The Sleep Of Death

July 30, 2013

I’m trying to get back to a regular Bible reading regimen. I chose to start with 1 Thessalonians, for no particular reason. It’s been a good read. I’m reading through it a couple of times over the course of two weeks. One thing jumped out at me.

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. – 1 Thess. 4

One thing I often hear bandied about at funerals is “Oh, (s)he’s in Heaven with Jesus now.” If I interpret this scripture right, though, that’s not the case. You don’t get to Heaven until we all do. I’m guessing that the Jewish/Early Christian take on this would be that we all hang out in Sheol/the grave not really knowing what’s going on, until the resurrection.

When I was talking to Leigh about it, she mentioned Luke 23:43. “Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.””. I told her that that depends on where you put the comma, something the original language didn’t have. Put it on the other side of today, and you’ve got Jesus saying “What I’m telling you, at this moment, is that eventually you’ll be with me in paradise.” versus “When we kick off, the very next moment we’ll be together in heaven.”

Personally, I don’t think it matters a whole lot. But what are your thoughts on this and why?

One Response to “The Sleep Of Death”

  1. I agree with you, it doesn’t really matter. In the end there will be sheep (with God) and goats (not). What the timing is isn’t material.

    What I’ve heard explained by some more knowledgeable than I is that there is an intermediate place that you refer to – Shoel. It is divided between paradise & hades, sort of a precursor to heaven and hell. When we die, we are separated and await the final judgement. This is not the Catholic concept of purgatory where there is a some sort of second chance where we can yet be redeemed, our fate is sealed but our judgement is not yet final.

    Another way I have thought of it, with no scholarly research at all, is that death is much like seep. I go to sleep at night and awake in the morning with absolutely no perception of the hours that passed. It may be that we die and are in some sort of coma like limbo until the end but we are not aware of it at all so it seems that we go straight from one to the other. It also may be that we are transported forward in time to the end directly in death. although that doesn’t seem to square with this scripture very well.

    What does seem clear is that the traditional “He’s in heaven now.” statement isn’t quite accurate.

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