We’ve started looking at the most famous Bible verse of all—John 3:16. How God so loved every single human being on the planet that He gave what was most precious to Him—Jesus. And He did this so we could participate in the same fellowship of mutual devotion and other-centered love that the Father and Son have enjoyed since before the foundation of the world.
And He wants us to experience that fellowship now, not just when we get to heaven. We were created to be “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet.1:4).
If you haven’t already read the previous parts, I suggest you do so before continuing.
Okay, here we go. We’re in the middle of John 3:16:
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
So that you don’t live a wasted life
What’s interesting here is that Jesus considers living a life apart from this Eternal Love Fest a wasted life….
“that whoever believes in Him should not perish…”
First, briefly, to “believe” simply means to put your trust in something or someone. In this case, it means those who trust the “truth” that Jesus is the “way” to living His “life” with His Father (John 14:6).
Second, what does Jesus mean by saying “should not perish”? The Greek word for “perish,” (ἀπόλλυμι, or apollymi), can certainly mean “to destroy,” and Adam’s sin did introduce death into the world. But something much deeper and more amazing is missed if we stop here.
Apollymi can also mean to be “lost.” For example, Jesus sent His disciples to the “lost sheep of Israel” (Matt.10:6). They weren’t the destroyed sheep of Israel! They were simply lost sheep without a shepherd (cf. Matt.9:36).
To be lost (instead of “be destroyed”) also fits what Jesus told James and John when they wanted to call fire down on the Samaritans, like Elijah…
56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy [apollymi] men’s lives but to save them.” (Luke 9:56 *)
Satan is the one who came to “steal, kill, and destroy” what God has intended for man (John 10:10), yet we were willing participants and, through Adam, helped to build Satan’s false construct called “this world” (also Greek word, kosmos (cf. 1 John 2:15), but in this context, it means “arranged order or system”). As Morpheus would put it, “This is the world that’s been pulled over our eyes…the Matrix.”
Tragically, we developed Stockholm Syndrome for our captors (both religious and secular) and gladly assumed our alien identities, for the “god of this world” had blinded us to our true selves (2 Cor.4:4; 1 John 5:19).
The early church fathers also saw that Jesus’ mission was to heal us from the corruption and alienation that entered the world through Adam (see part two). Here’s what Athanasius (298 -373 AD) said about this in his work, On the Incarnation:
Then, turning from eternal things to things corruptible, by counsel of the devil, they had become the cause of their own corruption in death… (Kindle loc. 116)
Further on, Athanasius says this about the Father’s heart toward our predicament (emphasis mine):
It would, of course, have been unthinkable that God should go back upon His word and that man, having transgressed, should not die; but it was equally monstrous that beings which once shared the nature of the Word should perish and turn back again into non-existence through corruption….what then was God, being Good, to do? Was He to let corruption and death have their way with them?
…It was impossible, therefore, that God should leave man to be carried off by corruption, because it would be unfitting and unworthy of Himself. (loc. 139-146 *)
Would you try to save him or her because you were angry that they disobeyed your rules? Or, would you search heaven and earth because you couldn’t think of the possibility of living without them?
Furthermore, would you go to any length to have them safely returned to you? Of course you would. If you can picture this, then you get a very small glimpse of the Father’s love because that’s exactly what He did for you!
Jesus described His Father’s love for the “lost” in three parables in Luke 15:4-31: the lost sheep (15:4-7), the lost coin (15:8-10), and the lost son (15:11-31). All three stories speak of our value in this Father’s eyes and the outright scandalous depths of His unwillingness to see any of us remain alienated from Him.
A threat or a warning?
One more thing that’s relevant to understanding God’s heart for us. When God said to Adam and Eve about the forbidden fruit, that “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen.2:17), was that a threat (“or I will kill you!”) or a warning (“or IT will kill you”)? Because how you answer that question says a lot about your view of God.
Among all the reasons Jesus came, one important one we should not miss is that God sent Jesus to save us from ourselves. That we “should not perish” is a fervent plea from a heavenly Papa who loves you more than you could possibly know! He implores all of mankind…Please! BE reconciled! (2 Cor.5:19-20). This is not a threat. He doesn’t want you to live a wasted life, living like an orphan, according to this world system…the “rat-race” that manipulates our fear, envy, greed, lust, and need for self-projection (narcissism).
Jesus came to free us and give us eternal life, which shouldn’t just be simplistically reduced to living somewhere nice forever! But we’ll have to look at that next time.