A Universalist Looks at the New Testament: The Gospel of John

I’ve been writing my series, A Universalist Looks at the New Testament, parallel with my church’s plan to read through the New Testament, but in the last few months got behind. Tonight I’d like to catch up the rest of the gospel of John.

I already covered some big themes in John that continue throughout the book. In John 3, we saw that God loves everyone and there will be judgment. But nothing anywhere in the book says that the judgment is torment that will be endless. We also saw that becoming God’s child changes our very being. It means we are no longer perishing. We also saw it brings a different quality of life. In John 5, we saw more about that Life that comes from the Son.

In John, we see that some do not believe. From John 6:64-65 —

“Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

There is more talk of the consequences of that and of judgment, but still nothing that says judgment will last forever.

In John, we see that Jesus is supremely important. From John 14:6-7 —

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

John has been teaching all along that Jesus came to reveal God to us. (John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”) And although in the book of John we see that some rejected Jesus even during his lifetime, we know from Philippians 2:10-11 that at the end of the ages “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

This is why I am a Christian Universalist. I believe that all who come to God are doing so through Jesus. The Father enables them to come to Jesus, and Jesus shows them the truth, the way to God, the way to life.

But many verses in John also give us an idea of the scope of Jesus’ mission. He gives life to the world. John 6:33 —

For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

John 6:51 —

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

John 8:12 —

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Here’s an all verse, John 8:32 —

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

More about the scope in John 8:47 —

For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.

Another all verse in John 17:2, which I’m going to quote in the context of verses 1 through 4.

Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.

This reminds us that Jesus said his work is finished. Surely Jesus did not fail as he came to seek and to save what was lost?

I would like to repeat John 17:1-2 from the Concordant Literal New Testament:

Father, come has the hour. Glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son should be glorifying Thee, according as Thou givest Him authority over all flesh, that everything which Thou hast given to Him, He should be giving it to them, even life eonian.

A different translation — and a translation that tries hard to exactly match the original language — does carry a more explicit meaning that Jesus is giving everything to all flesh — life eonian.

This is only a summary of what we find in the rest of John. But you can see from these verses that not only did God so love the world, Jesus came to give life to the world.

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