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Sun, Apr 16, 2000

92 - Final Words

John 16:16-33 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:1 hr 1 mins 23 secs

Final Words; John 16:16-33

Jesus is preparing the disciples in this entire scenario from chapter thirteen through chapter sixteen for what is going to happen after His crucifixion. There is a new age coming, there is a new basis for power in the spiritual life and a new basis for learning, everything is going to be changed and they will have a unique mission. So this is the last phase of His briefing. 

John 16:16 NASB "A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me. [17] {Some} of His disciples then said to one another, "What is this thing He is telling us, 'A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me'; and, 'because I go to the Father'?"

We still see the same thing. Remember, John chapter thirteen started off with cleansing. The significance of that was not in His acting as a servant but its portrayal of forgiveness that takes place on the cross. And the complete washing there in context is salvation; washing the feet is representative of confession. So that whole image represents the purging of the church, because in the process He has to exclude Judas and Judas is removed from their presence. After Judas is removed then Jesus begins to instruct the disciples in preparation for the church age and He tells them two things. He says He is getting ready to leave them and he was giving them a new command: "that you love one another even as I have loved you." The disciples are in panic. Four questions are asked. In all of this what John is pointing out through the wonderful way that he constructed the dialogue is that Jesus begins to introduce the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth who will come and teach and guide them in all truth. The point is that even regenerate Old Testament believers, which the disciples were at that point, can only learn assimilate doctrine to a certain point. They just can't go beyond that because they don't have the Holy Spirit. So Jesus begins to weave in these themes of the Holy Spirit coming, that the Holy Spirit is going to be the one to teach them, and that is why He concludes in verse 13: "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come."

So in verse 16 Jesus begins to take us back now. They were in the upper room, at the end of chapter fourteen they left and began to walk toward Gethsemane, then there was the discourse on the vine and the importance of fellowship, they were warned about the hostility of the world in the second half of chapter fifteen, and the beginning of chapter sixteen focuses on the Holy Spirit. Now in verse 16 He goes back to that initial question about Him leaving. He is talking about what is going to transpire between the crucifixion and the resurrection. Between the cross and the resurrection there are three days and three nights in which Jesus' body is in the grave. But while His body is in the grave His soul and His spirit is not. His soul goes to Sheol, the place where all of the Old Testament saints were. There are two compartments, according to Luke chapter sixteen. One is called Abraham's bosom and the other is called torments. All Old Testament unbelievers go to torments; believers all went to Abraham's bosom, also called Paradise. In 1 Peter it says that when Jesus went to Sheol He made proclamation to the spirits—the demons from Genesis 6. What He proclaimed was that salvation now has been completed. No Old Testament believer could go into the presence of God because their salvation was only provisional. So until Christ died on the cross their salvation wasn't actual because their sins weren't paid, it was just provisional based upon the anticipated fulfilment of the promise of God. So during those three days and three nights he announces to Old Testament believers in Paradise that the payment for sin is completed and He announces to the unbelievers and to the incarcerated demons that their incarceration has now been finalised and secured by His victory on the cross. Then there is the resurrection.

This completely confuses the disciples at this point because they are not tuned into a lot of doctrine and haven't really assimilated everything, so they start mumbling among themselves. John 16:18 NASB "So they were saying, "What is this that He says, 'A little while'? We do not know what He is talking about. [19] Jesus knew that they wished to question Him, and He said to them, 'Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, 'A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me'?' He is giving them a little while to try to get a little clarification.

John 16:20 NASB "Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world [cosmic system] will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy." This is prophecy, and whenever we see Jesus says "Truly, truly, it ought to get our attention. It means to pay attention because this is a very important point of doctrine. What Jesus is talking about here is that during this interim period and because they have failed to appreciate that He is going to be crucified and put to death, they are going to think that it is all over with, that He has been defeated, and they are going to scatter. The words here for weep and lament are words that are normally associated with the mourning and grieving that goes along with a funeral service. So He is talking about the fact that they are going to go through serious grief and are probably going to punch the panic button and are going to just go on an emotional binge for two or three days because they think it is all over with.

We would think that with everything that Jesus has been saying they would be prepared for this. We keep coming back to that question: Why aren't they prepared for this? It is not because they are dummies. These men are smart, just read what John has written. So why don't they understand? Because what they have to understand is spiritual phenomena which goes beyond even the perception that is available to a regenerate believer. It must be discerned through the help and the aid of God the Holy Spirit.

So the world will rejoice. In context we have seen that He has warned them of the antagonism of the cosmic system, back at the end of chapter fifteen; they will be sorrowful but their sorrow will be transformed into joy. This is what happens to the believer when he realises what has been accomplished on the cross. That is our access into sharing the inner happiness of the Lord. Notice the theme of joy and peace continues to be woven throughout the tapestry of this upper room discourse. This joy is not emotion. Emotion is based on circumstances; this joy goes beyond that, it has to do with Jesus' mental attitude. Jesus' joy is the same today, yesterday and forever. Jesus is immutable, He never changes. That means that circumstances have no effect on His joy, He has just as much joy yesterday as today. What makes the difference is that after the crucifixion and the resurrection they finally understand what God's plan and purposes are in terms of what the Messiah is doing. We have to understand this partially from the background of a Jew and Jewish theology at the time. When they looked at the Old Testament promises of a Messiah they did not see two comings, they did not see a Messiah who would come and a Messiah who would leave and then come back.  

John 16:21 NASB "Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world." Jesus uses an analogy of a woman who is giving birth. This is a well-used analogy throughout the Scriptures and never does it refer to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Obviously the context tells us that what Jesus is talking about, the way He is applying the imagery here, is at least in reference to the crucifixion and the resurrection. But there is much more to it than that. Jesus, when He uses this image, doesn't really divorce it from all of its past but he give sit a new sense. He ties it with what is getting ready to happen on the cross.

Isaiah 26 is sometimes referred to as a little apocalypse. It describes the period of the Tribulation and its results; its focus is on judgment. The context here is the end of the Tribulation and the victory of the Messiah over the earthly rulers who have been waging war against Israel and the ultimate victory of the Messiah who establishes Israel in the land. This is the messianic kingdom. Isaiah 26:16 NASB "O LORD, they sought You in distress; They could only whisper a prayer, Your chastening was upon them. [17] As the pregnant woman approaches {the time} to give birth, She writhes {and} cries out in her labor pains, Thus were we before You, O LORD." It is a picture of the misery and the pain of labour and that is analogous to the misery of the judgments that take place at the end of the Tribulation leading up to the battle of Armageddon. [18] "We were pregnant, we writhed {in labor,} We gave birth, as it seems, {only} to wind. We could not accomplish deliverance for the earth, Nor were inhabitants of the world born." In other words, they were impotent to solve the problem. They could not bring in world peace no matter how hard they tried and the result was that there was just continuous destruction. [19] "Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, For your dew {is as} the dew of the dawn, And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits." That picks up a couple of themes that we are going to see in the lief of Christ. He is going to be raised from the dead, there is resurrection, and the consequence of that resurrection is joy. So when Jesus uses the image that this is like the pregnant woman going through labour it is picking up all of this Old Testament background. There will be a time of misery on the earth that is analogous to a woman in labour and yet the result of that when she gives birth it is something that is wonderful and joyful. Verse 19 is the Lord responding. In verse 17 Israel is talking about their complaint. They were pregnant, they gave birth, they could not accomplish deliverance. [20] "Come, my people, enter into your rooms And close your doors behind you; Hide for a little while Until indignation runs {its} course. [21] For behold, the LORD is about to come out from His place To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; And the earth will reveal her bloodshed And will no longer cover her slain." This is talking about the final judgment in human history during the Tribulation, leading up to and in preparation for then Lord's coming to establish the millennial kingdom.

We see this image again in Isaiah 66 where the context again is the millennial kingdom and the judgments. Is 66:6 NASB "A voice of uproar from the city, a voice from the temple, The voice of the LORD who is rendering recompense to His enemies." That is the judgment that takes place in Revelation 17. [7] "Before she travailed, she brought forth; Before her pain came, she gave birth to a boy. [8] Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day?..." This is the birth of Israel at the second coming of Jesus Christ. "… Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons." This is the entry into the Millennium of the Tribulation saints, the gathering of the elect of Israel at the battle of Armageddon and just after, and their entrance into the millennial kingdom. [9] 'Shall I bring to the point of birth and not give delivery?' says the LORD. 'Or shall I who gives delivery shut {the womb?}' says your God. [10] Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her; Be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her, [11] That you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts, That you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom." All of this pictures the blessing that is going to come as a result of judgment upon Israel.

Hosea 13:13 NASB "The pains of childbirth come upon him; He is not a wise son, For it is not the time that he should delay at the opening of the womb. [14] Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight."

The New Testament does the same thing. In Matthew 24, the context of the Olivet discourse. Paul picks up the image again in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 in relation to the Rapture. NASB "While they [the world] are saying, 'Peace and safety!' then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape."

Why is Jesus using this image? What Jesus is doing here is very typical of Jewish interpretation and Jewish theology. Jesus is identifying Himself with the nation Israel and the suffering servant of the Old Testament. The suffering servant of the Old Testament, the picture of Messiah, is also a picture of the nation Israel, and Jesus is taking all of this upon Himself as the personification of Israel. He is the one who is going to take all of the judgment upon Himself. From all of these passages we have seen that because of Israel's rejection of Messiah they must suffer incredible judgment before they will enter into the kingdom. Even now there is just a minority of Jews that have trusted Christ as saviour. The true Jew is the regenerate Jew and most Jews are not true Jews, according to Romans chapter nine because they are not believers, they haven't accepted the Messiah. It is going to take this tremendous judgment to bring them to a change of mind and accept the Messiah at the end of the Tribulation. And just as Israel is going to receive judgment during the Tribulation so Jesus Christ is going to receive judgment from God on the cross. This is the point He is bringing, that all these passages emphasise judgment, that just as Israel receives judgment He will receive the ultimate judgment to pay the price for all of the sins in human history. That means there is no sin in all of human history that is not poured out upon Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus is using this whole image to portray Himself as the one who receives this judgment.

Beyond that there is something else that happens in this passage. As He is talking to the disciples He is making the point that they are not going to participate in His death and resurrection. He is the one who is going to die, He is the one who is going to feel the rejection; they are going to scatter. They are going to have sorrow but then their sorrow is going to be turned into joy. So there is a hint here that the destiny of the disciples is not judgment or wrath. This is a hint that the church will not go through the Tribulation. This judgment here is captured in eschatological, second coming language. That is the point, that is what gives is our interpretive understanding of this passage. This image here just drips with second coming judgment analogy, and what Jesus is doing is using Himself as the image that He is the one who is taking this on; they are not. And the hint here is that Jews are going to have to go through it but the church is not going to have to go through it. There is a hint here that there is a distinct difference in the destiny of Israel and the destiny of the church.

So Jesus is preparing the disciples for what is to come. John 16:22 NASB "Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one {will} take your joy away from you." That means the joy can't be dependent upon people, circumstances or events. It has to be based on something that is unchangeable, something that is immutable. This means this joy that we have is really based upon the immutable, unshakeable plan of God and the person and work of Jesus Christ. 

John 16:23 NASB "In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. [24] Until now [until this point in history] you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full." This is often taken out of context in terms of a clear promise. It is that, but there is more going on here than a simple prayer promise. In context He is talking to the disciples and is telling them that he is preparing them for their particular ministry after the resurrection and He is saying: "If you as an apostle of the church ask anything in my name the Father will give it to you."

What does it mean to ask in Jesus name? It is not just tacking on a little phrase at the end of a prayer. We have seen again and again in John that the Hebrew context in someone's name means it represents everything that person is; it is the totality of their character and their essence. So that our prayer when we depend upon who Jesus Christ is in terms of His manifold character and what He did on the cross. That is why we can come boldly before the throne of grace; that is the argument in that passage in Hebrews. We have this high priest, Jesus Christ, so that every believer now can have immediate access to God, we don't have to go through any mediator. We have our mediator Jesus Christ and because of our position in Him we have direct access to the Father and he will answer our prayer. "…Until now you have asked for nothing in My name," it is based on who He is, upon His character, and that is why we have to know who Jesus is. That is why Christianity is not just some superficial Sunday school story and we have to get into the text and learn who this Person is. The more we get to know Him, the more we can love Him.  

John 16:25 NASB  "These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father. [26] In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; [27] for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father." We are in "that day" now, the church age. We can go to the Father on the basis of who Christ is and what He has done on the cross, and Jesus is saying that we don't pray to Him and ask for Him to go to the Father. You don't go to some saint and ask for them to go to the Father; you don't go to Mary and ask Mary to intercede with the Father. We are a child of God and have immediate, direct access to the throne of God. Jesus prays to the Father and that is the model for us because it is the Father ultimately who answers prayer. Jesus intercedes for us and because He is our intercessor He is praying for us, we don't pray to Him, we pray to the Father. So this is a strong verse indicating that we are to pray directly to the Father and not to Jesus.

John 16:28 NASB "I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father." Jesus has to ascend to heaven in order for the next stage in God's plan to take place, which is the church age.[29] "His disciples said, 'Lo, now You are speaking plainly and are not using a figure of speech. [30] Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God.' [31] Jesus answered them, 'Do you now believe?'" The sense of this in the Greek is: You still don't believe! [32] "Behold, an hour is coming, and has {already} come, for you to be scattered, each to his own {home,} and to leave Me alone; and {yet} I am not alone, because the Father is with Me." The phrase "an hour is coming" is an idiom which means a specific time in the plan. It is a perfect tense verb indicating something that has been done in the past and indicating a present reality, and it is focusing on the fact that God in eternity past set forth the plan of our salvation. That perfect plan included a perfect time for Jesus to go to the cross; it wasn't an accident.

John 16:33 NASB "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." "These things," the antagonism from the world, the hostility from the world, all of this He has taught them so that they can have peace; that is, inner happiness, tranquillity, contentment in the world. Remember He has just been telling them the world would hate them. This concludes the upper room discourse.


1.  We learn that in the inner interrelationship with Jesus we must first be completely cleansed from our sins. This is pictured in the washing, the overall washing that was referred to in John chapter 13, that there needs to be a complete payment for sins. That took place on the cross when Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all of our sins.

2.  There is a new ethic in the church age, something that goes far beyond anything in the Old Testament and the standard for that is Jesus Christ Himself. We are to love one another as Christ loved the church. We are the body of Christ, i.e. He left His physical presence on the earth with us, the church. We are to represent Him as His ambassadors. To fulfil that new ethic we need a new aid, assistance; we need a Helper which is God the Holy Spirit, we can't fulfil the new ethic on our own.

3.  We saw that the spiritual inability of the saved disciples to fully understand or comprehend what Jesus is teaching. Therefore we have to rely on God the Holy Spirit to understand anything more than just the basics of Bible doctrine.

4.  In order to have this real in our life we have to have fellowship with Christ. That is the point of John 15, the vine analogy. It is only by abiding in Him that God the Holy Spirit can produce fruit in our lives.

5.  The Christian way of life is not an easy life, it will set us against everyone and everything else around us. There will be antagonism from the world and there will be antagonism perhaps from other believers who just don't understand doctrine. Doctrine is a way of life, a way of thinking; it is not just something we do on Sunday; it is making the plan and purposes of God our priority.

6.  In our future with Christ we will avoid the wrath to come. The church will avoid the Rapture.