In our last study we looked at how Jesus Christ revealed God’s great eternal plan on a dark evening as a ruler of the Jews approached Him secretly.
“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.” John 3:16
I promised last time that we would look at an important negative word in God’s eternal plan, so here we go.
“should not perish”
I call that a ‘negative’ from how both God and humans look at it. The idea of perishing is not something that surprised God, so it should not surprise us. It shouldn’t have surprised the first man and woman on earth either. They should have seen it coming.
We will spend time in future studies about how God carefully revealed His eternal plan during the Creation process, but I want to jump ahead a little so we can see how the idea of perishing developed. It seemed to be an important part of what Jesus wanted people to know – that they could have eternal life and not perish.
[A quick word about the Greek word used in John 3:16 – ἀπόλλυμι (apollumi) is an ancient word that predates the New Testament by almost a thousand years. It was understood as being “fully destroyed.” Greeks understood the word as being a great loss of ruin and destruction. It was more than just dying; it meant a miserable end to one’s life in the sense of eternal ruin.]
We read in Genesis 2 that God planted a garden eastward in Eden and placed the man He “formed” in the garden. The garden was filled with every tree that was “pleasant to the sight and good for food.” One of the trees in the middle of the garden was called the “tree of life.” Another tree in the middle of the garden was called the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
Make note of these words: life, knowledge of, good, evil.
God placed the man He formed in the garden of Eden to do two things: “tend and keep it.” God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Death (“surely die”) is a negative to someone who was made to be alive. Adam, the man God placed in the garden, heard and apparently understood what God meant or at least saw it as something he should not do. How do we know? From what happened after Adam ate from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?’ Then the man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” Genesis 3:6-12
That’s the first time a human being expressed fear. Adam knew exactly what he had done and what God would require of him – death – and Adam was afraid. He had disobeyed a direct command from God and knew he would die.
The Hebrew word for death is מוּת (mōwṯ). So, how does that connect to what Jesus told Nicodemus – “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”? The Hebrew word for perish is אֲבַד (abad’) and means “perish, destroyed, dying.” To die and be destroyed is to perish.
Jesus told Nicodemus that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
How does that work?
“For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” 1 Corinthians 15:21-23
All people die “in Adam.” Everyone who is born will die – unless God intervenes. Now we’re back to the eternal plan.
That is the meaning of what we read earlier in our study concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ “foreordained before the foundation of the world.” (1 Peter 1:20)
Jesus Christ is known as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). Why was Jesus “slain from the foundation of the world”? So that He could bring life to those who were dying and perishing.
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” John 10:27-29
- Jesus has ‘sheep’
- Jesus’ ‘sheep’ hear His voice
- Jesus ‘knows’ them
- Jesus’ ‘sheep’ follow Him
- Jesus gives His ‘sheep’ eternal life
- Jesus said His ‘sheep’ will ‘never perish’ [not that they wouldn’t physically die, but that they would not suffer eternal ruin]
- Jesus said no one would ‘snatch’ His ‘sheep’ from His hand
- Jesus’ Father is ‘greater than all’ and gave Jesus’ ‘sheep’ to Him
- Jesus repeated that no one is ‘able’ to ‘snatch’ His ‘sheep’ out of His ‘Father’s hand’
This is central to understanding God’s eternal plan. God the Father gave ‘sheep’ to Jesus. No one would be able to ‘snatch’ Jesus’ ‘sheep’ from His hand or the Father’s ‘hand.’ That means Jesus’ ‘sheep’ are in the hands of God the Father and God the Son.
How does that work? Look at some of what God the Holy Spirit does and has done –
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:1-2
“And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35
“When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Matthew 3:16 – 4:1
“Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John 3:5-6
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8
“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24
“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” John 7:38-39
“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:16-18
“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” John 15:26-27
“But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” John 16:5-14
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Luke 11:13
“And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:1-4
“But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.” Acts 2:16-18
“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14
“And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:19-21
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
We will share more about the role of the Holy Spirit in the grand plan of God in future articles, but the verses listed above give us some idea of what the Spirit has done in the past and is doing today. A vital work of the Holy Spirit that directly impacts Christians today is He is our ‘seal’ and “the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.” No one can ‘snatch’ us away from God, even as Jesus promised.
God’s Grand Plan
God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit designed a grand plan in eternity. Each member of the Godhead would play a vital role in the execution of the plan. Here’s a simple way of looking at it –
- God the Father sends God the Son
- God the Son sends God the Spirit
- God the Spirit speaks of God the Son
- God the Son glorifies God the Father
Of course, the grand plan has been more complex in its execution, but understanding the basic purpose is easy.
What God determined to do in eternity – that you and I see in time and space – is more than remarkable – it’s EPIC! That’s why we called this series The Great Reveal: Our Epic Journey Through Time, Space and Eternity.
More on that next time!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.