As a society, Americans are fond of their rights. We’re very protective of our liberties, even when they might bring harm rather than good. That can be true of spiritual matters as well. For example, exercising the “right” to reject God’s plan of salvation leaves a person in a condemned condition.
I have heard the following phrase often in my years of ministry: “I don’t believe God is going to condemn me to hell.” I agree, but not with the comment’s intended meaning–that a person is worthy of heaven on the basis of his own merit. You see, it is true that the Lord doesn’t condemn people to hell. He allows them to opt for that eternal destination themselves. They have a right to choose.
God says that those who do not believe in Jesus Christ have been judged already (v. 18). In other words, by rejecting–or politely ignoring–their need for a Savior, unbelievers have chosen to remain unsaved and unforgiven. Scripture teaches that there will one day be a judgment, but God has already determined that those who trust in Christ will stand with Him while the rest will be sent away (Matt. 25:34-46). An unrepentant man or woman is not condemned by God but, rather, has chosen to remain in the company of all those condemned by their own free will.
God desires that everyone come to a saving knowledge of His Son Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:9). To that end, He has granted each person the right to decide whether or not to follow in obedience. However, those who reject the Savior are forewarned that they have settled for condemnation.