The Bible teaches us that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Jesus told the thief on the cross, “today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus didn’t say today you will sleep. The confusion comes from the fact that sleep was often used as a term for death. For instance when Jesus spoke to the disciples about Lazarus: “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” Then His disciples said,” Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, Lazarus is dead” (John 11:11-14).
At death, our spirit separates from our body. Our body returns to the ground and our spirit returns to its maker.
“and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
The apostle Paul said: “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23). “(I) would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Paul was not looking forward to soul sleep, he was looking forward to being with the Lord.
Without a body, there would be no need for sleep. Sleep is for our human mortal body to rejuvenate itself. The body is what requires sleep, not our spirit. The body will go into the ground and sleep, but our souls will be in heaven with the Lord (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
Paul spoke of falling asleep instead of dying when he wrote to the Thessalonians.
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-15).
Notice in these verses, Paul says that Jesus will be bringing those that have fallen asleep with him, in other words, He will be bringing the saints that have died with Him. If He is bringing them with Him, then it is obvious that they are in heaven now and not in the grave.
In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, Lazarus went immediately to heaven and the rich man went immediately to hell.
Finally, when John was given a vision of heaven, he described the Christians that were martyred as souls crying out for revenge, they definitely were not sleeping. In every reference in Revelation to human beings in Heaven, they are conscious, not sleeping. As Paul said, to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord. The instant we die, we will be in heaven with Jesus! What a glorious time that will be!
Taken from the section on Heaven in “Things You Probably Learn in Church.” Things You Probably Didn’t Learn in Church is a book covering several subjects that are not usually not taught in church. Check out this book and my other books at: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B06XK4GJT1