What is the world in the Bible?

what is the world

The bible says in 1 John 2:15-16 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and the pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world.” What exactly does this mean?

Answer: Many people think that the bible contradicts itself in 1 John 2:15-16 and John 3:16, but does it really? John writes “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Then in 1 John 2:15-16 he is warning us to not love the world.

The term World in the Bible has three different meanings. When the word World used in scripture it is always used in its proper context. We know that context is very important when interpreting scripture. The theological term for interpreting Gods word is called hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is the science of interpreting scripture. There are three ways the Bible speaks of the world. The first is in regards to people (John 3:16). Secondly, we can see if used in regards to the creation, physical universe or planet (John 13:1, Hebrews 1:2). Thirdly, we see it used to refer to the system of the world (1 John 2:15-16).

The people

When we read John 3:16 we are given a glimpse of God’s love towards the people of the world. When you read the full chapter many things will come to light. If you recall it starts with the great Pharisee Nicodemus, the Bible tells us he was a ruler of the Jews (John 3:1). Usually, Jesus would be gentle with the crowds but when it came to the religious parties such as the Sadducees and Pharisees he would boldly tell them the truth of their hypocrisy. Yet here we find a man truly looking for answers and asking for Jesus specific questions about life. Jesus reveals to Nicodemus that God loves the world (people) to the point of sending his only begotten son to die for our sins. We see here that the term World is used to describe the people of the world.

Jesus calls us to love the people of the world (Mark 12:31). Every person is created in the image of God.  All mankind has a fingerprint of God within them. Philippians 2:3 reminds us “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” When we count others more significant than ourselves we show the heart of God and his love within us towards the world.

The creation 

The book of Genesis opens up with this scripture “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God is not only the author of life but also creation. In Hebrews 1:2 when it speaks of the World it is speaking of the creation or Kosmos. When Paul was writing to the church in Rome around 55-56 AD he mentioned in chapter 8 verse 22, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” He was speaking about creation and the fact that it groans for the return of Christ. Later in that same chapter, he is showing how we as Christians are also groaning within just the way the creation is until that day.

As we can see in this context the term World is used for creation. We can see that God commands us to love the people of the world. When we read about creation in scripture it is generally showing the greatness of God’s design throughout the pages of the bible. Jeremiah would say “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”

The system

In the last decade of the apostle John’s life, he writes to the church reminding them to walk in the light (1 John 1:7), love one another (1 John 2:10) and not to love the world (1 John 2:15). He says “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” The word World he is referring to here is the system of the world. The humanistic system that is at war with God’s word. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. He is reminding the church that this corrupt system will only lead to death and destruction. If we love the system of the world the love of the father is not in us. He ends this part of scripture telling us the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

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