In the sermon yesterday morning we were in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Given some beliefs at the time that death meant you ceased to exist, the Thessalonian church members wanted to know if the loved ones that had already passed on had any hope of Heaven and the rapture as they did, or if they were simply gone. Paul let them know that not only was there hope for those already passed, they would be the first to meet Jesus in the air at the rapture!
In this context, Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church about death being like sleep. Comparing death to sleep is quite comforting for the believer in Jesus. When you sleep you do not cease to exist, so also when you die you do not cease to exist. Sleep is ordinary, temporary, and even needful.
Jesus Himself referred to death as sleeping in John 11:11-15. Jesus has power over death, as seen in His raising Lazarus and in Jesus’ own resurrection. In the words of a note I took from the sermon: Historically when you conquer something, you have the right to rename it. Jesus conquered death and renamed it sleep.
For the believer in Jesus, death no longer has a sting. It’s just sleeping now, and when you sleep you wake up!