N. T. “Tom” Wright has just released another paradigm-shifting book suggesting a new, more scriptural way of understanding the atonement, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion. Wright delves deeply into how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus accomplish our salvation.
I’m going to backtrack just a hair. We’ve covered these verses already, but only from the perspective of atonement theology. There’s more there.
(Rom. 8:1 NET) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
“Condemnation” (katakrima) is used by Paul to refer to the loss of immortality, which he often refers to as “death,” in parallel with God’s words to Adam when God warned Adam against eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam did not die on that day, but he did suffer the curse of death. He lost access to the Tree of Life and so he lost all hope of immortality.
Katakrima is a legal term and refers literally to a verdict of guilty. Therefore, it’s the opposite of “justification,” which is a verdict of “righteous” or innocent.
Rom 5:16 and :18 are the other places the word is used —
(Rom. 5:16-18 NET) 16 And the gift is not like the one who sinned. For judgment, resulting from the one transgression, led to condemnation, but the gracious gift from the many failures led to justification. 17 For if, by the transgression of the one man, death reigned through the one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ! 18 Consequently, just as condemnation for all people came through one transgression, so too through the one righteous act came righteousness leading to life for all people.
Paul speaks of condemnation coming due to the sin of Adam. Therefore, to say that there is “no condemnation” means that we are no longer pronounced guilty and are instead found justified and so restored to the presence of the Tree of Life and immortality. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised to read —
(Rev. 2:7 NET) The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will permit him to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.’
(Rev. 22:1-3 NET) Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life – water as clear as crystal – pouring out from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 flowing down the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life producing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month of the year. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations. 3 And there will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city. His servants will worship him,
(Rev. 22:14 NET) 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes so they can have access to the tree of life and can enter into the city by the gates.
(Rev. 22:19 NET) 19 And if anyone takes away from the words of this book of prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book.
Over and over, John the Revelator tells us that immortality comes from living in the New Heavens and New Earth (NHNE) where we’ll have access to the fruit of the Tree of Life. The curse that drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden will be gone (Rev 22:3), and we will dwell in the very Presence of God. This is the meaning of “no condemnation.” As used in Rom 5 and 8, condemnation is the curse of Gen 3; “no condemnation” is the reversal of the curse of Gen 3 — a curse that applies to all humanity.
Now, this is important for many reasons, not the least of which is that it sets up Rom 8:19-23, which speaks of the removal of the curse from Creation. Why does Paul move from the indwelling Spirit to the redemption of Creation? Because the subject at hand is “no condemnation.” You see?
But, of course, the even larger point is that if we’re in King Jesus, we are justified, promised eternity in the NHNE, and will receive the other blessings Paul is about to cover in the balance of chapter 8. This is not a partial or occasional salvation. We are continuously saved because we are continuously in Jesus. And how do we know that? Because of our baptisms.
(Rom. 6:3-4 NET) 3 Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.
The rest of chapter 8 tells us what it means to “live a new life.”