1 Thessalonians 5:6
Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
I. THE SLEEP OF SIN — Scripture teaches us, with the utmost explicitness, that a state of sin is a state of slumber. Sleep is a figure which is commonly employed to illustrate man's natural and unrenewed state. Sin is the sleep of the soul — the spirit.
1. Both natural and spiritual sleep are characterized by forgetfulness. We speak, and not without reason, of the oblivion of sleep. A man falls into a sound sleep, and immediately he forgets the past, "forgets himself," to use a very common and not inappropriate expression. Look at men in a state of sin, in an unrenewed, unawakened state — are they not the subjects, the victims of forgetfulness, to an almost incredible extent? Do they not forget what manner of men they are? Do they not forget all the great lessons of God's Word and God's providence, which have been so repeatedly addressed to them? Do they not forget what they owe unto their Lord? Are they not oblivious to those immense accumulations of guilt which are invoking the long delayed vengeance of Heaven?
2. Both spiritual and natural sleep are characterized by insensibility to the present. In bodily slumber a man is insensible to all that transpires around him: he is shut off from all surrounding influences; a mysterious, and, for the time, impenetrable veil separates him from the external and material world. Is not this, again, illustrative of the moral, the spiritual condition of the unrenewed, the unawakened sinner? He is in the midst of a spiritual world, full of realities the most stupendous, the most amazing. He has no spiritual discernment. There are the truths of Scripture, there is this wide-spreading spiritual universe, with all that it contains of beauty and terror, with its sweet whispers of invitation and its thunder tones of warning, all of which things are not the less real because he is asleep: but to him they are as though they were not, while he is asleep; for him they have practically no existence; on him they exert no appreciable influence.
3. In both spiritual and natural sleep we see not only forgetfulness as to the past and insensibility as to the present, we see, also, the entire absence of apprehension as to the future. In the case of natural slumber, though some great peril be actually threatening the sleeper, there is no uneasiness, no dread, no desire or effort either to avert the danger or to escape from it. That I am not overstating the case will appear, if you will take the trouble to compare your feelings in reference to some object of earthly interest, with your feelings in reference to some object of spiritual interest. But with spiritual danger it is otherwise. You see it not — it is intangible — it is mysterious — it is future.
4. Both natural and spiritual sleep are often disturbed by dreams. But there is the widest difference between the dreams which disturb the natural and spiritual sleeper. In natural sleep the objects of our dreams are unrealities, fantastic and improbable assemblages of familiar things, grouped upon we know not what principle of association. The man wrapped in spiritual slumber dreams, but of what is actual and real.
5. In the case both of natural and spiritual slumber we see that persons who are soundly asleep are very unwilling to be awakened. And in all deep sleep, if the awakening be not a very thorough and complete one, there is an almost irresistible tendency to fall asleep again. God often, in His providence, disturbs the sleep of men. But, whatever may be the cause, there is in such cases only a partial awakening, and we see plainly enough that the sleeper does not like to be thus disturbed.
II. Let us now notice THIS SLEEP OF DEATH which is so often referred to in God's Word. The same natural state is, as you know, employed to symbolize two things, sin and death; and if we are but truly emancipated from the Slumber of sin, we shall be able to look forward without foreboding to the sleep of death. As we compare sleep and death, we distinguish several points of correspondence, which are not only very obvious, but which are also very interesting.
1. We see sleep exercising its dominion over the entire world. In all ages, and in all countries, we see men yielding to its influence. And just so the power of death is universally exercised and submitted to. "Death has passed upon all men, inasmuch as all have sinned."
2. Though men have been sleeping and dying for six thousand years, there is an infinite mystery still attaching both to sleep and death. There is no one wise enough to say precisely what the one or the other is.
3. Sleep and death agree in this also, that their dominion extends no further than the body. While the body lies fettered in sleep, the soul enjoys an unbounded and unwonted liberty, which it scarcely knows how to use.
4. In sleep and in death there is the apparent enjoyment of rest and quiet. In reference to the grave we say, "There the wicked cease from troubling; there the weary are at rest."
5. In sleep and in death men lie down with the hope and the expectation of rising again.
6. You know, in the case of natural slumber, that they who would sleep well at night must not sleep much in the day. And I would remind you, that if you spend the day of your life sleeping the sleep of sin, the sleep of death will be a troubled sleep, and your awakening, on the resurrection day, one full of terror. If you will sleep when yon ought to be awake, you will not be able to sleep when the time for sleep cometh.
(T. M. Morris.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.