19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
JOHN 3:19 ESV
19 αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ κρίσις ὅτι τὸ φῶς ἐλήλυθεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον καὶ ἠγάπησαν οἱ ἄνθρωποι μᾶλλον τὸ σκότος ἢ τὸ φῶς, ἦν γὰρ αὐτῶν πονηρὰ τὰ ἔργα.
JOHN 3:19 SBLGNT
In this verse, we see how the emphasis has shifted from the positive to the negative. Everything in the prior verses 16 and 17 had to do with salvation and eternal life except for the brief disclaimers, “not be lost” in verse 16 and “not to condemn the world” in verse 17. However, verse 18 presented a stark alternative between being “not judged” as a result of believing and being “judged already” for unbelief. The focus shifts entirely to “judgement,” and this time to a negative verdict, and the reason for the verdict, implying no salvation or eternal life for anyone: And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil, compared with John 12:43: for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
Here we also see Jesus drop the phrase “the Son of Man” as was in verses 13-15 or “the one and only Son” in verses 16-18. Jesus replaces it with “the Light,” echoing the dualistic language of the Gospel’s opening paragraphs. John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Furthermore, in 1: 10-11 – “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” We see the theme of rejection by the world, which was stated in those early verses, now are explicitly expressed by Jesus himself.
The second alternative in the preceding verse is “whoever does not believe is already judged.” It is now generalized and assumed to be the norm. All “human beings” are currently exposed as sinners or unbelievers, in parallel with Jesus’s knowledge of what was “in man” as in John 2:25 – “and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” This coincides with the sombre pronouncement that they “Loved the dark rather than the Light“, which stands in tragic contrast to the good news that “God, so loved the world that he gave the One and Only Son.” Here again, more explicitly than before, “love” agape implies the choice or preference that God put human salvation ahead of his Son, but instead of reciprocating that love to God, humanity chose “the dark” instead. Just as “the Light” is a metaphor for God’s presence in the world in the person of Jesus Christ, so “the dark” or “the darkness” is a metaphor for whatever opposes God and resists “the Light“. In short, a metaphor for evil.
Jesus now makes this explicit by giving the reason why humanity prefers their darkness to God’s Light, “their works were evil.” Despite the strong accent on belief in verse 18, Jesus wants it made clear that divine judgement, whether present or future, is based on works as in John 5:29 – ” and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. “
However, man cannot produce works apart from their reasoning and actions. Many of us today derive good works as a means of self presumption of salvation. Jesus had made it clear that salvation is an acknowledgement of our sin and allowing of self to be set aside, and allowing the Holy Spirit to bring the hidden truths of our being and character, which is created in the image and likeness of God. As written in John 12:25 – “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
How many of us today are willing to set aside our choices and be set free within the boundaries of God’s moral absolutes. We continue to seek our reasoning and act within the confines of our desires to fit our needs and wants. We view our needs within our pleasures of self-fulfillment while casting away the eternal promise of God. Works generated within the confines of our own choices and actions are not works bound within God’s providence. We seek to glorify ourselves and never focus on God’s glory. Maybe it is time to reconsider your objectivity and ask yourself whether you truly seek God and follow his will. The alternative is irreversible when judgement befalls you.