5) Paying the Sin Penalty (Part II)
In order to understand God’s meaning in John 3:16 more fully, we must examine the words “believe” and “perish”. First, we learn that God is the one initiating this action and that it’s on behalf of “whosoever” (all mankind). Then it says that those who “believe” will not perish. Most professing “Christians” would readily confess that they believe in Jesus.
What did the word “believe” mean in the language of the Bible 1,900 plus years ago? The word in ancient Greek (language of the New Testament) is “pisteuo”. This word means much more than an intellectual assent to Jesus’ existence on the earth. It actually means to trust in, rely on, and commit to.
Let me explain this with an example. A person, Larry, who’s never been on a plane, sees planes flying overhead and is fully aware of the law of gravity. Larry doesn’t know the intricate technology involved in keeping the plane airborne. However, he cannot deny the evidence before his eyes that a Boeing 747, with a takeoff weight of 910,000 lbs, can defy gravity and fly.
Larry’s friend, Bill, needs to go from New York to Paris, France and needs to get there as soon a possible. Air transport is the fastest method. Larry drives Bill to the airport, but is anxious about his safety. Bill assures Larry that he will call him upon arrival in Paris. Larry waits the 6 or so hours for the call. Sure enough, Bill calls to say he arrived safely. Larry now has even better evidence that air flight is safe. Stay with me here.
A month later Larry must go to Denver. Bill suggests that Larry fly to his destination. Larry is hesitant, but decides to take a flight to Denver. On the day of departure, Larry boards the plane to Denver even though he is nervous for his safety.
Here’s the point. Larry had evidence that made him believe air flight was safe. However, this belief alone would never get him to Denver by plane. He would have to do more than just believe; he would actually have to board the plane and fly there. When Larry took the flight, he no longer just intellectually assented that planes can fly safely, he actually trusted that the plane would take him safely to Denver.
Applying this to John 3:16, we now know that we must trust in the Biblical fact that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. If we sincerely trust that He paid the penalty, then the penalty is paid in full and Heaven is our destination.
“How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard.” (Hebrews 2:3)
To confirm this, we must take a look at the word “perish”. Most would say that the word means to die. It does mean this, but in the same Biblical definition as “death” we discussed earlier. The cutting off from fellowship with God, which would mean the loss of ALL His goodness. It’s close to the word perdition, which means damnable.
When a person is fully cut off from the goodness of God, it means they are in Hell. So, if we believe (trust) in what Jesus did on the cross we have eternal life. If we don’t, we are separated, cut off from God for eternity. Eternal life means to be with God, He is life. To be with God is to be in Heaven (Ephesians 2:6). Heaven is not Heaven without God.
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