Scriptures are quoted from the New International Version Bible.
This event is recorded in Mark 5:39 and Luke 8:52. In all instances, just before Jesus said, “The girl is not dead but asleep,” He told the mourners there was no need to sorrow. Our Lord knew the girl’s death would not be permanent; He knew He would awaken the girl in a demonstration of His power. It would become a picture of the future resurrection of all mankind.
Jesus also used the word “sleep” to describe death before He awakened Lazarus (John 11:11-14). In I Thessalonians 4:14, the Apostle Paul wrote about those who had “fallen asleep” in Jesus. Then in verse 16, Paul referred to them again as “the dead in Christ.”
Even in the Old Testament the word “sleep” was used to describe death. A troubled David wrote, “…Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death” (Psalm 13:3) In Psalm 139:8 David wrote, “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths*, you are there.” The footnote for the word “depths” explains that this is the Hebrew word “sheol”, the state of death. (It is interesting that the King James Bible translates “sheol” as “hell” in this scripture.)
The Hebrews of the Old Testament knew that death was like a dreamless sleep. “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing…” (Ecclesiastes 9:5). We also read “…for in the grave,* where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). The footnote for the word “grave” tells us that this again is the Hebrew word “sheol”. In the Old Testament, all the dead (both good and bad people) go to Sheol. Thus “sheol” is the condition of death – not a place.
All those who die must sleep in sheol until the joyous time of the resurrection. “…For a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out…” (John 5:28, 29).
“The ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (Isaiah 51:11)