The Gospel of John begins with one of the most famous Christological passages found in the Bible. In it, John describes the true nature of Jesus as well as the universal scope of God’s salvific plan. Let’s take a look.
John 1:1-9 (NIV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
There are several very important things to notice in this passage.
First, we see that Jesus is the light of all mankind. This means that He is the light for every person. There is no good reason to believe that it means anything less.
Second, we see that Christ shines as light in the darkness of this world and that the darkness does not overcome Him. In other words, the light of Jesus wins and the darkness loses. His light is not overcome by the darkness; instead, He conquers the darkness.
Third, we see that the purpose of the light of Christ is that all might believe. So, Christ came as a light, and John the Baptist testified about Him, so that every person (not just some people) would be able to believe in Him and through Him.
Finally, John says again (in slightly different words) that Jesus really is the light for all mankind, calling Him “the true light that gives light to everyone.” So, in case you had doubts that Jesus really was the light for all people, John doubles down on his earlier assertion, presumably to make sure that his readers would understand and not misrepresent his words. Perhaps he needed to say it a third time so that people would really get it, but it seems quite apparent that John is meaning what he is saying in this passage: Jesus is the light of the world who gives light to everyone (i.e. all mankind).
Now, at this point some people might object because the next verses say that “the world did not recognize him” and “his own did not receive him” (John 1:10-11). For this reason, people will say that the previous Christological statements (that Jesus is the light of all mankind that is not overcome by darkness, but rather who gives light to everyone so that everyone might believe) are null and void. You see, they will say, some people reject His light and are therefore doomed to eternal suffering. Not everyone has faith. Not everyone believes. Not everyone understands the light of the gospel.
The Scriptural answer to all these objections is actually quite simple. Not everyone has faith yet. Not everyone believes yet. Not everyone understands the light of the gospel yet. If you read John 1 carefully you will notice that his own did not receive him. First, it is important to notice that those who did not receive Him are still His. They are “His own” and they therefore belong to Him.
Second it must be noted that they did not receive Him. This is in the past tense. They did not but that does not mean that they will not. There is not a single person on the planet who has, from birth, always understood the light of the gospel. Everyone did not (including you), but that does not mean that they (or you) will not. Instead, it is a certainty that we will see all ultimately subject to Him, united in Him and reconciled to God (1 Corinthians 15, Ephesians 1, Colossians 1, 2 Corinthians 5). The book of Hebrews, in fact, directly tells us that we do not yet see the fullness of what Christ has done (as described in the above references). Let’s take a look:
It has been testified somewhere,
“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
putting everything in subjection under his feet.”
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
It is clear from this passage that the author of the book of Hebrews is saying that everything is subject to Christ and under His control, but we do not see it yet. Jesus has tasted death for everyone , and for this reason He has been exalted and crowned with glory and honor. Let’s repeat those truths again:
1. By God’s grace, Jesus experienced death for everyone.
2. Everything is in subjection to Christ and under His control but we do not yet see this fact.
There is no scriptural basis to reject the universal nature of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. People struggle to believe this simply because we do not yet see the complete fulfillment of his purpose and plan. But why should we see this already? It is a plan and purpose for the “fullness of time” (Ephesians 1:10). The “fullness of time” is yet to come. We haven’t reached the end yet. In addition, we do not have complete knowledge or understanding yet. Instead, “for now we see in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). This is why it is important to have faith, which Hebrews 11:1 describes as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
We can have faith that Christ will accomplish His purpose, and this faith is the evidence that what we hope for will come to pass. We should put our hope, as Paul did, “in the living God, who is the Savior of all people” (1 Timothy 4:10). This same God is our Heavenly Father who is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Shouldn’t we strive to be of the same mind and have hope for the fulfillment of God’s will, even though we don’t see it fulfilled in every soul yet?
“Not yet” and “not ever” are two very different things. The Bible tells us that the correct interpretation of the incomplete restoration we see in the present world is “not yet, but someday.” Someday, all will be made right and every person will bow and confess that Jesus is Lord to God’s glory. Someday, all that is wrong in every soul will be made right. Someday, suffering and evil will end. Jesus’ success in His mission to save the world is assured.
We just don’t see it yet. This understanding illuminates the following verses from Hebrews 2 as well.
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
The incarnation and death of Jesus not only allowed Christ to fully identify with the people he came to save, but also allowed him to destroy the devil, who has the power of death. We do not yet see the devil destroyed from our perspective, but this reality is assured. Satan no longer has power over us because of the work of Jesus, whether this seems true to us at present or not.
It is also clear, once again, that Jesus’ saving purpose is for all people. Notice that He died to “deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” I think it is universal for human beings to be fearful of death. This fear makes us slaves. Have you ever feared death? If so, you are a human being and Christ came to deliver you from your slavery. Do you know someone who is afraid of death? Christ died to free them too. It is apparent that He came to deliver all of us and ultimately destroy death’s power (and Satan’s power) completely. One day, we will see this deliverance clearly, but for now we are called to trust Him and believe that He will ultimately, absolutely, decisively succeed. And we can be confident that the full redemption that we don’t see yet, will come to pass in due time because the God we trust “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:11).
Key side note: It is important to recognize that the writer of Hebrews is interpreting Psalm 8 as a prophetic reference to Christ. This is why he clarifies that it is “namely Jesus” who was made lower than the angels for a little while. The reason I bring this up is that certain versions (namely the NIV) translates Hebrews 2:7-9 in like this:
“You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet.”
In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while…
The words translated as “them” in the NIV are all forms of the Greek word autos (αὐτός). I think this is an interpretive error in the translation, particularly since the author of Hebrews specifically tells us that He is talking about Jesus as the One who was made lower than the angels for a little while. It contextually makes little sense to use the pronoun “them” repeatedly, and then say, “by them I mean Jesus.” Such a translation is inconsistent and makes the passage confusing. Additionally, we have other Scriptural references that interpret this same Psalm and tell us that all is made subject to Jesus (“Him” not “them”).
For example, 1 Corinthians 15:27-28 says,
For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all .
The above passage clearly makes the case that everything has been put under Christ and made subject to Him. The fact that the NIV chose to translate the references to Christ in Hebrews 2:7-9 as “them” but many other translations rightly translate these references as “him” is yet another illustration of the fact that English translations are imperfect and inconsistent with each other. There is always an interpretive element to translation, so it is important to be able to recognize this and examine multiple translations and the Greek as well to get the best understanding of the text.
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