The Terror Of The Lord
One of the most prolific verses of scripture used by men today is John 3:16. "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." This is one of the most powerful statements in the divine record showing the great love God had for mankind to offer His only Son for redemption of wicked man. Through that sacrifice of misery and suffering, we have the hope and the realization of everlasting life. Who can not aspire for salvation without knowing the wonderful love God had in His willingness to let His Son die for all men? This passage stands as a monument of grace -- and a reminder of a certain reality.
Jesus taught His disciples from the sermon on the mount, "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:13,14) There are two paths of life men seek: the narrow gate and the wide gate. The narrow gate is difficult and leads to life but few will find it. The wide gate is the entrance to the broad way and the end is destruction. Sadly, many will follow this way. Jesus establishes the reality of the end of all men. He unfolds a harsh fact of eternal truth: most men will be lost and few will be saved.
John 3:16 teaches the reality of the eternal destiny of most people. The word "perish" means to be lost, ruined or destroyed. God gave His Son but people must believe in Him to be saved. If one does not believe in the Son of God, he will be lost. "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." (John 8:24) The reality of what it means to perish is understood in the description of those who will be lost.
To perish is to suffer "everlasting fire" (Matthew 25:41), "hell fire" (Matthew 18:8,9), "eternal damnation" (Mark 3:29), "resurrection of condemnation" (John 5:29), "everlasting destruction" (2 Thessalonians 1:9), "to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:43,44). This is the reality of what will be the fate of those who do not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is satisfying to teach the wonderful salvation of God through His Son and we must present these thoughts to a lost and dying world. We must be reminded of the reality of what the eternal condition of those who refuse to submit to Christ will be. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:11, "Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." The terror of the Lord is the reality of what will happen after death. Obedience to God is not a small thing taken lightly. The persuasion of men must be accomplished by the grace of God and the terror of the Lord.
Luke 16:19-31 shows us how terrible it will be if we perish. Through this story Jesus gives a hint of how terrible it will be to be lost. There will be a consciousness of the torment we are enduring. "And being in torments... send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame." It is real, it is terrible, it is final and there is no rest. (Revelation 14:11; 21:8)
What do we learn from John 3:16? The invitation of the Lord is to know the grace of God in sending Jesus Christ but that obedience is required to be saved from an eternal death. Hell is real, it is terrible, it is eternal and it is prepared. Jesus said, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:16)
By Kent Heaton
From Expository Files 9.8; August 2002