John 12:48


Hi everyone,

I’m new to the forums and just started investigating Christian universalism.

One of the verses that seems to go against universalism is John 12:48: “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.”

I’ve searched online and in the forums for a universalist interpration of this verse, but I cannot find any. It would seem to me that condemnation on the “last day” would imply that there is no more chance for reconciliation.

Could someone give me a universalist reading of this text? I’ve seen the verse before it used to push forward the idea of universalism, but always taken out of context without this verse.

Any thoughts would be most appreciated!
In Christ,


Does it say the condemnation is hopeless? No? (hint: no. :slight_smile: )

Then the text is neutral as far as it goes. Talking only about condemnation on the Day of the Lord to come, means only that there is condemnation on the Day of the Lord to come. It doesn’t mean the condemnation is hopeless, much less any reason for why it’s hopeless.

Whether the condemnation is hopeless or not, one way or another, has to be read in on some other ground (such as from exegesis elsewhere.)


Thanks for your response, Jason.

I find myself looking at this passage from two perspectives.

  1. “Condemn” doesn’t necessarily mean “condemn to Hell”, but can mean to disapprove of, or to make someone aware of their guilt. For Jesus’ words to do this, as opposed to Jesus/God Himself, making someone aware of their guilt seems like a likely way to interpret the word “condemn”. I suppose I’d need to know more about the original word used, rather than the somewhat ambiguous English word that it’s been translated to, but this kind of condemnation makes sense in the context of the verse, and I suppose would be the universalist way of looking at it.

  2. In the previous verse, Jesus explicitly contrasts salvation and judging/condemntation. To then say that some people will be judged and condemned, in light of the previous contrast, it would seem to be implied that condemnation = no salvation. So to answer your question, I would currently have to say “yes”, it does appear to say that the condemnation is hopeless - while what condemnation is could be up for debate, he seems to have made it clear that there’s one thing that it’s not, and that’s salvation.

Any further thoughts?


This one is the easiest to refute and you don’t need to be a universalist to do it.

The word used for ‘condemnation’ is krinō, it means judged right or wrong where as the correct party is esteemed, while the incorrect party is shown in their error.

John 12:48 He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.

Essentially Jesus is saying, “We will all see who is correct in the last day, and I AM He and those who didn’t listen will realize they were wrong.” concerning those who were referred to in verse 42 and 43 whereas many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.


Hi James,

Welcome to the forum!

It’s interesting that the word “condemn” in the translation you quote is actually the word “judge” – and most of the translations render it that way. See: … SB#vrsn/48

I’m assuming the NIV translators chose “condemn” out of the reasonable assumption that this judgment would be a pronouncement of condemnation against the person who is rejecting Jesus and not living by His words.

I agree that condemnation and salvation are not the same. If we are living in sin or error, denying the truth, then we are in need of judgment and correction. We are not living in a state of salvation. We need to be saved from our sin and brought into knowledge and affirmation of the truth.

In traditional hopeless-hell based doctrine, judgment and condemnation are thought of as a permanent, unchangeable state of existence in hell after this life. This is not the case from an EU perspective.

If a person is judged and condemned to punishment, this is out of God’s love for the person and desire to correct them and bring them to repentance. Judgment and condemnation are corrective and restorative. Theoretically, it would be possible for someone to suffer Hell eternally, should they continue in rebellion, but there appears to be solid scriptural foundation for believing that God will succeed in reconciling all to Himself.

Does that help?


Hi James,

Welcome to the forum! My thoughts on this verse can be found on the following thread:


SoW’s commentary afterward happens to address this, and it’s pretty good. :slight_smile: The term is indeed “judge”, which can carry the connotation of condemnation, though not necessarily. As you note, it would be very weird for the word Jesus speaks to condemn a person in any sense that somehow supercede’s Jesus’ own intentions in the matter! (Especially considering that Jesus is Himself the Word!)

That’s what I get for trying to answer quickly while at work! :laughing: While tornadoes were meandering around us…

My first reply is that the point I stated still holds: the two results are contrasted but are not explicitly contrasted in a way to indicate continuing hopelessness of salvation-from-whatever.

(Incidentally, I agree with you against attempts by some universalists at marshaling the preceding verse John 12:47 as being testimony definitely in favor of universalism–a tactic easily enough answered at its own level by pointing out that elsewhere Jesus is very clearly shown to be judge in the final day, including in claims by Jesus Himself, and including claims by Jesus in GosJohn itself!–not even to mention that the contexts of who He’s talking to and about when He says He’ll judge them are the same people He’s referring to here, namely the chief religious leaders who are rejecting Him. Chronologically, this scene most likely takes place Thursday outside the Temple which He had departed the afternoon before after throwing out the greatest condemnations of His ministry with promise of more to follow!–though also with another far more hopeful promise. :wink: But that’s another discussion.)

Second, as I mentioned above it would be extremely peculiar for words spoken by Jesus (the Living Word Himself!) to hopelessly trump His own intentions regarding salvation!–and insofar as comparative parallels are appealed to, the appeal-er cannot then avoid the parallel application of “the world” being the same object in both salvation and judgment. Which puts a kibosh, not incidentally, on trying to sequester the elect on one hand from the dis-elect on the other in regard to that statement. Jesus intends to save “the world” but warns that “the world” may be judged.

Third, a constrasting result does not always necessarily involve a mutually exclusive set of results (and in conjunction with my first point, even a mutually exclusive set of results need not necessarily be final results in themselves; or if one is final the other need not necessarily be.) The fact that we have the word spoken by the Word Himself on one hand, and the intention of the Word Himself on the other, ought to indicate this is one of those times when the two results cannot be mutually exclusive. Specifically testing out what the meaning would depend on reading in from elsewhere what the person is supposed to be being saved from.

But to give an example of what I mean: if “salvation” means “salvation from sin”, then for {krin-} to be mutually exclusive to that it would have to mean that the judging or condemnation from Jesus’ words involves an action of not saving the judged from sin. The concept that Jesus’ words could have mutually exclusive intention is bizarre at least, and probably counts as some kind of theological schismatism, too. (The human nature of Jesus intends one thing at direct odds to the divine nature of Jesus…?!? I sure hope the intention of the divine nature is to save from sin, and that the divine nature wins over the human nature of Jesus!!!) But that Jesus should both intend and not intend to save from sin is an even worse example of such an intentional schism. (“Nay, in the deepest deep a lower deep!”–Jesus would be disaffirming His own name by such an intention against salvation from sin!)

At any rate if the intention of Jesus is salvation from sin, the words of Jesus must have that same intention even in judgment against those who repudiate Him and do not keep His commandments. Salvation from sin can be contrasted with a result of being punished for sinning (and even impenitent sinning, as the contexts of the verse clearly enough indicate) without the two being a mutually exclusive result; on the contrary the latter can easily help obtain the former (as there are plenty of scriptural examples of, if any such were needed to ‘prooftext’ the principle!)

And even if a (shallower) mutually exclusive result is obtained by comparing salvation from punishment and not-salvation from punishment, this still does not of itself necessarily involve a permanent result for one of those options even if the other result has a permanent result in view. Otherwise no one who was ever punished in any way by Jesus (which is practically all of us!) would have any hope whatsoever for not-punishment afterward!–the two being supposedly finally mutually exclusive. Which, aside from being amply testified against in scripture (where the Lord chastens those He loves and is trying to save from sin, and whom He thus eventually ceases to punish), would be the very anti-gospel of hope against any salvation!

The short of the long of it, then :mrgreen:, is what I said before. Does it say the condemnation is hopeless? No? Then the text is neutral as far as that topic goes. (Although an extremely close read may indicate that the judgment could not possibly be considered necessarily hopeless compared to salvation, on pain of contradictory schism in the intentions of Jesus Himself–or worse, on pain of secondary effects of His intentions somehow defeating His primary intentions! Whether the text as given could be pressed to a full argument that the condemnation could not be possibly hopeless at all, I am a little more unsure, although I incline that way. But I wouldn’t insist upon it to an opponent. Not without bringing in testimony outside the immediate text of what salvation primarily involves anyway. :slight_smile: )


Though Jesus denies such schism in the next verse, John 12:49, so this can be ‘removed’ from the options.

“For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.”

If such schism existed, then Jesus becomes a liar and any such discussion of salvation by Him becomes pretty much useless at that point.


Thanks for all the replies, everyone. I unfortunately don’t have time to read it all right now, but will in the next day or so and will respond if I have more questions.


Thanks everyone. I’ve read through the responses and I think I have a good understanding of the universalist view of this passage.

I’m still just investigating, and decided to read a book on the topic. I was thinking of reading, “Universal Salvation? The Current Debate”, which has Thomas Talbott’s argument for universalism along with some responses (for and against EU) from other evangelicals. Has anyone read this book - is it pretty good?


Definitely, it’s in our Materials We Recommend As A Community :sunglasses: