This is a follow-up to my last post, “My View of the Atonement”.
A common saying in the church is “God poured out His wrath on Jesus”. You’ll hear people say, “Well praise God. All of His wrath was satisfied in Jesus and now He has none for us.” There is a well-known song that says, “On that cross where Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.”
I don’t know about you, but something always seemed odd about that and I could not exactly find that in Scripture. It makes it seem like the cross was more about helping God overcome anger than helping us overcome sin and get back to the Father. It makes Jesus seem like the merciful one and the Father seem like the vindictive One. But they are One, right?
What I did see in Scripture is that God the Father so loved the world that He sent His only Son… and other verses like that. Jesus didn’t say, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man escapes the Father’s wrath but through Me.” Our Father sent His Son to bring us to Him, not save us from Him.
It seems that this is a tough area for many believers and theologians to navigate. Even some bible translators are apparently confused about this. For example, let’s look at some verses from Ephesians 2 in the Amplified translation:
3 Among these we as well as you once lived and conducted ourselves in the passions of our flesh [our behavior governed by our corrupt and sensual nature], obeying the impulses of the flesh and the thoughts of the mind [our cravings dictated by our senses and our dark imaginings]. We were then by nature children of [God’s] wrath and heirs of [His] indignation, like the rest of mankind.
4 But God—so rich is He in His mercy! Because of and in order to satisfy the great and wonderful and intense love with which He loved us,
5 Even when we were dead (slain) by [our own] shortcomings and trespasses, He made us alive together in fellowship and in union with Christ;
I love the Amplified Bible, but have learned to take the added stuff with a grain of salt. I think verse 4 is spot on: In order to satisfy His love for us, the Father saved us. However, the verse before that says we were children of God’s wrath and heirs of His indignation, which could be interpreted to mean He wanted to wipe us out. I do not think I am picking and choosing which words to accept because if you notice, the words: God’s and His are in brackets – children of [God’s] wrath and heirs of [His] indignation. This is because they are not found in the original manuscripts. Check out verse 3 from the NIV:
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
This is a bit different; “by nature deserving of wrath”. Now it makes sense. We were in a bad way and did not deserve God’s goodness, but out of His love for us, He had mercy and rescued us. He did not rescue us from Him, but from sin, so that we could be brought to Him and made His sons and daughters. Ephesians goes on to say that we were saved by grace through faith… not of ourselves. It is simply stating that we did not merit God’s salvation or even seek after Him.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).
The law pointed out how we were deserving of wrath. …the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression (Rom. 4:15). It showed us that our fallen condition was in no shape to attain righteousness or live a holy life. Grace and truth on the other hand, show us God’s eternal good intention to bring us into sonship.
The law did not reveal God’s heart toward us. In John 1, it says that the law came through Moses BUT grace and truth came through Jesus. It goes on to say that Jesus, not Moses, was the One who revealed what God was like to us.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. (John 1:14-15, 17-18)
But as I touched on in my last post, the law covenant had been broken on man’s end. So Christ, as a man, fulfilled that part and did receive the punishment for our transgressions (Gal. 3:13 & Col. 2:14). He also dealt with the root of sin by taking on the disease and fully condemning it in His flesh (Rom. 8:4). Since His was a perfect, spotless life, He could exchange it for our contaminated lives. Thus, through an act of love, the Father allowed Jesus to take away our sins. Please read the last post for more on that.
Hopefully, this will help us to understand the Scriptures that could be used to say that God condemned and punished Jesus Himself, rather than sin itself. For example, Isaiah said,
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:10-11)
We see that the Father, just like Jesus, saw the end result of Jesus’ sufferings and thus it was His will to allow Jesus to be handed over to wicked men. These men unknowingly did the will of God. As Peter said, This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross (Acts 2:23).
Christ being beaten and nailed to the cross, the fulfilling of the broken law covenant, Christ becoming sin so we could become God’s righteousness, this was all part of God’s mercy towards a hardened rebellious people. It revealed the depth of the Father’s love towards us, not His anger.
Jesus even said that the Father would be with Him in His suffering (John 16:32). Yes, He did cry out asking why the Father had forsaken Him, but that is because He “drank the cup” of our sin. He became sin (not a sinner) at the cross and took on our fallen condition. In said condition, we were “alienated in our minds” to God just like Adam could not discern the nature of God and hid after he sinned.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death… (Col. 1:21-22a)
This was all part of the plan to rescue us from sin. It was an act of the Father AND the Son’s love for us.
What About Wrath?
Now concerning the “wrath of God”, there are passages which indicate that “the wrath of God” is not something Jesus “took” on the cross as if God exhausted some kind of personal anger all on Him. They point to a wrath of God that is for the future. Look at this passage in Romans 5:
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!
Did you see it? God demonstrated His love for us in sending His son. Now that we ARE ALREADY right in His eyes, it is guaranteed then that we WILL BE saved from this wrath. This seems to indicate not that Jesus took the wrath of God on the cross, but that there is some future wrath. Paul also told the Thessalonians:
For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:9).
Many people believe this is referring to the horrible destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. Although I know there are scriptures that refer specifically to that event (like parts of Matthew 23&24), what I see throughout the whole New Testament is that Gentiles, not living in Jerusalem, were told about a future wrath. Why bother if they were exempt and this wrath only was for a single city/people group?
So if Jesus did not surgically remove the wrath of God when He suffered, what is this wrath all about? As I explained in this post, His wrath is not some evil thing. Rather, it is the FINAL solution for all evil.
I knew a dear lady who was fighting cancer. She of course wanted to beat it, but said that if she were to die, she wanted to be cremated. This was because she wanted that cancer destroyed no matter what! Even though the disease ended up killing her, it then had a date with fire.
In a similar way, God’s plan for all mankind is to receive Jesus and be with Him for eternity. But God would be unjust if He did not do something about unrighteousness, the cancer that eats away at mankind, even though God has reached out to heal.
Now I know what some of you radical gracers are thinking. God would be unjust to judge the same sins twice. I completely agree. This is different than God’s justice against the transgressions of the law. These have been paid for.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19).
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).
But as we see in Romans, there is still a wrath that exists against ungodliness and unrighteousness (all that is contrary to His nature of love).
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:16-18).
The glorious gospel declares that God loves us and has reconciled with us on His end. But reconciliation involves two parties. There is a future wrath for all evil that has not been swallowed up in the mercy and grace of the cross. Just as Noah prepared the ark in light of the judgement that would come upon the Earth, so God has prepared the perfect salvation in Christ for man. All who enter Christ are saved from wrath. Peter speaks of this in 2 Peter 3.
As it say in Thessalonians, God has not destined us for wrath (something that speaks of the future), but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:9).
Furthermore, this wrath is actually a good thing for God’s people. His wrath is for us. It will extinguish the evil that is in the Earth that damages precious people.
I know I might get in trouble for this post by people of all viewpoints. Whether you say God’s wrath was completely extinguished and basically does not exist anymore or that say God’s future wrath spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem and has passed or if you think God poured His wrath out on Jesus as opposed to sin, you might disagree with my points. I welcome feedback as I am still learning about this myself and do not claim to have all the answers. Shalom!