Perish the Thought: How John 6 and 11 Challenge the Traditionalist Reading of John 3:16

 

For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him
should not perish
but have eternal life.

–John 3:16

 

John 3:16 is one of the clearest texts supporting the conditional immortality view. This is because Jesus contrasts the eternal life received by believers with the death they would otherwise receive if they reject him. After all, to die is just what “perish” normally means whenever we use that word of humans. As John Stott noted, when the Greek verb apollymi is used in the middle voice and without a direct object it means to be destroyed in a way that causes someone to perish or die (Stott points to Luke 15:17; 1 Cor 10:9 for physical perishing, and John 10:28; 17:12; Rom 2:12; 1 Cor 15:18; 2 Pet 3:9 for perishing in hell).1John Stott, “Hell and Judgement,” in Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism, eds. Christopher M. Date, Gregory G. Stump, & Joshua W. Anderson, Kindle ed. (Cascade Books, 2014), Kindle locations, 1319-1322.

Traditionalists often respond by arguing that this term in John 3:16 need not refer to the death or annihilation of unbelievers.2William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Olivetree ebook ed., (Baker Book House, no publishing date given), no page given. But beyond a generalized word study of apollymi, most traditionalists do not give a rationale for their interpretation of the phrase “shall not perish.” A few have offered reasons to read it as referring to an unending “perishing” in hell. Continue reading “Perish the Thought: How John 6 and 11 Challenge the Traditionalist Reading of John 3:16”

1. John Stott, “Hell and Judgement,” in Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism, eds. Christopher M. Date, Gregory G. Stump, & Joshua W. Anderson, Kindle ed. (Cascade Books, 2014), Kindle locations, 1319-1322.
2. William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Olivetree ebook ed., (Baker Book House, no publishing date given), no page given.