Most soul sleep adherents find no issue in accepting that demonic/unclean spirits are conscious beings despite the fact that they lack physical bodies. The scriptural evidence for this is quite undeniable:

Matthew 12:43-45 (ESV):

43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”

Mark 5:1-13 (ESV):

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.

Luke 24:36-39 (ESV):

36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

But, if unclean spirits can be conscious without physical bodies, why can't human spirits also be conscious without physical bodies? Are unclean spirits and human spirits fundamentally different? Aren't they all just spirits? If God is spirit, does not have a body and is conscious, if unclean spirits do not have bodies and are conscious, why can't human spirits also be conscious in the absence of a physical body?

I'm interested in what soul sleep adherents have to say about these questions.

Relevant BH.SE questions:

  • 1
    Soul sleep adherents believe that soul and spirit cease to exist upon death of a human creature. And that only by the power of God who can resurrect will that creature ever be animated again
    – Kristopher
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 3:03
  • @Kris - where in the Bible does it say that the human spirit is annihilated upon death? Stephen, right before dying, said "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit". He certainly didn't believe that his spirit would get annihilated out of existence.
    – user50422
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 3:07
  • 2
    @SpiritRealmInvestigator, the Bible doesn't say the human spirit is annihilated upon death. But it also doesn't say the spirit exists between death and resurrection.Time doesn't have to flow linearly or continuously for God. An admittedly poor analogy would be to consider spirit as the interaction between a pen-point and paper. When the pen is lifted and moved on to start the next word, was that pen/paper interaction annihilated? Where did it go? From the paper's point of view (our current earthly lives) there is a gap between the words. Similarly, there's a gap in the existence of our spirit. Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 3:37
  • 1
    Since Ecclesiastes 9:5 says the dead know nothing at all or are conscious of nothing how can you suggest consciousness of a soul or spirit?
    – Kristopher
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 3:49
  • 1
    And Ezekiel 18:4 is just how it appears from our physical perspective too?
    – Kristopher
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 4:12

2 Answers 2


For Christian Mortalists, the human soul and/or spirit is mortal and dies at physical death. The soul and/or spirit is not independent of the body like on Platonic conceptions of the soul.

For advocates of Soul Sleep in particular (where the soul and/or spirit is alive but in an unconscious state), it's just the way God made humans as opposed to other incorporeal creatures. There isn't anything logically impossible with human souls and/or spirits being conscious apart from the body, but that isn't how God created human souls and/or spirits. Though God is spirit, it doesn't mean all spirits share in the eternal, uncreated spirit of God. Their spirits are created and qualitatively different from God's. Those of angels and demons are conscious when incorporeal, those of humans are unconscious when incorporeal.

  • 2
    that isn't how God created humans souls/spirits. That is a very strong assumption.
    – Vinícius
    Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 23:29

Jehovah’s Witnesses are sometimes categorized as soul sleep adherents.

We teach that the death of a human ends all consciousness. Thus the condition of the dead is likened to a deep sleep.

Whereas the human soul is the living person himself, the spirit is simply the life force that enables that person to be alive. The spirit has no personality, nor can it do the things a person can do. It cannot think, speak, hear, see or feel. In that respect, it might be likened to the electric current of a car’s battery. That current can ignite the fuel to make the engine produce power, cause the headlights to shine, sound the horn, or cause the car’s radio to produce voices and music. But, without the engine, headlights, horn or radio, could that battery current do any of these things by itself? No, for it is merely the force that enables the equipment to perform and do such things. This spirit or life force is found in all living creatures, being passed on from parents to offspring at the time of conception. Source

Since we teach that no continuation of life is possible for some unseen part of humans after death it is unthinkable that any spirits mentioned in the Bible are formerly living breathing humans.

Instead spirits in the context to which your question refers are created non physical creatures. Angels are spirits. The angels that rebelled along with Satan are often referred to as demons. These unclean spirits were never human. They had no physical properties assigned to them when they were created.

Bible accounts of angels materializing and interacting with humans are true. But these manifestations were not humans.

The only conscious spirit creatures are those ones who were created spirits.

  • 1) Angels are spirits, 2) The spirit is the force or spark that animates living creatures. Does this mean that angels are forces/sparks that animate living creatures? Then why are they conscious? I'm confused with the definitions. I still don't understand how a human spirit and an angelic/unclean spirit are fundamentally different.
    – user50422
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 21:01
  • Then do you believe that human soul/spirit pre exists an is transferred to a human upon conception or birth?
    – Kristopher
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 21:19
  • What I believe doesn't matter. I'm just trying to make sense of what soul sleep adherents believe. I understand that you believe human spirits and angelic spirits to be different, but I don't understand how they are different. In one case you say it is a spark/force, in the other case you say they are spiritual creatures. And yet they are both spirits. I still don't get it.
    – user50422
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 21:29
  • The point is that spirit of humans goes out like a spark at death. It is not a separate unseen living part of humans. So conscious existence, life of any description ends at death Where as heavenly spirits good and evil were created as spirit creatures
    – Kristopher
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 21:34
  • What is the difference between a spirit creature and a "spirit spark"?
    – user50422
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 21:41

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