Herod’s death and the wrath of God

fire from heaven

The Old Testament writers record a brutal history of divine wrath that came to an abrupt end at the cross. Before the cross, wrath was poured out on…

– a world hell-bent on violence and self-destruction (Gen 6:13)
– Sodom and Gomorrah on account of their “grievous sin” (Gen 18:20)
– the slave-owning nation of Egypt (Exodus 7-11)
– a generation of sinful Israelites (Heb 3:17)
– the Amorites because of the “full measure” of their sin (Gen 15:16)
– Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10:2)
– ten fearful spies (Num 14:37)
– the rebel Korah and his men (Num 16:31)
– the pagan enemies of Israel (Jos 10:25)
– the murderous Abimelech (Judg 9:56)
– 70 men of Beth Shemesh who looked into the ark (1 Sam 6:19)
– Uzzah who touched the ark (2 Sam 6:7)
– 185,000 Assyrian invaders (2 Sam 19:35)

But after the cross, God’s wrath was poured out on no murderers, no gay cities, no slave-owners, no murmurers, no fearful spies, no rebels and no foreign invaders. Do you see? The cross changed everything!

God used Christ’s body to condemn sin. (Romans 8:3, CEV)

Because of Jesus, the wrath of God towards sin has been fully satisfied. I’m not saying there are no consequences for sin. Nor am I saying all are saved, for some may reject the life that Christ offers. I am saying that sin is no longer part of the equation. Your sin and my sin have been done away with at the cross (Heb 9:26). “The punishment that brought us peace was upon him” (Is 53:5). Because of Jesus there remains no more punishment for sin.

“But Paul, you are forgetting two things. God destroyed Jerusalem and killed Herod. Both events happened after the cross.”

I find it stunning that those looking for instances of divine punishment can find, after 2000 years of sin, violence, and war, no more than two examples. Surely, if God was in the punishment business, he’s let a few tyrants and terrorists get away.

But God is not in the punishment business! As I explain elsewhere the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 had little to do with divine wrath. Jesus, not Titus, is the hinge-point of history. But what can we say about Herod Agrippa?

HerodWho killed Herod?

On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. (Act 12:21-23)

Given how the cross of Christ splits history in two, don’t you find it strange that Herod received some old covenant wrath in the new covenant? There are only two ways to explain this:

1. Since Herod was not a believer, the benefits of the new covenant don’t apply to him. Those who reject God’s mercy “remain under wrath” (John 3:36).

2. God didn’t kill Herod.

Are unbelievers under wrath?

When John says the unbeliever remains under wrath, he means the unbeliever is swimming against the tide of God’s love and grace. He’s on the wrong side of history, sowing the whirlwind, suppressing the truth, and earning the wages of sin. John is not saying that God is angry with that person.

The testimony of Jesus is that God does not relate to sinners with wrath but grace. Since love keeps no record of wrongs, God does not hold our sins against us (2 Cor 5:19). This is the good news of the cross!

(There is a coming day of wrath but it’s a single day, a one-time event. Wrath does not describe how God relates to us now. God is not in the habit of flooding the world, raining fire from heaven, or causing the ground to swallow bad men and their families.)

God is not angry with sinners; God loves sinners (Rom 5:8). To say “God killed Herod” is to say he loved the whole world, except one guy. It’s to say Jesus carried the sins of the whole world, except for Herod. It makes no sense.

God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). If Herod has to die at God’s hand, then all the Herods must die, or God is unjust. Yet we live in a world of unpunished Herods. Something doesn’t add up.

The flimsy case against God

I sometimes hear from those who are keen to charge God with the murder of Herod. In a court of law this charge wouldn’t stand up, for four reasons:

(1) God had no motive. A just God cannot judge the same sin twice and since all sin was condemned on the cross, God had no reason to condemn Herod for his sin.

(2) The charge is inconsistent with the character of God revealed by Jesus. Jesus never killed or smote anyone, not even Herod. For thousands of years God has extended mercy towards the Herods of this world. Countless crooks and bozos have gone unjudged testifying to the mercy of a good God who is not willing that any should perish.

(3) The charge is vague. As I explain elsewhere, the phrase “an angel of the Lord” doesn’t necessarily mean God did it. This idiom implies other possibilities.

(4) Agrippa’s son, Herod Agrippa II, had a long chat with Paul and not once mentioned anything about God killing his father. Indeed Agrippa II had no fear of the Lord (Acts 26:28).

If God killed Herod he is unjust (for not killing other Herods), the Bible is wrong (because God apparently does show favoritism), and Jesus’ work remains unfinished (because Herod’s sin has not been done away with).

But the stunning testimony of history is that God is not in the punishment business. On the cross God poured out his wrath on sin once and for all time. Because of Jesus, you are unpunishable.

He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. (Ps. 103:10)

Do you see? The Maker of heaven and earth is not trying to control you through the fear of punishment – there is no punishment! He’s trying to draw you to himself with arms of love.

I know there are some who’ll threaten you with the big stick of God’s punishment, but that’s only because they haven’t seen the Bigger Stick of the cross. Take care who you listen to. Take care what you think about God’s character. If you believe that God smote Herod, you may worry that he’ll smite you. If you’ve heard that God is in the punishment business, you’ll never walk secure in his love (1 Jn 4:18).

Perhaps you have said, “I lost my job/home/child. God is punishing me for…” No he is not! Look to the cross and renew your unbelieving mind.

“But what about all the bad stuff I’ve done. I’ve got baggage. I need to get cleaned up before I come home.” No you don’t! Leave your bags at the cross and come running, just as you are. Your Father looks at you with nothing but love in his eyes.


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110 Comments on Herod’s death and the wrath of God

  1. Kingdom Foundation // November 6, 2014 at 1:30 am //

    Dear Paul, Thank you for a blessing of a letter! Wow! Makes things so clear! I guess the same would apply to the bit in the new testament where Jesus refers to the guy who had so much stuff that he decided to break down his barns, build bigger barns, and store it all for himself and Jesus said that his life will be taken from him that same night? Does that also imply?

    Thank you so much and many blessings.

  2. According to Romans 5 as sin enterd man kind through one man (Adam) forgiveness was given to mankind through one man (jesus) so not only is sin not an issue but neither is forgiveness (mankind is same word/meaning in original text) hence from the cross on repentance is taught and as is john 3 you don’t have to ask forgiveness supporting this as well.

  3. … and, so: we continue to bring It – The Message – with feet that spread the Too.Good.To.Be.True News, wherever… we… go! And, that we never doubt, but trust and believe that God is making a way with those seeds [those words that do not return to Him void] we have earnestly planted.
    Through your writings, I am always encouraged, and never cease to learn, more about how to share the goodness and love of our Father to whomever bumps into me.

  4. Hi Paul- I enjoyed your article. However have you considered that the Old Covenant was still in effect alongside the New Covenant for 40 years until 70 AD? I believe 70ad was the absolute end of old covenant system and those who would not listen to Jesus prophtic words of escape perished because of their unbelief. Hebrews 8:13 says By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear. Perhaps both were in operation simultaneously but the old covenant was fading. God in his mercy gave Israel 40 years to repent and turn to Jesus. According to history – the Christians who could read the signs of prophecy given by Jesus were all saved because they escaped at the right time.

    • Certainly the temple sacrifices continued after Jesus’ death, but the old covenant was rendered obsolete by the cross. This is why Hebrews 8:13 says it’s “obsolete” (ie: out of date, expired, useless, ineffective, as far as God is concerned, because everything the old foreshadowed was fulfilled in Christ) and “passing away” (because the unbelieving Jews were still practicing it but soon would not be able to).

      As far as God was concerned, there was never one moment that the old covenant had relevance beyond the cross, as Hebrews makes plain. Yes, the believers were well-warned by Christ’s prophecy.

  5. Wrath and love among fallen humans are most often incongruent but this is not the case with God . Gods wrath is and always has been a demonstration of His immense love. God can and does both pour out His wrath in love. In fact it impossible for God to do otherwise. His wrath is always in love and perfect justice . Either His wrath is propitiated upon the cross or continues upon those who reject the cross.
    The gospel truth is that Divine wrath is only propitiated for those who are in Christ ( Rom. 5:9)but it is continuing to be demonstrated every day in lives of ALL those who do not put their faith in Jesus.
    Romans 1:18-25- ” the wrath if God is BEING revealed”
    All the NT verses on divine wrath speak of the tine after the cross – not before it.
    Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (‭John‬ ‭3‬:‭18‬ NIV)
    But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. (‭Romans‬ ‭2‬:‭8‬ NIV)
    in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last. (‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭2‬:‭16‬ NIV)

  6. hollyhoell // November 6, 2014 at 2:28 am //

    Hi, I find it interesting that Angelos used here as Angel or messenger is the same G32 Angelos used in 2Co_12:7 with the messenger of satan. I don’t claim to know much about greek, but just found that interesting.

  7. Another possible way to interpret Herrod’s death is that it was his time to die. We all have a time to die whether we are swimming upstream of God’s grace or with it. For all we know, an angel of The Lord may be involved every time anyone dies. In the case of Herrod, it looks like he died swimming upstream, and the point of the story is that there will come a final day of judgement when there will be no more time to accept Jesus’ grace on our behalf.

  8. another good one Paul,keep on answering [or trying to answer] the hard questions. I dont like to stop asking why! or {but why}.

  9. Thank you! I sometimes find myself apologizing to God for those who attribute bad things to Him, He is love.

  10. This lines up with my thinking and with my SPIRIT, Father is never disappointed with what we do or do not do. He sees us through Grace (unmerited favour) and our merit counts for zero. We are FREE, that’s the Gospel.

  11. Janet Ferro // November 6, 2014 at 3:49 am //

    The effects of sin was the reason Herod died in such a way!! It was not God like you said Paul, you couldn’t explained it better. Jesus became our sin and God’s wrath for us !!! What a Saviour. He took everything we deserved because of our sin and He ( Jesus ) gave us everything that He is !! What a exchange!! Can’t help but to love and worship Him such a merciful , forgiving, loving and kind Saviour !! No words for what He has done for us !!
    Only receive and Thank Him for all eternity. !!!

  12. Peter O'Connor // November 6, 2014 at 3:51 am //

    Hi Paul, thanks for that article. It has answered a question I never thought to raise, however, it leads to another about Annanaias and Saphira who were people in the New covenant, actually in the church, who were killed on the spot by God (certainly not by Peter). If you have answered this before in print please direct me to this so I can see what I’m missing, as i have no idea how to answer that. Cheers

    • Peter, is there any evidence they were killed by God? The Bible certainly provides none. I know that many believe Ananias and Sapphira were killed by God as a warning to hypocrites infiltrating the church. If that were the case, the warning didn’t work (we still have hypocrites) and God made a mistake. Since God never makes mistakes, the accusation doesn’t stick. So no evidence and no motive.

      I talk more about A&S along with Elymas the sorcerer here and here.

      • Peter O'Connor // November 8, 2014 at 1:37 am //

        Hi Paul, thanks for the ref’ to the other article. This is freaking me out. All my religious and traditional viewpoints are being shredded. Thought I was coming up to speed…

        There was some mention by someone once, that the book of Acts *seemed* to hint when someone did something in the flesh. For e.g. when Paul was operating in the Spirit he was referred to as Paul, but when he operated in the flesh – he was referred to as Saul, perhaps a reference to his old self. Same with Peter, the story goes. Not sure – must look into it more.

        Was always under the belief that God smote A & S who then went straight to Hell. Maybe they were just ‘scratched’ from the game, and remain saved. If not, then they never had ETERNAL life, only temporary or conditional life.
        Then again… was always under the impression that when Saul was converted he was knocked off his horse, but there is no mention of horse. We now know he was knocked off his motor bike. Cheers

      • Paul, I think your analysis of the Ananias and Sapphira account is insane. Paul is clearly the representative of God, and it says that they lied to God. Their deaths were not a coincidence. They were struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit. It is not spelled out in words but in the situation.

      • In what sense is it insane?

      • Hi, Paul. Your explanation of Ananias and Sapphira is nut because–what other conclusion could anyone draw who has read the account in context. There is no spiritual mystery there. They were struck dead by God, becuase the lied to the Holy Spirit.

      • Your conclusion is based on the assumption that God is in the killing business, which is at odds with the testimony of Jesus and the New Testament (eg: Romans 8:3). Your conclusion is also illogical. If Person A’s actions led directly or indirectly to Person B’s death, or even if there was no connection at all, it makes no sense to blame Person C. Acts 5 tells us something of Peter’s actions (Person A) but nothing at all of the Lord’s (Person C). Therefore, to accuse the latter of murder seems uncharitable at best, and blasphemous at worst.

  13. John Buta // November 6, 2014 at 4:00 am //

    I love the true picture of God, revealed to us in Jesus Christ. And a lot of passages in the Old Testament actually show that God is an alright dude.
    But what i can’t understand, is why is God such a jerk before the cross? Taking 1Sam6:19 as just one of a plethora of examples (thanks for listing a load); putting 70 men to death for just taking a peek inside the ark?! Thats a sick joke!
    Surely this isn’t the same God? I don’t believe in a God capable of that…

    ..and on a slight tangent, i don’t believe in a God that condones slavery either..
    “..they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life..” (Leviticus 25:45-46)
    I love context, and the racial distinction between Israelites (who are to be servants/hired workers) and foreigners (who are allowed to be bought as slaves) is clear in this chapter. So lets not go down the “slaves are just like hired employees today” road.
    Can we dare to say that some of the Old Testament is uninspired?
    It feels better than washing down two contradictory versions of God, with a nice helping of “Gods behaviour is just a mystery really”.

    • One thing I do when I read things like 1 Sam 6:19 is to ask, “What if God HADN’T done that?” If He hadn’t struck down the 70 men, 1) the Israelites wouldn’t have understood that He expects them to obey Him, 2) God wouldn’t have distinguished Himself from the carved idols that the other nations worshipped, 3) no one would believe Him regarding eternal punishment in the lake of fire, etc, etc. God made examples of the Israelites to show the world His holiness. Was it “mean” of Him to show the world His holiness? Wouldn’t it have been “meaner” for Him to allow us to think we were just fine in our sins? Boy, would we be surprised on judgment day to find out we didn’t make the cut. We would say, “That’s not fair! I didn’t know You were that serious about your standards!”

      As for the 70 men who got to be made examples, it doesn’t say that they were then cast into hell. (God took Moses’ life for not treating God as holy before the people, but Moses didn’t go to hell after he died! He showed up later with Jesus and Elijah on the mount of transfiguration. ) Wouldn’t they have all died eventually anyway? By timing their deaths immediately after their sin, God revealed something about Himself, namely that we should reverence and obey Him.

      God made us and we belong to Him. We deserve death and eternal separation from Him for our rebellion. But He gave His son to pay for our sin. Amazing!

      • John Buta // November 7, 2014 at 3:18 am //

        “What if God HADN’T done that?”
        Haha..well 70 more people would have still been alive. But you’re probably right, they were gonna die anyway so might as well was just kill them to make a point about holiness.

        As for your statements..
        1. I think the Israelites were pretty clear that God expected their obedience (see the whole of Deuteronomy)
        2. Distinguishing yourself from other Gods by killing people, advocating genocide (1 Samuel 15) and condoning slavery (Leviticus 25:45-46) is just sick.
        3. He doesn’t need help in promoting eternal damnation with you around Pamela.

        I thought Jesus came to show the world what Gods holiness looked like? Or do you look to the Old Testament for that?

        “God made us and we belong to Him. We deserve death and eternal separation from Him for our rebellion.”
        How can you hold such contradictory points of view? If we belong to him as his children, then why do you think we deserve death & eternal separation?

        “But He gave His son to pay for our sin. Amazing!”

        No he didn’t & thats not amazing.
        Jesus came willingly, and would rather die than see us go on broken & hurting. He wasn’t some arbitrary thing that God used to pay off our sin debt & balance the books! He forgave us freely, and died having loved us unconditionally up to his last breath…thats amazing!

      • Love your humor John-You made me laugh out loud when you said “They are gonna die anyways why not just kill them and make a lesson on holiness out of it”! Folk need folk like you to show us how utterly ridiculous we can think about God. Keep them coming! You are a constant source of humor to me.

      • John Buta // November 8, 2014 at 2:37 am //

        Haha thank you Barry, you are too kind.
        I always like to think that whoever I’m chatting too, regardless of the username, is a real life human being just like me, who probably goes to work just like me, and that helps me keep it real….its no fun taking it too seriously, and if we all met up in person one day we’d probably get on like a house on fire 😀
        Where are you from by the way??

    • “No he didn’t & thats not amazing. Jesus came willingly, and would rather die than see us go on broken & hurting. He wasn’t some arbitrary thing that God used to pay off our sin debt & balance the books! He forgave us freely, and died having loved us unconditionally up to his last breath…thats amazing!”

      It is amazing for millions maybe billions of us. If we’re broken and hurting on account of sin and sin is the real issue (I mean assuming that’s the truth) and we can either try to earn eternal life or receive it as a free gift that Jesus gives us then I call that amazing. For example if you’re hurting and broken (as you said) because you had an affair and it’s ripped your family apart and it’s affected everyone then Jesus comes and deals with it (not to mention everything else in your life whether “big” or “small” like that) by going to the cross then I call that amazing. If he takes care of everything in the past and everything in the present plus the future and finds you (not you finding him) and carries you like the sheep on his shoulders rejoicing and singing over you and then calls that repentance then I call that amazing. But IF you assume that God is like some teddy bear and says “boys will be boys” and we can do whatever we want then I guess it’s not amazing.

      • Can’t disagree with you one bit. You’ve laid out some heartfelt stuff there and i really resonate with it. Thank you 🙂

        Im 25 now though Gahigi, so its been a long time since i’ve thought anything about teddy bears.
        Of course we can do whatever we want, who’s stopping us? Gods not stopping us.
        Should we do whatever we want? Well that depends what you wanna do………Gahigi God didn’t just forgive us, clean us up and then expect us to try and live a holy & righteous life. He made us holy & righteous! As Jesus is, so are we (1John4:17).
        Can you imagine the Father telling Jesus he couldn’t live whoever he wanted? Thats just dumb…because he’s the Son of God! Its in his nature to live right! He doesn’t need to be told how to live.
        So live whoever you want Gahigi, i trust your heart 🙂

  14. Thanks Paul for sharing such liberating gospel truths … We serve a good God.

  15. This is very encouraging. Thank you. For so long I was tricked into reading condemnation into God’s Word — to point out my sin and hopefully become better. I tell you, I nearly died under the weight of the works, fastings, anger and pain in me. Now grace seems to touch my soul so lightly…like I have been a hostile and hurt dog which snaps at everyone, and grace comes to sooth the pain and relax me again. When grace messages touch me I feel kindness and the hurt stops hurting so much and I feel like helping not biting! One day I will be running and playing again. But, for now, I appreciate all the kind healing messages of grace to renew my thinking. It’s a shame and very sad I had lived for so long under a false, cruel god of wong-believing. So, Praise God. Keep preaching what He imparts.

  16. i need to ask, who now killed herod?

  17. Thanks you for the article Paul. I came to the same conclusions from a slightly different angle.

    The angel of the Lord struck him. The Greek word used is epataxen (Strong’s G-3960). The same word is used when describing an angel striking Peter while he was asleep in a prison cell. Did that cause any damage to Peter? To the contrary, that led to his being set free from prison.

    The Greek word “angelos” simply means “messenger”. The striking of the angel/messenger of the Lord happened immediately, but there’s no “immediately” before the being eaten by worms and dying. I’ve heard people speak of the immediateness of his death, but the text doesn’t support that. There’s only one “immediately” here, and that’s of being struck.

    The text simply describes the events as they happened in sequence, and doesn’t attempt to establish the relationship of causality. Co-occurrence doesn’t automatically imply causality. If there was causality there, how would being struck lead to being worm-infested? It just doesn’t add up.

    I’ve heard people present the passage as “Angel struck Herod -> Herod immediately died -> his dead body was eaten by worms”, but that would be arranging the last 2 events in the wrong sequence.

    I just killed a few sacred cows around this very simple text. All of those are trying to make the text say what it doesn’t.

    Here’s what Josephus (“Antiquities of the Jews” 19:8:2) had to say about this. I am not saying Josephus is 100% accurate, but just see how a different scenario from what we’ve been used to is entirely possible, and none of what he says contradicts the Biblical text. The gist of what he said is this: Herod saw an owl and perceived it as a messenger (angelos) from the Lord. Herod was struck in his conscience (not in his body), had a bad case of depression and self-condemnation, quickly developed a medical problem, and died within 5 days.

    http://sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/ant-19.htm – book 19, chapter 8, verse 2,
    or for easier reading:

  18. Sandy Makin // November 6, 2014 at 5:24 am //

    Enlightening post once again,Paul! I always look forward to your
    posts….your writing style is delightful and engaging as always!

  19. Bronwyn tait // November 6, 2014 at 7:14 am //

    I’m fascinated to know what you think is Meant by an angel of the Lord killed him of it wasn’t God

  20. Am thrilled. Such words full of truth

  21. Ananias and Sapphira certainly seemed to experience the wrath of God

    • How so, Darrell?

      • Their death was a direct result of their sin of lying to the Holy Spirit and it was forecast by Peter. I realize that they were believers and the post is about the wrath of God on unbelievers, but in the case of Ananias & Sapphira at least it seems God still pours out His wrath on sin.

      • As I said in a comment above, there is no evidence that A&S were killed by God. None. I know some will say that God killed them as a warning to hypocrites infiltrating the church. If that were the case, the warning didn’t work (we still have hypocrites) and God made a mistake. Since God never makes mistakes, the accusation doesn’t stick. There is also no evidence that they were believers. All these conclusions must be inferred, and I prefer not to infer them.

      • Great article. I have been blessed by some of your articles. And now have better understanding of your doctrinal position of Hyper-grace

        I believe that God is a God of love and of wrath in the OT and NT, (Romans 11:22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. NKJV). God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Meaning his attributes, character and nature. How God went about disclosing His attribute, character and nature to His creation was done different. His dispensation of His Love and wrath was manifested differently in the OT than NT. You stated that there is no more punishment for sin as a result of Christ finished work, which is sort of a blank statement when clearly there are other verses that state the opposite.

        Ask the question. Why so many warnings? ( ex. 5 of the 7 churches in revelations) Who is going to be judged at the White Throne Judgement in the book of Revelations? Where do the they ended up? Is eternal separation God’s wrath? If not what is God’s wrath?…

      • Hi Eric, in the post I say there is no more punishment for sin and in the dozen or so scriptures you pasted there is no mention of sin. The word does not appear. Yes, there is a day of wrath and yes there are eternal consequences for rejecting the gift of life. I discuss these more fully in my series on the wrath of God (you can find it in the Archives>Subject index. I encourage you to check it out. And please keep any future comments brief (<250 words). Thanks.

  22. Please can someone answer the question – If an unbeliever dies, does there sin still count against them, as they did not claim forgiveness? I know that Christians sins are not counted against them, but what of the unbeliever who is not covered by the blood of Jesus? And also – the destruction of the Temple in 70AD.. could God’s wrath be against the religious system rather than people?

  23. Paul thanks for your article.during a recent camp out pastor was taking a class on submission and he went on to say that if we don’t submit to God then we could go to hell.i was confused by this statement.is that true what he says.

    • hi rahul,I am unsure as to exactly what your pastor was trying to teach,so want to be careful in my comment,accusing him of teaching you falsely.My opinion is that “NO”,you can’t go to hell for not submitting to God. As christians,we are “in Christ”,eternally secure,never needing to fear hell.There are many great articles onE2R on eternal security i would recommend you read. Also,how do we define “submit”?Can anyone truthfully say they have completely submitted themselves to God?Often, a pastors perception of one submitting to God, is based on their involvement in their local church,time they spend at and for the church. Considering that 99 percent of life takes place somewhere else,that is a very skewed perception.I may think i have submitted myself to God,then before the day is half over i get upset and say something hurtful to another.Do i now need to fear i am going to hell? No,but because Christ is in me and i am in Christ,i will know that i should apologize.Just dont want you to be tormented with a works based,performance based,fruit inspecting christianity.Hope this helps and God will give you peace.

  24. Paul please explain then why Ananias and Sapphira died after lying about the money they kept back from selling their property? You have given me such a different perspective but sometimes it is still hard to get my head around it having grown up with the carrot and stick, “If you aren’t saved you will go to hell when you die!” and having a good friend who believes that following Torah is obedience to God – so you are saved by faith in Jesus but then you must obey Torah because you love God and that is how he has told us to live.

  25. Sorry Paul, you have already answered my question.

  26. While there may well be – (as you suggest in this article) a dispensational change in divine demonstrates of wrath upon rebellious mankind after the cross 3 facts regarding divine wrath are clearly conveyed by the inspired authors of the New Testament:
    1. Divine wrath has been totally propitiated by the cross for all those who are in Christ . (Rom. 5:9)
    2. There will be a future outpouring if divine wrath upon the nations of the earth that will make all of Gods demonstrations of wrath in the Old Testament look like a tempest in a tea pot in comparison. ( Revelations).
    3. God continues in the New Testament age to demonstrate His wrath against those outside of Christ by turning them loose to DO WHAT THEY OUGHT NOT TO DO! In the light of being recipients if divine wrath in the New -left to themselves to do what men ought not to do and instead left to do WHAT THEY WANT TO DO!
    -Which is a MORE terrifying demonstration if wrath ?-the way God poured out His wrath in the Old or the way He pours out His wrath in the new.
    If I were a sinner I would much rather have God discipline me by war, famine or pestilence THAN HIM LEAVE ME TO MYSELF!

  27. Let’s talk about Herod for a moment. Herod had just murdered James and was intending to murder Peter. Yet God has the patience and audacity to tell us that the angel struck him down NOT for murder BUT for not giving God the glory! Now THAT is divine wrath friends!

    • I always thought the cross only effected the way God’s wrath relates to those who have faith in Christ Jesus. To make the enormous claim that God no longer hardens kings hearts, no longer sets up wicked kings to discipline the nations, no longer rules the nations with Sovereign justice, no longer expresses his wrath everyday against the wicked, no longer puts painful goads into path of wicked men to spare them from destruction, no longer rebukes the wicked to dissuade them from destruction by withholding the rain, refusing to defend against invading pestilences and armies bent on destruction- to make this enormous leap is a leap from silence – it is not a conclusion made by the authors of the New Testament. In fact the New Testament teaches that Jesus is Himself the agent of Gods wrath and Jesus certainly makes some pretty serious threats to sinners in the cities of the 7 churches of Revelations.
      I’m sure I will be soundly rebuked for my comments here.

      • As I have said above, this is not about wrath in general – which remains in the form of a coming day of wrath – but wrath against sin – which was satisfied on the cross (Rom 8:3). If wrath and sin were connected after the cross, there should be heaps of scriptures about it, but there are none (with this one exception that’s not really an exception).

        I have a whole series on the wrath of God in the new covenant. I encourage those who are interested to check it out (Archives>subject Index?wrath of God).

  28. Hi Paul,
    I was expecting more opposition to this post-obviously only grace junkies read your site (or your arguments have confounded the nay-sayers!) Our sin/merit operating minds lead us naturally to draw the conclusion that God wanted A&S & Herod to be killed but the question is what would He gain by this? God never wanted to work by fear and because of Jesus’s work there is absolutely no reason why He now should. It truly is God’s will that none shall perish.
    Blessings man.

    • Never fear – the naysayers will come! They’re just organizing their thoughts and cutting and pasting their scriptures. 🙂

    • Zak Stokic // November 7, 2014 at 10:08 pm //

      No the comments haven’t confounded us nay Sayers, we just know that arguments are useless when we obviously perceive Gods character differently. Any scripture that you interpret will be different to our interpretation so therefore argument is hopeless. God bless.

      • Zak (and all the “Nay-Sayers” out there), the character of God in your mind is the single most important thing about your walk with God. If you believe we’re still under the “Law”, nothing Paul of anyone else says will change your view. We, Grace junkies, believe the cross permanent answer to sin. God did not change, but he changed something – sin. He squashed it dead! He did not change his character, he just obliterated the power of sin.

  29. the book of Acts.. indeed is full of Action. the stories of Ananias/Sapphira, Herod are puzzling. I really think God loves His children. and will protect them from any danger.

  30. What a great post!!! ❤

  31. Maybe the angel smote Herod to warn him of Gods future judgment to come and simultaneously offered him a chance of repentance which Herod stubbornly refused to accept.As a result Herod fell into a deep despair(as confirmed by Josephus),gave up hope on life and died,not as a result of being struck by the angel of the Lord but as a result of his own pig headedness.In other words God did not kill him.
    Reference.Face book article by The Goodness of God entitled “Did God execute Herod the Great?”

  32. Very true.
    I pray that we could all perceive God’s character more perfectly.
    There can be nothing more important than knowing what God is like and knowing our own TRUE identity.

  33. Love ________ comments on this one:…

  34. Peter O'Connor // November 9, 2014 at 1:42 am //

    Hi Paul, After letting this percolate for a few days, I can only rhink of reasons why you’re correct on this. Here is one. Jesus in Jn chap 5 said that “All judgement has been transferred from the Father to the Son”. Now, if ALL judgement has been given over to the Son, how much is left for the Father…? Exactly! Jesus went on to say, that He judges NO MAN. Later in the same book (chap 12:48) He says that “He that rejects me and receives not my words, has one that judges him, the words that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the LAST DAY. So… If we are to believe Jesus, God could NOT have judged Herod, nor A & S, as He no longer has that job description. Jesus never judged anyone, nor executed anyone as He came to save everyone, so He did not judge Herod.

    To me… God not only lacks the motive, as you point out, but I think He even lack the ability – as He is bound by His Word. Does any of that make sense? Cheers

    • Makes a lot of sense to me, Peter. If Jesus would never kill Herod, and the Father would – and for a trivial thing at that – how are they on the same page?

  35. Wow, so the wrath of God stopped with the death of Herod? Amazing. I never knew this. Please tell Paul in Romans that he got it all wrong about the wrath of God that is being revealed currently on earth.

    Please also tell Jesus that He got it wrong when He, in divine wrath, will throw unbelievers into Hell in Revelation. (Also, tell Jesus that He got it wrong about all the end-times wrath leading up to the Hell-throw.)

    Also, according to your view, couldn’t God see ahead that He would provide a sacrifice for sins, and God, being outside of time, then not punish Old Testament era sins, either?

    Maybe hyper-grace means that you take the grace of God and go nuts with it? You make things rosier than they actually are?

    • Nobody is saying God’s wrath ended with Herod, or even the cross. Rather, that God condemned all sin in the flesh (Romans 8:3) and that Herod’s sin and your sin have been done away with (Heb 9:26).

      • Hi Paul,
        Can I ask a few questions.

        1. Does God cause bad things to happen to those who oppose Him (ungodly as opposed to just ordinary sinners) now or will this wrath come at some single appointed time in the future?

        2. Is the future day of judgement the same occasion as when the wrath of God is poured out and will people who have put faith in Jesus face any judgement?

        3. Will sinners who don’t put faith in Jesus but yet do not outright knowingly reject God ( if this is position can exist) be spared His wrath?


      • Some answers:

        1. God is not the author of evil but good. For more, see this post.

        2. See this post.

        3. See this one.

  36. Paul,
    There just is no problem with A & S and Herod where love and grace and man are concerned. None. Let me explain….

  37. God’s love is so great that He’s going to save everyone! In fact there is no Hell, either! That’s just being negative! Just believe! Be positive! (I know you are not saying this, but that’s the way this site sounds to me. It doesn’t match the Bible or my experiences in life.)

  38. Always a bad sign when you have fans and sycophants only in a website’s comments.

    • Paul always posts to the point critiques of his articles. Maybe no one is bothered enough to write scathing flaming responses so all you have are folks who really like it. I’m unsure enough about this particular topic to not want to comment.
      As for the general positive attitude of the whole site….Having come from a gloom and doom kind of Churchianity positive is a breath of fresh air amidst the staleness of grumpy-cat god who would rather pop you balloon because you made a boo-boo than love you and grow you through it.

      • Colleen, lol!
        I’m also in search of a Dad who happens to also be God. Love. It is the breath of life.

    • @curtissmale are you serious? Sycophants? Well….I’m syco about Grace so in a way, guilty as charged.

  39. Curtissmale,

    It is not that there is no evil, nor sin, nor eternal consequences for sin. I’ve found no kindness to Universalism in Paul’s body of work. In fact, he expressly (and cogently) argues against it. It’s just that this isn’t a debate forum. I’ll put up a few posts shortly on Grace/Judgment, but first: It seems your employed term “psychopath” is misplaced. If you mean to argue that 1) Universalism is here preached and 2) such is so misguided that only “psychopaths” would believe it, well then, perhaps you can go to a universalist blog and so speak. If it’s not that, then, you are diagnosing psychiatric pathology on the basis of very in-the-moment blog posts speaking in very general terms about Grace and Judgment and so on, which is just bad medicine. If it isn’t any of those, then you are just being mean-spirited. Unfortunately, as a recovering Legalist, my own sins of such mean-ness prevent me from speaking of your eye’s speck. Paul, 300-ish words (or a few posts) of “theological defense” can perhaps be included with a post of 16 or so words employing “psychopath”. I mean….. I’m just saying 🙂

  40. curtis113 // November 9, 2014 at 8:50 pm //

    When you block so many comments and don’t answer the questions in them, it creates a false impression of the person you are dialoguing with (me).

  41. Colleen,

    You said “….grow you through it…”

    And there it is.

    Our Father’s sight-line……

    He asks us to so do with each other – and with ourselves in our posture before Him.

    We find no fear inside of love.

    • I believe this covers it all……………… Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

      8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a CHILD, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a MAN, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

      13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love……..I believe this Agape covers the Father ,child relationship

  42. It is astounding that the Legalists continue to build theological cases which necessarily presuppose of God His Own schizophrenic behavior as He (the Legalists imply ipso facto) rejects – blasphemes – His Own Means and Ends of All Sufficiency there in His Cross. They build into their models of Judgment the very untying of His Own Covenant as He (the Legalists tell us) interacts with Man here and now based on this or that sin. All the while the trio of Christ’s words and the New Covenant and love’s necessary reciprocity (love cannot be made of automatons) are unmistakable: there is only one solitary motion of sighted (informed) volition which His Grace cannot override – and that one choice is the informed rejection of (blasphemy of) His Grace. God “can” make a robot – but love “cannot” – because there is no logical possibility of a “round square”. Legalists have GOD as the One rejecting – blaspheming – Grace (Covenant) that He might hammer Man to death for all sins and yet it is GOD Who assures us that ONLY the informed rejection – blaspheming – of His Grace keeps Man from thus freely entering that very Grace. Legalists who so build the case for Herod and A & S so violently – but stealthy – turn Truth against Grace – and therein assassinate Christ all over again – He Who is Truth, He Who is Grace.

  43. Paul,

    Typo. My last sentence of that comment should have read as follows:

    Legalists who so build their case against Herod and A & S violently – stealthily – turn Truth against Grace – and therein assassinate Christ all over again – Christ Who is both Truth and Grace.

  44. H & A & S were clearly wolves in sheep’s clothing as they bought and sold (A & S) and betrayed by violence (Herod) the very Body of Christ. These three heard and saw acts and miracles the likes of which none of us ever have – in the full light of day – and such sighted-refusal of His Grace is the only meta-level choice which love “cannot” untie – for love cannot house automatons. We will all come to that same point which H & A & S came to there in Acts and that fact is what the Legalists refuse to inject into their perverse theology here in Acts. There comes a point in Time for all who choose when our temporal “I Will Have Thy Resume’ Of Thy Grace” enters the timeless, and, just the same, there comes a point in Time for all who choose when our temporal “I Will Have My Resume’ Of My Self” enters the timeless.

    We ask: When?

    One more post 🙂

  45. Lovely post, Paul, I so want God to be like this. It draws instead of repels me.

  46. Today, you brought on the big guns boy!!! I’m especially glad you said we need to be careful who we listen to and the character of God we form in our minds. There are more wrath/condemnation/sin-conscious teachers than there are Grace teachers and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with disagreeing with a “Man of God” so to speak. In fact, it’s healthy. It’s one of the marks of spiritual maturity, imho. Blessings, Paul.

  47. Brian Midmore // November 12, 2014 at 8:44 pm //

    It is though we are in jury and asked to decide ‘who killed Herod’. God is in the dock and you are his defence council. Your defence is primarily 1) God has no motive 2) God is of excellent character. The prosecution’s case is ‘It is written down in the word of God that God killed Herod’. I suppose you pay your money and you make your choice.

    • I would say that my “defense” is that God is just and a just God can’t judge the same sin twice. The prosecution’s case rests on the assumption that a messenger and God are one and the same. The defense rests on the assumption that Jesus and God are one and the same.

      • But the defenses argument is based in the assumption that Jesus death propitiated for Herod when in fact His death only propitiated for “those who are in Christ Jesus”.
        There is virtually no evidence Herod belonged to Jesus. In fact all of the evidence presented in the divine statements of fact (the Bible) point to the fact that Herod’s crimes were not covered by the divine propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus death. Therefore Herod was in fact liable to the divine death sentence and the sentence was in fact carried out ipso facto.

      • 1Jn 2:2 “And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.”

      • I Jn 2:2 is not teaching universal propitiation any more than Romans 5:18 is teaching universal justification. As in all Apostolic writings ” the world” and “all” in both passages must be contextualized in their intended interpretation and application within the scope of the rest of scripture. Clearly interpreting universal propitiation from “he is the propitiation for the whole world ” is contrary to the entire NT doctrines of the judgement of sinners outside of Christ and the promised future divine wrath on sinners. Johns use of phrase “the world” here is intended to mean “the sheep of the whole world world” and is intended to be applied to propitiation against the eternal and future wrath of God alone. Otherwise Gods wrath no longer applies to anyone in the entire world . Universal propitiation is clearly contradictory to the rest of scripture .

      • Jesus died for the sins of the world, not the church. I don’t know how John could make this plainer since he describe’s Christ’s propitiation for sins “as not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” The context clearly indicates two groups and John is saying Jesus died for both of them. As the other John said, he is the Lamb who carries the sins of the world. Not some, but all. You’d literally have to reverse John’s words to come to the other conclusion.

      • Universal propitiation must by definition also mean universal redemption ,universal justification and universal salvation . To argue Universal propitiation is to argue universalism…

      • Not at all, but I understand the confusion. Propitiation is a God thing from start to finish. When the Bible says Jesus has carried the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2), and that his sacrifice did away with sin once and for all (Heb 9:26), and God is no longer counting man’s sins (2 Cor 5:19), indeed, he chooses to remember them no more (Heb 10:17), it is telling us that the offense of sin has been removed. This is the scandal of the cross – that God does not wait for the sinner to get himself cleaned up before he reaches out to him in love and forgiveness. The Bible is absolutely emphatic on this point.

        Does that mean all are saved? Not at all, for grace that is not received is worthless (Heb 4:2). The good news is the offense has been removed (“For God so loved the whole world that he gave…”) so that the prodigal may come home (“that whoever believes shall have eternal life”). More here.

      • Does God decide who can recieve grace and who can’t? If not what does?…

      • This is a question I address in this post.

      • Grace to the New Testament writers is not something men choose – rather grace is something that chooses men. Men I might add like Paul who hate God and His grace, who are enemies of God, who like THIER parents Adam and Eve are running away from God and worst of all who are completely dead to grace. No my friend men never choose grace – grace chooses men.
        And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,

        But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
        For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭1, 4-5, 8-10‬ NASB)

      • Oops! I think I opened a can of worms! Reminds me of a joke. Q: why didn’t Cain’s sacrifice please God?
        Armenian answer: because he freely chose the wrong sacrifice.
        Calvinist Answer: because he wasn’t Able

      • Brian Midmore // November 13, 2014 at 8:53 am //

        You see ‘the angel of Lord’ as an enthusiastic lieutentant who was acting on his own initiative and not following orders. Interesting!

      • I don’t think that at all, but yes, if that were the case that would be interesting.

  48. Peter O'Connor // November 12, 2014 at 9:14 pm //

    Hi Paul, this has been an excellent article for me and I have done a 180 on my first response. Here is another reason (as I see it) why I believe the Lord Himself did not kill A & S.

    In the OT, specifically under the Law it was all cut and dry – no grace. This can be seen in Lev 10:1-3 where the sons of Aaron offered strange fire and the Lord Himself slew them and was happy take ownership Himself as the one who did it, plus offer a reason why in verse 3. It was instant, no need to be confronted by Moses or Aaron or any elders etc. Just BAM! Judgement now – explanation later.

    Not so in the case of A & S. God is not mentioned nor linked by Luke as having anything to do with this event. Peter confronted them and gave the explanation of their error. Luke recorded what it was that Peter said. The result was “great fear came on all those…” twice this is mentioned, and then it goes on to state that many signs and wonders were done by the Apostles… perhaps a clue who is responsible here. Does Jesus want his bride in fear of Him? Is that really how its meant to work? Was that a desirable thing if it was God who did it? How many times did Jesus say “Fear not”? He spoke of His Father as one who loves, not as one who judges and condemns. In these verses He is portrayed by preachers generally, as still in the business of rushing in to judge and execute whenever He sees an opportunity, with the supposed desired result of placing His Church in fear. Cheers

    • Isn’t it just splitting hairs to argue about whether God killed A &S and Herod or an angel did it ( or as has been proposed in Herod’s death the angel started it but nature finished it????. Aren’t angels “messengers of God sent to do his bidding”? ( Heb 1). If a man is sentenced to death and subsequently executed -who killed him-? -merely the executioner? or the JUDGE who authorizes all executions? And by the context clearly the author of Acts (Luke and God) clearly agree with the resulting response /objective. “Fear fell on everyone who heard this”. Why is no mention ever made that the churches response of fear was misguided or inappropriate ?
      The entire argument against the possibility of God putting people to death is based in the mistaken notion that Jesus death somehow propitiates any possibility that God disciplines with death .
      How then would you explain away I Cor. 11:30-32 and Rev. 2:23?
      Clearly even saints whose blood Jesus propitiates are disciplined by God with death at times .

      • To discipline is to disciple which literally means to train. How can you train a person by killing them? I see no need to explain away 1 Cor 11 as that passage says nothing about God killing people, let alone killing his kids to train them. As for Rev 2:23, my view is that Jesus is speaking of the consequences of sin, just as he does in John 3:18, Matt 25:46, etc. Notice that a few verses earlier he specifically mentions the second death (v.11). As you say, context matters.

        I know some are keen to have God kill sinners, but the overwhelming testimony of scripture – not to mention Christ’s life – is that God loves sinners (eg: Rom 5:8). Think of someone you love. Now imagine killing them. See? It doesn’t work.

      • Peter O'Connor // November 14, 2014 at 8:19 am //

        Response to Barry. Sorry to take so long to get back to you. Am in Australia so these posts come in when I’m at work. You raise an interesting question about Rev and I admit I have no answer for this right now. Will need to look into this a bit more. The verse you brought up in. 1 Cor 11 has nothing to do with God killing people. It refers to people with healing needs not having discernment or understanding of the healing provision Jesus made for them by taking those stripes, and as such they die early. Cheers

      • For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world. (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭11‬:‭30-32‬ NASB)
        Missing healing and dying because of not availing themselves of Christs provision of healing in the atonement???
        That’s not what Paul says is the reason they are dying here. He says they are being judged by The Lord and the purpose God is judging them with death is “so they won’t be condemned with the world”. Paul is clearly saying God judged them with death so they won’t be eternally condemned with the fate of the unbelieving world.

  49. Brian,

    The mechanism behind Paul’s answer that sins are not judged twice is where the error of your reasoning can be found. Grace is not synonymous with Universalism and the “why not” therein will bring you to an answer which is coherent with all of Scripture rather than some of it.

  50. If you define love that way then perhaps Abraham didn’t love Isaac then because He was going to kill him at Gods orders. Even the grace writer of Hevrews admits Abe was going to kill Issac. Imagine yourself killing your son – see it doesn’t fit does it? But Abe was going to kill his son because the loving God ordered him to do it!

    • But Abraham didn’t kill his son – God wouldn’t let him. I can’t think of a single person in the post-cross history of the world that God has killed or has ordered killed. You seem dead-set on proving that God is a killer, but the weight of evidence is against you: billions of sinners have been spared. Men far worse than Herod have lived to old age. Not one flood. Not one city destroyed by fire and brimstone.

    • If you notice Abraham said that he and the boy would return. He knew that God would not break his promise that Isaac would father many descendants. It was not a lack of love but hyper faith that God would keep His original promise.

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