The first truth contained in this verse is awfully simple. I mean by that it's awful, and it's simple -- you and I and everyone in this world are in peril if we don't trust Christ.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's dig in!
What peril are we in? If we are unbelievers when we die, we will perish. Let's see what the Bible means about that:
"He who believes in the Son has eternal life, but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36)Perishing means that we are still under the wrath of God, because of our sins, and because we have not trusted Christ to remove our sins. Perishing also means torment:
He will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. (Revelation 14:10)The peril we face is not just being removed from this world, or not existing any more. It's actually continuing to live and exist, and being tormented by fire. Not many people like to talk about that any more . . . they laugh at those who mention it, and call them hellfire and brimstone preachers....but it's true.
The peril we face, the "perishing" mentioned in John 3:16, is also separation from the glory of God. Paul describes it like this:
These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. (II Thess. 1:9)While we are here on earth, and when we go to heaven, we will see many ways that God reveals His glory. But in hell, the perishing will be cut off from all of his works and glory.
We don't like to be reminded of this, either: perishing is everlasting -- there is no way to reverse it. Jesus called it "eternal punishment" in Matthew, and in Luke He said there is a great chasm between heaven and hell, and that no one goes from one to the other.
So, we know that the peril we face is God's wrath; it's fiery torment; it's separation from God, and it does last forever. But why are all of us in peril?
"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)And:
"The wages of sin is death," (Romans 6:23)So it's our sin that causes the peril, that brings us to the point of perishing. God is the most worthy, the only completely holy Person in the universe. His greatness and His value are infinite. All things are made by Him, have their beginning and ending in Him, and every person depends on Him for everything. We certainly owe Him trust, allegiance, love and worship; we should offer honor, respect and obedience because He made us and sustains us.It makes sense then, that if we reject Him, distrust Him, disobey Him, and just generally put other things before a relationship with Him, these are the ultimate in insults -- because He is the ultimate treasure.
John 3:16 is even more precious when you think about all of that!
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.