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Luke 8:

41Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.

Meanwhile, the girl died. However, when Jesus got there:

52Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”

Why did Jesus say that? Was it true at that point?

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  • This is an example of Blessing over Curse.
    – Decrypted
    Jun 15 '19 at 14:45
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Jesus makes similar comments about Lazarus in John 11:11-14. In v11 Jesus claims that Lazarus is sleeping and in v14 Jesus plainly states that Lazarus is dead.

The story of Lazarus and Jairus' daughter are just two examples of the many places that Jesus and the NT describes physical death as sleeping. Here is a sample: Matt 9:24, Mark 5:39, Luke 8:52, Eph 5:14, 1 Thess 5:10.

BDAG confirms this as one of the meanings for the verb καθεύδω (katheudó): "3 to be dead, sleep."

The Bible also describes the resurrection as becoming "awake" such as in Matt 12:42, Luke 8:54, Luke 11:31, John 11:11, Eph 5:14, etc.

I suspect that Jesus liked this metaphor for death of "sleep" because as the light of life (John 8:12) and the resurrection and the life (John 11:25, 1 John 5:11, 12), the act of bringing someone to life was as simple (to Him) as waking that person from sleep.

However, as BDAG documents, the idiom of sleep meaning death was well known outside the Bible - see BDAG on κοιμάω (koimaó = to fall asleep" = die as per 1 Cor 15:20, Acts 7:60, 13:36, 1 Cor 7:39, 11:30, 15:6, etc). Even our modern English word, "cemetery" is derived (via the Latin) from the Greek, koimeterion = a place of sleeping.

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  • Interesting point, especially about Lazarus. That's a good example. Out of curiosity, though, why does he appear to contrast the girl's state with death in verse 52 ("not dead, but sleeping")? Jun 14 '19 at 3:47
  • My answer is supplied above in the last two paragraphs.
    – user25930
    Jun 14 '19 at 9:08
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    @EJoshuaS, remember that many Jews at the time did not believe in a future resurrection; for them dead meant dead. (See Acts 23:6-8.) Jesus could have been pointing out that her current state of death wasn't the permanent death that they believed it to be. Jun 15 '19 at 14:05
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The Bible mentions a “second death,” thus implying the existence of a first death. The Bible also mentions a “first resurrection,” thus implying a second resurrection. In Revelation 20, it is written,

4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 (But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

In Revelation, before the commencement of the thousand year reign of Christ, there is a resurrection: the first resurrection. Those resurrected are those who were beheaded (and thus died) “for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God.” The author explicitly states that “the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.” However, that these dead did indeed “live again” after the thousand years proves that they, too, are resurrected, albeit at a later time.

The author also states that those who participate in the first resurrection are “blessed and holy” because the second death has no power over them. This implies that the second death has power over those who do not participate in the first resurrection, but in the second resurrection.

Indeed, the prophet Daniel spoke of this second lot of dead when he prophesied,

12:2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to eternal life, and some to shame and eternal contempt.

Daniel does not state that they all awake simultaneously, but it is as the author of Revelation wrote. Everyone experiences the first death, with few exceptions. It is referred to as a sleep because it is only temporary. Everyone will awake from it, whether at the beginning or end of the thousand years.

Some of those who sleep the first death awake in the first resurrection to eternal life, while the others who do not awake in the first resurrection will awake in the second resurrection, not to eternal life, but to eternal contempt. Over these the second death has power. From this second death, none awake, ever. In that sense, those over whom the second death has power are truly dead, not “sleeping.”

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  • Thinking along those same lines, it seems to me that if it's temporary and it isn't death only a nice nap.
    – Ruminator
    Jun 15 '19 at 20:14

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