QUESTION: In the gospel of John the Lord Jesus makes this statement: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep My saying, he shall never see death" (John 8:51). This does not seem to be true as I have been to many funerals of Christians who have died. What is the explanation?
ANSWER: That is a good question. If we go to chapter 11 of John we find the Lord Jesus also repeating the same truth. "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die" (John 11:25,26). The death that the Lord is speaking of in John 8:51, as well as here, is the second death. It is mentioned in Revelation 20:11-15, where we read these solemn words: "And death and [hades] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."
Death came into the world through sin (Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12). "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Is that all? No: "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). For those who enter into eternity still in their sins, any terror they had while facing earthly death will be as nothing compared to the dread of the second death—an eternity apart from God in the lake of fire.
However, when a person accepts Christ as their personal Saviour—thus being saved from the second death—even the first death is not something to be feared. As the apostle Paul said, "[I have] a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better" (Philippians 1:23). He also said: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). "Absent from the body … present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8). The believer in Christ can truly say: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Corinthians 15:55).
So, in conclusion, when a person has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior—trusting only in Him—that person will never see the second death which is reserved for unbelievers. We may often speak of a believer as having died, but we can also say that this person is now with the Lord.
—John D. McNeil