Friday, 21 October 2016

The Wrath of God in the New Testament

The wrath of God is a New Testament concept.

It is new covenant!

In the Beginning of the Gospel

John the Baptist never altered the certainty that there is "wrath to come". The only way to escape it, he said, is to truly "bring forth fruits meet for repentance". That meant there had to be a change in actual behaviour.

God is ready with His axe - anyone who didn't bring forth such fruit will be "hewn down, and cast into the fire" - and there was to be no special concessions for Jews.

Those who were baptised came "confessing their sins" - the issue was "sins" - and repentance from those "sins" had to come hand-in-hand with baptism - with corresponding changes in behaviour.

John described Messiah - Jesus - as the Judge Who is ready with His "fan in his hand", and He will "throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire".

The unquenchable fires John warned of was not merely AD70. Any fires that burned that day have long since been quenched - but the lake of fire shall be "forever and ever".

So John gave a choice: Jesus will either baptise us with the Holy Spirit, now - or He will baptise us with fire, on the last day. The choice is ours - Jesus does both - and He is ready.

John the Baptist issued these warnings "in the beginning of the Gospel". So the theme of wrath is part of the Gospel - it's not merely some outdated Old Covenant concept.


Jesus Himself also picked up the same message: "repent". He didn't merely preach that men should "believe the Gospel" - His message was "Repent and believe the Gospel" - because the kingdom of heaven "is at hand".

Jesus indeed promised that he that believeth on the Son "hath everlasting life" - but in the same breath He also warned that anyone who does not believe the Son "shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him".

The wrath of God abideth on him! The Gospel didn't eliminate the wrath of God from existence. It abideth!

"He that believeth not the Son" - that doesn't only mean that if an unbeliever ends-up in hell, he only slips into hell needlessly seeing God was really no longer angry with his "sins", but simply and only because he didn't believe. It means that if someone doesn't believe the Son, then God, being just, has to still deal with his sins forensically and judiciously, seeing he has not availed himself by faith of God's merciful and provision for his sins.

Why the Wrath of God Comes

Paul tells us that the Gospel itself is an ongoing revelation in advance, of the wrath of God which shall yet come against "all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men". The wrath of God is coming - one function of the Gospel is to bear that fact out! The cross illustrated that point - it didn't remove the concept altogether.

God's wrath is coming - not just because of the single sin of "unbelief" alone - but "against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" - all of it!

Paul gives some examples of the types of ungodliness and unrighteousness for which God's wrath comes: "Being filled with unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful".

"Knowing the judgment of God," he continues, "that they which commit such things are worthy of death". They which commit "such things". The judgment of God is because of "things". "Such" things. Not just because of unbelief. Not just because a person didn't know that God was no longer angry with his sins. But because of his specific sins.

Paul warned about thinking that we can "do such things" and yet somehow "escape the judgment of God" - we can't - not even this side of the Gospel.

Whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap. Sow to fleshly behaviours, he'll reap eternal corruption; sow to the Spirit, you'll reap eternal life. Failure to acknowledge that, is to be "deceived", Paul warned.

Paul said that there is a "day of wrath" coming - a day of the "revelation of the righteous judgment of God". Many are wilfully blind about God's coming judgment - but just because the sun rises on their day, and the rain falls on their lawn, doesn't mean God is not angry with their "sins". It's just that God has appointed a "day". Meanwhile, He commands all men everywhere to "repent". The Gospel reveals that fact - the fact of the coming wrath of God - ahead of time - and His reasons for it. The Gospel never obliterated the concept of wrath - it reveals it - but also offers the only way of salvation.

God will "render to every man according to his deeds". For his "deeds", God will render "indignation, wrath, tribulation and anguish" upon "every soul of man that doeth evil". For being "contentious" and for not obeying "the truth" but obeying "unrighteousness". It's about behaviour - therefore the goodness of God now draws men "to repentance" - meaning, behavioural changes are required. And there's no alternative arrangement to come for Israelis at any time in the future either.

The Gospel didn't eliminate the concept of the wrath of God as a present and future reality. This wasn't the pre-converted Saul teaching Jews the Law - this is Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles explaining the Gospel!

Part of Paul's message was that "they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God". What things? "Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like".

He wrote that "because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience". What things? "Fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness...neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God".

"Fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience."

We are to "let no man deceive you with vain words".

There is a "wrath to come", wrote Paul. "Wherefore wrath is come upon them to the uttermost". Why? Because they "fill up their sins alway". The wrath of God is because of "sins".

"We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad," Paul said. "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men".

"Behold the goodness and severity of God," both.

Anyone who doesn't think wrath was no longer part of the New Testament, had better read the Book of Revelation again. "The wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" "The fierceness and wrath of Almighty God".

The Holy Spirit convicts the world "of sin, because they believe not on me". That doesn't mean God is no longer angry about "sins". Why is He able to convict them of sin? Because they believe not. That doesn't mean the cause of God's wrath is no longer "sins" and has shifted instead merely to unbelief - it just means that the reason the Holy Spirit convicts the world of their sins is because they have not believed Jesus, Who is the remedy for his sin. The wrath of God still abides on a person because of his "sins" - if he doesn't believe Jesus.

The Law and Grace

The Law produced wrath, because it produced an awareness of sins. God nailed the Law to the cross. But Divine law still exists on all men's hearts, even those who have never heard. The Divine nature has not changed.

God has sent forth His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. He is the Saviour of all men potentially, but in experience only of those who believe. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.

Even though God no longer requires a sacrifice, still we cannot escape the judgment of God if we continue in sin, if we neglect so great a salvation which God has provided through the sacrifice of His own Son - something better than anything that was available under the Law.

So God's severity and mercy go hand-in-hand. Wrath against sin is part of the Divine nature. An unchangeable part of the character of God. Always. But so is mercy. So is love. So is grace.

Judicial opposition to sin wasn't only a temporary aspect to God's nature. Neither was it a pretend-personality which God assumed due only to the fact that all Israel feared to draw near to the smoking mount and chose instead to let Moses alone go, and were given the Law instead as a substitute. God has always been known as the Judge - and the issue was and still is "sins".

God isn't half just, and half mercy - He is all just and all mercy. Both aspects of His nature are eternal and unchanging.

The Law only produced wrath, and justly so. But the grace of God brings salvation, the gift of righteousness. But still His grace can be ignored, disbelieved, neglected, refused, disobeyed - in which case the wrath of God abides on a person for his "sins".

"How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation," warned the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. All that remains for them is "a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries".

There is nothing scandalous from God's point of view, about the way He offers His own righteousness to us by virtue of His having made Christ to be sin for us Who knew no sin. He forgives us of our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness, on a faithful and just basis - not on a morally scandalous basis. He doesn't ignore sin, or go soft on sin - He dealt with it, judiciously.

God hasn't made you righteous because He changed His stance on sin. He made you righteous because He dealt with sin with all seriousness and still does. If we think He declares us righteous because He's gone soft on sin, then it can lead to all kinds of licentiousness; or it weakens our sense of the true basis for our right-standing with God, which is a just basis. God is thoroughly against sin, but He made us righteous because without going soft on sin, He thoroughly dealt with sin, judiciously on the cross.

As thorough as God's wrath is against sin, so thoroughly assured we can be that He has now made us "the righteousness of God in Christ".

Pointing out the absolute wrath of God against sin, and the certainty of His coming judgment, eliminates all trust in self-works, and produces utter dependance on the work of the cross alone, on the grace of God alone - it brings a corresponding appreciation of just how thorough our justification also is.

As the hymn says: "Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling".

The cross is the place of rest, assurance, salvation, forgiveness, righteousness, authority, sonship, acceptance, favour, mercy, grace, atonement, propitiation, reconciliation, sanctification.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead proved God accepted Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf. He died because of our sins - He rose again for our justification.

He conquered death - we also shall rise with Him when He comes. You are not "appointed to wrath", but to obtain eternal salvation, glory, honour, immortality, eternal life when He comes! Hallelujah!

We died and rose with Him, spiritually. Water baptism expressed it. He made one new man in Christ. We are in Him. We are complete in Him. He finished the work judicially. He does all the work in us, experientially. Only believe! This is the power of God. Power unto salvation. Not arising from our own efforts.

This is good news - for all, regardless of ethnicity, and without requiring the deeds of the old Law.

As we walk in the Spirit, the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in us. Love is the fulfilling of the Law.

The grace of God teaches us and empowers us to walk in accordance with the Divine nature, not by means of the Law, but by the power of God's own work in us, both to will and to do, fulfilling all of the godliness, ethics and morals that were illustrated in the Law.

The Day of His Kingdom is upon us - therefore "repent" while it's called Today - the day of salvation - the day which the Lord hath made - and believe the Gospel - believe on Jesus - today!

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