Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” John 8:51 (ESV)
Several times in the book of John we encounter these words, “Keep my word.” For example notice passages such as John 12:47-48; 14:23-24; 15:7. In fact the words of Jesus are of the utmost importance in the book of John (see John 5:24; 8:31) as are the commandments of Jesus (John 14:15, 21; 15:10). According to John, the words of Jesus bring life and we are abide in them continually.
In fact, the Greek text gives us a good understanding of what John 8:51 has in mind when it reads, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone continues to keep my words, he will never see death.” The Greek is in the present tense form indicating that the one who keeps Jesus’ words not only is doing this presently but must continue to do so. By no means does John have a past hearing in mind but a present tense reality (John 8:47 is similar in this regard). What Jesus is saying is that we are to not only keep his word now but continue to do so.
So therefore, what does Jesus have in mind when he says that such a person will never see death? Truly he could not mean death of our bodies since we are all destined to die (Hebrews 9:27) and all those who heard Jesus that day, including the Apostles, are dead. So physical death is not what Jesus had in mind, but I believe it’s clear that Jesus is speaking of death in the afterlife. All who reject Christ and his salvation are eternally condemned (John 3:19-21). I know that such teaching flies in the face of modern evangelism, but the facts remain that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Every person alive today will die, and in eternity there are only two options: life eternally with Jesus or death and misery in eternal hell. The only possible way of being saved from hell is by the power of God that comes by faith in Christ thorough the preaching of the Word (Romans 3:19-28; 10:9-17).
I know that in time I will die unless Christ comes before I die (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Yet while I live in this body, I am to focus my faith, my hopes, my everything upon Jesus and his word. By keeping (and keeping on keeping) the words of Christ I have the assurance that I will not see death but will live eternally with Jesus (Revelation 21:1-8). But I must keep and keep on keeping the words of Christ Jesus until I take my last breath of air and pass from that which is temporal to that which is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18). How do I do this? Simply by keeping my faith in Jesus and continuing to abide in his words. This will no doubt ensure me that heaven is my home because I am ready for it by being prepared for it through the word of God.