Death, a Sleep
"I would not have you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, that you sorrow notů" 1 Thessalonians 4:13
The death of the Christian may be called "sleep" because of:
I. Its Peaceful Nature.
1. He lies down to die calmly as the tired laborer to take his nightly rest: not like the man who dreads the hour of rest because of the recollection of sleepless nights.
2. The approach of death is often silent and soft as the approach of sleep. As the weary man sinks imperceptibly into a state of slumber, so the Christian sometimes without a struggle passes into God's presence. It is like the sinking of day into night, or more properly the rising of the night into day.
II. Its Attractiveness.How the laborer, toiling beneath a burning sun, will sometimes long for the shadows of evening when he may stretch his tired limbs! So does the Christian, only with an intenser longing, look for his sleep. Not that earth is without its attractions; but it is the place of his exile, strife, pilgrimage. Ponder is his home radiant with immortal glory, and thronged with bright multitudes, and death is attractive because it is the vestibule to all that, and more.
III. It Is to Be Followed by an Awakening.The heathen might have no hope of a resurrection. Their poets might bewail the fleetingness of life and the unknown condition of the dead. Even the Jew might see but dimly the shadow of the resurrection. But to the Christian it is the object of sure and certain hope. We are apt to speak of the dead saints as "lost"; but that they cannot be, as they are under Christ's care. They sleep only until He bids them to awake.
IV. Its Repose.It is that state of "rest which remains for the people of God." Life's fitful fever is over--they sleep well. Death is not a state of unconsciousness--the very figure of sleep forbids that. They rest from:
1. Their labors; all that makes work laborious will then be unknown. Work they will, but in congenial employment and with unweariable faculties.
2. From persecution, false witness, wrong, disappointment, etc.
3. From pain, mental and physical.
4. From warfare against sin. Satan and the world can tempt no more.
5. From the buffetings of evil in themselves.
V. Its Refreshment.The difference between the laborer who rises in the morning refreshed by the night's repose, but faintly shadows forth the difference between the wearied wasted body which sinks into the grave--and the renovated body, blooming with immortal youth, exempt from infirmities, endowed with unknown strength which shall come forth on the morning of the resurrection.
The subject should lead us:
1. To moderate our grief over the loss of those friends who sleep in Jesus. When they so sleep, we have no mourning as regards them.
2. To contemplate death with much less fear and aversion.
3. To devote ourselves with increased earnestness to our present labor.
4. But there are some to whom death is a very different kind of sleep. The sleep of the ungodly is disturbed by fearful dreams--nay, realities, from which there is no escape but by being "in Christ" now.