John 16:1-33 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What does Jesus tell us that we as His disciples can expect as we live in this world? See John 16:33 (printed below)

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation. But have courage; I have conquered the world. (John 16:33)

At the close of this chapter (verse 33) Jesus emphatically warns us that, for the Christian, tribulation is the hallmark—the distinguishing characteristic—of this world. Tribulation, as used in the N.T., refers to the opposition one encounters because of his identification with Christ. The Greek word translated “tribulation” literally means “pressure, intense pressure;” in John 16:21 the same word is used to describe a woman’s birth pains during the time of delivery. The world is constantly trying to squeeze the Christian into its mold (Romans 12:2), or, trying to squeeze the Christian out of its presence (Luke 6:22-23).

2. Whom does Jesus promise to send to His disciples (see verse 7 printed below?) What is one thing this person will do for the disciples (see verses 12-13 printed below?)

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go away, because if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)

I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear those things at this time. (13) However, when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak of his own accord; on the contrary, he will only declare the things he hears, and he will reveal to you the things that are still to come. (John 16:12-13)

In verse 7, referring to the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus promises to send His disciples “the Counselor” (or, “the Helper.”) The Greek term that is used is referring to someone who appears on another’s behalf as a mediator, intercessor, and helper (Arndt and Gingrich”s New Testament Lexicon, pp.623-624). In verses 12-15 the Lord Jesus assures His disciples that the Holy Spirit—in His capacity as the Spirit of truth—will guide them into all the truth. By means of the apostles, Christ by His Holy Spirit has given the church the deposit of God’s truth, the completed Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. By means of teachers and preachers, and by means of the personal study of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit leads the church into a deeper understanding of the truth, and a deeper discernment between truth and error.

3. What does Jesus tell His disciples in verse 16 (printed below?) What effect will these things have on the disciples (see verse 20 printed below?) What is Jesus speaking about in these verses?

In a little while you will no longer see me; and then after a little while you will see me again. (John 16:16)

I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy… (22) So it is that you will now have grief; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. (John 16:20,22)

In verse 16 Jesus speaks of a brief period of separation to be followed by a reunion between Himself and the disciples whom He loves and who love Him. In verse 20 Jesus solemnly declares that what lies in store for His disciples is a moment of great grief. Jesus emphasizes the fact that His disciples will weep and mourn—they will experience the type of grieving commonly found at funerals (note John 11:33). At the same time, what is a cause of grief to His disciples shall prove to be an occasion of joy for the world. But this period of deep grief experienced by the disciples shall be replaced by great joy. What Jesus is speaking about, of course, is His impending crucifixion and subsequent resurrection.

4. What promise does Jesus make to His disciples in verses 23-24,26-27 (printed below?)

On that day you will not ask me anything. I tell you the truth, if you shall ask the Father for anything, he will give it to you in my name. (24) Up to now you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you shall receive, so that your joy may be complete…(26) On that day you will ask in my name. I am not telling you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; (27) for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came forth from the Father. (John 16:23-24,26-27)

During the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry we find Him praying for His disciples and teaching them how to pray. But we do not find the disciples personally addressing the heavenly Father themselves (note Jesus’ words in John 16:24a). But now Jesus assures them (and us) of their direct access to the Father’s throne (verse 23b) and exhorts them to make use of that access (verse 24b). Here at the close of His earthly ministry the Lord Jesus reminds His disciples of their access to the heavenly Father—their privilege to come before the Father in the name of Jesus Christ the Son.

5. Although we as Jesus’ disciples may expect tribulation in this world, what does He exhort us to do and why? See John 16:33 (printed above under question #1)

Our Lord closes this discourse by exhorting us to take courage because He has conquered the world. As our Lord Jesus Christ anticipates the cross of Calvary and His faithful acceptance of His Father’s will to endure the cross, He declares to His disciples, “I have conquered the world.” Note the combination of our Lord’s statements recorded in verse 33: “in the world you have tribulation,” “but have courage…I have conquered the world.” As we live our lives for Christ in this present world the spiritual battle at times may rage; but we need not fear, for our Lord Jesus Christ has already secured the victory. At present, Christ employs His divine power and authority to protect and preserve His church against the onslaughts of the devil. At the end, when He reveals Himself in glory, Christ shall exercise His divine power and authority to dispatch the devil and consign him and all of his legions to the lake of hellfire.