What it Means to Rest in Peace

by Mar 26, 2013


We’re looking forward to a great Easter celebration this Sunday, where we’ll continue to explore what the Bible says about heaven. Scripture describes heaven as “rest.” What does that mean?

Charles Spurgeon explains, in his sermon “Fallen Asleep”:

In the heathen part of the catacombs of Rome, the inscriptions over the place where their dead were buried are full of lamentation and despair. Indeed, the writers of those inscriptions do not appear to have been able to find words in which they could express their great distress—their agony of heart—at the loss of child, or husband, or friend. They pile the mournful words together to try to describe their grief. Sometimes, they declare that the light has gone from their sky now their dear ones are taken from them. “Alas! Alas!” says the record, “dear Caius has gone and with him all joy is quenched forever, for I shall see him no more.” Heathenism is hopeless to afford any comfort to the bereaved!

But when you come into that part of the catacombs which was devoted to Christian burial, everything is different. There you may constantly read these consoling words, “He sleeps in peace.” There is nothing dreadful or despairing in the inscriptions there—they are submissive, they are cheerful, they are even thankful! Frequently they are victorious and the most common emblem is—not the quenched torch, as it is on the heathen side, where the light is supposed to have gone out forever—but the palm branch, to signify that the victory remains eternally with the departed one. It is the glow of the Christian religion to have let light into the sepulcher, to have taken the sting away from death and, in fact, to have made it no more death to die!

The saints in Heaven have a better rest than sleep can give, but sleep is the nearest word we can find to describe the state of the blessed. They have no poverty, no toil, no anguish of spirit, no remorse, no struggling with indwelling sin, no battling with foes without and fears within.