Sleeping in Christ – Isaiah 57:1-2

And We Await His Coming

1 The righteous perish,
    and no one takes it to heart;
the devout are taken away,
    and no one understands
that the righteous are taken away
    to be spared from evil.
Those who walk uprightly
    enter into peace;
    they find rest as they lie in death.

Slumbering Saints

What happens when the Saints of God shed their bodies?  To be absent from the body is to be present with the LordJesus referred to it as sleep:

He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.”

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” 12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

Paul also indicated that those whose mortal bodies are no longer alive are sleeping:

That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.

After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.

18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

A Pleasing Promise

It is a glorious thing to think about – that although our bodies have failed, our spirits will be with the Lord when our mortal flesh fails us.  And we await the Coming of the Lord in the skies when those who are still (mortally) alive are gathered up to greet Him in the clouds with the saints that have fallen asleep!

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Graciously Grabbed

The Greek word for “caught up” is  harpagEsometha (from harpazo), which means “shall be being snatched (away).”  It will happen in an instant.  We will literally be seized.  Jesus referred to it this way:

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.”

Readiness Required

There is a second kind of sleep.  The one where we aren’t paying attention.  We get so caught up in our daily lives that we can sometimes forget that we need to be preparing for the return of Jesus:

 1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

The Qualifying Question

So, let’s ask ourselves a question:  Are we prepared for our sleep, or the return of Jesus?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank you for Your Word, as it illuminates every aspect of my life, and brings light into my darkness.  Purge me of all darkness that I may be a light set upon a hill, and that Your Son, Jesus Christ, would shine through me to a wicked and lost generation.  Help me to be prepared for the great day when Your Son returns in glory and splendor.  Help me to be prepared, for I do not know when my life will be required of me by You.  Guard me against worldliness and the attractions of wealth and comfort.  I know, Lord God, that these things are meant to be enjoyed and used for Your glory.  Help me to keep everything in its proper place in the life You have give me.  Help me to remember that separation from those who have fallen asleep is only for a very brief time, and that we will be reunited with You shortly.  Bless all who are called by Your Name and whose names are written in the book of life.  Remember, divinely act upon, all who do not know You, for You have said in Your word that You want all to come to repentance and salvation.  May Your name be blessed and praised forever and ever, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

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