This beloved verse is the Gospel in a few words. It tells us that God loves us so much that He offered us the life of Jesus, His Son. This is the way to live forever — by believing in Jesus Christ.
The verse does not say what that offering meant for Christ. It hints that our sin carries an extreme punishment — perishing. But it does not say that Jesus bore it for us, or that God sacrificed Him in our place.
Neither does it say what will happen to anyone who does not believe in Jesus. But the next couple of verses describe the other side of this good news — the bad news for those who will not believe.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:17–18)Someone told me that whenever anyone faces a decision, they are often already in one of the choices. For instance, if I am deciding whether I should go to the store or stay home, I am already at home. I am in that choice.
This describes what these two verses are saying. The person who is trying to decide whether or not to believe in Christ is already in the one option — they do not believe in Him. Some might argue that in a general sense, Christ’s death covered all sin, but God asks for a personal choice to believe. Those who neglect, reject or refuse to make that choice are already condemned.
Yet Jesus didn’t come here to condemn people. He didn’t have to. We are condemned already. All of us sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We condemn ourselves.
Jesus loves us and came to save us from the condemnation of our sin. The Bible says that, “The wages of sin is death . . .” (Romans 6:23) and Jesus paid those wages. He willingly took my punishment so I could have everlasting life. Yet those who reject that provision, that incredible offer, have no other options. For all of us it is either bad news: refuse and reject Jesus Christ and perish — or good news: believe and live.