John Chapters 10 to 12, Part 8
by Karl Kemp
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We continue the verse-by-verse study of John chapters 10-12 here in Part 8, starting with John 12:31.
(31) Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world [cf. John 14:30; 16:11; Eph, 2:2; 2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 4:4; and 5:19] will be cast out. [[The judgment of this world began in a very substantial sense with the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ and His attendant resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God the Father, which initiated new-covenant salvation. The devil was defeated at the cross (cf. John 16:11; Col. 2:10-15; and Heb. 2:14-18). His defeat was manifested in a preliminary sense as the Lord Jesus Christ ministered on the earth before His death. (He resisted temptation and lived a sinless life; the devil had no place in Him [John 14:30]; He cast out demons [cf. Matt. 12:28, 29], etc.) The devil's defeat was manifested in a fuller sense when Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father. His defeat was manifested in a fuller sense yet when believers (in union with the resurrected Christ) were born again and entered into new-covenant salvation, starting on the day of Pentecost.
Since sin, Satan, and spiritual death have been overthrown, those who submit (in faith) to Christ and the gospel throughout this age can now be born again, sanctified, and set free from the kingdom of Satan (which includes his evil angels and demons). At the end of this age (right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week, at the time of Christ's second coming and the rapture), Satan and his angels will be cast down to the earth from their privileged position in heavenly places (Rev. 12:4, 7-12; cf. Eph. 6:12). At the end of Daniel's 70th week, Satan (and presumably his angels and demons along with him) will be cast into the abyss for the duration of the millennium (Rev. 20:1-3). And after being loosed from the abyss for a short season at the end of the millennium, Satan (and those aligned with him) will be cast into the eternal lake of fire (Rev. 20:7-10).]] (32) And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw [cf. John 6:44] all men to Myself.' [[Jesus was "lifted up from the earth" in two ways; both ways seem to be included here; the two ways are closely related. ((I had a footnote: The Greek verb (hupsoo) that is translated "I am lifted up" here is also used of Jesus being "lifted up" on the cross in John 3:14; 8:28, and it is used of His being "lifted up" (or you could translate exalted) to heaven, to the right hand of God the Father, in Acts 2:33; 5:31. The verb is also used in John 12:34.)) He was "lifted up from the earth" on the cross. Verse 33 confirms that Jesus included that idea here. He was also "lifted up from the earth" to heaven, to the right hand of God the Father. He had to be "lifted up" in both senses in order to carry out the Father's plans to save and to judge and ultimately to bring forth His new heaven and new earth with its new Jerusalem of the eternal state that is totally filled with the glory of God.
Jesus' drawing all men to Himself builds on His all-important atoning death, which is so prominent in this context. He died bearing the sins of all mankind back to Adam (cf. John 1:29; 1 John 2:2), and all are invited to repent and submit to God's new-covenant plan of salvation, very much including the Gentiles (Acts 17:30, 31; 1 Tim. 2:3-6), but it is very clear in John chapter 12 (and throughout the New Testament) that all people will not repent and submit to God's new-covenant plan of salvation. Some people love sin and the darkness and they have no desire (and the gospel doesn't stimulate a desire) to repent and be made righteous with the very righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. John 6:44, which uses the same Greek verb for "draw" as this verse, speaks of God's "drawing" the elect of God.]] (33) But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. [See under verse 32.] (34) The crowd then answered Him, 'We have heard out of the Law [As in John 10:34 (and other verses), "the Law" was used here in a fuller sense than of the Mosaic Law; it referred to the entire Old Testament.] that the Christ is to remain forever [cf., e.g., Isa. 9:7; Ezek. 37:25; and Dan. 7:14]; and how can You say, "The Son of Man must be lifted up"? [[See verses 32, 33. John 3:14; 8:28 also speak of the Son of Man's being lifted up. The crowd's point seems to be that if the Christ is to remain forever after He comes (that is, He is to remain forever in God's worldwide kingdom, which is centered in Jerusalem) how can Jesus say that He (the Son of Man [I had a footnote: Jesus frequently referred to Himself as the Son of Man, including in verse 23; on the Son of Man, see under John 1:51 in my paper on John 1:19-4:54 on this Christian article site] must be lifted up. I'm confident that the crowd didn't really understand much about what Jesus meant by His being lifted up. Some of the people in the crowd probably thought that He meant He would be lifted up to heaven somehow; others may have thought that He meant He would die; but there was much confusion regarding what He meant. Even Jesus' apostles didn't yet have an adequate understanding of His atoning death, resurrection, and being lifting up to heaven (cf., e.g., Luke 24:13-49; John 20:9).]] Who is this Son of Man?' [This crowd seemed to rightly understand that Jesus claimed to be the Christ and the Son of Man.] (35) [Jesus didn't answer the crowd's specific questions of verse 34, but He went on to exhort and warn them in verses 35, 36 of their need to believe in Him (to submit to Him in faith), who is the Light, while He was still with them (cf. John 1:4, 5, 7-9; 9:5; and 12:46).] So Jesus said to them, 'For a little while longer the Light is among you [Jesus was "the Light" (cf., e.g., John 7:33)]. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness [Compare 1 John 1:6; 2:11. The "darkness" goes with Satan's kingdom (cf. Col. 1:13) of sin, spiritual death, and the absence of the truth (though there are plenty of half-truths to try to confuse the issue).] does not know where he goes [He doesn't know where he is going because he is in the darkness; he doesn't know the truth, righteousness, or holiness of God and isn't appropriating the saving grace of God in Christ.]. (36) While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light [cf. Luke 16:8; John 8:12; Eph. 5:8; and 1 Thess. 5:5].' These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them [cf. John 8:59]. [This marked the end of Jesus' public ministry. In a very few days He would be crucified.] (37) But though He had performed so many signs before them [[Jesus had performed many more miraculous signs before Israel than those recorded in the Gospel of John (see John 20:30 and the Synoptic Gospels). And Jesus did a lot more than just work many signs in their midst: He was perfect in every way; He spoke nothing but the truth; He lived nothing but the righteousness and holiness of the truth of God; He was deity, God the Son, and His coming was prophesied in some detail in the Old Testament.]], yet they were not believing in Him. [[John 12:37-41 are discussed in some detail on pages 37-39 of the internet version of my "A Paper on Faith." Isaiah 6:8-13 are discussed there too. Isaiah 6:10 is loosely quoted in John 12:40. Some things that I said there will not be repeated here; so too for the references to other discussions on these important topics mentioned below. On verses like these we must be extra careful to seek God for the BALANCED truth of what the Bible teaches.
Some of the Jews submitted to Christ and the gospel in faith, but most of them didn't. The same thing happened when the gospel was sent to the Gentiles. It's hard to believe just how serious and deep-seated the sin problem is in the heart of man, according to the Bible. It seems unbelievable that so many people would choose to follow the devil in his rebellion against God, who - praise God! - happens to be a good God, a very good God. The fact that He demands repentance and submission to Himself, His Son, and His Word in faith and won't allow sin and rebellion to continue in His kingdom forever goes with His being a GOOD God. God's kingdom (or universe/world) cannot function as it must, in divine order, if He permits the rebellion of the devil, evil angels, demons, or men to continue with the resultant chaos, suffering, and pain.
It's true that those who rejected Christ and the gospel could offer some excuses, but they weren't (and they aren't) valid excuses before God. The Jews could say, for example, that some things were confusing. Verse 34 provides an example, and the New Testament gives quite a few other examples. I'll cite several examples: Though many Jews knew the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, many didn't know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem; they thought He was born in Galilee (cf. John 7:41, 42). Most of the Jews didn't have room for the Person of God the Son, or the fact that Messiah was to be deity, or the virgin birth, so they had an excuse for rejecting Him as a blasphemer when He told them (to some extent) who He was. Though the Old Testament prophesied of the Suffering Servant and the atoning death and sanctifying work of the Messiah, those prophecies were not well understood, and most of the Jews were looking for the Messiah to deliver them from the hated Romans, not for Him to save them from spiritual death and sin. Most of them didn't even realize that they had a serious sin problem, but they did (cf., e.g., Luke 13:1-5). And most of the religious leaders of the Jews rejected Christ Jesus from the beginning (cf., e.g., John 7:47-51); the religious leaders couldn't mostly be wrong, could they?
God could have eliminated most of this confusion if He wanted to, but it served His purpose. For one very important thing, He allows much room for demons and false prophets to do their evil work. He provides/permits excuses for those who are looking for them. ((I had a two-paragraph footnote: To say essentially the same thing with different words, sometimes the Bible speaks of God's hiding the truth from some, while revealing it to others (to those who are humble before God and care about Him and His righteousness, to those who will repent and respond to His grace and come into divine order when they hear about it, to the elect). See, for example, Matt. 11:25-30; Luke 10:21-24; and 19:41-44. Note that Jesus put the blame on Israel in Luke 19:44 for not recognizing the time of their visitation. God doesn't hide the truth from those who are open to Him and the truth.
In our day, people who are looking for excuses to reject Christ and the gospel can find plenty of them. For example, a very large number of people (including many who call themselves Christians) are convinced that science (and other things) has proved that the Bible is full of errors. (The truth of the matter is that the Bible accurately communicates what God wanted to communicate, but it certainly doesn't incorporate our present scientific understanding of the universe, for example. If He would have incorporated that information in the Bible, it would not have communicated well to the peoples of the past few thousand years, and it would have greatly detracted from God's ability to communicate the all-important truths He wanted to communicate to them.) God could have avoided many of these "excuses," but He didn't. Then too, all of the sin, strife, confusion, and greatly differing interpretations of the Bible among those who call themselves Christians serve as a sufficient excuse for those looking for excuses. And quite often God's idea of righteousness, judgment, etc. don't fit the world's ideas. Many are quick to judge God in many ways, but before long all will know that really there is only One Judge that matters, and He has never does anything wrong, regardless of men's judgments.)) He knows (and foreknew) the hearts of all people and understood the seriousness and depth of the sin problem. He didn't want people to join up and call themselves His people, or disciples of Christ, for the wrong reasons or with a half-hearted commitment. He was looking for those who would face the reality that they were sinners in spiritual death and in desperate need of the Savior from sin; Christ came and initiated the new covenant to save sinners from their sins and to get their hearts and lives in divine order and to keep them there forever. And He was looking for those who would humble themselves before Him and press into God's salvation and righteousness for the right reasons in spite of the confusion and against substantial opposition. Those who begin to cooperate with God's grace and seek first His kingdom and His righteousness will find His salvation and righteousness by His grace.
God cannot tolerate sin and rebellion in His eternal kingdom. He hates sin and rebellion! We'll see more about these things in verses 38-41, verses that speak of God's blinding the eyes and hardening the hearts of most of the Jews (things like allowing confusion and hiding the truth lead to blindness and hardening of hearts) so they wouldn't repent in some shallow way that didn't really change the direction of their hearts and lives; we cannot modify the gospel or accept God on our terms. We can try, but it won't work! We must make Him our God and do everything His way from the heart. We can't fake it before Him..
God sent His Son to die for all mankind, and He calls all to repent and to submit to Christ and the gospel in faith, but He knew before He created the universe, or man, that many never would repent after the fall. He cannot accept shallow, insincere repentance or a half-baked commitment to Himself, Christ, or the gospel. The sin problem isn't solved if sin and rebellion continue in the heart, and it is not possible for rebels to have a place in God's new heaven and new earth with its new Jerusalem. The all-powerful atoning blood of Christ (which is backed up by the all-powerful Spirit of God) can't cleanse the hearts and lives of sin and rebellion for those who don't want (with a top priority) to repent and live for God, doing everything His way, in His righteousness. We must appropriate and cooperate with His saving, sanctifying grace by faith on a continuous basis in accordance with His Word. God and His righteousness must become the top priority of our hearts (cf., e.g., Matt. 6:33). There is no other acceptable alternative for God's people.]] (38) [[See under verse 37. Verses 38-41 are quite important, but like John 6:37-39, 44 and quite a few other verses, we must be careful that we don't read more into these verses than what was intended - we desperately need THE BALANCED TRUTH of what the Bible teaches about God's role and the role He left for man when it comes to salvation. ((I had a footnote: John chapter 6 is discussed verse-by-verse in my paper on John Chapters 5-8. Those verses are also discussed in some detail in my "A Paper on Faith." A primary goal for that paper was to show that, though our faith is dependent on the saving grace of God, He doesn't give us saving faith or make us continue in faith. We must respond with faith to God's saving grace; we must appropriate and cooperate with His saving grace by faith on a continuous basis.)) ((I had a footnote: I have discussed these things in some detail in my papers, always aiming for the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches. All of these papers are available on my internet site (karlkempteachingministries.com). Some of the papers are available on this Christian article site. Start with John 6:37-39, 44, 45 in the paper on John Chapter 5-8 and the references I cited to my other writings there (see under John 6:37). If you want to get the complete picture on these very important, very controversial topics, you should read all of those discussions. It will be well worth your time. There is page after page of important discussions and quotations dealing with these topics, for example, under Romans chapter 9 in my paper on Romans chapters 9-11.))
God doesn't make people repent; He doesn't give people saving faith; He doesn't make people continue in faith to the end; and He doesn't force people to become righteous and holy or force them to stay righteous and holy (we become righteous and holy and continue in the righteousness and holiness of God by grace through faith). Faith is our response to God's offer of grace. No one could repent or have saving faith or be righteous and holy if God didn't take the initiative in our salvation. He must receive all the glory. Our salvation comes one-hundred percent by the grace of God in Christ. We can't earn salvation by faith (to the extent we earned salvation, it wouldn't come by grace); we receive and cooperate with God's saving grace by faith. God set it up that way.
The fact that the Bible teaches that God elects/chooses some individuals and "draws" (and calls) them in a special sense (cf. John 6:44 with 6:37, 39) doesn't mean that man doesn't have a substantial role to play in God's salvation plans. The Bible also makes it clear that we still have to respond to God and His grace with faith in accordance with His Word on a continuous basis. It is also important to know that the Bible teaches that Christ died for all and that all are called to repent and submit to the gospel in faith (cf., e.g., John 3:16-18; Acts 17:30, 31; 1 John 2:2; and 1 Tim. 2:4-6). ((I had a footnote: No persons need fear that if they begin to seriously respond to God's call to repent and look to Him in accordance with His Word on a consistent basis that He will reject them. And as they press on they will receive more light. Christ died for them, and they are called to repent and submit to Christ and the gospel in faith.))
John's quotation of Isa. 53:1a here in John 12:38, "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT," includes the idea that the elect (as free moral agents [I had a footnote: Man is in spiritual death and bondage after the fall, but man still has some freedom of the will and some capacity to have faith and to cooperate with the saving grace of God in Christ.]) must believe God's offer of salvation (the gospel), which includes submitting to, and acting upon, God's report; if we don't submit and act, we didn't really believe. ((I had footnote: The apostle Paul quoted Isa. 53:1a in Rom. 10:16, "However, they [the Jews] did not all heed [obey] the good news [the gospel]; for Isaiah says, 'LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?' " Paul's point in context was that although Israel had heard the gospel (see Rom. 10:14-18), they (speaking of the majority) rejected it - "they did not all heed [obey] it"; they did not submit to it in faith. I'll quote Paul's concluding verse of that chapter, "But as for Israel He says, 'ALL THE DAY LONG I HAVE STRETCHED OUT MY HANDS TO A DISOBEDIENT AND OBSTINATE PEOPLE [quoting from Isa. 65:2].' " Israel was responsible for this unbelief, disobedience, and obstinance.))
Furthermore, it is important to see that God's election/choosing of individuals is based (at least to some significant extent) on His knowledge (and foreknowledge) of the individuals. He knew which Jews of Isaiah's generation (and of every other generation) truly were His people, for example, and He knew those who weren't. He knew that most of them would not repent at the preaching of Isaiah (or Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.), but He also knew that if He judged Israel intensely that some would eventually repent. (See, for example, Isaiah 6:8-13. We'll discuss these verses below, under verses 40 and 41.) God foreknew all people before He created the earth; He knew their hearts, including knowing how they would respond to His call to repent and to submit (in faith) to Him and His Word. People are different in their responses to God (Abel and Cain; Jacob and Esau; and Antichrist, for example), but the elect are totally dependent on God's grace and must give Him all the glory for their salvation. There is no room for boasting in man (cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 1:26-31).
Now let's discuss Isa. 53:1b, which John also quoted here in verse 38, "AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?" This REVEALING is the opposite of His HIDING and His ALLOWING CONFUSION, etc. (see under verse 37). God's revealing Himself to the elect in John's day, for example, goes with His special drawing of the elect (cf. John 6:44). It is to be understood that those who believed the message of new-covenant salvation in Christ (spoken of in Isa 53:1a) were dependent on God's revealing the mighty saving work He was to accomplish through Christ Jesus by His mighty arm.
Isaiah 52:12-53:12, which are some of the most important prophetic verses in the Old Testament, are so awesomely remarkable that we are dependent on God to open the eyes of our hearts to adequately understand them. Those verses prophesy of the Suffering Servant of God (Christ Jesus) who bore our sins with the guilt and the penalties (very much including the penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin so we could be forgiven and begin to live in the righteousness and holiness of God, not to mention being saved from the penalty of hell), so that we could be saved with a very full and glorious salvation.
And it wasn't just that the elect were dependent on God to reveal the gospel to them, John goes on in verse 39 to loosely quote Isa. 6:10 to make the point that God blinded the eyes and hardened the hearts of the people of Israel (speaking of the majority) in his day (as well as in Isaiah's day and other generations). Blinding the eyes and hardening the hearts is a more forceful way of saying what we spoke of under verses 37, 38 with words like allowing confusion, providing excuses not to believe, and hiding the truth. One of the primary factors that led to the hardening of the hearts of Israel in most generations was the false prophets and apostate religious leaders (who were often motivated by demon spirits) who kept telling the people everything but the full truth - they didn't call the people to repent, and they typically told the people what they wanted to hear.]] This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: 'LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?' [John was quoting from Isa. 53:1; see above, under verse 38.] (39) For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again [John was loosely quoting from Isa. 6:10 in verse 40. See under verse 37, 38.], (40) 'HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM.'
We will continue this verse-by-verse study of John chapters 10-12 in Part 9, starting with John 12:40.
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