Jesus and the Wrath of God

blood-stained crossAre you familiar with the hymn In Christ Alone? Do you know this hymn is not hundreds of years old? It’s not even 20 years old. In Christ Alone is a very modern hymn. It was written in 2001 by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend.

I mention this hymn because it has these wonderful lyrics:

Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

“Wait a second, Paul. Are you saying God poured out his wrath on Jesus? That sounds twisted.”

I agree that there is something dreadfully wrong with the picture of a father killing his son to satisfy some legal need for blood. It falsely portrays God as guilty of filicide, the murder of his own child.

I know some people have been turned off from the gospel because they thought God killed Jesus. Never mind that Jesus said: “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18).

But how does the wrath of God figure into this? Did God pour out his wrath on Jesus? Some say he didn’t but the hymn says it does. Which is it?

Before I give you my thoughts, I want to highlight three extraordinary facts about the cross.

1. On the cross Jesus literally became sin

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21)

Someone once said, “Don’t marvel that you have become righteous. Marvel that Jesus became sin.” Indeed, this is a great wonder. What does it mean? Were our sins laid on him, as the hymn says? Or did the sinless son somehow become sin itself?

The words of Paul fire the imagination. We might imagine Jesus drawing the disease of sin out of the human race into himself. Every hurt, every wound, every offense, every ache, every wrong, every injustice, every crime, every murder, every lie and rape, Jesus somehow bore.

But that was only the beginning. Look at what happened next…

2. God condemned sin in Jesus

For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh (Rom 8:3, NKJV)

That word “condemned” is katakrinō. It is just about the strongest word for condemn you can find. It’s made up of the verb krino, which means to judge, and the word kata which means down or against. Think of the word catastrophe and you get the idea.

God hates sin. When Jesus became sin on the cross, God came down hard. How hard? So hard that the sins of billions were condemned in the space of a few hours. So hard that the Son of God himself couldn’t live through it. So hard that sin has been dealt with once and for all (Heb 9:26). The cross was a total catastrophe for sin and a total victory for us.

This is pretty amazing, but we have one extraordinary fact left…

3. God was with Jesus on the cross when he died.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ… (2 Cor 5:18-19)

We have this idea that God was up there while Jesus was down here, but Paul understood that God was in Christ the whole time. How does that work? I don’t know. The Trinity is a mystery. I can’t prove this but I believe when we see God the Father he will bear the same nail marks as God the Son.

“But didn’t Jesus say God had forsaken him?”

I am sure that from Jesus’ perspective he felt forsaken but there’s a difference between feelings and reality. Remember, Jesus had never experienced sin. Yet on the cross he became sin. In the fog and haze of sin he lost sight of his loving Father. But that doesn’t mean God abandoned him. Not for a second.

We need to change the way we look at the cross. The cross was not God engaging in child sacrifice. That makes no sense at all. The cross was God becoming one of us, taking on board the sin that afflicts all of us, and condemning that sin in his own flesh. Now, with that foundation laid, we can return to our question.

Was God’s wrath poured out on Jesus?

In a manner of speaking, it was. Not because God the Father was angry with God the Son. That could never happen! But because they were working together with God the Holy Spirit to rid the human race of the scourge of sin.

True, the Bible never actually says God poured out his wrath on Jesus. But it does say this:

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (Rom 5:9)

Jesus saved us from sin and he also saved us from the cure for sin – God’s wrath. If you are in Christ, you don’t need to worry about the wrath of God. Since Jesus experienced it, you will never will.

gangnam_round_smThe cross demonstrates both God’s love for us and his judgment against sin. On the cross, God condemned sin. This is the glad-happy message of the cross. Sin has been dealt with once and for all!

Now that’s a hymn worth singing. That’s a tune you can dance to!

Other posts in this series:
What about God’s wrath?
- What provokes God’s wrath?
- The wrath of God in the new covenant

Comments

  1. Great post, Paul! Of course the Father and Son were together in this. We have built a whole theology around the first verse of Psalm 22 but if we go on and read the rest of it we would see it differently. ‘Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard’ v24. I love Baxter Kruger’s explanation of Psalm 22, 23 and 24 – the cross, the resurrection and the ascension. God’s wrath is God’s love in action against the Adamic system – loving us so fiercely that He was determined to rescue us from the mire of trying to live from our own efforts instead of out of the ‘I am’ in whose image we were created.

    • Michael Jenkins says:

      Well if you put it like that, that makes a lot of sense. I think it depends on how you define wrath. I heard different speakers say that his wrath is his intense love. I can agree with that interpretation.

    • Thanks Susanna – yes, Ps 22 gives us the whole script and Jewish listeners at the cross would’ve been familiar with it. In fact, Jesus had been quoting the Psalms all night, beginning with the hymn he sang at the Last Supper.

    • Yes, Dr Kruger has stated that singing the beginning of the Psalm would be like us singing the beginning or Chorus of a song so as to jump start it in the mind of others. So in essence Jesus was assured in God’s love but he was reminding the others about the end of Psalm 22

  2. Additionally In what Jesus said about being forsaken he was quoting from Psalm 22 which is messianic. He only quotes a the first few words, and that’s probably all the breath He had,anyway, but we should read the whole psalm because it says explicitly Messiah is NOT forsaken in the end. C. Baxter Kruger and others also point out the Jews, like us today with popular songs, would say the beginning words to a psalm, and that would evoke the feeling, meaning and message of the whole piece..

  3. “I am sure that from Jesus’ perspective he felt forsaken but there’s a difference between feelings and reality. Remember, Jesus had never experienced sin. Yet on the cross he became sin. In the fog and haze of sin he lost sight of his loving Father. But that doesn’t mean God abandoned him. Not for a second.”

    Just an observation: I imagine that having a few big nails hammered through one’s limbs, while still living, then being hug from said nails on some telephone pole for a few hours, merely waiting to bleed out, might possibly cause one to feel somewhat “forsaken”.

    We may never know for sure.

    lol

  4. I don’t think Jesus felt abandoned or forsaken. In Jewish tradition, it was common to quote the first line of a Psalm, and all Jews who were listening would have been aware of ALL of the Psalm, much like all Americans will know the rest of (and the gist of) “Dashing through the snow….”

    “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me is the first line of Psalm 22. Further into the psalm, we see these words:
    For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one;
    he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.

    So I believe that Jesus was reminding all those listening that although it seemed like He was forsaken, He knew God was with Him (even in Him, as you pointed out), had not hidden His face, and had not scorned this suffering. Beautiful picture of the love of the Trinity!

  5. well put my brotha,some of that deep magic CS Lewis talks about,I am intrigued with the mystery’s and would love to see into it as deep as I can go, bob mumford has some teaching on this

  6. Michael Jenkins says:

    I am slightly confused with this. If God was in CHRIST reconciling the world to himself, then why do you say that Jesus experienced God’s wrath? I don’t believe God punished Jesus on the cross but our sins did. The Bible says He was wounded for OUR transgressions, bruised for OUR iniquity. All the sin of the mankind killed Jesus, not God. How can God kill His beloved son? Now I know that there is a scripture that says “It pleased God to bruise Him.” That is where my confusion lies. I don’t think God was in heaven smiling in glorious delight as His gets badly bruised.

    Please explain your point further cause what you are saying seems contradictory.

    I just want a better understanding, continue to spread God’s grace.

  7. This topic brings to mind my life in an abbreviated fashion.
    I learned and lived under the roof of my parents as the law-givers who showed me my errors and sins against them and God. I had the fear of my Dad and sometime his wrath. Once I became a man and out from under my parent’s house, I was preoccupied in searching for truth in life and God. I got married at a young age. I kept searching for God as the infinite personality in the universe who knew everything even in extreme mathematical terms. It was not long when a work-mate showed up at my house and showed me Jesus, real and personal. My life since then has changed. I finally realized very quickly that the faith and trust in Jesus and his work replaced the law of the OT and my own works, in trying to be ‘good’ for God. My fear from the wrath of God faded to a kindness and love within my heart. I’m living in and walking by the Spirit today, although I’m still with a learners permit. There are still obstacles and turns in this life I need to navigate around and through; although it becomes easy when I give the wheel to Jesus.
    Now when I look to Jesus, in all sincerity from the heart I have no sin, as Jesus; the spirit inside of me reveals this fact. Isn’t it great to have a loving God?!

  8. Lyn Packer says:

    Paul, I love these verses which indicate to me that Jesus knew that he would not be forsaken on the cross – John 10:30, “I and my Father are one.” That reality was never rescinded before, during or after the cross.
    John 8:28,29 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself…. 29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone.
    John 16:32, Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
    And of course as people have stated before Jesus was quoting Ps 22 I believe not stating his personal beliefs.
    O what glorious love!

    • Thanks Lyn – good verses. The teamwork of the Father, Son and Spirit that is evident in the crucifixion comes out even more strongly in the resurrection. At various places the New Testament says Jesus was raised by the Father (Gal 1:1, Rom 6:4), the Spirit (Rom 8:11), and himself (John 2L19, 10:17-18). Which is the true account? Amazingly, they all are!

  9. Thank you Paul for all your work, sacrifice and insight to help me and those who have, had, or still have a difficult time understanding the power of our Lord Jesus Christs sacrifice on the cross and what it means. Your knowledge has helped me tremendously in my relationship with God, I am not perfect and stumble in belief from time to time after all I am human, but I am reminded by friends, family, and your readings of my salvation. I wake each day in prayer and ask for help when I dont understand something and pray I keep my peace or patience or what ever the occassion may call for, and I give gratitude at the end of the day. In my gratitude I say Thank You Jesus, and sometimes Say Thank You God, Thank You Jesus, Thank you Holy Spirit. I feel that I give thanks to one I need to thank all, but then the mystery of the trinity leaves me confused. Should I say thank you to all three, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, or just thank you? It sounds simple I am sure, and makes me think there is some thread of unbelief in that train of thought. My mom when she was alive would say “quianna ” (thank you) in our native language (yu’pik, native alaskan dialect) and said those are the nicest words anyone can say, anytime.

  10. Fusion of the Trinity

    “Then God said, ‘let Us make man in Our Image, according to Our likeness…’” (Gen 1:26). The Three Persons of God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are in eternal, perpetual fusion. They are One God. We have been invited to offer ourselves “a living and holy sacrifice” (Rom 12:1) that through fusion “in Christ” the Trinity may come to dwell in us. “For in Christ all the fullness of Deity (Trinity) dwells in bodily form and in Him you have been made full” (Col 2:9-10). Through these teachings we see through the natural creation to the invisible, spiritual pattern and design of God. As we explore the science of Fusion our revelation of God as Agape opens wider and we begin to understand how Agape works. “Agape cannot be consummated by a solitary subject”(Moltmann). Since before time, the Persons of the Trinity have been alive to One Another dwelling in perpetual fusion, Each yielding His Own will in perpetual Self-giving Oneness to do good. We learn fusion requires one to willingly “lose his life;” however, in fusion in the infinite Son, we are liberated that we might re-invest our individuality in perpetual Oneness.” Hear the call to fusion pioneers to awaken to the spiritual reality of a relational life with the Trinity, learning Their way and moving forward in this self-sacrificial journey.

    for what its worth,this my help, from one of bobs books

  11. thank you for this! i totally agree… and i have really been too overwhelmed to put my thoughts into words because of the love i have been experiencing bc of it! :)

  12. can’t wait for the next post on this series where you said you’d talk about what happened to Jerusalem in 70AD…

    I was discussing this to my siblings but they didn’t believe me, they hold to their “thief in the night” and “left behind” series more dear, than the historical & cultural context of scripture. They take many of my words lightly, but yours with great credibility (They got deeper into grace from your book GITW)

    For me, shedding light on the Olivet discourse (Mat 24, Luke 21, Mark 13 & Revelation [a parallel to Ezekiel]) is integral for clearing out modern interpretation confusions. For new covenant believers to know the impact and implications of 70AD and the transition of covenants and kingdoms.

  13. Yay! Have n awesome vacation! Blessings!

    Ecclesiastes 5:20 MSG

    After looking at the way things are on this earth, here’s what I’ve decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that’s about it. That’s the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. It’s useless to brood over how long we might live, since God will keep him occupied with the joys of his heart (ecc 5:18-19)

  14. Paul i relish your posts but i disagree with you on this one.Jesus was truly forsaken on the cross.What Jesus felt or feels cannot be opposed to reality because He is truth.I agree the triune God is a mystery one cannot explain precisely.Therein lies the essence of what you are talking about.God The Father didnot forsake The Son,infact He was pleased since they were working together.Thats why Jesus didnt cry out My father my father why have you forsaken me.However AS GOD-the judge forsook the son of man so that we would become sons of God 1Jn3v1.He forsook him so that we would never be forsaken heb13v5.He turned His back on him because His eyes are too pure to behold sin hab 1v13.Thats why Jesus cried out My God My God,this is the first time he addressed the Father as My God so that we could call God Our Father-remember what He said to Mary after He rose Jn20v 17.So Paul if you say Jesus felt forsaken by God but wasn’t in reality then by the same token today we are feeling intimate with God but in reality we are forsaken.Cmon Paul you know better,salvation was not instituted on the basis of a reality opposed to a feeling but on a reality so real it was felt for our benefit.If God didnot forsake Jesus then He would have to turn His back on us today.I like what pastor Joseph Prince said-As Judge God turned His back on His Son but as Father He cried.His heart was broken because Christ was never more pleasing to Him than when he was on the cross.Christ’s suffering was a sweet-smelling aroma to the Father eph5v2.Jesus said “therefore my Father loves me because i lay down my life………..” jn 10v17.Again Jesus didnt cry out “My Father” but “My God” for the first time because as judge of the universe God had to turn His back on Jesus who was carrying the filth of the world’ s sins.Paul Jesus felt forsaken because He truly was.Its matter of understanding the Trinity.God Bless

    Grace always

    Farai

    • HI Farai..Not a trinity fan (I come in peace..) although I do have in-work thoughts on this subject. Before Jesus, God as we know was angry with mankind for sin. God’s love and mercy for mankind, and Jesus’ willingness as 100% human being to die as a sinless and pure sacrifice for sin and then in his resurrection by God, completely satisfied God’s wrath as a permanent and final condemnation of sin. And therefore, his wrath toward mankind was forgotten. Of course men as sinner still bear God’s wrath. The point is that God washed his hands and wrath toward mankind. Mankind now had no excuses for sin.
      Now Jesus went to the cross still anointed with God’s will and spirit within him, ever since his demonstration of obedience to God’s will, with his water baptism by John. Jesus died on the cross 100% human being (this was essential), and his anointing or God’s presence actually left him upon his death. God could not be connected spiritually with Jesus’ spirit while he was separating from his body in his own death. That’s why Jesus for that moment said.. why have you foresaken me. He was literally at that time separted from his Father. His resurrection jointed God’s will and spirit again with Jesus’ spirit in his glorified body.

    • I don’t think you understand the trinity very well… do you really think the trinity became a “two-nity”? that for that brief moment, God did not become God? Jesus cried that cry because He did not just took on sin, but the shame of it (Heb 12:2).
      -1 Jn 3:1 & Heb 13:5 says nothing about Jesus being forsaken. Heb 13:5 even supports this.
      -you cannot Hab 1:13 to the next verses especially Hab 1:14; Habbakuk was saying that God’s eyes are too pure to look at sin, but why is God giving special attention to man? He was beholding that even though we are “fallen” God still loves us and cares for us.
      -Jesus cried that cry because he was lost in the fog of our own imagination, thinking that God has alienated from ourselves but the reality is that man alienated himself from God. like a sheep without a shepherd (Col 1:21; Isaiah 53:4-6; Psalms 22)
      Jesus was never forsaken, he only felt it, it shows on Psalms 22:1-21; but if you go down to Psalms 22:22-onwards Jesus was saying that the Father never forsaken Him, He listened to my plea and cry for help, and did not hide his face from me.

      You’re reading this wrong saying those statements… the message here is that Jesus was never forsaken even though He became sin and shame itself, what more us? It means that we will never be forsaken by God.

    • Thank you Farai. I was thinking the same thing. You said it better than I could have. Yes, Jesus was forsaken so that I will never be forsaken. Just as Jesus took my punishment so I will never be punished for sin. Its all in the exchange. My unrighteousness in exchange for His righteousness. Love you Paul, but have to agree with Farai on this one.

      • God didn’t abandon Adam when he sinned; nor did he abandon Jesus when he became sin; nor will he abandon you when you sin. God’s grace is greater than our sin. This is the good news.

      • Hey Gina

        You also said it well-its all in the exchange. The good thing is we all agree with Paul that God will never ever forsake us. I have been inspired by many of his posts and I love the point his tryna make here. But I think its the way he brought it out that wasn’t entirely right. Many of those who preached and preach radical Grace-DL Moody, Charles Spurgeon,Joseph Prince all agree that Jesus literally suffered(not just felt) the worst so we could enjoy the best.He was forsaken at that moment so we would never be forsaken for all eternity,He became sin at that moment so that we would be forever righteous.Jesus didnot say He was forsaken as an expression of feeling but as an experience of reality.He’S feelings were not independent of God’s truth.Let us rejoice that we truly are in a place we enjoy God’s best because someone experienced the worst for us not just felt it but truly experienced it.Again I reiterate its a matter of understanding the Trinity on this issue.Anyway whether Paul agrees or not the most important thing is we are all(together with Paul) in agreement that God will never forsake us. That’s the Good News.Thanks Gina

        Grace always

        Farai

  15. if Jesus literally became sin… then it was sin in him that was forsaken. He was still God’s son, born of a virgin and the Holy Spirit (mary had no y chromosome to offer). if God the Father was not One with Jesus on the cross, then Jesus would have ceased to be fully God… He would have just been a righteous man on the cross with no power for His death to count as ours… just like the abrahamic covenant, the new covenant was made between God and Himself… only this time, God was united to mankind in Christ, so that all mankind would be included in His death for forgiveness of sin.

  16. Great post! This site has been a blessing to me.

  17. Jesus became sin for us in his birth , he was born into death we should not forget where he came from, it is said that the baptist is the greatest man born of woman, this leaves only one conclusion Jesus was born only of God , and born into our dead state, life born into death.

  18. Thank you so much Paul, you have been a huge blessing.

  19. Thanks Paul for this message…easy to understand and very edifying! When we are about Jesus Christ’s Work and His Way, we are under special protection. Christ is with us while we are with Him, and “if He be for us, who can be against us?” Love that hymn too, “In Christ Alone” :)

  20. <3

  21. John W Reed says:

    The Word declares that the believer is not been appointed to wrath but to obtain salvation! Jesus became a curse. He took all the judgement. How can God be angry at anyone? God is not angry and neither is He in a bad mood! Its His goodness not badness that brings repentance anyway!

  22. Re: “Now that’s a hymn worth singing. That’s a tune you can dance to!” First, I love your perspective and your eloquence at expressing difficult concepts; but there is no way I can feel any delight, pleasure, happiness, gladness or joy in response to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. All I can feel is regret, remorse and guilt that he had to do that for me.

  23. *mind blown* I love the gospel!

  24. Would you be able to comment on the idea that it pleased God to send Jesus to the cross? “Isa 53:10 And Jehovah hath delighted to bruise him”. I have an idea as to how this can make sense and not make God out to be a sadistic father enjoying his son’s pain and suffering on the cross, but was hoping you could shed some light please?

    • The pleasure was not in the bruising but in the Plan – “the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” It’s like when Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day” (John 8:56), which I believe is a reference to the cross. It’s not that Abraham rejoiced to see Jesus suffer; He rejoiced at the audacity of God’s Plan to come and save us. The gist of Isaiah’s prophecy is about offspring: “Who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living… (yet) he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.”

  25. The crucifixion was not Plan B. Jesus, as part of the Trinity, agreed, before the foundation of the world, to come to Earth as a man and die in order to pay the penalty himself that he required for sin because no one else could do it. His cries of agony and anguish were expressions of his human experience while he was fulfilling the plan he had had part in formulating before he took on the flesh of a human.

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