Dying in your sins. If the thought sounds terrifying to you, it should. What follows such a death is the lifting up of the eyes in hell (Luke 16:23) as the body goes to the grave and the soul goes into the afterlife. And that’s what happens to each individual who lives his or her entire life and never places saving belief in Jesus. A certain group of Pharisees heard that message one day, with the message bearer being none other than Jesus. We read about it in John 8:21-24:
Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “Will He kill Himself, because He says, ‘Where I go you cannot come’?” And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (N.K.J.V.)
As I normally do, I’ve used the New King James translation to cite this reference. Like the classic K.J.V., the N.K.J.V. uses italicized words to show where the word in question doesn’t translate anything found in the original Hebrew or Greek. Instead, the italicized word is added in by the translator to complete the sentence structure of the English language and make the translation easier to read. I never repeat the italics in my citations because I don’t want the reader to think that I’ve italicized the word for emphasis. However, in the case of John 8:24 I need to draw your attention to something.
The N.K.J.V. italicizes the word “He” in Christ’s quote: “…for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” Unfortunately, this is a rare instance where the translator’s attempt to clarify the meaning has the opposite effect by muddying the waters. You see, by dropping the “He” we can get at what Jesus specifically said. His line was, “…for if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.”
The name/title “I AM” was very familiar to those Jewish Pharisees because they knew their Old Testament. Standing at the burning bush, Moses had asked God to reveal His name so that Moses could speak to the Israelites in the authority of that name. And God had answered him, “Tell them, ‘I AM has sent me to you'” (Exodus 3:13-14).
For this reason, Jesus claiming that particular name/title for Himself was a powerful statement. It was His way of telling those Pharisees, “When you see Me, you see the God of your ancestors, the true and living God, the God who spoke to Moses, the God who led your people out of Egypt, the God who gave your people His law, the God who gave your people this land, the God of your salvation, the God who is the great I AM.”
Later on in that same teaching session, Jesus once again made this astounding claim by saying to those Pharisees, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58, N.K.J.V.). By that time, though, they’d heard all they were going to hear of that. So they picked up stones to stone Him to death for blasphemy in accordance with Leviticus 24:16. But Jesus, knowing that it wasn’t the time, the place, or the cause for Him to die, escaped from them (John 8:59).
By attempting to stone Jesus, those Pharisees made it clear that they had made their decision concerning Him. Actually, they had rejected Him well before the attempted stoning. Even as Jesus spoke with them that day, He knew their hearts were already eternally set against Him. That’s how He could already predict their future:
Then Jesus said to them again, ‘I am going away (referring to His death, resurrection, and ascension), and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin…” (verse 21, N.K.J.V.)
I don’t know where this post finds you in life, but you need to understand one simple truth: Failure to place saving belief in Jesus Christ is the sin that will seal your eternal fate. God is sinless, but you are a sinner. And what does a sinner need most of all? Forgiveness. God has provided that forgiveness via the blood that Jesus shed in dying on the cross as the substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of the human race, but to receive the forgiveness you must believe in Jesus as your personal Savior. To reject Him is to reject the forgiveness, and the end result of that will be you dying in your sins and lifting up your eyes in hell. Those Pharisees made their choice, and they chose poorly. How about you?