Is God Mad?

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August 20, 2020

John 3:31-36 (NIV)

The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

CONSIDER THIS

Wrath. It’s a hard, unpleasant word. It feels like the unmitigated emotion of rage. It doesn’t sound like the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to me. I just don’t get the impression that God is angry from my reading of Scripture.

So what is the wrath of God? What if the wrath of God is simply the presence of God as experienced by anyone unprepared for it. By way of analogy, consider the sun. The wrath of the sun is not found in its emotional state but as a natural consequence of its presence. Without the protection of the atmosphere we could not live in the presence of the sun. By the mercy of God we have been covered by a protective atmosphere in which we cannot only look upon the sun, but we can enjoy and flourish in its warmth.

What if God’s wrath is akin to the experience of the presence of the sun without any atmospheric protection? What if we thought of God’s holiness as the luminously fierce brightness of ten thousand suns? It would be a wrathful experience for anyone unprepared for such a holy presence. They simply could not exist there. It’s why we understand hell as eternal separation from God. As I understand it, the biblical notion of wrath refers to a fixed state of being rather than a volatile state of emotion.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

To say that God’s wrath remains on a person is to say that it had already been on them. In fact, because sin entered the world, we are born into the unfortunate state of the wrath of God. Sin cannot tolerate the presence of the holiness of God. My friend Timothy Tennent (who writes the Daily Text on Sundays) has described sin as the willful choosing of the absence of God. When our ancestors sinned in the garden of Eden, they effectively chose life in the absence of God’s presence. God did not leave them. In fact, it was the mercy of God to move them out of the garden where they could remain alive.

We are born into the condition of sin and into the unfortunate reality of the wrath of God. In his mercy, God has made provision for the short span of our lives. But this is the miracle: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 KJV). In his mercy, by the death of Jesus Christ, God protects all who will receive this offering on their behalf from eternal death. In his grace, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, God offers us life on life on life, which is his presence, which is perfect, holy love. We are invited to choose life.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

It is an absurdity to suggest that it is somehow unfair that Jesus Christ is the only way to be reconciled with God. It is an unimaginable mercy—the free gift of eternal life for undeserving sinners. I like the way C. S. Lewis talks about this. Let’s give him the last word today.

“When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else—something it never entered your head to conceive—comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realised it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.” (C. S.Lewis, The Case for Christianity)

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, thank you for your Son, Jesus. Just thank you.

THE QUESTIONS

1. If someone were to come up with a singular cure to all cancer and it was the only known cure, would we be upset with them or think it unfair that there were not other cures available? Why do people reject the exclusivity of the offer of salvation of Jesus Christ offered universally to anyone who will believe?

2. Do you understand/believe God’s wrath to mean God is angry at you? What do you make of the sun analogy? I welcome push back.

3. Does this help give you a better understanding of the urgent necessity of our being faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ to others? 

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For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

3 COMMENTS

  1. “What if God’s wrath is akin to the experience of the presence of the Sun without any atmospheric protection? What if we thought of God’s holiness as the luminously fierce brightness of ten thousand suns? It would be a wrathful experience for anyone unprepared for such a holy presence. They simply could not exist there.”

    Yep! Been there, done that via the Heidelberg Catechism and “Body & Soul”. After stumbling around with a muddled understanding all of a sudden I was staring the triune God of holy love in the face. At times I had to simply walk away.. It has taken me almost 4 years to recover from the experience and learn how to live a reasonable life with the knowledge that was both imparted and realized. As M. Craig Barnes, the author of “Body & Soul” states elsewhere, we should never be too sentimental about grace–it most definitely put me in the crucible of God’s creativity. I’m still sorting through the fall out of unexpectedly “meeting God” head on.

  2. I don’t have the same struggle/experience when I read the scripture, concerning whether or not God is mad or angry or full of wrath. I don’t find it difficult at all to consider God’s wrath as an emotional response to sin or rebellion or some such (contrary to the Greek understanding of an emotionless God). However, he doesn’t throw fits.

    That is not to say that I necessarily like such texts but I don’t find them problematic simply because they describe who God is and we have to deal with it, like it or not.

    The wrath of God is, to me, a natural response from a Father who sees his creation destroyed, his holiness mocked and dismissed, his love scorned, the murder of his only Son ridiculed and his most beloved creatures tortured, maimed, raped, killed and more. The wrath of God being real means (to me) that God is not coolly indifferent to evil or sin but takes it brutally seriously and will avenge it eventually.

    There is comfort there since his mercy is offered.
    There is hope for the oppressed there.
    There is an opportunity there to let go of our hate and lust for revenge there.

    I find your analogy interesting but somewhat lacking in its more aloof or ethereal view of God’s wrath…almost a little deistic.

  3. “Without the protection of the atmosphere we could not live in the presence of the Sun. By the mercy of God we have been covered by a protective atmosphere in which we can not only look upon the sun but we can enjoy and flourish in its warmth.”
    Jesus…He is our protective atmosphere to be in the Presence of the Father and viewed as acceptable. We are clothed in righteousness by the blood of the Lamb.

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