The Staggering Truth of John 3:16
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- Format: Folded Tract
- Size: 3.5 inches x 5.5 inches
- Pages: 6
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John 3:16 is known as the world’s most popular Bible verse. It is estimated to have over 2 million online searches every month!
During the Super Bowl, it is common to see a person holding up a yellow sign with “John 3:16” in black letters in the front rows behind the field goal post. Every time a team kicks a field goal, millions of people around the world can see the Bible reference being displayed. The sign is now appearing in strategic places in most major sporting events, prompting TV watchers to go to the Bible to find out what John 3:16 is all about.
What’s so special about John 3:16?
Why is it the best-known verse in the entire Bible? The answer is that in about 29 words it explains how a person can obtain the free gift of eternal life as an irrevocable present possession. Let’s take a look at this amazing verse:
For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
Let us dissect this verse phrase by phrase and see why it has been so special to so many people throughout history.
For God loved the world in this way
First, notice that it is God who takes the initiative to demonstrate His love to mankind. And His love is not limited, but is for “the world.” His love is for all people without exception, regardless of the color of their skin, their culture, their social status, or the degree of their sinfulness.
Instead of condemning the world, God chose to demonstrate the depth and manner of His love in a particular “way.” And that leads us to the next phrase of the verse.
He gave his one and only Son
If you have ever sought proof that God loves you, consider the extent of His love. He went so far as to willingly give up His precious and beloved Son to die for sinners. He sacrificed heaven’s greatest treasure, the Lord Jesus Christ, for us.
Unlike the syrupy, sentimental love so common today, God’s love is a sacrificial love that cost Him dearly. He sent His unique, one-of-a-kind Son into the world to become one of us. He then sent Him to the cross to die and absorb the punishment that our sins deserved, be buried, and rise from the dead. This act of God’s love has been called “the greatest story ever told.”
So that everyone who believes in him
As a young boy, I was taught that Jesus died for my sins, was buried, and rose from the dead. Yet I was also instructed that Christ’s death only opened the gates of heaven to give me a chance to get in. To actually make it to heaven in the end depended on my good deeds and behavior. I was taught that going to church, getting baptized, and trying to be a good person were the keys for God to let me into heaven.
However, when I was twenty years old, I read John 3:16 for the first time. I was surprised that the only requirement given in this verse to obtain eternal life was to “believe” in Jesus. At first, I was troubled because John 3:16 contradicted my works-based plan to earn my own way to heaven. After all, I was a pretty good religious person, or at least I thought I was. But I came to see that the verse divides humanity into two groups of people: those who believe and have eternal life, and those who do not believe and perish.
I finally came to understand that eternal life is not a reward that God gives to those who behave, but rather a free gift that He gives to those who simply believe. God’s desire is that no one perish but that all believe in His Son for the free gift of eternal life. To believe in Jesus is to believe He is who He says He is: the exclusive giver of life (John 6:33-35, 11:25-27, 14:6). John 3:16 teaches that when one believes in Jesus, God’s unique Son, that person is guaranteed never to perish but to have eternal life. And since the life that God gives the believer is “eternal,” it can never be lost of forfeited. In other words, when a person believes in Christ, his eternal destiny has been forever determined. He is at that moment as accepted by God as the people already in heaven!
Will not perish
Sadly, many people go through life wondering if they will make it to heaven in the end. The most common answer people give when asked if they will go to heaven after death is, “Well, I hope so.” They live with doubts and fears, hoping they have performed enough good deeds and been good enough. This approach is like rolling the dice on your eternal destiny, hoping with your fingers crossed that it will all work out well in the end.
Yet John 3:16 gives a definite promise to anyone who believes in Christ: such a person “will not perish.” But there is a grim, somber side to John 3:16. The person who does not believe in Christ will perish and not obtain eternal life. “Perish” does not mean cease to exist upon death. Rather, it means to be excluded from the presence of God in the Lake of Fire for eternity (John 3:36, 1 John 5:12, Revelation 21:14-15). John 3:16 presents two options: perish or have eternal life. There are no other options.
But have eternal life
The good news is that no one has to perish! No one has to be eternally condemned in the Lake of Fire. Jesus came to be the Savior of the world. His death two thousand years ago has completely and forever dealt with the sins of mankind. He now guarantees eternal life to anyone who believes in Him. And this eternal life begins the moment one believes, not after he or she dies. It is a present possession that we can enjoy now.
Millions of people around the world have come to obtain the free gift of eternal life as a result of reading and then believing the truth of John 3:16. You too can be assured of your eternal destiny. As John 3:16 says about Jesus, “everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”