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A state of repose in sleep, Nature’s release from weariness of body and mind, as of Jonah on shipboard (Jon 1:5); of Christ in the tempest-tossed boat (Mt 8:24); of the exhausted disciples in Gethsemane (Mt 26:43 the King James Version).

Used with beautiful and comforting significance of death (koimaomai, "to put to sleep").

Sleep implies a subsequent waking, and as a symbol of death implies continued and conscious life beyond the grave. In the presence of death no truth has been so sustaining to Christian faith as this. It is the distinct product of Christ’s resurrection. Paul speaks of departed believers as having "fallen asleep in Christ" (1Co 15:6,18); as proof of the soul’s immortality he terms the risen Christ "the first- fruits of them that are asleep." Lazarus and Stephen, at death, are said to have "fallen asleep" (Joh 11:11; Ac 7:60); so of David and the ancient patriarchs (Ac 13:36; 2Pe 3:4). The most beautiful description of death in human language and literature is Paul’s characterization of the dead as "them also which sleep in Jesus" (1Th 4:14 the King James Version). This blessed hope has wrought itself permanently into the life and creed and hymnology of the Christian church, as in the hymn often used with such comforting effect at the burial service of believers: "Asleep in Jesus! blessed sleep!"

Dwight M. Pratt

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