Seventh-Day Adventists/Death and souls
I pray all is well with you. My question is what is your understanding of Acts 2: 29-34; esp. 34 Where it speaks of "David not ascending into heaven". I know this is one of the SDA's proof text that souls sleep. Also,could you explain 1 thess. 4:16-17; 1cor.15:35-58 and 2 cor.5: 1-8. I believe all of these verses are in favor of the soul/spirit going to be with Christ immediately upon death and the body being in the ground until the resurrection of the saints. I don't see soul sleep at all, especially when compared to phil 1:23. Also, what is your view on believers being soul, spirit, and body. Could you give Biblical support for this concept. I know the sda's teach that we are just Body(dust) + Breath(spirit) and when we die physically we are Body(dust)-breath(spirit)=Death(no soul). They support this view because of their understanding of Gen. 2:7; Eccles.12:7; James 2:26;Job 17:13 ; Job 27:3 Ezekiel 18:20; and Rev. 16:3etc. Could you bring clarity to this topic please.
Thank you for the questions.
In Acts 2:29-34 Peter is not teaching on the state of the dead. In context Peter is teaching the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36 NIV). Peter is also contrasting David’s fate with Jesus’. David’s body is in the tomb decaying not so with Jesus.
“Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 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. 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. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it” (vs. 29-32 NIV).
Jesus was raised up and ascended to God not so with David.
“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. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”’ (vs. 33-35 NIV).
A contextual reading of this passage shows clearly that it has nothing to do with the ultimate state of the dead and everything to do with proving to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day (vs. 36-41 NIV).
Paul also contrasted David’s bodily corruption with Jesus’ lack of same.
“God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’ And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David.’
Therefore He also says in another Psalm: ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’ For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; but He whom God raised up saw no corruption. Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:33-39 NKJV).
You are correct that the 4 passages you referenced do show that the souls of believers go to be with the Lord not into unconsciousness. You mentioned 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. If you read from v. 13 you will see that the souls of believers who had died returned with Jesus from heaven.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 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 not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 NASB).
Those souls once they departed their physical bodies went to be at home with the Lord in heaven. “[F]or we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:7-8 NASB). Paul was very clear that upon death he expected to “be with Christ”.
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:21-23 NKJV).
Could a Christian really believe that Paul would consider it “far better” to be unconscious rather than to remain preaching the saving gospel of his Lord?
John saw the conscious souls of Christians in heaven.
“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” (Revelation 6:9-10 NKJV).
Paul also spoke of the conscious souls of believers in heaven.
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:22-23 NKJV).
In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) we read of the dead being conscious. In the face of this obvious contradiction to their theology, the SDA claim that this story is a parable; therefore, they do not have to consider what Jesus says as literally true. Even if one accepts this story as a parable, does it follow that one can dismiss what it says? The answer is: no. In what other parable does our Lord use a falsehood to teach truth? The answer is: none. So whether this story is a parable or not the fact remains that Jesus speaks of the dead as conscious, and he never used a falsehood to teach a truth.
Another passage that shows that Jesus believed that the dead were conscious is found in the story of the Good Thief (Luke 23:39-43). Jesus indicates the consciousness of the dead with his statement, “I assure you: this day you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). So strong and clear is this statement from our Lord that Soul Sleep advocates try to manipulate the very words of our Lord. They make a slight, but important change. “I assure you today: you will be with me in paradise.” It may be informative to know that no Bible scholar translates v. 43 in that manner. Firstly, it would be ridiculous of our Lord to be informing the Good Thief that he was speaking to him this day! Secondly, Jesus uses the phrase, “I assure you” (also translated as “Verily, verily”, “Truly, truly”, or “Amen, amen”) over 70 times in the gospels. Never once does he add to the phrase what day it is that he is speaking. He always uses the phrase followed by a promise or statement of fact. Therefore, the Soul Sleep advocate has no legitimate grounds for changing the traditional rendering of this passage.
It seems to me that we are composed of spirit, soul, and body. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23 NASB).
Further it seems that the spirit animates the body.
“And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead. But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, ‘Little girl, arise.’ Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And He commanded that she be given something to eat” (Luke 8:53-55 NKJV).
James used this truth figuratively. “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:26 NASB).
The souls of deceased believers are seen in heaven.
“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” (Revelation 20:4; cf. 6:9-10).
I pray that this was helpful to you.
God Be With You,