I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. Luke 18:17
When reading this verse, I usually concentrate on the “little child” part. But this time the word “never” jumped out at me. It’s actually two Greek words – οὐ μή – that are translated “never” in the above verse. Let me just say up front that studying these words has greatly encouraged my faith and I hope it does the same for you.
According to NetBible Translator’s Notes, “The negation in Greek used here (οὐ μή, ou mh) is very strong.” Strong’s Concordance, notes that it is “a double negative strengthening the denial.” The meanings include: not at all, by no means, neither, never, in no case, nor ever, not in any wise.
So, it’s really important to pay attention when Jesus uses this word. He is saying in the above verse that it is vital that we come to God with the faith of a child. (And note that it is matter of our will – “anyone who will not receive.”)
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon adds that “οὐ denies the thing itself (or to speak technically, denies simply, absolutely, categorically, directly, objectively), but μή denies the thought of the thing, or the thing according to the judgment, opinion, will, purpose, preference, of someone.”
Denying the thought of the thing is like saying “God forbid,” or “don’t even think about it!” Like Peter exclaiming after Jesus predicted his death at the hands of the chief priests:
“Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never ( οὐ μή ) happen to you!” Matthew 16:22
This is also translated “God forbid!” “Heaven forbid!” “Impossible, Master!”
These are negative examples, but there are many, many promises using this word combination. From God’s point of view, it is like he is declaring, “Not on my watch!” Jesus uses this emphatic “double negative strengthening the denial” many times, categorically and absolutely declaring the impossibility of something happening.
It is helpful for me to think of it as “It’s not happening!” (I was going to say “It ain’t happenin’!” but my librarian/English major self won’t let me.) Or I could say, “It is absolutely not possible – not ever.” I want to make sure I realize the implications – to shake myself out of my – what is it? – sleepiness, complacency, apathy? I don’t want to just let my eyes and mind slip by these promises, but grab unto them with both hands and all my heart and soul.
Below is a list of some of the promises using this double, emphatic negative.* It is mind jogging to me, and so comforting and encouraging to read them with “It’s not happening. It is absolutely not possible – not ever!” preceding the promise. (You can precede these verses in any way that speaks to you):
It’s not happening. It is absolutely not possible – not ever!
I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Matthew 5:18
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Matthew 24:35
Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst–not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life. John 4:14 (Message)
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37
All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Luke 21:17-18
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away (never cast them out, never reject them).
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. John 10:28
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25-26
And then these wonderful promises:
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Galatians 5:16
And I will forgive their wrongdoings, and I will never again remember their sins. Hebrews 8:12 (NLT)
Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more. Hebrews 10:17
… God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 1 Peter 2:6
He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. Revelation 2:11
All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine. Revelation 3:5 (NLT)
Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. Revelation 3:12
That last one! How amazing! We will be in His Presence and never again, not at all, by no means, never ever, in no case, not ever, not in any wise will we leave His glorious Presence ever again. Praise God! It ain’t happenin’!
*A further discussion and complete list of verses using οὐ μή and be found here https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g3364
Image copyright by Derek Bair