The Sleep of Death
I have recently been studying and pondering much on the topic of death, heaven, hell, resurrection, etc. as recorded in Scripture. I'm aware that there are numerous thoughts from various people and groups on the issue, but seeing that the Bible is where I begin, I am interested in what the Bible teaches on the subject. I'm literally flabbergasted at the lack of scriptural support most professing Christians and Christian denominations have for their view. The most common view of all (in the broad spectrum of Christendom) is that when a person dies they either go to heaven to live with Yahweh, or they go to "hell" and begin their process of burning for eternity. In spite of how common this view is, I cannot find it to be substantiated in Scripture. For now, I want to only speak about the term the Bible uses often to describe death - asleep.
Notice 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 Yeshua spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Yeshua unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead."
The above passage makes it obvious that our Lord referred to death as sleeping. This is what Yeshua had in mind to begin with, but the His disciples thought he was talking about natural sleep rather than the sleep of death. Recognize that Yeshua did not exclaim that Lazarus had obtained immortality, was with God, was in heaven, etc. He was sleeping, i.e. in the sleep of death.
The same is said of the disciple Stephen in Acts 7:59-60:
"And they stoned Stephen, calling upon Elohim, and saying, Lord Yeshua, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep."
Consider also 1 Corinthians 15 (vss. 17-23), a chapter in which resurrection is the context:
"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. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming."
Those fallen asleep in Christ is another way of saying those that have died in a right relationship with Christ. Paul is explaining in the chapter that there is a promise of a resurrection, and we need not fret that we only have hope in this life. He goes on to speak of Christ being raised from the dead and being the firstfruits of them that sleep. Notice how "dead" and "sleep" are used interchangeably here. The answer to Christ's death was resurrection unto eternal life, thus the answer to death (for those in Christ) will be resurrection unto eternal life.
Paul also speaks somewhat of this in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14:
"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. For if we believe that Yeshua died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Yeshua will Elohim bring with him."
Notice again that Paul is speaking of people who are asleep and he clarifies those he speaks of even more so by saying that they are asleep in Yeshua. Paul point here in these two short sentences is that we should not sorrow for we have a hope of resurrection. He hearkens back to the resurrection of Yeshua. Yeshua died, but was resurrected by the power of Yahweh. In the same way we will be resurrected from the sleep of death at the coming of Yeshua the Messiah.
Going back now to some passages in the Tanak (Old Testament) we read the following:
Psalm 13:3 - "Consider and hear me, O Yahweh my Elohim: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death."
1 Kings 2:10 - "So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David."
Job 14:12 - "So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep."
Daniel 12:2 - "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt."
Each of these passage equate death with the analogy of sleeping. Let me quote one more passage at length to conclude - Acts 13:32-37.
"And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, Elohim hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Yeshua again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of Elohim, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: But he, whom Elohim raised again, saw no corruption."
The point that Paul makes here in Acts 13 is that Yeshua is the man spoken about in the many Davidic prophecies of the Tanak, seeing that Yeshua was a descendant from the line or family of David. David fell asleep, died, and saw corruption, decay, i.e. his body did rot. The one whom Yahweh raised, Yeshua, did not see corruption, He did not rot.
There is much more to say concerning these topics, but I've given enough for you to start "chewing" on in this small post. Let us always allow Scripture to be our guide.
You might want to pick up a copy of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) the next time you are out and about. I love the Bible, and I also love having numerous translations available to me for Bible study. It is quite interesting at times to see how various translations render certain texts of Scripture based upon there study, knowledge, etc. I am particularly fond of the HCSB for one reason that I will share in just a second. Let me first say that it is a good, easy-to-understand translation of Scripture. It speaks the language of today without compromising the message of Sacred Scripture. I have personally chosen it as my household's primary Bible translation for studying, memorization, etc. My children enjoy it and I enjoy hearing them read out of it.
What first caught my attention though about this translation is its use of the name Yahweh is many texts of the Old Covenant Scriptures. In the preface to my edition the translation explains that it uses the name Yahweh to portray the Father's name, and "the LORD" is a title and not a name. The HCSB uses Yahweh in many cases where the name of the Creator is emphasized (like in Exodus 3:15 and Psalm 68:4).
What makes this so useful for me (and other believers in the sacredness of the Father's name) is that you can buy this Bible at your local Christian bookstore. When witnessing to others, if I have a Bible with me that can be bought down the street and the Christian bookstore (where everyone goes to buy a Bible), and that uses the name of Yahweh frequently, I really feel like I can get the attention of the person I'm witnessing to. This is a Bible put out by the Baptist organization for the most part, and thus I can explain to people that its not just me making this up or something. The translators of the HCSB saw the name Yahweh important enough to include it numerous times in the Old Covenant portion of our Scriptures.
So... if you want to strengthen your witness about the name of Yahweh, I would suggest you go get you and HCSB and begin to carry it with you. This way you will have it if the need arises.
A Poem from my Daughter
A couple of days ago my oldest daughter (10) brought me a poem that she had written. I am very proud to have such a daughter that loves Yahweh and expresses herself in this fashion. I thought it was fitting to share the poem with others.
A Lesson Learned
By: Morgen Janzen
A lesson learned each day at school
A lesson learned to follow rules
A lesson learned in everything
In winter, summer, fall, and spring
A lesson learned at church each week
To do your best and kindly speak
A lesson learned of Esther brave
Of all the people she did save
A lesson learned from each mistake
That all us people ever make
From them who died with spear or sword
To stand up for our Savior Lord
A lesson learned each day you see
To make us best as we can be
Thanks for reading!
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.