My mother, whom I had the privilege of baptizing, passed away last year. I accept the fact that she is not in heaven yet, and that she is happy and in the bosom of Abraham = paradise (Luke 16:23). However, my grandmother insists that my mother is sleeping. She further stated that she read in the Bible that the dead don't know what the living are doing. I struggle with this. Can you explain to me what this scripture means? -- Johnaia Duncan

The idea that the dead know nothing, including what the living are doing, probably comes from Ecclesiastes 9:5. The verses teaching that the dead are not yet in heaven are found in John 3, John 14, Acts 2, and many other places. Whether the "sleep" which the OT and NT mention (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:6, 51) is pure metaphor, actual rest, or a combination of the two will probably remain a subject of debate. But maybe your grandmother is right! I certainly agree with her that the dead are not monitoring what is going on among the living. (Yes, I take the "cloud of witnesses" in Hebrews 12 as a metaphor, as referring to the OT saints mentioned in Hebrews 11. I would not encourage anyone to build a doctrine on a single phrase.)

I recently read a very stimulating book, and one on which I agree with the author on nearly every issue he addressed: Hades, the rapture, the millennium, hell, etc. It is called After Life, and the author is F. LaGard Smith. He takes the position that the dead are sleeping. Perhaps he's right. (I am open.) But I don't think so. Check it out!