By Oscar M. Baker
Two other words are translated "sleep" in the New Testament. One is Katheudo and occurs 22 times, never used of death. The other is Koimaomai, and occurs 18 times in the New Testament, 14 of these being of death, App. 171 Companion Bible.
Charles H. Welch has an article in Vol. 7 of his Alphabetical Analysis, page 250, on sleep and he takes up some of the same line as the C.B. Let us quote from pages 258, 259; "Saints" are said to "sleep" (M't 27:52); Lazarus is said to "sleep" (John 11:11); Stephen"fell asleep" (Acts 7:60); Christ is said to be the first-fruits of them that "slept" (1 Cor. 15:18), but in all the range of this usage, whether in Gospels, Acts or Epistles, "to fall asleep" is never used to speak of the death of an unbeliever.
The Lord never says "Ye shall fall asleep in your sins," but "ye shall die in your sins," for the sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law, but for those who believe in the Son of God, that sting has been removed. What is plain death to the ungodly is to fall asleep in Christ to the redeemed.
"For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself, For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's" (Rom. 14:7,8).
Christ is Lord of both of the dead and the living. In Adam all die, but in Christ the believer falls asleep-blessed difference indeed! The dead which die "in the Lord" are pronounced "blessed"(Rev. 14:13).
So far as our studies have led us, we find that"sleep" is not predicated of the ungodly in their death, but is reserved only for those who die "in the Lord."
Let us, therefore, use this blessed word with discretion, and value the priceless inferences that such a distinction must necessarily lead to.
In his booklet, Resurrection, page 13, our friend Stuart Allen make a pertinent conclusion of the matter, "First of all that of the Lord Jesus Who thought not of Himself, but for our sakes left the glory that was His by right and stooped so low as to die the death of a criminal, that all who trust in Him should not die eternally." We add that it does not say anywhere that people sleep eternally.
We cite the above authors to show that as we all seek to rightly divide the Scriptures, we come to a general agreement in our conclusions.
David said, "I shall be satisfied, when I awake,with Thy likeness" (Ps. 17:15). Job said, "All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer Thee" (Job 14:14,15). And the members of the mystical body of Christ await the day of redemption when they will awake in glory (not on the earth) and shall see Him in all His glory (Eph. 1:14; 4:30) and be manifested with Him there (Col. 3:4).
Since there is no knowledge or device of any kind in the grave (hell), the believer will have no idea of passage of time there. So as far as he will know, he will awake the next instant after death.
(Reprinted from Truth For Today Vol. 24, No. 4, 1971)