last message of mercy

(Revelation 6:14-17) What is God’s Wrath?

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“And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Revelation 6:14-17)

Surely this passage of Scripture has been used to cause fear in all those who cling to their darling little sins. “You better shape up or God is gonna get you on the day of His wrath!” yells the preacher. Not only does fear become the motivator, but fear against an angry Father who is out to get, abuse, and kill His wayward child. It is then taught that Jesus, our elder Brother, steps in and takes all the abuse for us, but if we reject His salvation from our angry Father, He Himself lashes out His wrath upon us as we face “the wrath of the Lamb (Jesus).” Is this the true gospel? To me it’s more like a case of domestic violence.  

Defining God’s wrath

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8, 9)

It is most important here to define God’s wrath (anger). Taking into consideration that our ways are not His ways, we must submit to the fact that God’s wrath is going to be completely opposite to our way of revealing wrath and anger. In James 1:20 the King James Version says, “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” This clearly shows man’s way of wrath is no way near the righteousness of God because, ever since Adam’s sin, mankind falls short of the glory of God. The International Standard Version (ISV) says it this way, “For human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Again, human anger is much different than God’s anger. Let’s look at a couple of examples:

“The Chaldeans are coming to fight and to fill those houses with the dead bodies of the people that I (God) have struck down in My anger and wrath, for I have hidden My face from this city because of all their wickedness." (Jeremiah 33:5)

Can you see how God expressed His wrath and anger here? God said, “I have slain in My anger and wrath”, but how did He do this? He continued saying, “for I have hidden My face from this city because of all their wickedness.”

Sinful anger and wrath lashes out toward your opponent to inflict harm, God’s righteous wrath and anger is tearfully removing His protective presence. The persistent sinner, who tells God to “depart” from them, will then suffer the natural consequences of their own actions. Notice it again in the following passages:

In a little wrath I hid My face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.” (Isaiah 54:8)

Hide not Thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.” (Psalm 27:9)

God’s wrath (anger) is the hiding of His face. But is it God doing the hiding? Is He forsaking the sinner by turning His back on him in disgust?

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He (God) hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” (Hebrews 13:5, 6)

“Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1, 2)

It is clear that God will never forsake the sinner. However, sin hides (clouds) God’s face (His expression of loving kindness), deceiving us that He will not hear us when we cry out to Him. Christ felt this effect while on the cross and cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 15:34). He took upon Himself our sin and allowed it to deceive Him. When Christ said these words He was quoting from the Psalms:

“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.” (Psalm 22:1, 2)

But now look at verse 24:

“For He (God) hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath He hid His face from him; but when he cried unto Him, He heard.”

So how do we reconcile this with the fact that God has said, “In a little wrath I hid My face from thee for a moment”? When we persistently resist His love, He does not force our will and, as we walk away from Him, He will permit our sin to hide His face and to let it appear that He has forsaken us. He does this while carrying us upon His shoulders:

“In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them: in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bare them, and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled, and vexed His Holy Spirit: therefore He was turned to be their enemy, and He fought against them.” (Isaiah 63:9, 10)

Please do not miss this important point. Isaiah is not saying that Christ turned against them when they rebelled. He is  saying that, because of their rebellion, sin deceived them into believing Christ had turned to be their enemy and fought against them. Sin was hiding His loving face from them.

“With the purified You (God) show Yourself pure; and with the crooked You make Yourself seem tortuous.” (Psalm 18:26, English standard Version)

God seems (or appears) to be tortuous (painfully difficult) to those who truly act this way because they see their own face as sin hides the loving face of God. They interpret all their affliction as being vengeful tactics from God. In their perception God is turned from an endearing Father to a stern and wrathful judge.

God’s wrath is giving man over to his own selfish desires

The Hebrew word for God’s anger is אַף (aph) which is the same root word for His “longsuffering” (anaph) toward sinful man. It means an intense heavy breathing (grief) through the nostrils. Thus God’s anger is His intense grieving knowing He will have to give the unconverted man over to that which he selfishly desires.

In Exodus 4:10–13 Moses was fearful of going in before Pharaoh alone and requested a spokesman. How did God respond?

And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and He said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do.” (Exodus 4:14, 15)

How did God express His anger? By giving Moses what he wanted.

“And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? … Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased … And there went forth a wind from the LORD, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp … And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp. And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague.” (Numbers 11:4, 10, 31–33)

Here again we see God’s anger and wrath at work. Please note that God’s anger is expressed by God giving them exactly what they wanted – flesh to eat. Notice how the Psalmist speaks of this incident:

“He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven: and by His power He brought in the south wind. He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea: And He let it fall in the midst of their camp, round about their habitations. So they did eat, and were well filled: for He gave them their own desire.” (Psalm 78:26-29)

Now, what does Moses mean by stating that “the LORD smote the people with a very great plague”? Remember, when God gives man what they desire He is turned (perceived) to be their enemy. Any affliction that falls on them is now going to be attributed to God, believing He is the one who is afflicting them. However, any sickness or death that came was a direct inherent result of their own choices made. God “smote” them by not interfering with their own free choice. Let’s look at a perfect example of this in the death of king Saul:

“So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it; And inquired not of the LORD: therefore He (God) slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.” (1 Chronicles 10:13, 14)

Here we clearly read that God killed Saul. But how exactly did Saul die? Let’s read verses 3 through 6:

“And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him, and he was wounded of the archers. Then said Saul to his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. So Saul took a sword, and fell upon it. And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise on the sword, and died. So Saul died, and his three sons, and all his house died together.” (1 Chronicles 10:3-6)

Here we clearly read that Saul committed suicide. So how do we reconcile this apparent contradiction? God slew Saul by not preventing him from committing suicide. God gave Saul over to his own desires and Saul reaped the inherent consequences of his own choices. This again is God’s anger and wrath:

“O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me (God) is thine help. I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes? I gave thee a king in Mine anger, and took him away in my wrath.” (Hosea 13:9-11)

So again, God’s anger was expressed by giving them what they selfishly desired (a human king) and God’s wrath was expressed by taking him away (not preventing Saul from committing suicide).

Paul also describes God’s wrath in this way:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold (suppress) the truth in unrighteousness.” (Romans 1:18)

How is the wrath of God revealed?

“Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts.” (Verse 24)

“For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections.” (Verse 26)

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind.” (Verse 28)

God’s wrath is defined here as God giving them up or giving them over—in other words, God is giving the people freedom to separate from Himself. Not exactly the wrath of revengeful destruction we often credit to God’s account is it?

The wrath of the Lamb

Since the Lamb is symbolic of Jesus (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:18, 19), what happened when Jesus got angry?

“And He (Jesus) entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they (the Pharisees) watched Him, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath day; that they might accuse Him (of breaking their own rigid requirements). And He saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And He saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when He had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, He saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.” (Mark 3:1–6)

This is an encounter Jesus had with the Pharisees. Their legalistic restrictions prohibited healing on the Sabbath day. Jesus, reading their hearts, “looked round about on them with anger.” What kind of anger did Jesus have? The kind that is described as “being grieved for the hardness of their hearts.” Jesus was experiencing grief or deep sadness at the lack of love and sympathy demonstrated by these pitiless religious leaders for the man with the withered hand.

Please note that Jesus’ anger was not expressed by killing off His enemies - the Pharisees. Jesus plainly asked, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?” Notice the parallelism:

  • Do good = save life
  • Do evil = to kill

Ask yourself this question: Does God or His Son ever do evil?

“Evil (not God) shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.” (Psalm 34:21)

Another incident that people refer to is recorded by both Matthew and John (Matthew 21:12-16; John 2:13-17) when after brandishing a whip, Jesus entered the temple and drove out all the corrupt religious leaders and their conspiring money changers. But even here there was no display of violence on the part of Jesus; for “He had done no violence” declared the prophet of old (Isaiah 53:9). Jesus never struck anyone and only those with a self-condemning conscience were afraid and ran away. However, the dear little children who had witnessed the event were not afraid and began to sing praises to God while the blind and lame stayed by and were healed.

To the corrupt money changers and religious leaders Jesus seemed judgmental and condemning because that’s how they treated others. In Luke chapter 18 Jesus told this parable:

 And He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

Thus in the end, those who perceive Jesus as a vengeful judge will run and hide from Him just as those who disbelieved in His forgiveness at the temple:

“And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Revelation 6:14-17)

Indeed, to the unbelievers Jesus will appear as an unforgiving judge come to execute them, not believing Christ’s own words when He said:

“For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” (John 5:22)

“Ye judge after the flesh; I (Jesus) judge no man.” (John 8:15)

They, like the unbelieving Jews will judge themselves unworthy of everlasting life (Acts 13:46). In this mindset the unbeliever has separated himself from God who is the only source of life. Due to his own selfish desire the unbeliever is then tearfully left to himself to reap all that is outside of God’s character – self-condemnation, fear, judgment, torment (mental anguish) and death; for God and His son kill no man.

“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him … And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love Him, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:8, 9, 16-19)

 

For an abbreviated trifold tract of what you've just read see Is This God's Anger? 

For a more detailed study see the book As You Judge