I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins: for if you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sins.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins.—He now further explains what He meant by these words in John 8:21. The words, as they are twice repeated in this verse, differ in two particulars from their earlier form. One is, that the singular substantive “sin” has given place to the plural “sins.” He brings home to them the definite and known acts of sin which resulted from their sinful state. Another is, that the order of the words is changed. It is not so easy to preserve this in English; but we may read in John 8:21 “In your sin ye shall die,” and here “Ye shall die in your sins.” The believing not is itself a state of sin. (Comp. John 16:9.) It is a separation from the only source of life, and is necessarily accompanied by death.
If ye believe not that I am he.—The word “He” is not found in the Greek text, and this is marked by the italics in English; but they have been thinking and speaking of the Messiah, though the name has not been mentioned since John 7:42. It was the name ever first in their thoughts, and our version represents the generally received interpretation. It may, however, be doubted whether this interpretation gives to us the full meaning of the words “I am,” as used in this absolute way by our Lord, and as recorded in this Gospel. Within this same chapter they meet us again in John 8:28; John 8:58, and in the account of the arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane we find them repeated. (See Notes on John 18:5 et seq.) The words had a sacred history which told of the revelation of Jehovah to Moses (Exodus 3:14). Uttered as they were by Him who had just claimed to be “from above” and to be “not of this world,” and uttered as they were within the precincts of Jehovah’s Temple, and in the presence of His priests and people, they may well have carried to their minds this deeper meaning, and have been intended as a declaration of His divine existence. The meaning then would be, “If ye believe not that I am, that in Me there is existence which is the life of all who receive it, ye must die in your sins.”if ye believe not that I am. Some refer this to Christ’s Divine nature; (I am, is the name of God, Exodus 3:14); but others rather think that Christ here speaketh of himself as the Messiah and Mediator, and so the object of people’s faith; and he out of whom there is no salvation: the latter indeed includes the former; for cursed is he that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, Jeremiah 17:5. The text plainly holds forth an impossibility of salvation for those who, under the revelations of the gospel, receive not and believe not in Christ as Mediator.
that ye shall die in your sins; this he had said in John 8:21, and now repeats it, and confirms it by the following reason:
for if believe not that I am he; the everlasting and unchangeable I am, the true God, God over all, blessed for ever; the eternal Son of God, God manifest in the flesh, really made flesh, and become incarnate; the true Messiah, the only Saviour of sinners; the one and only Mediator between God and man; the Head of the church, prophet, priest, and King, and the Judge of quick and dead; as also the light of the world he had declared himself to be: these are things that are necessary to be believed concerning Christ; indeed, carnal and unregenerate men may believe all these things; the devils themselves do, and tremble at them; but then they, and so unconverted men, have no faith in them, with an application of them to themselves: true faith in Christ deals not with him in a general way, but in a special regard to a man's self; it is a seeing of Christ for a man's self; it is not an implicit faith, or a believing him to be what he is, merely upon report, but upon sight; it is a going out of the soul to Christ, a renouncing its own righteousness, and a trusting in him alone for life and salvation; it is with the heart, and from it, and is unfeigned; it works by love to Christ, and his people, and is attended with the fruits of righteousness, and a cheerful obedience to the commands and ordinances of Christ. Though perhaps no more than a general faith is here intended, for want of which, and their rejection of Jesus, as the Messiah, the Jews suffered temporal ruin; and had they but believed that Jesus was the Son of God, and true Messiah, they had been saved from that temporal destruction which came upon their nation, city, and temple; but not believing this in a general and notional, way, they perished, as is here threatened:
ye shall die in your sins; in which they were, being defiled with them, guilty before God for them, under the power of them, and liable to punishment for them; and so they remained, and did remain, and were yet in their sins, even until death, when they died in them, and for them, not only a corporeal, but an eternal death: for dying in their sins, these would be found upon them, and they would be charged with them, and must be answerable for them, and consequently endure the punishment of them, which is the second death. Dying in sin, and dying in Christ, are two widely different things. They that die in faith, die in Christ: they that die in unbelief, die in sin; and this is a dreadful dying; see Joshua 22:20, where the Targum paraphrases it, "and he, one man", (or alone,) , "did not die in his sins".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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 8:24. εἶπον οὖν … ὑμῶν. “Therefore said I unto you, ye shall die in your sins.” The emphatic word is now ἀποθανεῖσθε (cf. John 8:12); the destruction is itself put in the foreground (Meyer, Holtzmann). “For unless ye believe that I am He, ye shall, etc.” What they were required to believe is not explicitly stated (see their question, John 8:15), it is ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι “that I am,” which Westcott supposes has the pregnant meaning “that I am, that in me is the spring of life and light and strength”; but this scarcely suits the context. Meyer supposes that He means “that I am the Messiah”. But surely it must refer directly to what He has just declared Himself to be, “I am not of this world but of the things above” [“nämlich der ἄνωθεν Stammende; die allentscheidende Persönlichkeit,” Holtzmann]. This belief was necessary because only by attaching themselves to His teaching and person could they be delivered from their identification with this world.24. ye shall die in your sins] Here ‘die’ is emphatic, not ‘sin’ as in John 8:21. Moreover the plural is here correct; it is no longer the state of sin generally, but the separate sins of each that are spoken of. Before it was ‘in your sin shall ye die;’ here it is ‘ye shall die in your sins.’
for if ye believe not] This is the only way in which they can be delivered—faith in Him. Comp. John 1:12, John 3:15-18, John 6:40.
that I am he] Better, that I am. It not merely means ‘that I am the Messiah,’ but is the great name, which every Jew at once understood, I AM. Comp. John 8:28; John 8:58, John 13:19, John 18:5; Exodus 3:14; Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 43:10.John 8:24. Ἀποθανεῖσθε, ye shall die) The Jews had neglected the weightier words of John 8:21, “Ye shall seek Me, and shall die in your sins:” all the rest they had taken up at John 8:22 [viz. that part of His words, “Whither I go, ye cannot come”]: therefore now those weightier and more severe words are repeated.
 ἐὰν γὰρ μὴ πιστεύσητε, for unless ye shall believe) They who believe attach themselves to Christ, and through Him alone they attain to that, to which they could not attain otherwise.—V. g.Verse 24. - Therefore I said unto you, Ye shall die in your sins: for if ye shall not have believed that I am (HE), ye will die in your sins. This last clause, "for," etc., gives our Lord's reason in full for the terrific fact. It is a virtual reference of the unregenerate, earthly, low-born condition of his hearers to the fact of their unbelief in him. This fleshly, worldly state may be, might be, reversed by their faith in his essential character, an adequate moral surrender to his claims. Let them believe him to be that which he really is, the separation would then cease, and, like himself, they too might be "called out of the world." They might be "born of the Spirit," enter into the fellowship of the Son of God, become "not of this world," "even as he is not of this world." They might "arise, and go to their Father." There is no impassable chasm between them, though it is an appalling one to be crossed only by a faith which is itself the form and essence of regeneration. The faith is especially defined. Three times in this chapter our Lord represents the object of faith, the central focus of the Divine revelation, to be "I AM." The predicate is unexpressed here, and the same may be said in ver. 28 and ver. 58. Elsewhere the predicate may easily be gathered from the context (John 9:9; John 18:5, 6, 8; Mark 13:6; Luke 21:8). Meyer and many others have said, "The true predicate here is 'the Christ:' 'I am the coming One,' 'the promised One,' 'the Sent of God.'" It is a somewhat dubious proceeding to draw the central idea of this chapter from an unexpressed ellipsis. The "I am" of these passages cannot be regarded as equivalent to the "I am that I am" of Exodus, or to the incommunicable name of the eternal One, but it is analogous to it. Throughout the prophets the unique and solitary grandeur of the Divine nature in its special covenant relations with Israel is expressed by the phrase, "I AM HE." This was the sum of the object of the Old Testament faith (Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 41:13; Isaiah 43:10, etc.). In like manner, the fulness of the Divine Ego in the incarnate Word is inexpressible by any one predicate. His entire revelation of himself had given this amplitude and indefinable breadth to his Personality. He had called himself the Son of God, the living Water, the veritable Bread, the Bread of God and of heaven, the Light of the world. He was indefinitely more than the current, popular idea of the Christ, immeasurably different from that which they persisted in expecting. Faith in that he is, in what he is, and in what he has revealed to them, is the germ of the life eternal. To refuse this faith is to refuse the hope that breaks over the gloom of Sheol, and to leave the full burden of sin upon the conscience. Compare St. Paul's words (1 Corinthians 15:17, 18), "If Christ be not risen... ye are yet in your sins."
He is inserted in the versions and is not in the text. By retaining it, we read, I am the Messiah. But the words are rather the solemn expression of His absolute divine being, as in John 8:58 : "If ye believe not that I am." See Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 43:10; and compare John 8:28, John 8:58 of this chapter, and John 13:19.
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