John 3:36
He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God stays on him.
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(36) Here too we have, in the words of John, thoughts which we have found already (John 3:15-16), and shall find again (John 5:24), in the words of Christ Himself.

He that believeth not the Son.—Better, he that obeyeth not the Son. The word, which occurs only here in the Gospels, is not the same as that at the beginning of the verse, and shows that the faith there intended is the subjection of the will to the Son, to whom the Father hath given all things (John 3:35). (Comp. “obedience to the faith,” Romans 1:5.)

Shall not see life is contrasted with the present possession of the believer. He has life; the man who disobeys has not, and while he disobeys shall not see life, for he cannot be a subject of a kingdom to whose laws he refuses allegiance. But there is also a fearful positive contrast. There is for him a present possession, which shall also remain.

The wrath of God abideth on him.—Once only in the four Gospels does this term, so full of tremendous meaning, meet us, and that in the Gospel of fullest love, and in a context which speaks of the Father’s love to the Son, and of eternal life, which is the portion of all who believe on the Son. It must be so. This wrath (comp. Romans 2:8; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; Revelation 19:15) is not the fierceness of passion, nor is it the expression of fixed hatred. It is the necessary aspect of love and holiness toward those who reject love, and wilfully sin. It is not here spoken of as coming upon them, or as passing from them. It abideth, ever has and ever must; for the wrath of love must abide on hatred, the wrath of holiness must abide on sin. But none need hate, and none need live in wilful sin. “He that believeth”—how vast the love and bright the hope of the all-including words—“hath eternal life”! (Comp. Note on John 6:56.)

3:22-36 John was fully satisfied with the place and work assigned him; but Jesus came on a more important work. He also knew that Jesus would increase in honour and influence, for of his government and peace there would be no end, while he himself would be less followed. John knew that Jesus came from heaven as the Son of God, while he was a sinful, mortal man, who could only speak about the more plain subjects of religion. The words of Jesus were the words of God; he had the Spirit, not by measure, as the prophets, but in all fulness. Everlasting life could only be had by faith in Him, and might be thus obtained; whereas all those, who believe not in the Son of God, cannot partake of salvation, but the wrath of God for ever rests upon them.Hath everlasting life - Has or is in possession of that which is a recovery from spiritual death, and which will result in eternal life in heaven. Piety here is the same that it will be there, except that it will be expanded, matured, purified, made more glorious. It is here life begun the first breathings and pantings of the soul for immortality; yet it is life, though at first feeble and faint, which is eternal in its nature, and which shall be matured in the full and perfect bliss of heaven. The Christian here has a foretaste of the world of glory, and enjoys the same kind of felicity, though not the same degree, that he will there.

Shall not see life - Shall neither enjoy true life or happiness here nor in the world to come. Shall never enter heaven.

The wrath of God - The anger of God for sin. His opposition to sin, and its terrible effects in this world and the next.

Abideth on him - This implies that he is "now" under the wrath of God, or under condemnation. It implies, also, that it will continue to remain on him. It will "abide" or "dwell" there as its appropriate habitation. As there is no way of escaping the wrath of God but by the Lord Jesus Christ, so those who will not believe must go to eternity "as they are," and bear alone and unpitied all that God may choose to inflict as the expression of "his" sense of sin. Such is the miserable condition of the sinner! Yet thousands choose to remain in this state, and to encounter alone all that is terrible in the wrath of Almighty God, rather than come to Jesus, who has borne their sins in his own body on the tree, and who is willing to bless them with the peace, and purity, and joy of immortal life.

36. hath everlasting life—already has it. (See on [1777]Joh 3:18 and [1778]Joh 5:24).

shall not see life—The contrast here is striking: The one has already a life that will endure for ever—the other not only has it not now, but shall never have it—never see it.

abideth on him—It was on Him before, and not being removed in the only possible way, by "believing on the Son," it necessarily remaineth on him! Note.—How flatly does this contradict the teaching of many in our day, that there neither was, nor is, anything in God against sinners which needed to be removed by Christ, but only in men against God!

He that, hearing the proposition of the gospel, so agreeth to it, as with his heart he receiveth him as his Saviour, and trusteth and hopeth in him, hath everlasting life; that is, a certain and just title to it, nay, in the first fruits; being actually delivered from condemnation, Romans 8:1, to which, without faith, he is exposed: he already liveth a spiritual life, Galatians 2:20; and having Christ in him, hath the hope of glory, into the possession of which he shall most certainly come. But he that receiveth not the gospel published by him who is the Son of God, and doth not embrace him as his Saviour, and yield obedience to him, shall not be saved. The word here translated believeth not, is apeiywn, which often signifieth, one that is not obedient. But this is the command of God, That men should believe on his Son, 1Jo 3:23. The commandment doth not only respect love, but faith in the first place; for faith worketh by love; so as there is an apeiyeia, a disobedience in the understanding, as well as in the conversation; and he that so believeth not, as to obey, shall never come into heaven, which felicity is here expressed by seeing life; as not seeing death is not dying, so not seeing life is dying. And as he was by nature a child of wrath, Ephesians 2:3, subject and exposed to the wrath of God, so that wrath abideth on him: being justified by faith, he hath peace with God, Romans 5:1. He that believeth on the Son,.... Who is a proper object of faith and trust; which, if he was not truly and properly God, he would not be: and this is to be understood not of any sort of faith, a temporary, or an historical one; but of that which is the faith of God's elect, the gift of God, and the operation of his Spirit; by which a man sees the Son, goes unto him, ventures and relies upon him, and commits himself to him, and expects life and salvation from him; and who shall not be ashamed and confounded; for such an one

hath everlasting life; he has it in Christ his head, in whom he believes; he has a right unto it through the justifying righteousness of Christ, and a meetness for it by his grace; he has it in faith and hope; he has the beginning of it in the knowledge of Christ, and communion with him; he has some foretastes of it in his present experience; and he has the earnest and pledge of it in his heart, even the blessed Spirit, who works him up for this selfsame thing:

and he that believeth not the Son; that does not believe Christ to be the Son of God, or Jesus to be the Messiah; or rejects him as the Saviour; who lives and dies in a state of impenitence and unbelief:

shall not see life; eternal life; he shall not enter into it, and enjoy it; he shall die the second death. Very remarkable are the following words of the Jews (b) concerning the Messiah, whom they call the latter Redeemer:

"whosoever believes in him "shall" live; but he that believes not in him shall go to the nations of the world, and they shall kill him.''

But the wrath of God abideth on him; as the sentence of wrath, of condemnation, and death, and the curse of the law were pronounced upon him in Adam, as on all mankind, it continues, and will continue, and will never be reversed, but will be executed on him, he not being redeemed from it, as his final unbelief shows; and as he was by nature a child of wrath, as others, he remains such; and as the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men, it comes upon the children of disobedience, and remains there; it hangs over their heads, and lights upon them, and they will be filled with a dreadful sense of it to all eternity. The Syriac and Arabic versions render it, "shall abide upon him"; so some copies.

(b) Midrash Ruth, fol. 33. 2.

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

(c) Shall not enjoy.

John 3:36. All the more weighty in their results are faith in the Son and unbelief! Genuine prophetic conclusion to life or death.

ἔχειζ. αἰ.] “he has eternal life,” i.e. the Messianic ζωή, which, in its temporal development, is already a present possession of the believer; see on John 3:15-16. At the Second Advent it will be completed and glorified; and therefore the antithesis οὐκ ὄψεται ζωήν, referring to the future αἰών, is justified, because it presupposes the οὐκ ἔχει ζ.

ἀπειθῶν] not: “he who does not believe on the Son” (Luther and the Fathers), but: “he who is disobedient to the Son;” yet, according to the context, so far as the Son requires faith. Comp. Acts 14:2; Acts 19:9; Romans 11:30; Fritzsche, ad Rom. I. p. 17. Contrasted herewith is the ὑπακοὴ πίστεως, Romans 1:5.

ἡ ὀργή] not punishment, but wrath, as the necessary emotion of holiness; see on Romans 1:18; Ephesians 2:3; Matthew 3:7.

μένει] because unreconciled, inasmuch as that which appropriates reconciliation, i.e. faith (John 3:16), is rejected; comp. John 9:41. This μένει (it is not termed ἔρχεται) implies that the person who rejects faith is still in a moral condition which is subject to the divine wrath,—a state of subjection to wrath, which, instead of being removed by faith, abides upon him through his unbelief. The wrath, therefore, is not first awakened by the refusal to believe (Ritschl, de ira Dei, pp. 18, 19; Godet), but is already there, and through that refusal remains.[180] Whether or not this wrath rests upon the man from his birth (Augustine; Thomasius, Chr. Pers. u. Werk, I. p. 289), this text gives no information. See on Ephesians 2:3.

That the Baptist could already speak after this manner, is evident from chap. John 1:29.

ἐπʼ αὐτόν] as in John 1:32-33.

[180] This is also against Hengstenberg. But certainly the μένει must, according to the context, be an eternal abiding, if the ὑπακοὴ πίστεως never occurs.John 3:36. ὁ πιστεύωνἐπʼ αὐτόν. Christ has been represented as Sovereign, commissioned with supreme powers, especially for the purpose of saving men and restoring them to God. Hence “he that believeth on the Son hath eternal life”. He who through the Son finds and accepts the Father has life in this very vision and fellowship of the Supreme; cf. John 17:3. But “he that refuses to be persuaded,” lit. “he that disobeyeth”. Beza points out that in N.T. there is a twofold ἀπείθεια, one of the intellect, dissenting from truth presented, as here and in Acts 14:2; the other of the will and life, see Romans 11:30. But will enters into the former as well as the latter. ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ θεοῦ, the wrath of God denotes “the fixed and necessary hostility of the Divine nature to sin”; what appears in a righteous man as indignation; and also the manifestation of that hostility in acts of retributive justice. This is the only place in the Gospel where it occurs; but in Revelation 6:16, we have “the wrath of the Lamb”; also John 16:19, “the wine of the fury of His wrath”; also John 14:10, John 11:18, John 19:15. In Paul “the coming wrath” is frequently alluded to; as also “the day of wrath,” “the children” or “vessels” of wrath. On the refuser of Christ the wrath of God, instead of removing from him, abides, μένει; not, as Theophylact reads, μενεῖ, “will abide”.36. hath everlasting life] Or, eternal life (see on John 3:16). Note the tense; ‘hath’ not ‘shall have.’ Believers are already in possession of eternal life. Christians often think of eternal life as something yet to be won. It has been already given to them; the question is whether they will lose it again or not. The struggle is not to gain but to retain. Comp. John 17:3.

he that believeth not] This may also mean he that obeyeth not, and this is better, for it is not the same word as ‘he that believeth’ with the negative added. The same correction seems to be needed, Acts 14:2; Acts 19:9; Romans 11:30 (see margin). Comp. Hebrews 4:6; Hebrews 4:11; 1 Peter 4:17.

shall not see] Not only has not beheld, but has no prospect of beholding.

the wrath of God] This phrase occurs nowhere else in the Gospels. It is the necessary complement of the love of God. If there is love for those who believe, there must be wrath for those who refuse to believe. Comp. Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7; Romans 1:18; Romans 9:22; Romans 12:19.

abideth] Not ‘shall come to him:’ this is his portion already. He is under a ban until he believes, and he refuses to believe: therefore the ban remains. He, like the believer, not only will have but has his portion; it rests with him also, whether the portion continues his. He has to struggle, not to avert a sentence, but to be freed from it.John 3:36. Ἔχει, hath) The present, the future being included. See on ch. John 5:24, “He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”—οὐκ ὄψεται, shall not see) Future, in which the present is included.—ὀργή, wrath) For he has no experimental sense of the love with which the Father loves the Son, and those alone who believe in the Son.—μένει) Others read μενεῖ [Fut. So the old Lat. [60]; Memph[61] and Syr[62] Versions: but [63][64][65][66][67][68] support μένει[69]]; but see John 3:18, “He that believeth on Him, is not condemned; but he that believeth not, is condemned already,” etc., ἤδη κέκριται, is already judged; the wrath of God abideth on him: there is no need that it should at last come [on him].

[60] Veronensis, do.

[61] emph. the Memphitic, or Coptic Version from Egypt: third cent.: publ. by Wilkins at Oxford, 1716.

[62] yr. the Peschito Syriac Version: second cent.: publ. and corrected by Cureton, from MS. of fifth cent.

[63] the Alexandrine MS.: in Brit. Museum: fifth century: publ. by Woide, 1786–1819: O. and N. Test. defective.

[64] the Vatican MS., 1209: in Vat. Iibr., Rome: fourth cent.: O. and N. Test. def.

[65] Bezæ, or Cantabrig.: Univ. libr., Cambridge: fifth cent.: publ. by Kipling, 1793: Gospels, Acts, and some Epp. def.

[66] Vercellensis of the old ‘Itala,’ or Latin Version before Jerome’s, probably made in Africa, in the second century: the Gospels.

[67] Colbertinus, do.

[68] Cantabrigiensis, do.: the Gospels, Acts , , 3 d Ep. John.

[69] Which reading, in the margin of the Larger Ed. being marked with the sign γ, afterwards more decidedly, in Ed. 2, was reckoned among the readings less to be relied on; in which the Obs. Gnomon and Vers. Germ. agree.—E. B.Verse 36. - He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life (cf. here, vers. 16, 17; John 17:3; 1 John 5:10). These words, which above every other clause in this "swanlike song," are suffused with a glow that it is difficult to believe issued from the heart of the forerunner, unless we may make the supposition already referred to, that some of John's former disciples had carried to his earlier master the grand refrain of the discourse to Nicodemus. The entrusting of the soul in utter moral surrender to the Son of God, is life - eternal life. All cruel suspicions of God vanish when the veil is lifted which sin and the corruption of the human heart have hung over the holiest of all. John had passed into a new world when he discovered the true nature of the kingdom - the tempted, humbled, sacrificial, triumphant character of the Son of God. To believe on the Son is to have the life. But he that is disobedient to the Son. The words ὁ ἀπειθῶν are, in the English Version, translated "believeth not," and again so in Romans 11:30, where ἀπιστεῖν and ἀπειθεῖν are used interchangeably. The word means one who is (ἀπειθής distrustful, who refuses to be persuaded, is contumacious and expresses the opposite to faith in active exercise, who repudiates faith on its fiducial and practical side. Nothing is said of those who have had no opportunity of coming to a knowledge of the Son of God. Shall not see life; shall not even see so as to be able to conceive of, much less enjoy, life (Westcott; see ver. 3). There is a blinding power in disobedience, which prevents those who are actively hostile to the essential excellences and glories of Christ from even knowing what life is. Life is obviously here and elsewhere more than physical existence, or than its continuance, or than its resuscitation after death; it is the activity of the new spirit, the supernatural and eternal blessedness wrought by "birth of the Spirit." Nor is the calamity referred to a mere negation. John may be said here to have gone beyond the words of the Master in the previous discourse, and, moreover, it is in fiery earnestness that he speaks. The wrath of God, which has already been called down upon him by his disobedience, abideth on him. God's ὀργή had been spoken of by the Baptist (Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7); and the term, wherever used, is far more than "the consuming fire of infinite love," into which many strive to resolve it. It represents active and terrible displeasure revealed from heaven (Romans 1:18; Romans 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:16). Much of the wrath of the Lord is said to be temporary in its character (Wisd. 16:5 Wisd. 18:20); but this is abiding, and, so far as is here revealed, permanent. The most terrible expression in the New Testament is the "wrath of the Lamb" (Revelation 6:16). The last word of the Baptist, even in the Fourth Gospel, is a word of thunder, and he disappears from view when he has delivered this terrible condemnation on those who are wilfully, actively resisting that Son whom "the Father loves," and to whose hands he has "entrusted all things." The ministry of John is, after all, that of the Elijah, not that of the Christ. To the last word, even if the phraseology has been moulded in the Greek of the fourth evangelist into a closer resemblance to his own vocabulary, and if by his attempt to epitomize what may have taken hours to say in varied phrase, the apostle has unconsciously adopted some of his own favourite terms, yet the message flashes with the fire of the prophet of the wilderness; and men are threatened with the peril of abiding under the wrath of Almighty God.

He that believeth not (ὁ ἀπειθῶν)

More correctly, as Rev., obeyeth not. Disbelief is regarded in its active manifestation, disobedience. The verb πείθω means to persuade, to cause belief, to induce one to do something by persuading, and so runs into the meaning of to obey, properly as the result of persuasion. See on Acts 5:29. Compare 1 Peter 4:17; Romans 2:8; Romans 11:30, Romans 11:31. Obedience, however, includes faith. Compare Romans 1:5, the obedience of faith.

Shall not see (οὐκ ὄψεται)

Compare the future tense with the present "hath eternal life," and the simple life with the fully developed idea eternal life. He who believes is within the circle of the life of God, which is essentially eternal. His life "is hid with Christ in God." Life eternal is to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent. Hence, to such an one, eternal life is not merely something future. It is a present possession. He hath it. The unbelieving and disobedient, instead of having eternal life, shall not have life: shall not even see it (compare see the kingdom of God, John 3:3). He shall have no perception of life simply considered, much less of eternal life, the full and complex development of life.

The wrath of God (ὀργὴ τοῦ Θεοῦ)

Both ὀργὴ and θυμός are used in the New Testament for wrath or anger, and without any commonly observed distinction. Ὁργη denotes a deeper and more permanent sentiment; a settled habit of mind; while θυμός is a more turbulent, but temporary agitation. Both words are used in the phrase wrath of God, which commonly denotes a distinct manifestation of God's judgment (Romans 1:18; Romans 3:5; Romans 9:22; Romans 12:19). Ὁργὴ (not θυμός) also appears in the phrase the wrath to come (Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:16, etc.). Compare wrath of the Lamb (Revelation 6:16).

Abideth (μένει)

The present tense. As the believer hath life, so the unbeliever hath wrath abiding on him. He lives continually in an economy which is alienated from God, and which, in itself, must be habitually the subject of God's displeasure and indignation.

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