The Bible speaks so much of condemnation because of the sin which permeates mankind: “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). In the Bible, the word condemnation is synonymous with damnation, judgment, punishment, destruction, and verdict. In its strongest sense, condemnation means “the banishing to hell all those disobedient to the will of God” (Matthew 5:22; Matthew 23:33; Matthew 25:41) and those who deny Him (Matthew 10:33; Mark 16:16; John 3:18).
The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17) were part of the Old Covenant or Law, which was also called “the ministry of death” or “ministry of condemnation” (2 Corinthians 3:7-9). The Old Covenant brought condemnation upon mankind because it made known our sin and its tragic consequence: death. As such, the Law judged man already condemned. The Law carried a verdict of “guilty” because it pointed out sin (Romans 3:19-20; Romans 5:12-13). Before Christ, everyone had to offer animal sacrifices every year. These sacrifices were a reminder that God punishes sin but also offers forgiveness through repentance. This, in essence, was the purpose of the Law. The writer of Hebrews explains: “But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:3-4). The Law reveals sin within us and therefore condemns us. It’s as the apostle Paul said, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Yet, animal sacrifices were just a temporary method of dealing with man’s sin until Jesus would come to deal with sin forever. Animals, ignorant beasts and part of a fallen world, could not offer the same sacrifice as Christ—the God-man, fully rational, completely sinless (Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5)—who willingly went to the cross (Hebrews 10:12).
How, then, were people forgiven in Old Testament times? When Old Testament believers followed God’s command and by faith offered the sacrifices, He forgave them (Hebrews 9:15). In essence, the Law’s sacrifices looked forward to Christ’s perfect sacrifice. Today, as followers of Jesus, God has completely forgiven our sins because of Christ’s death for us. God even forgets about our sins (Hebrews10:17; Psalm 103:12).
Jesus made it clear that without Him no one can enter the kingdom of heaven (John 14:6). It’s no secret. We are all condemned to die and to eternal punishment because of our sin. The only way we can be made right with God is through Jesus, who has made the perfect sacrifice for us: “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:27-28).
Without question, the best-known passage in all Scripture is “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17). Yet, many fail to read the passage which follows and which has an uncompromising warning to all: “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” (John 3:18).
Though the Law condemns all mankind, we as believers in Jesus Christ have this promise: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2).