There are many false teachings that come from those who attempt to interpret the meanings of scripture without the Holy Spirit’s illumination, and without having even a rudimentary knowledge of the Father’s traditions. In fact, many of the false teachings of christianity are the result of both of those deficiencies.
Because individual scriptures are lifted out of their contexts (linguistic, historic, and spiritual), false teachings then abound, and often, the exact opposite of what an entire passage states becomes the basis of a major false teaching—and “soul sleep” is just one of those heresies.
Often, the purveyors of this false teaching use verses like Ecclesiastes 9:5 and 12:7, and John 3:13. The verses in Ecclesiastes are speaking of the physical body, which does return to dust after it dies. The souls of those who had the Holy Spirit, and whose bodies were dead in the earth before Messiah’s resurrection, were held in Abraham’s Bosom until Messiah’s resurrection, at which time their physical bodies were resurrected (reunited with their souls), and then they received their glorified bodies, just as Messiah did (Matthew 27:52-53).
In John 3:13, Messiah Yahoshua states that, at that point, no man had ever been to heaven, for believers who had died up to that point had all gone to Abraham’s Bosom, which we know was an area next to hell, and it was separated by a great chasm (Luke 16:19-26). They were held there until Messiah’s resurrection, at which time they were resurrected with Messiah, and then raptured (“caught up”) into heaven. They were the firstfruits wave offering of the barley harvest, and Yahoshua, as the Great High Priest, had the duty of performing that wave offering before the Father.
Another passage that is improperly interpreted (because of ignorance of the Father’s traditions) is John 14:2-3, in which Messiah Yahoshua says that He is going to prepare a dwelling place, and will return for His bride. That wedding tradition is where we get our custom that the bride and bridegroom cannot see each other on the day of the wedding ceremony.
In the Jewish wedding tradition, when the bridegroom would tell his betrothed bride that he was going to prepare their dwelling place, he would go back to his father’s house to build it, and that would begin a period of mandatory separation. The two could not have direct physical contact again until the father told his son to go and bring his bride back to the wedding chamber to consummate their marriage. That is why the Holy Spirit was sent, because the “Word made flesh” cannot have direct physical contact with His bride right now.
So, in John 14:2-3, Messiah was speaking of a very specific thing—the gathering of the bride to Himself to go back to the wedding chamber, the eternal dwelling place of the bride, the New Jerusalem. For that to happen, all of the bride who have been raptured since Acts 2 (they have died, and their souls have gone to heaven) will have to be resurrected, and then, those of the bride who are alive and remain on the earth will join together with those whose bodies are resurrected, to meet the Bridegroom in the air, and go to the wedding chamber for the marriage to be consummated.
Those of the wedding party, which are the friends of the Bridegroom (OT saints) and friends of the bride (tribulation saints), will return with Messiah at the end of the tribulation, when He returns in judgment (Armageddon), and they have been promised to rule and reign with Him for 1000 years on the earth.
If they are not already with Him, how will they return with Him in judgment? How do we see the tribulation saints already in heaven before Messiah returns (Rev. 6:9-11), if their souls are asleep on earth? How will they rule and reign on the earth for 1000 years, if the dead are not resurrected until judgment, which will occur for all but the bride AFTER the 1000 year earthly reign?
The biggest error folks make in this is not understanding the difference between what is physical and what is spiritual. And, they conflate passages about the death of the fleshly body with what is spiritual.
1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 tells us that those of the bride who are alive and remain on the earth will not “precede” (the actual meaning of the Greek word that got translated into old English as “prevent”) the resurrection of those whose souls have already been raptured into heaven. They will be reunited with their resurrected bodies FIRST, and then those who are alive and remain will, with them, meet the Bridegroom in the air to go to the wedding chamber. Those who have already died will be resurrected physically, just as the Old Testament saints were.
For more information: Will There Be a Pre-Tribulation Rapture?