Pastor-teacher Don Hargrove

Faith Bible Church

Friday, March 26, 2010




Part 3: Death as a Sleep


            This doctrine is also available in audio @


            Before you begin your Bible study, if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, be sure you have named your sins privately to God the Father.  It is essential that you be in fellowship with God and thus under the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit.


                        1 Jn 1:6-9 - If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


                        Jn 4:24 "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" 



            If you have never personally believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, the issue is not naming your sins.   The issue is faith alone in Christ alone.


                        John 3:36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not believe in  the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."



            DOCTRINE OF DEATH, PART 3.


            The Bible gives us seven depictions of death:  1) a gift;  2) a departure or exodus; 3) a restful sleep;  4)  a collapsing tent;  5)  a sailing ship;  6)  a permanent home; and 7) the last enemy.


            Let’s take a look at the third illustration:  death as a restful sleep.  When Jesus Christ entered the home of the ruler of the synagogue, He comforted the crowd by saying that the ruler’s daughter was not dead but sleeping,


                        Luke 8:52 Now they were all weeping and lamenting for her; but He said, "Stop weeping,             for she has not died, but is asleep."


            On another occasion, when He began His trip to Bethany He said to the disciples in


                          John 11:11 This He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen   asleep; but I go, that I may awaken him out of sleep."


            The Apostle Paul used the same figure of speech when he taught that some believers would not see death but would be caught up to meet Christ.


                        1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all    be changed,


            Not everyone shall die; some will live until the return of Christ.  Death, then is spoken of a restful sleep.


            As you may be aware, there are those who teach “soul sleep,” that is the belief that no one is conscious at death because the soul sleeps until the resurrection of the body.  The great problem with this view is that it suffers from the difficulty of having to reinterpret many clear passages in order to make this false doctrine fit.


            Moses certainly did not “sleep” until the day of resurrection but was fully conscious when He appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration.  To say, as some do, that he already was resurrected, is to make the assumption that is not found in the Bible.    We should be content with the fact that though he died and was buried by God, he was not unconscious but able to converse with Christ.   When Stephen was about to die, he did not ask the grave to receive him, but said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit! (Acts 7:59).   Clearly he was not looking forward to an unconscious existence, but awaited the immediate bliss of heaven and fellowship with Christ.


            Then there is the story of the dying thief, to whom Christ said, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Lk. 23:43).  Ignoring both the rules of grammar and syntax, those who believe in soul sleep say that the word today refers only to the time that Christ spoke the words.  They interpret Christ’s words to say, “Verily, I say to you today, you shall be with me in Paradise.”   So, the argument goes, the thief was not going to paradise on that day; it was just that Christ made a promise to him on that day!


            The problem is that Greek scholars agree that such rearranging of the words is “grammatically senseless.”   It was already rather obvious that Christ was speaking to the thief on that day (could Christ have been speaking to him yesterday or tomorrow?).   Clearly, Christ was comforting the thief by telling him that they would meet in Paradise before the end of that very day.  To force any other meaning on the text because of a preconceived idea that the soul sleeps is a disservice to the plain sense of Scripture.


            Paul certainly expected to be with Christ when he died.   He writes that he has a great desire “to depart and to be with Christ, for that is very much better (Philip 1:23).   Paul does not long for death so that his soul can sleep; he longs for death because he knows he will be with Christ, which is far better.  Again he writes that his preference is “to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).  There is no fair way to interpret this except to understand that he expected to be with Christ immediately after he died.


            Sleep is a euphemistic expression taken from the similarity in appearance between a dead body and a sleeping person.    Sleep is used as a picture of death in the New Testament because the body sleeps until the day of resurrection, not the soul.    Sleep is also used as a picture of death because it is a means of rejuvenation.  We look forward to sleep when we feel exhausted and our work is done.    Furthermore, we do not fear falling asleep, for we have the assurance that we shall awaken in the morning; we have proved a thousand times that daylight will come.   The difference in death, of course, is that we have never had the experience of death, so we aren’t sure exactly what it will be like to awaken in eternity.   But of this we can be certain:   Those who die in the Lord need not fear the unknown, for they fall asleep to awaken in the arms of God.  When the dead are spoken of as sleeping we are to regard this as simply the language of appearance, and as literally applicable only to the body. 


            In the intermediate state, that state between death and resurrection, the Scriptures affirm the conscious existence of both believers and unbelievers.  In the intermediate state the soul is without the body, yet this state is for believers a state of conscious joy, and for unbelievers a state of conscious suffering (Lk 16:23; 2 Pet 2:9).


            Of believers, the Scriptures declare:


                        1)   That the soul of the believer, at its separation from the body, enters the presence of Christ,


                                    2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. 6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord-- 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight-- 8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.


            In this passage Paul hopes to escape the violent separation of body and soul – the being unclothed – by living till the coming of the Lord and then putting on the heavenly body, as it were, over the present one; yet whether he lived till Christ’s coming or not, he knew that the soul, when it left the body, would be at home with the Lord.               



                        2)   That the spirits of departed believers are with God.


                                    Hebrews 12:23 to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect,


                                      Ecclesiastes 12:7 then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.


                                      Luke 23:43 And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."


                                      Luke 23:46 And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, "Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit." And having said this, He breathed His last.


                        3)   That believers at death enter paradise.


                                      Luke 23:42 And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" 43 And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."


                                    2 Corinthians 12:4 was caught up into Paradise, and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.



                        4)   That their state, immediately after death, is greatly to be preferred to that of faithful and successful laborers for Christ here.


                                    Philippians 1:23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;


            To depart = ἀναλῦσαι = departing, cutting loose, as if to put to sea, followed by καὶ σὺν Χριστῷ εἶναι (and be with Christ), indicates Paul regarded one event as immediately subsequent to the other.  Paul, with his love for learning and teaching Christian doctrine, would certainly have preferred to live and labor, even amid great suffering, rather than to die, if death to him had been a state of unconsciousness and inaction.


                        5)    That departed believers are truly alive and conscious.


                                      Matthew 22:32 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob '? He is not the God of the dead but of the living."


                                      Luke 16:22 "Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.


                                    Luke 23:43 And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."      “With Me” = in the same state, - unless Christ slept in unconsciousness, we cannot think that the thief did.


                                    John 11:26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"


                                      1 Thessalonians 5:10 who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.


                        6)   That believers are at rest and blessed.


                                      Revelation 6:9 And when He broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" 11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, should be completed also.


                                    Revelation 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, "Write, 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'" "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them."     


            Believers find their death to be the joyous rest of fulfillment. And their divine good follow after them, never to be lost in the annals of eternity.   Blessed are the dead who died in the Lord!


                        Revelation 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, "Write, 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'" "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them."


                        Psalm 17:15 As for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Thy likeness when I awake.


Doctrine matters!


In Him,


Pastor-teacher Don