Is there consciousness after death until Jesus returns?
Thank you for your question.
The question arises from a widely held misconception of what the soul is.
We are familiar with the Maritime Distress signal SOS – Save our Souls – and we understand it well enough to mean Save our Lives. If we thought in this context that the soul lived on after the person had drowned then the signal would be meaningless. Saving the soul would not be a matter of saving from drowning.
The word soul first appears in the Bible in Genesis.
Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Soul is a translation of the Hebrew word Nephesh.
From Strong’s Concordance we find that Nephesh occurs some 753 times in the Old Testament.
The AV translators translate it as follows: -
Soul 475 times, life 117 times, person 29 times, mind 15 times, heart 15 times, creature 9 times, body 8 times, himself 8 times, yourselves 6 times, dead 5 times, will 4 times, desire 4 times, man 3 times, themselves 3 times, any 3 times, appetite 2 times, and other miscellaneous words 47 times.
Nowhere is it associated with the idea of something which lives on after death.
The phrase ‘immortal soul’ does not appear in the Bible.
If we consider the ‘mechanics’ of creation:
Body (made from dust) + breath (breathed into lungs via the nostrils) = living soul.
From this if we take away the breath (the person ceases to breathe) then the living soul becomes a ‘dead soul’ and the body returns to dust.
Do we find the words ‘dead soul’ in the Bible?
Yes, in the Hebrew:
Leviticus 21:11 Neither shall he go in to any dead body (Nephesh), nor defile himself for his father, or for his mother;
The translators have translated the word as ‘body’ instead of ‘soul’.
They have done the same in Numbers 6:6; 19:11; 19:13
The word Nephesh is also used of creatures other than man.
Genesis 1:21 And God created great whales, and every living creature
Genesis 1:24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature
Genesis 1:30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life
So we see that all living creatures are called living souls in Hebrew.
All living souls die because of man’s sin.
Ezekel 18:4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
The only soul that did not sin was Jesus Christ.
Of whom David speaks:
Psalm 16:10 For thou wilt not leave my soul
Which Peter explains in Acts:
Acts 2:27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul (Greek - psuche) in hell (Greek - hades – the grave), neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
31 He (David) seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul
From Strong’s Concordance we find that psuche occurs some 105 times in the New Testament.
The AV translators translate it as follows: -
Soul 58 times, life 40 times, mind 3 times, heart 1 time, heartily + 1537 1 time, not translated 2 times.
Again it is not associated with the idea of something which lives on after death.
John 10:11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life
Peter speaking of Noah’s day says:
1Peter 3:20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls
The rest of the ‘souls’ perished in the waters of the flood, only eight were saved.
Which brings us back to the Maritime Distress signal SOS – Save our Souls.
The Bible speaks of death as sleeping in the dust of the ground awaiting resurrection.
1Kings 2:10 So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.
Daniel 12:2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Matthew 27:52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
John 5:28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
1Corinthians 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
1Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
The soul abides during the time of death sleeping in the dust and at the return of Christ will be raised again to life. Some to live forever; others condemned to die again (which Revelation calls the ‘second’ death).
To live eternally the ‘living soul’ must be changed from mortality to immortality.
1Corinthians 15:51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
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I hope this helps