Mercy Light?

I’ve heard a couple of Bible teachers recently make the following statement, using almost the exact same phrase:

God doesn’t give additional light until the light that’s been given has been received.

Two of the people that I’ve heard repeating this statement regularly teach the Word of God to various audiences. As best as I can tell, these people don’t know each other, and don’t live in the same city. Since their wording is so similar, I’m guessing there’s a common source.

The thinking behind this line is that God gives only enough truth/light to illuminate your current position. He doesn’t give more than what you have received, because you’re not ready for it, and you’ll be under greater condemnation if you reject it. As tells us, to whom much is given, much is required. So God, because of His great mercy, will always withold light until the light that’s been given has been accepted. Only then will He give more light.

I’m curious about this line because not only is it not in the Bible, it’s not even Biblical!

Yes, it’s true that with greater light comes greater accountability and condemnation, and yes, God may mercifully withold more light sometimes – but it doesn’t necessarily follow that God will always withold that greater light, and in fact, on serveral occasions, we see Him doing precisely the opposite!

More Light, More Heat

is a distrubing passage on several levels, and is perhaps the clearest example of Jesus giving more light even after the light that was given was rejected:

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (, ESV)

In the chapters leading up to this passage, Jesus had been preaching in the various towns of the region of Galilee. Many people in these towns accepted His miracles for their self-centered personal benefit, but as a whole, they rejected His message for their spiritual benefit. So Jesus denounced them, and informed them that they were deservedly headed for hell. But look at the kind hell they were headed to: not a “normal” hell that Sodom and Gomorrah would experience, but one worse because they had rejected “mighty works”! Thes cities had not just heard nice sermons that they rejected (the Beatitudes: Matthew 5-7), they had seen miracle after miracle after miracle – and rejected those too. If “Mercy Light” is a prevailing principle of God’s, why did He give more light when they didn’t accept His few teachings and miracles? Why wasn’t He interested in saving them from a worse fate than Sodom and Gomorrah’s? Wouldn’t He have wanted less condemnation for them than Sodom and Gomorrah would receive?

What Did He Know, And When Did He Know It?

In order to fully appreciate the situation, we should start by asking a simple question: When Jesus walked into a new town, did He know, in advance, who would believe His message? Because if He knew and He wanted to practice the “Mercy Light” principle, He would only speak to those who would believe, and would not share one iota with those who wouldn’t believe. This would save them from all sorts of condemnation, right?

The answer to that question is ‘yes’. Jesus is one with God and is all-knowing. even explicitly answers this question.

So.. if the “Mercy Light” principle was Jesus’ desire, why did Jesus preach a single word to those whom He knew would not believe? All it would do is serve to further condemn them.

Mercy Parables

We do see Him practicing the “Mercy Light” strategy in a sense. Starting in , we see Jesus deliberately using parables so that those for whom the kingdom of God was not granted to would not hear about and understand the kingdom of God and repent. But rather, only His disciples would hear and understand. (Matthew 13:10-17; also with v33 & 34). Unfortunately, this is a bad example of Mercy Light because He waited till after these cities were guilty of a horrible condemnation. Why did He wait so long?

Furthermore, if His desire was for them to repent, why are these truths hidden as parables “lest” they should hear, understand, repent and be forgiven? (Matthew 13:15; ; )

Gracious Hiding

For me, the most curious part of this passage is Jesus’ prayer after He denounces these cities:

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” (Matthew 11:25-26, ESV)

Yes, there is a hiding going on, and yes, as Jesus states, it is the gracious will of God. But according to the repeated explanation of the parables, the focus of the hiding is not to avert a worse judgment, it’s to prevent people from seeing/hearing/understanding and repenting. Personally, I’m still trying to figure out how that’s “gracious.”

When I asked how this was gracious, one preacher explained it by saying that hiding these truths in parables would graciously avert a worse judgment for His audience. I can only assume he wasn’t thinking about what he was reading. When I pointed out that Jesus deliberately gave them so much light they were now  worse off than Sodom and Gomorrah, he offered no further explanation. Unless we’re willing to believe that Sodom and Gomorrah is only headed for Hell #1 and Capernaum and company are headed for Hell #2, while Hitler is headed for Hell #10.  That’d be gracious – but considering the fate that Jesus called down from heaven on Sodom and Gomorrah (), I can’t bring myself to that conclusion.

From where I sit, this Mercy Light business is a nice-sounding but horribly wrong explanation for what we see going on in the Scriptures.


48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. (ESV)


20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (ESV)


20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (ESV)


46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. (ESV)


13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table close to Jesus, 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times. (ESV)


10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that

“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
(ESV)


12 so that

“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
(ESV)


37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,

40 “He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them.” (ESV)


11:1 When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written,

“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’

11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,

17 “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (ESV)


24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. (ESV)

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