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Did Luther believe in soul sleep?

Discussion in 'LCMS / WELS / ELS / LCC' started by Ann77, Jul 31, 2020.

  1. Ann77

    Ann77 Member

    United States
    I just saw someone bring up a quote from Luther on Ecclesiastes. It kind of gave off the impression he believed in soul sleep.:scratch:
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  2. TenthAveN

    TenthAveN Puppies are an acceptable form of currency.

    United States
    I just read an article about it (which we can’t know for sure is accurate), and it does seem like Luther believed in soul sleep.
  3. Pavel Mosko

    Pavel Mosko Arch-Dude of the Apostolic Supporter

    United States
    Oriental Orthodox
    Based on my adolescent Lutheran Catechism class etc. was going to say no, but this article has some good info.

    Martin Luther's Views on Conditionalism and Soul Sleep

    But Lutheranism in general does not teach soul sleep otherwise it would have been made a formal article and taught as part of the large Catechism. (Basically Luther does seem to consider this sort of thing in passing when studying the Bible but not dogmatically teaching it)

    What happens to the soul after it dies?
    The soul of the unbeliever goes to torment. The soul of the believer goes to eternal bliss.

    Luke 23:43– And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

    2 Corinthians 5:8– Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

    Philippians 1:23– I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

    Luke 16:19-31– “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house– for I have five brothers–so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”

    A Catechism on Death, Life, and the Resurrection - World Wide Wolfmueller

    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020
  4. Cshuffle777

    Cshuffle777 Member

    United States
    These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” (John 11:11)
  5. Daniel9v9


    The writings of Luther are sometimes prone to confusion - similar to the early Church Fathers, he can be loose and undogmatic in his expressions - but our Confessions are very precise, and what Pavel says above is quite right, the Lutheran Church rejects soul sleep.
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  6. Ann77

    Ann77 Member

    United States
  7. tampasteve

    tampasteve ✞ ✞ Staff Member Administrator CF Senior Ambassador Angels Team Supporter

    United States
    The thing with using some quotes from Luther is that the theology was still developing. His thoughts on certain matters changed or developed from where they were in 1517 and where they went later. To me that means we can, and should, use Luther as a springboard to seeing where we land.

    Early Lutheran writings, including the Augsburg Confession even allowed for the idea of a Pope, just not like it was currently in the RCC. So, we have to take Luther as a starting point, middle point, and ending point to seeing where the theology fits and where our churches have agreed.

    Luther was an incredible theologian, but he was not infallible.
  8. FreeinChrist

    FreeinChrist CF Advisory team Staff Member Site Advisor Supporter

    United States

    This thread had a clean up. Please mind the Congregational rule:

    Congregational Forum Restrictions
    Members who do not truly share the core beliefs and teachings of a specific congregational forum may post in fellowship or ask questions, but they may not teach or debate within the forum.
  9. Kiwi Jane

    Kiwi Jane New Member

    New Zealand
    I'm not a theologian by any means, but here is my personal take on soul sleep. The question of soul sleep arose because of the belief in the resurrection of the dead, which seems glossed over in many churches today, despite its importance in the Early Church. Most people believe you die and go straight to Heaven as is or purgatory and then Heaven, assuming you're a Christian. "The resurrection of the flesh/body" is one of the tenets of the Apostle's Creed, so it shouldn't be ignored.

    It never made any sense to me that you'd go to Heaven (or purgatory and then Heaven) only to come back at some point for the resurrection, only to return to Heaven. What would be the point then of the resurrection? Furthermore, under that scenario there would be two judgements, one at your death and one on the Day of Judgement. So this is the dilemma Luther struggled with. Let us consider the words of the Early Church Father Justin Maryr, "The resurrection is a resurrection of the flesh which died. For the spirit dies not; the soul is in the body, and without a soul it cannot live. The body, when the soul forsakes it, is not. For the body is the house of the soul; and the soul the house of the spirit."

    After contemplating and praying about this for some time I realized that science now tells us that time is an illusion, it only exists relative to something in our limited, human minds. With that knowledge, the image becomes clear. Soul sleep only exists for our understanding as living souls, but God is outside of space and time. As C.S. Lewis states, "Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life does not consist of moments following one another. If a million people are praying to Him at ten-thirty tonight, He need not listen to them all in that one little snippet which we call ten-thirty. Ten-thirty…is always the Present for Him." He goes on, "He knows your tomorrow's actions in just the same way -- because He is already in tomorrow and can simply watch you. In a sense, He does not know your action till you have done it: but then the moment at which you have done it is already "Now" for Him."

    So the missing gap in time the dead would seem to experience only exists for us, soul sleep would be our understanding given our perception of time. To God and the dead this doesn't exist. I think this is the meaning of 2 Peter 3:8, "But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." As well as Psalm 90:4, "For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night."

    In summary, I believe soul sleep might appear to exist to the living given our subjectivity, but in reality the resurrection is happening. I don't think the scientific thinking was there in Luther's time to allow him to fully explain this. So the path would be physical death, then one physical resurrection, then one judgment, then your enteral home.