Then He said to them again, “I’m going away; you will look for Me, and you will die in your sin. Where I’m going, you cannot come.” So the Jews said again, “He won’t kill Himself, will He, since He says, ‘Where I’m going, you cannot come’?” You are from below,” He told them, “I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” – John 8:21-24
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, there was sufficient evidence that He was who He claimed to be, the Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God. John in his gospel gives us only a sample of miracles, and says, “there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).
There was massive evidence supporting His claim to be the Son of God. Despite that evidence, Jews did not believe Jesus. It wasn’t that they didn’t have evidence. They never denied the evidence. They were unwilling to believe. Jesus said to them, “You will die in your sins because you believe not in me.”
That’s as blunt as you can get with unbelievers: “You will die in your sin.”
This is not talking about the sin that you lied to someone, or you lust over a woman. It is the sin of unbelief in Jesus as your only salvation. Many think that God will render His judgment based on the accumulated good in their lives. No, the judgment is already made unless they believe in Jesus Christ. You will die unforgiven, that’s what it means. Jesus said, “where I am going you cannot come.” He came from heaven and he is going to heaven. But where He goes unbelievers cannot go. The designated place for the unbelievers is hell.
The light of nature and scripture
The light of nature and scripture provide overwhelming evidence of the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable. The light of nature consists of three things:
- Natural law (conscience)
The man by virtue has some notion about God, knows the difference between moral and immoral, and demonstrates certain eagerness for virtue and good behavior (The Canons of Dort). “when Gentiles, who do not have the law, instinctively do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts. Their consciences confirm this. Their competing thoughts will either accuse or excuse them” (Romans 2:14-15). The law of nature provides reproof for evil conduct. The man knows that God is just, and the punisher of wicked, also He is merciful, and rewards the righteous.
Human reason can inquire after God by way of causality (causes and effects), elimination, and eminence (the way in which one may arrive positively at the discernment that God is, and to some extent what God is).
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened” (Rom. 1: 19-21). This verse simply tells us something God has revealed generally. It is clear and unambiguous. Man’s problem is not that he doesn’t know God but that he refuses to acknowledge what he knows to be true. This revelation is not a one-time event, and it has been on the display since the beginning of the world.
On the other hand, the written Word of God, the Bible, provides reliable eyewitness accounts of supernatural events that took place in history and the specific gospel knowledge needed for salvation. In spite of the sheer amount of evidence available, even today, people are not willing to believe.
In this passage, Jesus gives three realities that guarantee you will die in your sin. In other words, here are three ways to go to hell:
Be self-righteous (v22)
The context of this passage in John’s gospel is about unbelieving Jews. It is referring to the leaders, the scribes and the Pharisees, but it embraces all the people who followed in their pattern, in their religious system. They refused to believe that they needed a savior. “He won’t kill Himself, will He, since He says, ‘Where I’m going, you cannot come’?” That entire statement depicts their self-righteousness. Jews believe (according to the Jewish historian Josephus) that a person who commits suicide goes to the darkest corner of Hades cutoff from God forever. They didn’t see themselves as sinners. They see themselves as righteous and regard Jesus as a sinner. They didn’t recognize their condition and trust their own rituals, ceremonies, morality, goodness. They looked at the savior and mocked the whole idea. This is the essence of self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is so deadly. It is a guarantee that you will die in your sins and go to hell forever.
Be worldly (v23)
in v23, Jesus said, “You are of this world; I am not of this world.” Here’s another guarantee that you will die in sin: “Consumed by the world system and its ideologies, draw satisfaction out of the world”. The world system is hostile to God. It promotes materialism, humanism, illicit sex, carnal ambition, pride, greed, self-pleasure. Its opinions are wrong, its objectives are selfish, its pleasures are sinful, its influence is demoralizing, its politics corrupt, its smiles fake, and it’s love fickle. So, how to die in your sin? Cling with all your might to this evil worldly system and to your corrupt desires.
Be Faithless (v24)
Jesus said, “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” There is only one sin that is unforgivable. That is unbelief. And, there is only one thing that prevents you from dying in sin, only one thing that rescues you from hell. That is Faith Alone. Not your accumulated morality or religion. Your eternal destiny comes down to a decision about one person. It’s not Moses, it’s not Abraham, it’s not Pope, it’s not Mary. It is Christ and Christ alone! You want to die in your sins? Refuse to put your trust in Christ alone. You want to go to hell? Just don’t believe, and keep on rejecting what Christ has done on the cross. Be stubborn and hard-hearted.
Scripture teaches that condemnation is based on the clear rejection of God’s revelation –whether the light of nature or scripture. Light of nature was given so that all may acknowledge God as God, whereas scripture (gospel revelation) was given so that all may believe in Christ for eternal life (John 20:31).
If all men have understood God through the light of nature but naturally reject Him, then it follows that all men need to know of the redemption offered in Christ. To have no knowledge of Christ is to be in jeopardy because of the prior rejection of the revelation of God through the light of nature. But to hear of Christ and reject Him is to be in a state of double jeopardy. Now not only has the Father been rejected but the Son as well. Thus every time the gospel is proclaimed it bears a two-edged sword. To those who believe, it is the savor of glory in heaven. To those who reject, it is eternal damnation in hell.
Dr. R.C. Sproul, Dr. John MacArthur, Dr. John V. Fesko (Reforming Apologetics)