Examining Universalism III: The Universalist Thesis
John 12:25, 48
(Joh 12:20) Now there were some Greeks from among those going up that they should be worshiping in the festival.
(Joh 12:21) These, then, came to Philip who is from Bethsaida of Galilee, and they asked him, saying, “Lord, we want to become acquainted with Jesus.”
(Joh 12:22) Philip is coming and telling Andrew, and again Andrew and Philip are coming and telling Jesus.”
(Joh 12:23) Yet Jesus is answering them, saying, “Come has the hour that the Son of Mankind should be glorified.”
(Joh 12:24) Verily, verily, I am saying to you, If a kernel of grain, falling into the earth, should not be dying, it is remaining alone, yet if it should be dying, it is bringing forth much fruit.”
(Joh 12:25) He who is fond of his soul is destroying it, and he who is hating his soul in this world, shall be guarding it for life eonian.”
(Joh 12:26) If anyone should be serving Me, let him be following Me, and where I am, there My servant also shall be. And if anyone should be serving Me, the Father shall be honoring him.”
(Joh 12:44) Now Jesus cries and said, “He who is believing in Me is not believing in Me, but in Him Who sends Me.”
(Joh 12:45) And he who is beholding Me is beholding Him Who sends Me.
(Joh 12:46) I have come into the world a Light, that everyone who is believing in Me should not be remaining in darkness.”
(Joh 12:47) And if ever anyone should be hearing My declarations and not be maintaining them, I am not judging him, for I came not that I should be judging the world, but that I should be saving the world.”
(Joh 12:48) He who is repudiating Me and not getting My declarations, has that which is judging him; the word which I speak, that will be judging him in the last day,
(Joh 12:49) seeing that I speak not from Myself, but the Father Who sends Me, He has given Me the precept, what I may be saying and what I should be speaking.”
(Joh 12:50) And I am aware that His precept is life eonian. What, then, I am speaking, according as the Father has declared it to Me, thus am I speaking.”
In verses 25 and 48 we read of implications of belief or unbelief regarding life in an age to come. Verse 48 comes closest to any connotation that one may draw regarding final rejection and destruction of people due to their unbelief. However, reading verse 48 again, several questions should come to the surface. First, what is the reason for thinking of a “finality” here? What does the term “last” (eschatay, Greek for last, pertaining to the end of a period) refer to? Is this a reference to the end of all things? Or, since in the surrounding verses Jesus is talking about an age of time, is Jesus referring to the end of life on this earth? Also, going back to verse 47, which should also frame verse 48, Jesus’ emphasis is on saving the world, not judging the world. Jesus’ emphasis on saving the world, seems to me, to negate any connotation that He is bringing a final judgment upon unbelievers.
It appears to me that Jesus is not speaking of the end of all time, but the end of life, the period of time we have here in this life on earth. Why? From the time of his entry into Jerusalem on the donkey, to verse 50, the main theme is belief/unbelief and what that means to the life right now. Jesus talks about giving up the world to follow after him now, during this life. He speaks about how much better it is to believe than not believe. The whole context is “this worldly,” not “other worldly.” Verse 25 has, at best, a slight hint toward something after this life, but in no way is it descriptive of anything specific about existence after this earthly life. One must read into that verse and the context here about a final judgment day or a separation of believers and unbelievers. Otherwise, Jesus is merely speaking about how much better it is to believe in Him now, than not believe in Him. This is due to the fact that He came to SAVE the WORLD. There does not appear to be any final rejection and destruction of people due to their unbelief here in these verses.
I remind the reader that Packer’s point is that all these verses he lists have to do with a final rejection or destruction of the unbeliever. My focus is not completely on a total exegesis of all of these verses but, at times, to merely point out that there is another understanding of the passages cited and to show or disprove Packer’s claim to a finality of rejection or destruction of unbelievers at the end of all things.