How do non-soul sleep adherents interpret 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18:

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, KJV)


2 Answers 2


Essentially, the passage is simply seen as an euphemism for death — and quite a common one, given that a dead person often looks like they are sleeping: the Greek personification of sleep, Hypnos, was said to the twin brother of Death (Thanatos) by both Homer in the Illiad and Hesiod in the Theogony. The other common metaphor for death is "departing" or "passing on", essentially going on a journey.

We have other passages to argue the opposite position, which is that Soul Sleep does not occur, like the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19–31), though I'm not sure it is in scope of the question. At any rate, weighing in for and against, we non-mortalists hold that the position that the soul is unconscious before the Resurrection cannot be considered orthodox.

  • +1 This answer is good. It would be great if you could link to a source that explains the Greek wording, and shows at least some evidence that someone in ancient times actually did use sleep as a euphemism for death.
    – Bit Chaser
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 3:29
  • Even as a euphemism, the word "sleep" does not correlate to a conscious "spirit" leaving the body to go to heaven, unless you would equate that experience to a dream. Do you?
    – Vincent
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 15:28
  • we non-mortalists hold that the position that the soul is unconscious before the Resurrection cannot be considered orthodox You should explain that "soul sleep" has acquired a pejorative connotation. But then you should also explain why Paul uses different forms of the verb κοιμάω [Strong's G2837 - koimaō] three times, once in each of the 3 verses of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15, without a hint of negative connotation. Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 10:55

A euphemism for death would be an accurate way to interpret sleep. Here are two additional points that are worth considering though. Both of these would have profound implications regarding what a deceased person would perceive after death.

  1. Are individuals that died prior to Crucifixion/Pentacost accounted as the same in the afterlife? If not, it could explain how one experiences "sleep" and another experiences what they perceive as being "present".
  2. The concept of time as a dimension did not take shape prior to the 1900's. Even more then a century after Relativity was theorized, the theory is not widely disseminated and understood. How is time understood to pass after death?

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