Questions From Readers
▪ Why did Jesus promise that those putting faith in him ‘would never die at all,’ when in fact all his listeners did die?—John 11:25, 26.
When Jesus spoke about not dying, or of living forever, he clearly did not mean that his listeners back then would never experience human death. The basic point Jesus was making was that faith in him could lead to everlasting life.
In one instance, Jesus called himself “the bread of life.” Then he added: “This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread he will live forever.”—John 6:48-51.
Looking at only those words, a person might conclude that Jesus was telling his audience that they could avoid the experience of death. The context, however, does not support that conclusion. Jesus had just said: “This is the will of him that sent me, that I should lose nothing out of all that he has given me but that I should resurrect it at the last day. . . . Everyone that beholds the Son and exercises faith in him should have everlasting life, and I will resurrect him at the last day. . . . No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him; and I will resurrect him in the last day.” (John 6:39-44) And later he added: “He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I shall resurrect him at the last day.” (John 6:54) Hence, Jesus’ promise of ‘living forever’ could not justifiably be understood to mean that his listeners would never experience death.
It is similar with Jesus’ well-known promise to Martha: “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.” (John 11:25, 26) Jesus obviously did not mean that the faithful apostles, for example, would never die as did other humans. Within a year, they would be anointed with holy spirit and would be given the hope of reigning as kings in heaven. To receive that reward, they would have to die as humans. (Romans 8:14-23; 1 Corinthians 15:36-50) And note that Jesus had said: “He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.”
Jesus’ promise will be fulfilled toward devoted servants of God who have lived and died before the time when everlasting life begins to be provided. Such faithful ones are in line for a future resurrection. By remaining faithful after they are raised, they will never experience “the second death,” eternal death.—Revelation 20:15; 21:8; John 8:51.
But Bible prophecy indicates that we today have a special opportunity. Living as we are in the conclusion of the system of things, we may survive the coming “great tribulation” and pass right on into the new world. Such ones who have the hope of everlasting life on a paradise earth and who maintain their loyalty to God will not have to experience human death at all. Surviving “the great tribulation,” they will be guided “to fountains of waters of life.”—Revelation 7:9-17.
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Jesus’ words to grieving Martha give us hope of life eternal