If it is to be truly profitable, all true ministry must be "a word in season",
and it is not possible nor expedient to at1 to teach all the truth, or witness
to every doctrine, time.
The fact that within a week we have received more inquiry concerning the
teaching of Scripture regarding t as a sleep, leads us to see that it would be a
word in seas devote some of our limited space to a consideration a1 subject. In
the first place let us turn to John 11:14, "Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is
dead" (Lazaros apethanen). Greek verb here translated "is dead" is
from apothnesko. John 11:21 and 41 well show, the word thnesko
means "to "The addition of the prefix apo intensifies the cone
representing the actions of the simple verb as consummates finished, to die out,
to expire, to become quite dead" (Dr. E.W. Bullinger's Lexicon). In John 8:52 we
read: "Abraham is dead." (Abraham apethanen). Here, therefore, is fact
one. Lazarus was literally and completely dead as was Abraham.
In the second place let us turn to Luke 8:52. There we read, "She is not dead"
(Greek ouk apethanen). Here we had negative "not", which sets before us
the exact opposite of the proposition made in John eleven. Here, therefore, is
fact two. "She is not dead".
Now we find that many use the words of Luke 8:52 to deny or belittle the
language of John 11:14, but by so doing they are making Christ contradict
Christ, which is impossible. The third fact, therefore, which emerges, and which
demands acceptance, is, that Lazarus was dead and the little maid was
not; both statements must be, accepted, and neither contradicts the other.
In the fourth place, we are reminded that in both passages the word "sleep"
occurs, and this is brought forward as a proof that Lazarus was not really dead.
But when we "open the Book" and "search and see" we discover that this "proof"
is based on the supposition that the Greek word for "sleep" in both passages is
identical. This, however, is not the case:
"Our friend Lazarus sleepeth", Greek koimaomai (John
"She is not dead, but sleepeth", Greek katheudo (Luke
These two words represent two distinct thoughts; they are used with purpose, and
recorded by inspiration of God. Those who desire the truth will adhere to the
words that the Lord chose; those who wish otherwise will probably pay little or
no attention to the essential difference between them. The word in John 11:11 is
used in the passive and means "to fall asleep involuntarily",
consequently it is used of death. The word in Luke 8:52 is active, and
means "to compose oneself to sleep". A good illustration of the essential
difference between the two words occurs in the first epistle to the
Thessalonians. In 4:13-15 we read of them which "sleep", and these believers are
spoken of as "them which sleep in Jesus" (verse fourteen) and "the dead in
Christ" (verse sixteen). Moreover these are contrasted with those who are "alive
and remain". In these passages the word consistently used is koimaomai,
for this "sleep" means death.
In 1 Thessalonians five, however, katheudo is used, and not koimaomai:
"Let us not sleep as do others" (verse six).
"They that sleep, sleep in the night" (verse seven).
"Whether we wake or sleep" (verse ten).
Were the word "sleep" here synonymous with death, we should be able to restate
verse six as follows: "Therefore let us not die as do others"! but, alas, we
have no such option. The word "sleep" finds its synonym, not in death, but in
"drunkenness", its contrast in being "sober".
The reader of the A.V. should remember that the words "watch" in 1 Thessalonians
5:6 and "wake" in verse ten are the same. The original word is gregoreo,
and is translated "be vigilant" once, "wake" once, "watch" twenty times, and
"watchful" once; consequently 1 Thessalonians 5:10 should read, "Who died for
us, that whether we be watchful or drowsy, we should live together with Him",
although, of course, other Scriptures make it plain that the unwatchful believer
may not be granted to "reign with Him", a doctrine not in view in the
chapter before us.
Here, therefore, is fact number four; that two essentially different
ideas are presented by the two different words translated "sleep" in Luke eight
and John eleven, and must therefore not be confounded.
There is, however, one further statement in Luke's Gospel that demands
attention. It is, "And her spirit came again" (Luke 8:55). It is to Mark's
account of the raising of Jairus' daughter that we are indebted for the fact
that on that occasion (Mark 5:41) the Saviour spoke Aramaic, not Greek,
from which it is clear that her parents and those concerned were acquainted with
the Hebrew Scriptures, and familiar with its idiom. Having that in mind, let us
refer to 1 Samuel 30:11,12 where we read:
"And they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David, and gave him
bread, and he did eat; and they made him drink water; and they gave him a piece
of a cake of figs, and two clusters of raisins: and when he had eaten, HIS
SPIRIT CAME AGAIN to him".
This passage proves that the expression in Luke 8:55 does not necessitate
We learn, therefore, that Lazarus was actually dead, whereas, while the family
and friends of the little maid thought she was dead, they were mistaken.
The word used of Lazarus meant "to fall asleep involuntarily", whereas the
word used of the little maid meant "to sleep", not as the dead, but as those who
were in a coma or heavy sleep.
Untrammelled by these subsidiary considerations we can now face the Scriptural
fact that the dead are said to be "asleep". Even the heathen poets, of necessity
well acquainted with their mother tongue, realized that the figure of sleep, as
used of death, implied a subsequent awakening, and so we find them continually
adding the epithets "perpetual", "eternal", "unawakened", "brazen", to the word
"sleep", in order to exclude the idea of awakening natural to it. Estius
says "sleeping is thus applied to men that are dead, and this because of the
hope of resurrection; for we read no such thing of brutes". The early
Christians rightly called their burying places koimeterion, "sleeping
places", from which comes the English "cemetery" ".
To the believer who is prepared to accept whatever may be the teaching of the
inspired Word, these passages are of themselves sufficient proof that in the
Scriptures death is likened to sleep, and because the Scriptures are true, and
no figure employed by them can be misleading, the two words "sleep and awaken",
used to indicate "death and resurrection", leave no room for a conscious
interval, where, it is taught, the disembodied dead are more alive than they
were in life.
In order that no unexplained difficulty shall be permitted to becloud the issue,
we can now return to John eleven.
"He whom Thou lovest is sick" (11:3).
"This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God
might be glorified" (11:4).
We have already seen that Lazarus died, and the record of his burial follows.
The words "not unto death" cannot therefore mean that our Saviour was mistaken.
We may learn the intent behind these words by comparing them with another
comment found in John:
"Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus
answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of
God should be made manifest in him" (9:2,3).
In this passage the Lord is not teaching that the man or his parents were the
exceptions to the universal rule, and were sinless. He was indicating that this
special calamity of blindness was allowed, or even planned, in order that, by
the miracle of his healing, the works of God that set Him forth to be the
Messiah, should be made manifest. So, also, the sickness of Lazarus, though it
ended in actual death, had a greater purpose in it, namely the glorifying of God
and of His Son. In verse fourteen of John eleven we read, "Then said Jesus unto
them plainly, Lazarus is dead".
"Plainly" (parrhesia)-Four times this word occurs in John's Gospel
as the translation of the Greek parrhesia, and in each case it is used in
the explanation of a parable or proverb.
"If Thou be the Christ, tell us plainly" (John 10:24).
"Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazar-us is dead" (11:14).
"These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I
shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of
the Father" (16:25).
"His disciples said unto Him, Lo, now speakest Thou plainly, and speakest
no proverb" (16:29).
In John 10:6, in allusion to the previous verses regarding the fold, the
shepherd and the robber, this word paroimia, "proverb", is translated
"parable". This "proverb" is then "plainly" stated in John 10:7-18. When,
therefore, the Lord said "plainly", "Lazarus is dead", He was but explaining the
meaning of the figure, the parable or proverb of "sleep".
The reader will probably be alive to the fact that death, conceived of as sleep
from which there is no awakening until the resurrection, is so contrary to the
teaching of many who have embraced the unscriptural teaching known as "the
immortality of the soul", and its consequent sequel "the intermediate state"
(with, incidentally, all the encouragement that such false teaching gives to "Spiritism"
and other false doctrines), that so-called orthodoxy is obliged to stoop to the
use of questionable methods in order to prevent the seeker after truth from
finding it. Here, for instance, is a review of The Companion Bible, published in
COMPANION BIBLE, bearing no author's name, but well known to be the work of Dr.
Bullinger, gives the A.V, very much that is helpful and of literary value. Had
it contained only orthodox matter it would have been a valuable book of
reference. We must add that only students or those grounded in the faith should
handle, as references and notes abound with Dr. Bullinger's views of "soul
sleep", "hell, the grave", "Prison Epistles" and other dangerous theories,
especially in the appendices. Do not invest in this book" (the italics
are the reviewer's) ....
The reader will observe the term "soul sleep". Dr. Bullinger repudiated the
term, saying that he did not know what it meant. Anyone who knew the meaning of
the word "soul" as taught by Scripture, would never use such an expression, but
it is good enough to frighten the timid seeker.
The reader will, moreover, notice the appropriation of the title "orthodox" by
those who thus criticize and condemn The Companion Bible. If we set out to
discover what this "orthodoxy" is, and where its seat of authority is to be
found, we shall be driven to the Bible and the Bible only.
Shall we say that orthodoxy is found only in that Church "by law established"?
If so, then those whose criticisms have just been quoted will be found very
unorthodox. Are Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists and Brethren orthodox?
What would happen to such a company if one should follow the lead of Paul when
he observed that one part of the Sanhedrin were Pharisees and one part
Sadducees? What an exhibition of "orthodoxy" would follow a few questions
directed to such an assembly! This appeal to so-called orthodoxy is a confession
of weakness. Let all such come out plainly and appeal only and solely to the
teaching of the Scriptures and the field will be cleared of cant.
We can well understand the fear of "orthodoxy" if an enquirer should turn to
Appendix 13 of The Companion Bible. There the 754 occurrences of the Hebrew word
nephesh are tabulated and analysed. In an introduction to this list Dr.
"This Appendix will establish all the varieties of translation; and while it is
not intended to teach either Theology or Psychology, it will give such
information as will enable every Bible reader to form his own views and come to
his own conclusions on an important subject, about which there is such great
It is such an exhibition of the facts that "orthodoxy" would smother with pious
warnings. It is such Berean-like spirit that orthodoxy fears.
Orthodoxy has put many a saint of God to death, and those whose opinions we have
cited would necessarily be obliged to class Tyndale among the heretics, for he
"I marvel that Paul did not comfort the Thessalonians with that doctrine if
he had wist it, that the souls of their dead had been in joy; as he did with the
resurrection that their dead should rise again. If the souls be in heaven in as
great glory as the angels, show me what cause should be of the resurrection" (Tyndale).
Inasmuch as both the A.V. and the R.V., together with all translations and
versions since the days of Tyndale, bear the impress of that man of God, the
"orthodox" would be well advised to warn any but those who are "grounded in the
faith" against reading the English Bible at all!
May the Lord ever keep us free from the blinding power of tradition, and ever
lead us in our intentions to base all our doctrine squarely upon what is
"written", leaving "orthodoxy" to its inglorious emulation of the Scribes and
Pharisees who made void the Word of God that they might keep the tradition of
the elders. The question arises upon examination of some of the occurrences of
this figure of sleep, as to whether death in its widest sense is thus
denominated, or whether "sleep" is reserved for those who die in the faith. If
such a question be mooted, the rejoinder usually includes the many references in
the O.T. to men, ostensibly unbelievers, and some very wicked indeed, who
nevertheless at death are said to "sleep with their fathers". Let us, therefore,
in a truly Berean spirit consider this matter, for there are serious
consequences to any conclusion to which we may come.
Moses is the first concerning whom it is written "Thou shall sleep with thy
fathers" (Deut. 31:16). Moses was a believer, and consequently this one
reference is evidence that the term can be used of the redeemed. That it does
not mean actual sepulchre is evident by the testimony of Deuteronomy, for the
last chapter reveals that the Lord buried Moses in the land of Moab, "but no
man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day", so the term "fathers" must not
be unduly pressed.
The next who was told that he would sleep with his fathers, was David (2 Sam.
7:12), and in 1 Kings 2:10 we have the record, "And David slept with his
fathers, and was buried in the city of David". We find, however, that this
same term is used of such evil men as Jeroboam, Rehoboam, Abijam, Baasha and
other similar characters; these also are said to sleep with their fathers upon
their decease, just in the same way and expressed in the same language as of
Moses, David, Solomon and Hezekiah. Consider Baasha for example. He, like Moses,
slept with his fathers, but it is written:
"Him that dieth of Baasha in the city shall the dogs eat: and him that dieth of
his in the fields shall the fowls of the air eat" (1 Kings 16:4), because this
man followed in the evil ways of Jeroboam. It is time, therefore, to consult the
original and to discover what Hebrew word is translated "sleep". That word is
shakab, the primary meaning of which is "to lie down", by which it is
translated over100 times. In common usage it may be preparatory to sleep, but
the actual act and fact of sleep is not inherent in the word chosen. The
Hebrew word shenah which does mean "sleep", is NEVER used in the phrase,
"He slept with his fathers" which is strange if the conception that death
can be likened to sleep is true of all men. Job uses this word when he says:
"Till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their
sleep" (Job 14:12),
but when the appointed time arrived he knew that he would awake:
"Thou shaft call, and I will answer thee: Thou wilt have a desire to the work of
Thine hands" (Job 14:15).
We turn now to the N.T. and discover that there are three words translated
sleep, hupnos, which gives us the word "hypnosis", and "hypnotism",
katheudo, and koimaomai. Hupnos occurs but six times. Three
times in the Gospels (Matt. 1:24; Luke 9:32; John 11:13), twice in the Acts
(Acts 20:9), and once in the epistles, where it is used for the first and last
time in a figurative sense (Rom. 13:11). This word, therefore, need not detain
us further here. Katheudo occurs twenty-one times, of which seventeen
references are found in the Gospels, and four in the epistles. The references in
the Gospels refer to ordinary physical sleep; the references in the epistles
refer to culpable unwatchfulness, rather than the involuntary falling asleep in
"Awake thou that steepest" (Eph. 5:14).
"Let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober" (1
Two references will call for consideration after the next Greek word is
considered, namely Luke 8:52 and I Thessalonians 5:10, but they will be more
clearly seen when the comparison with koimaomat has been made. This Greek
word occurs eighteen times. Katheudo means to compose oneself to sleep,
in contrast with koimaomai which means to fall asleep out of sheer
weariness or under the hand of death.
"He found them sleeping for sorrow" (Luke 22:45).
"If her husband be dead" (1 Cor. 7:39).
"For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" (1
When the Lord assured the mourning family that the little girl "was not dead,
but sleepeth", they laughed Him to scorn (Luke 8:52), but we believe His word
implicitly and without debate. The word chosen by the Lord in this context was
katheudo. The apparently parallel passage in John 11:11 "our friend
Lazarus sleepeth" uses the word koimaomai, and whereas in Luke eight, the
Lord said, "She is NOT DEAD", in John eleven, He said plainly, "Lazarus
In 1 Thessalonians four and five the argument of the Apostle revolves around the
figure of sleep, but with this difference. In chapter four, it is the
involuntary sleep of death, whereas in chapter five it is the culpable
sleepiness of the unwatchful. Let us observe the process of the two arguments:
"concerning them which are asleep (i.e. dead) . . .them also which sleep in
Jesus (those that die in the Lord, no unwatchful believer is `unwatchful in
Jesus') . . . We which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall
not prevent them which are asleep . . . the dead in Christ" (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
Here the reference is to those who, though believers, have fallen asleep in
Christ, i.e. who have literally died, whereas in the next chapter
koimaomai is excluded, and only katheudo is employed, the closing
verse of the argument reading: "Who died for us, that, whether we are watchful"
(gregoreo, same word "watch" in 1 Thessalonians 5;6, and so translated
twenty-one times, once "be vigilant" which amounts to the same thing, and once,
herein 1 Thessalonians 5:10 by "wake" which is -misleading), "Whether we are
watchful or drowsy (katheudo not koimaomai as in 1 Thessalonians
four) we should (in spite of this lack of faithfulness) live together with Him".
In 2 Timothy 2:11-13 the difference between "living" and "reigning" with Christ
is brought out, living with Him as in 1 Thessalonians 5:10 being solely
dependent upon His death on our account, not upon our watchfulness, yet
watchfulness is taken into consideration when the question of reward is before
"Saints" are said to "sleep" (Matt. 27:52); Lazarus is said to "sleep"
(John 11:11); Stephen "fell asleep" (Acts 7:60); Christ is said to be
the firstfruits of them that "slept" (1 Cor. 15:20); and believers are
said to have "fallen asleep" in Christ (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", buy "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 the Lord 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.