John 1:29 says, "The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'" (Read John 1:19-34 by clicking here.)
This verse recounts John the Baptist's famous reaction upon seeing Jesus near the Jordan River. In reading this verse, it is clear that Jesus is the Lamb of God, and that Jesus takes away sin. What is not immediately clear is what John means by "world."
Many people read this verse and immediately assume that "world" refers to all individual people on the globe. If that is the case, then the verse is telling us that Jesus takes away the sin of every individual on earth.
The obvious problem with this interpretation is that if Jesus did, in fact, take away the sin of every individual on earth, then all sin of all time would have been paid for on the cross. If this is the case, then all people will be saved because there is no more sin to be paid for. This, then, means that no one will end up in Hell. However, we know based on various parts of scripture that many people will end up spending eternity in Hell.
So in John 1:29 what does "world" mean?
I believe that when John the Baptist says "world" he is referring to people all over the globe. John was making the point that Jesus would be THE sacrifice for sin that would save people from all over the earth. Jesus was to be more than the Jewish Messiah; He would also be the Savior for people all over the world.
If "world" does refer to people all over the globe, then the verse makes perfect sense in light of what we see in the rest of scripture. Jesus takes away sin of some people. This is what we see when some people go to Heaven and some go to Hell. Jesus takes away sin of some people all over the world. This is what we see in scripture as both Jews and Gentiles repent and believe in Christ. Even some people as far away as Rome trust in Jesus for salvation.
We must be careful when we read scripture. We must interpret bible passages in light of other passages. This verse is one of many that shows us that Jesus died for the sins of His followers - the elect. He did not die for the sins of the entire world; if this was the case then everyone would be saved.
Jesus is the Lamb of God. Jesus takes away sin. Jesus takes away the sin of some people all over the globe.