The Berean Expositor
Volume 43 - Page 183 of 243
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despaired even of life (II Cor. 1: 8). This led him away from self-trust or self-confidence.
"But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but
in God which raiseth the dead" (9). In his letter to the Roman saints the Apostle stated
that he had often planned to visit them but had been hindered. He was concerned that
they should not be ignorant of this, or misunderstand his inability (Rom. 1: 13).
In each context where this phrase is used, something important is being stressed and
so it is in I Thess. 4: To the sorrowful saints who were mourning the loss of dear ones,
Paul does not attempt to inculcate a Stoic indifference. Such could not help sorrowing in
these circumstances. At the same time they could remember for their own comfort that
the Saviour Himself was a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He stood beside
the grave of a beloved friend and wept, and was deeply moved at the havoc and loss that
death brings. One thing that we are apt to forget is that redemption not only delivers
from sin, but from the penalty of sin which is death.
"I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death;
O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction" (Hosea 13: 14).
So that while we sorrow, we sorrow not as others who have no hope. This is one of
the great differences between the saved and the unsaved.  For believers, death is
described in the Word as a sleep, an interlude before the real life starts in resurrection
glory. This figure is never used for the unbelievers. For him the `sting of death is sin'
and this sting has not been removed as far as he is concerned. Such a person is without
Christ, without hope and of all men most miserable (I Cor. 15: 17-19). Regarding the
state of death, no one, of themselves, can have any real or sure knowledge of what it is
like. No ordinary mortal has come back from the grave to give us any information as to
its character, saving those who in Bible times, were raised from the dead, Lazarus being a
case in point. Thus it is that we are shut up entirely to the revelation of God's Word for
any knowledge we can have.
When God wishes to describe to us what the state of death is, what illustration will He
use? And at least we must admit that his illustrations are always apt. Consistently in
O.T. and N.T. He uses the figure of sleep, and if we will only consider what healthy sleep
is like we shall know all that God has revealed on this subject. We are not aware of any
Scripture that talks about death as the sleep of the body, the soul or the spirit, separately;
it is the sleep of the whole person concerned. Likewise the Word does not speak of the
resurrection of the body, that is what human creeds do. It treats of the resurrection of the
dead (I Cor. 15: 12, 13, 16, 20, 21). If Christians would only carefully keep to Scriptural
language, what trouble and false doctrine would be avoided! We should not hear then of
such senseless and unscriptural phrases as `soul-sleep'. The trouble is that so many
Christians are not content with what God has revealed. They much prefer to indulge in
wishful thinking and add their own faulty and misleading ideas concerning a subject that
they can know nothing of themselves. Tradition and man-made creeds add their quota of
error and the whole subject gets leavened with false notions which are very difficult to
throw aside. How often has one heard the phrase "I like to believe my loved ones are in
bliss; it is comforting", which only goes to show that personal preferences are made the
basis of belief, instead of the revelation of the Word of God.