This Is the Judgment: That Light Has Come into the World – John 3:17-21

Last Saturday morning, I Googled the following question: “What happens to us after we die?” Before I finished typing the sentence, Google autocompleted the words. I assume that means the question has been asked so many times that Google “knows” what’s coming. It occurred to me that this fact all by itself is sad. Can you imagine someone being gripped by such a question and then resorting to a Google search?

After I entered the question, the top result was this paragraph from

Your consciousness ends (we know this because all detectable signs of it stop) and your cells cease to function. Your body begins to decay until there’s nothing left of you. The process of decay can be relatively quick or can take decades depending whether or not your body is embalmed after you die.

Here is another answer from the same website:

Can people come back to life after death? I don’t think they can. My husband died at the age of 32 from a tragic 4-Wheeler accident and I have never experienced anything like that, even after pleading and begging God for something, anything to let me know he was looking out for us. He left behind a 5 year old son and 2 step daughters who worship the ground he walked on. He was my soul mate and after 12 years I still miss him and cry over him being gone. Although I feel I have gotten unexplained things that happened that wasn’t really a coincidence, that is all. I would love to see his sweet face and his contagious smile I miss so much. My life has been a mess since his death and it took me 6 years before I was somewhat back to myself. I will never be the same. I have never remarried, I guess because I look for him in everyone.

Here was another answer from the same website:

You stop existing. Your body decomposes. The people who loved you remember you for a while. Then, they, too, die, and people mostly forget about you. Your grandfather had two grandfathers. If you’re like most people, you will know very little, if anything at all, about those men. They are dead. The people who knew them are dead. That’s what will happen to you. That’s what will happen to me. Is it sad? Maybe. But I’ll be too dead to notice.

So this is some of what you get if you Google “What happens to us after we die?” You get utter bewilderment and hopelessness. If you keep looking down the list of Google results, the second hit after is the website for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and there is even more depressing error there. You have to go way down the list before you come upon a link to Ligonier’s website, where someone might actually find something useful.

This is what it looks like when a once great civilization descends into post-Christian darkness. People don’t know the big story of the world anymore—where we came from, where we are going, what went wrong, and how do we get back on track? Those are the big questions, but many people spend their whole lives focused on their own lives and problems in such a way that crowds out the big questions.

They wonder how they are going to pay the bills, how they are going to raise their kids so that they are alright, how they are going to be happy in a workaday world that doesn’t leave them much margin to even contemplate what happiness might even mean. As far as religion is concerned, they treat it like a choose your own adventure story. They just sort of make up nice platitudes about “the man upstairs” or “going to a better place.” But they don’t really know what they are talking about. They are just making stuff up out of their own head.

In short, they are lost and are very much in the predicament that Job describes in Job 12:25, “They grope in darkness with no light, And He makes them stagger like a drunken man.” They know something’s wrong, but they don’t know what it is. And therefore they cannot conceive of a solution because they cannot correctly diagnose the problem. So they grope in the darkness making things up as they go along in order to cope but never really drilling down on the big questions, much less the answers to those questions.

John 3:17-21 drills down on all the big questions while also giving the answers. Are we really left to grope around in darkness to figure things out for ourselves? This passage says no. In our last message on John 3:16, we discovered that God doesn’t leave us to grope. Rather, He gives his only-begotten Son to us. That is, he gave himself to us in the person of His Son who was crucified and raised for us so that anyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.

Verses 17-21 are an elaboration of that fundamental point about God’s love for the world, and they explain how God’s judgement relates to the mission of Jesus as the true light of the world.

I. Judgment and the Son’s Mission (17-18)
II. Judgment and the True Light (19-21)

[You can listen to the rest of the sermon at the iTunes and Spotify links above.]