Skip to comments.Understanding of the Wrath of God
Posted on 08/15/2012 1:46:40 PM PDT by NYer
Not long ago I saw a bottle of hot sauce with the creative name “Wrath of God!” Now that’s gotta be some hot sauce!
But what is God’s wrath? It is spoken of often in the scriptures and it is a concept with which we have to be careful. On the one hand we cannot simply dismiss the concept as contradictory to the fact that God is love. But neither can we fail to see God’s wrath apart from his love.
As a follow up last week’s discussions on Hell, it seems worthwhile to consider some aspects of the very complicated and reality of the wrath of God. There is not enough space to cover the whole topic in the post but the comments stay open as always for your additions and subtractions.
What are some ways that we can explain and understand the wrath of God? Let me propose a few.
The wrath of God is not merely an Old Testament Concept. In fact we find it mentioned quite frequently in the New Testament as well. For example consider the following:
And there are at least a dozen other texts from the New Testament that could be referenced but allow these to suffice. So it is clear that the “wrath of God” is not some ancient or primitive concept that the New Testament has dispensed with. And notice too that the wrath of God is not something simply for the end of the world. It is also spoken of in some of the texts above and others not listed as something already operative in certain people.
So what is God’s wrath? And how can we reconcile it with his love? Consider some of the images, explanations of God’s wrath. None of them, all alone, explain it, but together a picture and understanding may emerge.
1. Image: God’s wrath is his passion to set things right. We see this image of God’s wrath right at the beginning in Genesis when God cursed Satan and uttered the protoevangelium (the first good news): I will make you and the woman enemies….one of her seed will crush your head while you strike at his heel” (Genesis 3:15). God is clearly angered at what sin has done to Adam and Eve and he continues to have anger whenever he beholds sin and injustice.
He has a passion for our holiness, and a passion to set things right. He wants what is best for us. He is angered by what hinders us in this regard.
Surely all sins provoke his wrath but there are five sins that especially cry out to heaven: Willful murder – [Gen. 4:10]; The sin of the Sodomites, [Gen. 18:20; 19:13]; The cry of the people oppressed, [Ex. 3:7-10]; The cry of the foreigner, the widow and the orphan, [Ex. 20:20-22]; Injustice to the wage earner. [Deut. 24:14-5; Jas. 5:4] (cf Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1867).
Thus, especially for these but also in terms of all sin and injustice and anything that afflicts or hinders the possibility of salvation, God has a wrathful indignation and a passion to set things right.
This is part of his love for us. His wrath may be manifest through punishments, disturbances of our conscience, or simply by allowing us to experience some or all the consequences of our sin and injustice.
2. Clarification: God’s wrath is not like our anger. In saying that God is angry we ought to be careful to understand that, however God experiences anger or any passion, it is not tainted by sin. God is not angry like we are angry. When we get angry we often experience an out of control quality, our temper flares and we often say and do things that are either sinful or at least excessive.
It cannot pertain to God to have temper tantrums and to fly off the handle, to admix anger with an unreasonable lashing out. The way God does experience anger is not something we can fully understand, but is it surely a sovereign and serene act of his will, not an out of control emotion.
3. Clarification: God is not moody. It does not pertain to God to have good days and bad days, good moods and bad ones. Scripture seems clear enough when it indicates that God does not change. Consider this from the Book of James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of lights, in whom there is no variableness or shadow of turning.
Hence to speak of God’s wrath does not mean that he has suddenly had enough, or that his temper has flared, or that his mood has soured. God IS. He does not change. As the text says, he is not variable. And this leads us to the next point.
4. Image: Given what we have said, the primary location of God’s wrath is not in God, it is in us. Perhaps the best definition I have heard of God’s wrath is this: God’s wrath is our experience of the total incompatibility of our sinful state before the Holiness of God. Sin and God’s holiness just don’t mix. They can’t keep company.
Think of fire and water. They do not mix. They cannot coexist in the same spot. Bring them together and you you can hear the conflict. Think of water spilled on a hot stove and hear the sizzle and popping and the steam as the water flees away. If, on the other hand there is a lot of water the fire is overwhelmed and extinguished . But the point is that they cannot coexist. They will conflict and one will win.
This is wrath, the complete incompatibility of two things. It is this way between sin and God’s utter holiness. We must be purified before we can enter the presence of God otherwise we could never tolerate his glory. We would wail and grind our teeth and turn away in horror. Thus wrath is the conflict between our sin and God’s holiness.
God cannot and will not change, so we must be changed. Otherwise we experience wrath. But notice the experience is in us primarily and not God. God does not change, he is holy, serene, he is love. If we experience his wrath it is on account of us, not him. Consider the next example.
5. Image: It is we who change, not God and this causes wrath to be experienced or not -Consider an example. On the ceiling of my bedroom is a light with a 100 watt light bulb. At night before bed, I delight in the light. I am accustomed to it. But then, at bed time, I put out the light and sleep. When I awake it is still dark (at least in the winter). Hence I put the light on. But Ugh! Grrr! Now the light is bright and I curse it!
Now mind you, the light has not changed one bit. It is still the same 100 watt bulb it was hours earlier. The light is just the same, it is I who have changed. But do you know what I do? I blame the light and say, “The light is harsh!” But the light is not harsh, it is just the same as when I was happy with it. Now that I have changed I experience its wrath but the wrath, the problem, is really in me.
So also consider the experience of the ancient family of man with God. Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the evening when the dew collected on the grass (cf Gen 3:8). They had warm friendship with him and did not fear his presence. After sin, they hide. Had God changed? He had not, they had and they now experience him very differently.
Fast forward to another Theophany. God has come to Mt Sinai and as he descends the people are terrified for there are peals of thunder, lightning, clouds and the loud blast of a trumpet. The people told Moses “You speak to us, but let not God speak, else we will die!” (Ex 20:19) God too warned Moses that the people could not get close lest his wrath be vented upon them (Ex 19:20-25).
Now again, had God changed? He had not. He was the same God who walked with them in the cool of the evening in a most intimate way. It was we who had changed. We had lost the holiness without which no one can see the Lord (Heb 12:14). The same God, unchanged though he was, now seemed to us frightening and wrathful.
6. What then shall we do? If we can allow the image of fire to remain before us, we may well find a hopeful sign in God’s providence. Since God is a holy fire, a consuming fire (cf Heb 12:26; Is 33:14) how can we possibly come into his presence? How can we avoid the wrath that would destroy us?
Well, what is the only thing that survives in the presence of fire? Fire is the only thing that survives! So it looks like we’d better become fire if we want to see God.
And thus it was that God sent tongues of fire upon the Apostles and us at our confirmation. God wants to set you and me on fire with the Holy Spirit and in holiness. God wants to bring us up to the temperature of glory so that we can stand in his presence:
See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years. (Mal 3:1-4). And indeed Jesus has now come: For you have turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the deadJesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. 1 Thess 1:10-11)
Time to become totally fire! Veni Sancte Spritus, tui amore ignem accende. (Come Holy Spirit, and kindle in us the Fire of thy Love)
So there is a wrath of God. As I have tried to show it is more in us than in God. But I will not say to you that there is NO wrath IN God. Scripture seems clear to indicate that wrath does pertain to God’s inner life. What exactly it is and how God experiences it is mysterious to us. We can say to some extent what it is not (as we did above) but we cannot really say what it is exactly. But far more rich is the meditation that the wrath of God is essentially in us. It is OUR experience of the incompatibility of sin before God. We must be washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb and purified. Most of us will need purification in purgatory too. But if we let the Lord work his saving work we are saved from the wrath for we are made holy and set on fire with God’s love. And fire never fears the presence of fire. God is Love but he will not change. So it is that Love must change us.
One of the greatest cinematic depictions of the Wrath of God occurred in the move the Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Nazi’s sinfully think they can open the Ark and endure the presence of God. What they get is wrath for sin cannot endure the reality of God’s presence. “Enjoy” this clip: CLICK HERE
This is a totally unbiblical and incorrect definition of God's wrath. His own set of proof texts refutes his conclusions.
God's wrath is the manifestation of His anger at sin. "The Lord is a jealous God and avenges; the Lord avenges and is full of wrath; the Lord takes vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies. The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will by no means clear the guilty. . . . Who can stand before His indignation? and who can abide the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken asunder by Him. The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and He knows them that put their trust in Him. But . . . He . . . will pursue His enemies into darkness." (Nahum 1:2-8).
God's wrath is as much an attribute of God as love is.
The tongues of fire on the Day of Pentecost had nothing to do with God's wrath. It was a symbol of the coming of the Holy Spirit imparting to the disciples the ability to speak in unlearned languages.
Here we go!
My own feeble attempt to define the Wrath of God sort of connects the Law and God. When God created all that is, God set everything in motion according to certain laws. There are laws of physics as well as Spiritual Laws. You are right when you say that God has not and does not change. Everything that causes us to experience the Wrath of God is brought about by our own breaking of the Spiritual Laws. The number one law is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” When we break our covenant with God, we break the power to overcome evil and we suffer the Wrath. It is the same as suffering the results of ignoring the law of gravity. The outcome is not good.
The wrath of God for this country just may be Zero-Obama...
America elected the poster boy of everything negative that pesters america..
I won’t go into a long list of negative factors... I might miss a few..
America has murdered(sacrificed) multiplied millions of their children(abortion) like the Amalikites.. who boiled their first born in hot oil.. as infants.. Thats why “the God” of the old testament instructed the Jews to kill them all eliminating their nasty culture of death and child abuse.. And thats just one thing the culture of the Amalikites did... there were more nasty things..
It looks very much to me like America is being judged BY ZERO-OBAMA..
When “the People” become corrupt they elect corrupt representatives..
Yeah!.. America is being judged by Zero-Obama.. and Michele.. and Holder.. and Biden.. and hundreds of other nasty cultural degenerates... The whole White House and Joint Chiefs are nasty individuals.. OR they wouldn’t be there..
America is definitely being judged..
You know......... YOU ARE BEING JUDGED.. (if you’re an American}..
The wrath of God can be seen to be the LACK of Godly men in the Givernment..
or colleges.. or media companys.. or churches.. or in businesses.. or in Unions.. or Newspapers.. or Magazines.. or democrat part.. or republican party.. or libertarian party.. or socialist party.. or communist party.. or the Police, Firefighters or Teachers organizations..
Do you have a link or did you post the article on Hell? I’d like to read it. Thanks.
Axiomatic . . . don't you think?
I perceive that America is suffering payback right now for its Godlessness of the last half century.
For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up. - Hosea 8:7
And he [was] clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
And the armies [which were] in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
And he hath on [his] vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. - Rev 19:11-16
[ Are you suggesting that one manifestation of God’s wrath is to be found in the consequences ensuing from behavior? Axiomatic . . . don’t you think? ]
I guess I am saying that.. You mess with the bull you get the horns..
When young I used to beat my head against proverbial walls..
I was amazed how good it felt when I stopped doing that..
It seems quite literally virtually all the problems I’ve had stem from things I should have done or things I should have NOT done.. Course like many I blamed my problems on someone else..
My life got quite good when I stopped doing that as well..
OK not completely.... I’m not too smart you see..
I suppose you and Dear Boopy are the closest things I have to a pastor... Your message is quite good.. I see it as a message of hope and redemption... It fed me metaphorically..
This planet especially the United States needs a message of hope and redemption.. call it a “dream catcher”... You can always be counted on to provide salient scripture to any situation... I like dreams..
I have a few dream catchers of my own you might be interested in... Jesus said to the deciples Unless you become as a little child you will not even see “heaven”... Children can speak with no guile with innocent motives..
Well that's not fair, using scripture to set the truth straight...
I'm confused. Are you requesting a link to this article? If so, it is at the top of the thread.
Thank you so very much for the page of Evancho performances, dear hosepipe, and thank you for your encouragements!
It's getting to be an old saw with me, but: Whenever you take a shot at God, it is MAN who takes the bullet, every time.
The "God is dead" movement is effectively the "man is dead" movement.
The slaughter of millions of innocent pre-born humans, the tortured redefinition of marriage in order to accommodate the basest of human inclinations, etc., etc., will bring its own "reward." And we will not like that "reward" at all.
But divine Justice will always prevail.
What really bothers me is that it is a very tiny yet disproportionately vocal minority of Americans which is setting up the coming disaster. The rest of us are just letting them get away with it.
And as you write, dearest sister in Christ, "The wrath of God promised in the end of days will be much, much more painful than anything we've seen or could imagine."
It seems the entire West is on fire. And vast areas of the East under flood waters. Are we already in the End Times?
If so, then Maranatha, Jesus!!!!
Fear is sin, among the worst in my view because it says that God cannot be trusted.
Either way, we have been and will be held to account.
God's Name is I AM.
And that, my dearest sister in Christ, is an AMAZING insight.
And oh, so very, very True!!!
For He is the very Source of our being, the very Source of the Truth that permeates US and all His Creation....
One must be very blind and deaf, indeed, not to notice these facts.
Thank you ever so much for your sublime insight!!!
I dont wish to overthink this . . . or impute to you an agreement that does not exist. So let me be clear:
Gods wrath cannot be compared, in any way, with a murderous glare from 0bama, accompanied by an extended middle finger rubbing the side of his (0bamas) nose. The term wrath reflects generally the inadequacies of the human attempt to define God. God cannot be anthropomorphized. Words (in any language) describing God are no more than an approximation, and a rather distant approximation at that.
Some people do not understand this, and consequently cast themselves into a profound state of confusion. Other people understand this dynamic perfectly well, but in their rebellion against any authority greater than their own, use it to cast others into that same state of confusion (sometimes called muddying the waters).
"I'm not too smart you see.."
Smarter than me, I betcha.
Thanks for your response . . . always welcome
And, thanks AG and boop for including me in your thoughts.
AMEN! to that, dear brother in Christ. AMEN!!!!
There is no human language capable of exhaustively "describing" God. Any attempt to so describe Him only defaces, deforms Him....
There is no capacity of the human mind even to approach God as He IS in Himself....
Thank you ever so much, dear brother in Christ, for your sublime observations here!
It appears to me that Gods wrath is misnamed.. for
God only has to let man’s cultures degenerate on their own..
God must do nothing.. for that to happen..
Like the Jews started out gloriously only to degrade to the Talmud.. as it is today..
If God does anything he may redeem.. no need of wrath..
Humans can make a soup sandwich out most anything they try.. especially givernment..
Not to speak of religion.. and science..