The apostle John famously records Jesus telling the apostles that they would be guided into “all truth”1. A casual reading of this might lead some to conclude that the apostles literally received all truth. It is, after all, what the verse tells us. The adjective “all” means “the whole amount, quantity, or extent of” according to Webster,and the Greek word (‘pas’) isn’t going to lead to anything different. During these last hours of Jesus’ life in the upper room, were the apostles promised to receive literally all truth?

How Scripture answers "What ‘all truth’ did the apostles receive (John 16:13)?"

The apostles ‘all truth’ was the gospel of Christ Jesus2,5,9,10,11,13 (Paul’s “spiritual truths”3). The ‘all’ was everything (a complete revelation) needed for someone to “abide in God”11 and was the same knowledge of the truth that Jesus had1,2 and embodied6. It had been a mystery5,10,13 until His coming, and proclaiming it was part of Jesus’ mission on earth10. After Jesus1,2, the apostles3,4,5,13 (and prophets5,13) were appointed/directed by God the Father1,3,13 to be His messengers of the ‘all truth’ gospel revealed to them by the Holy Spirit1,3,5,13. Additionally, it was not a literal ‘all truth’ since after this revelation there were still things only known by God the Father7,8,12.

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

1
I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
I [Jesus] have many other things to teach you [apostles], but you are not ready for them yet.  But when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all truth, not speaking from His own authority, but what He hears He will speak, declaring to you the things to come.

This entire section of Scripture (John 13-17) is Jesus in the upper room with the twelve apostles. He speaks to them directly and gives them instructions about his coming death and what will follow.

The “Spirit of truth” is the Holy Spirit, also referred to by Jesus in the “upper room” exchange with the apostles as the Helper (vs 14:26 & 15:26).

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus repeats what He said earlier2. He now qualifies the “all truth”, or “all things”2, the apostles were to receive, albeit somewhat cryptically, as “things that are to come” and only things that the Holy Spirit “hears”.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

A further qualification is provided by Jesus in the next two verses by disclosing that the Holy Spirit will hear from the Father and that “he will take what is mine [Jesus’] and declare it to you [apostles]” (vss 14-15).

2
These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

These things I [Jesus] am telling you [Apostles] while in your presence. But, God the Father will send you the Holy Spirit in My name, who will teach you all things and cause you to remember everything I have said to you.

This entire section of Scripture (John 13-17) is Jesus in the upper room with the twelve apostles. He is speaking to them directly and giving them instruction about his coming death and what will follow.

Scripture-block application to this question

Earlier on the same occasion in the upper room1, Jesus says the same thing about what the Holy Spirit will do for them but says “all things” (instead of “all truth”1).

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Jesus goes on to further qualify these “things” as His “peace” that He would leave with them (vs 27) – the gospel.

3
But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him—’ these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
Now we [the apostles] did not recieve the spirit of the world, but the Holy Spirit from God, in order that we [the apostles] can understand what has freely been given to us from Him. So we impart these to you in words not taught by man’s earthly wisdom but actually taught by the Spirit – expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words to those that are spiritual.

Paul is writing to the church in Corinth dealing with several serious issues throughout the letter, but here dealing with divisions among them and reminding them of the uniting nature of the Gospel.

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul says that “they” (apostles) received from God “spiritual truths” that were “taught by the Spirit”.

4
I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

I [Paul] have applied these things to myself and Apollos to benefit you, brethren, so you will learn not to go beyond what is written and become puffed up favoring one over another. You are not superior to anyone else. You haven’t received more than anyone else. You boast as if you weren’t freely given this gift.

In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul is calling them back to what they have learned and away from the arrogance and divisions that have crept in.

Scripture-block application to this question

Later in the context of what the apostles had been “taught by the Spirit”3, Paul instructs the Corinthians to “not go beyond what is written” – the implication being that the things taught by the Spirit were written down and shared.

5
When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

When you [Ephesians] read this [letter], you can understand my [Paul] insights into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men beforehand but has now been revealed to His appointed apostles and prophets through the Holy Spirit.

Paul is reminding them that he had disclosed “the mystery” (vs 3) to them. Specifically, in this application, it was the mystery that the Gentiles were “fellow heirs” of God’s promise (vs 6) but he goes on to talk about the “the gospel” (vs 7) more broadly as the “the mystery” brought to everyone (vs 9).

The gospel is commonly referred to as “the mystery” in Scripture as the gospel (

Col 4:3
).
Scripture-block application to this question

It was the “mystery of Christ” that had previously been unknown, but it was revealed “by the Spirit” to the apostles and prophets.

6
Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory—the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.
The Word [Jesus] became flesh and lived among us. We witnessed his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth who came from the Father.

The beginning of John’s testimony of the things he witnessed about Jesus’ time on earth.

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus was the embodiment of God’s word.

7
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
Now concerning the timing of the coming of the Lord we need not write further, since you know that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

The closing admonitions of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians that begins back at the beginning of chapter four (“Finally, then, brothers…”). Apparently, they were concerned about some that had died before the final coming of Jesus (4:13). But Paul assures them that “whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him” (vs 10).

Scripture-block application to this question

The final “day of the Lord” was still unknown to Paul after he had taught the “spiritual truths”4,5,13 that had been revealed from God.

8
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’
How great are the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! His judgments are unsearchable and His ways impossible to understand or interpret.  ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?
Paul is drawing his letter to the Christians in Rome to a conclusion.  He has just written about salvation coming to the Gentiles and illustrated it as them being branches that were “grafted in” (10:19), while warning that they too can be “broken off” again through unbelief (10:20-21).

To enforce his point of God’s great mercy and His gift of salvation available to all mankind (vs 32), Paul quotes from Isaiah 40:13, a passage he also uses in his letter to Corinth (1 Corinthians 2:16).  He also quotes or paraphrases the thoughts from Job 35:7 and/or 41:11.

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul makes a declarative statement about the depth of God’s wisdom and knowledge – that they are unfathomable. His point is that there are things we [still] don’t/can’t know that only God knows.

9
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

This is good and pleasing to God our Savior, who wishes that all people be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.

Paul’s letter to a young preacher, Timothy.  This chapter begins with specific instructions on various matters beginning with praying for all.
Scripture-block application to this question

Paul defines “the truth” here as the knowledge necessary to be saved (e.g. the gospel news of the new covenant).

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Paul goes on to describe the gospel message for which he was “appointed a preacher” (vs 7).

10
All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: ‘I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.’
The message that Jesus preached was told to the people through parables in order to fulfill what Isaiah had said about Him – that He would teach in parables and reveal what had been hidden since the beginning of time.
Jesus (in a boat) is teaching a crowd (on the beach) in a series of parables about the kingdom. He has previously explained why He is teaching in parables (vss 10-17).

This same account is given in Mark 4:33-34 which records that everything was explained privately to His disciples.

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus spoke/preached what had been hidden (e.g. the “mystery”5,13).

11
I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

I [John] am writing these things to you about those trying to deceive you. But you know what you first received from 

John, in his letter to brethren, makes refrain after refrain for them to continue to “walk in the light”.  In the first chapter, he states as, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1:6)

Scripture-block application to this question

The apostle John tells Christians that their “anointing” has taught them “about everything”.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

The “anointing” here is by “the Holy One” (vs 20) and likely is their anointing/indwelling of the Holy Spirit through baptism. It isn’t anything miraculous like the “all truth” the apostles originally received from the Holy Spirit1,2 since John has already well-qualified that their anointing “about everything” pertains to the gospel message they originally received from John and the others (vss 7, 21, 24).

12
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
The day of the Lord will come when nobody expects, and then the heavens and heavenly bodies will burn up with a roar, and all man’s deeds will be exposed.

Peter’s letters have been of encouragement to the saints to remain strong during persecution and false prophets.  God has not forgotten them or His promises (vs 8); the “day of the Lord” will come as a “thief in the night.” (vs 10)

Scripture-block application to this question

Peter doesn’t have ‘all truth’ regarding the second coming of Christ; he can only repeat what Jesus had said about it before He ascended (Matthew 24:42-44).

13
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
Therefore, to the one that can give strength according to the Word and preaching of Jesus Christ — the revealing of the mystery that was concealed for past ages but now is disclosed and through the prophetic writings made known to all people by the command of God — that which brings about the obedience of faith. To the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ, amen.
A prayer to God that serves as Paul’s closing to his letter to the Christians in Rome. This close to the Roman letter notably bookends the phrase “the obedience of faith” that Paul opened the letter with (1:5).
Scripture-block application to this question

It is the “preaching of Jesus Christ” that has been a mystery but was revealed by God’s command.

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