I posted this earlier, but pulled it right after I posted it.
Now I've added a bit more to it.
"And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his [Jesus'] resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many."
Hmm. just thinking out loud here. Jesus died a real death. He overcame death and was resurrected. When he was ressurrected, He overcame death for all. The graves were opened and many bodies of the saints which slept arose. I do not think this was literal flesh and blood bodies crawling out of the ground, but spiritual bodies. "appeared unto many".... I see this as being in visions/dreams. This type of thing, I believe, happens still today, sometimes, when a loved one dies, the loved one will appear in a dream to a family member and they are ok, they are healed, they are not dead but alive! (in in a different realm, in a different dimension, "back home" in other words.)
Now, since Jesus' ressurrection, since death has been overcome...there is now no more "sleep", a person dies and they now (since the time of Jesus' ressurrection) do not lay in the earth "asleep" but now pass into life. REAL life. They go back home. Jesus' ressurrection was the dividing point. The event that took place in time which symbolized not only spiritual life (of those alive on earth) overcoming spiritual death, but actual literal death being overcome.
Lazarus raised. Was Jesus showing them what was to come, in more ways than one? Not only a foreshadowing of Christ's death and resurrection... but a promise, that death will be overcome?? Not just spiritual death of those alive, mind you... but physical death. Mary said she believed that Lazarus would be raised on the last day but that did not comfort her. But Jesus brought him back and was basically saying... NO, look... have faith. Lazarus is NOT dead. He was showing them not only compassion, not only the power of the Father, but a foreshadowing also of death being overcome. Lazarus raised pointed to Jesus... a foretaste of what Jesus was to also about to accomplish. The Father allowed Lazarus to come back as a foreshadowing of what Jesus was about to accomplish. Now, it doesn't mention Lazarus "dying" again, but obviously he did eventually die a physical death, but we now know that death is only an illusion to those left behind.
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."
I believe perhaps "soul sleep" was before Jesus' ressurrection... and the passage from literal death to life is what is NOW the case for all AFTER Jesus' ressurrection. Because, look at it this way... before there was the LITERAL dead AND the SPIRITUAL dead before Jesus. Now... since Jesus came and walked on the earth, He has awoken the living who were spiritually dead and made them spiritually alive. After His ressurrection, it makes sense that now the "asleep" (dead, literally DEAD) now no longer "sleep".
hmmm. I don't know... Like I said I'm totally just thinking out loud. I'm not debating what anyone has said, just tossing some stuff around in my mind..