Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come. Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come. And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.John 8:21-24
This is some of the strongest language that Jesus will use in His disputes with the Pharisees. Our Savior has been so patient with these men but now, with a large cloud of witnesses, Jesus will identify these men for what they really are.
Twice in this exchange, Jesus says that these men will die in their sins. This is a clear statement that, at least at this point, these men are still dead in trespasses and sins. They cannot understand Who Jesus truly is because they have not been born again.
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.John 3:3
When Jesus spoke these words to Nicodemus, He meant that a person must be born from above. Now, Jesus is declaring that He has come from above but these Pharisees are only of this world. This is a declaration that they are still dead in their sins.
These men cannot go to where Jesus will be going because to go to heaven a person must be born again, and they are not.
Another interesting facet to this conversation is how the Pharisees try to discredit Jesus by accusing Him of a plan to commit suicide. Under their teachings, Jesus would not go to heaven if He died this way. Therefore, they think they haveHim! But, as we have seen, Jesus sets that record straight.
Something else to consider in this passage is how it is sometimes misused by “preachers” today. They look at the last phrase and say, “See, if you don’t believe then you will die in your sins. So, you better believe and get born again!”
First of all, this does not harmonize with the rest of scripture that clearly teaches that the new birth is like a natural birth – the one being born again has no power to start or stop the act!
Secondly, I think this passage, as well as some others where Jesus is exposing people for who they really are, are examples of something Jesus can do that we cannot. Jesus knows the hearts of all men. He knows whose names are in the Book of Life. He knows for whom He will die. We do not know these things. Further, I think statements such as this are limited to the timeframe in which they happened. These men had actually seen with their own eyes what Jesus was able to do, and yet they still did not believe it. This is not like hearing the news of what Jesus did and doubting it. These men had to reject what they had seen with their own eyes! Therefore, we should use caution when we think that we can judge others by what we only see on the outside.