See Gen 47:30; Deut 31:16; 2 Sam 7:12; 2 Chron 9:31; Psa 13:3; Dan 12:2; Mt 27:52; Lk 8:52; Jn 11:11-13; Acts 7:60; 1 Cor 7:39; 11:30; 15:6,18,51.
The comparison between death and sleep is apt, because:-
(a) sleep implies rest from labour, Rev 14:13.
(b) sleep implies cessation of activity in the environment of one’s wakeful life.
(c) sleep is a prelude to awakening, 1 Thess 4:16.
Notice, it is the body which sleeps in death; the person (if the Lord’s) goes to ‘be with Christ’. Phil 1:23. The following references make it clear that the dead do not have an unconscious existence: Lk 16:23; 23:43; Jn 11:25,26; Acts 7:59; 1 Cor 15:8; Php 1:23; Rev 6:9-11 7:9.
1 Thess 4:13, etc, which refer to death as ‘sleep’, should not be understood as teaching that those who die in the Lord are unconscious and remain so until our Lord’s return.
The doctrine of Psychopannychy, or soul-sleep, has been advocated by a small Arabian sect in Eusebius’ time, by some Anabaptists, some Irvingites, and by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
N.B. Interestingly, Christ’s own death is never referred to as ‘sleep’. The inference we might draw is that he died the death that we deserved in order that, for us, death has lost its sting (1 Cor 15:55-57).
2. An exodus
See Lk 9:31; 2 Pet 1:14f. It is thus a joyful and victorious release from bondage. Death itself is a cruel tyrant, but Jesus died to free us, Heb 2:14f.
3. The taking down of a tent
See 2 Cor 5:1,4. Our bodies become weak and weary, painful and paralysed. But they were not designed for eternity. They are temporary dwelling, as contrasted with the permanent habitations we shall occupy in the life to come, 2 Cor 5:1. Death is the first step in this process.
4. A home-coming
See 2 Cor 5:6-8. Home is, or should be, a place of rest, security and acceptance.
5. A departure
Phil 1:22-24; 2 Tim 4:6. The picture here is of ship pulling up its anchor, being freed from its moorings and sailing away on its voyage. The destination, however, is not unknown: it is to ‘depart and be with Christ’, Phil 1:23.