Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”
At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
“You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. (John 8:51–59 NIV)
Jesus was not afraid to speak about death. He made what seemed to the religious leaders an astounding claim. He said whoever obeys his word will never see death. Death is something we all have in common. In 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy with the famous quote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Francis Bacon, an English philosopher, said, “It is as natural to die, as to be born.” Death is a reality for all of us. For some, we feel death has come too soon, and for others we say they have lived a good, long life. Many people will honestly tell you they fear death though they know it is the inevitable end of their physical lives.
So what was Jesus talking about? Jesus is not just talking about physical life and physical death. Jesus is saying when we live our lives in relationship to him as our Savior and Lord on this Earth – so that his words live in us and through us – physical death is not final. We do not go from life to death, but we go from life in Jesus on this Earth to eternal life with God in Jesus in heaven. It is in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus that this earthly life becomes a walk with Jesus that restores our connection with God. This walk of faith in Jesus defeats sin and death. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:54 that death has been swallowed up in victory. Paul goes on to say in verse 57, “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”