These things spake he: and after this he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus is fallen asleep; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.John 11:11 ASV
Of all that Jesus ever said of death, this is the most encouraging.
(1) Sleep is a temporary thing; and so by this our Lord revealed that death too is not permanent.
(2) Sleep refreshes and rejuvenates; thus in the resurrection this mortal shall put on immortality and this corruptible shall put on incorruption.
(3) From sleep, men awaken; and the promise is secure in the Master’s words that all that are in the tombs “shall come forth” (John 5:29).
(4) Sleep is a time of rest; and the dead also “shall rest from their labors” (Revelation 14:13).
Jesus never told how bad it was with men, except that in the same breath he provided the remedy.
The announcement that Lazarus was dead was followed by the word that Jesus would awaken him.
Jesus reveals our sin, but in the same breath offers pardon, salvation, and eternal life.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him.1 Thessalonians 4:14 ASV
While true enough that the resurrection shall be accomplished “through Jesus,” the thing in view here is that community of souls who are “asleep in Jesus.”
This passage does not deny the general resurrection of all the dead, but the general resurrection of unbelievers is not mentioned.
The apostle John wrote: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord (Revelation 14:13); and the same teaching is in Paul’s words here.
Before leaving this verse it is important to note the implications that are inherent in it. Moffatt states them thus:
Since Paul left, some of the Thessalonian Christians had died, and the survivors were distressed with the fear that these would have to occupy a position secondary to those who lived until the Advent of the Lord, or even that they had passed beyond any such participation at all.
To these implications, there is another to be added.
Of course, this expectation was erroneous, and it may not be inferred that they had received any such false impression from what Paul had actually taught.
The appearance of 2 Thessalonians such a short time later to correct their false views proves conclusively that the false views were not of apostolic origin, but due only to their improper deductions.
It should be remembered that Paul’s instruction of them had been interrupted by persecution before it was concluded.