Thought for the Month

Sleeping in Death, Waking to the Resurrection

Sleeping in Death, Waking to the Resurrection

Like many older people I don’t sleep well these days, I wake often during the night and have vivid unsettling dreams; fortunately I can’t remember them when I wake up. Nights are often not restful times for me!

Yet the Bible describes death as a sleep for disciples of Jesus’ disciples and I used to be puzzled about this as death surely could not be anything like my sleep experiences!

Then I remembered the two occasions on which I had been into hospital for an operation. Each time I had a general anaesthetic and each time I was amazed at its effect. One moment I was laid on the operating table chatting to the anaesthetist and the next moment I was waking up in a recovery bed. I was not aware of ‘going under’, I had no memory at all of anything that happened to me during the operation; I did not know how long I had been asleep. This must be the picture we are meant to see when we read of the sleep of death. For the dead in Christ time does not exist, however long we wait for his return and the resurrection does not matter, in one sense his coming is never more than our lifetime away. But there is no continuing existence, no awareness of anything amongst the dead, no part of them continues at all.

It was Jesus himself who first spoke of death as a sleep. He was approached by an elder of the Jews whose twelve year old daughter was dying. ‘Please come and heal her’ he begged of Jesus. Yet by the time Jesus arrived at the house she had just died and the ruler’s message was that he was too late. ‘She is not dead but sleeps’ the Lord said and all who heard him ridiculed him until he gave the girl her life again.

We learn more later in the Lord’s ministry when he raised Lazarus back to life. This friend of Jesus had been dead and buried for four days and people at the tomb were horrified when Jesus told them to remove the stone covering the entrance to the tomb. ‘He stinks!’ they cried, knowing that Lazarus was not only dead; his body had begun to decay back to dust as do all dead people. But Lazarus came out of the tomb, alive and healed to resume his life. These people lived again for a while but then died and remain dead. Like all who lived in faith they await the return of Jesus when the dead in Christ will be resurrected, not to a resumption of mortal life, but to be made like their immortal Lord.

“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep…

But each in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”

The words we choose


Once a king dreamed that all his teeth had fallen out. Immediately he sent for one of his soothsayers to interpret the meaning of the vision. With a sad countenance and mournful voice, the soothsayer told the monarch that the dream meant that all his relatives would die and that he would be left alone. This angered the king and he drove the servant from his presence.


Another was called and the king told him of the dream. At this, the wise man smiled, and replied, “Rejoice, O King; the dream means that you will live yet many years. In fact you will outlive all your relatives.” This pleased the king a great deal, and in his joy he gave the interpreter a rich reward.


The two men had said, in different ways, the same thing.

The power of words is illustrated in the account of creation in the first two chapters of Genesis where God speaks the world into existence. As he spoke words, stars were formed, oceans appeared and planets took shape. He spoke and rivers teemed with fish, flowers bloomed and galaxies began to spin.

As humans created in his image, we too are given the power to create worlds with our words. We speak and reality changes. Through positive truthful words, people are renewed and healed. Through criticism and lies, people are damaged and destroyed.

The apostle James writes of the power of the tongue in James 3.

“3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”

“8 …no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”

The power of our words is immense. They have the power to change lives: to build people up, and to knock people down. How will you use your words this week?


timeThere are 365 days in a year, 24 hours in each day, 60 minutes in an hour and 60 seconds in every minute; the same amount of time for all of us. Yet somehow, some people seem to have all the time in the world, and others seem to rush from one unfinished task to another without any time to accomplish anything.

Unless we are very careful we can easily fall into the trap of running from one job to another without accomplishing much. It is important to set aside time for particular activities to ensure that they are done properly.

The writer of the book of Ecclesiates wrote:

3 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.


[Ecclesiastes 3:1-8]

What time have you set aside for God this week? How will you show it in your life? Try to do something different this week – make time to read your Bible, make time to help one of your friends/relatives/neighbours.