For years, people have seen a sign with a reference to this verse while watching a football game on TV. Florida Gators 2007 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, Tim Tebow, had this printed on his eye black during the 2009 BCS championship. While it is one of the most widely quoted verses from the Christian Bible, and has been called the most famous Bible verse, one part of the verse confuses some people.
I raised my In-N-Out Burger paper cup and there it was, printed on the bottom rim. I read somewhere that Forever 21 prints it on the bottom of their shopping bags, and that Tornado Fuel Saver prints it on the box. John 3:16 is indeed the most famous Bible verse.
John 3:16 has also been called the “Gospel in a nutshell” because it is considered a summary of some of the most central doctrines of traditional Christianity shortest bible verse. It has been translated into more than 1100 languages. The Gideon Bible has it printed in 27 languages which they say are understood by more than three quarters of the earth’s population.
However, part of the verse, near the end, is not understood by some. The first part of the verse is easily understood. “God so loved the world.” The word, “world” is of course figurative for “people.” God didn’t give His Son for the flowers and the trees or the cows and the bees. He gave His Son because He loves people.
Love was God’s motivation for giving His only begotten Son. This was the highest price ever paid. This payment would completely satisfy all the legal claims of justice that were necessary to redeem mankind. God’s love was so big that He was willing to give the greatest gift for you and me.
In the middle of the verse you read about the greatest invitation ever issued: “whosoever.” Whosoever means anyone and everyone is invited. Anyone who decides to believe in God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, shall have everlasting life.
The greatest love, the greatest giving, the greatest gift, the greatest invitation, and the greatest possession: everlasting life.
But what about the part that talks about not perishing? Some say it is confusing; others say it is a contradiction. Some wonder why the Bible says that if you believe in God’s only begotten Son you will not perish, and yet many, many people who have believed in Jesus Christ have died. Others say that the Bible is just contradicting itself.
There is no contradiction and the confusion is easily eliminated by simply taking a few moments to investigate the word “perish.” The Bible does not say that if you believe in Jesus Christ you will not die. It says that you will not perish. There is a big difference.
The Greek word translated “perish” in John 3:16, means “to be put to a complete end; to be totally destroyed and gone forever.” It means to be totally abolished. On the other hand, the Bible uses a completely different word for “death.”
There are a number of Bible verses that talk very plainly about those who believe in Jesus being resurrected from the dead at the return of Christ. Those who die before Christ returns are indeed dead, but they have not, and will not perish. That’s why the verse says that they shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
When Christ returns, that great promise in John 3:16 will be fulfilled for all those who believe in Christ. Those who are alive when he returns, as well as those who have died, will all receive the greatest possession: everlasting life. Perhaps that is one of the reasons the Bible refers to believers who have died as being asleep. They will not perish.
And even though God has extended this invitation to everyone, it is still each person’s choice to believe in God’s only begotten Son. It is absolutely amazing and remarkable that the greatest possession can be obtained through the greatest simplicity: by believing in the greatest person, God’s Son, Jesus Christ.