“Concerning Them Which Are Asleep”

1 Thessalonians 4:13-15

How many who are dear to our hearts have died already! How few have died in the faith! For those who have died without Christ, our hearts are inexpressibly heavy. We bow to the will of our God. Our heavenly Father never errs. He makes no mistakes. The wisdom, justice, and goodness of our God we do not question for a moment, even when our hearts break with sorrow.

However, regarding those who have died in faith, our sorrow for beloved friends, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, who are taken from us by the hand of God, is another kind of sorrow. In some ways, it is no less painful. Yet, it is not a sorrow without hope. For those who perish without the knowledge of  faith in Christ, we have no hope. But, for those who have died in faith, we have a sure and confident hope.

When the believer dies, he simply falls asleep in the arms of Christ. What could be more comforting than that? It is truly a blessed thing, a thing to be desired, to fall to sleep in the arms of Christ. It is the believer entering into his long awaited sabbath, his rest with the Lord. The body falls to sleep, and the soul awakes (Rev. 14:13). There is no such thing as soul sleep. Immediately upon death, the soul enters into a temporary state, an intermediate body, in which it lives, worships, and serves Christ between death and the resurrection (2 Cor. 5:1-10; Lk. 16:19-31). It is only the body which sleeps in the grave. The soul never sleeps. At death the soul enters into a state of activity, such as cannot be known in this world. The children of God go immediately into the bliss of heaven (Lk. 23:43; Phil. 1:21-23; Rev. 7:15-17). The unbelieving go immediately into hell (The Rich Man).

None of God’s elect die until it pleases the Lord to bring them home. Our departed friends are with the Lord. They are beholding his glory, feeding upon the Tree of Life, and drinking from the Fountain that flows from the throne of God. We weep for ourselves, but not for them. Why should we weep for them?

When our Lord comes, their bodies shall be raised from their graves. Those who have died in the faith will lose nothing by having fallen to sleep in Christ. They shall be raised first. We who are alive when Christ comes will have to wait for a moment (Really, just a split second!) , until the dead in Christ arise. It will be a glorious waiting, but we will have to wait (vv. 15-16).

This is a matter of certainty. The resurrection of Christ secured the resurrection of his people. He is called the firstfruits of the resurrection, the firstborn from the dead. If he is the first, there must be at least a second. The resurrection of the body is that for which we hope (1 Cor. 15:17-23; 52-54). Though this hope of the resurrection was not so bright in the Old Testament church as it is today, yet, it was clearly revealed even to the saints of that age (Psa. 16:9-11; 17:15; 73:24). The wise man said, “The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death” (Prov. 14:32).This is what I am saying, Christ arose as our Surety, and, as surely as he arose, all who are in him must also rise from the dead (Col. 3:1-4).

Don Fortner