Scripture shuts us up to
the blessed hope of being reunited in resurrection.
That is why the death of believers is so often
called "sleep"; and dying is called
"falling asleep"; because of the assured
hope of awakening in resurrection. It's language is,
"David fell on sleep" (Acts 13:36), not
David's body, or David's soul. "Stephen ...
fell asleep" (Acts 7:60). "Lazarus
sleepeth" (John 11:11), which is explained,
when the Lord afterward speaks "plainly",
as meaning "Lazarus is dead" (v. 14).
Now, when the Holy Spirit
uses one thing to describe or explain another, He
does not choose the opposite word or expression. If
He speaks of night, He does not use the word light.
If He speaks of daylight, He does not use the word
night. He does not put "sweet for bitter, and
bitter for sweet" (Isa. 5:20). He uses adultery
to illustrate Idolatry; He does not use virtue. And
so, if He uses the word "sleep" of death,
it is because sleep illustrates to us what the
condition of death is like. If Tradition be the
truth, He ought to have used the word awake, or
wakefulness. But the Lord first uses a Figure, and
says "Lazarus sleepeth"; and afterwards,
when He speaks "plainly" He says
"Lazarus is dead". Why? Because sleep
expresses and describes the condition of the
"unclothed" state. In normal sleep, there
is no consciousness. For the Lord, therefore, to
have used this word "sleep" to represent
the very opposite condition of conscious
wakefulness, would have been indeed to mislead us.
But all His words are perfect; and are used for the
purpose of teaching us, and not for leading us
So effectually has Satan's
lie, "thou shalt not surely die",
succeeded and accomplished its purpose that, though
the Lord Jesus said "I will come again and
receive you unto Myself", Christendom says,
with one voice, "No! Lord. Thou needest not
come for me: I will die and come to Thee". Thus
the blessed hope of resurrection and the coming of
the Lord have been well nigh blotted out from the
belief of the Churches; and the promise of the Lord
been made of none effect by the ravages of
In Phil. 2:27, we read that
Epaphraditus "was sick nigh unto death; but God
had mercy on him"..So that it was mercy to
preserve Epaphraditus from death. This could hardly
be called "mercy" if death were the
"gate of glory", according to popular
In 2 Cor. 1:10-11, it was
deliverance of no ordinary kind when Paul himself
was "delivered from so great a death"
which called for corresponding greatness of
thanksgiving for God's answer to their prayers on
his behalf. Moreover, he trusted that God would
still deliver him. It is clear from 2 Cor. 5:4 that
Paul did not wish for death; for he distinctly says
"not for that he would be unclothed, but
clothed upon (i.e. in resurrection and
"change") that mortality might be
swallowed up of LIFE"; not of death. This is
what he was so "earnestly desiring" (v.2)
Hezekiah also had reason to
praise God for delivering him from "the king of
terrors". It was "mercy" shown to
Epaphraditus; it was "a gift" to Paul; it
was "love" to Hezekiah. He says (Isa.
38:17- 19): "For the grave (Heb. sheol) cannot
praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: They that
go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The
living, the living, he shall praise Thee, as I do
On the other hand the death
of Moses was permitted, for it was his punishment;
therefore, there was no deliverance for him though
he sought it (Deut. 1:37; 3:23,27; 4:21,22; 31:2).
Surely it could have been no punishment if death is
not death; but, as is universally held, the gate of
In 1 Thes. 4:15, we read:
"This we say unto you by the Word of the Lord,
that we which are alive and remain shall not precede
them which are asleep."
To agree with Tradition
this ought to have been written, "shall not
precede them which are already with the Lord".
But this would have made nonsense; and there is
nothing of that in the Word of God.
While we may draw our own
inferences from what the Scriptures state, we shall
all agree that it is highly important that we should
clothe these views in Scriptural terms, and that we
should ask and answer how far it is that these
popular sayings have practically, at any rate until
recent years, blotted out the hope of resurrection,
the hope of the Lord's coming again to fulfill His
promise, to receive us to Himself. You remember how
the apostle speaks to some in the 15th chapter of
1st Corinthians, who say that there is "no
resurrection of the dead"; and in writing to
Timothy he refers to Hymenaeus & Philetus, who
had led some away from the faith by saying that
"the resurrection is past already".
The greatest comfort which
the greatest Comforter that the world ever knew had
to give to a sister who had been bereaved of a
beloved brother was, "Thy brother shall rise
again." All hope is bound up with this great
subject: and, if our Theology has no place in it for
this great hope, then the sooner we change it the
better; for remember that this subject is one of
We are expressly enjoined
by the Lord Himself: "Marvel not at this: for
the hour is coming in the which all that are in the
graves shall hear His voice" (John 5:28). These
are the Lord's own words, and they tell us where His
Voice will be heard; and, that is not in heaven, not
in Paradise, or in any so-called "intermediate
state", but in "the GRAVES". With
this agrees Dan. 12:2, which tells us that those who
"awake" in resurrection will be those
"that sleep in the dust of the earth";
from which man was "taken" (Gen. 2:7;
3:23), and to which he must return (Gen. 3:19; Eccl.
Psalm 146:4 declares of
man, "His breath goes forth, He returneth to
his earth; In that very day his thoughts
perish." The passage says nothing about the
"body". It is whatever has done the
thinking. the "body" does not think. The
"body", apart from the spirit, has no
thoughts. Whatever has had the "thoughts"
has them no more; and this is "man".
There is Eccl. 9:5, which
declares that "The living know that they shall
die; But the dead know not anything". It does
not say dead bodies know not anything, but "the
dead", i.e. dead people, who are set in
contrast with the "living". As one of
these "living", David says, by the Holy
Spirit (Psa. 146:2; 104:33):"While I live will
I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God
while I have any being". There would be no
praising the Lord after he had ceased to "have
any being". Why? Because "princes"
and the "son of man" are helpless (Psa.
146:3,4). They return to their earth; and when they
die, their "thoughts perish": and they
"know not anything".
This is what God says about
death. He explains it to us Himself. We need not
therefore ask any man what it is. And if we did, his
answer would be valueless, inasmuch as it is
absolutely impossible for him to know anything of
death, i.e. the death-state, beyond what God has
told us in the Scriptures.