John 3:35-36 (NIV): “The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
John reveals another reason why it is such a serious thing to reject Jesus: God loves Him, and has placed everything in His hands. To spurn Him, to reject Him, is to reject the one that God Himself loves deeply, and the one who holds the lives of every person on the earth in His hands.
Since God the Father and Jesus are one (along with the Holy Spirit), to be in relationship with Jesus is to be in relationship with the Father, and to receive the love of the Father just as Jesus did. It is also to receive eternal life, because to be in relationship with Jesus is to be in relationship with the one who has life in Himself (cf. John 1:4).
Verse 36 is parallel to John 3:17. With Jesus’ coming, those who have heard of Him and what He has done are polarized into two groups: those who believe in Jesus, and those who reject Him. Those who believe in Jesus, believing that He really was who He claimed to be (God in the flesh – cf. John 8:58, 10:30-33, 12:44-45, 14:9-11, 17:5), and that He really did what He said He came to do (die to pay for the sins of the world – Mark 10:45), are not condemned, but have eternal life. But those who reject Jesus, who do not believe in Him, are condemned already, even while they live. They will not see life because God’s wrath is on them.
Many people, when they see the word “wrath” see in it an emotion – that God is angry with that person. And many wonder how that kind of anger can be compatible with the love that God has for the whole world. But neither God’s wrath nor His love are primarily emotions. Instead, those terms talk about God’s actions toward others. His love is best described as His actions to bless others. This is the agape love that He revealed to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7, pouring out blessings, even forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin for those who truly repent. It is the same love that moved God to send Jesus to earth to die for the sins of all humanity. And it is the love that bestows eternal life on all who believe.
On the other hand, God’s wrath is His actions in opposition to those how oppose Him. Those who refuse to believe in Jesus, who reject Him and His work on their behalf, fall under God’s wrath, experiencing His opposition, even while they live. They are living as condemned because of their rejection of Jesus, and thus their rejection of God.
That thing that is vital to understand is that a person can move from being under God’s wrath to being a recipient of His love and His eternal life merely by turning away from their lives of sin and believing in Jesus, receiving His sacrifice on their behalf.
Father, it is sometimes puzzling to me that some would choose to live under your wrath by rejecting Jesus instead of repenting and receiving Him so that they can receive Your love and Your eternal life. But then I remember that I was there myself, and chose to live in darkness rather than to turn away from those things so that I could receive Your light. I guess I thought that the price was just too high. But, Lord, now that I have moved from darkness to light, from wrath to love, from death to eternal life, I can see that all of those things that I thought were so precious were really just garbage! Thank You for the gift of Jesus, and for making it available for all who want it, even me. Amen.