1 Thessalonians 4:13
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not…
I. COLLECT THE INFORMATION WHICH THE PASSAGE OFFERS OF THE STATE OF THE DEPARTED.
1. As to the body. "Sin entered into the world and death by sin." But what was originally intended for a punishment is transformed into a blessing. Death is now, through the mercy of God, only the unrobing of a Christian before he retires to rest, and the short repose he takes while the Redeemer is making ready the eternal mansions to receive him. The figure of our text involves the idea of —
(1) Repose. The body in its present state of deterioration is incapable of enduring many years of active existence. It grows weary of its necessary exertions, and requires its exhaustion to be repaired by rest. To die is to terminate the conflict, finish the race, reach the goal, and then, as a successful competitor, having gained the prize, to retire from the scene of competition.
(2) Security. It is to sleep in Jesus. His eye watches their bed, and His arm protects it. The bodies of the saints belong to Christ not less than their souls by redemption (John 6:39). Death consequently is not annihilation,
(3) Hope. Christ is rosen and become the first fruits of them that sleep. The sleep of death implies waking on the morning of the resurrection.
2. As to the soul. Reason asks many questions which revelation does not answer; but all that it is necessary or beneficial to know the Bible declares. "Sleep" does not apply to the soul, for the soul never sleeps, and there is not a text which lends a sanction to the doctrine that the soul shares the death of the body. When "the body returns into the dust, the spirit returns to God who gave it." Death is rather the arousing of the soul from her drowsiness into heavenly vitality. Dives and Lazarus were both conscious immediately after death; and Paul desired death because it was to be with Christ. In what part of the universe the departed dwell we know not; but it is sufficient to know that they are with Christ.
3. As to the ultimate glory awaiting both. "If we believe," etc. The period of Christ's coming is that to which all Scripture points, all Providence tends, and all time conducts. The saints will be brought to judgment, but, unlike the wicked —
(1) For acceptance and reward.
(2) To be the crown of the minister's rejoicing.
(3) To swell and share the triumph of the Redeemer.
II. ENFORCE THE TOPICS OF INSTRUCTION AND COMFORT THE TEXT SUGGESTS.
1. It ascertains what is the character in which we must die to be made partakers of this glory. Those only who fall asleep in Jesus, which implies being in Him before they fall asleep. Scripture carefully distinguishes between those who "die in the Lord" and the common dead.
2. It exhibits the death and resurrection of Christ as of infinite importance. All the hopes we entertain of a joyful resurrection are built upon them.
3. It suggests the only adequate source of consolation under bereavements (ver. 18).
(E. Steane, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.