God’s Wrath, Research Paper Example
Words: 3883Research Paper
It is fairly a common knowledge that the love of God transcends everything. As a matter of fact, people who believe in God and His undying love will testify that God is good and that it is His job to forgive His children. The question, then, is whether or not this view is common for Christians. But although it can be argued that most people do not bluntly put God’s love in such a way, the notion still remains that such view is popular. In return, the idea of God’s love has been unvarnished off the definitions and corresponding expositions that are revealed from the Bible. In this regard, can it be said that everyone can continue to commit sin and can still be saved in the end? Or does God shows His wrath in the same manner?
In the same token, God’s wrath is also being discussed in the bible just as much as His love. The book of Isaiah described God’s wrath in a much intensified manner. In Isaiah’s words “The Lord Almighty is mustering an army for war”. These very words may connote that God’s wrath is not something that should be taken lightly. The threat, however, is not intended for those who follow the will of God but rather lies upon the wicked, those who are dividing the kingdom of God, and those who blatantly commit sins. Furthermore, Isaiah prophesied that when the day of the Lord comes, destruction can be expected. Hearing and reading these prophecies will make someone think of the extent of God’s love and its connection to His wrath. Even in the book of Revelation and other literature, it can be noted that the wrath of God is being compared to an apocalyptic event that should be feared rather than be enthusiastic and excited about.
Where does the love and wrath of God connect? Paul made a clear definition and description of God’s love and wrath in the book of Romans 5:6-10:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person- though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.
In the aforementioned verse, the love of God is very apparent. He sacrificed the life of His one and only Son in order to save mankind. By virtue of this sacrifice, the world is spared from the wrath of God. Taking this into consideration, can it be said that Jesus and God are in opposition? If Jesus is love and God is wrath, it would seem that love is working against wrath and therefore Jesus is working against God as He defends humanity against the wrath of His father.
The appearance of an angry God is built and it can only be pacified through Jesus Christ. However, such image is not in accordance with the Trinitarian theology. Where in the holiness of God does wrath fit in? If there is anger how can the divine existence of the Holy Trinity stand? It will not. Therefore, there is a need to further understand the wrath of God and its connection with His love. Is God’s wrath an indication of His love for humanity?
The concept of God’s wrath is not entirely new to humanity although it is not a common topic that is being talked about in church or in gatherings. This might be due to the fact that some people have not experience the “wrath” of God. Meaning to say, some people have not experience difficulty in life that can be equated to punishment or suffering. It is imperative to note that the wrath of God does not always mean the great plagues that Egypt experienced in the Old Testament or the holocaust and genocide, though people who survived holocaust have the right to say that such tragedy is God’s wrath. For some people it is the attack on the twin towers, a death of a loved one, a job lost, or a certain illness. It all depends on the perspective of a person. But people who have a prosperous and peaceful life might not be able to grasp the idea of God’s anger. The tension between love and wrath of God is undeniable. Some understands it but most do not embrace even the utilization of the word. It is true that the wrath of God is a hard concept to grasp. He is being pictured as an angry God and yet His overwhelming love is at the same time very apparent and giving people hope of an eternal life free of suffering, pain and problems.
Therefore, this paper will aim to provide a clarification between the wrath of God and His love and comprehend the connection of two with each other. In order to achieve a conclusion, this paper will also tackle reconciliation, enemy and sin in relation to the concepts of love and wrath.
Wrath of God
In understanding the wrath of God in relation to Romans 5:6-10, it can be attributed to the nature of men to sin. It is not intended to be credited to the character of God. As a matter of fact, Paul only used the term wrath of God in a very neutral manner and not in relation to the very nature of God and what He can do. In this regard, it can be adduced that the wrath of God is the substantiation made by humans in relation to the effects of sin. In the words of C.H Dodd, he defined wrath as the procedure by which retribution is the result of an omission or commission of sin. Such retribution is a process that can be culminated in the end of days or the last judgment as exposed in the book of Revelation. From this comes the understanding that the divine love that God has for humanity will save people from the repercussions or consequences of their sins- past and present. But then again, it can be said that if wrath or anger is an actual act of God or a part of His being then there is no longer a need for retribution. This is due to the fact that rationalization of humanity’s sins is not a wrath or anger geared towards humanity but more so of love. However, since wrath is a principle that is a subject of objectivity and a part of a moral order known to man, the need for Christ is imperative to help humanity overcome sin and its destructive effects.
Taking the definition into consideration, it is clear that wrath is not from God. It is not something that comes from God. Rather, it is the direct result of humanity’s commission of sin. It is not to be attributed to God as it is not God’s intention to pass His anger to humanity.
Mercy, on the other hand, is an attribute of God. It is inherently in the nature of God to show mercy and it is not because humanity deserves it. If the definition of wrath as explained by Dodd is true, then it can be said that God gave His only begotten Son to the world not to save humanity from His wrath but from the wrath that is independent of Him-that is the consequence of sin. The only contention that can be put against the definition given is the fact that Dodd made it a point that wrath is not from God and but rather a product of human’s irrational emotion that can never be credited to God. Meaning to say, it makes emotion as a key component in understanding the wrath of God. Yet, wrath cannot be defined without attributing passion into it. Pieces of biblical evidence confirmed the intensity of how wrath is referred to in the bible, by the prophets and God. To treat wrath without passion will only cause errors in understanding and tackling the holiness of God. The reality is that while love is one of God’s perfect characters, wrath is not. It is an emotion coming from God but is rooted from His holiness against wickedness. Truthfully, if there is no sin, there is no wrath. However, the love of God will always be present and abounding for His children.
Wrath is the manner in which God confronts His image-bearers in their wicked ways that impugn His sanctity. God’s holiness cannot be diminished because humanity chose to abate His wrath. Doing so will only cast a shadow over the holiness of God whose function is against sin. This is to say that God should not be casted as a temperamental being, easily angered and has bouts of rages and retaliation.
Truth is told that no matter how others assign attributes of human to God, the wrath of God is not the same as human anger that is irrational, unmerited, and disproportionate. Human emotions are not absolute equivalent of God’s nature. Humanity reacts to things differently than that of God. As a reminder, the Bible said that in humanity’s anger, sin should be avoided. It did not say not to be angered or show anger. Rather, it reminds people to not sin. God’s anger is different. It is not evil unlike human’s anger.
Wrath vs Love
Understanding the wrath of God is to understand His love for humanity. It is an assumption that love is God’s attribute. It is the very essence of His existence. The Bible stated that God is love; which entails that the divine nature of God revolves around love. For what better way to describe His love for humanity but through John 3:16;
For God so love the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
The love of God is so strong for humanity that He gave his only Son for their salvation. Meaning to say, it is not the intention of God to punish and let the world perish but rather to give hope of salvation and an eternal life with Him in the heavens. In addition, the statement that God is love means that all His undertakings are rooted from love. Hence, when He created the world, He created it out of love. When He rules, He rules with love. In the same manner that He Judges, He forgives and He gives out of love and not from anything else. As a matter of fact, the Bible stated that while Christ died for the sins of the world.
Hence, it can be seen that the love of God is not just for the people who believes in Him and have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. It extends to the whole humanity- sinners and believers alike. This love is shown not as a theory. But a real, self-giving, tangible and sacrificial love that is the cross- a proof of God’s love for humanity. By virtue of the understanding of such love that humanity is questioning the wrath of God. Although the love of God is shown and available to the sinners, His wrath is set towards the same group of people. There is no limitation in God’s love for humanity. It sought even those who worship Baal and other gods. But how can God love the sinners and yet His wrath is set out against sin and evil?
Wrath is God’s way of reacting to sin. It is a personal reaction against sin. God’s love relate to His holiness. Such holiness is the opposition of all that is evil, not loving and unholy. He is, in all His glory, is self-giving and the very same attribute that brings forth judgment against the sins of mankind. The love and holiness of God are the reasons for rejection of things that are not of God such as sins. Therefore, the abundance of God’s love for humanity is being transformed into His wrath as a rejection of sin. It is the other side of God’s love. Such love is eternal and God does not and will never withdraw that love from mankind, even in the presence of sin. Even those who do not recognize the existence of God is still being wooed by the Eternal Lover. But it is the alienation from such love that destroyed the covenant between God and mankind.
Love and Wrath Connection
The relationship between God’s love and wrath can be described in an evangelical platitude of God hating sin and loving the sinners. However, there is only a small contextual truth about it. It is true that God hates sin to the point when He cannot even look at Jesus when he bore the sin of the world on the cross. Jesus cried to his Father and asked Him why He had forsaken him. In Romans 1:18-23, it is stated that the wrath of God is towards the sin and the sinner. The psalmist from the Old Testament had written for fourteen times how God hate the sin and the sinner. Both love and wrath exist and stand in their own reciprocally exclusive operations. They can be brought together despite the fact that there are times when love pushes out wrath or the other way around. In normal circumstances, mankind knows that to love is not in the character of a wrathful person. But this is not the case with God. The wrath of God is not a product of a rage. Not emotionalizing wrath in the context of God, it is justified, reasonable and only a response for acts of diminishing and offending His holiness.
It can be argued that in the Old Testament, the wrath of God is more apparent than His love. He punished even the leaders of His church, the prophets and anyone who have rebelled against Him. This can be proven by the temporal manifestations of God’s wrath such as plagues, deaths, famine, poverty, siege, oppression, war and even slaughter. Priests who entered God’s house with filth and sin fell dead on the ground. God’s holiness marvels over sin that He cannot tolerate even if it is just a speck.
But in the New Testament, through Jesus Christ, love has become more apparent. Jesus’ teachings have told the disciples and the apostles to love their enemy. Love is richer and more tangible than wrath. The death of Jesus Christ, Himself, has torn the veil and made a way for the reconciliation of mankind and God. But the existence of wrath is being related to the afterlife. Hell equates the wrath of God that whoever does not accept Jesus as Saviour will perish. Jesus, in the New Testament, has talked about the concept of hell. Yet, there is redemption that is the result of God’s love. Despite the various manifestations of the wrath of God in the Old Testament, God’s grace and love are also manifested at the same time and transited to the New Testament. Both the love and the wrath of God are intensified in the New Testament. The Cross is the resounding pinnacle of the love of God for mankind in the same manner that the same Cross is the pinnacle of God’s wrath.
Another misunderstanding of the nature and divinity of God picture Him as relentlessly opposed to mankind and whose heart is just filled with hatred and wrath that only Jesus can mollify. This misconception is brought about by the fact that it is written in the bible that Jesus is the High Priest that intercedes for mankind. Jesus is the advocate of men. This is highlighted in the book of John 14:6 where:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.
The aforementioned verse clearly indicates the role that Jesus played in the reconciliation of men and God. Jesus is the embodiment of God’s love and wrath for mankind that He let Jesus be crucified to the cross and take the fall of the sins of the world so that mankind can have the chance to be with God for eternity if they so choose.
The ultimate expression of God’s love is through the Cross that even in His wrath for mankind’s rebellion and hostility towards Him, He gave up His Son so that the world will not be destroyed. The love of God is so deep and strong for His beloved that He could not lay His hands to mankind and eradicate them from the face of the planet.
The Truth about God’s Wrath
There are certain truths about the wrath of God that mankind have to understand or be reminded of. The wrath of God is just. It is not about punishing people who are following His will. Although the God that is known in the Old Testament does not spare the rod, the truth is such wrath is in perfect accord in the will of God and His execution of justice. Eve and Adam were told not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Everything was going well for them until they chose to try it and as a result they were vanished from the Garden of Eden. From then on, they had to work hard in order to live. The book of Romans 2:5 proves that the wrath and judgement of God is proportionate to the sins of men. Paul wrote:
But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed.
In addition, the wrath of God as described and depicted in the Bible is not based on rage and never erratic, malicious and pleasure-seeking. Rather, it is right and just and in accordance to the weight of the sins committed and a plain reaction of His holiness against evil. It is further elucidated in Proverbs 24:12:
If you say, “look, we did not know this”- does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it? And will he not replay all according to their deeds?
In connecting the Old Testament and the New Testament, it can be seen that the wrath of God is consistent. In the same way that God did not tolerate sins from the Old Testament as proven by the accounts of Sodom and Gomorrah, God’s wrath is apparent in the New Testament as well. The only difference is that when the wrath of God is described in the Old Testament, it is labelled to be harsh and mean while the New Testament speaks of a more loving, gentle and patient kind of love. The book of Revelation has described the wrath of God as a sharp sword that is capable of striking down nations who are against His will. Yet, the loving sacrifice of Jesus is God’s love working against sin.
The motivation of God’s wrath is His holiness. Because He is holy, He abhors sins and that is what is driving Him to make fair judgment and act justly. In this context, it can be seen that although He is holy, God does not want people to suffer eternal punishment- hell. Rather, He wants them to be reconciled with Him and forgive the sinners. This is an illustration of a loving Father who is always there for the prodigal son. No matter how hard people will sin, there is always redemption and reconciliation. No matter how many times people stumble and fall short of the glory of God, He still welcomes mankind with loving arms and forgive them nevertheless. Therefore, His love triumphs over His wrath but it is not something that is given without asking for forgiveness and accepting Jesus as personal Lord and Savior.
Undeniably, enmity is how the relationship between man and God can be described without reconciliation, redemption and forgiveness of sins. Once that status has changed mankind will transition from being enemy to children of God. However, this is not all true. God never considered mankind to be his enemy. He punishes people for their wrong doing but His love is more abounding than His wrath. His love is the reason why there is forgiveness. It is the choice and the doing of mankind that separate them from God. He never wants to lose His children from sin and evil. Wrath is just the manifestation of His love. When people fear the wrath of the Lord, they turn to God for reconciliation and change the way they live.
The wrath of God cost the life of Jesus so that mankind can be saved. God did not wait for mankind to drop on their knees and ask for forgiveness. God did not wait to extend His wrath to the people. But He sent His only begotten Son to bring people back to God’s loving arms. His wrath is covered with grace and love proven by the mystery of the Cross that Jesus bore in the Mount of Calvary.
Bedenbaugh, J Benjamin. “Paul’s use of “wrath of God.” Lutheran Quarterly 6.2 (May 1, 1954): 154-157.
Bruce, F. F. The Letter of Paul to the Romans: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985.
Carson, Donald A. “God’s Love and God’s Wrath.” Bibliotheca Sacra 156.624 (October 1, 1999): 387-398.
Dodd, C. H. The Epistle of Paul to the Romans. London: Hodder and Stouton Limited, 1960.
Nygren, Anders. Commentary on Romans. Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1949.
Packer, J.I. Knowing God. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1993
Placher, William C. Jesus the Savior: The Meaning of Jesus Christ for Christian Faith. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.
Tasker, R.V.G. The Biblical Doctrine of the Wrath of God. London: Tyndale Press, 1951.
Torrance, Thomas F. Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ. Edited by Robert T. Walker. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009.
Tozer, A.W. The attributes of God: a journey into the Father’s heart. Camphill, PA: Christian Publications, 1997.
 J.I Packer, Knowing God. (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1993), 43-55.
 Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture references are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible.
 Donald A. Carson, “God’s Love and God’s Wrath,” Bibliotheca Sacra 156.624 (October 1, 1999): 389
 C. H. Dodd, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans (London: Hodder and Stouton Limited, 1960), 21-24.
 R.V.G Tasker, The Biblical Doctrine of the Wrath of God (London: Tyndale Press, 1951), 11-15.
 A.W. Tozer, The Attributes of God: A Journey into the Father’s Heart (Camphill, PA: Christian Publications, 1997), 39.
 Cf. F. F. Bruce, The Letter of Paul to the Romans: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985), 79.
 J Benjamin Bedenbaugh, “Paul’s Use of ‘Wrath of God,’” Lutheran Quarterly 6.2 (May 1, 1954): 155.
 Thomas F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, Robert T. Walker, ed. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008), 249, 250
 William C. Placher, Jesus the Savior: The Meaning of Jesus Christ for Christian Faith (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 140.
 Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans (Philadelphia:Muhlenberg Press, 1949), 98.
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