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What does John 3:36 mean?

John 3:31–36 describes how Jesus’ ministry is from God, but almost everyone will reject it. Verse 36 is an important footnote to the core gospel message, seen in John 3:16–21. Those who put their faith in Christ will be saved, but those who reject Him will face the wrath of God. This passage emphasizes the exclusivity of the gospel: there is absolutely no other way to obtain heaven, but through Jesus Christ. “Testimony,” and the need to believe it, are also crucial in this text.

John 3:16 is frequently used as a one-sentence summary of the entire gospel. The idea that God loved us enough to send Christ for us is the central theme of Christianity. However, verses such as John 3:18 and John 3:36 are also critical. There are only two options: those who turn to Christ in faith will have “eternal life,” and find forgiveness for sin. Those who do not will face judgment. No one is neutral, and no one is exempt. Salvation through Jesus Christ is not an upgrade, it’s a rescue from disaster.

This salvation is through Jesus, and Jesus alone (John 14:6), and ignoring it means facing the wrath of God. Verse 36 is the only time John, the apostle, uses the term “wrath” outside of the book of Revelation. The Greek term is orgē, and in this context, it refers to the righteous anger of a judge who is issuing punishment for a crime. This concept is seen often in Revelation (Revelation 6:16–17; Revelation 19:15), and in Paul’s explanation of God in the book of Romans (Romans 3:5; Romans 4:15; Romans 5:9; Romans 12:19).

All translations of John 3:36 imply that this rejection of Christ is a deliberate action. The original Greek word, apeithōn, means “rejecting belief,” “refusing obedience,” or “refusing to be convinced.” This is the same idea explained in Scriptures such as John 3:18–19, Romans 1:20, and Romans 3:11. God wants people to be saved (2 Peter 3:9), not destroyed (Ezekiel 18:23). So, He makes Himself visible enough to encourage people to seek Him (Psalm 19:1), and hidden enough that those who want to make excuses can do so (2 Peter 3:3-5; Romans 1:28). Ultimately, those who die separated from God are those who want to be separated from Him (Jeremiah 29:13; Acts 17:27).

Bible References

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

22 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.

23 And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.

24 For John was not yet cast into prison.

25 Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying.

26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.

27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.

28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.

29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.

30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

31 He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.

32 And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony.

33 He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.

34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.

35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.

36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:

17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)

God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?

For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?

And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.

What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;

10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

19 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,

And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:

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