Sorrow not as others
"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are
asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others who have no hope" (1Th
"I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren..." This is a
common expression of Paul (Rom 1:13; 11:25; 1Co 10:1; 12:1; 2Co 1:8) when he
wants to correct an erroneous idea, or to explain something that has caused
perplexity. It is invariably accompanied by the address "brothers", revealing
the affection and concern Paul feels for his charges.
The Greek "koimao" is the common word for sleep, from which we
derive the English words "coma" and "cemetery" (a "sleeping-place"). In the NT
death is often equated with sleep (Mat 9:24; 27:52; John 11:11; Acts 7:60;
13:36; 1Co 15:6,18,20,51; 2Pe 3:4). (In 1Co 7:39, the same word for "sleep" is
actually translated "dead" in the KJV.) Almost without exception, it is those
who are in covenant relationship with God who are so characterized (cp v 14
here: those who "sleep in Jesus"). The OT also uses the same figure (Gen 47:30;
Deu 31:16; Psa 13:3; 1Ki 22:40; etc), though not so frequently. It occasionally
refers in similar fashion to those who will never be resurrected, as sleeping "a
perpetual sleep" (Jer 51:39,57; cp Isa 26:13,14; Psa 76:5,6).
Saints, who are dead "in Christ" (1Th 4:14), are nevertheless
so related to life by the surety of a resurrection that in God's eyes they are
simply "asleep." It may even be said that to Him they are alive (Luke 20:38), on
the principle that God may call those things "which be not as though they were"
(Rom 4:17). He counts their deaths no more interruptions of life than we would
Sleep is a resting so as to awaken refreshed. It is no
disadvantage to those who so pass their time, and may even be a gain (John
11:12). Those who are dead with Christ will also live with Christ (2Ti
"Sorrow not... as others who have no
Much of common humanity, who have no real hope of resurrection
and eternal life, may see death for what it truly is -- an unremitting sadness
and grief. But the assurance our hope gives us is that our dead ones, dying in
the Lord, will be restored to life and to us (Tit 1:2; 3:7; Acts 23:6).
There is no room in this -- no matter the outward appearance
-- for the inconsolable grief that the rest of mankind bows under because it has
no hope. The world has no hope (Eph 2:12), because its ignorance alienates it
from the life God promises (Eph 4:17,18). But, says Paul, we have knowledge --
true knowledge -- and this, when believed and acted upon, leads to a firm and
lasting hope -- which no temporary circumstance can dim. "For our light and
momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them
all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is
seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2Co 4:17,18).
Loved ones in the faith may be taken from us, and we feel the
loss deeply. But for believers the most profound grief, in this life, is -- by
God's providential hand -- only a passing sorrow... a weeping for a brief night
only; it will give way to the joy of the new "day" that will certainly dawn for
all who trust in Him. Most assuredly, we miss those who have fallen asleep in
hope, but with faith and courage we set our eyes upon the goal before us, our
Father's Kingdom. The road stretches ahead of us still, and beckons us onward:
we still have breath in our bodies, and so we must continue our journey.
One day -- may it not be long! -- we shall meet up with our
loved ones again. They shall awaken renewed and refreshed from their sleep, and
arm in arm we shall take the last steps of our journey together, and enter into
the glorious city of our God.
"And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Rev