Some things you might not have known about wrath

WrathWrath and hell are two subjects that anyone who has ever experienced God’s unfathomable love and scandalous grace usually want to avoid.

After all, our punitive assumptions create some rather embarrassing conclusions… “God loves you…but if you mess up He’s going to torture and fry you alive forever! Um…excuse me?

But is this the only biblical answer we can give inquiring minds? Well, maybe not, and that’s the point of this post on wrath and my next one on hell.

I bring this up to point out that the traditional view you and I grew up with isn’t the only accepted views on wrath and hell in the body of Christ. In other words, you don’t have to give a “hellfire and brimstone” answer and be guilty of being a last days apostate who has fallen away from the faith…or worse, be called a liberal! 🙂

Jonathan_EdwardsMuch of our Western “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God” paradigm on wrath and hell is the legacy we’ve inherited from medieval Christianity and the Reformation. As Jonathan Edwards said in that famous sermon…

“The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow.”

Or his view of God casting people into hell…

“We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so it is easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that any thing hangs by: thus easy is it for God, when he pleases, to cast his enemies down to hell.”

So God is cruel and hateful like us, seeing us like a worm to be crushed or dropped into hell whenever He pleases?  Fortunately, we don’t have to project our psychological issues onto God in order to defend Him. As we saw in my Easter series on the atonement, our angry God who needs appeasement paradigm was not shared by the early Church or the Eastern Orthodox church.

Our ideas about wrath and hell go far deeper than can be adequately deconstructed here, so I will mostly quote from people with the alternate but historically orthodox views. Today, we will briefly look at wrath.

WRATH

Let’s start with Paul’s statement in Romans 5:9-10 (bold-type added):

“Much more then, having now been justified by His blood,
we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God
through the death of His Son, much more,
having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (NKJV)

First, the Greek word for wrath is ὀργή (orgē). It comes from the verb oragō meaning, ‘to teem, to swell’; and thus implies that it’s not a sudden outburst. In other words, as with God, it’s a controlled and fixed passion.

First, let’s look at whose wrath Paul is talking about here. Orthodox theologian, David Goa, said about Romans 5:9-10 (bold-type added):

“Many translations of this passage speak of us being “saved from the wrath of God” a phrase that sets up and nurtures notions of God that are akin to many pagan theologies. The “wrath of God” is the way we see God when we are out of communion with God. Without communion our mind is abandoned to its own projections, as every therapist knows.”

As Goa alludes, the word “God” is not in the original Greek, but some English translations add it because of our “angry God” assumptions.

The Bible shows wrath as an alienated state we are in when we are out of communion with God. We are the ones, like Adam and Eve, hiding from Him as Goa points out (bold-type added):

“When Eve and Adam sinned in the garden it was they that walked away and hid from Him who came seeking them in the cool of the evening. It was God who sought them and called out to them. As it was for Adam and Eve, so it has been for me and so many men and women. But Adam and Eve were filled with guilt and shame and fled and hid and covered themselves. Their mind was filled with fear and they saw wrath stalking the garden, heard only wrath in the loving words of Him who was their lover, maker and sustainer. Our mind in the flesh sees wrath as stalking life because we are outside our God-given way of being in communion.”

This is the psychological damage done by eating from the wrong Tree, which Paul calls the “flesh” in Romans. Paul ends this passage by declaring that Jesus was the antidote to this spiritual neurosis, “much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” 

God had to reconcile us back to Himself, not the other way around (see also 2 Cor.5:19). His perfect love reverses our orphan-hearted fear of judgment, because fear involves torment (1 John 4:1-7-18).

Jesus didn’t come to change God, but to change us. It was our fallen nature that was “alienated and enemies in our own mind” (Col.1:21). Jesus nailed this to the cross and, by His Spirit, has given our darkened minds His mind (1 Cor.2:16), so that we could be restored to our original purpose and enjoy fellowship in the Triune Godhead through Him!

In other words, God saved us from ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong. God does have wrath. He has a fixed disposition against all unrighteousness and injustice. However, it must be seen in the context of His love. Furthermore, while the Bible does use anthropomorphisms, simile, and metaphor to help us understand God, He’s not schizophrenic or emotionally thin-skinned like us. He does not change; we are the ones with these unstable characteristics.

God is unrelenting love and a consuming fire (1 John 4:8; Heb.12:29). But fire can both warm us or burn us. The same fire that provides warmth and comfort in a house can also destroy it. His unchanging and infinite love generates passion and fullness of joy in those who love Him while the same fire angers and torments those who hate Him.

Paul also talks about this double-sided response to God’s love (bold-type added):

“For we are to God the fragrance of Christ
among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death,
and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.” (2 Cor.2:15-16 NKJV)

Wrath is revealed when we refuse to turn our face toward His love. It reveals our heart, not God’s (Rom.1:18).  This is because love requires freedom of choice. When people refuse to reciprocate God’s love, He gives them up to their vile passions and bitter enmity. But if they change their mind and turn back to His love, this Prodigal Father’s same unchanging love receives them back into communion with Him.

As C.S. Lewis said, there are two kinds of people–those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “Thy will be done.”

From this context, we will look at hell next time.

 

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 36 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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14 Responses to Some things you might not have known about wrath

  1. Good article, Mel. Not sure if you’ve heard Jonathan Welton’s teaching on wrath, especially when it first appeared in the bible, and when it ended (in his view?)

    You can get it on You Tube, as part of his “end times” teaching. Welton is a well known partial preterist, up front.

    Tbh, I’ve been looking at this over the last 2-3 years (beforehand I was pan-trib, possible post trib, but never pre-trib. There are so many holes in pre-trib, it’s not funny…) Welton’s arguments on wrath are quite well thought out tho, and his book Raptureless is also fascinating.

    For me now, I just cannot accept the view that: “For God so loved the church that He wanted to get the church outta here (the rapture), so He could then beat up on the world (wrath.)” That pretty much sums up where I’m at with the end times and wrath… He’s a good good Father. (I’m not a Universalist tho, just want to make that plain, and people like Rob Bell have gone a bit skew whiff to me, perhaps.)

    I’m coming round to Welton’s views in general tho – like many others including Peter Wagner and Kris Vallotten.

    Some of what you’re saying too, also rings bells with a guy called Josh Tongal. Not sure if you’ve heard of him, but I’ve been listening to him for a couple of years? v interesting views. Again, you can get him on You Tube, and he’s got some good stuff on killing sacred cows & grace.

    Would be interested in your perspective, as I respect and value it.

    Peace
    John

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks John. I have read Jonathan Welton’s book, “Raptureless” and also thought it was well written. I’m an eschatological agnostic at this point, but like you, I have never been pre-trib. There are valid points to classical premill (think George Eldon Ladd) and partial preterism. I have not heard Welton’s views on wrath. I will definitely check it out. I’ve only heard a couple of things from Josh Tongal. I would agree with his view on Penal Substitution. Basically, what we’re seeing with people like him, John Crowder, Greg Boyd and others, is a partial alignment with Eastern Orthodox teaching and those of the early church fathers. Uncovering the ancient wells, if you will. We’re taking a fresh look at these things and seeing if they line up with what we know about God. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out in the Western Christianity over the next 50 years. 🙂

      • Hi Mel,

        I think Welton’s views on the end times are seriouly important. They go hand in hand with grace, and understanding how law was removed in AD 70. It is startling what Welton is saying. It all fits very neatly, the deeper and more i read about this, it is jaw dropping. I honestly believe that the right understanding of the end times is absolutely crucial to basically everything in Christianity. What you think about the future, determines about how you build.

        Beforehand, I was like yourself. My parents were pan-trib, and I stayed away from the end times. I am focussed on the kingdom. But I believe that we#re going to see a war in the church. It’s already happening. It;s going to come over the Father’s love, Grace, and the right understanding of the end times. They all fit hand in hand. I would seriously check it out. I was shocked to learn that most of what is taught in churches is actually lies. Sorry but that’s where I am at the moment. They talk about grace, but they practice legalism.

        Welton’s view’s have created a massive shift in me, where I’m more geared on building for future generations to come, as opposed to thinking that God’s going to bomb the crap out of the planet, and I need to be scared, or ‘prepared.’

        I totally agree about the next 50 years!! I think so much of the understanding on Israel, blood moons, and all these things, is going to have to come to a head in the next 20 years – and most of these ‘ prophecies’ are either going to happen or not. I suspect not. btw, I love Israel, and I don’t believe in replacement theology. But a lot of the current understanding on Israel is just plain wrong in my view. (I had to make a big shift here.)

        Anyway, I have no one else to speak to about this over here. I want to tell everyone. But people already get annoyed at the things I say about the Father, the kingdom, and grace, and I’d probably get booted out of church for saying what I feel in this area.

        The revolution is coming, Mel. It’s not a reformation, but a revolution. In 2002, I was awoken by a loud voice that said: “Read the book of Acts because that’s where the revolution began.” Since then I have heard this voice many times in dreams, and we’re on the brink of a revolution, Mel. It will be bigger than Luther. Check out Welton’s video’s on Matthew 24 too, although I think most of that is covered in Raptureless. Also, his teaching on Daniel 2 is vital to understand the role of the Kindgom.

        The only problem I have on all of this is lazy Christians. Their beliefs in the end-times is based on someone else’s view. They’re spoon fed. They don’t go away and listen to other perspectives, and find things out for themselves. Sorry, if that sounds judgemental.

        Partial preterism fits seriously nicely with the gospel of Grace. It’s so neat, and simple, it just smacks of Father all over it.

        Peace,
        John

        • Mel Wild says:

          Thanks again, John. I do agree with a lot of Welton’s take on Revelation, grace, the end of the Law, etc. Partial Preterism does fit better with the Father’s love and grace than God coming to slaughter a bunch of people in the end. 🙂

          I did listen to Welton’s take on wrath last night. I don’t know if I agree with his premise, that all wrath is hitched to the Law wagon. It’s a bit simplistic. But I do agree there’s no more wrath because of the Law. But his position assumes a PSA atonement–that Jesus died to satisfy God’s wrath, which is not compatible with the Father’s heart (I just did a whole series on that here). That’s another area where we need reform. Keep in mind, much of wrath in the Bible is man’s wrath that comes from being out of communion with Him. Wrath is also a generic word that’s used in different contexts in Scripture. God is definitely not angry with people like has been taught the last few hundred years. We’re the ones with the anger issues.

          Every reformation is a revolution. There was war in the church in Luther’s reformation so we can’t expect major paradigms to be shifted without push back. Except with this one, with a revelation of sonship and the Father’s love, there is love at the center–and grace even for those who vehemently disagree with us. The Kingdom is advancing and we must advance with it. We must Keep our confidence with humility. Blessings.

  2. Mel!

    This is a fresh perspective for me! Appreciate you “thought swimming” in the deep end of the pool! From my perspective.

    Super Love!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks. Remember that the only safe place to jump into a pool is the deep end. 🙂 This fresh perspective makes your heart immediately say, YES!, but your mind takes a while to wrap around. Blessings.

  3. Lance says:

    Thanks Mel. I love wrath! It is a powerfully engorged expression of bursting forth compassion in the throws of passion as expressed in a physically manifest way. Wait a minute. That is another word in English from the same word in Greek. Sorry for the PG-13 reference.

    • Mel Wild says:

      LOL! Yes, the Greek word does lend itself in that general direction. Thanks for raising my otherwise benign site to PG-13 status. Maybe I’ll get more hits now. 🙂

  4. Cindy Powell says:

    LOVE! I laughed out loud at your comment above that you are an “eschatological agnostic” – I am totally stealing that as it aptly describes where I’m at with “end times” stuff. Best stuff I’ve heard recently has been from Dr. Brian Simmons (still just barely exploring his teachings in this area so definitely NO conclusions) – totally victorious in his eschatology yet he understands the “fear of the Lord” (in a true biblical/historical sense of awe and wonder and we have NO idea how glorious He is kind of way, not in a hide from a wrathful vindictive God kind of way) . I never fully bought into the whole “pre trib” thing (not even in my Calvary Chapel days and that is saying something!) – I just never thought it lined up with His heart. I tried being “post trib for a while, but that wasn’t working out for me either. So yeah, until proven otherwise, eschatological agnostic it is!

    I am SO looking forward to your next post. I have some very distinct opinions on the subject of hell. My experiences ministering in some of the darkest places on the planet have definitely shaped my thoughts on this. Even though there I certain things I KNOW in my heart, I’m still working on getting it all clear in my head since my “knower” often disagrees with the things I was always taught. Still contending for the language and scriptural insight to be able to share my views more thoughtfully and intelligently with those who might approach the subject with a very different lens. I’m very much looking forward to reading your insights. Much grace and peace to you!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks Cindy. I think I studied eschatology beyond the point of ignorant confidence. I landed on Revelation being about Christ and not the Antichrist.
      My favorite line on eschatology is, “Jesus would’ve come back sooner but He couldn’t figure out the charts.” 🙂 Ray Hughes told us that one last week. I cracked up. Blessings.

  5. Hi Mel, Sorry If I’m being a pain. Again, re Revelation, I would urge you to read Welton’s view on teh book of Revelation. It has all been fulfilled in his view, and I now totally agree.

    It appears to be John’s writing of the Olivet disourse, and an exact parallel of the book of Ezekiel. John was basically remidning Christians in the 60’s about what Jesus said in the olivet discourse, and He used the book of Ezekiel to write Revelation as a soon to happen prophecy about the destruction of the temple in AD 70. It is classic teaching..

    I would also urge you to think about your agnostic views on the end times. Sorry if that is direct. I too was like that. But the exictment I have about seeing how simple this really is, is producing good fruit in me…the church is conning people in this area. It is a deception.

    This revelation is almost as big as the revelation of the Father in my view, Mel. I sat in shock for about a year when I first started going into this…

    You’re totally free tho bro. No pressure at all bro!

    The victorious escatology camp is gaining a big groundswell btw….it will lead to war.

    Peace
    John

    • Mel Wild says:

      As I said before, I’ve read Welton’s book and Eberle’s book (Victorious Eschatology). They are very good and I mostly agree with them. I’ve taught eschatology for many years and every position has some holes. But the Preterist view of eschatology is not new in the body of Christ. Most Protestants and Catholics in the world have traditionally been some variation of Partial Preterist, or other view than Futurists (premillennial). It’s the Fundamentalists and evangelicals (which includes Pentecostals and most Charismatics) that have been the Futurists. The Pre-trib rapture view was a modern invention that supplanted Preterism in the early 1800’s, which got wildly popular in America through people like Scofield. Now, we’re seeing many evangelicals, especially Charismatics, shifting back to the Preterist position. If anything, we’re uncovering ancient wells.

      We need to avoid making “war” over things like eschatology. This is not a central tenet of the faith and should not divide believers. We don’t have to be in unity and agree doctrinally. Love in relationship trumps doctrinal agreement. This is what comes from a revelation of sonship in the Father’s love. Of course, we might get called heretics by those who think otherwise. 🙂 But we’re in good company there. Athanasius, who was a major contributor to the Nicene Creed, which the whole church agrees with today, was excommunicated five times! The Nicene Creed is a good rule of thumb on being in unity in spite of our diverse views. Where we’re ultimately headed is John 17:21-26. Blessings.

  6. Pingback: Things you might not have known about hell | In My Father's House

  7. Pingback: Are anger and wrath attributes of God? Part two | In My Father's House

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