In John 8:51 the Lord Jesus says that whoever keeps His Word will not see death. In John 14:3 the Lord Jesus says I will come again and receive you until Myself. Based on these two Scriptures, can the phrase "not see death" mean that when a Christian dies, they will not see death, but instead will see the Lord Jesus? If this is so, then in the phrase the Lord uses, death is personified. Could that be?
I would like to suggest that there are primarily two expressions used in scriptures, to describe saints going into death:
- See death. This is also found in Luke 2:26 where the expression might indicate that we will witness the dominion of its sting. I believe John 8:51 pertains to the second death (see Rev. 20:14).
- Taste of death. In particular, we see this in the three gospels before the transfiguration of the Lord on the Holy Mountain (see 2 Pe. 1:18). It seems to me this indicates the necessity to assimilate the awfulness of sin (Rom 5:12).
In the death of Christ we don’t read that he saw death but faced it and annulled it (2 Tim 1:10) and thus has full dominion over it (Rev 1:18). We also have no reference that he tasted of death but that he tasted death for every one (Heb 2:9). Only Christ could fully comprehend the awfulness of sin and its stain that stamped death upon the whole creation.
Having said this, it is of interest to understand now that the believer does not die as a result of the wages of sin, since Christ paid them for us, but now it is a matter of glory to God (John 21:19). Indeed it is encouraging to the saints to know that scriptures presents us with a new expression "them also which sleep in Jesus" (1 Thes 4:14) which, some have suggested, in the original means to be rocked to sleep, an act of a gentle Savior who brings us through death to Himself. Blessed be His Name. In closing, death in the word of God is described often as a condition of separation, but also in some occasions death is personified. For example in Job 18:14, he is "king of terrors" and also when the saints will address death when Christ comes to bring us to Himself "O death where is thy sting" (1 Cor 15:55) and previously in the same chapter (vv. 25-26) we understand he would be the last enemy that Christ will destroy.
No wonder the psalmist has declared "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil" (Ps 23:4).
Much love in Christ