Past Men of Faith: Quotes on Death
|Many of the Christian men of faith over the past several centuries understood that the Bible does not teach that a man goes to heaven or hell upon death, but that he is "asleep" until the resurrection (Acts 7:60; 1Cor 11:30; 15:6,18; 1Thes 4:13,15; 2Pet 3:4). While the mainstream churches were caliming that man had an immortal soul—which was always concious somewhere, either earth, heaven, purgatory or hell, these Bible students believed that the person, inlcuding their soul, went to sleep at death. Hence, the doctrine is called "soul sleep" by some. The men, below, were all involved in translating the Bible into native languages—ones other than Latin—and they were in constant threat of arrest and death for their actions. William Tyndale, at right, the man whose work formed the basis for the King James Version, was executed for translating the scriptures.|
From Wikipedia article "Soul Sleep", section The Reformation, July 2011:
After a brief hiatus, mortalism emerged in Christianity during the Late Middle Ages, and was promoted by some Reformation as well as some minor Protestant denominations. Conti has argued that during the Reformation both psychosomnolence (the belief that the soul sleeps until the resurrection) and thnetopsychism (the belief that the body and soul both die and then both rise again) were quite common.
William Tyndale argued against Thomas More in favour of soul sleep:
And ye, in putting them [the departed souls] in heaven, hell and purgatory, destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection...And again, if the souls be in heaven, tell me why they be not in as good a case as the angels be? And then what cause is there of the resurrection?"
Morey suggests that William Tyndale (1494-1536) and John Wycliffe (1320-1384) taught the doctrine of soul sleep "as the answer to the Catholic teachings of purgatory and masses for the dead."
However, the best known advocate of soul sleep was Martin Luther (1483-1546). In writing on Ecclesiastes, Luther says
Salomon judgeth that the dead are a sleepe, and feele nothing at all. For the dead lye there accompting neyther dayes nor yeares, but when they are awoken, they shall seeme to have slept scarce one minute.
Elsewhere Luther states that
As soon as thy eyes have closed shalt thou be woken, a thousand years shall be as if thou hadst slept but a little half hour. Just as at night we hear the clock strike and know not how long we have slept, so too, and how much more, are in death a thousand years soon past. Before a man should turn round, he is already a fair angel.
Jürgen Moltmann (2000) concludes from this that "Luther conceived the state of the dead as a deep, dreamless sleep, removed from time and space, without consciousness and without feeling." That Luther believed in soul sleep is also the view of Watts (1985). Some writers have claimed that Luther changed his view later in life.