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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: In What Sense Is Death like Sleep?

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Don Stewart
Although the doctrine of soul sleep is not taught in Scripture, the Bible does compare death with sleep. The comparison between the biblical idea of death and sleep is appropriate because they have a number of things in common. They include the following.

1. They Are Both Inevitable

Sleep and death are inevitable. At the end of each day the human body needs sleep. Likewise at the end of our earthly time, the body sleeps in death. Though we may try to fight them, both sleep and death will eventually win.

2. Rest From Labor

Sleep, as well as death, is a state where people have ceased from their labor. It is a time when the body is at rest. No work on this earth is done during sleep or death.

3. Not Cessation Of Being

Though a person is not working while they are asleep, there is no cessation of being. The mind continues to work while the body sleeps. The person who is asleep has not ceased to exist. Neither is the person who has died.

4. Awakening Comes Afterward

Those who are asleep, and those who are dead, do not sleep forever. They await the time when they will awake. The dead have rested from their earthly labor and are now waiting for the day of resurrection.

5. Awake To Something New

As the person who awakes from sleep faces the challenge of a new day, those who awake from the sleep of death begin a new existence. With a resurrected body they will begin life anew. In this case, it is eternal life.


Though death and sleep are not identical, they do have many things in common. Since Scriptures uses sleep as an analogy of death, there are lessons that we can learn from comparing the two.

1. Both sleep and death are inevitable, they come at the end of a period of work.

2. Sleep and death are where people rest from their labors.

3. Though death and sleep are a time of rest, they are not a cessation of being.

4. Those who are dead, as well as those who are asleep, look forward to a time when they will awake.

5. Finally, both the dead, and those who are asleep, awake to face something new. In the case of the dead, it will be a new, glorified body in which to spend eternity.
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