What does John 3:19 mean?
ESV: 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.
NIV: This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
NASB: And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light; for their deeds were evil.
CSB: This is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.
NLT: And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.
KJV: And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
Verse Commentary:
The opening verses of the gospel of John refer to Jesus as "The Light," which is an important concept in Hebrew culture (John 1:4–9). Light reveals truth, and exposes what was hidden. This, according to verse 19, is the reason why many people reject Jesus. His life, and His teachings, expose every single person as a sinner (Romans 3:10), and the things we do as morally wrong (Romans 4:7). Many people would prefer to hide in darkness, rather than be exposed by the light (John 1:5; John 8:12). It's crucial to remember that those who are saved are not "better" than those who reject Christ—they are simply sinners who confess and believe (1 John 1:6–7).

The word translated as "evil" here is the Greek ponera. This term not only implies evil, but a sense of drudgery, labor, and effort. Mankind is not just immoral, we work hard at being immoral! And, a life of sin is a hard life (John 10:10; Isaiah 14:3; Matthew 11:28).
Verse Context:
John 3:16–21 begins with the most easily recognized portion of any holy book on Earth: John 3:16. This is a one-sentence summary of the entire gospel. Still, the verses which follow are just as critical for understanding the Christian message. Christ wasn’t sent to judge the world, but to bring salvation. This is an expression of God’s incredible love. However, those who do not believe in Jesus Christ are condemned in the eyes of God. Human preference for sin causes many to choose darkness over the Light.
Chapter Summary:
John chapter 3 is one of the most important in the entire gospel. Many crucial ideas are explained in this passage, including the role of Jesus as Savior. After the loud, public commotion at the temple, John transitions to a quiet, nighttime discussion. These verses make it clear that Christ—and Christ alone—is the means of salvation for the entire world. This text also states that those who reject Jesus are rejecting God.
Chapter Context:
The gospel of John is meant to prove that Jesus is God. Chapter 3 contains some of the most direct, most important concepts in Christianity. The ideas of spiritual rebirth, and the need to believe in Christ, are reinforced by the rest of the information in this gospel. John continues to use contrast, moving from the loud and public temple cleansing to the quiet of this conversation. After Jesus injects humility into a powerful leader, chapter 4 will transition again, as Jesus gives dignity to an outcast stranger.
Book Summary:
The gospel of John was written by the disciple John, decades later than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls “signs”—in order to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in all of the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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