The blog title is meant to be provocative. Christians will never see death? What a lie! Certainly, such an objection has merit. I don't need to waste space in this paragraph explaining the reality of death. We all know it well—too well. And unless Jesus returns first, we will experience it. "To dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19).
Yet—provocative and seemingly false as it is—the title is from Jesus himself. Three times he makes such a statement: "Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die" (John 11:26). "This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die" (John 6:50). Or the statement sparking our title: "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death" (John 8:51).
Can He Be Serious?
Before spiritualizing and explaining such bold statements, it's best to let them sink in.
Can he be serious?
We often see death in the world at large. But not only so, we witness our genuine, Jesus-following, gospel-loving brothers and sisters deaths. So, again: Can he be serious?
And this is no light matter or mere theological argument either. We can debate other issues of theology without too much emotional attachment, but death...? Death hurts. How can Jesus make such a bold statement?
The Shadow of Death
Apparently, to our Lord physical death—which we see and will experience—was a shadow of something greater, of true death. And if the shadow is so tragic, can we imagine the substance? If physical death is jarring, heart-wrenching, hurtful, can we conceive what true death is like?
Jesus meant his statements to be a warning to those who didn't believe him and an encouragement to those who did. As for the warning: there is a weightier death than death coming. As to the encouragement, we return to our title: Christians will never see death. He says in one of these same passages, "Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).
A Doorway to the Room
It has become commonplace for Christians to say "death is a doorway." We die, and then—through the door of death—we either enter into Christ's presence or into judgment for our sins. Using Jesus' terminology we can say we all die, but then we either experience true "life" or true "death." Death is the door we must enter, but our room is either "eternal life" or "eternal punishment" (Matthew 25:46).
Physical death—as important and tragic as it is—is not the main issue. What matters is the room. Our temporary vehicle of transportation is much less important than our journey's everlasting end. The type of plane we sit in for a few hours is much less important than the destination on our ticket. Death is tragic, but it is temporary. The room is forever.
You Will Never See Death
So, although those who do not trust Christ should hear a serious warning, death actually speaks encouragement to those who follow Christ. It is a horrible result of the fall (Romans 5:12)—may we not undermine its tragedy with glib flatteries. But now for those in Christ, physical death has become God's avenue to eternal life. Death is the door we must pass though.
But take heart, Christian: Once you turn the handle, you'll be entering the room of eternal life. You'll finally be home.
As Jesus said well, you will never see death.