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)
Jesus said that the reason that God, the Father, sent His only begotten Son, (the monogenes) , is that we “might not perish, but have everlasting life“.
As we pointed out earlier, the sheer familiarity of John 3:16 masks often blurs its true power and potency. Children are rightly taught to recite it in Sunday school, much like they are taught the Lord’s Prayer, or the apostles creed, in an almost rote fashion.
What does it mean in scripture to perish? We see the word ‘perish‘ in other scriptures as well, and fear that the significance of it is vastly unappreciated.
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.( I Corinthians 1:18)
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.(Luke 13:5)
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.( 2 Peter 3:9)
The greek word is Apollumi, which means to be destroyed, ruined for the use we were created for. God doesn’t want us to be destroyed, He wants us instead to repent.It can also mean to be lost, to be rendered inoperable, useless, or ruined.
People were created by God for both a general and a a specific purpose. Generally it is safe to say that all of us were created that we might know , worship and enjoy communion with our Creator. This is the most important issue of anyone’s life.
Specifically, God has given each person unique gifts, desires and talents to glorify Him and to serve others. To fall short of the realization of this, or be indifferent to it is to consign yourself to unfulfilment and frustration. We were made for something specific, “good works which God has ordained for us to walk in“.
But sin has started a process of destruction within all of us. In truth everyone in the world is already perishing, outside of Christ. Sin is constantly , steadily, corrupting and eroding our souls. God estrangement exacts a toll year after year, the process is described several places in scripture, such as in Psalm 1,
Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;(Psalm 1:1)
The truly blessed man avoids the deterioration experienced by sinner, through the intervention of God. The ungodly individual goes from walking, to standing, to sitting; mobility and flexibility yields to a fixed stance, until finally, sitting, as if to illustrate the increasing paralysis of sin. No wonder God admonishes us to “seek the Lord early” in life, while we are still mobile.
But physical death itself doesn’t end the destruction. The perishing goes on forever! The soul never stops deteriorating, it is eternally ruined. This is the horrifying revelation, whatever you are in this life, you go on becoming forever.
Perishing is not only a process, brought about by sin, but it is a just punishment from the Holy God. God must punish all tha is evil, sinful, rebellious, His nature demands it. There must be a “day of wrath” and there will be. Ray Stedman illustrates the dilemma,
“All through the Bible we see God’s love is manifest to men and women everywhere in urging them to escape this judgment. God in love pleads with people, ‘Do not go on to this end!’ But ultimately he must judge those who refuse his offer of grace. He says, in effect, ‘I love you and I can provide all you need. Therefore love me, and you will find the fulfillment your heart is looking for.’ But many men and women say, ‘No, I do not want that. I will take your gifts, I will take all the good things you provide, but I do not want you! Let me run my own life. Let me serve my own ends. Let me have my own kingdom.’ To such, God ultimately says, ‘All right, have it your way!’ God has three choices: first, he can let rebellion go on forever and never judge it. In that case the terrible things that are happening on earth, all these distressing injustices, the cruelty, the anger, the hate, the malice, the sorrow, the hurt, the pain, the death that now prevails, must go on forever.” (from http://ldolphin.org/hell.html)
God is not willing… but on the other hand he is willing to punish all sin. He made a way for men, in love, but He must be true to his Righteousness.
Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;( 2 Thess 1:6-9)
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.(Matthew 25;46)
Perishing is forever, the breakdown and ruin never ends. All of the remorse, and regret, “the worm” that gnaws at the eternally awakened conscience, the insatiable “fire” that consumes the soul, is said by Jesus and the apostles to be “everlasting”.
And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.(Mark 9:47-48)
The book of Revelation calls it the second death,
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.(Revelation 2:14)
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.(Rev 20:6)
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.(Revelation 20:13-15)
The new birth that Jesus offers, interrupts the process of destruction, it reverses the disintegration of the soul, by the impartation of eternal life, which is the gift of the very Life of God. remember that the discussion of John 3 is the new birth, being “born from above”. If there is both a physical and spiritual birth, does it not follow that there is a physical and spiritual death?
As the slogan I once saw put it so well, “If you are only born once, you are going to die twice, but if you are born twice, you will only die once!”
Flee the Wrath of God! Seek Him before it is too late!