'
    – Ted O
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 12:10
  • 1
    +1 A.) I think it could be helpful to to examine "Sleep" and "Grave". B.) Also to note: Jesus, very, clearly, relied on Hebrew Scripture in support of the resurrection of the dead, sayng : "God /is/ the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" Emphasizing the present tense, to prove that they were not currently "dead", (Matthew 22:32; from Ex.3:6); C.) So, maybe there is more from the Hebrew/Greek Scriptures, perhaps in support of a "Partial Awakening" - that allows for both interpretations ? Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 19:29
  • @Elika, I agree. That's precisely what I've done. 'sleep' occurs 103 times in the KJV. "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." Daniel 12:2. "And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." Acts 24:15. These verses are what get me wondering about what exactly happens immediately when we die.
    – N.Ish
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 19:40

2 Answers 2


The Hebrew word שׁכב in Deuteronomy 31:16 doesn't necessarily mean only to "sleep", but it can also mean simply to "lie down" (e.g. Genesis 28:11 KJV). In fact, the JPS Tanakh chooses to translate this verse, You are soon to lie with your fathers.

Regarding Ecclesiastes 9:10, one might also refer to Psalm 146:4:

His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; In that very day his thoughts perish.

It seems not to have been commonly understood by first millennium Christians that all this implied that the soul has a period where it is utterly without consciousness. Dorotheus of Gaza (510-565), for example, maintained that the thoughts referred to in the Psalm refer to "those of this world, about houses and possessions, parents and children, and business transactions:"1

All these things are destroyed immediately when the soul passes out of the body.

But what he did against virtue or against his evil passions, he remembers, and nothing of this is lost.

In fact, the soul loses nothing that it did in this world but remembers everything at its exit from this body more clearly and distinctly once freed from the earthliness of the body.2

Someone has pointed out, correctly I think, the relevance of Christ's parable of the rich man and Lazarus here (Luke 16:22-28). A 4th century Church Father, John Cassian (360-435) wrote:

If we were to reason on the basis of the testimony of Sacred Scripture concerning the nature of the soul, in the measure of our understanding, would it not be, I will not say extremely stupid, but at least folly, to suspect even in the least that the most precious part of man (that is, the soul), in which, according to the blessed Apostle, the image and likeness of God is contained (1 Corinthians 11:7, Colossians 3:10), after putting off this fleshly coarseness in which it finds itself in the present life, should be come unconscious - that part which, containing in itself the whol power of reason, makes sensitive by its presence even the dumb and conscious matter of the flesh? Therefore it follows, and the nature of reason itself demands, that the spirit after casting off this fleshly coarseness by which now it is weakened, should bring its mental powers into a better condition, should restore them as purer and more refined, but should not be deprived of them?3

But even if the Old Testament Scriptures allude to the soul falling into an unconscious state, this was not necessarily still the case following the Resurrection.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 reads, in the King James translation:

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

but the word from the Masoretic Text translated as grave is the Hebrew word, "Sheol" (שְׁאוֹל) - "the Underworld". In the Septuagint we find the word "Hades" (cf. Luke 16:23; 1 Corinthians 15:55; Revelation 1:18). Although atonement is often emphasized as the most important, and sometimes the only, aspect of Christ's Death and Resurrection, the Apostles did not overlook the importance of Christ's descent into Hades during the interim between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Peter wrote, for example (1 Peter 3:18-21):

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison

For this is why, Peter adds, why the gospel was preached even to the dead, that though judged in the flesh like men, they might live in the spirit like God (1 Peter 4:6). Paul wrote of how Christ descended into the lower parts of the earth (Ephesians 4:9) and of His victory over death and hell (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57; Romans 10:7; Colossians 2:14-15). Christ as the holder of the keys of Hades is a theme of the Book of Revelation (1:18). All of this suggests that if those in Sheol that the Preacher wrote of were, in fact, asleep spiritually as suggested, Christ's descent into Sheol may have served to awaken them. This is a common theologoumenon (theological opinion) at least in eastern Christianity.

1 Discourses, pp.185-6
2 Ibid.
3 First Conference, Ch. 14

  • @33515, very eye opening idea. Thank you for that my friend.
    – N.Ish
    Commented Mar 18, 2017 at 19:15
  • Metropolitan Hilarion Alfayev of the Russian Orthodox Church wrote an entire book an the theme of Christ's descent into Hades. It's called Christ the Conqueror of Hell and should be on Amazon
    – user33515
    Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 5:54

I am a firm believer that after the death of Jesus, The full plan to redeem his own creation. The whole of a man is, body, soul and Spirit. We was dead until Jesus gave the believers, salvation. The blood covenant is just as the word has promised. As to the dead in Christ that sleep in the grave; are they his creation? How do we untangle the right answers?

Jesus told the man beside him, "This day you will be in Paradise with me" seeing how they all would die to the body the same day. This is the strongest point as to life after death. The body is nothing but dust. The soul is who we are. We were dead in our spirit since the fall of Adam. Jesus bought back our birth right my sacrificing his own life.

The Holy Spirit has came to help us understand and had all the answers to life and death. Soul sleeping could very well be to those who was under the law. Even with the best of answers and all the scripture, we are still alive. Until we depart this body we have hope. By chance we soul sleep in the grave until the return of Jesus. We wouldn't know if we have been asleep a full night's rest or a million years. I mean either way we get a great blessing on the day of rapture.

Food for thought, I believe God has made the perfect plan and he wants his children home. I would sure be wanting to get my children back as soon as I could. I'm thankful for salvation and I know I will see Jesus and the Father either way. If I'm anxious to see God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, how much more is God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit wanting to bring us home?

  • Welcome to Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. Please be sure to take the site tour (hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/tour) and read up on how this site is a little different than other sites around the web: hermeneutics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/653/… Thanks! Commented Mar 5, 2021 at 5:29
  • This answer could be greatly improved by adding paragraph breaks and some references to support the assertions.
    – Dottard
    Commented Mar 5, 2021 at 8:47
  • Who is We in "We were dead in our spirit since the fall of Adam"? - Does this include אֵ֣לִיָּ֔הוּ Eliyahu (Elijah) from 2 Kings 2:11? - Does We include חֲנ֑וֹךְ Chenok (Enoch) from Genesis 5:22-24? - Does We relate to humans who are not a נָבִ֥יא Navi (Prophet)? Commented Mar 5, 2021 at 14:28

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