ASLEEP IN JESUS
By Wayne S. Walker
In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 Paul wrote, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep in Jesus, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” Being “asleep in Jesus” does not refer to being annihilated or even unconscious, but to being at rest and peace. In 1832 Margaret MacKay wrote a little poem entitled “Asleep in Jesus,” which was set to music as a hymn in 1842 by William Batchelder Bradbury. It has been in many of our hymnbooks and used to be quite popular, especially at funerals. It still contains a good message for us to consider.
“Asleep in Jesus! Blessèd sleep, From which none ever wakes to weep; A calm and undisturbed repose, Unbroken by the last of foes.” Again, being asleep in Jesus means being at rest. “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”’” ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them’” (Revelation 14:13).
“Asleep in Jesus! Oh, how sweet, To be for such a slumber meet, With holy confidence to sing That death has lost his venomed sting!” Being asleep in Jesus means victory! “’O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).
“Asleep in Jesus! Peaceful rest, Whose waking is supremely blessed; No fear, no woe, shall dim that hour That manifests the Savior’s power.” Being asleep in Jesus means looking forward to the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:10-11).
“Asleep in Jesus! Oh, for me May such a blessèd refuge be! Securely shall my ashes lie And wait the summons from on high.” Being asleep in Jesus means awaiting until the final resurrection of the dead. “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).
“Asleep in Jesus! Far from thee Thy kindred and their graves may be; But there is still a blessèd sleep, From which none ever wakes to weep.” Being asleep in Jesus means the hope of being reunited with others who have fallen asleep in Jesus. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
On Monday, May 2, 1994, my mother, Mary Ellen Walker, fell asleep in Jesus. She was born on August 3. 1929, the eldest daughter of Glen and Mildred (Holladay) Workman, and was baptized into Christ on October 13, 1940. She married my father, Ernest B. Walker, on December 7, 1952, and had two sons. I was born in 1954. My brother, who was born in 1956, preceded her in death in 1976. While living in Ohio she was a member of the Northside (originally Park Avenue) church of Christ in Hillsboro, and after moving to South Carolina in 1986, she was a member of the Central church of Christ in Greenwood.
Unless the Lord comes first, someday each one of us shall also “fall asleep” to await the coming of Christ, the resurrection from the dead, and the final judgment. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:27-28). May we love God, labor in His service, and live our lives in such a way that when this time comes we shall be ready to meet him having been “asleep in Jesus.”
(—taken from With All Boldness; June, 1994; Vol. 4, No. 6; p. 20)