Twisted Scripture Number 38: John 12:32 is not a Verse About Universalism

By Brannon Howse

The Scripture: And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself. 


The Twist: Some people use this verse to teach the idea of universalism, that in the end, God is going to draw everyone to Himself and all people everywhere will come to Christ. No one’s going to hell.  


The twist here is universalism, and it is a lie. John 12:32 does not teach that all people everywhere will eventually be saved. 

Jesus is speaking in this verse when He says, “If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all peoples to Myself.” But what does He mean by “if I am lifted up from the earth”? He is talking literally about being lifted up onto the cross. Christ was raised onto a cross, nailed to it, and then the cross was dropped into the ground. He hung there, dying, until finally He announced, “It is finished.” He died, and our debt was paid in full. 

The Roman soldiers drove a spear through His side, and the Bible reports that the wound ran with blood and water, a clear indication that He was dead. It meant that the pericardium, or the lining around the heart, had been punctured. In 1986, the American Medical Association published a report by three doctors who concluded from the evidence that Jesus Christ was dead when He was taken off the cross. The flowing of blood and water from His side is one of the proofs of His death. 

This matters because skeptics have falsely claimed that Christ never really died but simply passed out. Yet we understand that Jesus Christ died physically—not spiritually, but physically—and yet rose from the dead on the third day.  

Christ was literally lifted up from the earth. And because He was nailed to a cross as payment for the sins of those who would accept His atoning work through faith and repentance, people from all nations, tongues, and generations will be saved from the wrath of God. This is the meaning of Jesus’ words, “I will draw all peoples to Myself.” He did not mean that everyone would make it to heaven. No, he’s saying that a selection of people from all over the world and from every imaginable ethnic group will come to Him—not all people as in everybody who has ever lived, but as in people from all around the world, from multiple generations, from all tongues, languages, nations, and tribes.

We see a similar reference in Revelation 7:9, which reads, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues.”  This obviously does not mean everyone in the world has been saved, only that people called out from all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues. These are the ones who receive the Gospel message, repent of their sins, and place their faith and trust in Christ. That is still the requirement for salvation. Universalism is not a biblical teaching. Stay away from that twist.


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