There are many significant events in history that changed the world. Some of the most significant events might include major world wars & revolutions, the printing press, the industrial age, the reformation, discovery of medicine, and so many others. It is hard to contend that events like these have not had world-wide impact physically, economically, and socially. But the question at hand is what was the “most significant” event in all of world history. It is not difficult to determine this event. While the world has their long list of speculations, we know for certain that the most significant event in history was the day that Jesus Christ was “lifted up from the earth” (John 12:32). Many in the world would say that the death of Christ on the cross was an immediate defeat, not a victory. But when we hear directly from the lips of Jesus we understand that the cross was the very central and most significant event in all of world history. Jesus tells us three decisive victories in John 12:31-32 that would result from Him being lifted up.
“Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
The World is Judged
It is clear that Jesus came into the world to save the world and not judge the world (Jn 12:47). But something decisive was happening when Jesus was “lifted up.” The cross became the very event that would determine every person’s destiny. The cross became the main issue in every person’s life (whether they even know about it or not). What every person in the world believes about the cross determines their judgment. In a positive sense, those who receive Jesus will be forgiven through the atoning work of the cross. But in a negative sense, everyone in the world who rejects this atoning work will be judged and condemned. It is ironic that the world thought they were passing judgment on Christ by killing him. Quite the contrary! The cross was passing judgment on them. And the cross continues to draw a line in the sand even today. Every person who rejects the cross will ultimately be judged and condemned.
Satan is Cast Out
A second victory of the cross was that the ruler of this world will be “cast out.” This certainly speaks of Satan who is the god of this world (Eph 2:2, 6;12). We might think that the cross was a victory for Satan, but it was actually his defeat. And the result of this defeat was that Satan would be “cast out.” At first glance we might think that this casting out never occurred. We certainly know that our “adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The devil is alive and well on planet earth. So, we must understand this casting out as something gradual, in stages. The first stage happened literally at the cross. Satan’s hold over this world was broken. Colossians 2:15 teaches us that Jesus on the cross “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them.” In that first stage of casting out, Satan was disarmed, dethroned and disgraced. While he still currently has residual power, it is curtailed by the Holy Spirit (John 16:11). The next stage of casting out will be in the future when Satan is “cast out of heaven into the earth” (Rev 12:10). The next stage will occur when he will be cast into the bottomless pit (Rev 20:3). The final and ultimate stage of His casting out will be when Satan is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where he will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev 20:10). (A.W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing. Pg 681).
The People of Jesus are Drawn
The third and most glorious result of Jesus being lifted up is that He will “draw all people” to Himself. A dead savior could do nothing, so this certainly speaks of the work of the living and resurrected Christ. He personally will “draw” people unto Himself. Once crucified and resurrected Jesus would become a great attraction to many people.
A major question is, what did Jesus mean when He said “all people?” Certainly “all” doesn’t mean every person in the world. If this were true then we would all be universalists. The scope of the word “all” here is exactly the same as in John 6:45 when Jesus says, “And they will all be taught by God.” It is clearly a reference to the elect and is described in John 6:37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me.” Once Jesus is raised, He will begin calling those whom the Father has given Him and they will come to Him. His sheep will be drawn from two different folds, both from Israel and Gentile folds (John 10:16). When Jesus calls, they hear His voice and they follow Jesus (10:25-26) and He gives them eternal life. Jesus will irresistibly call out people from every nation and tribe and tongue! Just as Peter drew his net to the land with a great number of fish (Jn 21:11), so Jesus will draw his net through this world and bring God’s elect to the shore (Matthew 13:47-50).
If you have trusted Jesus Christ as your savior, then you are the recipient of this great promise. Do you remember when you were called? Do you remember when you were drawn by the Holy Spirit and shown your sinfulness and need of a Savior? Do you remember when you cried out to the Lord Jesus to save you? All of this happened as a result of Jesus being “lifted up.”
Our Work Continues
We should expect that the Church will grow as Jesus draws His sheep to Himself. Jesus intends to use us to reach His people (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). We must never cease from our work as long as it is daytime. The night is coming when no one will be able to work (John 9:4). Our work consists of two things: walking in the light (Jn 12: 35-36) and making disciples (Matt 28:18-20). Since we have been called we must live holy lives, pleasing to the one who called us and we must conduct ourselves with fear throughout the time of our exile on this earth (1 Peter 1:14-18). We must be focused on living lives that reflect the glory and goodness of our Savior (Titus 2:11-14). But we must also be concerned about the souls of the lost. We must compel others to come to Christ. It is not our work to “draw” them. Only Christ can do that work. But we must use the means Christ has given us, and that is faithful proclamation of the person and work of Jesus. We must never be ashamed of Christ. And we should expect to see the Church expand as we see the promise of Jesus fulfilled even in our day!