This is eternally true of them that sleep from either lethargy or sin, and it is positively not required in understanding this verse to believe that Paul thought the Second Advent of Christ was to be expected ANY DAY.
Christ so mingled his prophecies of his final coming and of the coming destruction upon Jerusalem (Matthew 24) that it was nearly impossible for some people to avoid thinking that the two events would occur simultaneously, instead of being separated by many centuries.
Paul used the words exactly as Jesus used them; and there is a tremendous weight of material in Paul’s writings that shows he did not fall into the common error of confusing the two events as to their simultaneous occurrence.
He knew, for example, that his own death would precede the final judgment (2 Timothy 4:6), that a space of time sufficient to allow the revelation of the man of sin would intervene before it (2 Thessalonians 2:3ff), and that the fullness of the Gentiles would come in first (Romans 11:25), all of which knowledge on Paul’s part made it impossible for him to have considered the judgment day as being just around the corner.
His reference to Christ’s coming, and such expression as “the day is at hand,” applied to the impending destruction of Jerusalem and the judicial coming of Christ in that epic event.
There is no ground for supposing that Paul was ignorant to the point of confusing the judicial coming with the final coming.
The person who sleeps is in a state of insensibility, not knowing anything that is going on.
A fire may sweep through the city, a revolution rage in the streets, or a tornado bear down upon him, but he knows it not.
An assassin may slay him, a thief despoil him, or any unexpected peril overcome him; and, regardless of what might occur, he is vulnerable, asleep, in danger.
Many a spiritual sleeper has delusions of grandeur and glory which pertain not at all to him. Many a soul has been lost while its possessor slept.
Illustration: On the night of September 2,1757, when the soldiers of the Marquis de Montcalm, commandant of the French army of Quebec, retired to their tents, they slept the sleep of insecurity.
Only a few sentries were left to guard the heights overlooking the mighty St. Lawrence river; but, while they slept, the soldiers of General Wolfe scaled the heights of the river and defeated the French the next morning on the plains of Abraham.
The Dominion of North America changed hands while people slept!
A thousand examples from history could be brought forward to show what a disastrous thing sleep may be.
Examples of Sleep in the Bible
Sleep of Jonah
- Some sleep the sleep of Jonah, an unrealistic sleep.
- He went aboard a ship putting out to sea, descended into the hold of the vessel and went to sleep.
- Not even the mighty storm which descended upon them aroused him.
- What a perfect picture is that of a man who will not face reality!
- Many a sinner is sleeping the sleep of Jonah. Sin is a roaring tornado all around.
- It reaches out to destroy; it tosses to and fro; but people give no heed. They are asleep (Romans 13:11; Ephesians 5:14).
Sleep of the Weary
- Some sleep the sleep of the weary, as did the disciples Peter, James and John in the Garden of Gethsemane.
- They were tired.
- That tremendous week in Jerusalem had been enough nearly to overwhelm them.
- The tired fishermen of Galilee were not accustomed to being stretched out in such an endurance contest as that which marked the Lord’s final week in Jerusalem.
- They simply could not stand the strain and went to sleep. The spiritual counterpart of this is seen everywhere.
- People tire of the ceaseless struggle, become worn out with the dull routine, and, numbed by the deadly monotony, they fall asleep; but, while they nod Judas is making a deal with the high priest; and, in a little while, the soldiers will appear to lead the Lord away.
- Of such, one can hear the Master say, “What, could ye not watch with me one hour?”
Sleep of Presumption
- Some sleep the sleep of presumption, like Samson upon the knees of Delilah. There was a man who knew all the dangers, but slept anyway.
- He could always rise to the occasion.
- He could always go out and “shake himself as at other times,” so he thought and was therefore contemptuous of the danger.
- Many today sleep like that. They know the folly and peril of the neglect of prayer, study, and worship; they know how deadly is the sting of sin; but they sleep.
- “I know! I know the truth!” they cry, but they sleep anyway; and, while they sleep, there comes inevitably the hour when it is too late, and for them, as for Samson, they are led away to the blinding irons and the mill and the work of an ass until life is ended.
- WHY WILL NOT PEOPLE WAKE UP!
Sleep of the Sluggard
- Some sleep the sleep of the sluggard (Proverbs 24:30-34).
- These are they who are going to be saved tomorrow, who plan to stir themselves in a convenient season, who fully intend to obey the Lord, but not now.
Sleep of the Injured
- Some sleep the sleep of Eutychus, the sleep of the injured.
- Eutychus fell out the third-story window during one of Paul’s sermons and was taken up for dead; but Paul said, “His life is in him.”
- Thus, it might be concluded that he was merely unconscious due to the fall. It is of that kind of sleep that we speak.
- Spiritually, some have sustained near-fatal injuries and continue in a state of sleep.
- Gross sin, terrible disappointment, the traumatic experience of church division or some other catastrophe has left them insensible through spiritual sleep, and they must be aroused or perish.
Sleep of the Foolish
- Some sleep the Sleep of the Foolish, the negligent, or the careless. Jesus’ parable of the tares sown in the wheat emphasized that such a disaster took place “while men slept” (Matthew 13:24,25).
- Someone just went to sleep when he should have been on guard. Many sleep like that.
- Parents sleep while the devil is seducing their children.
- Elders sleep while error is advocated in the church.
- Some young people sleep, thinking that they have many years in which to make their peace with God; but, while they sleep, they are taken away.
- Illustration: When I was in my first year at Harding University, I quickly discovered a term that I had never heard before.
- For many of my fellow students, myself included, I’m ashamed to admit, being away from Mom and Dad, and my home church of Christ, meant that no one but myself was there to hold me accountable for my regular church attendance.
- The phenomenon of SLEEPING IN, instead of getting up and worshiping God with the local saints was called: “WORSHIPING ST. MATTRESS.”
- In this literal example of SLEEP preventing keeping God’s commandments, Satan has a prime opportunity to drag us into a pit of non-attendance, and shame, and eventually, this can lead to true SPIRITUAL DEATH.
- I thank God that I was saved from this and with my godly Wife, we’ve raised four amazing souls together.
- Side note: while we were engaged, we sat in a Sunday service, and together named our four future children.
Sleep of Spiritual Death
- Still others sleep the sleep of spiritual death, as did certain Christians in Corinth. “Some sleep …” (1 Corinthians 11:30).
- This, of course, is a euphemism for death, the sleep from which one does not awaken until the sound of the trumpet and the gathering of the hosts for judgment.
- Some are already so far gone into such a fatal sleep that they cannot hear the cries of loved ones, nor the message of the gospel, nor the roar of the waves of Jordan.
- The sleep of those Christians had been induced by their neglect of the Lord’s Supper and public worship, which shows how easily people may slip into such a deadly sleep.
Every man’s salvation is nearer as life unfolds; and, for every man, it is sealed and assured, when his faithfulness has been manifested even unto the end.
Writing to Timothy, in the last of his apostolic messages, Paul said: