Question: What happens after a Christian dies? Do we just not exist anymore? I’ve heard other people say we enter into a soul sleep.
This is Pastor Tim from Unlocking the Bible. Thanks for your good question.
The simple answer to your question is “No.” After we die, our souls do not cease to exist, nor do we enter into “soul sleep.”
There is a lot of confusion at this point, I think, because the Bible often refers to death as “falling asleep.” Paul says, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
And when Lazarus died, Jesus said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep” (John 11:11).
I believe Jesus and others use this language as a physical description of the human body after death, rather than a description of the soul.
The idea of “soul sleep” does not square with what the rest of the Bible says about life after death for the Christian. As the apostle Paul contemplates his own death, he says, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). In other words, if he continues to live, he gets to serve Christ, but if he dies…well, that’s even better!
He goes on to explain why: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23). It is not “far better” because he’s tired and his soul gets to sleep. It’s “far better” because he gets to be with Christ.
He has lived by faith all these years, but when he dies his faith will finally be turned to sight—he will see and be with Christ! Paul is describing his anticipation of a conscious enjoyment of the presence of Christ.
I hope and pray that this is helpful to you, my friend,