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In the Book of Acts, the Jews became enraged against Stephen (filled with the Spirit):

Acts 7:60: "Then falling on his knees, [Stephen] cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them!' Having said this, he fell asleep" (emphasis added).

Why is Stephen's obvious death by stoning consider "sleep" in Scripture?

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  • See also Matthew 9:24, Mark 5:39, Luke 8:52, John 11:11-14, Acts 13:36, 1 Corinthians 11:30, 15:51, Ephesians 5:14, 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 5:10.
    – Lucian
    Oct 11 at 17:32
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Why is Stephen's obvious death by stoning consider "sleep" in Scripture?

Using the word sleep gives the true hope that we have in Christ. Those that have passed from death to life. Their death it's like one who is sleeping right now. The hope is they will be awakened in Christ.

It seems every time the word asleep that is in reference to those who died in Christ or those who have died in faith in the OT They will be awakened out of the sleep of death at certain times.

And now, Christ hath risen out of the dead -- the first-fruits of those sleeping he became, 1:Corinthians 15:20<

Behold, I tell you a secret: we indeed will not all sleep, but we will all be changed; 1Corinthians a15: 51<

But we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning those having fallen asleep, so that you should not be grieved, just as also the rest, those having no hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13<

for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also God will bring with Him those asleep through Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 4:14<

“Where is the promise of His coming?” they will ask. “Ever since our fathers fell asleep, everything continues as it has from the beginning of creation 2 Peter 3:4<

For indeed David, having served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was added to his fathers, and saw decay. Acts 13:36<

For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Also then those having fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 1 Corinthians 15: 16-18<

For as indeed in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in the own order: 1 Corinthians 15:22<

Then they will be awakened out of their sleep.

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  • Good answer +1.
    – Dottard
    Oct 11 at 21:26
  • Beautiful! You could even add Jesus' own words at John 11:11.
    – agarza
    Oct 11 at 22:37
  • Agarza, Thanks for the encouraging comment! I also love the verse you added and here it is in print. Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to wake him up.”
    – Sherrie
    Oct 12 at 2:46
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”Why is Stephen's obvious death by stoning consider "sleep" in Scripture?” - because that’s what *scripture’ tells us (Believers) to ‘think’ of ‘death’.

Luke (author of the book of Acts), a doctor, was using the same terminology that Jesus used ….

LUKE 8:52 Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.”

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"Sleep" and "sleeping" is VERY commonly used as a metaphor for death in the NT. This has no crept into English with our word "cemetery" from the Greek (via Latin), koimeterion = a place of sleeping.

Note the numerous times "sleep" is used to denote "death" in the NT: John 11:11, Acts 7:60, 13:36, 1 Cor 7:39, 11:30, 15:6, 18, 20, 51, 2 Peter 3:4, 1 Thess 4:13, 14, 27:52, etc.

Similarly, Jesus' resurrection of the dead is said to be an "awakening from sleep" in places such as John 11:11, 1 Cor 15:58, 1 Thess 4:15-17, etc.

Thus, the use of "sleep" in Acts 7:60 is consistent with this useage in the NT.

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  • This is a good answer. As pointed out the verb in question in the Greek was apparently used both as a nice way to say "died", and it was also sometimes used to indicate actual sleep. But it is also true that in Christ we sleep and will one day awaken in the resurrection, and so as Christians it has that meaning too. Good that this answer captures all of this!
    – bob
    Oct 12 at 15:45
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As noted, sleep refers to the state of 'being alive in Christ' while physically dead. Stephen would live again in his Saviour just as all the OT saints etc.

This sleep state is contrasted with the actual dead who have no hope - being outside of Christ. They are referred to as perishing.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1Cor 1:18

After the second death as Revelations 20:6,14 describes, these souls will perish and not sleep during death.

No, I tell you. But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Luke 13:5

This is the fate of any who will not choose Christ's means to true life which is graciously offered to all men for he indeed, died for all.

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New Living Translation Acts 7:60

He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.

The end. This sounds terminal and hopeless.

On the other hand, NIV Acts 7:

59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Granted, it is just a euphemism for being dead. The connotations are very different. Stephen didn't struggle to die. After being stoned, he rested in peace and looking forward to seeing Jesus :) Unlike Paul who was looking on with agitation, Stephen was blessed with rest. It wasn't the end. Stephen would wake up again.

Why is the word "sleep" used to describe Stephen's death by stoning (Acts 7:60)?

To bring out certain positive connotations associated with martyrdom.

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Also the Bible sometimes uses the expression "sleep" to denote the person being in God's memory and his desire to "wake" them by means of a resurrection through Jesus. See John 11:11-15, 25,26, 40-44.

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