Being a grammar-nut of sorts, when I really noticed the grammar in John 12:31, I had to reread it. I’ll share why in just a minute. First, let me give a touch of set-up for the verse.
It’s the week of Passover. Jesus will be crucified this weekend. And His soul is troubled because of the pain. But He is determined to fulfill His purpose. So He prays aloud, “Father, glorify Your name.”
Then a voice comes from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.”
While the onlookers wonder exactly what’s going on, Jesus explains for them.
Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake.
Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.
And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples unto Myself.”
-John 12:30-32 (emphasis mine)
“Now” implies right at this time. “Will be” indicates at a future time. Yet Jesus says the ruler of this world will be cast out now. When?
When He is lifted up from the earth.
Typically, you hear that phrase “lifted up” referring to praising Jesus. And I suppose that applies. But it is not what Jesus was talking about.
Jesus referred to His crucifixion. Even the people who heard Him knew that. They asked (I paraphrase), “What do you mean, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? The law says the Christ will live forever. Who are you talking about?”
So Jesus’ crucifixion is the “now.” At Jesus’ crucifixion was the judgment of the world, and at Jesus’ crucifixion the ruler of this world will be cast out.
See the contradiction of time? I find it fascinating. Here’s what I think it means.
The ruler of this world is already defeated.
Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in [the cross].
-Colossians 2:15 (NKJV)
At the cross, Jesus overcame the power Satan had held since Adam and Eve sinned. On the records, Satan is listed “defeated.”
But the official casting-out ceremony is yet to be.
In Revelation 20:10, we read how, at the very end of the battle, the devil is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. (Isn’t it fun to read the end of the Book?) For now, he roams the earth “like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (see 1 Peter 5:8)
Satan still exerts power, yes. It is foolish to discount his schemes and his strength. But it is also wise to remember that much of his power lies in his skill to deceive.
Jesus is the Truth. (see John 14:6) And He promises that the Truth will set us free. (see John 8:32) Free from sin. Free from shame. Free from Satan.
Doesn’t mean there won’t be a long battle–maybe a grueling, crushing, desperate battle. But victory is eventually guaranteed if you press closer to Jesus without backing down, without wavering toward the world, without losing heart. Because the foe is already defeated.
Live now for what will be.
P.S. Maybe I’m reading more into the wording than is there. Bear with me. I love to explore the richness of words.