by Peter G. Feenstra
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 4:13–14
1 Thessalonians 4:13–18
Sleep is essential for a person’s health and well-being. Although we spend almost a third of our lives sleeping we would not consider it a waste of time. We are thankful if we are able to enjoy a good night’s rest. It makes us anxious if we lie awake in bed and cannot get to sleep.
Several New Testament passages describe death as falling asleep. Prior to raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus said to His disciples, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” (John 11:11) A similar picture of death is given by the apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 15:16–20 and 1 Thess. 4:13–14.
Describing death as “falling asleep” provides God’s people with tremendous encouragement and hope! We need not fear death any more than we fear going to sleep. Just as we say “See you in the morning!” to our children, we bury our loved ones in the expectation of seeing them on resurrection morning. Jesus Christ rose from the dead and in Him those who have fallen asleep have the assurance that their bodies will come forth from the grave. The trumpet will sound and the dead will wake up to hear the music of heaven.
Children who say good night to their parents do not go off to bed afraid that either they or their parents might never wake up again. That’s the way we are to view the death of our loved ones as well. We do not grieve as if we are without hope. Since Christ has been raised, we can be sure that our loved ones will get the wake-up call. Our Lord Jesus Christ is already up from the grave; we can know with absolute certainty that those who have fallen asleep will rise again. Our bodies will be raised and reunited with our souls.
When we are hurting and tears stain our faces, when our spouse, child, parent, grandparent or friend lies lifeless in our arms, when we face our own mortality, let’s not grieve as if we are without hope. We believe the gospel of the resurrection of the body. In God’s time the realm of the dead will have to surrender the bodies of all those who have died in the Lord. As you get ready to go to bed tonight remember to thank God for the gospel of Christ’s resurrection, and have a good sleep!For further information about this resource, click here.