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Rev. Miersma is a missionary of the Protestant Reformed Churches, currently serving in Ghana, West Africa.

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

John 12:32

Sir, we would see Jesus. This was the request of certain Greeks in the preceding context. This brings to mind the words of Isaiah in chapter 53:10, where the prophet declares that Jesus would see His seed, referring to the people whom the Father would give Him out of every nation, tongue, and tribe. This salvation of the elect from among the Gentiles is forcibly brought to the attention of the Christ through the request of these heathen Greeks.

The fact that He would see His seed reminds the Savior of His death. If the seed is to spring up and mature, it must first die. Life for all His people is possible only through His death. Therefore, if Christ is to see His seed, He too must first die.

At this moment, while anticipating the cross, Christ declares the triumphant words of the text. At the moment of the cross it appeared as if the devil had gained the victory, but actually the cross is the judgment of this world. Then the prince of this world shall be cast out. And as far as Christ is concerned, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.”

The lifting up refers, on the one hand, to His death upon the cross of Calvary. This is plain from verse 33: “This he said, signifying what death he should die.” One can therefore hardly deny that Jesus is referring in this text to His rapidly approaching death upon the cross.

On the other hand, it is equally obvious that the Savior is referring also to His exaltation at the right hand of God. This is clear from verse 23, which speaks of His glorification: “And Jesus answered them saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.” Although He speaks of the fact that the kernel must die, He also declares that the kernel brings forth much fruit, and therefore rises again.

Therefore, we may safely conclude that Jesus is referring to both His death and His exaltation at the right hand of God. The Savior always associates the two and considers them inseparable. He considers the hour of Calvary to be the hour of His glorification. This is not due to the fact that He glories as such in the unspeakable agony that confronts Him upon the cross of Golgotha, but because the way of the cross leads home. His crucifixion is the beginning of the process that will not be finished and completed until He has been lifted up even unto the Father’s right hand.

Note also that the words of the text do not express any doubt. It is not their purpose to convey the impression that the Lord Jesus Christ may possibly not be lifted up from the earth. This is impossible, because for this very purpose the Lord Jesus came into the world. As so often elsewhere in Scripture, the “if” clause serves to show the inseparable connection between the two parts.

We note also the remarkable chain of events here. There is the hatred of the Jews, His own, and the request of the heathen Greeks who longed to see the Christ. It is remarkable how these two events converge at this very moment. Salvation will come to the Gentiles exactly through the hatred of the Jews. It was the hatred of the Jews that led to the crucifixion.

And now Jesus is about to be lifted up. The cross will not be the end stage of His being lifted up, for Jesus has been ordained to be the King upon Mt. Zion who shall rule forever. He shall lose His life, only to find it again in heavenly glory. He shall be lifted up out of this sin-cursed world and death. This process shall lead Him through the cross and the depths of hell, but shall continue through the resurrection and ascension until He be exalted at the right hand of God. There He shall be glorified with the glory that He had with the Father before the foundation of the world. That glorified Christ, lifted up into heavenly glory through His suffering and death, will draw all men unto Himself.

This drawing is universal. When Christ says “all men,” He does not refer to every man, head for head. It simply is not true that all men are drawn to Jesus. This did not happen while He sojourned among us in our flesh and blood, and it will not happen throughout this new dispensation. Some are drawn to Him through the power of His grace and view Him as wonderfully beautiful and attractive, but others hate Him and trample His Word underfoot.

Furthermore, it is not true that the scriptural expression “all men” necessarily means all men, head for head. Even when the expression does refer to everybody, it does not do so because “all” demands that interpretation.Romans 5:18 is a good example. “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” The striking feature is that the expression “all men” occurs twice here but not with the same connotation. With respect to the condemnation of all men it refers to every man, head for head. With respect to righteousness, it does not, for it simply is a fact that while all men are indeed under condemnation, not all men receive the righteousness of Christ unto justification of life. The expression “all men” refers to all men, everybody, as belonging to a certain class. Condemnation has come to all men through the sin of one man, because Adam was the head of the entire human race. And the righteousness of Christ has come upon all men, that is, all those who belong to that class whereof Christ is the Head, namely, the elect.

In this light we see that Christ will draw all His own unto Himself. And He will draw all men, not simply as limited to one particular people, the Jews, but as out of every nation, tongue, and tribe. This is in accordance with the context, in which the request of the Gentiles reminds Jesus exactly of His seed, which He will gather unto Himself out of all peoples and nations.

It is at this point that many go astray. Some would have us believe that the love of God, as revealed upon the cross, attracts all men. Others would contend that in the preaching of the gospel the Lord shows His intention of saving as many sinners as possible, and that Jesus draws, calls, invites all men unto Himself. This, of course, is not the meaning of the text. The gospel does not come to everybody, for the great majority of men will never have come under the preaching of the Word. In addition, we must remember that the gospel is a savor of life unto life, but also of death unto death. It never proclaims a Christ who died for all and would have all men to be saved. The gospel proclaims a Jesus who died for His sheep and who came to do the Father’s will, namely, that all those given Him by the Father should be raised up at the last day.

Positively, the word “draw” refers to the irresistible drawing by the exalted Christ. Jesus is an irresistible, universal magnet, who draws powerfully and efficaciously unto Himself. This occurred already on Calvary. By His death of the cross He satisfied, in His people’s behalf, all the justice of the Lord, paid for all their sins and guilt, reconciled them unto God, and merited for them everlasting life and glory. Then He drew them out of all their sin and guilt and the power of the devil and into salvation of the alone blessed God.

Now He continues to draw all men, all His own, unto Himself as at the right hand of the divine majesty. This drawing of the glorified Christ is a marvelous, spiritual, internal, irresistible, and inexpressibly sweet drawing by His Spirit and through His Word. He enters, irresistibly, into our hearts, renews our hearts, opens our eyes and our ears, and calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light. He draws us unto Himself, and we come. He opens our eyes, and we see. He opens our ears, and we hear. He speaks in us by His irresistible grace, and we hear and come unto Him, unto the Christ of the cross and as exalted in heavenly glory at the right hand of God. Through His power we learn to seek Him, see our desperate sin and guilt, confess our iniquities, and receive cleansing in the blood that flowed from His veins. As we are drawn unto Him, even as He is now the Lord of glory, our eye is fixed upon the things that areabove, and we shall not be satisfied until we see Him, face to face, drawn into everlasting and heavenly glory.

Of that we can be certain, for He will draw all men unto Himself. The Savior does not doubt this for a moment. The context brings this out. “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” How uncertain the outcome would be if man’s salvation were dependent upon the choice of his own will. However, the matter of our salvation is purely a matter of the highly exalted Christ. When Christ is lifted up, He will draw all men unto Himself. He will indeed redeem them and deliver them through the blood of the cross, the amazing blood that does not seek to cleanse us from our sin, but actually does.

And being glorified He will indeed continue His work of salvation even unto the end. The work of salvation, thanks be to God, is His work and surely not ours. He to whom has been given all power in heaven and upon earth and the Spirit beyond measure is surely able to gather all His own unto Himself, even unto the very end.

What blessed assurance! Our salvation is sure. We will be drawn into glory, which the Lord has prepared for all those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.