There is the following statement in Jeffery Archer’s fiction “Kane & Abel,” in which William Kane, one of the two heroes looks at his wife sleeping soundly on bed unaware of his big problem:

He put the phone down and looked across at the sleeping Kate, blissfully unaware of his latest problem, how he wished he could manage that. A curtain only had to flutter in the breeze and he would wake up. She would probably sleep through the Second Coming. He scribbled a few lines of explanation and put the note on her bed side table, then he dressed, packed, and set off for New York.

OALED defines ‘the Second Coming’ as a day in the future when Christians believe Jesus Christ will come back to earth.

Wikipedia says

“The Second Coming” is a poem composed by Irish poet William Butler Yeats in 1919 ... The poem uses Christian imagery regarding the Apocalypse and second coming as allegory to describe the atmosphere in post-war Europe.

Near the beginning of the second stanza of “The Second Coming” we find:

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: ...

However, I’m not able to relate the above definitions of ‘the Second Coming’ to merely sleeping as used in the above lines of Archer’s.

Does “Sleep through the Second Coming” simply mean to sleep soundly, or have specific meaning? Why has it to be ‘the Second Coming’?

  • 2
    This might help: sleep through (phrasal verb) sleep through something to remain sleeping although there is a lot of noise around you.
    – J.R.
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 16:44
  • In my neck of the woods we'd say of a very sound sleeper He could sleep for England, but the discussion in that link confirms my suspicion that Americans and other nationals don't use that particular format very often. Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 21:30

3 Answers 3

  • The 'Second Coming' is expected to be a big deal.

  • For someone to sleep through such a big deal gives an idea of their character, that they are 'blissfully unaware' of major things, namely the problem that Kane himself is so concerned with.

That is all.

  • 2
    Agreed it's pretty transparent imagery, but it's actually not that common. Only 21 instances in Google Books, as opposed to 275 for "could sleep through a hurricane", for example. Even Armageddon gets 59 hits Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 4:04
  • @FumbleFingers. If “sleep through the Second Coming” is structually analogous to “could sleep through a hurricane," does “through” mean “throughout,” or “despite” the Advent? Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 8:17
  • 5
    @YoichiOishi: I would say that it means both – whether it's a hurricane, the Second Coming, or an army of jackhammers outside the bedroom wall. Pick whatever colorful (and noisy) comparison you want – if someone could sleep through it, that means they won't wake up, throughout and despite the tumultuous racket.
    – J.R.
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 9:53
  • 2
    @Yoichi: the Second Coming is an event. 'through it' means from before the event to afterwards. 'throughout' means in and around and spliced, which is not appropriate here. 'Despite' is a reasonable inference but is not the ostensible meaning of 'through'.
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 14:29
  • 1
    @Yoichi: I agree with both J.R. and Mitch's replies there, but just in case you think they're saying different things... It's not that through ever actually means "despite". Just that if you get through something you're not stopped by it (or forced to go around it, though that hardly applies in the case of the Second Coming). You might like to check out the earlier question What does “Fight through the pain” mean? Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 16:48

For people who fervently believe in "salvation thro Jesus", the 2nd Coming of Jesus is the big kahuna that would vindicate their steadfast faith in their religion. According to their theology, when (and imo if ever) Jesus returns, even all those who had died would be awaken (or already awaken in the preceding rapture). Dispensationalism, tribulation and millennialism not withstanding.

So sleeping thro the 2nd Coming is a humourous expression among Fundamentalist Christians about someone who is so tired that would not be aroused even by the 2nd Coming.

To tell a story in this manner, with references to Christian theology is to put in perspective the religious environment in which the characters in the story exist.

It may not be common in general literature, but it is an immediately understood humourous expression among Fundamentalist Christians worldwide.

If you had somehow gotten yourself into the midst of a Fundamentalist Christian group like sitting with your friend at lunch and then incidentally all her/his fundamentalist friends joined us for lunch, you would be bewildered by all the private jokes they banter at each other, all based on verses of the Bible or concepts of their doctrines.

An example is

She eats like a pre-millennialist in a post-millennial event. She would think she still had another thousand years to finish her lunch.

  • 5
    Please don't edit my answer by reducing its contents, but only for the case of grammatical improvements or correcting factual inaccuracies. Please refrain, whoever that had done it previously. Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 8:49
  • Is dispensationism really going to help somebody asking about the meaning of a Jeffrey Archer book? Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 10:08
  • Dispensationalism. Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 10:10
  • 1
    +Lymington, someone has to understand the theology of dispensationalism, millenialism and tribulation in order to see that 2nd Coming theology does indeed propose that the 2nd Coming would awaken people or not. Does it propose the rapture occuring after the trib or before the trib. Before the supposed mil or after mil or mid-mil. Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 10:15
  • 1
    I can't tell if this was intentional or not, but I find the question "Would the Second Coming wake people up?" brilliantly punny. Isn't everyone supposed to wake up at the sound of that trumpet?
    – J.R.
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 16:41

This phrase is a simple hyperbole.

According to theology, the Second Coming (of Christ, that is) is an event that includes lot of loud sound, flashes of light, commotion, and activity and it will affect everyone (for specifics, see the Signs of Christ's return on the Second Coming wikipedia page). It is an event of such magnitude that it should wake everyone one up.

Saying that she would sleep through it is just a fanciful way of saying that she is an exceptionally deep sleeper, and is not awakened by activity in the environment. Saying someone "can sleep through X" is a common expression (especially "can sleep through a storm").

This point is even further pronounced by the juxtaposition with the prior sentence in the passage:

A curtain only had to flutter in the breeze and he would wake up. She would probably sleep through the Second Coming.

The first sentence "A curtain only had to flutter..." is also a hyperbole, meant to say that he is an exceptionally light sleeper.

The passage says that she is "blissfully unaware of his latest problem" because by comparison to being sleep deprived, being able to sleep is blissful, and that she is not aware that he is unable to sleep. Without other supporting context, the expression doesn't imply anything at all about her character in general.

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