Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Wrath of God

Is there anything more terrifying than the wrath of God? When I read the Bible as a child, it seemed to me God was angry and disappointed most the time. I'm certainly not the only one who saw it that way. Once, when a group of my Christian friends were sitting around talking about the old testament and the judgements therein, one person in the group finally ended the discussion with: "I don't understand the judgements of God. I'm just thankful Jesus took my punishment for me so now I don't have to worry about it". This troubles me. I want to understand God...I want to trust God and see his judgments as fair and good. Now that I no longer believe that the wrath of God will last forever, I can take a deeper look at how the Bible describes it, and see if something else comes to light other than disgust at humanity.

"Who knoweth the power of Thine anger? And according to Thy fear -- Thy wrath?
To number our days aright let [us] know, And we bring the heart to wisdom.
 Turn back, O Jehovah, till when? And repent concerning Thy servants.
 Satisfy us at morn [with] Thy kindness, And we sing and rejoice all our days.
Cause us to rejoice according to the days Wherein Thou hast afflicted us, The years we have seen evil."

Here we have an example of the wisdom of fearing God. But there's more to it than just being afraid that if you disobey your going to get it, don't you think? It's an understanding of God's power (the anger IS power) and this understanding bringing wisdom. (fearing God is the BEGINNING of wisdom; not the end. Perfect love casts out all fear, right?) I love how there is a plea to God to repent (meaning "change your mind about us God!") and to give balance to the suffering. ("Let us see rejoicing ACCORDING to the days we were afflicted.") This seems a pretty bold request if the idea is supposed to be "be afraid of God, because sin makes Him super mad, and really all we deserve is eternal suffering."

 I make man more rare than fine gold, And a common man than pure gold of Ophir.
 Therefore the heavens I cause to tremble, And the earth doth shake from its place, In the wrath of Jehovah of Hosts, And in a day of the heat of his anger.

I think the "therefore" is very significant here. What's the reason for the wrath and the day of heat and anger? "I make man more rare than fine gold." Pretty great news, if you ask me.

In overflowing wrath I hid my face [for] a moment from thee, And in kindness age-during I have loved thee, Said thy Redeemer -- Jehovah!
For, the waters of Noah [is] this to Me, In that I have sworn -- the waters of Noah Do not pass again over the earth -- So I have sworn, Wrath is not upon thee, Nor rebuke against thee.
For the mountains depart, and the hills remove, And My kindness from thee departeth not, And the covenant of My peace removeth not, Said hath thy loving one -- Jehovah.

Wrath for a moment...kindness age-during. Pretty straight forward; well, except for the age-during part. What the heck is "age-during" supposed to mean? It seems this is a discussion about what is going on at that time--during that age, and what this group of people are suffering during this span of history. "I have loved you through all of it" is maybe a clearer way to understand it.

Therefore, thus said the Lord Jehovah: Because of your all becoming dross, Therefore, lo, I am gathering you unto the midst of Jerusalem, A gathering of silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, Unto the midst of a furnace -- to blow on it fire, to melt it, So do I gather in Mine anger and in My fury, And I have let rest, and have melted you.  And I have heaped you up, And blown on you in the fire of My wrath, And ye have been melted in its midst.
As the melting of silver in the midst of a furnace, So are ye melted in its midst, And ye have known that I, Jehovah, I have poured out My fury upon you.'

God is taking full responsibility for what His people are suffering. Do you think this fury is hateful? Is He just so disgusted, He just can't deal anymore? Or is this wrath and fury purposeful...even redemptive?

he who is believing in the Son, hath life age-during; and he who is not believing the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God doth remain upon him.'

Is this saying that anyone who doesn't believe in Jesus is going to eternal hell? I don't see that. What does it mean to see life during this age? And what does it mean to have the wrath of God remain on you?
but, according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou dost treasure up to thyself wrath, in a day of wrath and of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who shall render to each according to his works; to those, indeed, who in continuance of a good work, do seek glory, and honour, and incorruptibility -- life age-during; and to those contentious, and disobedient, indeed, to the truth, and obeying the unrighteousness -- indignation and wrath

Here is an assurance of fairness of judgement..."render to each according to his works". Do you think the indignation and wrath to those who are disobedient (this is addressing believers) will last forever? Or do you think there is power and love inside the wrath that will result in making man as pure as gold?

and God doth commend His own love to us, that, in our being still sinners, Christ did die for us;
much more, then, having been declared righteous now in his blood, we shall be saved through him from the wrath; for if, being enemies, we have been reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved in his life.

First, Christ dieing for us (not instead of us--big difference) while we are still sinners is declaring God's love that is unconditional. (all of our sin does not stop it) Because of this, we have been reconciled to God (meaning we stop running from God in fear because we think He's just out to get us)...NOT God being reconciled to us. (as in, "now God can forgive and accept us because Jesus took all of God's wrath for us") Now that WE are reconciled (we are trusting that God is love) the saving (transformation/completion into perfection) can start. I really don't think this wrath is eternal anger and rejection. In the light of all that we have just read, it seems to simply be discipline that has the purpose of refinement. Once you are "saved" (perfected) then wrath is no longer needed. If being "saved" is simply "being forgiven", then why does it keep saying that we SHALL be saved?

giving back to no one evil for evil; providing right things before all men.
If possible -- so far as in you -- with all men being in peace;
not avenging yourselves, beloved, but give place to the wrath, for it hath been written, `Vengeance [is] Mine, I will recompense again, saith the Lord;' if, then, thine enemy doth hunger, feed him; if he doth thirst, give him drink; for this doing, coals of fire thou shalt heap upon his head;
Be not overcome by the evil, but overcome, in the good, the evil.

Are we to love our enemies with only the hope that someday God is really going to let them have it? Or are we to trust God with giving a fair judgement because he loves our enemies as much as us? Maybe God is asking us not to be vengeful because our vengeance has no love. 

So then, my brethren beloved, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,
for the wrath of a man the righteousness of God doth not work

God's wrath works righteousness...man's does not. If you think you understand God's wrath towards "sinners" because they piss you off too...you had better reconsider.  
among whom also we all did walk once in the desires of our flesh, doing the wishes of the flesh and of the thoughts, and were by nature children of wrath

"By nature children of wrath"...does this mean God was pissed off at us from birth? Or does is mean "by nature" we (all of us) start off doing the wishes of the flesh, and suffer the consequences of that. (wrath) If this is how we all start off, (whether we want to or not) who do we think we are condemning our brother? (which seems to always be Paul's ultimate point)

As many as I love, I do convict and chasten; be zealous, then, and reform

Again, we can trust that with God, love and discipline go hand in hand. I think this is true for ALL his creation. Do you have to be a Christian in order to receive loving discipline? Does God love us because we decided to love Him--or is it the other way around? Does that love and purposeful discipline change just because our physical bodies have died?

he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, that hath been mingled unmixed in the cup of His anger, and he shall be tormented in fire and brimstone before the holy messengers, and before the Lamb,and the smoke of their torment doth go up to ages of ages

Here we are at Revelations; when supposedly God finally gives all those rotten sinners what they have coming. I want to point out that this torment is happening "before" the holy messengers and the Lamb "to ages and ages". (or maybe, through the ages?) The Young's Literal translation (which this is) is considered the most accurate. (other translations use "forever and ever" instead of "to ages of ages", which is inaccurate. That is not just my opinion--it's a fact) Do you really think Jesus and the angels are going to FOREVER stand and watch people being tormented? Also, look at the very first verse in Revelations:

"The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place."

Do you think it's possible that Revelations is talking about what has been going on throughout the ages in the spiritual realm, not the physical?

And I saw another sign in the heaven, great and wonderful, seven messengers having the seven last plagues, because in these was completed the wrath of God

Well, if the previous wrath that is served in the wine torments people forever, how is it then that the wrath of God is "completed"?

and the nations of the saved in its light shall walk, and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it, and its gates shall not at all be shut by day...Happy are those doing His commands that the authority shall be theirs unto the tree of the life, and by the gates they may enter into the city; and without [outside] are the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the whoremongers, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and every one who is loving and is doing a lie.

First of all, I'm not sure what a "whoremonger" is, but it doesn't seem they are burning in the lake of fire. (where they appeared to be last time we saw them...the scripture above is just a few verses from the end) These whoremongers are simply wandering around outside the 'gate'...which is never closed. It seems a strange way to end things...unless of course this really isn't the end of things, but a new beginning of things. (Maybe the spiritual manifesting itself in the physical in a completely new way?) I really don't know, but I think we need to strongly consider that Revelations has been grossly misunderstood...along with the wrath of God.