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Recall that the fifth sign in John’s gospel (John 6:16-21) is the sign of Christ’s second coming in the midst of turmoil or tribulation. Peter went out to meet Him to escort Him back to the boat, and when they stepped into the boat, they suddenly found themselves near Capernaum, the town whose Hebrew name, Kippur-Nahum, represents the “Covering of the Comforter” (Holy Spirit).
We know that when Christ comes, the overcomers will be transformed fully into His image and presented to the Father on the eighth day of Tabernacles. They will then return to the earth to be manifested to the world as sons of God.
The eighth chapter of John is the part of the commentary on this fifth sign. It begins with the woman caught in adultery and how Jesus used the law to redeem her. The rest of the chapter is primarily about two issues: righteous judgment and who is Jesus.
In other words, it is about Christ’s nature and the outworking of that nature in terms of ruling the earth and judging righteously. This also affects the overcomers, because they too must be “changed” (1 Cor. 15:51) into His image so that they may do the works of their heavenly Father as well. As agents of Christ, they must judge righteously and exercise His authority in the earth. They will not have the authority to oppress others, nor will they desire servants for personal advantage, but they will love their Father’s creation and work to restore it to its original condition.
Hence, when Jesus supernaturally transported His disciples to Capernaum, that sign was explained in John 7:37-39 in terms of being filled with the Holy Spirit. It was a sign of things to come, when the overcomers are filled beyond the Pentecostal experience, for they will be changed into His image and given immortality and incorruption (1 Cor. 15:52-54). In other words, Jesus’ fifth sign was not only about the coming of Christ but included the overcomers as well.
The way in which Jesus used the law to redeem the woman caught in adultery is a prime example of how Jesus and the overcomers will redeem and restore the church, which, by following idols of the heart, has been guilty of spiritual adultery.
Strictly speaking, no one can commit adultery without first being married. God first married Israel at Mount Horeb, where the ceremony was performed by Moses. Hence, when Israel later went after idols, the prophet called this “adultery” (Jer. 3:9).
Likewise, the prophet Hosea’s marriage to the harlot Gomer (Hosea 1:2, 3) meant that she committed adultery by running away to live with another. This pictured God’s wife, the House of Israel.
Acts 7:38 (KJV) identifies Israel as the first “church.” The Hebrew word kahal is often rendered “assembly” or “congregation,” because it is the people, not the building or hierarchical organization. The church is an assembly of a called-out body of people, even as a bride is separated from the rest of the world and devoted exclusively to her husband.
The Greek equivalent of kahal is ekklesia. Both, then, must be given the same definition. Israel as a nation was the church during the Passover Age from Moses to Christ.
The Israel Church included many who were not biologically descended from Jacob-Israel in those days. This did not change in the Pentecostal Age (i.e., the so-called “Church Age.”). People of faith from all ethnic backgrounds have always been accepted into the nation, thereby becoming Israelites by nationality.
For this reason, we ought not to distinguish Israel from the church. The only real difference is that the church progressed from a Passover anointing to a Pentecostal anointing. And because we are now at the end of the Pentecostal Age, we are even now transitioning into the Tabernacles Age, where those who qualify are transformed fully into His image. These will enjoy immortality during the Age to come.
The problem is that Israel in both the Passover Age and Pentecostal Age has proven to be harlot. The religious leaders in both ages dispute that, of course, for they could never believe or admit this. Yet the Bible is quite clear that only a remnant among them has been able to overcome their heart idolatry. None of them start out as overcomers, but God has worked to expunge their hearts of idolatry and adultery, to teach them faith, and to mature them by the knowledge of His word.
Hosea is the great prophet who shows how the harlot is to be redeemed, rather than stoned. (See my two-volume set, Hosea, Prophet of Mercy.) A second prophetic example is Rahab, who is called a “harlot” (zanah) in Joshua 2:1. Some argue that she was merely an innkeeper, because innkeepers in those days were usually harlots as well. The same Hebrew word, zanah, is used of Hosea’s harlot-wife.
Rahab, however, had faith and hid the two spies. When Jericho was destroyed, she was spared and eventually married Salmon, who was of the line of Judah (Matt. 1:5). Their son was Boaz, who later married Ruth, the Moabitess. These were Jesus’ ancestors (through Mary).
During the Pentecostal Age, the church is (in whole or in part) the great harlot in the book of Revelation for the same reason that Israel was a harlot during the Passover Age. Jericho was a type of Babylon. The death of the harlot in the book of Revelation should not be interpreted as the destruction of the people themselves but of the oppressive religious church system that holds them in bondage.
The woman caught in adultery in John 8 is just another side to this prophetic picture. The way Jesus treated her reveals His love for all who have been caught up in spiritual adultery and idolatrous harlotry. He was lifted up on the cross so that all would be drawn to Him and so that we all might be saved. This is a key revelation of His nature, who He is, and why He came to die on the cross for the sin of the world.
The fourth and fifth signs in John’s gospel are tied together by the chiasm, being the two parallel signs in the middle of the eight. The fourth sign, showing how the bread was broken to feed the world, prophesied of His death on the cross. The fifth sign, where He walked on the water to come to His disciples, pictures His second coming to rule and judge the earth. His judgment, however, is not to be feared but embraced, for everything works together for good in the end.
So the rest of John 8 continues the commentary on the fifth sign, including Jesus’ comments on righteous judgment (John 8:15, 16), as we will see shortly.
Immediately after the story of the woman caught in adultery, John 8:12 says,
12 Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
The manner in which Jesus used the law to set the adulterous woman free is the prime example of “light.” Light is bound up in Truth. If a judge tries to apply the law while in a state of darkness, it is not possible to judge righteously. The Pharisees walked in darkness, and for this reason, they wanted to stone the woman. This also sets the stage for the next sign (John 9), where Jesus healed the blind man. Blindness causes men to walk in darkness. Healing blindness allows them to walk in the light.
John 8:13 continues with the usual opposition from those walking in darkness,
13 So the Pharisees said to Him, “You are testifying of Yourself; Your testimony is not true.”
When men cannot refute plain evidence—such as Jesus’ miracles—they resort to nitpicking about forms and procedures. For example, rather than being happy that the invalid was healed (John 5:9, 10), they found fault with Him that He had healed on the Sabbath.
This discussion took place in the temple, some time after the adulterous woman was set free. Whether it occurred later in the same day or in the days ahead we cannot say for sure, but “these words He spoke in the treasury as He taught in the temple” (John 8:20).
Jesus’ response is given in John 8:14-16,
14 Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I testify of Myself, My testimony is true; for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You people judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. 16 But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and He who sent Me.”
Jesus’ confidence came from the fact that He knew where He had come from (heaven) and where He was going (His purpose on earth). He either had memory of the time of His pre-existence, or He had revelation of it afterward. Either way, He knew things that the Pharisees could not possibly know. They certainly did not know that Jesus came from heaven, pictured by the manna in the wilderness.
The Pharisees “judge according to the flesh” (vs. 15). Again, as we saw earlier in John 7:24, Jesus admonished the people not to “judge according to appearance.” Fleshly people judge by appearances, because they cannot see beyond the fleshly realm.
It is impossible to judge righteously by fleshly eyes. In any earthly court, much evidence may be hidden for various reasons. Righteous judgment is possible only when a judge has spiritual discernment and can bring things to light that are hidden. Being the Light of the world meant that He was able to uncover hidden evidence.
There was much that was hidden in the incident of the adulterous woman. The Pharisees only saw the adultery; they did not know (or care) about the mitigating circumstances. Nor are these hidden things even brought out in John’s gospel. But Jesus discerned these and knew that she was redeemable. His compassion, no doubt, changed her life, even though her husband might have divorced her later.
I suspect that this woman became a follower of Jesus and was later part of the Jerusalem church. No doubt she was well known to that congregation and specifically to John himself.