This topic is important in order to understand Scripture correctly. If we ‘ignore’ this vital understanding, we may ‘lose out’ on ‘understanding’ some of the ‘Greatest Treasures’ in the Bible itself (‘verses’).
Depending on ‘usage’, the equivalent words from Original Scripture (Hebrew/Greek/Aramaic) which are ‘translated’ as ‘all’ or ‘all things’ in ‘English’ may refer to ‘different things’ depending on ‘context’.
So, who defines the ‘context’?
In popular exegesis, it is common for them to ‘quote’ language scholars who will then ‘quote a verse or a secular writing’ of some sort in order to prove that the word ‘all’ fits ‘their claim’.
We beg to differ. We ‘only’ refer to ‘other verses’ if the ‘surrounding (consecutive) verses’ do ‘not’ help in defining the ‘context’ of ‘all’ in usage for a particular verse. By doing so, we ‘eliminate’ all ‘human wisdom’ and rely ‘solely’ on the ‘immediate definition’ given in Holy Scripture during ‘that usage’.
We ‘avoid completely’ language or secular scholars from the ‘original language’s surviving ancient writings’ simply because ‘their writings are not inspired’ & the words in a language can be used to ‘mean things which are not the meaning of the word itself’ (against ‘lexigraphical definition’). For example:
Suppose that a respectable ancient language scholar wrote:
‘She is my lover and my world’.
Now suppose that the ‘same word’ —-> ‘world’ —-> occurs in the Bible in John 3:16
“for God did so love the world, that His Son — the only begotten — He gave, that every one who is believing in Him may not perish, but may have life age-during.” (John 3:16, YLT)
So, depending on the scholar’s phD thesis, he might attempt to show that the word ‘world’ could mean a ‘particular thing’ (e.g. that ‘woman’ by quoting first the ‘ancient scholar’s usage’) —> and thus similarly, Christ may refer to the ‘world’ as ‘only His Bride/Church’ as the ‘woman’ in allegory & analogy.
I disagree. The Bible is very accurate & the ‘factual’ statement in the verse itself proves that He means ‘World’ (‘kosmon’ in Greek – which is the Universe in which all created things are contained, lexigraphical or dictionary based – literal definition).
When Christ speaks an allegory or an analogy or in parabolic terms, it may be taken as thus. It is written in Scripture that the ‘verses’ which ‘He spoke to His disciples could be direct’ (because to them it is granted to ‘know the secrets of the kingdom’, Matthew 13:11) while the ‘verses’ which ‘He spoke to the crowds or those outside’ are in parabolic terms (because to them it is not granted to know, Matthew 13:10, Matthew 13:34):
“And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”
Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.” (Matthew 13:10 – 11, NASB)
“All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable.” (Matthew 13:34, NASB)
So when we read the Bible, we must be careful to note that some verses are ‘direct’ (‘factual’) because it is Christ speaking to His disciples only & thus to apply a ‘parable’ here may be ‘out of context’ as the verses above certainly imply.
Similarly, ‘another scholar’ from ‘their camp’ (from a different denomination with a phD too) would prove in ‘his thesis’ that the word ‘world’ refers to ‘believing gentiles’ in ‘context’ by quoting ‘other unrelated verses where this word is NOT found’ & ‘how he thinks it means that’ in ‘his analysis’ using the ‘verses’ which speak of ‘gentile believers’ to support ‘his claim’.
Such analysis is so common and they will ‘attack’ you demanding for an equivalent analysis to ‘prove your claim’ & thus when you’re not able to produce ‘such lies’, they will ‘mock you’. So it happened to me when I was invited by a senior pastor of a local church in the past to discuss this doctrinal aspect regarding ‘all’ & when he couldn’t refute the ‘simple, direct’ facts I presented with Scripture, he started ‘attacking me’ especially in saying that, ‘are you an authority in Greek or doctrine’? (he ended up graduating from Fuller Theologial Seminary with a phD too; Fuller Theological Seminary is something like ‘Cambridge’ to some ‘Protestants’).
So, what did I say to him that made him angry? Some of these exegetical points will be discussed here (next).
So, how do we approach the word ‘world’ in John 3:16 then?
Simple: These words are from the ‘same’ root word ‘World’ which occur not only in John 3:16 but in verses surrounding it too (consecutive verses, context) such as in John 3:17 & John 3:19 as well.
Thus, if the word ‘world’ in John 3:16 refers to ‘His Bride/Church only’ or ‘believing Gentiles together with believing Jews only’ —-> then it must mean ‘likewise’ in both John 3:17 & John 3:19 too. Please consider the absurdity in meaning if this was so as follows:
“For God did not send the Son into the world (Bride/Church) to judge the world (Bride/Church), but that the world (Bride/Church) might be saved through Him.” (John 3:17, NASB)
“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world (Bride/Church), and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19, NASB)
So, the fact is ‘He meant World’ as in ‘World’ (‘which contains all created things’).
Now, there are other equivalent words (or phrases) for ‘believing Gentiles’ (Acts 21:25) or ‘Gentiles’ (Ephesians 2:11) or ‘Church’ (2 Thessalonians 1:1) or ‘His Bride’ (Revelation 22:17) or ‘those believing’ (1 Timothy 4:10) but it does NOT occur here & thus to imply that meaning is ‘wrong’ (not intended by Scripture).
It gets better. That same root word translated as ‘World’ occurs in these verses too & thus must mean the ‘same’ (we don’t do ‘any human analysis’ to ‘change the meaning’ of the ‘original word used’ in ‘any Scripture in the ‘name of context’, ‘nor in the name of any phD thesis’):
“The next day he (John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, NASB)
How do we know that the word ‘world’ refers to ‘the place which contains all created things’? The verse below defines it:
“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.” (John 1:10, NASB)
A common ‘shallow’ objection is that John 3:16 proves that ‘only believers are saved’ (hence, a ‘favourite verse’ to some). Yes, John 3:16 mentions that ‘whoever believes will be saved’ (in this life itself coming under ‘no’ Judgment in the afterlife, John 5:24). But it does not say that ‘only’ believers will be saved (the word ‘only’ is not found here). Those not believing will be ‘condemned’ first (or ‘Judged’ first, John 3:36 —-> for their sins in the afterlife, ‘reaping what they have sowed’, Galatians 6:7).
Further, if ‘no’ Scripture exists which speak of a hope for those not believing or for the whole world, then they may infer that. Such is “not” the case as other Scripture reveals a hope ‘beyond afterlife Judgments’ (e.g. the ‘Gospel being preached to the dead’, followed by ‘the dead being Judged first’ but eventually ‘living to God in the spirit’ too, 1 Peter 4:5 – 6 agreeing too with James 2:13, Titus 2:11, 1 Timothy 2:4, 1 Timothy 4:10 & 2 Samuel 14:14 as well as discussed in other posts in detail).
John 3:16 (for believers being saved & the ‘world Loved by God’) must be read with John 3:17 as well because the ‘His Will (Purpose)’ is ‘not’ Condemnation for the ‘World’ (and thus any Judgment or Condemnation cannot be ‘forever’ but only ‘temporal’ to the ‘age or ages’ accordingly).
This agrees perfectly with the fact written by apostle John himself when he contrasts Christ’s Atonement for “us” (believers, e.g. John 3:16) but warns that it is not limited to “us only” —-> but also for the ‘whole World’ too (revealing the meaning of John 3:17 as well —> yep, the ‘same word World’ again) in 1 John 2:2 below agreeing to ‘His Ransom for All’ (beyond ‘believers only’) being a ‘Testimony (coming to pass or becoming true for all)’ in its own ‘Divinely appointed ‘Kairois’ times – plural’ in 1 Timothy 2:6 as well:
“and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2, NASB)
“Who (Christ) did give Himself a Ransom for all — the testimony in its own times –” (1 Timothy 2:6, YLT)
If the “ours only” in 1 John 2:2 refers to ‘believers from any time period’ —> within this ‘same verse’ —> the ‘world’ refers to that ‘same any time period’ —> upon which Christ’s Atonement can be applied.
Similarly, if the ‘believers’ (‘or those who believe’) in the verse below (1 Timothy 4:10) refers to ‘believers from any time period’ —> then similarly, in this ‘same verse’ —-> the ‘all men’ likewise refers to ‘all men from that same any-time period as well:
“For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” (1 Timothy 4:10, NASB)
For a more detailed explanation, please consider:
Here the best part about the ‘phD’ analysis: Neither apostle Paul or the other apostles who wrote these verses would have expected one to ‘know such advanced phD analysis’ to the ‘intended audience’ (or even themselves) in order to ‘figure’ out that ‘world’ does ‘not’ mean ‘world’ in these verses but ‘something else’ depending on ‘which phD scholar or thesis one adheres to’.
When they wrote ‘world’, it means the ‘world’. Done. No adding & no removing from Holy Scripture. Human manipulations, ingenuity and ‘craftiness’ are ‘not’ needed (it beings ‘glory to man’ but ‘not to God’ even ‘limiting God’ each time; please think about it ‘deeply’):
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He (God) catches the wise in their craftiness.” (1 Corinthians 3:19, BSB)
And yes, that ‘same word’ —> ‘World’ —> also occurs in the last verse above meaning ‘world only’. Sadly, similar ‘twisting and manipulations’ are done ‘likewise’ with ‘other Scripture’ as well:
“as also in all the epistles, speaking in them concerning these things, among which things are certain hard to be understood, which the untaught and unstable do wrest, as also the other Writings, unto their own destruction.” – apostle Peter regarding apostle Paul’s writings (2 Peter 3:16, YLT)
Their only ‘excuse’ is that ‘they did ministry for God’ (‘running’, Romans 9:16) whilst believing & preaching ‘all these lies’. Well, ‘ministry’ cannot save anyone (Matthew 7:20 – 23; part of ‘lawlessness is lies’ even ‘lying about Scripture, right?’). God can still save as ‘He has Mercy’ (His Choice) on ‘whomever He wills’ despite our errors as ‘it is written’:
“For He says to Moses:
“I will show mercy to whom I may show mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I may have compassion.”
So then, it is not of the willing, nor of the running, but of God showing mercy.” (Romans 9:16, BSB)
(ii) All —-> When it doesn’t mean all
Here are two articles which describe the ‘eternal Hell scholars’ argument as to ‘how they see the meaning of all when it is used by Scripture’. The rest can be similarly explained or understood in like manner.
Please read ‘both sides’ to be a True Berean (Acts 17:11) & ‘decide for yourselves which is right’ thereafter (Luke 12:57):
“Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?” (John 7:51, NASB)
Reply to the articles above:
“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Mat 2:3)
In verse above, the ‘all Jerusalem’ refers to those who have ‘heard this’ (an analogy drawn) together with ‘King Herod’. The ‘all’ cannot refer to those in Jerusalem but never heard of it.
“Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. (Mat 3:5-6)
In verse above, the ‘all’ refers to ‘those going out to him’ —> that is referring to ‘all those who were baptized by him & all those who were confessing their sins’.
“So His fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought Him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and He healed them.” (Mat 4:24)
The ‘all’ above refers to ‘all in Syria’ —> who have heard of ‘His fame’ —> and those who ‘heard it’ brought ‘all’ the sick whom they knew.
“All who take the sword will perish by it.” (Mat 26:52)
Yes, ‘all’ —> refers to ‘those who take the sword’ —-> will perish by it (if not on earth, in Hell for sure during the afterlife Judgments, e.g. Isaiah 3:11).
“And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom, that God had put in his heart.” (2 Chr 9:23)
“All” the kings of the earth —-> refers to “those who have heard about Solomon” —> and ‘all those who heard about Solomon’, wished to hear ‘his wisdom’. It cannot refer to those who never heard about Solomon but wished to hear about him (absurd by usage).
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.” (Luke 2:1)
The ‘All’ in verse above speaks about the decree which ‘Caesar Augustus’ wrote (‘not” inspired words of God but secular words). The Bible faithfully records the truth as to how Caesar Augustus sent forth his decree. God is not endorsing Caesar Augustus nor the ‘human/secular contents’ of that ‘decree’ be it the usage of the word ‘all’ or in any other way. In fact, the word translated as ‘world’ (in English) in verse above (Luke 2:1) is a ‘different’ word from the ‘World’ in discussion in point (i) earlier. The word used in Luke 2:1 is a ‘more limited word’ (in Greek, oikoumenēn) which is actually the ‘inhabited world’ & not ‘kosmos’ or ‘all the world’ as occurs in verses in point (i) prior.
Matt 1:17 – “There were fourteen generations in all”
Matt 2:3 – “All Jerusalem”
Matt 2:4 – “All the people’s chief priests”
Matt 2:16 – “All the boys in Bethlehem”
Matt 2:16 – “All that region”
Matt 3:5 – “All Judea”
Matt 3:5 – “All the region of the Jordan”
Matt 3:10 – “Every tree that does not produce good fruit”
Matt 3:15 – “Fulfill all righteousness”
Matt 4:4 – “Every word that comes from the mouth of God”
The ‘All’ in each phrase above ‘categorizes’ itself —-> the ‘all these’ type. Self explanatory.
(iii) All – when it means all
1) “Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.” (Mat 4:8)
This was a supernatural event. Yes, the devil did take Christ and show Him all the kingdoms of the World (though we may not be able to understand such a supernatural occurrence).
2) “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:2-3)
Yes, God will heal our ‘soul’ well beyond ‘this life’ too from ‘all diseases’ & we will be forgiven of ‘all our iniquity’ as believers coming under ‘no’ Judgment eventually (John 5:24).
3) “The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”(Psa 145:9)
Yes, this is the Mercy which ‘triumphs over Judgment’ (James 2:13) & which will be shown to ‘All’ too as prophesied in Holy Scripture (Hosea 2:23, Romans 11:32),
4) “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor 15:22)
An analogy is drawn here namely that “all who die in Adam” (i.e. ‘the many’ referring to ‘all men’, Romans 5:18 – 19 too) —-> that type of ‘sinners’ —> that ‘same all will be made alive in Christ’ (i.e. that ‘same’, ‘the many’, ‘all men’ in Romans 5:18 – 19 as well).
Example of further discussion including these verses:
5) “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23, KJV)
Yes, the ‘all’ refers to ‘all in the world’ (Romans 3:19), defined by Scripture first:
“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” (Romans 3:19, KJV)
Does that mean angels too have ‘sinned’? (more accurately, ‘missing the mark’ = sin)
Please consider these write-up detailing this:
How are we saved then?
6) “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:” (Romans 11:26, KJV)
Yes, ‘all’ Israel as it is discussed in detail here:
7) “For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.” (Romans 11:32, NASB)
“For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” (Romans 11:32, KJV)
Who is the ‘all’ defined by the verse above? Two ‘immediately consecutive verses’ prior refer to the
All = ‘those who obeyed’ + ‘those who disobeyed’ God (NASB)
Here it is:
“For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience,
so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.
For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.” (Romans 11:32, NASB)
All = ‘those who believed’ + ‘those who did not believe’ God (KJV)
Here it is too:
“For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all.” (Romans 11:30 – 32, KJV)
8) “I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” (Isaiah 45:23, NASB)
9) “Evil men understand not judgment, And those seeking Jehovah understand all.” (Proverbs 28:5, YLT)
Yes, regarding ‘all things’ concerning ‘Jehovah’ (which we were meant to know by Holy Scripture as ‘it is written’):
“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
“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.
“He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.
“All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” (John 16:12 – 15, NASB)
10) “Who (God) will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4, KJV)
What does it mean by ‘all men’ in verse above?
From this ‘same’ letter, ‘all men’ is different from ‘believers’ where the latter is a subset (‘more special’) of ‘all men’ as ‘defined’ by verse below too (‘context’ with a ‘verse’ from the ‘same letter’ by the ‘same inspired author, apostle Paul’):
“For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, Who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.” (1 Timothy 4:10, KJV)
“and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace by the blood of His cross through Him, whether the things on the earth or the things in the heavens.” (Colossians 1:20, BLB)
Which ‘all’ or ‘all things’ is being referred to here?
‘All created things’ as a consecutive verse ‘defines’ this ‘first’:
“because in Him were created all things in the heavens and upon the earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or lordships or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and unto Him.” (Colossians 1:16, BLB)
How about ‘non-living things’? How can that be reconciled to Him?
Please find a detailed explanation here:
P/S: More Details
Even so, come! Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.