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Abstract

"The SDA view on what happens at death has been sometimes misunderstood; first, because the way we ourselves have occasionally used the sleep metaphor to describe death and, second, as a result of the dualistic connotation traditionally associated with soul-sleep. It could be argued that this comes from a reading of Adventist literature unmindful of the larger context of biblical anthropology in which these statements are made. This, however, is no excuse for not making every effort to express our understanding of the subject as clearly and completely as possible. Sleep is not a description of the nature of death. And it could not be different, as death means complete cessation of life with all that it includes. Sleep can be used to portray death only phenomenologically. On the lips of Jesus the metaphor does carry an important meaning, but that is only related to the assurance and immediacy of the resurrection, not to death as such. This raises a further point, and that is whether it is valid to refer to death as an intermediate state. If death means cessation and resurrection a recreation, is it not misleading to talk about an intermediate state? Is there really a state of the dead to talk about? Would it not be semantically—and anthropologically—more precise to refer to death as an intermediate or an intervening period (of time) rather than a state? By misusing the sleep metaphor we run the risk of failing to do justice to the seriousness of death and of detracting from the true meaning of the resurrection."

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