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Does Our Soul Sleep When We Die? Part One

As we come to the New Year, I want to begin our daily devotionals by looking at the topic of eternity. Many don't know where they are going when they die, so this is important. Some believe that when a Christian dies, their soul sleeps and is unconscious until Jesus comes for him at the end of this evil age. The Bible does have a few passages where Jesus talked about death for a Christian as "sleep." For instance, before Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, Jesus said that Lazarus was asleep:

11After 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." 12His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." 13Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep (John 11:11-13).

The Lord deliberately waited another two days before He even left for the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:6). Why did Jesus wait before starting the journey to Jerusalem to raise Lazarus? The Jews had a tradition that a person's soul could hang around the body for anything up to three days afterward. Jesus deliberately waited to prove to the skeptics that He has authority over death, but Lazarus was not sleeping in the tomb; he was dead. John, the apostle, explained this to us:

Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).

The Lord also talked about death as sleeping when He brought back Jairus’ daughter from the dead:

49While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. "Your daughter is dead," he said. "Don't bother the teacher anymore." 50Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, "Don't be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed." 51When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child's father and mother. 52Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. "Stop wailing," Jesus said. "She is not dead but asleep." 53They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54But he took her by the hand and said, "My child, get up!" 55Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened (Luke 8:49-56, Emphasis mine).

The believer in Christ is never dead; he is in a state of separation from his body, what Jesus called ‘sleep.’ When the Lord took the little girl’s hand and told her to get up, her spirit returned. Where had the little girl been? Her body was dead and lying on the bed, but the real person, her spirit, was somewhere else. Wouldn’t you like to have known what she experienced before Jesus called her back into the earthly home of her body? According to the Scriptures, a person is only dead when he is spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1, 5) and separated from God. The gift of God is given when one believes in Christ and receives the life of God by being born-again of the Spirit (John 3:3). So, dear reader, have you yet received the gift of new life in Christ? Let's continue to think about this tomorrow. Keith Thomas

These meditations were shortened from the in-depth study found at the following link: What Lies Beyond Death's Door.

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