Sleeping in Jesus
James Smith, 1859
REST. Sweet rest. Rest for the body in the grave, and rest for the soul in the presence of Jesus.
"Those who sleep in Jesus" 1 Thessalonians 4:14
There is always something solemn in death—and the circumstances connected with death, are often very painful. The sufferings of the body, the occasional loss of reason, the separation from near relatives, and dear friends, are at times very distressing. But death itself, it is not to be looked upon as an evil, any more than sleep is. The true Christian lives in union with Jesus, suffers in union with Jesus, and dies in union with Jesus. As united to Jesus, to him there is no condemnation, for he is fully and forever justified; therefore he is delivered from all the penal consequences of sin, and the very nature of death is changed. "He who lives, and believes in me," said Jesus, "shall never die!" And again, "He who keeps my sayings, shall never see death."
Death to the believer is—
It is rest—after TOIL—the labor of the body for temporal good, and the labor of the soul for spiritual. Much work, and hard work, has the Christian now—but it will soon be over; and of such Christian laborers, it will be said, "Blessed are the dead, who die in the Lord from henceforth: yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works follow them."
It is rest—after SUFFERING. And how much some of the Lord's people suffer. What bodily afflictions. What domestic trials. What reverses in the world. What severe conflicts, and exercises of soul! Some seldom eat with pleasure, or sleep soundly, or know what earthly pleasure is. To such, death will be a delightful rest, for then, "their sun will no more go down—but the days of their mourning will be ended."
It will be rest—after a long and wearisome JOURNEY. The Christian finds the present world a wilderness, a desert, an enemy's country. The way is rough and rugged. The journey is exhausting and discouraging. The changes are numerous and great. The seasons are changeable and trying. He is often disheartened because of the difficulty of the way. But at death—the journey ends! The wilderness is crossed. The land of rest, promised rest, lies spread out before him, and he realizes the pleasing fact, that he is going to take eternal possession. He then enters into the rest that remains for the people of God.
It is rest—after CONFLICT. A soldier of the cross he has had to do battle with sin, with self, with the world, and with principalities and powers in heavenly places. Many a wound has he received. From many a bruise has he suffered. Long, tedious, and trying has been the campaign; but now, only one enemy remains, and that is a conquered one, "the last enemy that shall be destroyed, is death!" Then, no more opposition, no more war—but all is peace, and peace forever.
It is rest after many FEARS and ANXIETIES. Often does the Christian fear—when he ought to be confident. Often is the believer anxious—when he ought to be grateful and thankful. Now, anxiety and fear will beset the Lord's children, and often fill them with sorrow and grief. They fear a thousand evils—which will never happen. They are anxious about many things—which never ought to occupy a moment's thought. But now the last fear, the last anxiety will agitate the breast—and all the future will be confidence and calm.
As therefore rest is sweet . . .
to the weary laborer,
to the afflicted sufferer,
to the exhausted traveler,
to the worn-out soldier, and
to the fearful and anxious parent—
so will the rest of the grave, the rest of glory, be to the believer in Jesus.
Death to the Christian is—SLEEP. Not that the soul sleeps, for that is still conscious, active, and happy in the presence of Jesus; but the body does, and a sweet sleep it enjoys. Yes, the sleep of the weary farmer, is not so sweet—as the sleep of the true believer. His grave is like a soft, perfumed bed, and he enjoys it the more, from the thought that Jesus laid there before him.
It is most refreshing, he will awake and arise from it, like a giant refreshed with wine. He will come forth like the lovely flowers in spring, after the cold bleak winds, and frosts and snows of winter. It is dreamless sleep. No distressing visions will ever disturb that gentle, calm, repose. But in holy quiet, and perpetual calm, the body will slumber on, until the morning of the resurrection breaks. It will be most safe, nothing can by any means hurt, or injure those who sleep in Jesus. Still united to his person, still under his watchful eye, still the object of his ceaseless care, still precious to his soul—the sleeping Christian rests, and rests until the dead in Christ arise. Let us then, never look at death—but through Jesus; nor at the grave—but in the light of the resurrection.
To the eye of nature—death is dreadful, and the grave is repulsive. But to the eye of faith, and as represented in the New Covenant—they are stripped of all that is dreadful and repulsive, so that an Apostle could say, "To die is gain!" or "To die is best of all!" He looked upon death as the removal of a traveler from the inn, when he had rested for a night, saying, "The time of my departure is at hand." At the close of his work, the termination of his stewardship, he therefore added, "I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith." Blessed apostle, yours was a wearying journey, a desperate conflict, and a responsible stewardship; but your prospect was glorious, and your rest has been sweet!
Beloved, let us not fear death—but let us seek such an acquaintance with Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life, and who tasting death for us—abolished death, that it might not alarm us—as shall raise us above that fear.
We may so know Jesus, and so believe in Jesus, as to smile at death, and even covet it—as many have. One thing is certain, if we are united to Jesus, if we are living in fellowship with Jesus, and if we are devoting our life to Jesus—then nothing in heaven, earth, or hell can harm us; and death will be nothing more than a sweet sleep to us.
Nor do I suppose that the time between death and the resurrection will appear longer to us—than a night's sound and sweet sleep does. How beautiful creation looks now, on a fine spring morning—when we awake from a good night's rest; but how beautiful will all things look—when we awake from the slumbers of the grave, and see all things radiant with the smile, and the glory of God.
Blessed Spirit, teach me so to know Jesus, so to live upon Jesus, and so to make use of Jesus—that I may live above the fear of death, and dread dying—no more than I now dread falling asleep, after a hard and wearying days' work!