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
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 23:49

13 Answers 13


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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    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 15:52

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.


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.


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! Commented Dec 9, 2018 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 Commented Dec 9, 2018 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 Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 16:58

Jesus is the Light of the world, light to the world, bringing Truth, and understanding, Wisdom, as The Word of God - more and more we are corrupting and rejecting the Word of God, both in The Name of God, and apart from the Name of God, without the church, and within, night has been coming upon us little by little ever since God's Light first shone upon us, night, I believe, simply indicates the degree to which the world, and in particular the Christian church, have turned away from God's Truth, even in the Name of God. "Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not what I tell you."

Night time indicates the degree of Satan's success in corrupting us yet again. Not being able to work, to me, reveals people's intolerance of, and rejection of God's Word, His Truth, His Word of Command - i:e - "You must." We do not care to know any more, we rely upon our claim of having "faith," not upon our faithful actions, acts of obedience, many do not even know what it is they must obey, and do, or indeed why, and yet it is a simple message we were brought, of repentance, baptisms (two), and a life of continued loving obedience.

People's ears are either dulled, or else they itch for another message, but God's Truth seems unwanted by many, not sought and desired, but rejected, even fought against, and that by the church also - yes, night is coming, is here, and reveals the degree of Satan's success to date. God puts an end to this time, lest no man be saved, another indication of the nature of that time, the spiritual darkness of it. We see it all around us today, with the changing nature of society, a darkness, a night time, within our own hearts and minds, a desire for that which God condemns.

sincerely. David.

Hello, Lesley, I will try my best give some clarity to what I have so far said, though time is an issue, as I work long hours in the construction industry, so I will do so bit by bit if I may, as I am able to - please feel free to add any Scriptural references or texts where I mention what Scripture has said, but do not reference it myself, I was expelled from a fellowship some twenty years ago now, for confronting, with love I might add, cruel behaviour within the pastor's family, that was causing great harm to other members of his family, hid daughter in particular; I have also made a stand against the 'Toronto Blessing,' though I was once involved with it, and deceived by it, and also the false 'Binding and Loosing' claims with which Satan ensnares Christians with great fear, so I have become very much cast out for my actions, and my telling people that we must be baptized in both water, and with The Person of The Holy Spirit, by Whom, and by Which we are born again as children of God, to become Christians - Anointed ones - has also found me being rejected and accused. I have therefore, not attended any fellowship for twenty plus years, but studied alone, with God by my side, by way of His Word, and His Own indwelling Spirit, and it has been a blessing, and a wilderness, a time of much joy, and much distress.

We have been told that we are not expected to give that which is Holy to the dogs, or cast pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot, and turn and tear you to pieces. The swine and the dogs indicate the character of people, people who reject God, His Word and His Spirit, even though they may claim to have faith in some cases, a great many 'Christians' reject God's Word (Jesus), and Spirit, and this number of people who reject God, regardless of what they may say, is growing, as countless denominations, and new gospels have come in to existence since Jesus came to bring us His good news, the simple Truth of The Gospel - repentance, baptisms, and continued loving obedience.

Darkness, night, comes, as we increasingly reject God's Light, the darkness is not a lack of daylight, but a lack of spiritual light - I was blind, but now I see - "I did not know I was coveting, until I knew The Law said 'Do not covet'" but increasingly today it seems that people do not care - "The fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom, but we do not seem to have that respectful and loving fear of God as we accept Who He is, His Kingship, and Majesty, His Lordship as our Father God and Creator. We have been taught to fear the minister, or the ministry, fearful of contending for The Faith, defending God's Word, instead tolerating or accepting even welcoming a new gospel, but we seem not to fear God and His Righteous judgment, His weighing of our lives, our desires and intentions.

No man can believe unless he has first heard, and no-one can hear unless someone is sent to preach (preaching, telling people God's Word, is the real act of "Binding," - you shall/must not, and "Loosing," - you shall/must).

The increasing darkness in mankind's heart, the rejection of God's Word, the mocking of His Name, even by Christians, makes our work of telling out, preaching, teaching God's Word - our work - harder and harder, until it becomes almost if not entirely impossible, then no man can work.

Our work, our telling out The Gospel, should bring increase, but instead Jesus asks "Will there be faith," when He returns, and says if those days (of darkness) were not cut short, no man would survive, of course, death does not destroy our lives, no, but sin does, unrighteousness that separates us from God.

Many will say to Jesus, "Lord, Lord," and yet, He will say to them, I never knew you - "If we do not love, we do not know - KNOW - God, for God is Love," so what is Love - Love is the very Spirit and Nature of God, His Character, but what is Love - we are told to hate the sin, but love the sinner, that requires discipline - love and discipline are lacking, "If you bite and devour one-another, be careful lest you destroy one-another." The fellowship I once attended, and loved dearly, destroyed each other, because of a lack of love and discipline, yet boasted in themselves, and signs and wonders, letting strange new doctrines deceive them as their own pride blinded them to God's Word.

A time is coming when men will not receive/welcome sound doctrine, but will choose those who will tell them what their itching ears wish to hear - that time is here, and has been for quite some time.

A powerful deception to cause those who do not love The Truth to believe that which is false - that is here also, and has been for many years now, and has deceived many within the Church, it was allowed, to test the Church, not the world, the Church, the true Church, the baptized with The Holy Spirit, born-again Church, the only Church, those people that have Satan's full attention, upon whom he concentrates his efforts, the children of God, born-again children of God - as He was, so are we in this world.

Night time, darkness, is here.

Also, take a look at the book of Joel, chapter two is it, bit by bit see what is taken away.

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    – Lesley
    Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 16:02

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."

  • Cryptic indeed.
    – m4n0
    Commented Apr 7 at 10:04

"Night" is the end of the world when neither him nor his disciples can't bear fruit, i.e. preach the gospel anymore.

Day is the time frame when God called Christ to preach the gospel to the time chosen by God for Christ to die in persecution.

Day is also the time frame when Christ called the apostles to the time chosen by Christ for each of the apostles to die till there is no one left. When there is no one left, I.e. the apostles, then comes "night"(the second coming of Christ). This second coming has taken place already when all his chosen apostles died in persecution. Those that did not die in persecution because they ran away trying to save their lives as a result of persecution and thus abandoned the work of their calling which in this case means sin, are the ones that can't work anymore when Christ comes if they had not return to the faith (repented) and their task of preaching.

So, by now, you are expected to know what Christ meant when he said to the fig tree you shall never bear fruit again.

Prove that the second coming has taken place in Luke 21:32-33

Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.


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).


Right after Jesus said in John 9:4

4 "We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. "

He said, in 9:5,

5 "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."

In my opinion, 9:5 explained what "day" and "night" in 9:4 mean. "Day" means when Jesus was in the world where He was the light, and "night" means when Jesus was no longer in the world.

When we read John 9:3 and John 9:4 together, there is no reason to think that the "works" in these two verses are not the same:

3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. "

Let's ask these questions: 1) In 9:3, what works of God was about to be displayed in the blind man? 2) In 9:4, what works did God send Jesus to do? 3) How was the works displayed in the blind man related to the works God sent Jesus to do?

  1. What works was about to be displayed in the blind man? The healing miracle, confirming Jesus' earlier teaching in John 8.
  2. What works did God send Jesus to do? Mainly to die on the cross, as the Messiah, to save mankind.
  3. How was the works displayed in the blind man related to the works God sent Jesus to do? The miracle helped to confirm that Jesus is the Messiah (see Matthew 11:2-6).

Therefore, I think that the work that no one can work when Jesus was no longer on earth was performing all the Messianic miracles (see Matthew 11:2-6) . These miracles are fullfilment of Messianic prophecies in Isaiah 35:5-6. They are works of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit together, thus "we" as subject in 9:4.

Bible References:

Matthew 11:2-6 (ESV):

2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples

3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see:

5 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.

6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Isaiah 35:5-6 (ESV):

5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. ...

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