It is correct to suggest that "whosoever" can be translated "the believing ones" or "the ones believing" and still maintain the the seeming Greek construction of πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων as tending towards a generalization, that is, as in "anyone who believes," instead of it being interpreted as referring to a specific class or group of persons at the exclusion of others? Thank you.
Does πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων refer to a specific class of people?
Not in the context, which provides no class but simply 'anyone who believes.' Rather, it is in the universality of the avaialability of His grace, that this doctrine finds its great power; in the fact that salvation is open to all men, for whom Christ died—everyone—if they would but accept it.1 Jn 2:2; 2 Pet 2:1
In fact, it's clear that a general 'anyone who believes' is the only one consonant with the immediate context:
John 3:1-5 (DRB) (emphasis and italics mine)
And there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night, and said to him: Rabbi, we know that thou art come a teacher from God; for no man can do these signs which thou dost, unless God be with him. 3 Jesus answered, and said to him: Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again [same word for 'from above'], he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith to him: How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born again? 5 Jesus answered: Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
So this is speaking in general terms, since "a man" or "any" (τις—v. 5) never refers to a specific class of people without qualification such as here.
It is in this context that Jesus distinguishes between the hypothetical believing man, who accepts the word and keeps it, Mt 13:8-9 (also general) and he who does not believe. Anyone (τις—v. 5). Mark 16:16 is the same teaching, except in the singular instead of plural. But doesn't grammatically or contextually change any meaning. It is in this universal spirit that Jesus says other things generally, such as 'he that endures to the end,' (Mt 24:13) which become meaningless as mere descriptions of smoe select few, and not warnings. And which would also contradict the explicit meaning given (Lk 21:19; Mt 10:22).
In short, the elect are only those known to God and perhaps someone inspired by Him directly with some revelation. Only God knowns who eventually endures to the end. From only God knows who truly believes and who will be saved. Only in this sense could we take warning passages as descriptive on God's part.
For us they remain incentives and warnings and commands.
ινα πας ο πιστευων
πιστευων is the participle and is preceded by the definite article. Thus the collocation should be rendered 'the believing', that is, those persons who have the characteristic of believing. It is not one act of some kind, it is a continuous matter; a characteristic of them.
Young's Literal has :
everyone who is believeing
and the EGNT (Englishman's Greek New Testament, interlinear) has :
everyone who believes
Both Young and the EGNT render the rest of the sentence as 'may not perish'.
The statement :
'God so loved the world that everyone the believing may not perish'
contains only one class of persons - the believing.
And those believing form a world that shall not perish.
No, it would not be proper to interpret whosoever as meaning "the believing ones", if for no other reason than the word whosoever doesn't actually appear in the Greek text:
πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν
The phrase sounds clumsy in English, but it literally reads "the everyone believing in Him", perhaps better rendered as:
everyone believing in Him
The verse does not state whoever or whosoever (ὅς), but rather everyone (πᾶς). Also πιστεύων is the participle "believing" and not some other form of the verb believe (πιστεύω), but for stylistic reasons the phrase is usually translated:
everyone that believes in Him
everyone who believes in Him
The presence of a participle here could be understood mean that the "believing" is an on-going activity, and not just some one-time event (e.g. some single affirmation of belief in the past).
All of the available Greek manuscripts show the phrase as indicated above.
Translating πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων as "the believing ones" leaves out the πᾶς. You could translate the phrase "all who believe" or "everyone who believes." Everyone and whoever is better because the particle is singular. To translate πᾶς and leave the participle singular you need a word like every in there, i.e. "every believing one," but if you use the English particle, the English translation seems to come out awkward.
To understand the term whosoever believes we need to understand who the true believer is. The true believer is one who seeks the honour that comes from God only, He is thirsty for God and His righteousness. Many say they believe. But not everyone that says Lord, shall enter into my kingdom but they that do the will of my father in heaven.
44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?
Whosoever believes: Jesus reminds us that there were many widows in the days of Elijah but he was sent to non of them but to the widow of Zeraptha. Not everyone that calls himself a believer is a believer.
Luke 4:25,26, 27
25 But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;
26 But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.
27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.
Jesus knows his own from the beginning, for many are called but few a called, the believer is called to walk through the narrow way. Whosoever believes will walk with him all the way.
53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.
60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?
62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?
63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.
65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
To properly understand, what it means whosoever believes we must also look at it from the context of the rest of the scripture.
23 Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them,
24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
You see it is at a cost:
13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Surely whosoever believes will not walk in the way that leads to destruction. From the scriptures we learn first the believers are few, because it costs them walking the narrow way, the way of holiness.
24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and **whosoever** will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
Whosoever believes, must be willing to lose his life for Christ's sake. Faith is a day today affair. That's why we must believe all the way:
I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.
It is all at a cost. It calls for counting the cost.
27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
It is a call to walk with him in the way of holiness, a call to to whomsoever to walk in holiness
8 And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.
9 No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:
10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
It is not just a wishy washy affair. It calls for a death to self:
20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.