Summary: A look at John 3:16 the way Nicodemus heard it.
Kingdom = God’s Rule, God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven, God’s Shalom, it is God’s dreams being realised for the world, Jesus says this kingdom rule is available now through me, so change and believe it, be part of it.
As we saw last time Jesus told Nicodemus he needed to be born again - this call was issued not to a “sinner” but a bible believing, moral, godly, tithing, praying, fasting man. He needed to start all over again. Nicodemus saw God’s kingdom in terms of we’re in and the rest are out, Jesus said it was at hand and available, close to all. Pharisees saw it in terms of the ungodly getting smashed. Jesus saw it in terms of “God so loved (v.16ff) the world” not just Israel, sinful mankind not just the pure, the Romans, the prostitutes, and the tax collectors. Start again Nicodemus you re way off. You have no idea how much God loves this world that you want to see destroyed. My kingdom is not about destroying the Gentiles; it is about welcoming them in. I haven’t come to condemn the world but to save it. Some of us need to start over in our understanding in God’s purpose in the Gospel of His Kingdom. God’s goal is not condemnation, it is salvation. I listen to some Christians and the way they talk about non-Christians, about the world and it is as if they can’t wait for God to come and sort it out, destroy it, send people to hell, smash the ungodly. Listen to the words of Jonathan Edwards in his famous sermon “Sinners in the hands of an angry God”, such was the effect that strong men held on to the pews in case they slid into hell at that very moment: The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship... Start again, be born again in your thinking, have a born again understanding of John 3:16 and the Gospel. Martin Luther called this the bible in miniature.
1. Eternal Life & the Kingdom
When we read John 3:16 we take it to mean that if a person believes the right things then they are going to heaven and those that are not are going to hell. Look again is that what Jesus is really saying? Jesus never mentions heaven or hell, nor is faith ever defined as just believing the right things. For a start “eternal life” is more than going to heaven, it is about the kingdom of God. Jesus in the Synoptics talks about God’s Kingdom, in John he talks bout eternal life/life/knowing the truth. So is the Jesus of John different? No. Remember Jesus spoke in Aramaic, the Gospels are written in Greek. The synoptics went for straight translation, John has gone for paraphrase. It’s like reading the NIV then the Message - He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. (Romans 14:6 – NIV)
What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. (Romans 14:6 – The Message) They are the same yet very different. I think John translates the idea of “Kingdom” and uses the phrase “eternal life. The kingdom of God is eternal life and vice versa.