He Shall Never See Death
John 8:48-53 MKJV Then the Jews answered and said to Him, Do we not say well that you are a Samaritan and have a demon? (49) Jesus answered, I do not have a demon, but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. (50) And I do not seek My own glory, but there is One who seeks and judges. (51) Truly, truly, I say to you, If a man keeps My Word, he shall never see death. (52) Then the Jews said to Him, Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham and the prophets are dead, and you say, If a man keeps my Word, he shall never taste of death. (53) Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets are dead; whom do you make yourself?
The Jews are now thoroughly insulted since, as we saw yesterday, Jesus had called them “sons of the Devil” and plainly said that they did not know God. So they “up the ante” with: “Do we not say well that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” By Samaritan they probably mean “heretic/schismatic” for they knew quite plainly that Jesus was of Jewish descent. A Samaritan, in Jewish theological parlance, was a heretic, schismatic, an excommunicated person with no inheritance in the Temple (Ezra 4:3, 6:12) or in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:20), whose prayers were an abomination and who played fast and loose with the Law. Thus Jesus was being accused of being a demon-possessed heretic.
Jesus is often accused of being demonic (Matthew 9:34, 12:24, Mark 3:22,30, Luke 11:15, John 7:20, 10:20) as is also John the Baptist (Matthew 11:18) and if I remember my Church history just about every Reformer or revivalist or bringer of change has received the same appellation.
In the New Testament there are two common terms the first is simply “has a demon’ with the common verb “exo” (ech-o) which is about the same meaning as the English expression “having a cold” or “having a fit”. The second is “demonized” (Kg: daimonizomai) and this represents the state someone is in after having a demon. The terms seem to be interchangeable. So the person who “has a demon” is by definition a “demonized one”.
In verse 49 Jesus points out they are dishonoring him, not for any supposed sin (of which they had just tacitly admitted could find none see John 8:46), but for His obedience to the Father! He brought glory to the Father and for this they wished to kill Him!
Jesus then goes on to say: “And I do not seek My own glory, but there is One who seeks and judges.” In other words Jesus did not seek to attach “value” to Himself by seeking glory or status or social position, instead He left His value as a person to the judgment of God. God “seeks and judges’. God seeks people to lift up and honor. God also seeks out the wicked to punish them. Our value is not our concern. To aim for status is to go astray. Instead we should aim to bring “honor to the Father” and leave the attribution of value up to Him!
Jesus suddenly moves from judgment to eternal life and says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, If a man keeps My Word, he shall never see death.” Is this a promise that good people will not see death but instead be like Enoch or Elijah and be taken up alive into heaven? The answer can be posed as two questions a) Did Jesus keep God’s Word? (Yes) b) Did Jesus “see death” ? (Yes He died on the cross!) So physical death is not prevented by virtue – otherwise Jesus would not have died! The reference here is to spiritual death, loss of being, loss of continued consciousness, growth as a person and connection with God and with love.
Jesus’ death and resurrection tells us that consciousness continues beyond the grave. Even while physically dead He was still conscious and went and preached to spirits that were in prison – these spirits were also dead, had been dead for thousands of years since Noah, and yet were also capable of hearing the gospel. (1 Peter 3:18-20)
Eternal death is the agonizing disintegration and corruption of being and consciousness in Hell. Eternal life is the constant growth of one’s being and one’s consciousness in love and grace both now, and later on in Heaven.
In verse 52 and 53 the Jews take the statement of Jesus literally and say that Abraham and the prophets were dead so how can He say that the obedient do not see death. However on another occasion Jesus had also answered this question using one of the best-known texts in the Jewish scriptures- God speech to Moses at the burning bush:
Matthew 22:31-33 MKJV But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, (32) "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?" God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. (33) And when the crowd heard this, they were astonished at His doctrine.
The force of this passage is that when God said this Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had been dead for over 400 years! So if God was “the God of the Living” then they were still living 400 years later, as active conscious beings in heaven with God. In fact Moses himself comes back after being dead for some 1400 years for a chat with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration! (Mark 9:4,5).
The Bible does not teach reincarnation, Moses continued to exist and did not reincarnate as Jesus or anyone else. Neither was John the Baptist a reincarnation of Elijah as Elijah also appeared to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration! (Mark 9:4,5). The Bible teaches complete continuity of consciousness and hints at a grand expansion of consciousness especially after the final resurrection.
1 Corinthians 13:12 MKJV (12) For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall fully know even as I also am fully known. 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 tells us that Christians become immortal, spiritual beings of great glory, in the image and nature of Jesus Christ!
There is no annihilation and there is no reincarnation. Those who ‘keep My Word” continue as immortal, imperishable, spiritual beings of great power and glory, sons of God and citizens of heaven and “brothers” of Jesus Christ!