Seven times Jesus used the Greek form of the great I AM; the same name God gave to Moses calling Himself the great I AM that I AM (Exodus 3:14). Jesus was saying that God Himself is our help in whatever need we have. In John chapter eleven, Christ said that He is The I AM that is the Resurrection and the Life, the conqueror over death itself. After hearing that His friend Lazarus was very sick, Jesus spoke to His disciples that they were going to see him:
11After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” 12His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. 14So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe (John 11:11-15).
21“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (John 11:21-27).
Jesus used the term "fallen asleep" (v. 11) to describe the death of a believer. It is the separation of the soul and spirit of a man from the body. The body is in the grave asleep, but the spirit, the invisible part of us that is the real ‘us’ goes to be with the Lord. The first martyr, Stephen, when the Jews were stoning him for preaching Christ, saw the Lord standing at the right-hand side of God the Father (Acts 7:56), and then the Scripture says that he fell asleep in the Lord (Acts 7:59). His body was there in a pile of stones, but the Lord Jesus had stood from His normal seated position at the right-hand side of the Father, to receive the spirit of Stephen to Himself. When Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead, her spirit returned (Luke 8:55). If her spirit returned, where had her spirit been? She had been with the Father, even while her body was in the physical realm lying there before Jesus. Paul the apostle, in writing to the church at Thessalonica, said:
He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him (1 Thessalonians 5:10).
Even when our body is dead (asleep), we will be very much alive and living with Christ. Paul writes elsewhere about this particular thought:
22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body (Philippians 1:22-24).
He said that he desired to depart and be with Christ. If he believed that he would be unconscious, it would definitely not be "better by far." No, Paul believed that the instant he died, he would be with Christ. When we believe in Christ, like Paul, that death is better by far, this attitude of faith in Christ will prepare us to be ready for anything. Jesus, the Son of the Living God, has conquered death for us and as us. There is no fear of death for the believer in Christ.
To explore the subject of death for a believer, go to the home page and click on the All Studies box, then click on the series on “Insights into Eternity” and click on the first study, What Lies Beyond Death’s Door? Keith Thomas