John 3:16 – What Does It Really Say About Jesus?

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For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Many of have read this Scripture perhaps thousands of times and we see it displayed on placards at sporting events. But is it understood as Jesus intended it to be? Has the religious system men call Christianity largely taught it’s meaning in error; resulting in millions believing that error.

There are also those who claim that this Scripture does not teach that Jesus gave up his life on behalf of the entire world. Is that true? And, there are those who use this Scripture alone as some sort of proof-text that Jesus did not die for the entire world of mankind. However, is that what the Scriptures teach or is all of this the machinations of man?

Do The Scriptures Teach That Jesus Died For The Entire World?

Before I show that there is much more to John 3:16 that meets the eye; and before  I show how crafty individuals – those who attempt to use it to prove that Jesus did not die for the entire world – subtly change it to fit this view; I want to show that Scripture explicitly teaches that Jesus did indeed die for the entire world of mankind. No distinctions are made between believers and non-believers.

There are many many Scriptures that show that Jesus was sent to into the world by our heavenly Father to die for all of mankind. One Scripture is found at 1 John 4:9:

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

Who is this we mentioned in this Scripture? There were no teachings of Christ before God sending Christ. Yet, the Scripture above says God sent his Son into the world so that we might live through him. 

Another is at 1 Peter 3:18:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

Who among us are today righteous? None of us. If one believes that he is righteous, then he believes that he is perfect and without sin. Too, it is advisable to listen to what Romans 3:10 says:

There is no one righteous, not even one.

So 1 Peter 3:18 shows that Jesus (the righteous) suffered once and for all for all of mankind, none of which – according to Romans 3:10 – are righteous. (See Eccl 7:20)

Many among those within the religious system men named and call Christianity, are quick – too quick – to usurp God and Jesus to themselves. They use John 3:16 to make it appear as if Jesus died only for those believing him and – get this – that if they believe him, according to John 3:16 are saved.

One individual I had a written exchange with, made a fairly decent argumentation in support of the viewpoint that John 3:16 does not say that Jesus died for the entire world of mankind. This person even quoted John 3:16 correctly. The problem is that the correctly quoted Scripture is subtly changed by the individual. Please notice the following. 

First, the individual correctly quotes John 3:16 and then says the following:

Let’s really look at this verse with no presuppositions. It says, “For God so loved the world”. I agree that God loves the whole world; every man, woman and child, but this is where things get dicey. People like to take this verse and run with it and say, “Jesus Christ died for the whole world”, but does it really say that? or does it say, God loves the world? The verse doesn’t say, who will be saved. It says, whoever believes will be saved.

Did you see the subtle change the person made? He substituted the expression perish with the expression saved.

Notice that the individual is very quick at saying that John 3:16 “does not say that” but makes a statement himself of something John 3:16 does not say.

John 3:16 says nothing about an individual being saved. It mentions perishing. These are two entirely different words with two entirely different meanings that I will later show.

Did Jesus Die For Unbelievers?

Absolutely! And, if it can be showed from Scripture that he did indeed die even for unbelievers, then John 3:16 is saying that Jesus died for the entire world just as the other Scriptures (alongside John 3:16) say.

Consider: Was the condemned man who died that very day Jesus did a disciple of Christ? Was he taught by Christ? Was he baptized? There is no indication in Scripture that he was. When reading the account, this criminal did not know Jesus or even associated with him or his disciples. His life was one of criminality. Yet, what did Jesus tell this man?

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Consider: Was the adulterous woman who was sentenced to death by stoning a follower of Christ and was she condemned by Christ? No. (John 8:3-11)

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Consider: Were the persons who persecuted and executed him his followers and did Jesus condemn them? No they were not his followers. In fact, Jesus asked that they be forgiven.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

It is worth noting why Jesus ask that they be forgiven. Because it is that why (reason) that sheds light on why John 3:16 does indeed teach that Jesus died for the entire world. Why did Jesus ask that these non-believers be forgiven? Because “They do not know what they are doing.”

Consider: At John 5:28-29, Jesus does not say that only those who believe in him will be resurrected from the dead, he says all persons will be. If, according to many so-called Christian denominations, bad persons are in a fiery hell for an eternity, why would they need to be resurrected from an eternal place of torment? Are they not already in their punishment? Yet, Jesus says all will be resurrected. Something he says we should not be amazed at:

Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.

That word condemned is a mistranslation. If persons who were bad, according to much of Christianity are in an eternal fiery hell, why would there be a need to call them out of that eternal place only to put them back into it or another eternal place of torment? It makes no Scriptural sense and much of Christianity is confused about this and refuse to reason on it. What they refuse to see is that there is no place of eternal torment. They refuse to see that all there is, is the grave where the dead – good or bad – go. They refuse to see that the grave is from which all – the good and the bad – are called out of according to Jesus at John 5:28-29. And, if Jesus calls all out of the grave back to life again, means he died for all of mankind.

Consider: At 1 Cor 11:3, the Apostle Paul does not say that Jesus is the Head of only those who believe him. Rather, he says that Jesus is the Head of man (mankind). No distinctions are made between one called “a believer” and one called “a non-believer.”

But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

Now consider John 3:16: John 3:16 does not say:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him WILL BE SAVED, but have eternal life.

It says …

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him SHALL NOT PERISH, but have eternal life

The individual I was having this discussion with who made John 3:16 appear as if it was saying “saved” made this subtle change when explaining John 3:16. But did not view himself as doing what he accused others of doing: Changing the Scripture. I again quote what the person said:

Jesus Christ died for the whole world”, but does it really say that? or does it say, God loves the world? The verse doesn’t say, who will be saved. It says, whoever believes will be saved.

John 3:16 does not say whoever believes will be saved either!

Death Verses Perishing And How They Impact The Meaning of John 3:16

The expression perish carries an entirely different meaning from the expressions saved and death.

If one dies, that one still exists but as a dead person. That person is still in God’s memory (Book of Life) and can be brought back to life (resurrected from the dead). However, a person who perishes no longer exists neither as a dead or an alive person. They are erased from God’s memory. And if not in God’s memory, they no longer exist in order to be resurrected.

Now consider John 3:16 again. Does it say whoever believes in him will not die? No, it does not. Therefore, any person – believer or non-believer – who dies will be resurrected back to life.

John 3:16 is not saying that whoever believes in him will be saved. (Men say this). Neither is Jesus saying that whoever believes in him will not die. Mankind will die. Death, not perishing, was the pronouncement upon Adam and his progeny. Death is unavoidable for us all. Thanks to Jesus, all will be resurrected. (John 5:28-29) Being saved is not even the discussion in John 3:16.

It is the perishing or no longer existing is what John 3:16 is referring to. So John 3:16 is essentially saying:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not CEASE TO EXIST, but have eternal life.

Scripture calls this perishing by several familiar expressions: Destroyed, Second Death, To Be No More, and Lake of Fire. (Revelation 20:14)

Perishing means going into a state of nonexistence. The Second Death means a state of nonexistence. And since The Second Death is the same as The Lake of Fire (Rev 20:14), then The Lake of Fire means a state of nonexistence. They all mean the same thing. So, John 3:16 is saying:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not enter into a Second Death or Lake of Fire, but have eternal life.

That all of mankind – who is dying and who must die – has the curse of sin and death upon it, shows why Jesus had to die for all of mankind: So that all of mankind, who will die, not perish. It is certain since all of mankind will die, all of mankind will be resurrected from the dead as Jesus at John 5:28-29 states.

This future resurrected mankind become subjects to perishing only after it has been resurrected back to life from the dead and, more specifically, subjects to perishing at the end of Christs 1000 year reign over the earth when Satan ascends out of the abyss. (Revelation 20:7-7)

Today, no human being is a subject to a perishing at present. This should be apparent – but is not – by looking at how Jesus treated those who were not his followers. He did not condemn them. But made promises of paradise and forgave them. Today, we are all imperfect creatures. Believing in Jesus does not change the fact that we will not sin against God, be in error and do bad things to other people. Since we are such, we are in constant need of forgiveness by God, else we would perish. Jesus demonstrated the proper view we are to take concerning not only those like us but to even enemies. We are to love and forgive them just as Jesus did.

At present, all of mankind stands before God not in a condemned state, but as subjects of His love and forgiveness. He expects us to show the same to all persons. It does not matter if one is a believer in Christ or not. All are going to die anyway. Many will die never coming to know about Jesus anyway. In fact, billions have already died not knowing anything about Jesus.

At John 3:16 DOES NOT apply to our time period today. Why? Because all of mankind is dying, not perishing. That Jesus loved and forgave all sorts of persons not his followers does not imply anyone perishing.

John 3:16’s application can only be in a time period where all of mankind has full knowledge and knows what they are doing. If mankind knows what it is doing, then there is no need for forgiveness. Today, as it was back in Jesus’ day, mankind does not know what it is doing. Since we all fumble around ignorant and not knowing what we are doing, we are forgiven just as Jesus forgave those back in his day who did not know what they are doing.

For those of you who think you know what you are doing shows no humility before God. God says we do not. We are imperfect at present so how can we know what we are doing. Therefore, God forgives us and asks that we forgive others because of the imperfections they too possess that cause them to err. At present, we are all in a period of Grace, not condemnation or perishing.

So, John 3:16 can only be applied to a time period when all persons know what they are doing. That time period can only be in a future time period after all of mankind is resurrected from the dead, is properly taught by Christ during his future 1000 year kingdom over the earth. No person today knows all there is to know about the Christ. Neither does all of the world of mankind knows all about Jesus in order not to believe in him. But this time period will come after all of mankind – who will die – are resurrected from the dead.

When all of mankind is resurrected, all of mankind – the good and the bad – will be taught throughout that entire 1000 year period to know. All of mankind will be equipped with knowledge so that the expression “they do not know what they are doing” will not apply to them.

After mankind is resurrected from the dead, he will not be able to die again. But he will be able to perish. Mankind’s perishing after he is resurrected is conditional.

After mankind is resurrected and gone through that span of 1000 years of benefit and being taught under Christs 1000 year kingdom, he is knowing and then becomes subject to the perishing (non-existing) as mentioned at John 3:16.

Any decision or action we take in those days after the 1000 years of Christ kingdom ends, are knowing – not unknowing – decisions or actions. Since we will know what we do, we can no longer be forgiven by God. Those future acts and decisions made by us after Christs 1000 year kingdom ends are what are called the unforgivable sins. No person today can possibly commit an unforgivable sin because we are all – at present – not knowing.

The Implication of The Second Death and How It Impacts John 3:16

Revelation 20:14 mentions a Second Death. It is also called The Lake of Fire.

One must pause and think. If Scripture mentions a Second Death, then there must be a First Death. If there is a First Death, then there must be a First Birth. If there is a First Birth, then there must be a Second Birth.

What supporters of the idea of John 3:16 NOT teaching Jesus died for the entire world have done is jumped clean over what all of mankind today alive and all of mankind that have already died must still go through and is still yet ahead of us.

A First Birth – All of mankind, had a birth. Whether that birth was directly by God, as was the case of Adam and Jesus, or via flesh and blood parents.

A First Death – All of us living today will grow old and die.

A Second Birth – This is what Jesus’ death makes possible for us all. This is also what he promises all of mankind will have: A Resurrection from the dead. (John 5:28-29) This coming back to life again (resurrection) is the born-again mentioned in Scripture at John 3:1-8.

The Second Death – This is the perishing John 3:16 mentions. The Second Death is a going into a state of nonexistence. In those future days, an educated and knowing human race who knowingly rebels (sins) against God, will go into this state of no longer existing, no longer in God’s memory, no longer in His Book of Life. In other words, they are cast into the Lake of Fire.

Since Revelation 20:14 says that The Second Death is The Lake of Fire shows that anything cast into it ceases to exist. Not punished or tormented forever, but not existing forever. 

Notice what Scripture at Revelation 20:14 says about what will one day happen to Death and Hell:

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Death and Hell are both thrown into the Lake of Fire. So what does this mean? If The Lake of Fire (Second Death) is perishing or a state of being destroyed forever or no longer existing, then Death and Hell will no longer exist.

I find it a little amusing when so-called Christians (even so-called Christian scholars) teach that hell is a place of eternal torment. Yet, here we see it thrown into something else.

Do the Scriptures support the idea that anything thrown into the Lake of Fire ceases to exist? Yes, it does and only a few verses away from Revelation 20:14.

Notice what Revelation 21:4 says concerning Death:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death.

Why NO MORE DEATH? Because we saw it previously (at Revelation 20:14) being thrown into the Lake of Fire (state of non-existence). 

So when John 3:16 says:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

It is referring not to our present time, but to a future time when all of mankind will not be in their graves but out of them.

The one thing the religious system called Christian struggles with today is the valid question: “What about the people who lived and died before Jesus and people today who die and who never had an opportunity to learn about him or persons, because of mental disabilities, are not able to learn. Are you saying they will perish?

They hem and haw at this and stubbornly press forward with the foolish notion that Jesus is only for them.

Jesus must restore all of mankind – the past dead and those of us today who will die – to an even keel. This is incredible because that means that there are billions upon billions of persons over the eons of time and all over the world before Jesus and when he was alive and even today, who will have never heard of him or will have been taught by him but have an absolute certain resurrection by him in the future. This is billions upon billions of non-believers. How can they believe in someone that was either unknown to them and who they never heard of?

That is why John 3:16 can only apply in the time period when all of mankind who have ever been born and died is resurrected and taught in Jesus future 1000 year kingdom on the earth.

It is these narrow-minded unthinking so-called Christians who are the ones who selfishly dismiss everyone who existed before Jesus came on the scene and has these persons perishing. This is shameful.

Why would God destroy (make nonexistent) billions of persons who lived and died before Jesus’ arrival as Messiah or destroy billions of persons who were Jesus’ contemporaries who lived in different quarters of the world and who never heard of him? Why would God destroy persons alive today who hear 100s of different contending and conflicting teachings about the Christ from the 33000 or so “Christian” denominations? All of them claim to be right? Who is one to believe?

No, it will be Christ himself during his future 1000 year kingdom who will direct the truthful teaching to all of mankind (who will have been resurrected from the dead) so there will not be 33000 different denominations teaching these “all-over-the-place” conflicting teachings about the Christ.

John 3:16 has no application today, but has a future application. That Scripture is not a discussion about salvation as others attempt to make it. It is not a teaching about man not dying if they believe in Jesus.

It is a prophetic utterance by the Lord and Master concerning a future time period where all of mankind will be knowing and then subject to going into a state of nonexistence (perishing) if they knowingly sin against God.

That time period will be after Christs 1000 year reign over the earth ends and Satan ascends out of the abyss and goes out to mislead that educated and knowing mankind.

Any attempt to make John 3:16 fit our time period today shows a woeful understanding of Scripture and it selfishly dismisses a world of people in the past who were not around when Jesus was.

I might add, it shows an uncaring attitude towards those who chose not to Scripturally entertain the questions, “What about the billions of people born who were born before Jesus? How can John 3:16 apply to them? Jesus was not around for them to believe in. What about the people who were alive in the same time period as Jesus but who lived in areas far distant from where Jesus was and who died with having knowledge of such a person? What about persons living today, who are presented with so many contending and different teachings about Christ – all claiming to be right – whose “believe in him” message is one to accept?

This is the narrow-minded conditioning and fruitage that the religious system named by men, Christianity, produces.

It is not from God or Christ.

It is an impostor. 

 

R. Jerome Harris

A Disciple of Christ in the strictest sense. I belong to no religious organization. I view Christ as my only Head, Master, Teacher,
Owner, and Lord. (John 8:31-32, 1Cor 11:3) His God is my God and I champion his teachings above anything issuing out of ANY religious organization.

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2 Comments

  1. I don’t know that I agree with you here. The Bible tells us what people did before Christ. They followed God’s laws therefore went to heaven. When Jesus rose from the grave he took the keys of death hell and the grave and brought the people out of bondage. God’s word says that even the stars reveal his glory and all of creation tells who he is it says no one will be with excuse in the last days. God will always reveal himself to everyone. It’s all scripture.

    • I don’t know that I agree with you here. The Bible tells us what people did before Christ. They followed God’s laws therefore went to heaven. When Jesus rose from the grave he took the keys of death hell and the grave and brought the people out of bondage. God’s word says that even the stars reveal his glory and all of creation tells who he is it says no one will be with excuse in the last days. God will always reveal himself to everyone. It’s all scripture.

      Hello Michael. What people? We cannot discount an entire world of people who lived BEFORE and during the time of Christ who never heard of him or heard his message.

      What you state is dismissive and what is taught by established religious organization (saying that it is Scripture), and not taught by Christ.

      When Jesus arose from the dead, he did not literally anyone out of the grave with him. Jesus’ death and resurrection showed that he NOW has the power to resurrect ALL of the dead as he promised would occur in the future at John 5:28-29.

      John 5:28-29 says all.

      This grave mistake that the religious system called by men “Christianity” has made is that it thinks that God will judge, reward or condemn people based on what they are doing now. The time period we live in at present is a time of “grace.” Jesus showed this when he forgave those who were not even his followers, namely, those who persecuted, pierced, and put him to death. Jesus even promised a condemned criminal paradise.

      The judgment of all mankind (Jesus died for all), cannot come until after all of mankind has died and resurrected back to life. This is the pattern Jesus showed. It also lines up with what Jesus said concerning the resurrection of all persons ever born and died since Adam.

      The timing and correctness of the teaching of “what are the last days” and “when are the last days” by “Christianity” is all wrong.

      The last days are not at present. The last days occur AFTER the resurrection of all of mankind (who will die) as stated at John 5:28-29

      After all of mankind is resurrected (born again) from the dead, it enters into a new age. A new age where Satan has not been destroyed yet, but abyssed for a 1000 years.

      It is after Satan is released from his abyss of 1000 years, that we enter into a period called “the last days.” (Rev 20:7-8)

      At present, we are in a period called “The Appointed Times of the Nations.” This time period ends when Jesus begins his 1000 year reign over the earth.

      While we are in this “Times of The Nations” time period, it is expected that those who are to be “Disciples of Jesus” (John 8:31-32), to exercise and extend forgiveness to ALL persons – even enemies – and NOT condemn them, just as Jesus did. Also, Jesus commissioned those who would be his disciples to teach others what he taught them. (Matthew 28:19-20)

      Any not becoming Disciples of Jesus [the] Christ, should they die, will still be resurrected because Jesus died for all of mankind. The “disciple-making” is not for the purpose of “saving” anyone, but for the loving purpose of preparing those who would listen that something amazing will occur after all of “Adamic” amnkind has died: A resurrection and 1000 year existence on earth as subjects under Christ-rule. During that 1000 years, Satan is rendered inactive and will not be able to intefere with Jesus’ restoration and administration over all of resurrected mankind.

      Things get interesting when jesus 1000 year rule ends. Jesus is no longer King. Mankind no longer in need of a savior or intercessor. Man stands before his Creator.

      Now, Satan is released.

      This is where “Christianity” gets it wrong.

      It is when Satan is released is when the “last days” period begins.

      It is during this “unspecified” time period that mankind will HAVE NO EXCUSE because mankind will not have an intercessor. Mankind stands perfect and sinless before his Creator. Any actions or decisions mankind makes at that time will be not because of sinful influence but by “knowing” what he is doing.

      Satan’s ascension out of the abyss is synomymous with the ascension of the “Beast.”

      The Beastly Government Satan establishes on the earth after Jesus’ 1000 year rule ends is designed to blend in with the kingdom that Jesus took 1000 years to establish. Satan’s Beastly government will even mislead those who were Kings with Jesus for 1000 years and get them to rule under his Beastly government.

      There is much more to this, my friend, that is not being told at present.

      Do not fall into the trap into letting the religious systems make God and His Christ vindictive and selfish. God will not condemn a world of mankind that existed long before Christ came on the scene.

      The only way the billions who lived before Jesus can hear and learn about him and God’s purpose, is if they are resurrected back to life. That is EXACTLY what Jesus says MUST occur.

      It is not our place to judge and condemn people. Yet, the churches seem eager to do this because one has not accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Such thinking and teachng is not from God or His Christ, it is from men.

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