Questions From Readers
● How could Jesus promise, as recorded at John 11:26, that those exercising faith in him would never die, since Christians do die?—M. F., U.S.A.
As reported at John 11:25, 26 Jesus was, in effect, promising everlasting life. He said to Martha, the sister of dead Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life; and everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all.” The import of these words is similar to his earlier statement: “Most truly I say to you, If anyone observes my word, he will never see death at all.”—John 8:51.
The individuals hearing Jesus could, if they faithfully served God, have the expectation of reigning with Christ in heaven. (2 Tim. 4:18; Rev. 20:4, 6) After Jesus’ death and resurrection the call for members of the kingdom of heaven class commenced. Of course, Jesus could not tell such ones that they would never see a physical death. If they were to reign with him in heaven, their fleshly bodies would have to die, just as he himself was going to die. (Matt. 16:21; Rom. 6:5; 1 Cor. 15:42-50) Only if they were faithful until death would they receive immortality. (Rev. 2:10) At the time, those hearers may not have fully appreciated this. But Jesus, “the resurrection and the life,” was at least assuring them that they would “come to life,” or be resurrected to everlasting life.
Then what death is it that they would “never see . . . at all”? They would never “see” or experience “second death.” They would not die forever as would some. (Luke 12:4, 5; Rev. 21:8) As stated in Revelation 20:6 regarding those who would be with Christ in heaven: “Over these the second death has no authority.” Christ did not, at that time of mourning over Lazarus, discuss all the details about the difference between the Adamic death that his anointed followers would suffer and the eternal or second death. Yet, by his concise statement he offered a sure promise of everlasting life to those who exercised faith in him.
While Jesus did not specifically have in mind persons living at the end of this system of things who might survive Armageddon, it is true that some alive now will never experience a fleshly death. But even those with earthly hopes who live through Armageddon will have to prove faithful throughout the millennium and the final test before they actually “come to life” or receive the grant of everlasting life.—Rev. 20:5.
It was the firm promise of eternal life, such as in Jesus’ words at John 8:51 and Joh 11:25, 26, that gave Christians the courage to face a temporary death. (2 Tim. 4:6-8; Phil. 3:8-11) They knew they were not dying forever, but just taking one more step on the way to everlasting life.
● Religious pictures of Jesus’ death often show a sign over his head with various letters on it. What do these letters mean?—A. D., U.S.A.
The most common letters appearing on such pictures are I.N.R.I. This is an abbreviation of the Latin Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudæorum, meaning Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. A variation of this is I.N.R.J., Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Judæorum (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews). This abbreviation is based on what the apostle John says was on the sign placed on the torture stake, “Jesus the Nazarene the King of the Jews.”—John 19:19.