The disciples experience “The Dark Night of the Soul,” before Jesus returns…

Confusion Turns to Truth…

Read John 16

John 16 is the last chapter of Jesus’ teaching to the disciples in this Gospel.

In His last moments with His disciples, Jesus…

(1) warned them about further persecution;

(2) He told them where, when, and why He was going; and

(3) He assured them that they would not be left alone but that the Spirit would come.

Jesus knew what lay ahead, and He did not want the disciples’ faith shaken or destroyed.

God also wants you to know you are not alone.

You have the Holy Spirit to comfort you, teach you truth, and help you.

At this point Jesus had already mentioned the Holy Spirit twice, and now He explained in detail how the Holy Spirit would teach and lead the disciples.

The Holy Spirit is not some supernatural “influence” hovering in the clouds above.

He comes to us, and through us, and He carries out His ministry to the world.

He is a significant part of the communication process when Jesus speaks.

In addition, the Holy Spirit reminded them how important it was that they listen to Jesus because when He spoke, important things happened in the lives of those who heard.

It’s inevitable that persecution comes to those who faithfully stand up for Christ.

The Book of Acts barely gets underway as two of these disciples (Peter and John) are arrested for their proclamation of the resurrection (Acts 4:1-3).

So the promise of the Spirit also warns that those who are filled with the Spirit will suffer for their faith.

16:1-4. These verses prophesy the conditions that the church endured in varying degrees from Pentecost to A.D. 313.

Obviously, the early years of persecution were made more difficult by the absence of the Lord, and He made that point in these verses.

The purpose of the Lord’s teaching was to counteract the temptation these men would face to go astray as they faced two major types of persecution.

The first was excommunication: they will put you out of the synagogue.

Peter and John were arrested at the temple; Paul, Barnabas, and Silas were thrown out of numerous synagogues; Martin Luther was exiled from the Roman Catholic church.

These verses spin directly from John 15:18-20 where the Lord had predicted persecution because of hatred by the world.

The second dimension is murder: anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.

From Stephen to the thousands of modern martyrs, witnesses for Jesus have always faced the possibility of death.

Like the Pharisees and Sadduccees who pursued Christians in the New Testament, people today still persecute followers of Jesus for religious reasons.

In fact, there were more martyrs for the Christian faith in the twentieth century than all previous centuries put together.

Hughes quotes Bonhoeffer’s challenge from 1937 during Hitler’s rise in Germany:

“Suffering… is the badge of true discipleship. The disciple is not above his Master. . . Luther reckoned suffering among the marks of the true church. . .

Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should be called upon to suffer” (cited in Hughes, p. 83).

The practical application of these warnings is in verse 4.

These disciples would experience persecution in a matter of weeks, certainly months. And the Lord wanted them to recall this quiet night of teaching when chaos later broke out on the streets of Jerusalem.

Some have puzzled over the sentence, I did not tell you this at the first because I was with you, especially in view of the prediction of persecution in Matthew 10:17,21,28.

But this was personal instruction linked with the role of the Holy Spirit, something absent from Matthew 10.

16:5-7. The Lord told the disciples He was leaving them and going back to the Father.

This caused them deep sorrow. But in fact, the glass was half-full rather than half-empty.

If Jesus did not leave, the Counselor (Holy Spirit) could not come, and He had important work to do in the world.

Jesus did not say why the Holy Spirit could not come until He went away, but we understand from the New Testament that the Son’s return to glory was a condition for sending the Holy Spirit to work in the world.

But that is our perspective. We dare not let our understanding, derived from the text of the entire New Testament, detract from the fear and confusion the disciples must have felt on this dreary night.

Imagine a mother of two children whose husband has been away on business.

She must go to the airport to pick him up.

She informs the children that they will be alone at home for three or four hours while she makes this lengthy trip across the city.

They do not want her to leave; they fear what might happen to them; they want to go with her.

But for a variety of reasons she must go alone. She assures them that all will be better for the family when she returns with their father, whom they have missed.

The anticipation and reluctance of those children can be magnified many times by the sadness of the disciples on this occasion.

16:8 When the Holy Spirit comes, He will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.

This is generally taken to mean that the Holy Spirit creates an inward awareness of these things in the life of the individual sinner.

While this is true, it is not exactly the teaching in this portion.

The Holy Spirit condemns the world by the very fact that He is here.

He should not be here, because the Lord Jesus should be here, reigning over the world.

But the world rejected Him, and He went back to heaven.

The Holy Spirit is here in place of a rejected Christ, and this demonstrates the world’s guilt.

16:9 The Holy Spirit convicts the world of the sin of failing to believe on Christ.

He was worthy of belief.

There was nothing about Him that made it impossible for men to believe on Him. But they refused. And the Holy Spirit’s presence in the world is witness to their crime.

16:10 The Savior claimed to be righteous, but men said He had a demon.

God spoke the final word. He said, in effect, “My Son is righteous, and I will prove it by raising Him from the dead and taking Him back to heaven.”

The Holy Spirit witnesses to the fact that Christ was right and the world was wrong.

16:11 The presence of the Holy Spirit also convicts the world of coming judgment.

The fact that He is here means that the devil has already been condemned at the cross and that all who refuse the Savior will share his awful judgment in a day yet future.

16:12 There were still … many other things the Lord had to tell the disciples, but they could not take them in.

This is an important principle of teaching.

There must be a certain progress in learning before advanced truths can be received.

The Lord never overwhelmed His disciples with teaching. He gave it to them “line upon line, precept upon precept.”

16:13 The work which the Lord began was to be continued by the Spirit of truth, and He would guide them into all truth.

There is a sense in which all truth was committed to the apostles in their lifetime.

They, in turn, committed it to writing, and we have it today in our NT.

This, added to the OT, completed God’s written revelation to man.

But it is, of course, true in all ages that the Spirit guides God’s people into all the truth.

He does it through the Scriptures.

He will only speak the things that are given to Him to say by the Father and the Son.

“He will tell you things to come.”

This, of course, is done in the NT, and particularly in the book of Revelation where the future is unveiled.

16:14 The Holy Spirit’s principal work will be to glorify Christ.

By this we can test all teaching and preaching.

If it has the effect of magnifying the Savior, then it is of the Holy Spirit.

“He will take of what is Mine” means that He will receive of the great truths that concern Christ.

These are the things He reveals to believers.

The subject can never be exhausted!

16:15 All the attributes of the Father belong to the Son as well.

It is these perfections that Christ was speaking of in verse 14.

The Spirit unveiled to the apostles the glorious perfections, ministries, offices, graces, and fullness of the Lord Jesus.

Sorrow Turned to Joy (16:16–22)

16:16 The precise time-frame of verse 16 is uncertain.

It may mean the Lord would be away from them for three days, and then He would reappear to them after His resurrection.

It may mean He would go back to His Father in heaven, and then after a little while (the present Age), He would come back to them (His Second Coming).

Or it may mean that for a little while they would not see Him with their physical eyes, but after the Holy Spirit was given on the day of Pentecost, they would perceive Him by faith in a way they had never seen Him before.

16:17 His disciples were confused. The reason for the confusion was that in verse 10, the Savior had said, “I go to My Father and you see Me no more.”

Now He said, “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.”

They could not reconcile these statements.

16:18 They asked each other the meaning of the words “a little while.”

Strangely enough, we have the same problem today.

We do not know whether it refers to the three days before His resurrection, the forty days before Pentecost, or the more than 1900 years prior to His Coming again!

16:19, 20 Being God, the Lord Jesus was able to read their thoughts.

By His questions, He revealed His full knowledge of their perplexity.

He did not answer their problem directly but gave further information concerning the “little while.”

The world would rejoice because they had succeeded in crucifying the Lord Jesus, but the disciples would weep and lament.

But it would only be for a short while.

Their sorrow would be turned into joy, and it was—first by the resurrection, and secondly by the coming of the Spirit.

Then, for all disciples of all ages, grief will be turned to rejoicing when the Lord Jesus comes back again.

16:21 Nothing is more remarkable than the speed with which a mother forgets the labor pains after her child is born.

So it would be with the disciples.

The sorrow connected with the absence of their Lord would be quickly forgotten when they would see Him again.

16:22 Again we must express ignorance as to the time indicated by the Lord’s words, “I will see you again.”

Does this refer to His resurrection, His sending of the Spirit at Pentecost, or His Second Advent?

In all three cases, the result is rejoicing, and a joy that cannot be taken away.

What a contrast between the disciples and the world!

The world rejoiced as the disciples wept, but the disciples would see Jesus again—in three days—and rejoice.

The world’s values are often the opposite of God’s values.

This can cause us to feel like misfits. But even if life seems difficult now, one day we will rejoice.

Keep your eye on the future and on God’s promises!

Jesus is talking about a new way to relate to God.

Previously, only priests could stand in the presence of God in the Most Holy Place.

After Jesus’ resurrection, any believer could experience the presence of God anywhere.

A new day has dawned, and now all believers are priests, talking with God personally and directly (see Hebrews 10:19-23).

We approach God not because of our own merit but because Jesus, our great High Priest, has made us acceptable to God.

Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)

Monday, October 17
Heartlight Devotions


‘The Dark Night before Dawn’
— John 16:16-22

[Jesus continued,] “In a little while you won’t see me anymore. But a little while after that, you will see me again.”

Some of the disciples asked each other,

“What does he mean when he says, ‘In a little while you won’t see me, but then you will see me,’ and ‘I am going to the Father’? And what does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand.”

Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant?

I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again.

I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice.

You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy.

It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor.

When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world.

So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.
— John 16:16-22 NLT

Jesus knows that darkness will descend on him and those he loves.

He has tried to prepare them.

They cannot imagine what the next four days will entail.

They will go from excruciating agony at his crucifixion to inexpressible joy at his resurrection.

When we face our dark nights, we need to remember that the Holy Spirit who lives in us is our assurance of the dawn of joy, blessing, and triumph.

Today’s Prayer
Give me courage in my darkest moments, O Lord my Father and God, to trust that you are the Father of the dawn and the gracious God who raises triumph out of defeat and joy out of sorrow.

Please bless the following people who now face darkness in their lives: ____, ____, ____…

Strengthen them and bring them the dawn of joy in your grace. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Come join the Adventure!

Skip 🕊️


This is an open forum where we look into and investigate the Rhema Mysteries of God's Word; and also other issues of importance for our day and time.

2 thoughts on “The disciples experience “The Dark Night of the Soul,” before Jesus returns…”

  1. Thank you Skip for breaking down the scripture and bringing it to light. I am going through some darkness myself but I always ask God to bring me through
    Thank you again

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