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Is traditional Christianity the same as biblical Christianity? If it weren’t, how would you know? You need to see for yourself!
Many of the ideas and doctrines of traditional Christianity are not what your Bible teaches! You need to know what God’s word truly says about the Christianity of Jesus Christ—genuine, biblical Christianity. Looking through the lens of John 3:16 helps reveal the truths you need to know!
An April 2017 Pew Research Forum report found that there are about 2.3 billion professing Christians around the world. That’s 30 percent of planet Earth’s 7.6 billion people! The World Christian Encyclopedia identifies at least 33,000 Christian denominations, with 9,000 of those classified as “Protestant” and 22,000 as “Independents.”
These thousands of denominations disagree among themselves in many of their doctrines, teachings and beliefs. They can’t all be right! Could it even be that many believe in a false “Jesus” who is not the Jesus Christ of the Bible? Jesus Himself warned us, “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). Since these thousands of denominations teach varying doctrines, could it be that many believe in a counterfeit Christianity?
Millions of professing Christians take for granted the traditions, doctrines, and concepts taught by their denomination, without ever proving them for themselves. That’s why we challenge you in the pages of Tomorrow’s World to check what we say in your own Bible! That’s the only way you can know the truth! Remember what we read in in John 8:31, “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’”
Have you wondered why there are so many apparent contradictions in the practice of traditional Christianity? Does traditional Christianity correspond to biblical Christianity? If not, which should you choose? Traditional Christianity or biblical Christianity?
These questions are important! And a useful key to answering them can be found in a single verse in your Bible. Often called the “golden verse of the Bible,” John 3:16 is a favorite of those who subscribe to traditional Christianity. It can be seen on hand-painted signs during sporting events and on billboards along the highway, displayed by those who hope to impact the world with its message.
Yet, when we carefully meditate on the details of what it says, this verse reveals amazing truths that have been hidden from many professing Christians. In this article we will explore only three of those hidden truths and what they reveal about the differences between traditional Christianity and biblical Christianity. You need to know the truth from your own Bible!
Many of our readers may have even memorized John 3:16. It says, “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.”
Those words are powerful, and they are true! When you come to really understand the awesome unconditional eternal love that the Creator God has for human beings, you’ll understand that every human being will have a genuine opportunity for salvation.
This introduces the first hidden truth of this verse. Many professing Christians believe that this is the only day of salvation, and if millions of people never heard the gospel or the name of Jesus Christ, that’s their tough luck. They wrongly believe that millions of people who did not have the opportunity to profess the name of Christ will be tormented in hellfire forever when they die. That is totally unfair.
In his book on this topic, John 3:16—Hidden Truths of the Golden Verse, Evangelist Gerald Weston addresses this question in his third chapter, titled “Is God Fair?” He writes:
The Apostle John taught plainly that, “God so loved the world” (John 3:16). Here, “the world” is not a reference to planet Earth, but rather to the people who dwell here. And, no matter how you count it, by any reckoning there have always been far more “unsaved” than “saved.” So, if God “loved the world,” how can this be? Is He so weak that He cannot save the majority of His creation? This leads to the question, “Is God fair? Is He a respecter of persons? Has everyone—or will everyone—have a genuine and fair opportunity for salvation?” (pp. 17–18).
Bible students know that salvation comes only through the name of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. As it tells us in Acts 4:12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
God has a plan for those who never heard the name of Jesus Christ, and biblical Christianity teaches that God is fair! He will not condemn forever those who never heard the name of Christ as many in traditional Christianity believe. Ask your minister or priest the question: If a tribe of people in a remote jungle never heard the name of Jesus Christ, will they be condemned to hellfire when they die? You may be shocked by their answer.
Your Bible reveals that God will give such people an opportunity for salvation in the Second Resurrection to judgment, described in Revelation 20:11–13. In this passage, God reveals to us the Great White Throne Judgment, which takes place after the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth with the born-again saints. These are the “rest of the dead” mentioned in verse 6 of that chapter, raised in the second great general resurrection from the dead: “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God” (Revelation 20:11–12).
If the dead are then standing before God, they have been resurrected! You find a description of this future resurrection to physical life in Ezekiel 37, where the famous valley of dry bones comes to life.
Continuing in Revelation 20:12, we see that “books were opened.” The original Greek word for “books” is biblia, from which we derive the word Bible. Billions of people will face judgment based on the word of God, the Bible. They will then have their understanding opened to the truth of God.
The passage continues: “And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works” (vv. 12–13). In the Great White Throne Judgment, billions of people, including billions who have never heard the name of Christ, will have their first genuine opportunity for salvation. That resurrection to judgment may include friends and relatives you may have thought were lost forever!
Yes, John 3:16 reveals that God is fair. That is a major truth taught and understood by biblical Christians. Many who profess a form of Christianity based on human tradition wrongly believe that God will punish in a fiery hell billions of people who never even heard the name of Jesus Christ. That unfair, false “God” is not the God of the Bible! The good news is that even the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will have an opportunity to repent in the White Throne Judgment. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!” (Matthew 10:15).
As John 3:16 declares, God truly does love the world! And He will deal with the people of the world fairly.
Once again, John 3:16 tells us, “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.”
What does it mean to “perish”? Many who claim to be Christian actually deny the truth of John 3:16 by believing in traditions not found in the Bible. They wrongly believe that they will never perish, period! They wrongly believe the pagan doctrine of the immortal soul. They believe that their so-called immortal soul will not perish, and that it will either go to heaven or hell at death. They believe they have an immortal soul and will not ever perish or be put to death for eternity.
As Gerald Weston writes on page 50 of John 3:16—Hidden Truths of the Golden Verse,
The Encarta Online Dictionary definition of perish, is: “to die… to come to an end or cease to exist.” We know what it means when food perishes. We speak of people perishing in a plane crash. So, when it comes to the biblical matters, why do people push other, incorrect meanings onto perish?
The Bible consistently and unambiguously agrees with the standard dictionary definition of “perish”! It clearly teaches that life and death are opposites! Nowhere does Scripture ever describe human life as being inherently immortal. As we have already seen, even the soul—whatever one may think it is—can die (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). God’s word reveals that immortality is not something we already have, but rather that it is something we must seek (Romans 2:6–7) and “must put on” (1 Corinthians 15:53–54).
God’s purpose is to save us from eternal death, to save us from perishing. Notice what Paul says: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3–4). God desires that humans not perish forever. One of the definitions of the word “perish” is “cease to exist.” Yet many in traditional Christianity believe that no one really perishes because we supposedly have an immortal soul which will never perish.
The scriptures teach otherwise. Those who seal their character with evil will perish in the lake of fire: “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:7–8).
The incorrigibly wicked will perish in the lake of fire. They will be punished with the second death from which there is no resurrection. That’s the punishment of eternal death. As it states in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We are not already immortal. Eternal life is a gift of God.
In this truth, we see a stark contrast between traditional Christianity and biblical Christianity. Traditional Christianity teaches one will always live and never perish or never cease to exist. Biblical Christianity teaches that unrepentant sinners will perish in a lake of fire, experience the second death—eternal death—and cease to exist.
But the good news is that those who truly believe on the Christ of the Bible, repent of their sins and are baptized—as it states in Acts 2:38—and remain faithful will not perish forever. Rather, they will be given the gift of eternal life.
Those who genuinely live by John 3:16, shall “not perish, but have everlasting life” as Jesus said.
Meditating on the “golden verse” has brought us to the biblical truths that God is fair and that the incorrigibly wicked will actually perish—two truths that fly in the face of traditional Christianity. A third remarkable truth of John 3:16 is actually packed into the very beginning of the verse: “For God so loved the world…”
Just who and what is this God, anyway? What does biblical Christianity teach about Him?
There are myriads of concepts of God. The Apostle Paul addressed the Greeks in Athens who had dedicated a monument to “The Unknown God.” He addressed his audience at the Areopagus, “[T]he One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things” (Acts 17:23–25). God is the Creator of all things, and He is the Life-giver.
The Apostle Paul continued, emphasizing the relationship God desires to have with all of us: “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’” (vv. 26–28).
Notice this truth that is rarely emphasized in traditional Christianity. Paul emphasizes our relationship with God by quoting one of the Greeks’ own poets: “For we are also His offspring.” Paul continues in Acts 17:29, “Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.”
The Apostle Paul confirms that family relationship—that we are the offspring of God. A vital hidden truth of John 3:16 is the revelation that God is creating a divine family! When those who have genuinely repented accept the very sacrifice of Christ for their sins and are baptized, they receive God’s Holy Spirit as it tells us in Acts 2:38. They also become begotten children of God, as James 1:18 tells us: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (King James Version).
Notice, to whom should we pray? To our Father in heaven, as Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6:9! God is creating a divine family, and He wants you as His son or daughter. Notice the words of 2 Corinthians 6:18 “‘I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Notice, too, God’s love for us described in 1 John 3:1, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!”
This is not just some allegory or symbolism. At the resurrection, when Christ returns, faithful Christians will be born into the Kingdom of God. As it tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:53, “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” That is the time when we enter God’s Kingdom, His family, as His born-again, divine children. In Romans 8:29 Christ is called the firstborn of many brethren. He is our Elder Brother, who has reconciled us to God the Father.
Traditional Christianity does not teach the truth of God’s plan to expand His glorious family! But if we allow the Bible to teach us about this One called “God” in John 3:16, His plan is made plain and will be proclaimed by biblical Christianity!
You have an awesome opportunity to be in God’s divine family. But you need to begin the process. You need to repent, be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit, as we previously mentioned in Acts 2:38. Then you can grow in the priceless spiritual nature God wants you to have. He calls it His “divine nature” in 2 Peter 2:14, where God’s word tells us that, through God’s precious promises, “you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
Truthfully, a meditation on the “golden verse” of John 3:16 reveals many more powerful truths than these. If you have not already, I encourage you to request our free booklet John 3:16—Hidden Truths of the Golden Verse by Evangelist Gerald Weston. It is available from any of the Regional Addresses listed on page 4 of this magazine and can be downloaded in its entirety from our website at TomorrowsWorld.org. Its eight chapters discuss in detail not only these three truths of biblical Christianity, but many more.
And there is so much more! In this article, we’ve seen that there are thousands of professing Christian denominations. How many of them follow worldly traditions not based on the Bible? Jesus condemned the religious leaders of His day for following traditions that conflicted with the Ten Commandments. He challenged them in Matthew 15:3, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?”
Which will you choose? Biblical Christianity or an imitation Christianity based on human traditions apart from the Bible? What did Jesus instruct concerning the foundation of our beliefs and our very way of life? In the book of Matthew, Jesus quoted the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 8:3) saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). Luke also emphasized that fundamental Christian principle in his own account: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God’” (Luke 4:4).
You will want to join that divine, royal family God is building! But you need to study into these things for yourself, seeking to live and act according to “every word of God.” The future is glorious for those who will genuinely follow biblical Christianity.