Soul sleep and Seventh Day Adventism
There are certain Christian sects today who teach that after death the human soul drifts into an some sort of unconscious, oblivious sleep. There are several scriptural verses scattered throughout the Bible, which allude to such an idea when interpreted literally. However these interpretations have only become popular very recently (20th century) with respect to the entire two thousand year history of the church.
It has been the consensus of all Christians for two thousand years that, the dead do not actually sleep, oblivious to everything, but are in fact conscious of their situation and aware of their existence. The reasons are many, so let us begin with scripture. The first person in scripture to consult should obviously be Christ Jesus himself who said, "No one has ever gone to heaven except the one who came from heaven - the Son of man." (John 3:13) and also "before Abraham was born, I am!" (John 8:58).
Jesus describes mortal death in his now famous parable - the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). In it he relates the story of two individuals who pass away and tells the things they do and say in the afterlife. The characters are fully conscious and aware. There is absolutely no mistaking them for being asleep.
Next we refer to Jesus' eyewitnesses, the gospel writers themselves. We are all quite familiar with accounts of the mount of transfiguration, (Luke 9:28-36 & Matt 17:1-8) where Jesus is observed conversing with Moses and Elijah, two Old Testament prophets long since dead. They were talking as the eyewitnesses testify; clearly Moses and Elijah were not asleep, and it would be absurd to surmise that God woke them up just for this occasion.
Interestingly, apparitions of the dead are not without precident. We read of the appearance of the prophet Samuel to Saul in 1 Samuel 28. And In 2 Maccabees 15:11-16 we read of the appearence in a dream of the former high priest Onias and the prophet Jeremiah who spends all his time in heaven praying for his people. These persons are by no means asleep.
Also in Peter's first epistle we read of Jesus himself preaching to the spirits of the dead. (1 Peter 3:18-19) "He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built."
Finally, the book of Revelation gives ample evidence that the spirits of the dead in heaven are rejoicing and actively worshipping God. (Rev 7:14-15) "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple."
Clearly in the most strongest testimony, that of the Lord Jesus and his eyewitnesses, scripture teaches that the spirits of the dead are fully conscious and aware, as opposed to those isolated Bible verses which poetically or politely describe the dead as being asleep. Therefore it has remained the Christian consensus for two thousand years that such verses describing death in terms of sleep are to be correctly interpreted in the figurative sense.
And this makes the most sense, because we know that the reason for the existence of sleep is that only the human body has need of sleep. It's that simple. But the immortal spirit has no use for sleep. When the Spirit leaves the body, one can politely say that the body is asleep, meaning the person is no longer physically active in this temporal world, but in eternity we can be certain that the spirit lives on, awake, aware, alive in heavenly adoration or perhaps alarmed and in a little pain.