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THAT NONE (we know) SHOULD PERISH
The other day as I was reading and meditating from the Bible, I got arrested by God! I was stopped on my tracks as God opened my eyes to a couple of all-too familiar verses, which were none other than John 3:16-17: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:16-17). You will notice that I have highlighted some portions of these verses that caught my attention, and it dawned on me that what I was reading was God’s desire for humankind through the ages past.
As we examine these verses closely, we are confronted with what God truly desires for this world. It says that He loves our world (meaning, all the people in our world) so very much that He sent His one and only begotten Son to travel through the million galaxies to this earth for one and only one purpose – that no one should perish. This has been the heart cry of God from the very beginning, and we can see that when we examine the pages of the Bible from the very beginning of time.
In Genesis, we read that God created the entire world, and all the creatures living in this world. Finally, God created man (Adam) in His own image and placed him in the Garden of Eden. However, when God saw that Adam was lonely, God provided for him a helper and companion, Eve. They both had everything that they needed in that garden. There was only one rule for them to follow – they were not permitted to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil - for in the day they would do so, they would surely die (Gen. 2:16-17). When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, did God keep His word? Yes, they died spiritually and broke their communion with God. However, we can take a peek into the mind of God as we see what God did for them after this event – God killed an innocent animal in their place and clothed them Himself with those tunics of skin (Gen. 3:21).
Thereafter, God drove them away from that garden, in order to ensure that they would not eat from the tree of life and live forever in that fallen state. This ‘living forever in that fallen state’ is aptly described by the word ‘perish’, or in other words, God did not want Adam and Eve to perish in eternal sin and condemnation. Even in that garden, God planned that one day the ‘Seed of the woman’ (Jesus Christ) would bruise the head of the serpent (Satan), which He did about 4000 years later on the cross at Calvary.
Let me mention a couple of incidents in the Old Testament that clearly proves that God does not want humankind to perish (die eternally condemned in sin). When the wickedness of man became too much for God to bear (Gen. 6:5), God decided to destroy the sinful humans, but not before giving them a chance to repent and come back to God. After Enoch started walking with God when he was 65 years old, he had a son whom he named through a divine revelation as Methuselah, which means “when he dies it (the judgment) will come” (Gen. 5:21-23). This literally happened that on the same year that Methuselah died, on the 600th year of Noah’s life God destroyed the earth with water (Gen. 7:11). We are aware that Methuselah was the oldest person who ever lived on this earth (for 969 years). But why did he live that long? Because God was extending His grace to the earth allowing him to live as long as possible, and during the last 120 years before he died, his great-grandson Noah preached repentance to his world. Sadly, Noah could just save his own family of eight people from perishing with the rest of humanity (Heb. 11:7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:5-7). God Himself shut them in the ark (Gen. 7:16), and the rest of the people living in that age perished in the waters of God’s judgment!
The next incident that we see was when God decided to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah with fire because their sins were “very grave” (Gen. 18:20). However, God did not want anyone to perish, so He revealed His intention to Abraham beforehand (Gen. 18:16-33), sent His angels to Sodom (Gen. 19:1), and literally dragged Lot, his wife and his two daughters out of Sodom for the one reason: "the Lord being merciful to him" (Gen 19:16). God did not want anyone in Sodom to perish in that judgment fire, but they were too depraved and blinded in sin and darkness to realize that they had a real opportunity not to perish through God’s fiery judgment!
The heart cry of God - has ever been and always will be - that ‘none should perish’ (Matt. 18:14). For this very purpose, Jesus Christ came to this world born through a virgin at the right moment in history. He lived and died for that purpose. While He was on the earth, Jesus appointed and sent out seventy disciples (Luke 10:1) to whom He counseled that they should rather rejoice that they were not perishing with the rest of the world, but that their names were written in heaven (Luke 10:20). Before He left the earth, Jesus gave His final commandment (called as ‘The Great Commission’) for His disciples was that they should preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15-16), and make disciples of all nations/ people groups (Matt. 28:18-20). Jesus gave them (and us) both authority (Matt. 28:18-19) and power (Acts 1:8) to achieve this mammoth task!
Dear Friend, what does God require from you? That you would reach out to ‘your world’ with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Who are the people in your world? Take out a paper and pen and write down the names of all the people that you know, including your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. Then cross out the names of the people that you know have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and their godly lives testify to that fact (“by their fruits we can know them”). Remember, the people whose names you have not crossed out are your world and they are your responsibility to evangelize! You need to start praying daily for these people presenting them by their names to God, and then look out for opportunities to witness to them. Unless they repent, they will perish for eternity! (Luke 13:3, 5) The message of the cross may be hidden to them (2 Cor. 4:3) and may be foolishness to them (1 Cor. 1:18), but you should do your part in witnessing to them. Then God will do His part in saving them from their sins according to His predetermined will (John 10:28). Let your life become a fragrance of Christ to them (2 Cor. 2:15), so that they are attracted to the God you preach and profess!
Let me close with this final thought: our Bible ends with these words of Jesus: "Surely I am coming quickly" (Rev 22:20). For over 2000 years, Jesus had wanted to come back, but what has kept Him back – He does not want anyone to perish! "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)
Let us obey the great commandment of God (Matt. 22:37-40) by loving God (through obeying His Word) and loving our neighbor as ourselves (by not allowing them to perish for eternity). That is how the world will know that we are His disciples (John 13:34-35). We need to do our part in reaching others with the gospel so that none we know should perish, and thereby hasten the second coming of Christ (2 Peter 3:12). Will you take up the challenge and do your part starting from today?
May God give you a real burden for your perishing world today is my prayer and hope!
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