Good news: death is only a sleep!
When sin came death becomes part of humanity. We can’t escape it. It’s the saddest among human experiences. Is there hope beyond death? Will we meet our departed loved ones again?
The Bible has proven itself to stand across centuries, generations, various beliefs and philosophies. We can trust it. And so it is important that we have the same mind as those from the Bible. This will help us stand firm in truth and not be swayed by various practices, culture, and beliefs that saturate our lives nowadays. The world’s beliefs about death can cause depression, despair, anxiety, and hopelessness especially for the bereaved ones.
How does the Bible perceive death? Beginning from Jesus (the Way, Truth, and Life) and many other prominent characters in the Bible, we will list Bible verses that show how they understand death. From that perspective, we can appreciate why it is good news for all of us.
Death according to Jesus, the Lifegiver
“He [Jesus] said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died…” John 11:11-14 ESV
From the Lifegiver Himself, Jesus considers those who died as only ‘fallen asleep’, which gives everyone a hint that there will be a ‘waking up time. People call it resurrection. He resurrected Lazarus as an example for all of us.
“So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” verse 14
He was so confident of His statement because He can give back life to anyone, anytime as the Father pleases.
Death according to King David
“Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death…” Psalm 13:3 ESV
Centuries before Jesus came to earth, David already knew that death is also a sleep.
Death according to Michael, the Archangel
“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake…” Daniel 12:2 ESV
“So, Daniel, be faithful until the end! You will rest, and at the end of time, you will rise from death to receive your reward.” Daniel 12:13 CEV
In this chapter of the Book of Daniel, Michael, a heavenly Being, employs the metaphor that death is also a sleep. We can rightly assume then that Daniel also understood the same thought.
Death according to Paul, the apostle
The King James version of the Bible uses the word ‘sleep’, but other versions use ‘die’ instead. This tells us that both words can be used interchangeably in this thought just as what Jesus did in our first Bible verse above.
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” 1 Corinthians 15:51 KJV
“I will explain a mystery to you. Not every one of us will die, but we will all be changed.” CEV
“I’m telling you a mystery. Not all of us will die, but we will all be changed.” GW
The Bible in Basic English (BBE) makes it more clear:
“See, I am giving you the revelation of a secret: we will not all come to the sleep of death, but we will all be changed.” BBE
From heavenly beings to notable people from the Old and New Testament, we see that they all consider death as a sleep.
So what’s the good news?
The Bible is consistent with how it sees death, i.e. sleep. But why sleep for death? Because this death has a resurrection. Just like in sleeping at night, there’s a big chance that we will be awake after a few hours.
That’s where the good news is! Those loved ones who went into grave will surely be resurrected someday. We will see them again soon!
How deep is the sleep of death?
“We know that we will die, but the dead don’t know a thing. Nothing good will happen to them—they are gone and forgotten. ” Ecclesiastes 9:5 CEV
“Their loves, their hates, and their jealous feelings have all disappeared with them. They will never again take part in anything that happens on this earth. Ecclesiastes 9:6 CEV
Those who have gone to the grave do not know anything. They don’t have any emotions (anger, hatred, love, empathy). They can’t hunt nor guide anyone.
Is dying too the way to see and be with our departed ones?
The quick answer is no, not at all!
“It will happen suddenly, quicker than the blink of an eye. At the sound of the last trumpet the dead will be raised. We will all be changed, so that we will never die again.” 1 Corinthians 15:52 CEV
“With a loud command and with the shout of the chief angel and a blast of God’s trumpet, the Lord will return from heaven. Then those who had faith in Christ before they died will be raised to life. ” 1 Thessalonians 4:16 CEV
We will meet our righteous departed loved ones when Jesus comes, not when we die. This is totally different from what we hear from many people and saw in many movies, but as Bible-believing Christians we must stand in the truth.
Death as “only a sleep” does not mean that we can lightly regard life as a matter of simply turning it on and off like a switch, no. Life is sacred and a gift from its Source, and as such, it should be treasured.
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Two kinds of death
The death that we are tackling so far here is the first death, a temporary one–that’s why it’s metaphorically called sleep. The Bible speaks of another kind of death, the second one which has no waking up, no resurrection. This is the death that the famous John 3:16 is talking about. This is the saddest and with eternal effect but is completely avoidable.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 KJV
May this short study gives us hope in Jesus, the Truth, the Way, and the Life.
“Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:18
(Photos: Aldo Picaso, It Is Written)