What if, when Jesus spoke of “the world,” he really meant exactly what it says in the Greek: that is, the kosmos (universe)? How would it change our approach to the various fruits of the Gospel?
“For God so loved the [universe], that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the [universe] to condemn the [universe], but in order that the [universe] might be saved through him.” — John 3:16-17 (ESV)
And no, I’m not talking about universalism–that’s a whole different beast. What I’m talking about is this idea that’s grabbed me—that maybe John 3:16 has less to do with God loving “each individual person” and more with loving his entire creation and seeking its redemption. Like Paul told the believers in Corinth:
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. — 1 Corinthians 8:19-24 (ESV)
The entire universe was “subjected to futility,” “its bondage to corruption”–that is, entropy–along with us, so that it will also be restored along with us! It is an unbiblical notion that God only sent Jesus to redeem people. When man sinned, the universe cracked under the weight of our guilt. Jesus has come, and is coming again to make all things new!
And he said to them, “Go into all the [universe] and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” — Mark 16:15 (ESV)
And what has NASA done with the Hubble telescope? And what of all the many television and radio signals shooting off into the ether? Whether they intended to or not is beside the point; the gospel is being proclaimed by the whole creation and to the whole creation.
“And then the end will come.” The end where he says,
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.“
Just think about that for a minute: a day is coming when living a life apart from God… and tears… and death… and mourning… and crying… and pain will all be “former things.”
That’s a Sabbath rest worth getting excited about!