Dr. Couch, how do we demonstrate from the OT that when we die we do not simply sleep, as some Rabbis say? I understand that most Jews do not hold to the view that people are simply asleep when they die.
ANSWER: In both the OT and the NT the passages speak of being asleep when one dies. However, remember Luke 16 and the death of the wealthy man who went into torment, and the poor man who when he died resided on Abraham's bosom. You say, but that passage is in the NT. No, not really. The Gospels are still in, and part of, the OT. The NT dispensation of the church does not begin until Acts 2 and Pentecost. So whatever Christ said was still part of the dispensation of the Law, the OT.
Luke 16 makes it clear that both the lost (the unbelieving wealthy man) and the poor man (the believer) were awake and aware of their existence though they had died. The idea of "being asleep" comes from what the body looks like at death. It appears to be asleep—eyes closed and still. But the soul and spirit is very conscious and awake!
Mark 9:48 says with death "their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched." Everyone admits that this is making a statement of the pain of death for the lost and consciousness. The torment of judgment goes on and on! This actually is quoting Isaiah 66:24. "They shall go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched; and they shall be an abhorrence to all mankind."
Though the passage is in poetic form, the Rabbis say on "their fire": "The fire of Gehenna which will purge their souls." This would be most correct. There is a spiritual judgment going on that transcends the physical, though the passage speaks of the physical because it is difficult for us to fully grasp the spiritual elements in the passage.
I hope this helps.
Thanks for asking.
—Dr. Mal Couch (3/11)