2 Kings 14:29—Are the dead asleep or conscious?

Problem: As in this passage, the Bible often speaks of death as the time when one “sleeps with his fathers” (e.g., 1 Kings 2:10; 11:21, 43; 14:20, kjv). Jesus said, “Lazarus sleeps” (John 11:11) when he was “dead” (John 11:14). Paul speaks of believers who have “fallen asleep” in the Lord (1 Thes. 4:13; cf. 1 Cor. 15:51). Yet, in other places, the Bible speaks of persons being conscious in the presence of God after they die (cf. 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23; Rev. 6:9).

Solution: The first set of verses refers to the body, and the second set to the soul. “Sleep” is an appropriate figure of speech for the death of the body since death is only temporary, awaiting the resurrection when the body will be awakened from its sleep. Further, both sleep and death have the same posture, lying down.

The Bible is very clear about the fact that the believer’s soul (spirit) survives death (Luke 12:4), is consciously present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8) in a better place (Phil. 1:23) where other souls are talking (Matt. 17:3) and even praying (Rev. 6:9–10). Likewise, the unbeliever’s soul is in a place of conscious torment (Matt. 25:41; Luke 16:22–26; Rev. 19:20–20:15).

See All Problems

This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.