"Some Have Fallen Asleep"

"Them also which sleep through Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

There are many passages in the New Testament that describe the death of the Christian as sleep. It is an attractive word; there is not another like it in our English language for quietness and peace and rest, for the absence of weariness and worry. How welcome is sleep at the end of the day, and what a compensation it is for all its labour. And sleep is the word chosen by the Holy Spirit to describe the death of the Christian. How well may we say as the disciples did, "Lord if he sleep he shall do well." Yes, indeed, the one who sleeps through Jesus does well, for at the other side of such a sleep there is eternal life, perennial vigour, the presence of the Lord, and the day of God's everlasting favour that shall never know a night. "And I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, Write, Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord from henceforth. Yea, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." That is it, they rest, blessed rest!

But this sleep applies to the body, and the things of this restless world only; it is to this life in which men sigh and groan that the Christian sleeps. Nirvana, complete cessation of being, the highest state of felicity that Buddhism offers, belongs to that system of gross darkness and has no place in the light. Not so does God's Book speak of the state of those who have fallen asleep. "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," said God to Moses centuries after those patriarchs had passed into the life beyond this, and He is not the God of the dead, of those who do not exist, but of the living, for all live to Him (Matt. 22; Luke 20). "Whether we live, we live to the Lord; and whether we die, we die to the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's" (Rom. 14:8). When one falls asleep they are just as truly in the Lord's hands as they ever were, "None," says He, "shall pluck them out of My hand." Death may separate them from us but not from Him; He holds them in everlasting security in the hand that smashed the power of death.

"Absent from the body to be present with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:8); "With Christ, which is far better" (Phil. 1:23); "Lord Jesus," cried the first martyr for the faith, "receive my spirit." He knew that his Lord was a triumphant Lord; he knew that death had been conquered and that there was but a step between his living Saviour and him. Just one step out of a suffering body into the presence of the Lord; to sleep here but to be awake there; that is what the death of a Christian is. God gives us the victory, thanks be to Him! To sleep through Jesus is a triumph for Christ and a triumph for His saints.