“We Shall Not All Sleep” -- By: Smith B. Goodenow

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 049:196 (Oct 1892)
Article: “We Shall Not All Sleep”
Author: Smith B. Goodenow


“We Shall Not All Sleep”

Rev. Smith B. Goodenow

We regard this statement (of 1 Cor. 15:51) as one of the most startling and important announcements of the New Testament. It is commonly said that all men must die. But here it is declared, that we shall not all die! There is coming an end to this sad, sorrowful business of dying. This is the “mystery” here solved, and there is no getting away from it.

What a beautiful euphemism (or smoothing of language) this is, by which death in Scripture is represented as sleep! It is the favorite expression of the Bible, from the earliest down to the latest times; this being the common word used to designate the departure of godly people. The patriarchs “slept with their fathers;” and they with their successors were said to “sleep in the dust of the earth.” David prayed, “Lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.” Christ said of the departed maiden, “She is not dead, but sleepeth;” that is, what you call death is really but a sleep. And so of Lazarus he declared, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go that I may awake him out of sleep.” How often the apostle Paul uses this mode of speech concerning deceased disciples! In 1 Thessalonians he tells us of those “who sleep in Jesus,” and in this 15th of 1 Corinthians he repeatedly uses the expression: “they that are fallen asleep in Christ,” “them that slept,” and here in our motto, “we shall not all sleep.”

We need not here stop to dwell on the reason why this

term is used, or to show the appropriateness and beauty of it. What we want now is to enforce the astonishing fact here brought out—this “mystery” shown—that the time is coming when Christians will not die; when, instead of this, they will be “changed” and “caught up,”—translated, like Enoch, direct from their earth-life to their life in glory. This is said only of pious disciples,— “we,” the people of God.

That wonderful change will come, so sudden! and so glorious! “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” And, lest there should be any doubt about this, he proclaims the same fact in another epistle (1 Thess. 4:15-16: “And this we say unto you by the Word of the Lord,”—it is no mere theory of Paul’s, but a direct revelation from Christ, — “that we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent (or get before) the...

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