What does the Bible say about God’s heart for the world? (Part 1)

Click here for Part 2 —>
The World God's heart missions John 3:16

From a distance. “The Blue Marble” is a famous photograph of the Earth taken on December 7, 1972 by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft en route to the Moon at a distance of about 29,000 kilometers (18,000 statute miles). It shows Africa, Antarctica, and the Arabian Peninsula. Click image to enlarge.

It seems a simple enough question. He loves it, right? Even a 6-year-old Sunday Schooler would be able to rattle off, “…God so loved the world…” (Jn 3:16, KJV) Could there be anything more to it than that? Well there is but in order to grapple meaningfully with the question we’ll first need to investigate what ‘the world’ means Biblically.

Deconstructing ‘the world’ as we know it

Consider for a moment the English word bat. I could say, “I hit the ball with the bat,” or “I saw a bat in a cave,” and you’d have a pretty good idea what I meant. Bat is a word with multiple meanings. Well ‘the world’ has multiple meanings in Scripture to.

Firstly, ‘The world’ is used as a synonym for the universe, the heavens and earth and all that is in them. This is ‘the world’ which was created by Jesus (Jn 1:10) and of which He said, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mk 8:36) (Douglas 1970:1338)

Secondly, “‘The world’ designates a virtual spiritual force, the antithesis, as it were, of the kingdom of God.” (Jn 15:18 – 19; Jn 17:14) (Sasse 1965:868)

Thirdly, and in a more limited sense, ‘the world’ refers to human beings. It is to this world that God “gave his only begotten Son.” (Jn 3:16) (Douglas 1970:1339)

Click here for Part 2 —>

If ‘the world’ has diverse meanings in Scripture then we’d expect God’s heart for the world to be multifaceted too wouldn’t we? And it is. All the tough stuff tomorrow.

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