“To the Christian, death is but a sleep, a moment of silence and darkness.” DA 787.
What Is Death?
Psa 13:3 “Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;”
The psalmist calls death a sleep.
1 Th 4:15 “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.”
The dead are asleep.
Mat 27:52 “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,”
They sleep in their graves.
Acts 13:36 “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:”
When David died he went to sleep.
1 Cor 15:51 “Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,”
Paul calls death a sleep.
1 Th 4:14 “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.”
The righteous dead sleep in Jesus.
1 Ki 11:43 “And Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father: and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead.”
More than twenty‑five times the expression, “Slept with his fathers,” is used when recording deaths of kings in the old Testament. We give one sample text.
John 11:11-14 “These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.”
Jesus calls death a sleep.
Heb 9:27 “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:”
One death is appointed unto men.
Gen 2:17 “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
Gen 3:22-24 “And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”
Rom 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Death is the result of sin.
John 8:44 “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”
Satan is the father of sin.
Heb 2:14 “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;”
He has the power of death.
2 Tim 1:10 “But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:”
Christ abolished death. He changed death into a sleep.
1 Cor 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
This included all the dead.
John 5:25-28 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,”
Christ has the power to awaken all from the sleep of death.
1. BY what figure does the Bible represent death?
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” 1 Thess 4:13. See also 1 Cor 15:18, 20; John 11:11-14.
NOTE.—In sound sleep one is wholly lost to consciousness; time goes by unmeasured; and the mental functions which are active during consciousness are suspended for the time being.
2. Where do the dead sleep?
“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.” Dan 12:2. See also Eccl 3:20; 9:10.
3. How long will they sleep there?
“So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.” Job 14:12.
4. For what did Job say he would wait after death?
“If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.” Job 14:14.
5. Where did he say he would wait?
“If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness.” Job 17:13.
6. While in this condition, how much does one know about those he has left behind?
“His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them.” Job 14:21.
7. What becomes of man’s thoughts at death?
“His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” Ps 146:4.
8. Do the dead know anything?
“For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.” Eccl 9:5.
9. Do they take any part in earthly things?
“Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion forever in anything that is done under the sun.” Eccl 9:6.
NOTE.—If one continued in consciousness after death, he would know of the promotion or dishonour of his sons. But Job says he does not know this. Not only so, but in death one loses all the attributes of mind,—love, hatred, envy, etc. Thus it is plain that his thoughts have perished, and that he can have nothing more to do with the things of this world. But if, as taught and held by some, man’s powers of thought continue after death, he lives; and if he lives, he must be somewhere. Where is he? Is he in heaven, or in hell? If he goes to either place at death, what then is the need of a future judgment, or of a resurrection, or of the second coming of Christ? If the judgment does not take place at death, but men go to their reward at death, then their rewards precede their awards, and there would arise the possibility that some have at death gone to the wrong place, and must needs be sent to the other, after having been in bliss or torment for ages, perhaps.
10. What does the psalmist say about the dead praising God?
“The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence.” Ps 115:17.
11. How much does one know of God when dead?
“For in death there is no remembrance of Thee.” Ps 6:5.
NOTE.—There is not even a remembrance of God. As already seen, the Bible everywhere represents the dead as asleep. If they were in heaven or in hell, would it be fitting to represent them thus? Was Lazarus, whom Jesus loved, in heaven when the Saviour said, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth”? 1 John 11:11. If so, calling him to life was really robbing him of the bliss of heaven that rightly belonged to him. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus, recorded in Luke 16, was given to teach, not consciousness in death, but that in the judgment riches will avail nothing unless rightly and beneficently used, and that poverty will not keep one out of heaven.
12. But are not the righteous dead in heaven?
“For David is not ascended into the heavens.” Acts 2:34.
13. What must take place before the dead can praise God?
“Thy dead men shall live, together with My dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.” Isa 26:19.
14. When did David say he would be satisfied?
“As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness.” Ps 17:15.
15. Were there to be no resurrection of the dead, what would be the condition of those fallen asleep in Christ?
“For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” 1 Cor 15:16-18.
16. When is the resurrection of the righteous to take place?
“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” 1 Thess 4:16.
NOTES.—If, as stated in Eccl 9:5, the dead know not anything, then they have no knowledge of the lapse of time. “Six thousand years in the grave to a dead man is no more than a wink of the eye to the living.” To them, consciousness, our only means of measuring time, is gone; and it will seem to them when they awake that absolutely no time has elapsed. And herein lies a most comforting thought in the Bible doctrine of the sleep of the dead, that in death there is no consciousness of the passing of time. To those who sleep in Jesus, their sleep, whether long or short, whether one year, one thousand years, or six thousand years, will be but as if the moment of sad parting were followed instantly by the glad reunion in the presence of Jesus at His glorious appearing and the resurrection of the just.
It ought also to be a comforting thought to those whose lives have been filled with anxiety and grief for deceased loved ones who persisted in sin, to know that they are not now suffering in torments, but, with all the rest of the dead, are quietly sleeping in their graves. Job 3:17.
Again, it would mar the felicity of one’s enjoyment in heaven could he look upon earth and see his friends and relatives suffering from persecution, want, cold, or hunger, or sorrowing for the dead. God’s way is best,—that all sentient life, animation, activity, thought, and consciousness should cease at death, and that all should wait till the resurrection for their future life and eternal reward. See Heb 11:39-40.
SLEEP on, beloved! sleep, and take thy rest;
Lay down thy head upon thy Saviour’s breast.
We love thee well, but Jesus loves thee best—