What does the wrath of God look like? We know from the Bible that there is something, given the name ‘wrath’ that involves God and that involves people. But, what does it mean? How does it, or has it played out. What does the wrath of God actually look like?
Many people for a long time, inside the church, and out, have been taught the idea that God, in the past, developed some serious anger, and that it was because of the sin of humanity. Many believe that from the first ever sin – from Adam and Eve partaking of the Tree of Knowledge and good and evil, God’s wrath waxed hot against us all. But is this true? I mean if you forget the fact that it was actually man that hid from God, not the other way around, and if you forget the fact that God acted pretty cool about the whole thing, he was even gracious and merciful, he even provided for mankind in covering their shame with the skins of animals. So, if you forget those things, and also the truth that God displayed outrageous kindness to Saints throughout the Old Testament… you can kind of believe that God was actually the one who needed space from humanity. But we can’t forget the truth! Many though, still believe that God was getting ready, if not for Jesus, to destroy this world and every one in it.
In the beginning, as detailed in Genesis 3:8, Adam and Eve hid from God. It’s important to remember though that God didn’t hide from them nor harm them. God, from before the beginning loved and adored humanity, and nothing changed after the ‘fall’. After Adam and Eve ate from the ‘law’-tree God commenced his rescue mission to save mankind and grant them access to this great Salvation we know today! Genesis 3:15 tells part of this glorious rescue mission, it says: ‘And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.’ (KJV) God did not withhold his love and adoration from humanity – he in effect says: ‘I am not going to do nothing while sin, sickness, poverty, and sorrow hurt my children – I’m going to crush all that oppose them!’
However, although the grand story throughout the Old Testament, and of course Jesus himself, testify that God wasn’t angry with humanity itself, just that which would harm her; many still insist that the wrath of God is his anger toward mankind.
Many get their view of the wrath of God from religious idea which lacks creativity – you know, it’s really a mashup with concept from other religious ideas and texts from the Old Testament. When one ignores the grand story, good contextual tools, and of course the reality of Jesus and his Finished Work, one can concoct a whole host of funny doctrines – including that of the wrath of God being his anger against humanity, and of course the like of penal-substitution etc.
But, this isn’t accurate! It’s not how it is! John explains in John 1:18 that no one has ever seen God apart from Jesus. Many take their understanding of God from accounts written by people who didn’t even see the fullness of God – they only saw a shadow of the true and good God that we see revealed in Jesus! It is in the shadow reality that his passion was mistaken as anger – to those who saw dimly it was only right that God would want to destroy those who opposed him.
But the truth revealed in Jesus shows that his wrath was for that which opposed his creation. The truth about God, indeed about his wrath is revealed when Jesus appears on the scene in a body. Jesus and his finished work reveal what God’s wrath actually looks like! Many define the atonement by their idea of God’s wrath, but the finished work of Jesus actually, and accurately, defines God’s wrath! On the cross we see a good and kind God who would rather suffer than forfeit our fellowship. We see a God who cries ‘forgive them’ (Luke 23:34), and we see Jesus, looking weak, but destroying that what would dare to oppose the Almighty’s creation; namely sin and the curse.
In John 3:14 Jesus backs this up and relates his finished work to that of Moses lifting up the snake in the desert – the account details the Israelites been bitten by snakes and suffering under the cruel effects of the poison. Moses lifted a bronze snake on a pole and everyone who looked at it got healed. And likewise, Jesus took the curse, the poison of death and brought it down to the grave – he wasn’t busy appeasing his Father, he was actually saving us from that which we needed saving from: sin.
This is the good news – God is for humanity! Yes, even the wrath of God is something to be celebrated – even his wrath is for humanity!
Romans 8:3 explains God’s wrath further, it explains that sin has been condemned in the body of Jesus! Sin needed destroying and its death sentence was carried out in Christ; it wasn’t that God condemned the fruit of your sin in Jesus so he wouldn’t have to condemn it in you – no God condemned sin itself and all of its effects in Jesus so that sin couldn’t kill you. John 3:17 backs this up and states that God did not send Jesus into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world. Sin was condemned – humanity was always meant to be saved!
Now, the idea that the wrath of God was his anger against humanity for their sin has a lot of whacky resulting ideas and doctrines, and this is another reason it’s so important to know the truth of what Jesus has accomplished and the motives behind it. This is why it’s important to know what the wrath of God looks like! One of the resulting whacky ideas that follows the idea of God’s wrath as his anger against humanity, is the idea that the wrath of God was aimed at the Son on the cross. This idea is erroneous; how can the Father be against the Son, or the Son be against the Spirit, or whichever way you want to phrases it. No, the Bible clearly teaches in 2 Corinthians 5:19 that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself!
God doesn’t need target practice – his wrath wasn’t aimed at Jesus – the Godhead knew who they were after – and they did it –they got him – they took down the old creation, and every form of evil and every bit of the curse.
God’s wrath was his anger, not at us, nor aimed at the Son, but toward sin. The wrath of God should be rightly defined as his passion to save us! In fact, the Greek word for wrath correctly and accurately denotes ‘passion’!
You know, some read verses that talk about God’s wrath, for example Romans 1:18, to be saying that God’s fiery anger was poured out against human-kind for their evil behavior. But, the Greek word for wrath, orgē, can be translated; ‘passion’, as I said above, but also ‘movement of the soul’,’ impulse’, or ‘desire’. (BlueLetterBible.org). You know, God has always had a fiery passion for his creation, and this was what we see happening at the cross – Daddy God’s passion for us was revealed from heaven against all that would dare to threaten and harm his beloved.
The judgment and wrath of God aren’t coming, they already came. In Christ God put an end to the spiritual evils which plagued us, and he set us free – free to enjoy the fullness of his love and grace, and as we do that we see manifestation of his glory which is the answer to all earthly ills!
Did you know the wrath of God and the judgment of God go hand in hand? His judgment – the eternal judgment of the Godhead is that we were worthy and worth saving! We see this further in John 5:22 where Jesus said that the Father entrusted all judgment to him, and Jesus’ judgment was the same as it has always was – Jesus says in John 3:19 that the verdict had arrived when Jesus arrived – light has come into the world – the purpose – the verdict was the redeem, not punish!
Your Daddy God’s purpose and heart has always been grace-centered, gospel centered! Wrath, as in wrath being his anger against humanity, isn’t the ‘other side of the same coin’. God is Love. Pure Love. And his wrath is perfectly in line with the revelation of his being!
Judgment took place upon that cross, through the resurrection, and in the ascension, but it wasn’t scary – it was beautiful! The wrath of God has, already, been displayed, and it was beautiful too! We are now, as Jesus put it in Luke 4, quoting Isaiah 61, in the acceptable year of favor!
Know today that your heavenly Father, your heavenly family – the Godhead, are so in love with you! You are in the New day of the New Covenant! Let’s be people who proclaim the gospel and show people the result of God’s judgment! Let’s be people who delight in the result of his wrath.