In John 9:4, Jesus stated,

...night is coming, when no one can work. ESV, ©2016

The immediate context is that Jesus is healing a blind person. The first clause of the verse is:

We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day... ESV, ©2016

The person who sent Jesus was God the Father. In John 6:29 it records Jesus saying,

This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. ESV, ©2016

This suggests that believing in God is ruled out, once the “night” comes. However, in Luke 18:8, Jesus asks if the he will find faith on the earth when he comes, which at least leaves the possibility of belief even when it is “night.”

What type of work is impossible in the “night”? Does such impossibility preclude God’s own action, such as in the impossible case of reconciling a sinner (cf. Mark 10:27)?

  • Good question and welcome to the Biblical hermeneutics SE. – ThaddeusB Aug 13 '15 at 23:49

10 Answers 10


I believe that the "night" that Jesus refers to is the time of the final bowl judgements of Revelation that immediately precede his second coming.

It is important to note that at the time of his return, normal human activity continues ie sharing a bed, grinding corn, marrying and being given in marriage etc. His return precipitates a separation of humanity. Those who are living in faith towards him rise to meet him in the air. Why? Why do they not go to heaven and meet him there??

I believe that the reason is that Jesus and all the redeemed with him, together with all of the angelic host, have left heaven in order to bring God's rule to the earth and to establish the Millennium. The establishment of his rule will mean "the removal of everything from his kingdom that causes sin and all who choose sin." Thus there is the most terrible separation of the redeemed from the condemned.

We know that "God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked one turns from his evil way and lives." It therefore gives God no pleasure whatsoever to remove a human being from his presence, but if that one has chosen evil rather than Him, God respects that choice. However that choice becomes fixed forever at this time of judgement. The parable of Dives and Lazarus makes it abundantly clear that the separation of the believing and the unbelieving is final.

Thus, the final bowl judgements are designed to say to those who are right on the very brink of hell "Do you really, really want to choose hell rather than Me? If you do, then I will respect your choice!" Within these bowl judgements, which are the very brief period of time at the end of Daniels final "week" of seven years, there is still time to repent, but normal human work and life will be utterly impossible.

The silence in heaven for "half an hour" in Rev 8:1 is precisely because of the devastating judgements that are about to be poured out upon the earth. These are listed through the rest of chapter eight, whose final verse concludes "terror, terror, terror to all who belong to this world." (Note that Hebrew uses a word three times to give the maximum emphasis cf Is 6:3. Though Rev is written in Greek, the thought forms are ALWAYS from the Hebrew, as in all of the NT)

Note that the redeemed are STILL PRESENT on the earth, but are protected by their sealing from judgement (9:4) They remain present until the seventh trumpet is sounded and "God's mysterious plan will be fulfilled" Rev 10:7 At this point, the world has experienced the first three woes/terrors of Rev 9 which observes the lack of repentance v20,21.

The point of this is that they could have repented. They chose not to. The redeemed were still on the earth as a witness, protected by God. After the last trumpet issounded and the redeemed are removed from the earth, the seven bowl judgmements of Rev 16 commence. These judgements are so terrible that normal human work becomes impossible. This is very obvious from their descriptions in this chapter. I believe that this chapter 16, the time immediately preceding Christ's arrival, is the time "when no man can work."

I would greatly appreciate feedback and comments on this very, very important teaching of Jesus.

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The night is death. Work refers to serving God and doing good works.

Jesus, in this passage, senses his own coming death. In the verse after, John 9:5, Jesus says that he is the light of the world as long as he is in the world. Therefore, when he leaves the world (in the sense of his death and ascension), day becomes night.

John 6:29 mentions a single all-encompassing "work" (ἔργον - pronounced ergon - singular), while John 9:4 mentions plural "works" (ἔργα - pronounced erga - plural). John 9:4 is not referring to the same work of believing in John 6:29 but rather the works that Jesus and his apostles/disciples do such as healing the blind in this particular event.

For further uses of the word, "works", look at John 10:22-39, Jesus argues with the pharisees that they should believe in him because he does the works of the father.

  • the works I do in my Father's name bears witness about me (John 10:25)
  • I have shown you many good works from the Father (John 10:32)
  • If I have am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me (John 10:37)

Obviously, the works being referred to here do not denote believing because Jesus believing in himself would prove nothing to the pharisees. It seems that the best understanding of works in this case is simply good works that please God, i.e. serving him.

John Gill says the following on this verse:

the night cometh when no man can work; meaning the night of death, and of the grave, and suggesting his own death hereby, that he had but a little time to be in this world, and therefore would make the best use of it, to do the will and work of his Father that sent him; and which should be a pattern to us. This life is but short, it is but as the length of a day; a great deal of business is to be done; and death is hastening on, which will put a period to all working.

The Pulpit commentary as well as the ESV Study Bible both agree with John Gill's assessment. Jesus is teaching his disciples to work and serve God while they have time.


This scripture has multiple fulfillments throughout time.

Paul said "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel" (I Corinthians 1:17a). The main work that they were to do was to preach the gospel. After Christ's death, they were all afraid and did not preach (John 20:19).

When Saul was hunting those that called on His name people were afraid (Acts 9:1,2,21). If they shared the gospel with someone who was not a believer, they were subject to being turned in by them and thrown into jail or killed.

During the coming time of the antichrist, many will be silent and unable to witness because whomsoever that do not worship him will be hunted down and beheaded (Revelation 20:4 * 6:9-11 * 7:14 * 12:6,17 * 13:7,15 * 17:6 * Daniel 11:32-35 * Lamentations 3:45-52 * 4:17-20).

That will be a time of great darkness upon the earth. Many will be hiding as seen in this verse:

20Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. Isaiah 26:20

  • Hi Think on These Things, could you explain your verses in a little more detail? I don't really understand your full meaning. Thanks for answering! – phil-al-sophy Dec 9 '18 at 5:44
  • I am not sure what explanation that you are looking for but I have added example verses after some of the sentences to aid in your understanding. @phil-al-sophy – Think On These Things Dec 9 '18 at 8:16
  • I was looking for more explication of your verses, rather than you throwing out verses left and right and using one sentence as a summary of what happened. Basically, in the future, I believe you should explain your verses in more detail (even if they are only examples) after using them. Now I understand your answer better, kudos to you. +1 – phil-al-sophy Dec 9 '18 at 16:58

I believe Jesus was being cryptic there and literally meant "Once the Judgment Day comes, the time for work (mostly the work of evangelization and building God's kingdom) is done because it's time for all of us to account before God our work/human life."


Evidently, people can work during the night. The only time Israelites were prohibited from working was during the Sabbath.

Therefore, when Jesus says “night,” he doesn’t mean that period of day after sunset and before sunrise. Rather, he is referring to death, for it is written in Ecclesiastes, “...there is no work...in Sheʾol” (אֵין מַעֲשֶׂה...בִּשְׁאוׁל).1

“Night”2 and “darkness”3 are synonymous, as it is written,4

...and he called the darkness, “night.”

Elsewhere in scripture, darkness is used in the context of death and the grave.5 In secular Greek literature of that era, “night” was a recognized metaphor for death.6

For example, in Iliad, Homer wrote,7

Then the warrior fell upon his knees, and thus abode, and with his stout hand leaned he upon the earth; and dark night enfolded his eyes. And now would the king of men, Aeneas, have perished...

αὐτὰρ ὅ γ᾽ ἥρως ἔστη γνὺξ ἐριπὼν καὶ ἐρείσατο χειρὶ παχείῃ γαίης: ἀμφὶ δὲ ὄσσε κελαινὴ νὺξ ἐκάλυψε. καί νύ κεν ἔνθ᾽ ἀπόλοιτο ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Αἰνείας...

On the Greek word νύξ (“night”), John Pickering wrote,8

Pickering, νύξ, p. 917


1 Ecc. 9:10
2 Hebrew חֹשֶׁךְ; Greek σκότος
3 Hebrew לַיִל; Greek νύξ
4 Gen. 1:5 cf. Psa. 104:20
5 Job 3:5, 10:21, 12:22, 17:13, 28:3, 34:22; Psa. 107:10, 107:14; Isa. 9:2
6 cf. Aeschylus, Persians §839–840
7 Book 5, §308–311, p. 91 cf. Book 11, §356, p. 215
8 p. 917


Homer. Homer, Iliad, Books I-XII. Ed. Monro, David Binning. 5th ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1906.

Homer. The Iliad with an English Translation. Trans. Murray, Augustus Taber. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1924.

Pickering, John. A Comprehensive Lexicon of the Greek Language, Adapted to the Use of Colleges and Schools in the United States. Rev. ed. Boston: Rice, 1854.


I'd suggest that Christ isn't emphasizing an eschatological night but rather any typical period when we cannot really work. Not a thorough preclusion of work of any particular kind but rather the typical passive absence of work once evening comes.In this light the works the Lord tells us to do ought to be done whenever we can do them. Not even during tribulations does he sleep or slumber, but even though all ten virgins fall asleep, five have already been industrious enough to have acquired enough oil to find the door from which an announcer cries that a bridegroom now awaits a viewing of prospective brides.The five that slough off the pre sleeping lazy ones by distracting them with the ruse that in pitch black darkness they can find merchants still open for business are giving apt testimony to how well they'd already practiced their skills. Even when awakened in the middle of the night they're still very good at misdirecting the lazy scofflaws just so that they alone can hoard the attention of the gorgeous bridegroom. It would appear that the Father of the groom, himself a tireless worker, expects a bride for his son that will work forever. The wise women would perceive that the demanding groom left the job description posted on the door, not to be perused but to be practiced.


Interesting, answers but Hebrews don't relate things in linear ways, it's a picture and all relates. In Yohanan (Jn )chptr 7- chptr 9 it's the week of the festival of Sukkot the last great day of the festival was why no man works and the Hebrew people always then and now recon a day from (ereb) evening to evening (sunset to sunset). It is a command of Messiah's Father for all not to do any kind of work on the first day and the last of Sukkot. Not withstanding that day is after the Messiah has returned cleaned the unrighteousness and the FATHER comes to Reign. HalleluYah


Night is coming, when no one can work

John 9:4 (NASB)

"We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work."

In John 9:4 Jesus emphasizes that it is important to do the works of the One that send him, then night is coming when no one can work. The word "night is used metaphorically ,Jesus was referring to his death, which will throw him into sheol (Eccl. 9:10) and would thus be unable to carry out the works of his father.


I think it worth considering the use of the word "man" (and notably not "God"). Jesus says that night is coming when no man can do work.

There is a story in the gospels that I believe hints and what this might mean. In this story a man had brought his son to Jesus's disciples to cast out a demon. This seems reasonable as Jesus had charged his disciples to go out and (among other things), cast out unclean spirits. However, this man points out Jesus, that the disciples could not do it. Jesus's initial response was something like: "O faithless generation, how long shall I remain with you!" Then Jesus casts out the devil. Normally, the demons cry out to Jesus and he tells them to shut their mouth. However, we are given some extra information in this exorcism. Jesus asks the demon its name, and the response is "Legion, for we are many". Apparently, demons get more obstinate when in groups. When the disciples asked Jesus about it later, Jesus told them that "this kind come out only with much prayer and fasting."

There is another story in the gospels that I believe can help. In this story, Jesus had gone to Nazareth after delivering the fabled Sermon on the mount. However, when he gets to Nazareth the scriptures say that he could do no great work there because of their unbelief, except he laid hands on a few sick people. Apparently, Jesus was either limited in what he could do based on their faith, or had imposed (by self or by God) limitations that he would not do certain things without faith of those he was trying to help. Either way, Jesus could not do the works of him who sent him and we are told it was due to their faithlessness.

Finally, we are told in the scriptures that there is a great taking away to meet our Lord in sky. Without going into the discussion on pre-trib, mid-trib, and post-trib positions, it can definitely be assumed that this particular rapture of the saints, is not at the same coming of Jesus he is speaking of when he says, "When I return will I find faith in the earth?" We know this because we are saved by Faith, and if he thought there was a chance there was no faith on the earth, I believe the scriptures would only discuss the "possibility" of a rapture. That possibility would have been dangled much like the possibility of going to either heaven or hell.

I believe this all means that the "night when no man can work" is most probably a time when there is little to no faith in the world. That time is going to (at least be) when the faithful are raptured to be with their Lord. Who knows, it may be earlier, but I think it is at least at that point. Then, when there can be no mighty works done (because the faithful have been pulled out of the earth), people will largely be left only with the Christ's message. They will still have the 2 witnesses who will perform works, but I believe that will be similar to the exception provided for in Christ's visit to Nazareth and will be done so that the prophecies might be fulfilled.

Most people in the Gospels responded with faith after seeing Christ's works. Whether it was raising the dead, healing the sick, or feeding the masses. However, we should note that the gospels never mention throngs of people coming when he distilled the message down to: "*If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." It is then for us to consider how the world will be when his church is called to him and only his word remains. This, I believe, is the night.


It's most likely that Jesus is referring to the coming centuries-long persecution (Constantine legalized Christianity in 313 in the year of our Lord) wrought by the "darkness" Jᴏʜɴ 1:5 (over and against "the children of the light and of the day" 1 Tʜᴇssᴀʟᴏɴɪᴀɴs 5:5) beginning from His arrest onward. When Jesus is arrested and the persecution begins, there would be no opportunity to do His work, which here refers to establishing God's kingdom or reign on earth.

As for John 6:29, Jesus isn't literally saying that the apostles won't do "the works of God" (miracles in context, corresponding to the chiding for sign-seeking in v. 26), but that they are to seek faith first: "This is the work of God." That is, faith is the only instrumental means of performing miracles, and this comes from God; and they cannot continue in the sign-seeking mentality, which is incompatible with faith, which seeks no sign.

I would also suggest that Mark 10:27 is not speaking about the impossibility of keeping the law of God, but the impossibility of the natural man doing so, and the possibility of keeping it by the power and grace of God (although human weakness necessitates we trip and fall Rᴏᴍᴀɴs 7:22-23, for which grace, not the letter of the Law, allows).

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