The Wrath of God and Death of Jesus – Part 2

If you have not read “Part 1”, read it first.  Click Here

I grew up with a strong fear of God.  The reality of hell was taught often. Hell was taught as a place of fire where people would be tortured forever.  It was a place that was used to often scare people into making a choice to follow Jesus.

Satan's Waitin' - Sylvester and Tweety (16)

In my last post, I quoted Jonathan Edwards from “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”.

“The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you… (click here to read more)”

People often write me on social media and tell me that they are concerned that I am too easy on people about the depravity of man and anger of God, and in doing so people will be less likely to repent.  It is like we are scared of what will happen if we understand the loving grace of God.  

Grace is not the enemy of the gospel… it is at the heart of it!

I was blown away when I began to see God’s loving pursuit of mankind, and God being present by stepping into our mess instead of being disgusted and pushing us away.

Let me say this another way… God is continually stepping into our messiness and pursuing us, over and over again.  It is not God’s desire or posture to be disgusted with us and desiring for us to feel the effects of His anger.  It is His desire to do the opposite.

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

I am becoming more and more aware of how unbiblical caricatures of God and the afterlife have thrown us into some strange beliefs that are not fully Biblical.

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Here is a brief history.

In the ancient world, philosophers were trying to figure out the reasoning behind the universe.  They landed on the idea that when a lack of rain effects crops or natural disasters come… it is the forces or gods behind creation being angry.  This brought in a lot of fear of the divine.

These ideas of an angry God in the first couple of centuries were mostly found in the pagan world only, but something happened after the 500’s with the Roman Catholic Church.  We see the fear of an angry God beginning to be used to control people.

In the late 1400’s Martin Luther came onto the scene.  Martin Luther lived under the fear of God so much so that his fear was the original reason why he became a monk (he survived a lightning storm and promised to give his life to God).  Martin Luther’s main push was against the Catholic church for using the fear of afterlife to control people into paying the church.

In the early reformation years, instead of landing on a more accurate view of God’s character, the reformers landed on the death of Jesus being the remedy to appease God’s anger.  The early reformer’s eschatology was not developed well, so all they were answering questions around a simplified caricature of the afterlife and not one that was fully Biblically represented.

Eventually these views of a God, who’s character default was seen as angry, contributed to two different movements.

  1. A view of God that N.T. Wright calls “split level”.  This is a view that God created the Earth, but has stepped back, is distant, and is not involved in creation.  This view leads us to a view that God is a landlord.  This belief system thinks that He is distant, but when something goes wrong, it is His fault and/or He is responsible.  This view contributed to the belief systems of Deism, Darwinism (influenced by epicureanism), and kept Gnostic (belief that physical matter is evil) ideas in the Christian faith as the enlightenment moved forward.
  2. Militant atheism.  This idea sees religious systems as systems that are behind much of the war and violence in the world.  When atheists in this camp see that people act out of the idea that these gods are believed to be angry, they also then see God as violent, and then they want to have nothing to do with these beliefs at all whatsoever.

We have to understand that God’s character is that of love and only love.  This means that His justice and judgement comes out of this reality.

What if the afterlife (heaven or hell) was a reality and God’s wrath and judgement was real, but maybe what we have been taught to believe has more pieces of a caricature based on greek mythology and medieval folklore then a Biblical view?

 

 

God’s justice of breaking the hold of sin in the world was through lovingly offering Himself to be put to death at the hands of evil men.

The wrath of God being satisfied, is not necessarily the same thing as a God’s anger being appeased.  God’s wrath in the Bible is a merciful act that I believe breaks His heart (more on this idea coming soon).

I will continue writing.  Next… I will be moving towards defining the wrath of God Biblically (possibly talking about hell) and what that means for the death of Jesus.

Thank you for engaging in this conversation with me!

6 thoughts on “The Wrath of God and Death of Jesus – Part 2

  1. Sylvester the cat gazing at the flames of hell? Genius! I enjoyed this, and agree wholeheartedly that unbiblical caricatures can distort our view of God. The problem is it can cut both ways, don’t you agree? Here’s a great post on the same theme:
    https://derekzrishmawy.com/2014/08/20/prodigal-father-or-avenging-vineyard-owner-two-parables-same-jesus-same-god/
    I’m looking forward to seeing you flesh out how God’s wrath is merciful act. It’s easy to see it as a consequence of His perfect holiness, hatred of sin, requirement for divine justice, etc, but mercy? I always thought that wrath is what happens when you reach the end of mercy.

    1. Matt,

      Thank you so much for your response. I am curious what your thoughts on the next few posts are. Again, I love that you read and you are very informed on many different thoughts and I love it!

      Thank you for the article. I read it and it is very well written.

      I want to reframe the difference of the two accounts of God’s reaction. I would actually say that these passages are referring to two different things.

      Sometimes passages are referring to an individual and other times they are referring to a people group such as the nation of Israel or the church.

      I would say that what is unique about the Luke 20 Vineyard is that it is referring to the judgement and destruction of Jerusalem and how they missed out on the messiah. I believe that their vocational call was as Genesis 12 says to be a blessed nation and to bless others (as a nation). Jesus came as their messiah and representative and the missed out on Him.

      “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’”

      I come to this conclusion by reading Luke 17-20. It is a conversation of about the coming destruction of the temple that leads us in Chapter 19 to see Jesus weeping over Jerusalem wishing that they would have known what would have brought them peace.

      You cross over to Matthew 22-26 and it is a similar conversation. In 24 Jesus has another conversation about the destruction of the temple then compares it to the flood and judgement. Then in Chapter 25 we see that when the Son of Man comes He will gather the nations and judge. Chapter 26 then has Him say the Son of Man has come. This is a reference to Daniel 7’s promise.

      I believe that this is referring to the nation of Jerusalem missing out on Jesus being the promised messiah and “Son of Man”. The phrase “…give the vineyard to others” I believe is referring to God’s people “the church” (which now includes gentiles) that will now carry the torch and the messiah Jesus is Lord to this movement.

      Last thought on this Judgement… I read much of Luke 17 and Matthew 24 from the understanding that it is referring to the destruction of the temple that happened in A.D. 70. I believe that the warnings to flee were obeyed as we look at history by Christians while Jewish people stayed to fight and were destroyed.

      Here is where this is tricky and I will talk about this in my next post… yes this is judgement and wrath of God, but it isn’t by His hand, but by the hand of the Empire of Rome that God handed the jewish people over to to play out His wrath.

      God brought judgement in the OT by handing His people over to Babylon. It was by their hand. This also is how Jesus’s death played out (Act 2:23).

      Augustine talked about this kind of judgement like this:
      “…evil men, and endows them with many natural and temporal goods, and bends their evil to admonition and instruction of the good by comparison with it.”

      Stephen Butler Murray says, “Thus, God uses evil men and wicked rulers to accomplish the wrath of God upon others, both the elect and the reprobate.”

      I believe that this is what the Luke 20 passage is referring to. It is the nation of Israel missing out on the messiah and judgement coming.

      If you want to read more about my interpretation on Luke 17-19 (context of the parable of Vineyard) and Matthew 24-26 (cross reference) you can read it here:
      https://davidruybalid.wordpress.com/2017/03/17/the-sheep-and-goats-might-not-be-what-you-expect/

  2. I’m not sure what difference it makes whether God’s wrath comes directly from his hand (Sodom and Gomorrah), or through evil men and wicked rulers (the Romans).
    I’m also not clear on how the fact that God judges nations and pours out his wrath on them for their collective sins means that He does not do the same for individuals. Herod, and Ananias and Sapphira come to mind from the New Testament.
    Also, I re-read your post on the sheep and the goats, and that sent me into a whole series of rabbit holes about the atonement and the much maligned theory of penal substitution, thank you very much!

    1. The judgement conversations between Sodom and Gomorrah, the flood, Jerusalem, and even judgement seat, all have different things happening within the same character of God. I try to read in each account what is happening, unique, and why it is playing out the way it is.

      Hahaha!!! I love talking atonement, if ever you want to grab coffee. So many strange disagreements and divided lines.

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