"When He comes, He will convict the world of guilt ..." (John 16:8-11)

"When He comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned." (John 16:8-11)

When who 'comes'?

Jesus is referring here to the Holy Spirit of God - though "comes" is an odd choice of translation as we'll discuss.

This statement continues from his previous one:
"But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." (John 16:7)
Jesus confirms the "Advocate" is the Holy Spirit - God's expansive potency that accompanies each of us, enabling those who seek a loving relationship with God to feel His presence and guidance - in this statement:
"But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:26)
This translation portrays the Advocate as being pretty heavy here, how the Holy Spirit will "convict the world of guilt" in regard to those things described afterward. Did Jesus really say this and if so, what does it mean?

What does 'comes' mean?

The word "comes" within "when He comes" is being taken from the Greek ἔρχομαι (erchomai), which can mean "to appear, make one's appearance" when used literally, or "to come into being, arise, come forth, show itself, find place or influence" when used metaphorically.

Because Jesus is speaking of spiritual concepts using words normally applied to physical things, we must accept the metaphorical usage of this statement - God's Holy Spirit is being described as arising, coming forth, showing Himself, and influencing.

Yet it is not as if the Supreme Being has to travel anywhere - or "come" from anywhere. He can expand Himself without limit and is thus simultaneously with each of us. Rather, it is us who simply cannot see Him, even though He has expanded Himself right next to each of us the Holy Spirit.

And the reason most of us cannot see God's Holy Spirit next to us? Ultimately we made this choice. We don't want to be with Him, so graciously, He has blocked our ability to see Him.

So what Jesus is discussing is the Supreme Being showing Himself to Jesus' disciples, along with guiding them.

Why and how would He convict the 'world of guilt'?

There is no indication from the original Greek texts that Jesus said anything about "guilt" here at all. None of the Greek indicates this word whatsoever.

The mistranslated phrase "will convict" is being taken from the Greek ἐλέγχω (elegchō) which can mean "to convict" but it can also mean "to call to account" and "show one his fault" according to the lexicon. More importantly, it can mean "to correct."

This means that as the Supreme Being comes forth and shows Himself as the Holy Spirit to Jesus' disciples (Jesus' audience) then He will have influence over them. This is best described as guidance.

It also means that God's showing Himself as the Holy Spirit in the lives of Jesus' disciples after Jesus has left them physically has nothing to do with convicting anyone or anything. It is for the purpose of purifying their lives. God's guidance will help cleanse their hearts and redirect their lives in such a way that enables them to continue Jesus' mission.

We might compare this to how a high school student is often assigned a guidance counselor - who is also often referred to as an advocate. Why does a student need a guidance counselor? To help guide and direct the student towards a more productive education. 

The school guidance counselor will talk with the child about their goals, and help direct them to apply for a college or trade school or some other facility. If they are taking drugs or drinking all the time, the guidance counselor will try to help them kick those habits. In these ways, the counselor will help steer their lives in the right direction.

The Holy Spirit "Counselor" that Jesus is referring to, will also help direct Jesus' students after his physical body is gone and he (the spiritual person) has returned to the spiritual realm. But here the goal is not to become productive adults. 

Here the Supreme Being through the Holy Spirit will be guiding Jesus' disciples in their spiritual advancement and their loving service relationship with God. The Holy Spirit will also be guiding them to continue Jesus' mission of bringing others back to their own relationship with God.

Understanding this form of guidance taken from the word ἐλέγχω (elegchō), meaning to "show one his fault" and help "correct" those faults allows us to understand the rest of Jesus' statement more clearly.

What does Jesus mean by 'the world'?

The Greek word κόσμος (kosmos) is being translated to the word "world" as if the Advocate will be "convicting the world." This is not what Jesus is saying. κόσμος (kosmos) can mean "world" or "earth" but it can also mean "universe." In this context, Jesus is describing the physical world - the material world.

What is the material world - or the physical world? It is the place where its citizens are all focused upon chasing self-centered dreams of being happy without love and the Supreme Being. The Supreme Being built the physical world to house those of us who decided our self-interest is greater than God's interest. We want to be the master. We want to live for ourselves.

So the Supreme Being built the physical world as a virtual universe - and created these physical bodies in order for each of us spirit-persons to pretend we were someone else for a while. This virtual universe is set up for us to take on new, temporary identities and pretend God doesn't exist for a while.

And this is precisely described by Jesus as περί ἁμαρτία (peri hamartia) - being translated here as "in regard to sin." More literally, περί (peri) can mean "concerning" while ἁμαρτία (hamartia) means, according to the lexicon, "to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honor, to do or go wrong," or "to wander from the law of God, violate God's law."

What is God's law?

And what, precisely is the "law of God" or "God's law?" Both Jesus and Moses stated quite clearly the most important commandment, summing up God's law:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38 (and Deut 6:5))
To "wander" from this law or "violate" this law, according to Jesus' statement, is what is being translated to "sin."

And this is precisely what the Holy Spirit - the Advocate - will be helping Jesus' disciples "correct." His guidance will be purifying their hearts and their minds so they will become more and more focused on their personal loving relationship with the Supreme Being - and working to please Him.

To love someone with "all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" is quite clear. It means giving our lives to that person. Doing whatever pleases them. This means that the Advocate's guidance will lead them to become more and more one of God's loving servants - following in the footsteps of their spiritual teacher, Jesus.

Why does Jesus also mention δικαιοσύνη (dikaiosynē) - being translated to "righteousness" - and κρίσις (krisis) - being translated to "judgment" as well?

When a person says "concerning" or "in regard to" that means that the subjects of the action - in this case, guidance - will relate to those items.

δικαιοσύνη (dikaiosynē) means "integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting" and "the condition acceptable to God" according to the lexicon. This means that God's Holy Spirit - the Advocate - will be helping to steer them away from their self-centered (sinful) consciousness, and towards a consciousness pleasing to the Supreme Being.

But "judgment" here is not that good of a translation of κρίσις (krisis) in this context. The word can mean "judgment" but it's primary meaning, according to the lexicon, is "a separating, sundering, separation." It can also mean "selection." It can also mean an "opinion or decision given concerning anything - especially concerning justice and injustice, right or wrong."

In other words, Jesus is telling his disciples that the "Advocate" will be giving them guidance to help them be able to discern between activities that displease the Supreme Being from those that please Him. They will be able to correct their self-centered consciousness more and more while becoming more focused on pleasing the Supreme Being.

This can be summed up as purifying their consciousness. This is the effect the presence of the Supreme Being has upon someone. God is purifying. And Jesus who is God's representative - is also purifying.

This purifying effect isn't about removing the consequences of a person's prior self-centered (sinful) activities. Being concerned about being cleansed of sins is also self-centered.

God's presence or the presence of God's representative - which includes their Names and visual representations - has a purifying effect upon our consciousness - assuming that we are not offending God at the same time.

God's presence and the presence of God's representative have a purifying effect upon our consciousness because He helps us understand our real identity as not being the physical, and He helps us understand our relationship with the Supreme Being: That He created us to be His loving caregivers. We each have a unique loving service relationship with the Supreme Being.

This purifying effect comes in the form of guidance, either through the words and teachings of God's representative, through the scriptures, or from within as the Holy Spirit. This latter facility is what Jesus is describing in this verse.

*Thus we find a more appropriate translation in the Lost Gospels of Jesus:
"And when He appears, He will refute the material world regarding offensiveness, righteousness and justice: About offensiveness, because they do not trust in me. About righteousness, because I depart for the Creator and you will no longer see me. And about justice, because the prince of the material world is condemned." (John 16:8-11)
The word "discernment" is difficult because it is not commonly used. "Justice" is clear, because it describes how a person will be able to make just decisions.

In other words, Jesus' disciples - through the Holy Spirit's guidance - will be able to understand how those who do not believe in Jesus' teachings will succumb to lives of emptiness - wallowing in self-centeredness (sin).

They will be able to perceive how Jesus' returning to his relationship with God in the spiritual realm relates directly to understanding how we too can re-establish our loving relationship with God - translated to the word "righteousness" (see above). They will come to know that not seeing Jesus' physical body means that Jesus has returned to his relationship with God in the spiritual realm.

And lastly, the translation says: "and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned."

Again the word κρίσις (krisis) is being translated to judgment, which is okay as long as the context regards the ability to discern, separate or understand. 

This ability to discern is expressed with, "the prince of this world now stands condemned." What does this mean?

Many will automatically assume this is the "devil" or "satan" - a mythical being who has wrestled the world away from God and now somehow controls certain things here.

First, no one has wrestled any control over anything from God. God is always in control. Of everything.

Is sin caused by the devil?

Some portray that sin is caused by the "devil" or "satan." They are saying that "sin" is not our fault. It is someone else's fault.

They will say that either sin is caused by Adam's "original sin" or that it is caused by "satan." Which is it? And why is sin all their fault?

This is a way to conveniently escape responsibility. We don't want to feel responsible for our own self-centeredness (sinfulness). We don't want to feel responsible for our activities that hurt others (sin) or hurt ourselves (sin). We don't want to feel responsible for our offenses towards God and God's representatives (sin).

We use "satan" to take responsibility for our self-centeredness (sinfulness) because we do not want to change.

Every good psychologist or social worker knows the key ingredient to making any change is to first face ourselves and take responsibility. This is the first step to change.

So we cannot blame Adam's "original sin" or "satan" or the "devil" for our self-centered consciousness. This is our issue. We must take responsibility.

Rather, the concepts of "original sin," "devil" and "satan" are symbolic, just as Jesus' use of the phrase "the prince of this world."

And just who is "the prince of this world"? It is self-centeredness. It is each of us who are focused upon seeking our self-centered goals within this material world. It is the chasing of fame, wealth, attention, recognition and sensual satisfaction of the physical body. 

These are symbolically being represented by Jesus as "the prince of this world" because being focused upon using the things of this world for my own satisfaction is precisely what the virtual physical universe was designed for. The Supreme Being wanted to give us our freedom.

Our "original sin" happened for each of us. Each of us did the "original sin" at some point. This was the point where we decided we didn't want to love and please the Supreme Being. We wanted to love and please ourselves. We wanted to be master, not servant. We wanted to be king, not subject.

Now Jesus is stating here that once he leaves the physical world - after his physical body is murdered - and returns to the spiritual realm, he will be invoking the expansive quality (Holy Spirit) of God - his Beloved - to come and be with his disciples to guide them and help purify their consciousness and help give them discernment - the ability to perceive the difference between the path to happiness and the path to emptiness.

Happiness comes from loving and caring for the Supreme Being. It comes from working on behalf of our Best Friend and Constant Companion - our only Soul Mate - God. It comes from directing our lives in a practical way towards pleasing God. This is how Jesus lived: As well as those of Jesus' disciples who were guided by the Advocate - including James, Peter and others. They all were guided back to their loving relationships with God in the spiritual realm, just as Jesus promised them.