What about God’s wrath?

foot_from_heavenThe other night my little girl was on the toilet when she started yelling. “There’s a spider!” Normally, I would encourage my kids to face their fears and deal with spiders on their own but I could hear panic in my daughter’s voice. Poor kid. Stuck on the porcelain throne she was in no position to deal with a terrifying spider.

Time for Daddy to be a hero!

I charged into the bathroom like a grizzly bear. “Where is this terrible creature that dares to frighten you, sweetie?” She pointed and I saw a tiny black spider on the floor. I pretended not to see it. Then I planted my foot on it as I looked around.

“Where is that nasty spider?” I asked in mock confusion. “I can’t see it?”

“Daddy, you’re standing on it!”

I lifted my foot revealing one squashed spider. Threat removed, problem solved, one happy kid.

God’s wrath is something like that.

The wrath of God should never scare you. Knowing that God is more than able to protect his kids should comfort you. God’s wrath should give you peace and security.

Hardly anyone talks about the wrath of God anymore and those who do typically view it through an old covenant mindset. It’s as though the cross changed nothing. We need to look at God’s wrath through the lens of the new covenant.

If you are frightened of God’s wrath, this new series is going to set you free. Yes, God’s wrath is terrifying just as my foot is terrifying to bugs and spiders. But you are not a spider! You are a dearly loved child of God.

So, let’s begin with a question.

What is God’s wrath?

God’s wrath is a stomping foot from heaven. In a word, God’s wrath is a reaction. It is a reaction to everything that contradicts his good, loving and just character.

Think of the spider. I am not against spiders. In fact, I think spiders are pretty cool. But scaring my daughters while they sit helpless in the bathroom is not cool. Now from the spider’s perspective, my heel looks like wrath from heaven. But while it may appear that I have it in for spiders, I don’t. I am not opposed to spiders. I am opposed to things that terrify my children.

Do you see the difference? My wrath is not an expression of my hatred for spiders but an expression of my love for my children.

Similarly, God’s wrath is an expression of his love. God is love, so when he acts wrathfully, he acts in accordance with his loving nature. The wrath of God is his love in action. This is why you never need fear his wrath (see 1 John 4:18).

It is simplistic to describe God’s wrath as punishment or a big foot from heaven. It is not. God’s wrath is a reaction to all that opposes his nature. Although it seems God destroyed a fair number of Egyptians in Genesis, God doesn’t hate Egyptians. In fact, he loves Egyptians! And although God destroyed wicked people in the flood, God doesn’t hate the wicked. In fact, he loves sinners (Rom 5:8)!

Think about it. The Egyptians of Moses’ day were wicked slavers and came under judgment. Yet there are still slavers today but God doesn’t judge them as he did the Egyptians. Doesn’t that seem inconsistent to you? If God’s wrath were a big foot on the head of slavers, he’d be stomping all over the place.

This is why I say God’s wrath is not a big foot. It is not punishment. It’s a reaction to something, but what? You may say, “Well, sin obviously.” But sin is not a good answer. It’s a cross-less and Christ-less answer. It’s an answer that is 2000 years out of date.

Wrath in the old covenant

In the old covenant, there was a strong connection between sin and wrath. Back then, it made sense to say things like this:

Warn them not to sin against the Lord; otherwise his wrath will come on you and your brothers. (2 Ch 19:10)

In the old covenant the fear of the Lord’s wrath was an incentive not to sin. God’s wrath was the Big Stick that kept you honest. The wrath of God gave teeth to the law because “the law worketh wrath” (Rom 4:15). Consider what happened to the idol-worshipping Israelites (Psa 78:58-59) and rebellious Korah (Nu 16:31). When they broke the law they got wrath.

When Jesus came and preached law to those under the law, he included a healthy dose of scary wrath:

And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due. So shall also my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye forgive not every one his brother from your hearts. (Mat 18:34-35, ASV).

A law backed up by the wrath of God will terrify and condemn you. It will cause you to tremble at the utter hopelessness of your situation. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s Moses:

We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. (Psa 90:7-9)

And here is Jesus saying something similar:

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Mat 10:28)

Hell – however you define it – is the ultimate expression of wrath. I know a lot of people don’t believe in hell anymore but Jesus certainly did. Or at least, he believed in some form of divine wrath that expressed itself in burning anger.

But keep in mind that Jesus lived and preached in a time of law and we are not under law but grace (Rom 6:14). This is why you need not fear Jesus’ scary words in Matthew 10:28.

Prior to the cross, it made sense to talk about a righteous God being provoked to anger by sin. But it doesn’t make sense anymore. Why not?

But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Heb 9:26)

If the cross was the once and final solution for sin, then God will never be provoked to wrath by sin again. And if Christ is the end of the law for all who believe, then those who believe will never experience the wrath that the law brings.

Does that mean God will never be wrathful? No. The Bible has plenty to say about “the coming wrath” and the “day of wrath,” as we will see. It’s just that God’s wrath will not be in response to sin. The sin problem has been dealt with.

Given that, the question stands. What provokes God’s wrath today, now, after the cross? What arouses God’s wrath now? If not sin, then what? We’ll find out in the next post.

58 Comments on What about God’s wrath?

  1. can’t wait for the next post

  2. Amen, looking forward to the next post.

  3. Absolutely brilliant stuff Paul!

  4. My Husband and I prayed for some answers in this area tonight just one hour ago about this subject of God;s wrath and hell , since we came in beleiving the Grace Message there has started some confusion in me in this area , i said why bother about it let me ask Daddy God for Him to tell me , to reveal things to me about the hell issue,, He Is got All The answers !, since many are saying that it does not excist ,, i love it that You wrote on it , We will check it out ! thanks ! by the way We both love your postings , We think You are one of the solid Grace teachers still ! Your doing good listening to The Holy Spirit !

  5. Brian Midmore // October 16, 2013 at 8:07 pm // Reply

    My problem with designating Matt 18. 22-35 as law is that Jesus explicitly says in verse 23 that this is what the kingdom of heaven is like. It seems strange to describe this as old covenant and like the kingdom of heaven.

  6. How do we interpret 1 Th 4:6, Lord will punish the believers for all such sins, in light of God’s grace?

    • Read this passage in a literal translation (or in the Greek) and you will find no mention of the word “punish.” Paul is conveying the sense that God is in the justice business, as James also does in this verse.

  7. How does the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. fit into this?

  8. Good read, absolutely a subject that needs to be addressed. So many of us who have fallen in love with One who has poured His love out on us and who rejoices over us with singing are left not quite sure what to do with the wrath of God. What does it mean and what do we need to understand about this part of the character of God? Appreciated the analogy, looking forward to reading more on the topic.

  9. Stephen Byaruhanga // October 17, 2013 at 4:39 am // Reply

    I think the wrath and anger of God will be be poured onto the whole world starting from the middle of the tribulation period. The church will have been ruptured to heaven. If wrath and anger at that time is not against sin and disobedience-then looking forward to the next post to learn what this wrath will be against.

    • I think the church has already been “ruptured.” (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

      • oh you dog,I see were your going,maybe not,Christ came through us? Years ago when I was under Bob Mumford,he didnt talk about eschatology to much as i remember,1 night he was on PTL and of course we watched it,and they were talking about it ,and Bob said,to him what difference did it make whether we meet him, or whether he meets us,pre trib, post trib,etc, it was still going to happen and I thought, i wonder if he meant we may get so full of Christ that we will be Christ on earth,[ the body ] and somehow the head will connect with the body………….who knows stay tuned. ps: i remember asking derek prince about the anti-Christ and all he said was keep an eye on the Muslims, for what its worth.

      • OH dopey me, RUPTURED………sorry,I over slept, the dog ate my homework etc, what ever excuse works

  10. well put,when i get challenged about scripture like this,i tell people,context is king,go and dig ,discover,dont be afraid, ask questions of the holy spirit………..funny in Florida, if theres one thing you have its critters,everything does good in Florida,so we have spiders,snakes, lizards,scorpions etc,the only I havent had in the bathroom is the snakes. the scorpions are a small variety,about the size of a german cockroach,so all you need to do is step on it and avoid the stinger, yea so we have native speices, exotics, pythons in the everglades,plus a lot of pets turned loose, never a dull moment,……………ps: the pythons cant live where im at, gets to cold for them,so i get to keep my cats.

  11. Looking forward to what is next in your series. +1 for the Monty Python-esque reference. 🙂

  12. pss: the other day I hear, [whats in the bathtub,so I go in and here is a LARGE brown anole lizard wet, cold, no tail, wrapped in what looked like threat or cotton, obliviously the cats had found him,felt so bad for him,I picked him up, made sure he got out the door,and yelled [run lizard run]

  13. Seta, you and your husband are an encouragement to me!

  14. humbleheart72 // October 17, 2013 at 7:16 am // Reply

    I agree with the last 4 comments 🙂 Looking forward to next post…

  15. akismet-c7fc6cd28ad7948056035864cdc000cc // October 17, 2013 at 7:22 pm // Reply

    Paul. i never thought of it like that. anything else opens us up to a schizophrenic God. curious to see what triggers his wrath, if not sin?

  16. Brian Midmore // October 17, 2013 at 7:38 pm // Reply

    Sure the cross transforms everything. But what happens if as Christians we begin to deny the cross. This happens when we fail to forgive. Then we are saying that the basis for my relationship with God should be legalistic and eye for an eye. We spurn Gods grace and receive his justice. This I believe is what Matt 18. 22-35 is about. The torture is not hell since we can get out of it but trouble here on earth.

  17. wonderful! looking forward to this series 🙂 provoked me to look up the word wrath in the original greek and hebrew…interesting to find that it means “passionate overflow”… keep getting the image of mama bear protecting her cubs… good for the babies – bad for the animal she perceives as a threat to them 😉

  18. Paul is there anyway you could do a post or series that explains how you get this translation of God’s wrath “through the cross”? haha. maybe you’ve already done so, but it still bothers me that I thought I already knew what the cross did. How did I forget? I don’t want to anymore! Thank God for E2R.

  19. the wrath of God against those who replaces the gospel with something else.

  20. Oh, it’s ruptured all right! 🙂 LOL Raptured? Not yet as far as my belief system goes.

  21. Looking forward to next post in this series!

  22. I’m already salivating. Bring it on Paul. That’s what E2R is all about

  23. Waiting Patiently…not

  24. I’m really struggling with this….im with you, up until the descriptions of some of Gods actions in the old testament.
    Maybe the people God destroyed and killed in the old testament deserved it, but why give them free will in the first place if your just gonna kill them for going too far the wrong way? And i love that the story of Pharaoh, is a great illustration of what Jesus would do to the devil who enslaved us. But seriously now, do you believe that our Father, our Dad, killed every firstborn son in Egypt, from Pharaohs, right down to the Egyptian slaves and and prisoners (Exodus 11:5; 12:29), just, because Pharaoh wouldn’t let a bunch of Israelites go wander in a desert for 40 years? I’m not trying belittle what God can do in a desert with people, but honesty, how many of these firstborn deserved it? How many were children? They were just collateral damage i guess.
    How on earth can Gods wrath change so much? And how the hell can the God of the old testament be our Dad?
    Ive got quite worked up…hopefully i haven’t been offensive.
    Cheers man

    • Haha, settle down, John. 😉
      Cheers Brother

    • I don’t know if this will help john, but I will say it anyway. When God said in Eden the day you eat of it you will die in dying he meant it, the breath of life is not life even the animals have it, When you accepted Jesus as your as your salvation you became a new creation or for better words you received real life, it is not something you feel it is a promise from the creator, the whole universe was created for this purpose.You will not fully appreciate what you have until you fully appreciate the original lie, and what you did not have. Without a good understanding of this and reading the events after eden in this light a corrupt image of God based on the lie is formed. I do not wish to debate this it is just what I believe.

      • John Buta // August 6, 2014 at 10:53 pm //

        Sure thing, i appreciate you throwing in what you believe to help 🙂
        I think i believe what you’ve said to be honest. Do you think God did do those things in the old testament?
        I don’t wanna debate either, so im not gonna jump on what you answer to that. I just wanna know if there is a good way to understand Gods acts in the old testament without just plain acceptance of them like there ok, or alternatively ripping those pages out because they seem contradictory to the father Jesus revealed.
        Thanks man 🙂

      • The events and prophecies of the Old Testament were inspired, but that does not mean they were rightly inspired. Between Moses and Jesus, Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, said that Jesus can say whatever he wants so long as Moses is silenced forever. He means that Christ is our filter. The best way to deal with all our condemnation, and Adam’s, is to realize sin may kill, but Jesus is life. In the Old Testament (as many Full Gospel preachers today) say repent from sin, but the gospel of grace, written in His name, was to turn to Jesus. We didn’t have this problem (the sin of killing) until Adam sinned, and we have the same choice.

        Remember John the Baptist was full of the Holy Spirit but he continued in the law (preaching repent). Someone greater put an end to the old covenant on the cross. So whatever you do, rest in His name. Whatever the Old Covenant priests did, as do war-mongers today, they do in the name of self. It’s still forgiven. Receive the gift and rest. Jesus is the gift.

    • I believe this John , God has never and will never kill anyone , he is life its self and he would act against himself in doing this, and to answer your question yes I believe God did do all those things in the old testament. I also have no problem putting my last two statements together and believe that God does not change, what we see in Jesus is God and he has not changed. But I will say this God defines what life is and he is the God of the living and not the dead.I believe Gods word more than I believe what I see and experience.

      • John Buta // August 8, 2014 at 7:14 am //

        Thank you guys, i appreciate your thoughts.
        I had two more questions if it was ok though….do you think God, our Father, increased Eve’s pains in childbearing just because she ate an apple from a tree?
        “To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labour you will give birth to children.” Genesis 3:16a (NIV)
        How would you explain this verse to someone who didn’t believe in Jesus, if they read it?

    • I would say carrying death into the world is a painful event and should be, but I would also say that in this death was the promise of life to all that would choose life, the seed of the woman.

      • Maybe it is birthing life out of death that is painful? (the cross)

      • momzilla76 // August 10, 2014 at 8:43 am //

        John- different translations of the bible make the “curse” laid on Eve a lot less intense than that one does. The King James makes it sounds like her workload and sorrow increases not her physical pain. Adam was given hard work, sweat and tears for his food growing Eve was given hard, work and tears for her child growing if that makes any sense. It was equitable conditions. Not so much of a punishment-curse but the natural results of choosing something other than God’s way.

      • John Buta // August 11, 2014 at 6:17 am //

        Hey momzilla!
        How are you?
        You’re completely right about the severity of that translation, and its focus, which was why i chose it to be honest.
        In truth, unlike my original comment, the questions in that comment were more for Chris. I just felt shocked that i was the only one seeing the obvious contradictions between the God of the old testament, and the God of the New. So i used that strongly translated passage, and, in the form of 2 questions, i was trying to establish that there are huge differences here between the God who is love on the one hand, and the God who is violent in the old testament. Ultimately i hoped we could move on to discussing a framework for reconciling these differences.
        But thanks for jumping in though! I feel like you get me 😀
        And you’re interpretation of the passage from Genesis we’ve been chatting about…consequences as oppose to punishment…its so right and spot on! I was really lucky to read that view in a book only recently 😀
        Take care momzilla!

    • gracethroughfaith783 // August 16, 2017 at 10:13 pm // Reply

      Hi John,

      I am experiencing the very same frustrations, you are not alone. There are some great thinkers out there, such as Greg Boyd, Phil Drysdale and of course Paul Ellis who have sincerely helped me to grow in the message of grace. However the questions and doubts still linger, especially when you open the pages of the Old Testament.

      God may be releasing a revelation of his heart through you my friend, which is why you may be finding these questions so hard.

      Bless you my friend

    • Squawks 5000 // January 10, 2019 at 3:12 am // Reply

      I believe that God’s wrath is less on hating __ and more on protection.

      In the OT, pretty much everyone who got destroyed for disobedience were interfering severly with people like the Israelites. For tge Pharaoh case, Pharaoh was badly mistreating the Israelites, a people group used to pave way for Jesus.

      As for the rest of the Egyptians, it’s possible that most adult leaders also shared with the disobedience wih Pharaoh. It’s entirely possible that none of the children were in pain — they were just taken up to the Lord, making the effect of loss more towards the nation of Egypt.

  25. gracethroughfaith783 // August 15, 2017 at 8:23 am // Reply

    How about the verses in the Old Testament where God commands Joshua and Saul to destroy men, women, children etc? I cannot reconcile Jesus with these commands!? If Jesus reveals who God is, surely he would not command people to slaughter entire nations?

    • That was a question I could never answer. I suppose you’re reading other posts here. It’s like Jesus finished a work when he said: It is finished!”

    • Google “the religious practices of the Carthaginians” to get an idea of what the Canaanites were like.
      The objections to the conquest of Canaan often portray them as these gentle folk just minding their own business, the truth is they had the most wicked practices known to man at that time. God gave them centuries to turn from these practices. It appears that the enemy knew about the covenant God had made with Abraham and did his utmost to defile the land as much as possible, a defilement that remained long after it was conquered and was the cause of Israels downfall on numerous occasions.

      • Jesus died on a cross to put away such. It’s a conscience cleansing that the word says Christ accomplished. And it’s based on the Holy Spirit living for you to remind you of your righteousness. You need to understand that something extreme happened in history. My eyes were opened and now I see. I know this depends on large part on access to this ministry. But I’m beginning to fortify my mind with the love God has for me, his beloved. I understand what you are saying but the wrong question leads to the wrong results.

      • gracethroughfaith783 // August 16, 2017 at 9:53 pm //

        I understand what you are saying. What about the children? Or the families? Can you see the same God that said “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” command Israel to destroy their enemies and leave nothing alive?

        Jesus states that He came to give life and life abundantly. Therefore God must look the same. How then can the same God who came to give life, command people to be killed?

        I’m not asking these questions out of anger or bitterness. More so out of frustration.

    • Dang. I struggle with that too. Here’s what I found while trekking for six months with this:

      1) As Paul Ellis said, God’s wrath is less on hating __ and more on protecting Israel. The offenders were either directly attacking Israel or doing something that may lead Israel into disaster (remember, Israel at that time did not walk with God). In fact, God is actually reluctant to do slaughter but felt it is necessary in order to protect Israel (see Jeremiah and Ezekiel).
      2) God gave ___ a long, long time for them to repent. He even accepts last minute repentance! (Rahab in Joshua 2-6)
      3) The main reason why God wanted to protect Israel is that he wanted a ready audience so Jesus can actually influence a broken world. Once that happens, God now focuses more on getting people to turn to Jesus (Matt 28) rather than protecting Israel by slaughtering sinful nations.
      4) Jesus says to “love your enemies” (Matt 5) and to love people (John 15). Since Jesus calls every believer/disciple to follow his commands (Matt 28), we can be sure that God will NOT tell anyone to do genocide, let alone murder. In fact, now judgment is completely God’s business ONLY (Rom 12)

      I can’t fit my thoughts in 250 words, but I hope this helps. LSS, commanding conquest in OT did not carry over under the New Covenant because Jesus focuses more on redemption.

    • Squawks 5000 // July 22, 2018 at 2:43 pm // Reply

      Talking about conquest is one thing. Talking about children is a whole ‘nother story (especially since I like childrens’ ministry!). I do have a few points:

      1) For background, note that the Canaanites were doing bullcrap like child sacrifice and nasty reproductive actions. A child born in such society would likely copy the society’s actions.

      2) In another post, Paul Ellis talked about how kids who die get to go to heaven simply because they were unable to respond to God. In other words, the ones (especially infants) who died might actually be spared from a worse judgment.

      3) In modern times, there are terrorists as young as 8 years old. On a practical view for a nation that struggles to walk with God, things don’t look well when the child comes in.

      4) It’s possible that God timed the judgment to minimize the amount of children who can walk yet can not do evil. It’s also possible that God took away the pain or terror of the children who are in that age range. If God removed the PAS, then maybe he’s just taking them to heaven, safely away from culture.

      Like I said, I still struggle with this issue. But God can guide us through this.

      • richard elson // July 23, 2018 at 1:11 am //

        these conversations is always goes the same way.
        1. These were extra special bad sinner deserving extra special punishment.
        2. God was doing the poor children a huge favour destroying them so they wouldn’t grow up to be extra bad like their parents.
        3. Gods plan was almost thwarted and he had to do something drastic to recover it from disaster.
        4. The stories are exaggerated for effect, don’t worry Gods ways are deep and mysterious.

        Why is there so much killing,stealing and destroying of men, women and children? The answer should always start with, “We have an enemy and . . . ”

        After Jesus we have no excuse for blaming God. After we receive the Holy Spirit we have no need to be taught by those who didn’t have the Holy Spirit, It is ludicrous to learn about the true nature of God from anyone else other than Jesus. More crazy still, to believe the opposite to what Jesus said about our Father.

      • Agree Richard. Having a faulty view of God’s character is very sad and destructive to us. A judicial view of God has been taught, and not a restorative Father God view. Jesus is the exact representative of the Father, they are the same. God is our Abba, Daddy. It has been so helpful for me to see God in the light of family, God cares for all HIs children.

      • richard elson // July 24, 2018 at 11:35 pm //

        Hi Leanne,
        Yes, Jesus is the exact image of the Father. . . Jesus didn’t confirm any of the OT wrathful judge images, why is it so difficult to see the deception of the enemy?
        For me, I preferred the enemies version of a god and so naturally I valued the words of prophets, priests and kings as if they should be equal to the Word made flesh. Actually I must have made them more important, because when Jesus described the true nature of God (Matt 5:38-48), I preferred an angry, retributive, war Lord type god in preference to the self-sacrificing God Jesus presented.

    • Been visiting some old comments … and there are some other factors not mentioned yet that are noteworthy in framing.

      * Many of the “herem” commandments have a lens of driving a group out. Exodus 23 talks about hornets getting some of those nations to flee from the Israelites, and Deuteronomy 7 further has the wording. However, some Canaanites ended up fighting back rather than fleeing or turning to God (as with Rahab or the Gibeonites).

      * It’s heavily implied that the wording in these texts invoke figurative language used in the ANE. One of them is hyperbole, where the text is more of an indication of battle victory than the number of Canaanites still alive (and this can explain sudden reappearances within Joshua and in Judges). I sometimes see it as a lens within the area where, when combined with the driving out, frames it on inhabitability within a localized area.

      * Much of the scenes take place in fortified strongholds, which are more specific to military battles. As such, it’s possible that there are no children at the time (or those that were fled).

  26. I was turned around by the post Herod and the Wrath of God.

  27. Ozue Chukwuyem Joel // November 26, 2017 at 11:34 pm // Reply

    Thank you Paul for all that you do.
    My question is if God changed after the Cross or in the new covenant?

    “He killed in the old covenant but no longer kills in the new ”
    Because I think such statements does not show the Consistency in the character and nature of God being good.

    James lets us know in his book that God has no variableness or shadow of turning.

    Your response will be deeply appreciated sir.

    • Look up the article, “God does not change. We do.” In the search bar.

    • Squawks 5000 // August 13, 2018 at 3:02 am // Reply

      Good question — I’m not completely sure, but my take is that “technically” he still does that, just postponed at a later date (see Romans 1-2). We see this as “final judgment” where those who reject God are separated forever (and are most likely going to be dead).

      I think Paul Ellis talks more in his “God Doesn’t Change, We Do” article.

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