We continue this verse-by-verse study of John chapters 10-12 here in the last section of this paper, Part 9, starting with John 12:40.
(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 ["quoting" Isa. 6:10].' [[Compare Deut. 29:2-4. Isaiah 6:10 (in context with Isa. 6:8-13) speaks of a judicial blinding of the eyes and hardening of the hearts of the majority of the people of Israel of Isaiah's generation (and future generations) because of their unrepentant, deep-seated unbelief and sinfulness. God knows the hearts. The book of Isaiah speaks much of their serious need to repent and of their unrepentant hearts. God doesn't blind the eyes or harden the hearts of people who are open to Him and repentant, but Israel had closed their eyes and hardened their hearts. God had also hardened Pharaoh's heart back in the days of the exodus from Egypt, but the book of Exodus makes it very clear that Pharaoh's heart was hard to begin with, and he further hardened his heart time after time too. God doesn't harden hearts that aren't already hard before Him.
We need to be continuously looking to God for the balanced truth of what the Scriptures teach. What some passages teach must be balanced out with what other passages teach to learn the BALANCED truth. And on the topic we are discussing we must admit, I think, that God hasn't revealed as much as we would like to know. However, He does reveals as much as we need to know.
I'll quote part of what Leon Morris says under verses 39, 40 ("Gospel According to John," page 604). "The present passage ascribes everything to the will of God. Unless His hand is in it nothing is possible. But when John quotes 'he hath blinded their eyes...' he does not mean that the blinding takes place without the will or against the will of these people. So with the hardening of their heart. These men chose evil. It was their own deliberate choice, their own fault. Make no mistake about that. Throughout his Gospel John has insisted upon the seriousness of the decision forced on the Jews by the presence of Jesus, on their responsibility, and on their guilt. He in not now removing all that. What he is now saying is that the hand of God is in the consequences of their choice (cf. the threefold 'God gave them up' [where Paul happens to be speaking of sinful Gentiles] in Rom. 1:24, 26, 28). ...."
God wasn't going to tolerate a superficial, half-hearted repentance with a superficial healing. He didn't want them to be converted in a superficial way that wouldn't really have dealt with the serious sin problem in Israel. As Isaiah 6:11-13 show, God blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts in a way that led to the very intense judgment of Israel, and He mentioned that intense judgments would come in the future (see under verse 41). The first such judgment to follow was the Babylonian captivity and the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. Through such judgments (and other means), God preserved a repentant remnant in Judah/Israel (see Isa. 6:13). ((I had a lengthy footnote: John "quoted" Isa. 6:10 in John 12:40. The three verses that follow in Isaiah (Isa. 6:11-13), which are the last verses of that chapter, are very important to the full interpretation of that prophecy. I'll quote ISAIAH 6:11-13 and make several comments in brackets. As always, unless otherwise indicated, I'm quoting from the NASB (1995 edition). "Then I [Isaiah] said, 'Lord, how long?' [That is, how long will the unrepentant sinfulness and the consequent intense judgment(s) of Judah/Israel continue?] And He answered, 'Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, Houses are without people And the land is utterly desolate, (12) The LORD [Yahweh] has removed men far away [from the land of Judah/Israel], And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land [because there were so few people left in the land]. [[The first major installment of these prophetic words came to pass with the Babylonian captivity, which started in 605 BC. These prophetic words of Isaiah chapter 6 were given to Isaiah when God commissioned him to be a prophet, in the year King Uzziah died (739/740 BC; see Isa. 6:1). Isaiah ministered to the Southern Kingdom of Israel (often called Judah), with its capital at Jerusalem (cf. Isa. 1:1). It is noteworthy, however, that the Northern Kingdom (sometimes called Israel) was destroyed by the Assyrians and large numbers of Israelites were sent into exile, from which they never returned - the capital city, Samaria, fell to the Assyrians in 722/721 BC. The Assyrians attacked Judah but God prevented them from taking Jerusalem or destroying the nation.]] (13) Yet there will be a tenth portion in it [[The "tenth portion" includes the repentant, righteous remnant left of Judah/Israel after the intense judgments through the Babylonians. Many unrepentant Jews were purged from Judah/Israel in those years of judgment, and many of those who were left as a remnant had done some serious repenting. Many Jews who were relatively righteous before that judgment were motivated to draw closer to God too.]] And it [the tenth portion/the remnant left after that judgment] will again be subject to burning ["it will again be laid waste" NIV. The NIV has a period after the word "waste" and starts a new sentence with the words, "But as the terebinth...."], Like a terebinth or an oak Whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump.' " These last words show that the sin problem was far from being permanently solved in Judah/Israel after the Babylonian destructions and exiles: Further intense judgments against the large numbers of unrepentant sinners in Judah/Israel would be coming in the future. The last such shaking (judgment/burning) will take place in the last days and will involve the (rebuilt) temple and Antichrist (cf., e.g., Isa. 66:1-6; Dan. 12:1; Joel 2:30-32; Zech. 13:8; 14:1, 2; Matt. 24:15-22; Rom. 9:27-29; and 2 Thess. 2:3, 4, 7, 8). The repentant end-time remnant of Judah/Israel will receive the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved by Him, starting, I believe, right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week, right after the great tribulation of Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:21, 22, 28-31, at the time of Christ's second coming and the rapture (cf., e.g., Isa. 10:21-23; 27:12, 13; Dan. 12:1; Joel 2:32; Zech. 12:10-13:1; 14:3-11; Rom. 11:25-27; and Rev. 11:13). I'll quote a sentence from what F. Delitzsch says here about these judgments that end with the end-time remnant of Israel becoming part of God's "new Israel" (Vol. 7 of Keil and Delitzsch, page 203). "The passage contains an outline of the history of Israel to the end of time." [This is the end of the lengthy footnote.]))
The apostle John applied the words of Isaiah 6:10 to the majority of the Jews of his generation. Intense judgment fell on the Jews of John's generation, starting in AD 66, when the Jews rebelled against the Romans (as they had rebelled against the Babylonians). Their primary problem was that they were rebelling against God. The Romans destroyed the temple and much of Jerusalem in AD 70. God's people (and that includes Christians) never get by with continuing in unrepentant sinfulness, rebellion, and unbelief. Also see under verse 41.]] (41) These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. [[Compare Luke 24:27, 44-47. I'll quote part of what I said regarding the meaning of John 12:39-41 on pages 37-39 of the internet version of my "A Paper on Faith." There is widespread agreement that the apostle John is saying that when Isaiah saw the Lord [and His glory], as recorded in Isaiah chapter 6, he was seeing the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Although there is widespread agreement that John meant that Isaiah saw God the Son (one way or another) when he saw the Lord in Isa. 6:1-7, I believe John probably meant that Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ through the revelations he received about Him (cf., e.g., Isa. 9:6, 7; 11:1-10; 42:1-9; 49:1-7; 52:12-15; 53:10b-12; and 63:1-3). Isaiah probably saw God the Father on His throne in Isa. 6:1 (as in Rev. 4:2-5:7, for example). Compare John 8:56 regarding Abraham's rejoicing that he had seen Christ's day (apparently by revelation).
Isaiah 6 is a relevant chapter in that the "quotation" in John 12:40 is from Isa. 6:10. ... Here we need to discuss the meaning of John 12:39, 40. The end result of what these verses say is that it was the will of God that many of the sons of Israel not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be healed by Him. If you read too much into these words, you end up with ideas John [or, more importantly, God] never intended. Why would God will such a thing? Doesn't the Bible say He wants all to repent and believe and be saved (e.g., 1 Tim. 2:3-6)?
The dominant theme underlying John 12:39, 40 (a theme that permeates John chapters 1-12 and Isaiah chapters 1-6) is that many of the sons of Israel were so far from God, and so given over to sin, that any repentance and faith would be extremely superficial, and the end result would be bad, bad for the Body of Christ, and even bad for the persons who wouldn't really be submitting to Christ or God the Father (their sin and guilt would ultimately be increased).
When John writes (quoting from Isa. 6:10) "And I...heal them," he is not speaking of the glorious spiritual healing (which includes the new birth and the transformation to righteousness and holiness) that is offered to all who repent and submit to the gospel in faith. For all who receive that healing, the sin problem will truly be solved, as it must be. John is thinking of a superficial healing, mostly in the external dimension, that makes things seem a little better for a while, and that postpones judgment for a while, but doesn't really begin to solve the primary problem, the sin problem. For one thing, God did not want to postpone intense judgment. (That was also so for Israel in the days of Isaiah.) When John wrote these words, Israel was headed toward intense judgment and shaking because of the depth of their sin problem (cf., e.g., Matt. 21:33-46; 23:37-39; and 24:1, 2). Intense shaking came to Israel after they rebelled against Rome, starting in AD 66. ....
I'll also quote part of what I said under the discussion of Isa. 6:8-13, which is found on pages 40-42 on the internet version) of my "A Paper on Faith." Before we leave these verses [Isa. 6:8-13], I should point out that the Septuagint version of Isa. 6:9, 10, which is quoted in Matt. 13:14, 15 and Acts 28:25-27, gives a different slant to these verses. ((I had a lengthy footnote: In Matt. 13:14, 15 (also see Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10) Jesus "quoted" from Isa. 6:9, 10 to explain to His disciples why He spoke to the multitudes in parables. (This was at least one reason He often spoke to them in parables.) I'll quote MATTHEW 13:10-17 and make several comments in brackets. "And the disciples came and said to Him, 'Why do You speak to them in parables?' [In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus' disciples came to Him and asked this question after He had given the parable of the sower. He answered their question (verses 13-17) and went on (starting in verse 18) to explain the parable of the sower to his disciples.] (11) Jesus answered them, 'To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven ["Because it has been given to you" NKJV], but to them it has not been granted. [Jesus revealed these important truths to His disciples but hid them from the multitudes. Very often the disciples did not understand the parables until Jesus explained the parables to them. It is clear that the multitudes did not understand the parables if the disciples did not understand them.] (12) For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. [[The reason (a very important and easy to understand reason) that Jesus gave the understanding to His disciples is that they appreciated and were using what they had from God. They were making God and the things of God top priority, and they were hungry for more understanding and the grace to more fully live in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God, always doing His will from the heart (in faith). On the other hand those who were living on the edge of the kingdom of God, if even that close, had not been using what little they had from God, and they were not hungry to receive what the Father was offering them through the Lord Jesus Christ. Why should God give more truth and grace to those who wouldn't use it. God knows the hearts, and He knows what we are doing. We can't fool Him.]] (13) Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. [God didn't want people like that to see, hear, or understand much of what Jesus was saying, not until they were ready to repent in a serious way and make God and the things of God top priority.] (14) In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, 'YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; (15) FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.' [[God always desires the repentance of His people IF IT IS TRUE REPENTANCE, and He has promised to heal and save those who truly repent. True repentance is a whole lot more than feeling bad about what you have done and/or wanting to be forgiven. True repentance includes the desire to stop sinning and to begin to live for God in every way (by His grace).]] (16) But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. (17) For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.' "
And I'll quote ACTS 28:23-29 and make some comments in brackets; this passage also quotes Isa. 6:9, 10 and helps show that Israel was responsible for their unbelief: "And when they [Acts 28:17b shows that "they" were "the leading men of the Jews (at Rome)."] had set a day for him [the apostle Paul, who had just been sent to Rome as a prisoner], they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God, and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. (24) And some of them were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe. (25) And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, 'The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, (26) saying, "GO TO THIS PEOPLE AND SAY, 'YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; AND YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; (27) FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, AND WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES; LEST THEY SHOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I SHOULD HEAL THEM.' " (28) Let it be known to you therefore, that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen.' "
What a great blessing it is to be able to understand and to begin to live in the kingdom of God as born-again Christians through the atoning death (and resurrection and ascension) of the Lord Jesus Christ that initiated new-covenant salvation. If we don't make understanding these things and living in the center of God's will top priority, we will miss God's best in this life, and in the worst-case-scenario we could find ourselves being rejected by God. God is often calling His people to make some changes (to repent), but I have discovered over the years that many Christians don't want to hear that. [This is the end of the lengthy footnote.])) Both slants are, of course, biblical. WE NEED THE BALANCED TRUTH OF WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES! The Septuagint version doesn't mention any role of God [like His blinding eyes or hardening hearts (as in John 12:39, 40)] in Israel's rejection of the Word of God as spoken through Isaiah. As discussed above, Israel was responsible for their unbelief. God always willed the repentance and faith of the sons of Israel (and of all mankind), but not on a superficial level. (Of course I'm not denying God's foreknowledge; He knew the hearts of all mankind before the foundation of the world.) (Now we are ready to discuss John 12:42.)]] (42) Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him [[The raising of Lazarus from the dead probably was a significant factor in convincing some of these rulers to "believe" in Jesus. However, the rest of the words of this verse and verse 43 show that their faith/believing left a lot to be desired. We can undoubtedly say that those rulers who didn't press on to solidify their faith didn't become true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Nicodemus, a Pharisee, was one of the rulers who believed in Christ Jesus (cf. John 3:1-12; 7:50-52; and 19:39-41; see under John 7:47-50 in my paper on John chapters 5-8). Joseph of Arimathea was another (see Matt. 27:57-60; Mark 15:43-36; Luke 23:50-53; and John 19:38-42). As these references show, a few days after the events spoken of in John 12:27-36, these men publicly manifested their faith in burying Jesus' body. I'll quote John 19:38, "After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, BUT A SECRET ONE FOR FEAR OF THE JEWS, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body." It isn't clear to what extent Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were secret disciples of Jesus after they buried Him, perhaps not at all, which would have led to very serious problems with the rulers of the Jews. It would have been very difficult for them to keep what they had done secret, even if they wanted to keep it secret.]], but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him [cf. Matt. 10:32, 33; Luke 12:8, 9] for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue [cf. John 9:22; 16:2]; (43) for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. [Compare John 5:41, 42, 44.] (44) And Jesus cried out and said [[It isn't clear when Jesus cried out these words. Quite a few commentators believe that in verses 44-50, now that Jesus' public ministry to the Jews had ended (see John 12:36b), John gave a brief summary of some of the key things that Jesus had cried out before the Jews. William Hendricksen speaks of verses 44-50 as "a summary of previous public teaching (and to some extent also of subsequent private instruction) ...." R. C. H. Lenski says, "He [John] adds another paragraph in which he combines previous utterances of Jesus and fashions them into a brief summary of Jesus' call and testimony to his nation. This constitutes an impressive declaration on the supreme importance of faith and on the fatal error and doom of unbelief."]], 'He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. [Jesus' point here was not that believers did not believe in Him, but that when they believed in Him they were also believing in the One who had sent Him, God the Father. Compare Matt. 10:40; John 5:24.] (45) He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. [Compare John 14:9. Jesus revealed God the Father by being who He was (He was God the Son; cf. John 1:18); He was like the Father in every way, and He spoke the words the Father gave Him to speak and did the works the Father gave Him to do.] (46) I have come as Light into the world [Compare John 1:4; 3:19-21; 8:12; 9:5; and 12:35, 36. The Light includes the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God; God (the triune God) is the only source of truth, righteousness, and holiness and of everything else that is good, including life (spiritual life and physical life).], so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness [The darkness excludes the truth, righteousness, holiness, and spiritual/eternal life of God; the devil's kingdom is a kingdom of sin, unholiness, spiritual death, and darkness (cf. Luke 1:79; 22:53; Acts 26:18; 2 Cor. 6:14; Eph. 5:8-11; Col. 1:13; 1 Pet. 2:9; and 1 John 1:5).]. (47) If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them [cf., e.g., Matt. 7:24-27], I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. [[Compare John 3:15-21; 8:15. At His first coming Jesus did not come to judge the world (the emphasis was on His coming to save the world), but it will be different at His second coming: He is coming to judge the world too (cf., e.g., John 5:22, 27-29; 9:39; Matt. 16:27; Acts 10:42; 17:31). See under verse 48 too.]] (48) He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. [[Compare Deut. 18:18, 19; John 5:45-47; and 8:47. One key point that Jesus made here in verses 47, 48 was that when people reject Him (Him who is God the Son, who had been sent by God the Father) and do not receive His sayings (which, as verse 49, 50 and other verses show, were the words the Father had given Him to speak) will be judged guilty of rejecting God's Christ, who is the only Savior from sin, spiritual death, and darkness. How can sinful people be saved from damnation when they reject God's only plan of salvation? There is a powerful exhortation to faith in Christ Jesus and the gospel of new-covenant salvation here and a powerful warning against unbelief. People are responsible for what they do with Christ and the gospel.]] (49) For I did not speak on My own initiative ["of Myself"], but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment [cf. John 10:18; 14:31; and 12:50] as to what to say and what to speak [cf. John 7:16; 8:26, 28, 38; 12:50; 14:10, 24; and 17:8]. (50) I know that His commandment is eternal life [The Father's commandment results in eternal life for all who are saved through submitting in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel of the new covenant.]; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.' "
May God's will be fully accomplished through this paper and His people be edified!