John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

21 (John 8:21)

Verse 21

21.I go. Perceiving that he is doing no good among these obstinate men, he threatens their destruction; and this is the end of all those who reject the Gospel. For it is not thrown uselessly into the air, but must breathe the odour either of life or of death, (2 Corinthians 2:16.) The meaning of these words amounts to this. “The wicked will at length feel how great loss they have suffered by rejecting Christ, when he freely offers himself to them. They will feel it, but it will be too late, for there will be no more room for repentance.” And to alarm them still more by showing them that their judgment is near at hand, in the first place, he says that he will soon go away, by which he means that the Gospel is preached to them only for a short time, and that if they allow this opportunity to pass away, the accepted time and the days appointed for salvation (Isaiah 49:8; 2 Corinthians 6:2) will not always last. Thus also, in the present day, when Christ knocks at our door, we ought to go immediately to meet him, lest he be wearied by our slothfulness and withdraw from us. And indeed we have learned, by many experiments in all ages, how greatly this departure of Christ is to be dreaded.

And you shall seek me. We must first ascertain in what manner the persons now spoken of sought Christ; for if they had been truly converted, they would not have sought him in vain; because he has not falsely promised that, as soon as a sinner groans, he will be ready to assist him. Christ does not mean, therefore, that they sought him by the right way of faith, but that they sought him, as men, overwhelmed by the extremity of anguish, look for deliverance on every hand. For unbelievers would desire to have God reconciled to them, but yet they do not cease to fly from him. God calls them; the approach consists in faith and repentance; but they oppose God by hardness of heart, and, overwhelmed with despair, they exclaim against him. In short, they are so far from desiring to enjoy the favor of God, that they do not give him permission to assist them, unless he deny himself, which he will never do.

In this manner, however wicked the scribes were, they would willingly have applied to themselves the redemption which had been promised by the hand of the Messiah, provided that Christ would transform himself, to suit their natural disposition. Wherefore, by these words Christ threatens and denounces to all unbelievers, that, after having despised the doctrine of the Gospel, they will be seized with such anguish, that they shall be constrained to cry to God, but their howling will be of no avail; because, as we have already said, seeking, they do not seek And this is still more plainly expressed in the next clause, when he says, you shall die in your sin; for he shows that the cause of their destruction will be, that they were disobedient and rebellious to the very last. What is the nature of their sin we shall presently see.

- John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible