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THEOLOGY > Sin > Man's Disobedience > Condemnation and Wrath


Whoever believes in Him is not condemned,
but whoever does not believe is condemned already,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Jo. 3:18

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life;
whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life,
but the wrath of God remains on him.
Jo. 3:36

According to the above Scriptures, man in his natural state (see: The Natural Man), a state of unbelief and rebellion, is condemned and under God’s wrath; and this state of condemnation and wrath is a present reality (note the words “already” and “remains”), in addition to the future threat of wrath at the time of final judgment. But when one believes on Christ he is “not condemned” and has “eternal life,” with the threat of eternal wrath being removed.

Three topics will be considered: the essence of condemnation and wrath, the necessity of belief, and the present danger.

The Essence of Condemnation and Wrath

What does it mean to be condemned and under wrath? Both words must be understood in terms of God, for the relationship of man to each of these concepts is determined by God. All considerations must be theological or the considerations will be invalid; in other words, any conclusions that are formed must be governed by Theism (see: Foundations).

To be condemned is to be guilty of wrong doing and to be deserving of punishment—the wrong doing is against God and the punishment is from God, for God is the One who condemns and all are guilty before Him. To be condemned is to be judged and under judgment.

The basic word is krinō, meaning “to judge”; from this word other nouns and verbs are formed and used in the Greek New Testament. Common translations are “damn,” “damnation” (though these are not generally used at the present), “judge,” “judgment,” “condemn,” and “condemnation.” The word group appears in such well-known passages as Jo. 3:18; 5:24; Rom. 5:16, 18; 8:1; II Pet. 2:6.

Condemnation has two dimensions: a current reality, and a future accounting. The unbeliever is condemned “already,” in this life at the present moment. And this condemnation is waiting for the day of judgment when the formal sentence by the righteous Judge will be issued, after which the punishment will be carried out.

Removal of condemnation, both the present reality and the future appointment, can only be effected by the One who initially condemned; only God Himself can remove an individual from a state of condemnation, and His removal of the person from the guilty state is conditioned by the penalty paid by the Son for the individual.

Wrath is the display of God’s holiness directed against that which is contrary to His holiness—it is God’s righteous indignation against sin. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18). Wrath is God’s response to sin; it is His settled and abiding opposition to evil.

But His wrath, His righteous indignation, His fixed and absolute anger, is not identical with the display of this sentiment in man. While man’s anger is always tinged with sin, God’s anger—indignation or wrath—is not emotional and fluctuating; it is not capricious, but is constant and immutable. There is no evil in His anger; His anger is righteous.

To be a natural man is to be governed by the flesh and, therefore, to be “by nature” a child of wrath; Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “. . . we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:3). To be a natural man is to be condemned; to be a natural man is to be under wrath. To be a natural man is to be opposed to God and, therefore, to have God opposed to you (see: The Natural Man).

Both condemnation and wrath speak of each and every person’s relationship to God, and the ultimate display of both is determined by the individual’s relationship to Christ. In other words, condemnation and wrath are personal—they have to do with relationships. God is not only angry with sin but He is also angry with the sinner. God is in opposition to both the state of man and the deeds of man. The personal element in both condemnation and wrath cannot be divorced from the teaching of the Scriptures. For instance, wrath is not just directed against sin, but all men are “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13); and the lost are spoken of as “vessels of wrath” (Rom. 9:22; how tragic for there to be “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction”). Man himself is under the abiding wrath of God because he is guilty.

The Necessity of Belief

Both of the above verses begin with the words, “Whoever believes,” words that focus on the centrality of belief.

The belief that is necessary is belief that God is, that there is only one God, that man is accountable to Him because of the evil that pervades man, and that the only position that is acceptable to God is the position of the person who is in His Son. The unbeliever must realize the need of being right with God, and, at the same time, realize that there is nothing that the person can do to effect a state of rightness with God.

To the individual in this condition the Gospel is the way to follow, the truth to believe, the water to drink, the food to eat, and the life to receive. The Gospel does not offer options, but proclaims the absolute act and the absolute Person; the article is not “a” nor “an” but “the.” The Gospel is not something but Someone—the Gospel is Christ, His life, death, and resurrection. The Gospel is good news that what needs to be done for the unbeliever to be right with God has been done—it was accomplished on the Cross by God the Son. Tetelestai (Jo. 19:30).

The Gospel must be heard, and the Gospel must be believed. To believe the Gospel is to believe in Christ; it is to be identified with Christ; it is to be in Christ. Apart from belief in Christ, there is no hope for any lost person. There is no other way.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). It is Christ who “delivers us from the wrath to come” (I Thess. 1:10); Paul also writes in Romans:  “since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood . . . we shall be save by Him from the wrath of God” (5:9).

For the believer, there is no longer condemnation and the wrath is removed; that is, the individual is no longer guilty but has been forgiven because of his identification with Christ (see: The Principle of Identification). Rather than condemning the sinner for his sin, God condemned sin in Christ: “By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). Because sin has been judged the sinner can be forgiven.

In order to have condemnation and wrath removed, a person must believe:

Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (Jo. 3:18);

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (Jo. 3:36);

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life, and shall not come into condemnation but is passed from death to life (Jo. 5:24);

Whoever believes in Me shall never thirst (Jo. 6:35);

For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day (Jo. 6:40);

He who believes in Me has everlasting life (Jo. 6:47).

The Present Danger

The present danger has two dimensions: an existing state, and an ever present potential.

The existing state is the state of condemnation and wrath that is true of every child of Adam (see: By One Man). Each person comes into this life condemned and under wrath; note the words “already” and “remains” in the above verses. Each person is condemned “already” and God’s wrath “remains” on that person. This is not a future threat but a current danger. Condemnation and wrath are not merely possibilities in the future but both are the conditions in the present for the one who is set in unbelief and refuses to repent. Apart from grace, man is currently under condemnation and wrath—and that is the present danger.

This present condition speak of the perilous nature of man’s existence. Most of the human race is occupied with daily concerns: food, clothing, and shelter. In a more sophisticated sense, especially in the West, people are concerned with jobs, salary, investments, and retirement. In the mix is a concern for the welfare of the family. Ultimately all of this is mundane and self-centered; it is all about “me” and “now.” But these are the concerns of life, and the majority live life with these ordinary concerns dominating their thinking.

But the real concern should be the present danger: condemned by God and facing His wrath. It is with God that man has to do. And when the concerns of this life are terminated, it is God that man must face.

The present potential is the fact that at any moment God’s condemnation and wrath can become operational in the life; either or both can become operative at any moment for the unbeliever.

To be a natural man is to live under the hovering wrath of God, wrath that could be experienced at any moment; it is not only to be faced with the coming “day of the Lord’s wrath” (Zeph. 1:18), a day referred to as “the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16), but it is to be faced with God’s potential judgment in this life.

Condemnation and wrath are continually being manifested on earth by God as He visits their iniquities upon people from time to time, according to His righteous judgment. Multiple are His means of judgment: increasing individual capacity for evil, giving a passion for sin that cannot be satisfied, by giving an already depraved mind over to a reprobate mind, and natural calamities that may be expressions of God’s displeasure of wicked men and wicked living.

God is to be feared lest His anger be provoked:

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31);

Kiss the Son, lest He be angry (Ps. 2:12);

But You, You are to be feared! Who can stand before You when once your anger is roused (Ps. 76:7);

Who knows the power of Your anger (Ps. 90:11);

Behold, My anger and My wrath will be poured out on this place (Jer. 7:20);

Fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt. 10:28).

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