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Asleep in Jesus

The inevitability of death is a fearsome prospect for those who are unprepared.  For them, death looms as an inescapable destination and a dark mystery.  Those who deny God's existence typically view death as the end of their existence, but they cannot know for certain.  This doubt leaves them in apprehension about the possibility of awareness beyond physical life.  Those who believe in God but behave contrary to His will live in dreadful fear of death, for they know that judgment, accountability, and punishment await them.  They desperately cling to life in this world because it is all they have.  They are without hope beyond their temporal existence.

However, those who are in Christ need not be afraid of death.  The Son of God came into this world to take away our fear and give us the hope of a glorious existence beyond death.  Notice Hebrews 2:14-15:

14Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

By virtue of His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection from death, Jesus removed the fear of death and gave us an overwhelming victory.  Consider 1Corinthians 15:55-57:

55"O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?"  56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

This victory is shared by Christ with those who are faithful to Him.  They have no fear of death, for this enemy has already been defeated.

In fact, the New Testament often describes the death of Christians as merely sleep. Sleep is not fearsome at all, but rather it is pleasant, peaceful, and desirable.  Consider a few of these references:

  • In Acts 7:60,      when Stephen was stoned to death for preaching Jesus to the Sanhedrin, the      Scripture says that "he fell asleep."
  • In 1Corinthians      15, Paul gave his great treatise on the resurrection.  Repeatedly, he described the death of      Christians as sleep.  In verse 6, he      spoke of some who had witnessed Jesus but had since fallen asleep.  In verse 18, he explained that if Jesus      were not raised from the dead, then those "who have fallen asleep in      Christ have perished."  Notice here      that there is a difference between falling asleep in Christ and      perishing.  In verse 20, Paul said      Christ by His resurrection from the dead is "the first fruits of those who      are asleep."  In verse 51, he said      that "we will not all sleep," meaning that not all Christians would die      before the Lord returns and the dead are raised.
  • In      1Thessalonians 4, Paul described the return of the Lord and those      Christians who have already died.       They are called simply "those who are asleep" (v. 13), and thus we      do not grieve for them "as do the rest who have no hope."  In verse 14, he wrote, "For if we      believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him      those who have fallen asleep in Jesus."       If we are still alive when Jesus comes again, we "will not precede      those who have fallen asleep" (v. 15).       This discourse continues into 1Thessalonians 5, where Paul wrote      that "that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him"      (v. 10).

If death is nothing more than being asleep, then we know that the dead in Christ will also awaken.  The two passages cited above, 1Corinthians 15 and 1Thessalonians, describe the resurrection of the dead in Christ, and it will be at the resurrection when Jesus will wake us up from our sleep in Him.  It will similar to John 11:11, when Jesus said, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep."  Lazarus had been dead four days, but Jesus simply called his name, and he awoke.  So it will also be when Jesus calls us to awake from the sleep of death.

What will death mean for you?  If you are in Jesus Christ, then you will merely fall asleep in blissful rest.  "When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet" (Prov. 3:24).  If you are not in Christ, then death will not be a peaceful sleep.  Instead, it will be much worse than any nightmare could ever foretell.  In Luke 16:19-31, the rich man died and found himself in torment and the agony of flame.  No one has to suffer such a fate.  Jesus died to take away the fear and misery of death and to give us sweet sleep in Him.  Take advantage of God's grace, and fear death no more.

Stacey E. Durham




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