“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten
Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but
have everlasting life.”— John 3:16, King James Version.
That is one of the best-known and most widely quoted texts
in the entire Bible. It has been said that no other verse “so succinctly summarizes God’s relationship with humanity and
the way of salvation.” For that reason, in some countries this scripture or simply the reference “ John 3:16” is often
displayed at public events, on car stickers, in graffiti, and elsewhere.
In all likelihood, those who display the text feel convinced that God’s love guarantees their everlasting salvation. What about you? What does God’s love mean to you? And what do
you think God has done that demonstrates his love for you?
“GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD”
Many people are willing to credit God with the creation of
the physical universe, nature, and humans themselves. Living organisms are so intricate and well made that there must
surely be some great intelligence behind their existence. A
good number of people thank God daily for the gift of life.
They also recognize that they are completely dependent on
God for all of life’s necessities—such as air, water, food, and the earth’s natural cycles—so that they can continue to live and enjoy what they do.
We do well to thank God for all these things, for he truly is our Maker and Sustainer. ( Psalm 104:10-28; 145:15, 16; Acts 4:24) We can appreciate God’s love for us when we think
about all that he is doing just to make life possible. The
apostle Paul put it this way: “[God] gives to all people life and breath and all things. For by him we have life and move
and exist.”— Acts 17:25, 28.
God’s love, however, is expressed in more ways than just
caring for us physically. He has also elevated and dignified us by giving us spiritual capacity and helping us to satisfy it. ( Matthew 5:3) In this way, obedient mankind has the
prospect of becoming part of God’s family, his “children.”—
As John 3:16 goes on to say, God showed his love for us by
sending his Son, Jesus, to the earth to teach us about his
God and Father and to die for us. Many, though, will admit
that they do not truly understand why it was necessary for
Jesus to die for mankind and how Jesus’ death is an
expression of God’s love for us. Let us see how the Bible
explains the reason for Jesus’ death and its value.
“HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON”
All mankind is mortal, subject to the scourge of sickness, old age, and death. Yet that is not what Jehovah God originally
purposed. He gave the first humans the prospect of living
forever in a paradise on earth. But there was one condition: They had to obey him. God said that if they chose not to,
they would die. ( Genesis 2:17) The first man did indeed rebel against God’s authority, and he brought death upon himself
and his offspring. “Through one man sin entered into the
world and death through sin, and so death spread to all men
because they had all sinned,” explains the apostle Paul.—
God, however, “loves justice.” (Psalm 37:28) Even though he
could not ignore the deliberate act of transgression on the
part of the first man, God has not condemned all humanity
to suffering and death forever on account of one man’s
disobedience. On the contrary, by applying the legal
principle of “life for life,” he has balanced the scales of
justice and made everlasting life possible once again for
obedient humans. (Exodus 21:23) The question is, How could
Adam’s loss of perfect human life be recovered? The answer:
Someone had to offer up, or sacrifice, a life of equal value to Adam’s—a perfect human life.
Jesus willingly came to earth and gave his life to save
mankind from sin and death
Clearly, no imperfect descendant of Adam was capable of
offering such a price, but Jesus was. ( Psalm 49:6-9) Born
without the stain of inherited sin, Jesus was perfect, just as Adam had been. Thus, by surrendering his life, Jesus
ransomed mankind from slavery to sin. By so doing, he
offered descendants of the first human couple the
opportunity to enjoy the same perfect life that Adam and
Eve once did. ( Romans 3:23, 24; 6:23) Is there anything that we need to do to benefit from such a magnanimous act of
“WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM”
Going back to John 3:16, we note the words “whosoever
believeth in [Jesus] should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This means that gaining the gift of everlasting life is conditional. If we are to “have everlasting life,” we need to believe in Jesus and obey him.
You might wonder: ‘How is obeying involved? Did Jesus not
say that “whosoever believeth in him” will have everlasting
life?’ Yes, belief, or faith, is essential. However, it is
important to remember that in the Bible, faith is much more
than simply believing. According to Vine’s Expository
Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, the word used
by John in the original language signifies “reliance upon, not mere credence.” In order to have God’s favor, one needs
more than a mental recognition that Jesus is the Savior. The believer must also sincerely endeavor to apply what Jesus
taught. If there is no action, any profession of faith is hollow. “Faith without works is dead,” says the Bible. ( James 2:26) Put another way, what is required of the believer is that he exercise faith in Jesus—that is, he must live in accord with his belief and faith.
Paul explains the point this way: “The love the Christ has
compels us, because this is what we have concluded, that
one man [Jesus] died for all . . . And he died for all so that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised up.” ( 2 Corinthians
5:14, 15) Sincere gratitude for Jesus’ sacrifice should move us to make changes in our life—from selfishly living for
ourselves to living for Jesus, who died for us. That is to say, we need to give priority in our lives to practicing what Jesus taught. Such a change will necessarily affect our values, our choices, and everything we do. What will be the reward for
those who do believe and exercise faith in Jesus?
“SHOULD NOT PERISH, BUT HAVE EVERLASTING
The last part of John 3:16 expresses God’s promise to those
who exercise faith in the ransom provision and live according to divine standards. God intends that such faithful ones
“should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Different
destinies, however, await individuals who benefit from God’s love.
To one group, Jesus promised everlasting life in heaven. He
clearly told his faithful disciples that he was about to
prepare a place for them so that they might rule with him in glory. ( John 14:2, 3; Philippians 3:20, 21) Those resurrected to life in heaven “will be priests of God and of the Christ, and they will rule as kings with him for the 1,000 years.”—
Only a limited number of Christ’s followers would receive
such a privilege. In fact, Jesus said: “Have no fear, little flock, for your Father has approved of giving you the
Kingdom.” ( Luke 12:32) How numerous would that “little
flock” be? Revelation 14:1, 4 says: “I saw, and look! the Lamb [the resurrected Jesus Christ] standing on [the heavenly]
Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who have his name and
the name of his Father written on their foreheads. . . . These were bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and
to the Lamb.” In comparison with the countless billions who
have ever lived, 144,000 individuals constitute just a “little flock.” These are described as kings, so over whom will they rule?
Jesus spoke of a second group of faithful ones who will
receive benefits from the heavenly Kingdom. As seen at John
10:16, Jesus noted: “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those too I must bring in, and they will listen to my
voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.” Those
“sheep” look forward to everlasting life on earth—the same
prospect that Adam and Eve originally entertained. How do
we know that their future is earthly?
On numerous occasions, the Bible speaks of Paradise
conditions to come on earth. To see this for yourself, you
might wish to open your Bible and read the following
passages: Psalm 37:9-11; 46:8, 9; 72:7, 8, 16; Isaiah 35:5, 6; 65:21-23; Matthew 5:5; John 5:28, 29; Revelation 21:4. Those verses foretell an end to war, famine, sickness, and death.
They speak of a time when good people will have the joy of
being able to build their own houses, cultivate their own
land, and raise their children in peaceful surroundings. *
Does such a prospect not appeal to you? We have good
reason to believe that those promises will soon be realized. GOD HAS DONE MUCH
If you pause to consider all that God has done for you and
for mankind as a whole, it is clear that he has already done a great deal. We have life, intelligence, a measure of health, and the means necessary to support life. More than that,
God’s gift of the ransom through Jesus, who died for us, can mean even greater blessings, as we learn from John 3:16.
Everlasting life in peaceful, pleasant conditions, without the threat of illness, war, famine, or death, would surely open
the door to endless happiness and blessings. Whether you
will receive those blessings depends entirely on you. The
question that remains really is, What are you doing for God?
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten