"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope" (I Thessalonians 4:13).
The hope of the Christian is the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the rapture of living believers at His second coming. This is the primary theme of this epistle--especially verses, 4:13-5:10. In fact, it is significant that this book, possibly the first of Paul's epistles chronologically, is also the one with the largest number of specific references to Christ's second coming.
If it were not for this hope, we would have no
hope for the future. "If in this life only we have hope in Christ,"
Paul said, "we are of all men most miserable" (I Corinthians 15:19).
When an unbeliever dies, he dies without hope.
When a believer dies, he
is simply "asleep," as far as his body is concerned. At the same time,
his soul and spirit go to be with the Lord until the resurrection day.
Perhaps it is analogous to the state of dreaming, when the body is asleep in bed, while the person's consciousness seems to be engaged in varied activities far from where the body is resting.
The Bible uses the term "sleep" to describe death only in the case of Christians--
never for non-Christians (see John 11:11; etc.).
is genuine sorrow, of course, when a believer dies, but that sorrow is
softened and sublimated by the "blessed hope" of Christ's return (Titus 2:13).
"For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him" (I Thessalonians 4:14).
The souls of those whose bodies are asleep have gone to be with the
Lord, and will return with the Lord when He returns.
"The dead in
Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be
caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air" (vv.16-17).
ICR (Institute for Creation Research) has an excellent Daily Devotional publication known as Days of Praise.
From time to time I peruse its back issues and recently while doing this, I came across this excellent article by Dr. Henry Morris, the founder of the organization, who is now ‘Asleep in Jesus.’
In this brief article Dr. Morris made several wonderful observations concerning what “Asleep in Jesus” means.
I cut and pasted that article from the ICR website so that I could highlight and emphasize some of the thoughts that were so poignant to me.
The article in its original form (i.e. not highlighted by me) can be found by clicking here.