For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life, NKJV.
Our last post looked at John 3:16 as the most popular and beloved verse in Scripture. And it is a wonderful truth, as we stated, that grace and mercy have been extended to Gentiles apart from their having to become Jews. I have nothing against the Jewish people; if you’ve followed me for any length of time, that should be apparent. They have their own place in the redemptive purpose of God, and it is theirs. In spite of those who teach otherwise, God is not done with Israel, even though a terrible time does await her. But, after that time is over, an even more glorious future is promised her by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Jeremiah 31:31-34.
This post will focus on one word in John 3:16: perish. This thought isn’t nearly as welcome as the thought of the love of God. However, we cannot isolate one aspect of God’s nature and ignore the rest. God is love, yes, as 1 John 4:8, 16. And we are required to love one another, John 13:34, 35; 15:12, 17, which is our Lord’s command, and there are about 15 references to this in the rest of the New Testament.
At the same time, though, according to God’s own testimony about Himself, “love” is not His defining characteristic. In Leviticus 11:44, 45, God commanded Israel, ‘For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. … For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”
“I am holy.”
That is God’s basic nature. Leviticus 19:2; 20;26; 21:8 and 1 Peter1:16 all repeat this idea. Further, God is called The Holy One of Israel more than 30 times in the Old Testament.
The word translated, “holy,” means “separate.” It tells us that God is “separate” from His creation. He is not part of it or “in” it, as the pantheist or the panentheist tells us. Pantheism tells us that everything is God and God is everything, hence the worship of trees and such. The panentheist says that while God is not everything, He is in everything. Though not the tree Himself, He is in the tree. Both of those views miss the mark. God is “separate” from His creation. He is Spirit, as John 4:24 tells us. He’s not flesh-and-blood, though the Lord Jesus became that when He came into this world to redeem sinners. He is not some material “thing,” like wood or stone. He is Spirit; we don’t even really know what “spirit” is. God is also separate in the fact that He morally above His creation: He cannot sin. Everything He does is right and true and good, though man foolishly and wickedly imagines that he can sit in judgment on the Most High.
And He’s not a figment of our imaginations. One of these days, we’ll find that out.
What does all this have to do with “perish”?
Because God is holy, He cannot and will not overlook sin. Even though it may seem like individuals, and groups, and nations, are getting away with their blatant disregard for His Word, it is still true that, it is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment, Hebrews 9:27. Without getting into the various views about that coming judgment, Scripture does clearly indicate that we all, every one of us, will stand before Him in judgment.
Revelation 20:11-15 is one such description:
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things written in the books. The sea gave up the dead which were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead which were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”
That is what it means to “perish”.
This is why the Lord Jesus came to this earth. It wasn’t just to give us Christmas or Easter, or to fuel arguments over which religion, church or denomination is the “right” one. It was to atone for sin, to pay that awful penalty hinted at in the word, “perish.” It was to provide that righteousness, the lack of which is part of the reason people will perish. It was to take the place of those who believe on Him for salvation.
He died, so that we might live.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.